Guests: Sen. Joe Biden, Kevin James, Mark Green, Mary Thompson, David Shuster
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: President Bush goes to Israel and attacks appeasers of Hitler, implying that Barack Obama is doing the same with Iran.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. Correct me if I‘m wrong, but I think that sound we heard from Israel today was President Bush jumping into the campaign and hurling his shot at Barack Obama. The president was speaking before the Israel Knesset when he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they had been wrong all along.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Many of us drew a direct line between that quote by the president and Barack Obama‘s stated willingness to talk to Iran. Nonsense, says the White House, this had nothing to do with Obama. Well, maybe. Then the president went further, saying such negotiations amount to appeasement—appeasement—a hot-button World War II-era word, if there ever was one, especially in Israel.
The Obama campaign shot back, and Senator Joe Biden called the president‘s comments a word we can‘t even say on television. We‘ll talk to Senator Biden in just a moment.
And how‘s this for a statement? “If the Republican brand were a dog food, they‘d take it off the shelf.” That, by the way, from a top Republican. Can John McCain save his party, or are we seeing him trying to separate himself from his colleagues and his brand name, if you will, even as the president jumps in on his side of this fight?
Also, the Edwards effect. Will John Edwards‘s endorsement of Obama make any difference in the fall? We‘ll break it all down a bit later in the “Politics Fix.” And Barack Obama says he‘s sorry for calling a reporter “‘sweetie.” It‘s all in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”
But first, Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a former Democratic candidate for president. Senator Biden, thank you. What is the president talking about when he talks about appeasement, when he talks about—well, what he is talking about in Israel today?
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, he‘s talking about his politics. I think it‘s outrageous, the idea that he‘d speak before the Israeli Knesset and by a veiled implication talk about the politics of the Democrats and the Democratic Party. I‘m told from some of your colleagues in the press that on background, his own people told him he was talking about—said he was talking about Obama. I don‘t know that for sure.
But there‘s an ugly pattern emerging here. You have the presumptive Republican nominee last week comparing—saying that Danny Ortega and Hamas like Barack Obama, and everybody can draw their own conclusions. You‘ve got the president going to the Knesset. It‘s outrageous, what he implied.
And what you have is rhetoric masquerading as a policy here. These guys have been an abject failure in terms of their policy. And if talking the Iranians is appeasement, well, I assume the president of the United States is going to come home and fire Secretary Gates and fire the secretary of state, Condi Rice, both of whom have been saying we should be sitting down and talking with the Iranians.
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m a huge Churchill buff, I must tell you, Senator, and this is not the way Churchill talked in the early ‘40s. It‘s the way, unfortunately for him, he talked in ‘45, when he was trying to hold onto power.
Let‘s take a look now at a look at President Bush and what he said in its entirety in Israel today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they had been wrong all along. We‘ve heard with foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared, “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is, the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I don‘t know whether President Bush knew it or not, but his speech, rather, was quoting William Borah, the senator from Idaho, a Republican isolationist from the ‘30s. I don‘t know what relevance he has to Barack Obama‘s call for talk.
Anyway, Obama responded in a statement that reads, “It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel‘s independence to launch a false political attack. George Bush knows that I‘ve never supported engagement with terrorists. And the president‘s extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally, Israel.”
What do you think, Senator?
BIDEN: Well, I think, number one, Bush‘s policy made America weaker
and Israel weaker. Look, if it‘s appeasement to talk with Iran, then what
the president must be the biggest appeaser that we‘ve had in the last 15 years. What did he do? He sat down and talked with Kim Jong Il. He‘s meeting with a North Korean guy who everybody talks about being a proliferator of the technology of weapons of mass destruction. He‘s writing letters to him, saying, Dear Mr. Chairman. His administration asked me several years ago to get in a plane and go fly to Libya to meet with Gadhafi. He cut a deal with Gadhafi.
I don‘t call that appeasement, I call that sound foreign policy. Now, how can it be that you sit down and talk with a proliferator of nuclear weapons that creates a much greater threat to the United States than any other country I can think of off the top of my head, how can you sit down and cut a deal with Gadhafi, which is a wise thing we did, he did—he should be credited for I—and then talk about anyone willing to change the policy with regard to the Middle East, and Iran in particular, as ipso facto an appeaser?
It‘s pure, pure political gamesmanship, appealing to American fear and trying to, in fact, connect the dots here, and you know, besmirch the Democratic—one of the likely Democratic nominees.
MATTHEWS: Do you have any doubt that President Bush was talking about Barack Obama today in Israel?
BIDEN: Well, let me put it this way. It‘s an unusual thing to talk about, quoting, quote, “as one United States senator said,” even though we know it‘s Boar, the senator from Idaho, back, who was an isolationist.
And secondly, I guess—I want to make it clear, everybody listening to you. I don‘t know, but I‘ve been told by responsible press people that on background in Israel, they were told this was directed at Obama. Now, if it wasn‘t, maybe the president should come out and say it wasn‘t. But think of what the presumptive Democratic—Republican nominee said just, what, 10 days ago. He said, Well—I‘m paraphrasing—Hamas is for Obama, and even Danny Ortega likes him, so I‘ll let you all draw your conclusions.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at what Senator McCain said in response to what President Bush said. It sounds like they‘re doing an alley-oop play here in basketball, they‘re working together, because here‘s Senator McCain basically underlining the shot against Barack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It does bring up an issue we‘ll be discussing with the American people, and that is why does Barack Obama, Senator Obama, want to sit down with a state sponsor of terrorism? What does he want to talk about with Ahmadinejad, who said that Israel is a stinking corpse, who said that he wants to wipe Israel off the map, who‘s sending the most explosive devices into Iraq, killing Americans? What does he want to talk about with him?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, it seems like it‘s the alley-oop play in the NBA, Senator. I mean, the president threw the ball under the basket, and John McCain put it in. I mean...
BIDEN: I‘ll tell you what he wants to talk about. He wants to talk about the same thing Secretary of Defense Gates wants to talk about. He wants to talk about the same thing that Condi Rice wants to talk about. Both of whom are saying we should be talking. We should be talking. And since when does the president or John McCain think that “No” does not exist in the vocabulary of an American president? Talking doesn‘t mean you agree. Why would you talk? You would talk to enhance America‘s interest and change behavior. That‘s why you would talk, the same reason why the president of the United States is corresponding and talking with one of the most outrageous leaders in the world, Kim Jong Il, the same reason why he corresponded with and his people talked with Gadhafi, who we labeled a terrorist in a terrorist state. Why? To stop their conduct.
I find this so disappointing, Chris, to get into this. This is—this is—this is hyperbole and attack masking as a policy.
MATTHEWS: It seems to me that a couple times in history, we failed to talk to our enemies and we caused ourselves big trouble. We didn‘t talk to the head of North Korea when Acheson suggested the line of defense didn‘t include North and South Korea. We did make a mistake when April Glaspie talked to Saddam Hussein and didn‘t tell him we‘d fight for Kuwait. It seems to me there are examples in the past when you ought to talk to the bad guys and tell them where the line is drawn.
BIDEN: There‘s a great quote from John Kennedy, President John Kennedy, when he was president. He said, “We should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate.” Again, let me ask the American people listening to this, tell me how, as president of the United States, you say we should be in full-blown direct discussions with North Korea, a proliferator of nuclear technology, with an army staring down the throat of 30,000 Americans who are on site, who present a real threat, who have missile technology and nuclear capability? How can we talk with them and negotiate with them and say it is appeasement to even attempt to broach a discussion with the Iranians?
And furthermore, Chris, the only thing that keeps this Iranian authority in power with a country and a population that hates them is the fact that we never make our voice known to the Iranian people. What we do is we stand out there and rattle the saber against guys who are not good guys and we unite the Iranian people. It‘s bad policy.
MATTHEWS: Well, is what‘s good for the goose, good for the gander. Senator Clinton a while back, like, about a week ago, talked about obliterating the country of Iran. Talk about saber rattling. Didn‘t that sort of discourage the secular forces in Iran from standing up to the leadership?
BIDEN: Look, the context...
MATTHEWS: When you say you‘re going to obliterate the whole country.
BIDEN: No, no. No, no. The context in which she said it is the way we talked about mutual assured destruction...
MATTHEWS: I know.
BIDEN: ... in fairness to her. She said...
MATTHEWS: ... word “obliterate”?
BIDEN: ... if they attacked, if they attacked Israel, we would respond. And maybe...
MATTHEWS: No, obliterate.
BIDEN: Well, obliterate? That‘s what happens when you respond. Guess what, Chris? No way of using nuclear weapons in Iran without it resulting in obliteration.
MATTHEWS: So you think that wasn‘t over the top by her.
BIDEN: No, I think a better word could have been chosen, but she stated a rational policy, a policy these guys...
MATTHEWS: You don‘t think the Democrats...
MATTHEWS: You don‘t think Hillary Clinton and George Bush are competing to see who can be the most hawkish in defense of Israel? You don‘t think this is politics, domestic American politics, at work here?
BIDEN: No, I think it‘s a statement of policy. Look, I—you know, I‘m here to defend what I think is a rational position taken.
BIDEN: And the rational position is, Iran should understand that if they use nuclear weapons against any other power, they run the risk of literally being obliterated...
BIDEN: ... just like we talked about what would happen if Saddam Hussein had used nuclear weapons we were told he had but he never had.
MATTHEWS: OK. It‘s great having you on. Thanks for coming on on a big news night, Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Coming up, we‘re going to debate what the president did say about Israel today when talking about Iran and whether it was an attack, fair or not. Was it about Obama? It is hard to believe he wasn‘t talking about Barack Obama, no matter what the White House office said or was told to say.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I trust the American people to understand that it is not weakness but wisdom to talk not just to our friends but to our enemies, like Roosevelt did and Kennedy did and Truman did!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Did President Bush inject himself into the presidential campaign today in Israel? And was he out of line for doing a political hit job at Obama from overseas?
Kevin James is a radio talk show host for KRLA in Los Angeles, and Mark Green is president of Air America radio. Let me go to Kevin first. Who do you think President Bush was talking about today in the Knesset?
KEVIN JAMES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I don‘t know who he was talking about for sure, Chris, but if he wasn‘t talking...
MATTHEWS: Take a wild guess.
JAMES: ... about Barack Obama, he should have been talking about Barack Obama!
JAMES: I hope he was...
MATTHEWS: Do you think there‘s any doubt he was...
JAMES: ... Barack Obama!
MATTHEWS: Was there any doubt he was, though, sir?
JAMES: Not in my mind...
MATTHEWS: Was there any doubt?
JAMES: ... there wasn‘t. No, not...
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s...
JAMES: ... in my mind.
MATTHEWS: And you think it was a fair shot to go overseas and to take a shot politically against a fellow American?
JAMES: Let me tell you who should have been overseas. Barack Obama should have been overseas and talking to Israel in the Knesset! Barack Obama is the one whose Israel policies are very questionable. Barack Obama is the one who had Robert Malley, a Middle East foreign policy adviser, who just left the Obama campaign because it was discovered that he was secretly working in—you know, in confidence with Hamas! Barack Obama‘s the one who was endorsed by Hamas! Barack Obama‘s the one who needs to be making good with the people in Israel right now in this election season! His policy...
MATTHEWS: Why is Israel...
MATTHEWS: Why is Israel now the center of the Republican campaign?
What is Israel about in this presidential campaign?
JAMES: It‘s not...
MATTHEWS: Why the focus on Israel?
JAMES: It‘s not the...
MATTHEWS: Why are you screaming?
JAMES: It‘s the 60th—because you always get me excited, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Why are you so excited about Israel?
JAMES: ... I had to listen to Biden—I had to listen to Biden...
MATTHEWS: How did this become your issue?
JAMES: ... go on about this political...
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m just curious. Why are we turning Israel...
JAMES: We‘re talking...
MATTHEWS: ... into Hyde Park corner, speakers‘ corner? Why is Israel...
JAMES: We‘re talking about...
MATTHEWS: ... becoming the new podium for political activity?
JAMES: We‘re talking about Israel because it‘s the 60th anniversary of their independence, and it‘s where President Bush happened to be today, talking about the Knesset when he launched this—launched this blurb against Obama. I‘m glad he did it! I wish the White House had been a little more forthcoming...
JAMES: ... and say, You better believe this is against Obama because his policies are dangerous for this country and they‘re dangerous for Israel, as well!
MATTHEWS: OK. OK, let‘s go to Mark Green and talk about the politics of this, not the policy. First of all, why would the president of the United States use a foreign platform in a very tricky situation politically and geopolitically to launch what is clearly an attack on a Democratic rival?
MARK GREEN, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Chris, by the way, you also excite me, but I don‘t yell, I get calmer as a result. What Bush has done is since they‘ve run out of arguments, they engage in analogies. It was bad enough when John McCain used this sleazy guilt by association of Obama and Hamas. Now comes President Bush using guilt by analogy, that somehow, Obama is Chamberlain, and anybody who the Bush people don‘t like is Hitler. We‘ve seen this before. Ho Chi Minh was Hitler. Ahmadinejad is Hitler. Osama bin Laden is Hitler. And now Hussein was Hitler.
Look, Hitler was Hitler. And I wish the Republicans would argue on the merits and not engage in McCarthyite guilt by association or analogy. They‘re doing it because their candidate is weak, Obama is strong with a lot of Americans, and the Jewish community has overwhelmingly voted for Democrats in the past. Today I‘d like to tell Kevin, notwithstanding his...
JAMES: Yes, check those numbers about...
GREEN: Let me finish, Kevin.
JAMES: Yes, Democrats...
JAMES: ... they voted for was Hillary Rodham Clinton! That‘s who they voted for, not Obama!
GREEN: Congressmen Berman and Waxman in California, two of the leading Jewish and pro-Israel congressmen, endorsed effusively Obama. I trust them more than you.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you, Kevin, about...
JAMES: Well, then you can go back and look at Obama‘s policy!
MATTHEWS: Kevin, I want...
MATTHEWS: I want to do a little history check on you because the president‘s referring to history. He attacked those who would imitate Senator William Boar of Idaho, who was a Republican isolationist back in the late ‘30s, who supported whatever, some notion of getting along with Hitler better. Let me ask you, what did Chamberlain do wrong, Neville Chamberlain do wrong in 1939? What did he do wrong?
JAMES: Oh, come on. It all goes—it all goes back to appeasement.
MATTHEWS: No, what did he do? Tell me what he did.
JAMES: It‘s the key term. It‘s the key term.
MATTHEWS: You have to answer this question. What did he do?
JAMES: It‘s the same thing. It puts it all—we‘re talking about appeasement.
MATTHEWS: Well, tell me what he did. What did Chamberlain do wrong?
JAMES: His actions—his actions enabled...
MATTHEWS: What did Chamberlain do?
JAMES: ... energized, legitimated. It‘s the exact same—it‘s the exactly same thing.
MATTHEWS: I‘m not going to continue with this interview unless you answer what that thing is. What did Chamberlain do in ‘39? Tell me, in ‘38. What did he do? What did he do?
JAMES: Well, ‘38, ‘39, Chris. What year do you want? It doesn‘t...
MATTHEWS: What did he do?
JAMES: It doesn‘t—it‘s the exact same thing that happened, Chris.
MATTHEWS: What did Chamberlain...
JAMES: He‘s talking—he‘s talking—he‘s talking about appeasement.
MATTHEWS: What did Chamberlain do?
MATTHEWS: Just tell me what he did, Kevin. What did Chamberlain do you didn‘t like?
MATTHEWS: What did he do?
JAMES: What Chamberlain did—what Chamberlain did that I—what the president was talking about? You just said the president was talking about—you just said the president was talking about Barack. Look...
MATTHEWS: No, no. I want you to tell me, Mister. You‘re making a
reference to the days before our involvement in World War II, when the war
in Europe began. I want you to tell me now, as an expert, what did Chamberlain do wrong?
JAMES: Look, you‘re not going to box me in here, Chris. President Bush was making that. I‘m glad—I‘m glad the president...
MATTHEWS: You don‘t know, do you? You don‘t know what Neville Chamberlain did in Munich, do you?
JAMES: Of course. What Neville Chamberlain—yes, he was an appeaser, Chris. He was an appeaser.
MATTHEWS: What did he do?
JAMES: And it energized and it legitimatized...
MATTHEWS: Kevin, Kevin James, Kevin James, what did Neville Chamberlain do?
GREEN: Chris, may I try to answer?
MATTHEWS: He doesn‘t know. You are B.S.ing me.
MATTHEWS: You are talking about a critical point in American history, in European history, and you can‘t tell me what Neville Chamberlain did in Munich. What did he do in ‘39, ‘38?
JAMES: Chris, Chris, Chris, I wasn‘t the one that raised the Hitler comment. My point is—my point is, what President Bush has done is, he has taken this shot across the bow, all right?
MATTHEWS: You don‘t know what you‘re talking about, Kevin.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t know what you‘re talking about.
JAMES: ... know what I‘m talking about.
MATTHEWS: Tell me what Chamberlain did wrong.
JAMES: Neville Chamberlain was an appeaser, Chris. Neville Chamberlain...
MATTHEWS: What did he do?
JAMES: Neville Chamberlain was an appeaser, all right?
MATTHEWS: What did he do?
JAMES: Neville Chamberlain, his—but his policies, the things that Neville Chamberlain supported, all right energized, legitimized...
MATTHEWS: Just tell me what he did.
JAMES: ... energized, legitimized, and made it easier for Hitler to advance in the ways that he advanced.
MATTHEWS: I have been sitting here five minutes asking you to say what the president was referring to in 1938 at Munich.
JAMES: I don‘t know what the—Chris.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t know. Thank you.
JAMES: Chris, I don‘t know what the president was referring to when he talked about what was being said in 1930 -- in 1939.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t know what you‘re talking about. Your problem, Kevin, is, you don‘t know what you‘re talking about.
And the problem is, you don‘t understand there‘s a difference between talking to the enemy and appeasing. What Neville Chamberlain did wrong, most people would say, is not talking to Hitler, but giving him half of Czechoslovakia in ‘38. That‘s what he did wrong, not talking to somebody.
JAMES: Chris, but there‘s a difference.
MATTHEWS: Appeasement is giving away things to the enemy.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t know what you‘re...
MATTHEWS: We have got to go.
I got to go to somebody who knows some history.
Mark Green, help him out with some history here.
MATTHEWS: This is pathetic.
GREEN: Kevin, please...
MATTHEWS: This is pathetic.
MATTHEWS: He doesn‘t even know what Chamberlain did in Munich.
JAMES: ... talking about appeasement.
GREEN: Kevin, when you‘re in a hole, stop digging.
Chris, the reason that you exposed him...
MATTHEWS: I mean, he‘s as bad as the White House press secretary, that doesn‘t even know what the Cuban Missile Crisis was.
MATTHEWS: We‘re talking with people with blank slates in terms of history here.
GREEN: What President Bush and Kevin apparently are interested in...
GREEN: Excuse me.
What they‘re interested in is rhetoric, and not reality. They‘re interested in loaded words for political slander.
Yitzhak Rabin, the former general and prime minister of Israel, who understands terrorism and war better than President Bush, famously said, you have to negotiate not only with your friends, but especially with your enemies.
GREEN: So, Israel did negotiate, not appease, negotiate with a former enemy, Egypt, successfully, former enemy, Jordan, successfully. Now they‘re negotiating with Syria on the Golan.
Kevin, diplomacy and common security in a world of terrorism, proliferation, and pollution is not a four-letter word. It‘s called diplomacy. And the next president will do it. Rather than militarism first, it be talk first.
JAMES: You can‘t talk without talking through strength, all right?
JAMES: What happened to us in 9/11 is because all Bill Clinton did for years was talk, while we were attacked, over and over and over again.
GREEN: All right. All right.
JAMES: All right? We were attacked in ‘93. We were attacked in the Cole. We were attacked in the—with our foreign embassies.
And what happened? We ended up with 9/11, all right? And what‘s concerned—the world is concerned about what George Bush...
GREEN: Read Richard Clarke‘s book, because, for nine months—the president at 9/11 was not Clinton. It was Bush. And they did nothing, despite all the entreaties of the Clinton people.
JAMES: Watch “Pathway to 9/11,” Mark. Watch “Pathway to 9/11.”
MATTHEWS: Wasn‘t the USS Cole under—under Bush?
I mean, I don‘t know what we‘re talking about here—the first Bush.
JAMES: And you look and you see the years, the opportunity that Clinton—I‘m talking about the difference—I‘m talking about the difference between...
MATTHEWS: OK. We‘re not getting anywhere here.
JAMES: ... between just appeasement and the difference of talking through strength.
MATTHEWS: Kevin? Kevin? Kevin?
MATTHEWS: When you‘re going to make a direct historic reference, get it straight.
Thank you, Kevin James.
Mark Green, thank you.
JAMES: I didn‘t make the direct historic reference.
MATTHEWS: You were trying to defend something you don‘t know what you‘re talking.
Up next, what has Jay Leno got...
JAMES: No, no, I was...
MATTHEWS: It‘s not true.
You don‘t understand what appeasement is. Don‘t use the word. It‘s giving away things to the enemy, not talking to the enemy.
Anyway, what‘s Jay Leno got to say about John Edwards‘ endorsement of Barack Obama? It‘s all coming up next in the “Sideshow.”
I think we just had the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: I love that Cheney one.
Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”
Barack Obama broke protocol with a TV reporter this week, calling her “sweetie,” when she tried to is him a question. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PEGGY AGAR, WXYZ REPORTER: Senator, how are you going to help the American autoworker?
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hold on one second, sweetie. We‘re going to do a—we will do a press...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Obama has now apologized to that reporter.
Here‘s the message he left on her cell phone voice-mail.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
OBAMA: Hi, Peggy. This is Barack Obama calling to apologize on two fronts. One was, you didn‘t get your question answered. And I apologize. Second apology for using the word “sweetie.” It‘s a bad habit of mine. I do it sometimes with all kinds of people. Mean no disrespect. And, so, I‘m duly chastened on that front.
Feel free to call me back. I suspect that my press team will be happy to try to make it up to you whenever we are in Detroit next.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What did Dick Cheney call that “New York Times” reporter?
Was it a major-league—I don‘t think it was sweetie, anyway.
Think of Obama—speaking of Obama, he‘s had to take some static for not supporting a flag pin on his lapel. Well, to kill that story, he‘s starting to wear one. Here he is on Monday talking to veterans in West Virginia, wearing a lapel pin, as you see there.
And here he is on Tuesday, in Missouri, talking to factory workers, wearing a lapel pin. And here he is on Wednesday at a Chrysler plant in Michigan, wearing a lapel pin.
You will notice we‘re covering this snippet of news in the “Sideshow.”
Spitzer refunds—yesterday, we brought you details of the guilty plea for the chief booker—I love that word—of Eliot Spitzer‘s favorite prostitution ring. Well, I guess that makes her like the dispatcher at a taxi company.
Anyway, today, some more Spitzer news—the former governor has sent e-mails to supporters informing them that they can get refunds on their contributions to his gubernatorial campaign. If you have given money to Eliot Spitzer, have you until June 15 -- that‘s a lot of time—to send in your official request for a full refund.
The man is showing some class, proving once again that the guys who get caught, who get in trouble in politics are not the only ones who do bad things. And, B, just as important, they‘re capable of doing good things as well.
Christmas in May? The White House released is list of gifts received over the past year by the president and the vice president. Some of the highlights, for Bush, a self-propelled lawn mower and a custom Hawaiian shirt from his staff. That came from his staff. Cheney received a DVD set of the FOX series “24” and—catch this—a two-day hunting trip, with accommodations. Somebody is looking for trouble.
And now it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number.”
When it comes to the elections in Congress this November, Republicans are really worried. It all has to did with the morbidity emanating from the White House these days, a war that still hasn‘t ended, and an economy that seems to be tanking.
U.S. Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia, who headed up the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, has a scary warning for his party in today‘s “New York Times.” He says that, unless Republicans figure out a way to change the current course, they could lose 24 more seats this fall.
If that doomsday scenario happened, how big would the deficit be in the House? Seventy seats. The Republicans would be 70 seats behind the Democrats—tonight‘s huge number.
And that‘s what we will be talking about when we come back. Is it panic time for the GOP? And as they worry about losses in Congress, what about this presidential election? Will John McCain need a standing high jump to win?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Mary Thompson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks climbing as oil prices plunged, before rallying late in the session. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 94 points. The S&P 500 finished up almost 15, and the Nasdaq rose 37, the S&P and Nasdaq climbing to four-month highs.
A wild ride for oil today. After falling below $121 a barrel, crude finally settled at $124.12 a barrel, down 10 cents today. Investors ignored some weak economic news. That includes industrial production plunging in April. The drop was more than double what economists had expected.
And CBS is buying online news and information provider CNET Networks for $1.8 billion. The price represents a massive 48 percent premium over the closing price of CNET shares yesterday. Today, CNET shares surged more than 43 percent, while CBS shares fell 2 percent.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
There‘s an old saying here in Washington that, if you want a friend in this city, get a dog. It‘s not that bad.
Well, top Republicans are now saying you shouldn‘t feed that dog anything associated with the GOP, literally. There‘s been some comparisons to tainted Alpo. And, clearly, even John McCain‘s campaign is worried.
HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster explains the connection between dog food and the Republicans.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today in Columbus, Ohio, John McCain delivered his latest effort to re-brand the Republican Party and create separation from President Bush.
First, McCain vowed to end the Iraq war within five years. Under his vision:
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the service men and women. The United States maintains a military presence there, but a much smaller one, and it does not play a direct combat role.
SHUSTER: Gone, of course, was any talk of a 100-year commitment.
Second, McCain promised to change the Republican White House governing style.
MCCAIN: I will ask Democrats to serve in my administration. My administration will set a new standard for transparency and accountability.
I will hold weekly press conferences.
SHUSTER: McCain even pledged to let members of Congress question him the same way the British House of Commons does with Great Britain‘s prime minister.
GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: And to give more time for all parties in this house to take up this new right, if they choose.
MCCAIN: When we make errors, I will confess them readily and explain what we intend to do to correct them.
SHUSTER: McCain‘s efforts to change perceptions about Republican leadership and acknowledge public concerns about the duration of the Iraq war come at a crucial time.
Thanks largely to voter frustrations over Iraq, fears about the sputtering U.S. economy, and anger over high gas prices, President Bush‘s disapproval rating has reached 71 percent. That‘s the highest disapproval rating of any president in modern history, higher even than Richard Nixon.
And Republicans in Congress are getting crushed. Tuesday night marked the third straight special election where a strong Republican district was won by a Democrat.
TRAVIS CHILDERS (D), MISSISSIPPI CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: They can have all the big guns. I will take you any time.
SHUSTER: This week, Tom Davis, a former member of the House GOP leadership, wrote memo to his colleagues, calling the atmosphere for Republicans “the worst since Watergate.”
And he added—quote—“The Republican brand is in the trash can.
If we were dog food, they would take us off the shelf.”
MCCAIN: Thanks for your hospitality.
SHUSTER: McCain may find is easier to separate from the Republican brand than to save it. Still, efforts like today bring their own problems. McCain‘s pledge to get out of Iraq by 2013 is the kind of declaration he used to attack, raising new questions and putting McCain on the defensive.
QUESTION: You‘re not putting a date, but you‘re predicting it will be
MCCAIN: How many times can I say...
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) specific speech (OFF-MIKE) the speech you just made...
MCCAIN: I said by the end of my first term.
SHUSTER (on camera): Democrats charge that McCain is now engaged in the same kind of word games as President Bush.
It‘s a reminder that, for all the Republican efforts to create a new image, Democrats are just as focused on trying to make sure the current image of a GOP marching in lockstep with President Bush stays the same.
I‘m David Shuster, for HARDBALL, in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster. Tucker Carlson is senior campaign correspondent for MSNBC and Bob Herbert is a columnist for the “New York Times.” Bob, it seems to me he was chaterizing the wound there;
100 year war, no, it will end in 2013. Very clearly a mathematical collection of a mathematical problem.
BOB HERBERT, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: I‘m getting hints here of a little bit of triangulation going on with McCain, jumping on some of these Democratic issues, maybe looking for an end game in terms of the war. He‘s out there talking about global warming. He went down south and kicked off a little bit of a poverty tour. It‘s very interesting the way he‘s running and probably smart.
MATTHEWS: It‘s apparently what the British Tory leader is doing, the same thing. Green campaign, poor people, now this question of trying to get into the war issue.
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC SENIOR CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT: Nixon ‘68, he‘s a goner. Of course, he‘s the one guy who can do it. He can plausibly say, look—no one is going to question his patriotism. No one‘s going to question his knowledge of military matters. No one‘s going to question his commitment to winning the Iraq war. He‘s the perfect vessel for this message, therefore, which is only I can do it in a way that makes you proud of America. I think it‘s very smart.
MATTHEWS: Is he going a be like Nixon going China, de Gaulle ending the war in Algeria? Is that what he‘s offering, a traumatic shift? Is he offering a pretense of that, Tucker? Is he going to change Bush policy or not?
CARLSON: He‘s offering what Nixon offered in 1968.
MATTHEWS: We don‘t know what Nixon offered.
CARLSON: The implied message was, you know the war is not going well, but you‘re not with the long haired freaks who want to embarrass America.
MATTHEWS: I got you. Nixon was very smart. He said, we need new leadership and he went no further. Let me ask you about this rebrand. I don‘t whether you saw the Tom Davis comment, but he said if the Republican party were a dog food, they‘d take it off the shelf. Talk about imagery.
HERBERT: I‘ll tell you, Chris, when I was out in Pennsylvania for the primary, I was really surprised. I was talking about Hillary versus Obama and talking to these blue collar workers that have been getting so much attention lately, and, you know, spontaneously this vehement hostility to George Bush went into the conversation without being asked. What I thought what was especially interesting—you know, they were talking about, this guy is ruining the middle class. They can‘t stand him. But what was especially interesting is that was bleeding over into McCain, and so many of them said McCain would just continue Bush‘s policies. That‘s the knee jerk feeling that they have. So that can‘t be a good thing.
MATTHEWS: The fact that the president jumped in apparently on his side today, with regard to appeasement and dealing with Ahmadinejad and others, does that—you don‘t want to be the Double Mint Twins, if you‘re McCain, with President Bush.
CARLSON: It was actually McCain, I believe, who jumped in and seconded bush.
MATTHEWS: He joined him.
CARLSON: Bush compared any effort to talk our enemies abroad to Chamberlain‘s efforts to appease Hitler, or whatever, invoking the dreaded Hitler analogy, which is never appropriate in any circumstance, in my view. I actually think, though, McCain‘s biggest problem, frankly, is his age. I don‘t think—I think that‘s what his team is fearful of, that the Obama campaign is going attack him as old. They will use code language to do that. I don‘t think people buy the idea he‘s the same person as Bush. He‘s manifestly not.
MATTHEWS: Let me is you this, Bob, we were looking at the results of these Congressional races. We all know the history of the Republican in the deep south has been so good for them, Louisiana, Mississippi, the Denny Hastert seat in Illinois. These are strong Republican bastions, all three have fallen. The outposts are going down. In fact, the main fort‘s falling. Are the Republicans going to lose up to 30, 40, whatever seats this year, no matter who runs?
HERBERT: I don‘t know what the number of seats are. But the best thing to do was to talk to the Republicans. They are the ones who are frightened to death here. It‘s really a bad sign when you have Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan saying the Republicans are going to take a bath in November. You need to listen up.
Let me agree With tucker on the age issue. Again, when I was out in Pennsylvania, that was another thing that came up spontaneously. I wasn‘t interested in it, was not asking about it, and people would just say, again and again, I think the guy‘s too old or my mother in law thinks the guy‘s too old.
MATTHEWS: How old were the people talking?
HERBERT: They were middle-aged family people. I would say they were in their 40s and 50s, most of them.
MATTHEWS: Where do you think it‘s going to be a problem, seniors, middle age?
CARLSON: We know that from polling, already. I‘m 38. I‘m not bothered in the slightest by the fact that McCain‘s 71. You look at the numbers on this, people over 65, who by the way are the people who most consistently in the whole country—
MATTHEWS: What is the difference now?
CARLSON: There are all kinds of ways to read those. It‘s not my demographic. I don‘t know the true answer. All I know is the numbers show old people don‘t want an old president. I personally think it‘s unfair, but those are the facts.
MATTHEWS: I think, probably, at some point, begin to feel they‘re slowing down in terms of energy level, not IQ or acuity. Bob, do you think that‘s the issue, energy level, or is it basically the ability to deal with stress? What are we talking about here?
HERBERT: I personally think that it‘s a weird issue, which is one of the reasons I wasn‘t asking about it. You know that it‘s a problem if it comes up spontaneously. And, it comes up again and again, not just in Pennsylvania. It‘s been coming up again and again.
MATTHEWS: I think it‘s the question of are you willing to keep learning things right until you die, new things, open to change, open to a changing world, which is changing dramatically.
HERBERT: I‘ll tell you what though, I would suggest that the Democrats not play that card too strongly. If it hurts McCain spontaneously, then let the Democrats go ahead and benefit. But I would not push that issue.
CARLSON: Plus, the one thing you can say about McCain is, he‘s an animal. The guy‘s got a lot of energy. Whether you agree with him or not, I‘m serious. I‘ve never seen a man eat more donuts. He‘s—
MATTHEWS: Tucker, you‘re great. Thank you, Tucker Carlson, Bob Herbert, my favorite columnists these days. I do change my mind occasionally, but you‘ve been pretty sharp lately.
Up next, what does John Edwards‘ endorsement mean for Barack Obama? Will it help? We haven‘t gotten to that. Big news last night. We‘re just getting it tonight. John Edwards is aboard. By the way, Joe Biden missed another chance tonight to endorse when we had him on the show. The Edwards effect when we return on the politics fix.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix. Tonight‘s round table, Chrystia Freeland of the “Financial Times,” Jean Cummings of Politico, and Wayne Slater of the “Dallas Morning News.” It‘s so great, I wish I could go to each one of you and ask you what you know that I don‘t know, because I think things are happening. Let‘s start with something we haven‘t mentioned tonight, which was a huge story last night. John Edwards, the southern boy, son of a mill worker, out there campaigning, is he going to be the difference? Let me start with Jean.
JEAN CUMMINGS, POLITICO.COM: I think he can become a bridge for Barack Obama to those working class white voters that he‘s had trouble with in the last few primaries. I think that Edwards really can do instructions for him and can open up those doors in the way that not many other Democrats might be able to do.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Chrystia with the ethnic question. You see a white guy and a black guy, both about the same age, both about the same weight and size, actually. They look pretty matched together there. Is that going to make it easier to sell a united Democratic party to a united Democratic party?
CHRYSTIA FREELAND, “THE FINANCIAL TIMES”: I think it certainly will. I think the other constituency right now that Edwards is very helpful to Obama with is the super delegates and the Democratic party establishment. I think with John Edwards, who was number three, who was very strong coming in behind Barack Obama, it becomes very, very hard for super delegates, for Hillary Clinton supporters to say, oh, come on, he‘s unelectable. We have to swing behind Hillary Clinton.
I think it‘s very important also, just in the pure political calculations, which are being worked out right now.
MATTHEWS: Do you think there‘s any southern states that this duo, if they are the ticket—I‘m just suggesting possibilities here—could win in the south?
WAYNE SLATER, “DALLAS MORNING NEWS”: To be honest with you, I don‘t think so. Edwards can‘t even win North Carolina. So I‘m not sure Edwards offers that much as a person on a ticket. I think what he does do is offer the possibility, as earlier was said, to bring in some of these super delegates right now, his own delegates, as well as offers Elizabeth Edwards as a person who can come out on the campaign stump sometimes. But strategically, tactically, I think one of the things that happened here was last night, when they showed Edwards on stage to deflate the Hillary Clinton success in West Virginia, you have to think that Bill Clinton sat down and said, pretty good. We hit the guy with the an upper cut. He came back with a right cross.
I guarantee you the people in the McCain shop thought this guy maybe knows how to play this game after all.
MATTHEWS: Yes, he really tucked it well. Let me is you while you‘re up now, Wayne, this question of the president. You‘ve written about Bush‘s brain. What was he up to in the Knesset today with that—you‘d have to call it a sucker punch over there, in the Knesset, in Israel, which has so much to do with the Holocaust, let‘s be honest, in terms of the world and the way it looks at the necessity of the state of Israel, a Jewish state. And to go in there and basically accuse the Democrats of selling out the Jews of Europe. I mean, an amazing charge right there in the homeland. Incredible.
SLATER: Very receptive. Absolutely.
SLATER: This was a shot clearly aimed at Obama. Let‘s not deceive ourselves here. This was an effort—Bush got one quarter of the Jewish vote in 2004. I‘ll tell you what this was, also, in political terms, this was about Evangelicals. Evangelicals like the idea of supporting Israel. That‘s what this is all about.
MATTHEWS: Why is that—why do Evangelicals—is it the rapture, the idea of the end of the world, that sort of thing? Is it that biblical? Or is it political?
SLATER: I think it‘s really—there‘s a religious component to it, that a normal evangelical community among folks, you really feel that in those terms. I was in east Texas at a political rally, a religious political rally not long ago, went up, talked to a woman, said what‘ the most important issue to her? She said, defense of Israel. I think this is really, really important.
MATTHEWS: We‘ve been rooting for Israel in this country since ‘48 and especially since ‘67. It‘s not a hard sell. But it is a little bit of a shot, politically, to go after the guy over there on such a troublesome, horrible thing of the Holocaust. We‘ll be right back the round table for more of the politics fix. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the round table for more of the politics fix. I want to start with Chrystia. This seems to be working for cross purposes. The Republicans are generally more organized than the Democrats. But, today, you have John McCain trying to separate himself from the very unpleasant, unpopular war in Iraq, by saying he‘ll get us out of there by 2013, in large part, obviously trying to get rid of that 100 years comment he made a while ago. At the same time, he jumps in and supports President Bush‘s attack on Barack Obama, creating a Double Mint Twin situation on the Republican side.
FREELAND: No, I think that‘s right. And I think once the Democrats settle around a nominee—you know, barring lightning striking, it‘s going to be Barack Obama. I think this impression of the Democrats being disorganized is going to be really severely challenged. I was at a sort of an internal company leadership seminar, at a leading U.S. company this week. And the CEO of that company, who is a Republican, has never voted Democrat in his life, said to his executive trainees that they should study Barack Obama‘s campaign as a lesson in leadership, just as a lesson in how you run things.
And that, for me, was really, really striking. And, you know, if you look at it, Obama has done a pretty good job just in running something. It will be interesting to see how that matches up against McCain and the full Republican machine.
MATTHEWS: Wayne, I can‘t wait to see the Republicans doing their case approach to politics with the flip charts. Here‘s how that Obama campaign put things together, for the young Republicans.
SLATER: I got to say, I talked to a leading Republican operative yesterday, who said, what we‘ve got to do is basically make the case not only that Obama is not prepared, but also that he would be dangerous in this position. But you look at a place like Texas, where Bush‘s approval rating is 39 percent—that is in the tank. Chris, if you go to Midland, Texas, which is as Republican as you can get, you have people who love George Bush, who work with George Bush, who really understood that they are apologizing for George Bush, but who fear this organized juggernaut, they fear, in the possibility, not necessarily the probability, that Barack Obama may be somebody that would clearly win this race.
MATTHEWS: I guess Keith Olbermann is on to something. Anyway, thank you Chrystia Freeland, Jean Cummings and Wayne Slater.
Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now, it‘s time for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE with David Gregory.
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