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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show


Guests: Howard Fineman, Gov. Haley Barbour, Thomas Friedman, Heidi Harris, Mark Green, Bob


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Good losers versus bad losers, the post-election fight among Republicans.

Let's play HARDBALL.

I'm Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL, tonight from Boston. Leading off tonight: Still warming up in the bullpen. Yes, the nation's Republican governors are meeting today in Miami, Florida, where they will talk about, what else, the 2012 election for president. The conference is filled with White House wannabes, including, of course, Sarah Palin of Alaska, who had this to say to Matt Lauer about Barack Obama as our new commander-in-chief.


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR VICE PRESIDENTIAL CND: I'm comfortable with Barack Obama as our commander-in-chief, assuming that he has those around him who recognize, as I'm sure he will recognize also, if he doesn't already, that terrorists have not changed their minds.


MATTHEWS: Well, there's a whole-hearted endorsement for you. Much more on the Republican men and woman who may want to run in 2012 coming up here.

Also, baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. Is there anything that says America to the world-or used to-more than the American auto industry? Democrats are now urging emergency help for an industry in desperate trouble, while President Bush is cool to the idea. Should the blame for this destruction of our industry go to the politicians for refusing to modernize Motown all these years? Should the auto industry be forced to make it on its own now, or is it just too big and important in jobs to be allowed to die? We'll ask author and "New York Times" columnist Tom Friedman. He's coming on HARDBALL tonight.

Plus: Rush Limbaugh says-and sometimes I agree with him, not this time-he says the recession isn't President Bush's fault, it's the fault catch this-of the president who hasn't yet taken office, Barack Obama. It's an "Obama recession." That's what he's calling it. That's just some of the bitter sore losers' rhetoric we're hearing from the right these days. Later-later on that-we'll have more on that.

Also: What are President Bush's greatest regrets as his presidency comes to a close? We'll have that, the 11th hour confessions, and he's making a true confession right now, on tonight's "Politics Fix."

And imagine the surprise when people got what they thought was their "New York Times" this morning and saw this. No, the Iraq war isn't over, and no, that's not "The New York Times." We're going to solve that mystery in the HARDBALL "Sideshow."

But we begin with the Republican Governors Association meeting in Miami today. And with us now, a guest we like to have on the show, Mississippi governor Haley Barbour.

Governor Barbour, let me ask you about the South and the Republican Party. You helped build the South as a bastion of Republican strength all these years, but if you look at the map that was put out by "The Times"-and I think it's an accurate map-it shows that the only places in the country, the only counties where the Republicans picked up strength from last time is in that crescent that begins in southwestern Pennsylvania and goes all the way down to Mississippi. It's really not across the country anymore. Your party's only getting stronger in the sort of the Mountain states going down into Dixie. What do you make of that? Is that good for the party or a sign of weakness?

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR ®, MISSISSIPPI: Well, let me say this. To say you did 2 percent better this year than you did four years ago is not much of a measurement. I do think it's important for us to remember, as Republicans-when I got involved in this party 40 years ago, we weren't a national party because we weren't competitive in the South.

We need to be very careful and conscious of the fact that we must always be a national party, and Southern Republicans, Western Republicans, any Republicans need to be concerned about our competitiveness in the Northeast and the industrial Midwest right now. We've got have to work very hard on that. I think we can and will. We got Republican governors in places like Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island. Indiana reelected its Republican governor by 20 points last week.

But yes, we all-we don't want to ever quit being the national party because, as a Southern Republican in 1968, I know what it's like when you have a whole region you can't compete in.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of the fact that there's only-well, there aren't any U.S. members of Congress from New England anymore who are Republicans?

BARBOUR: Well, as I say, those states that don't have any Republican congressmen, only one Republican senator-two Republican senators-they turn around, and half of those states have Republican governors. I think one of the reasons for that is that citizens, voters can more clearly see what their governors actually accomplish. And voters, after all, are interested in getting things done. They want results.


BARBOUR: So they vote 2 to 1 for Obama in Vermont, and yet Jim Douglas, the Republican governor, gets 56 percent of the vote. Washington is far enough removed, and the results that are accomplished are not accomplished from there, are not as obvious to voters. So that's why we will need to rebuild our party around governors, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Sarah Palin. She's getting a lot of publicity. She's on something of a-sort of like a book tour, doing a lot of interviews with big guys like Matt Lauer and others, and Greta Van Susteren. She-I asked somebody last night, Ron Christie, who used to work for the vice president, Dick Cheney-I said, Give me a state that Sarah Palin added to the ticket this year? Is there a state you can think of that she brought to the ticket?

BARBOUR: I think she actually helped the ticket. I think she helped the ticket by probably votes in the millions. I'm not close enough to the returns to see where she made a difference. I was surprised to find out today from the governor of North Dakota, who got reelected with 74 percent of the vote last week, that McCain only got 53 percent in North Dakota. So I'm not tuned in enough to that. I do think she helped the ticket.


BARBOUR: One thing you mentioned in your intro, Chris, I do want to correct just because you're getting bad information. The news media down here maybe want to be talking about 2012. The vast majority of the people, and all the governors at this conference, we're talking about 2010. That's when we-the 2009 and '10 gubernatorial elections and congressional elections in '10. That's what have to have our eye on if we're going to rebuild this party.

Just like when I became chairman in 1993, I told Bob Dole and everybody else, Anybody wants to talk about the 1996 presidential race has got their eye off the ball because what happened in '93 and '94 would be, and it turned out to be, critical to rebuilding our party. Same thing here. We have 36 governor's races in 2010, plus the two next year, and that's what we're focused on. Success in 2010 will have a whole lot more to do with our chances to elect a Republican president in 2012 than any talk or campaign or anything else down here about an election that's four years away.

MATTHEWS: OK, let's talk about the economy, then. We can agree on this. It's a hot issue. Tom Friedman in "The New York Times" blamed the Democrats, basically, in Michigan and states around the auto industry for failing to push the auto industries in those states. Here he is writing, "The blame for this travesty"-that's the auto industry's problems-

"not only belongs to the auto executives, but must be shared equally with the entire Michigan delegation in the House and Senate, virtually all of whom year after year voted however the Detroit automakers and unions instructed them to vote."

You have a thriving auto industry been moving into the South and "Right to work" states. Explain why your states have the industry doing much better than the auto industry's doing with the big three up in Motown, in Detroit.

BARBOUR: Well, because the auto industry in the South has its wage-its cost structure under control. They're able to make cars at a cost that they can afford to sell them at a profit and make very high quality cars. And I think-I don't-Tom Friedman can tell you more about this than I. Lord, I hate to be on your TV show agreeing with "The New York Times," but the automobile companies in the '60s and '70s, when they had no competition, they didn't care what it cost because they could just pass it along to the consumer. Now they can't do that anymore, yet they're stuck with those legacy costs.

So if Tom Friedman said that that's the main reason for the problems with the big three, then I will say it seems to me like this is something Tom Friedman and I agree on.

MATTHEWS: Well, let's talk about a couple of things here, first of all, the national mood. You're talking about the mood among the governors. I'm looking at the poll data. Something like 70 people -- 70 percent of the people as of today in the Quinnipiac poll believe the economy's going to be better in four years. They're relatively optimistic about the election results. They're hopeful. Fifty percent of Republicans-that's at least half, of course, and more than the other-it's a working plurality of Republicans believe things are going to get better.

Where do you see the silver lining over the next years? Apparently, the public does see us getting out of this trough, out of the problems of the auto industry, the problems of the financial institutions, as bad as they are today. They're optimistic we can pull out. Do you have that optimism?

BARBOUR: Well, look, America's pulled out of every recession, depression, panic or any other economic calamity we've ever had, whether it's a little shallow, brief recession like 2000, 2001 or 1990, '91, or the much longer, deeper bad times in the late '70s through the end of 1982. Sure, we're going to pull out of it.

And I want to just tell you, right-thinking Americans, whether they're Republicans, Democrats, conservatives or liberals, hope that President Obama has success, that he does things that are right for the country and he does them successfully. I sure hope so. And I'm not surprised by the optimism of the American people. We never have had a problem we couldn't solve, and we'll solve this problem.

Now, we may have some disagreements about what the right things are to do, but we'll work through that. Right now, what we need to do is get focused on actually addressing the problems.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about race relations. You're a man of the South and you've been through all the history down there, Haley. And I was so taken with a CNN report that came out today. I was at the airport up here in Boston on the way up, and I saw this amazing report. African-Americans were asked, across the board, regardless of politics, Do you feel that we can get beyond race problems in this country? And for the first time in history, the average African-American, more than 50 percent, believe that we can get past it, in fact, we will get past it, we are getting past it. What is your feeling about that, as a Southerner? This is optimistic. First time ever.

BARBOUR: And it's a subject about which we long to be optimistic. Race relations-you know, we've got a long, dark history, and my state had a terrible image in the country, some of it deserved, some of it not deserved. But I can tell you, in my state, as you saw with the debate at Ole Miss back during the presidential campaign, we made incredible amounts of progress. And there's no way in the world people cannot look at last week's elections as a big step forward for race relations in America.

I hadn't seen the CNN piece, so I don't know exactly what it said, but that gives me cheer, to think that. That's-I mean, I'm tickled to see that people are optimistic, particularly African-Americans, whose views about race relations have tended to be more negative than whites or others. So I'm glad to hear about it, but I didn't see it, so I can't really comment on the specifics.

MATTHEWS: Yes, they got to deal with the problem, and they're more optimistic. It's an amazing thing. You ought to take a look. CNN reported it this morning.

Thank you very much, Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi, still one of the rising stars of the Republican Party and one of the few people to come out of Katrina looking good.

Coming up: Should Washington bail out the big automakers? We got the expert here, and boy, is he tough. Tom Friedman lays into the Congresspeople in Michigan. He blames the politicians as much as the executives. By the way, he thinks the executives ought to be kicked out as part of any bail-out. Hot stuff coming up here. There's going to be a price to pay if the American people have to bail out the auto industry, and a lot of people are going to pay it, including the top guys in the auto industry.

You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Democrats are pushing for emergency funding to save the big three automakers. That's GM, Ford and Chrysler. But would a bail-out reward failure and stall innovation in the auto industry? And on a larger scale, are Obama and the Democrats willing to do what it takes to force American automakers to produce fuel-efficient cars?

Pulitzer Prize-winning "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman is author of the new book "Hot, Flat, and Crowded." Tom, thank you very much for joining us. I saw you the other night at Steve Solarz's house, and I have to tell you, I was so impressed. And I want you to lay it on the line here, as you did in your column today. What responsibility, what blame should Congress get, especially the people from the auto-producing states, for the failure of that industry to keep up with the Japanese producers?

TOM FRIEDMAN, "NEW YORK TIMES" COLUMNIST: Well, you know, Chris, it's no secret, it's a public record that year after year, Congressmen and women and senators from Michigan have protected and insulated the oil companies -the auto companies-the oil companies, too-the auto companies from competitive pressures. Remember, these are companies that opposed seatbelts, rear-view mirrors, catalytic converters. Just about every innovation, they fought. And certainly, improved mileage standards, which we last really tackled, Chris, before they were done last year, 32 years ago. They prevented 32 years of efforts to increase mileage standards.

And that's why these companies are in the position they're in. They've been absolutely caught, you know, flat-footed by competition because year after year, they were protected from the forces of change that have buffeted and improved so many other American industries, like steel and certainly like high tech.

MATTHEWS: Are they waiting for the price of oil to go down? I notice it's going down because of the world's financial crisis, one of the side effects is this lower (INAUDIBLE) under $60 today a barrel. And I'm wondering, are they plotting, the auto industry still, to survive by building fuel-inefficient cars, big gas guzzlers? Is that the market they want?

FRIEDMAN: Well, you know-as Haley Barbour pointed out, they basically got themselves into a situation where, when they were well-protected, they agreed to very large contracts with the United Auto Workers. And sooner or later, you know, they couldn't sustain those contracts. And basically, they created a world for themselves where they could only really make money on making big, gas-guzzling cars. And therefore, they continued to do everything they could to protect the gas guzzler, including in the last two years, actually offering people a $1.99 gas for a year if they bought a gas guzzler.

So now, undoubtedly, they're hoping oil prices are going to go down, but actually, if you talk to people in the oil industry, Chris, I think it's a dangerous bet because, yes, prices are going down because demand is going down, but also, investment in new production is going down because demand is going down. And as a result, you know, we don't know when oil prices are going to spike back at all. If that's how your business model's built, I think that'd be a really risky bet.

MATTHEWS: What deal would you cut if you were Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, if she had the power of the purse to save the auto industry and she got the support of the incoming president, Barack Obama? What would you demand that the auto companies do to get that money, the huge amount of American capital that the American taxpayer's going to have to hand them in a check? What should they do in return for that, to save the jobs of the three million people that depend on the auto industry?

FRIEDMAN: Well, Chris, it's a critical question you're asking. The first thing, you know, I think it's so important for the Speaker or the next president to point out is, we are charging this bail-out, Chris, on our kids' Visa cards. This is our kids' money. And we have an incredible moral responsibility to make sure that this money is well spent.

Now, in my column today, I quoted Paul Ingrassia from "The Wall Street Journal," who's a Pulitzer Prize-winning Detroit bureau chief for "The Journal." He won his Pulitzer Prize won covering the decline of GM. And he made it very clear what he would do, and I totally agree. Fire the entire top management. Fire the board. You have to take away the stock, and basically appoint a government master to preside over these companies to bring in the best innovative minds and begin to turn them around. To give money to the people who have year in and year out driven these companies into a ditch, Paul says, and I totally agree, is absolutely-would be totally reckless.

MATTHEWS: What is the-the culture of the auto industry that leads it always to do bigger? And how much-why do they resist the-the economical car that is lighter, that is more fuel-efficient, that will you get you up to 40 miles per gallon?

Why don't they do-every other industry, whether you're selling computers or selling hamburgers, you try to sell what the public really wants. Why don't they do it?

Or what's going on?

FRIEDMAN: Well, they...


MATTHEWS: Or is they did sell us on big cars, because we felt stronger driving SUVs? I mean, it feels fun to drive a big heavy car around. You feel a lot stronger in that car, a lot safer.


MATTHEWS: Is that it?

FRIEDMAN: Yes. Well, basically, Chris, was-they will tell you, we are giving the public the cars they wanted.

What they won't tell you is a couple other things. One is, we spend billions of dollars a year advertising every year, this is the kind of car you should want, a huge gas-guzzler, number one. And-and, number two, these are companies that, you know, have never emphasized fuel efficiency, until they were really forced to by the price of oil and Japanese competition.

And that is what is really so sad, is, they spent so much of their energy, Chris, on lobbying in Washington basically to protect the gas-guzzler, rather than on innovating to make cars lighter, stronger, and more efficient.

And, you know, Chris, you have spent a lot of time on college campuses. Walk around a college campus. Tell me how many young people you see driving Pontiacs, Buicks, Oldsmobiles.


FRIEDMAN: And-and tell me how many you see driving, you know, small Japanese cars.

Well, they are the future. And if that's what is going on, on a college campus today, then they have got something wrong.

MATTHEWS: Well, let's talk about something else really an expert in, because I have heard you on this, and I really appreciate hearing it.

Let me-you know, Iran-this campaign has been about the economy for president, but, for a while, it was all about, how do we protect ourselves against our enemies and enemies of our friends? And the question is Iran. It always comes back to Iran, it seems. They're the ones, as you pointed out the other night at dinner, they back Hezbollah. They back Hamas. They keep Syria and the other countries in a rejectionist mode around the Middle East.

They are the ones that keep the war going. They're the ones that can keep the war going. They may be a-ultimately a strategic equal of Israel. I don't know. How do you deal with them?

FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, really, I think you have just laid out, I think, the strategic situation in the Mideast today. And it's been extant now for a while.

There is a cold war, Chris, between the United States and Iran. And I think that's kind of the meta-framework in that part of the world. And, as you say, you know, Iran is backing anti-American forces in Iraq, in Lebanon, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At the same time, Iran has huge problems. They have a big population that is growing rapidly. They have 20 percent either unemployment or underemployment, 30 percent inflation. And the price of oil has been going down.

So, I think-and they would be in a receptive mood is my guess for some kind of negotiation. Now, could you get kind of a cosmic deal, where the United States sat down, said, look, you guys give up your nuclear program, we will give up the economic boycott? I-I don't know. I don't know if we can do that.

But I think it's critical and I think the-we know everything that that Obama said on the campaign-that-that the next president try to do this, Chris, because there would be no bigger game-changer in the Middle East than changing the relationship between the United States and Iran. It would unlock four doors at once.

MATTHEWS: Well, it's going to be great to see Barack Obama going head to head with Ahmadinejad, with Bibi Netanyahu, part of that mix, in Israel when he gets elected.

Anyway, Thomas Friedman, the greatest mind in American journalism right now.


MATTHEWS: The book is "Hot, Flat and Crowded." It explains itself, climate change. We all live in the same world. And, boy, is it getting crowded in this world. Tom Friedman explains it all in this fabulous new book.

Up next: John McCain on Jay Leno. Let's watch.


JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": It's been a week since the election. How you doing?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: Well, I have been sleeping like a baby.

LENO: Yes. Yes.


MCCAIN: Sleep two hours, wake up and cry. Sleep two hours, wake up and cry.




MATTHEWS: Good old John, he's back. John McCain is back. Much more of that next in the "Sideshow." We're going to show you more of that from last night and some other hot stuff.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And what a "Sideshow" we have got tonight.

Public servants, the genuine ones, look all the finer when they have to face defeat. Just take a look at John McCain in his first post-election interview with Jay Leno last night.


LENO: It's been a week since the election. How you doing?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: Well, I have been sleeping like a baby.

LENO: Yes. Yes.


MCCAIN: Sleep two hours, wake up and cry. Sleep two hours, wake up and cry.



LENO: I mean, at what point, did you realize, oh, this is kind of bigger than both of us? You know what I'm saying?

MCCAIN: I never thought that.


MCCAIN: Because I'm a fighter.

LENO: I got you.

MCCAIN: We always-I knew I had a headwind. I can read the polls.

LENO: Got you. Yes.

MCCAIN: They tried to keep them from me. You know, "Oh, you don't read that, Senator."

But, no, I knew we had a real headwind.

LENO: Do you feel the press kind of favored him? Did you see sort of...

MCCAIN: Yes, it's all the press' fault.

LENO: All the press' fault.



MCCAIN: No, look, look, they just-we're big guys.

LENO: Right.

MCCAIN: We are supposed to be able to take this kind of stuff.

LENO: Right.

MCCAIN: You know, you can't-one thing I think Americans don't want, it's a sore loser.

LENO: Right.

MCCAIN: And I have got a great-I get to go back to the United States Senate and work on a lot of issues and continue to serve. That's been my life. That's been my life.

LENO: Now, let me ask you this. In 2012, you will be 76, still a young man.

LENO: Yes, here we go again.

LENO: Going to give it another shot?

MCCAIN: Yes, I'm ready to go again.

LENO: Ready to go again?



MCCAIN: I don't-I don't-I wouldn't think so, my friend.


MCCAIN: It's been a great experience. And, you know, we're going to have another generation of leaders come along, and I will hope that I can continue to contribute. That's all.


MATTHEWS: Well, as the senator likes to say, the Mac is back.

As Ed Brooke, the former senator of Massachusetts, said when he lost:

"I did not cry on the mountain. I will not cry in the valley."

Anyway, next, former U.S. Congressman Mark Foley emerged from his two-year exile to speak about the page scandal that ended his career two years ago and also helped win the-lose Republicans their control of Congress. Though he admits his sexually explicit conversations with male House pages, former Congressman Foley takes issues with accusations of pedophilia. Here he is.


MARK FOLEY ®, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It hits me right in the gut, because it's absolutely false and incorrect. I never had sex with a child. I never had sex with a minor. A pedophile is somebody who is having sex with prepubescent person. I mean, that is an outrage to be called that. I hope that the people who I love in this community know that I would have never intentionally hurt them.


MATTHEWS: Well, let's hope Mark Foley's problems are over.

Next, the Iraq war, is that over? That's what these fake editions of "The New York Times" reported this morning. Pranksters handed out countless editions dated July 4, 2009 in New York City and in Los Angeles. A writer for the bogus newspaper said it's meant to push the new administration to deliver on its promises.

Now for tonight's "Big Number."

We spent many months here on HARDBALL focusing early attention on the role played by the vice president's office in pushing the case for the Iraq war, often the bogus case, especially the argument that Iraq was trying to buy nuclear materials in Africa.

Well, last year, the vice president's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, was convicted of multiple felony counts for lying and obstructing justice in the matter. At the time, the prosecutors said there was a cloud hanging over the vice president himself.

Well, having commuted Mr. Libby's sentence, the question is whether or not-or whether when President Bush will grant Scooter Libby a full pardon. He has 69 days to do it. And that's tonight's "Big Number" -- 69 days to complete the cover-up of the Scooter Libby vice presidential matter tonight's "Big Number."

Up next: The campaign is over, but no one told the right wing, at least some of it. Sixty-nine days before Barack Obama moves into the White House, you won't believe some of the nasty things that some on the right are saying. In fact, one of them, the big guy, Rush Limbaugh, is actually already blaming Barack Obama for the recession of the Bush era. He is responsible before he is even responsible.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I'm Julia Boorstin with your CNBC "Market Wrap."

A huge sell-off, as the government announced a major shift in strategy in the $700 billion financial rescue plan. The Dow Jones industrials plunged 411 points. The S&P 500 tumbled 46. And the Nasdaq dropped 81 points, closing at a new five-and-a-half low.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced, money from the financial bailout plan will not be used to buy troubled bank assets after all. Instead, he said, some money will be used to buy stock in banks as a way to inject cash.

The markets were also rattled by Best Buy's warnings of a seismic slowdown in spending. The electronics giant slashed its 2009 outlook today.

Meantime, Macy's reported a third-quarter loss and forecast a weak fourth quarter.

And oil fell another $3.50, closing at $56.16 a barrel. That's the lowest level in 22 months.

And that's it from CNBC, first in business worldwide-now back to


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Have Democrats and their victory this last Tuesday stoked up too much anger on the right?

Joining me is radio talk show host Heidi Harris from Las Vegas, and the president of Air America Media and co-editor of his new 22nd book, which came out today, "Change For America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President." That's Mark Green.

Thank you both for joining us.

Heidi, what is the mood out there? Because I'm getting-well, let's go with the big guy himself.

Here's Rush Limbaugh the other day talking about Barack Obama, the president-elect.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: This is a-an Obama recession, might turn into a depression. It's-he hasn't done anything yet, but his ideas are killing the economy.


MATTHEWS: Heidi, what do you make of that? Is that a preemptive war, where you attack somebody before they do what you don't want them to do, or what?

HEIDI HARRIS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, listen, I don't know what Rush said, because I didn't hear the whole context of what he said.

But I can tell you that, as a conservative, what I think is funny is, we will have someone to blame for the next couple of years. And isn't that fun?

MATTHEWS: Well, it's a lot more fun being in opposition.

HARRIS: No matter what happens...

MATTHEWS: But the question is...


MATTHEWS: Yes, go ahead. Go ahead. Your thought.

HARRIS: I was going to say that, listen, I-there's lots of blame on both sides of the aisle when it comes to the situation we're in now with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We understand that.

But let's face it. Barack Obama inherited this. And it is a mess and he is going to have to make some very critical decisions right now that will change things for the better or the worse. And, already, he is talking about additional bailouts and trying to get President Bush to do his dirty work, and sign those things into law before President Bush leaves, which I hope the president does not do.

MATTHEWS: You don't want him-just to get that straight, you don't want him to do the auto bailout?

HARRIS: No, no, no. I don't want him to do any more of Barack's dirty work. I didn't like the bailout the last time. I was very much opposed to any Republicans signing on to that. And I don't think we need any more bailouts for any more industries.

If Barack wants them, he can do it in January.

MATTHEWS: OK. Fair enough.

Do you think the country can wait and take a hit on the auto front? People say there's three million jobs depend on the auto industry. If it goes down before January 20, whose fault is it?

HARRIS: Well, let's be honest. A couple of weeks ago, we were told that, if the Senate and the Congress did not sign the bailout right that minute, the entire nation was going to collapse, the entire financial system.

Here we are, weeks later. The stock market has gone down. Bernanke doesn't even know what to do with the money now. So, I'm not convinced that there is a dire emergency that has to be handled before January.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you before-I'm fascinated by it. Who do you think is giving us bad information in the big powers of the economy? Is it-is it Wall Street lying to us? Is it Paulson lying to us? Who is using scare tactics?

Because it sounds to me you're saying, we have been pushed into something, pushed into something that is going to commit taxpayers or borrowers from future generations forever, and you think we were pushed into it preemptively.

HARRIS: Absolutely.

I meant to say Paulson earlier when I said Bernanke.

Absolutely. When Henry Paulson said they were going to buy some of the bad debt, and now they are not going to, so they are sitting on over $700 billion, and we don't even know what they're going to do. They don't know what to do.

And the biggest issue for me is, the same people who got us in are not the people who should be in charge of getting us out.


HARRIS: That's like a country-a company-a company that goes in and goes bankrupt, and you keep the same CEO. No, you bring in a new group of people to straighten out the mess. Paulson is not the guy to do it.

MATTHEWS: God, you have got a populist heart, Heidi. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Let's go to Mark Green, if he can match that, because when the right, which Heidi generally represents, does begin to question authority, begins to question the establishment that is running this country, it makes you wonder what the left is going to say.


MARK GREEN, PRESIDENT, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Well, when I saw election night, with all of us, that Barack Obama had tripled the majority that Bush won in 2004, when 11 Senate seats and 53 House seats over two election cycles has gone to the Democrats, when the Limbaugh party philosophy of preventive war and financial deregulation and trickle-down economics just hit a reef of reality and capsized, I thought, uh-oh, right-wing talk radio is either going to slit their wrists or go nuts. They have done the responsible thing, Chris. They've simply gone nuts. When Rush Limbaugh wants to talk to his three percent of America, let him; 97 percent of America want to look forward to what Barack Obama as president can or should do. And that's why this morning the Center for American Progress and I released a 300,000 word progressive blueprint that we've been working on 18 months, not knowing who the 44th president might be, because we want to look ahead, not to just ideologically complain.

MATTHEWS: What do you say in your 3,000 page book or whatever about whether we bail out the big three? Because Heidi from the right says that's just establishment thinking. That's just bailing out the people that caused the trouble. Why issue blank checks now before we get a new president?

GREEN: By the way, I don't disagree with Heidi on that, because so

called left and right economic populism sometimes comes together. Paulson

was incredibly irresponsible by saying, here's a three-page bill. Give me

700 billion without review. By the way, we were sold-I agree with Heidi a bill of goods. When Detroit comes forward-I agree with your earlier guest, Tom Friedman. By the way, if Detroit goes down, that's millions of jobs that are related jobs. It used to be one in six jobs that were connected to the auto industry.

If the federal government helps-and only a Marxist like Bush, who socialized some of the banking industry, would even consider this. If we're going to do it, then the standards have to be not just no golden parachutes, but you throw out management, you eliminate a lot of share holder equity. And unless they commit to green cars, new hybrid, plug-in cars, you don't do it. There have to be strict conditions.

What progressive patriotism is is a theme of our book. If the right wing had compassionate conservatism as a slogan, we think there is a huge program built on democracy, diplomacy, economic opportunity and a greener word that a president-elect or President Obama could govern on, given how big a mandate he won.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask Heidi about something. That's the tenor of this discussion now. I do wonder about the big cars. I know the appeal of big cars. If you are on the highways in the states like Colorado or out west, Wyoming, where you've got long distances to travel and you are going 70 miles an hour or more, whatever the legal limit is-you may be going a bit more-you want a big car. You want a heavy car. You can say drive a light European style car, but you know nobody wants to do it.

Where do we end up with the discussion? I just want to finish on cars for a second. Do you think we will ever get used to the idea of smaller, lighter cars? Will Americans go for it?

HARRIS: Listen, you have been to Europe and so have I, Chris. Some of those tin cans they drive over there we can't have because we have too many lawyer who will sue if people get injured. When it comes to SUVs, yes, I like my SUV. I drive on the streets of Las Vegas. I need my SUV.

Ultimately, this bail out of the big three is a bail out of unions. Let's be very honest here. That's why we are talking about American cars and not Toyota, not Nissan. We are talking about American automakers.

MATTHEWS: What's your SUV?

HARRIS: I have a Nissan.

MATTHEWS: You like it?

HARRIS: I like it. I have a Nissan because-I had Fords years ago. I had a couple Toyotas. I like my Nissan. I like it very much. It's a great car. It starts every day. That's all I ask. This bailout is all about unions, the union pension, the union workers who have to get paid incredible wages. That's one of the main reason the big three automakers of American makers can't compete.

GREEN: Chris, this is one of the reasons Barack Obama did so well.

Limbaugh and Heidi talk about unions, this hob goblin. It's about workers. In the Bush-Cheney years, they created one third the number of new jobs that Bill Clinton did. So the idea is we like to keep Americans having real income grow up, and the middle class saw, for the first time in decades, their actual income go down over a decade.

The issue is jobs and middle class income. This is why Bush lost.

Here I don't agree with Heidi. If you want to ignore that issue, fine.

You will lose the next five presidential elections.

MATTHEWS: Let me leave on that. I think we have a big fight here, but it's interesting when the left and the right are both populist, and going after the bail outs. I find it interesting. In fact, I like it. By the way, everybody who came out against the bail out did well in the elections. Nobody knows that more than Heidi. The smart move for John McCain would have come out against the bail out. We might have had a different result. Look at Al Franken out there. He came out against the bail out. Martin in Georgia came out against the bail out, and may well pull a surprise down there. Certainly, Al Franken could.

Anyway, thank you, Mark Green. Good luck with the book. Good luck with your helping with the transition. Heidi Harris, as always.

Up next, George W. Bush said he has some regrets. This is brand-new tonight. For the first time in eight years, President Bush is admitting mistakes. Who doesn't have mistakes? But this is the first time this guy is admitting them? They are things like he shouldn't have said "bring them on." He shouldn't have said "dead or alive" about Barack Obama. And he shouldn't have stood in front of that Mission Accomplished banner. A lot of truth coming from the president hour. That will be on the politics fix, coming back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix. Tonight, we're joined by MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman of "Newsweek Magazine" and Bob Herbert of the "New York Times." Let's take a look at some of the words here. Here's President Bush with two of his memorable statements.


BUSH: I don't care. Dead or alive, either way. I mean, it doesn't matter to me.

There some who feel like the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring them on. We have the force necessary to deal with the security situation.


MATTHEWS: Here's President Bush on CNN with some of his regrets about making those statements.


BUSH: I regret saying some things I shouldn't have said.


BUSH: Like dead or alive, bring them on. By the way, my wife reminded me that, hey, as president of the United States, you'd better be careful what you say. I was trying to convey a message. I probably could have conveyed it more artfully. Being on this ship reminds me of when I went to the USS Abraham Lincoln and they had a sign that said "Mission Accomplished." I regret that that sign was there. It was a sign aimed at the sailors on that ship. However, it conveyed a broader knowledge. To some it said, well, Bush thinks the war in Iraq is over. When I didn't think that, but nevertheless it conveyed the wrong message.

So there are things I've regretted.


MATTHEWS: Well, Howard, I guess we've been through that. I think it is interesting that it takes his wife to tell him. Doesn't he have people at work that sort of warn him? I do, I can tell you. My producers tell me immediately when I make a mistake, and I make them a lot. Isn't that funny? He brings it home to a situation comedy. My wife said I shouldn't have said that.

HOWARD FINEMAN, "NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE": Yes, well, my dominant impression here is a president of the United States who has kind of checked out. He's already in the locker room with the towel around his neck giving his interpretation of the interceptions that he threw. It was a tough game. He is still president, as Barack Obama said. We only have one president at a time. This guy is still the president. We've got an economy cratering by the minute. And he is sort of having fun rewriting history, and joking about what his wife told him.

It is not a confidence inducing thing. I don't mean to be harsh here, but we still have a ways to go here. Every moment counts in the economic situation. This guy, I think, has checked out many, many months ago. He is counting the minutes until he gets out that door. But he still has a job to do.

MATTHEWS: Bob, that's a question. Howard suggested are-if something is falling between the cracks here, it is us. It's the United States of America. Because if the auto industry goes down, and we have three million jobs in jeopardy, that could create macro economic disaster. Of course, if this financial thing isn't straightened out, and it doesn't seem to be where Paulson is moving the money around, and not really telling us what mandate he is operating under, whether he goes to clean up the mortgage problems or he does something else with the banks at a higher level-who is in charge?

BOB HERBERT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think maybe I will be a little harsh here. The president seems to be concerned about style points or public relations, how he looked when he made what he saw as inartful comments. But it might have been better if he had some regrets like, perhaps, some regrets that related to the war or maybe he was sorry about the way he handled the nation's finances. I would be happier if he were a little sorrier about extraordinary rendition and prisoners who were tortured and what that did to the United States reputation around the world.

The United States is in a deep, deep fix here. President Bush bears a great deal of responsibility. There is more to be regretful about than a few inartful comments.

MATTHEWS: That's why you're one of the great columnists today. Howard, I agree. I was falling into the trap of trivialization along with our president. He led me into that valley of absurdity, as if it really matters whether he committed this faux pas or that when we're talking about a United States of America which is in terrible shape. And I could argue morally, because of a lot of the issues that Bob just raised, morally, about torture, rendition, war, unjustified war, death by the tens of thousands of our own people-certainly the people, if you add them up, the casualties in Iraq is in the tens of thousands.

And he was either morally right or morally culpable. That would be an area of confession that might be more relevant.

FINEMAN: Well, I agree. I was led down that path just as you were. Bob brought us back to reality. But I also think we don't expect any real confession or self-knowledge from George Bush, at least publicly expressed, at least publicly expressed. Most other normal human beings would be ringing their hands at this point. But it is both a virtue and a huge drawback of George Bush that he refuses either to look back or to look inward, it seems. And so I guess I wasn't ever expecting, certainly at this point, before he leaves office, any kind of true soul searching on the part of this man. Soul searching does not seem-political soul searching does not seem to be in his make-up. So that's why I wasn't even looking for it.

MATTHEWS: We're obviously at the cross section of horror and hilarity right now. The horror being so horrible, it's hilarious. That's a problem with my soul. I can't deal with this level of horror. It begins to be just callow humor. Anyway, we'll be back with Howard Fineman and Bob Herbert with more of the politics fix. You're watching it on HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: We're back with Howard Fineman and Bob Herbert. Before we get to Sarah Palin's return to greatness tomorrow in the Republican Governor's Conference, let me ask you, Bob, this question about an interregnum. We have a lame duck situation right now, which could be pretty horrific. One president is on his way out. He's checked out, as Howard says, psychologically. He's on his way back to Crawford in his head. Yet, we have three auto companies going down. We have a financial crisis which has driven the market down 400 points today. Is nobody in charge right now and nobody will be until January 20th?

HERBERT: The president is supposed to be in charge, obviously. But I think there is a real crisis of confidence, on top of everything else in the United States, especially among consumers. So everything that Barack Obama does is going to be spotlighted. I think that he has more of a responsibility during this transitional period than most president-elects.

MATTHEWS: We have Sleepy Hollow as a country right now and the Headless Horseman running the show, Howard. I'm worried. I don't think we have a president on deck, coming or leaving.

FINEMAN: Well, that's why they'll name-Obama I think is going to pick a treasury secretary very soon and try to calm things a little bit.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Howard Fineman. Thank you, Bob Herbert. Tomorrow, Sarah Palin returns. Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now, it is time for "1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE" with David Gregory.



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