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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Tuesday, January 6

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guest: Tim Wright, Kurt Schmoke, Sen. Mark Begich, Aaron Schock, Roger Simon, Jill Zuckman, Pat Buchanan, Susan Page

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  No drama Obama?  The plot thickens. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight, a bright, if rainy, day in the nation‘s capital, and a new day for the country.  It‘s one of the great American traditions.  Today, every member of the House of the Representatives, including 54 new members, and 32 U.S.  senators, including nine new ones, were sworn in at the capital. 


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Do you solemnly swear that you will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic? 


MATTHEWS:  That‘s the outgoing vice president of the United States.  This Congress and this president promise to be different.  We have a president who is ready to act and to act now to try to fix the economy and restore America‘s position in the world.  Along with him comes what may be the most activist Democratic Congress since 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson ushered in his New Society or Great Society programs. 

But amid all the pageantry today, another scene was playing outside the capital, involving Rod Blagojevich‘s choice to replace Barack Obama in the Senate, Roland Burris. 


ROLAND BURRIS, SENATE DESIGNATE OF ILLINOIS:  Members of the media, my name is Roland Burris, the junior senator from the state of Illinois. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, but not quite.  Burris was turned away by the secretary of the Senate, who refused to seat him today.  We‘ll talk to Burris‘ lawyers about why they think Senate Democrats blocking Burris are on the wrong side of the law, and why the Blagojevich appointee just may win this thing. 

Also, we‘ll talk to a new Democratic senator, the guy that beat Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.  Also, we‘re going to talk to the youngest member of the House, a Republican. 

Plus, whatever happened to no drama Obama?  Just consider the following names, Bill Richardson, Rick Warren, Rod Blagojevich, Roland Burris and now Leon Panetta.  As our colleague Roger Simon pointed out, the drama‘s not all of Obama‘s making, but some of it is.

And late this afternoon, just days after former President George H.W.  Bush said he thought Jeb Bush would make a fine president some day, Jeb Bush said today he is not running for that Senate seat down in Florida.  What made Jeb decide not to run?  we‘ll have more of that in the politics fix tonight. 

But first, an exclusive interview for the attorneys representing Roland Burris.  We‘re joined now by former Baltimore Mayor and Rhodes Scholar Kurt Schmoke and Tim Wright. Gentlemen, thank you very much.  Here‘s your client today, Senator designate Roland Burris.  And here‘s what he had to say outside the capital. 


BURRIS:  I presented my credentials to the secretary of the Senate and advised that my credentials were not in order, and I would not be accepted and I will not be seated and will not be permitted on the floor.  And therefore, I am not seeking to have any type of confrontation.  I will now consult with my attorneys and we‘ll determine what our next step will be. 


MATTHEWS:  OK, Tim Wright, Kurt Schmoke, he doesn‘t want a confrontation, your client, right?  How are you going to finesse this and get him seated, perhaps as early as tomorrow?  Can you do it?  Can you work this thing out without a fight? 

TIM WRIGHT, ATTORNEY FOR ROLAND BURRIS:  We think we can do it.  We hope to meet with the majority leadership of the Senate.  We think we can work things out.  We think that they‘re capable of reconsidering based upon the issues here.  We think we can work it out. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, what‘s the fight over right now, the fact that the secretary of state of the Illinois didn‘t sign the document, because he doesn‘t want this guy to be named a senator, right? 

KURT SCHMOKE, ATTORNEY FOR ROLAND BURRIS:  We don‘t want to get into his intention, his motivation.  The bottom line is he didn‘t sign.  And when we walked into the Senate today, the Senator Designate Burris presented the credentials.  The only peg that the secretary of Senate put her—you know, rejected him on, only basis that she rejected him on was the fact that there was no signature by the secretary of state.  So we‘re going to state court to try to get the secretary of state to sign the paper. 

But the bottom line for our purposes is that all the law is on Burris‘ side, the Constitution of the United States.  The Illinois Constitution is on Burris‘ side. 

MATTHEWS:  Someone once told me that in terms of argument, even outside the court, never give one reason why you‘re not doing something, because all the person has to do is take that reason away, and then you have to give way.  Do you believe that the only thing stopping the Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid from seating your client, Senate Designate Burris, is this lack of a signature or is there something else?  The smell of Blagojevich?  The whole corruption pay to play scandal out in Illinois behind all this appointment? 

WRIGHT:  You know, I think Senator Reid‘s said just the very same things.  I mean, from our position, is that still a signature isn‘t required.  That‘s nowhere in the 17th amendment.  It doesn‘t exist.  And so Senator Reid has the power and the ability to accept Senator Roland Burris today. 

MATTHEWS:  What does he want from you fellows, as his attorneys for Mr. Burris?  What do you think Reid needs to get so he can back down, if he wants to back down?  Politics is about getting the other side to give way.  You‘re not going to beat him.  You have to make him look like he looks OK, too, right?  How does you let him save face tomorrow, because he has said no way you‘re going to get in there? 

WRIGHT:  I think, given what Senator Reid has said, that he‘s concerned about the circumstances surrounding the appointment of Senator Roland Burris by Blagojevich.  I think we can explain those circumstances.  I think we can present whatever proof that he might be looking for.  I think if he‘s comfortable and he accepts that, then we can move forward.  And that gives everybody what they asked for. 

SCHMOKE:  A thing you may not have seen, Chris, we presented to the State Legislature of Illinois an affidavit that describes step by step what happened in this process of the call from Blagojevich‘s staff to Burris.  back and forth.  So if the Senate wants to be consistent with their rules and say, we‘ll look into the matter, we do have the facts.  They can look into it.  They can review it very fast.  This doesn‘t need to be a long drawn process. 

MATTHEWS:  If you can prove to the Senate leadership that the process of selecting Burris by Blagojevich, who has other problems, obviously, with possible impeachment, possible indictment—if he didn‘t engage in pay to play, that there‘s no quid pro quo, do you think that will exonerate this whole process and allow your client to take the seat?  If you can prove there was no hanky-panky, to use a regular term here? 

WRIGHT:  I think can we.  I think we will.

MATTHEWS:  You think enough for Senator Reid and Durbin and the rest of them?? 

WRIGHT:  To the extent that they‘re standing on Senate Rule Number Two, which they suggest is—that if there‘s not a counter-signature or seal from the state.  I think that that‘s going to be remedied fairly quickly.  But they don‘t have to stand on that, because there‘s no such rule in the U.S. Constitution. 

MATTHEWS:  This is—doesn‘t the Senate rule say recommends, that the secretary of state has to recommend not approve?  What‘s the word? 

WRIGHT:  I don‘t know exactly what the word is, but I think what it requires—it requires several different forms.  This is not just—

SCHMOKE:  The secretary of state himself, his office, has said they never thought they had a veto over the governor‘s appointee authority. 

MATTHEWS:  Politics makes strange bed fellows.  You fellows, as attorneys for Senator Designate Burris have a lot of right wing allies now.  I don‘t know where they came from, but they‘re out there.  They seem to enjoy the fight, because it looks like it embarrasses the Senate Democratic leadership.  Fine.  Fair enough.  That‘s how the game is played. 

Do they also believe that Burris is an easy guy to beat two years from now, or next year in the general election?  That‘s why they want him seated, so they can beat him and take that Illinois seat away from a blue state like Illinois? 

WRIGHT:  It‘s difficult to beat an incumbent senator. 

MATTHEWS:  Appointed? 

WRIGHT:  Well, Harris Waford (ph), you recall that.  

MATTHEWS:  Then he got beaten a second time. 

WRIGHT:  Only think I can say is we can‘t make a judgment about the politics a year and a half—

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re not going to—are you‘re going to concede that your guy won‘t run for reelection? 

WRIGHT:  Absolutely not.  Roland Burris has won for statewide elections. 

MATTHEWS:  And then lost the last five elections. 

WRIGHT:  You know what?  People think very well of Roland Burris. 

MATTHEWS:  He lost the last five—

SCHMOKE:  The point is for us is that we‘re a legal team.  We have to did the issues of the law.  On the law -- 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  If Harry Reid—if the Senate majority leader says in the meeting tomorrow with your client, I want to know what your political plans are, will you call that out of order and say, that‘s not relevant to this discussion? 

SCHMOKE:  Certainly a question to the legal issues, no.  This is a political issue.  That‘s politics that Senator Burris and Senator Reid can get involved in.  That‘s their issue.  Right now, what we‘re trying to do is simply say, in terms of the law, if you‘re looking for legal support, all that support is on Burris‘ side. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s look at this.  Here‘s President-Elect Obama issued this statement last week.  Quote, “Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat.  I agree with their decision.  It is extremely disappointing that Governor Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it.” 


SCHMOKE:  No comment in that statement about the law.  What does the law require?  Does the governor have the authority to make the appointment?  Yes, he does.  Does Burris meet all the qualifications of the U.S. and the state Constitution?  Yes, he does.  And so, he should be seated based on the law.  That‘s a political discussion that the president-elect was involved in.  He didn‘t touch upon any of the legal issues.  And all that we‘re saying is that, as a matter of law, you have to seat this man.  Then you all can talk politics. 

MATTHEWS:  How did Mr. Burris know that he could win this fight?  It looks like he‘s going to win it.  Somewhere along the line between here and Midway Airport out in Chicago, this fellow discovered enough juice or guts to say, look, I can face down the Senate Democratic leadership and get this job, if I‘m willing to go to Washington and face them down.  It looks like that‘s what is going on here. 

WRIGHT:  He knows that the law is.  He knows that the law backs him in this bid.  He understands the importance of representing the people of the state of Illinois and that, in fact, they, too, are required by the Constitution to have representation. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  There was no deal with Blagojevich here by your client? 


MATTHEWS:  No deal about, if I give you the job, you‘ll look out for me?  You‘ll make sure there‘s the right attorneys named out there?  Nothing like that?  You are sure of that. 

SCHMOKE:  And you know, Chris, maybe your audience doesn‘t, that Burris actually ran against Blagojevich.

MATTHEWS:  I didn‘t know that. 

SCHMOKE:  Yes.  He was an opponent.  He ran against Blagojevich for governor.  So this is not somebody who‘s been a part of his team. 

MATTHEWS:  One other point of law.  If the Democrats on the Hill decide to slow walk this in the Rules Committee, in other words, send it to Rules, let it die over there, waiting for the impeachment and possible conviction of Blagojevich, so that Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn can come in and make a subsequent appointment, is it your legal ruling or finding or belief that he‘s been appointed, Burris, and no matter who‘s subsequently named by any subsequent governor, his appointment holds?  Is that your belief? 

WRIGHT:  That‘s our belief.  We believe that the governor did everything under the law that he had to do. 

MATTHEWS:  In other words, this appointment holds no matter whether the guy gets impeached or not?  Whether Blagojevich goes or stays? 

SCHMOKE:  There is no vacancy is what we‘re saying.  He is appointed. 

MATTHEWS:  The Democrats would be well advised, if they had your legal background, to accept this appointment and not slow walk this thing, and don‘t try to wait for another appointment? 

WRIGHT:  That‘s correct.  That‘s correct. 

MATTHEWS:  Thanks for coming over on a rainy day.  Gentlemen, thank you, Kurt Schmoke and Tim Wright.  These guys are going to be famous lawyers some day.  Coming up—just kidding.  You already are. 

Not Roland Burris or Minnesota‘s Al Franken, but nine new senators were sworn in today.  And when we come back, we‘re going to meet one of those incoming senators, this guy, the mayor of Anchorage, Mark Begich, beat Ted Stevens, the longest serving U.S. Republican senator.  And by the way, we‘re also going to have the youngest member of the Congress, whose about 27.  He‘s coming here, too.  He‘s a Republican from Illinois.  He‘s got the seat that Bob Mika once held out in Peoria.  He apparently played in Peoria, as they say.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Today at the Senate swearing in, Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts escorted Illinois Senator Dick Durbin down the aisle.  Usually the senator escorts the other senator from the state, but obviously given the wild state of Roland Burris‘ appointment to the Senate by Rod Blagojevich, Senator Kennedy escorted his colleague.  It‘s all part of the pageantry—I love this stuff—on the Hill today. 

Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Today, Democrat Mark Begich of Alaska was sworn in to the US Senate.  He beat 40 year incumbent Senate veteran Ted Stevens to win that seat.  He joins us now from Capital Hill.  Mr. Mayor, United States Senator Mark Begich, it‘s great to have you on the show. 

SEN. MARK BEGICH (D), ALASKA:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  So what‘s going on in the Senate?  I mean, you beat a guy with a corruption wrap on him, and then all the focus today on Burris, the Senate designate from Illinois, who‘s got a governor who‘s got a corruption problem around him.  Is this raining on the parade of what should be a festive, upbeat day for the Democrats and the country? 

BEGICH:  Actually, I don‘t think so.  I mean, I think in a lot of ways today, at least the experience I have had with the media, especially from my home state, very excited about the opportunities, the new Senate.  The people you see in the hallways here are just feeling optimism.  I think that‘s a side bar that people are watching.  But generally, as I sat in that chamber, a very, you know, in a lot of ways, emotional but historic moment.  There‘s a sense of opportunity in our state, in our country. 

I feel very positive about the whole experience.  I think people around—I mean, I went to my reception afterwards.  It was, you know, standing room only, flowing out to the hall.  People from all over came to experience this new Senate that‘s coming into stand. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you have brought your six-year-old son.  Did you

bring him into the chamber?  There‘s apparently picture.  Here it is.  Your

son had a surprise meeting with Barack Obama yesterday.  Let‘s watch that

on television right now.  There he comes.  And there he goes over to meet -

there he is. 

BEGICH:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Look at him.  He‘s going wild.  He‘s going crazy over this guy. 

BEGICH:  I know.  He‘s—you can see him jumping out there.  He‘s a big President-Elect Obama fan, as you can sense there. 

MATTHEWS:  Tell me about this, because this is the first time—I said at the beginning of the show this is the first time since 1965 you have got a new president coming in, and we have got an activist Democratic Congress.  It‘s like LBJ and the Great Society.  Is this going to be one of those years that Congress really does produce history? 

BEGICH:  Well, I hope so.  You know, when you‘re a mayor for six years, like I have been, you are about getting results every single day.  You‘re not about sitting around and talking all the time, but actually working to get results.  There‘s a sense among the freshmen that we want to see the results move forward in this country. 

And so I sense it but, you know, sometimes the legislative process is a little slower than we like.  But I do feel that there‘s an anxious attitude of let‘s get some things done, let‘s move up.  And I think Democrats have to do this.  We now have an awesome opportunity, a great responsibility, but we have to produce.  We have to make sure that we answer the call of this country to solve this economic crisis, deal with health care, with our veterans in our state and across this country.  We have a huge obligation to them. 

But we have to prove up and we can‘t just be lolly-gagging around and talking, but actually make some action and make some things happen. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there any place where you disagree with Barack? 

BEGICH:  Well, like today, when I was seeing the economic recovery bill being unfolded, I‘m glad to see there‘s more issues around small business tax credit, because I think that‘s very important.  I come from a small business community and I think—

MATTHEWS:  Where do you disagree with him? 

BEGICH:  I think, as we move forward, we‘ll probably—I disagree on ANWR, for example.  He doesn‘t support drilling in ANWR in Alaska.  I do.  I think that‘s an important aspect to our oil and gas exploration and independence for our country.  So there‘s one example.  I‘m a Second Amendment all the way, rated by the NRA as an A rating.  We have a little difference there.  There‘s always differences.  There‘s nothing wrong with that.

The challenge of our ideas are going to bring out better legislation.  But this is an opportunity I think Democrat have to work with Republicans and move forward.  And President Obama, I‘ll probably have some disagreements, and he‘ll hear about them. 

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  I think you are going to be re-elected many times up there, Senator Begich, and congratulations.  You‘re good on the First—

I‘m sure you‘re good on the First Amendment.  But you‘re also good on the Second Amendment, from an Alaska point of view, and you want to drill. 

Anyway, thank you.  Thanks for coming on the show.  I think you have figured out the issues to separate from Obama on.  Thanks for joining us. 

Let‘s go now to Aaron Shock of Illinois.  He was sworn into the House today.  He‘s 27 years old.  He is the youngest member of the House.  I want to welcome him on this day of pageantry. 

Aaron Shock, it seems to me that you‘re focused already on these huge deficits—I want to give you a number here—that are going to be left to your generation to pay off, it seems to me, somewhere down the road. 

When President Bush came into office, the national debt was a little under $6 trillion.  Now it‘s 11 trillion.  This president we have had now has created more national debt, as the 43rd president, than the first through 42nd presidents.  All the first 42 presidents didn‘t create the debt combined that this fellow produced in one presidency. 

How does the Republican Party regain its reputation as the party of fiscal responsibility? 

REP. AARON SCHOCK ®, ILLINOIS:  Well, I think that, you know, we are going to have an opportunity, this Congress, to differentiate ourselves. 

The last two years, with the Democratic control of the House and the Senate and the Republican president in Bush, you know, there was kind of some confusion in the country about who was leading the show and who was responsible for the actions of the Congress and the president. 

But now, with the Democratic president, House and Senate, it‘s going to be very clear about who‘s in charge and who‘s making decisions.  And I think it‘s going to give a great opportunity for the Republican Party to differentiate itself and for us to rebuild. 

There‘s no doubt—I agree with you—that the Republicans did not do a good job when we controlled Congress with spending.  I think it is part and parcel why we lost the majority.  Many—much of our base, at least what I was hearing in central Illinois, where I‘m from, was frustrated with the great increases in spending under this administration. 

And I—you know, I make no apology for it.  I think that, moving forward, as a fiscal conservative myself, it is one thing that I‘m going to be talking about.  And, as someone who represents a younger generation in the country, certainly, I‘m concerned about a lot of the entitlement spending that is going on, not about the next, you know, decade or the next election, but the next 20 or 30 years, how we‘re going to pay for programs like Social Security and Medicare for my generation, to make sure that those are sustainable programs that can be around when I‘m ready to retire. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, there‘s no confusion about the fact that, under President Bush, the debt doubled.  The national debt doubled to $11 trillion.  And there‘s no confusion over the fact that he never vetoed a single spending bill that came out of the Republican-controlled Congress. 

Where‘s the confusion?  It was the Republican Congress that passed the big spending bills, and the president didn‘t veto a single one. 

SCHOCK:  Well, I think that, as a new member of Congress, moving forward, the debate is going to be very—very interesting over President Obama‘s stimulus package...


SCHOCK:  ... on spending.

And I think you make an excellent point, that we have had too much spending under prior Congresses, under the prior president.  And so that‘s a bit of a difficulty now for President Obama, as he works to put together an infrastructure program, which I believe we need—need to invest in our aged infrastructure. 

The bridge collapse in Minnesota is a case-in-point example of, you know, deferred maintenance is too expensive for this country, and we need to—we need to invest in our infrastructure.

But, at the same time, we can‘t have carte blanche.  We can‘t have an

an open checkbook, because we can‘t afford to continue to have record deficits, as we have in the past.  And I look forward to working with, not just my Republican colleagues, but also president-elect Obama, to help rein in this deficit spending. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, you blow the whistle and call us and come on the show and tell us when you see any of that pork barrel spending, any of that earmarking going on.  You call us up and get on this show, because we want to spotlight that.  Even at a time when we need to have spending on these projects to get jobs for people, there‘s no sense building bridges to nowhere, including in Alaska. 

Thank you. 

SCHOCK:  I would agree. 

Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  And you‘re from Illinois, as you would agree.

SCHOCK:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  And you‘re from Peoria, right? 

SCHOCK:  Peoria, home of Bob Michael, Ray LaHood.  And this is actually Abe Lincoln‘s congressional district that he held for one term.  So, there‘s a lot of history from central Illinois. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, U.S. Congressman Aaron Schock, the youngest member of the U.S. House of the Representatives, as of today. 

Up next,  take a look at this great picture from the Senate earlier today.  That‘s Vice President Dick Cheney swearing in the man who will event take his job.  Senator Joe Biden got resigned—resigned today as a senator for a few days, so he could go on a trip, his last junket, if you will, as a U.S. senator.  He wanted to get signed up today for that.

It‘s always interesting irony when Cheney gets to swear in the guy who is going to take his job. 

Anyway, you‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATTHEWS:  Well, Dick Cheney is about to leave that merry-go-round. 

Anyway, back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.”

First up:  Roland Burris barrels into Washington.  Take a look at Stephen Colbert last night, having some fun with the pickle Democrats now find themselves in. 


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, “THE COLBERT REPORT”:  Now, the Democrats are refusing to seat Burris.  In fact, today, the secretary of the Senate rejected his appointment. 

The Democrats‘ opposition comes down to one thing.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  Mr. Burris is tainted. 


ROLAND BURRIS, FORMER ILLINOIS ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Am I tainted?  It didn‘t say anything about being tainted. 

COLBERT:  Clearly, Democrats are racist.  The only reason they supported Barack Obama for president was to get him out of their all-white Senate. 


COLBERT:  Notice how they have given him his own separate, but equal branch of government. 



MATTHEWS:  Anyway, next up: the snapshot of the day. 

There‘s Dick Cheney swearing in as a reelected senator the man who will soon replace him as vice president, Delaware Senator Joe Biden.  Biden was called Cheney the most dangerous vice president in history. 

Time for the final days of George Bush, two weeks to go.  Late today, a president who is no Jacques Cousteau set aside the largest amount of ocean ever preserved for posterity, out in the Pacific.  He created what are called national monuments covering 190,000 square miles of protected sea world. 

Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

At age 47, Barack Obama leaves the Senate to become one of the nation‘s youngest presidents.  But being 47 also makes him a young tyke in the body he‘s leaving.  Get this.  The new Senate is the oldest in American history.  What‘s the average senator‘s age?  Sixty-three.  Thanks to this election, we have got the oldest Senate ever.

The Senate‘s average age, 63 -- tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next:  The man known as no-drama Obama certainly has seen some drama in this new year, from Bill Richardson‘s withdraw, to the theatrics surrounding Roland Burris, and now the backlash to Leon Panetta, Obama‘s pick for CIA director.  Will Obama keep his cool through it all? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks rose, despite more gloomy economic news.  That did put a cap on the gains, though.  The Dow Jones industrial average gained by 62.  The S&P 500 closed higher by seven, and the Nasdaq up by 24. 

Today‘s negative news includes word that factory orders fell in November for a record fourth straight month. 

Meantime, minutes from December‘s historic Fed meeting show that most Fed policy-makers predicted that the economy will continue to contract in the new year and the unemployment rate will rise significantly into 2010. 

And, after the closing bell, aluminum maker Alcoa announced that it‘s going to cut 13,500 jobs.  That‘s about 13 percent of its work force. 

And “The Wall Street Journal” reports that Bank of America‘s CEO is recommending that he and other top executives receive no bonuses for 2008.  That‘s because he expects final results for the year to be below expectations. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to Chris and HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back. 

Roland Burris storms into D.C.  Leon Panetta‘s name ruffles some feathers as CIA director.  And Bill Richardson stays put in New Mexico.  Whatever happened to no-drama Obama?  Everything is coming apart. 


MATTHEWS:  With us now, “Politico”‘s Roger Simon and “The Chicago Tribune”‘s Jill Zuckman.

Well, the big stuff isn‘t coming apart.  I don‘t want to overstate it, but strange stuff. 

Now, the CIA director, it‘s going to be Leon Panetta.  Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the committee, is not too happy with it, but she is going along with the hearings, at least. 

Here‘s her statement today—quote—“I have been contacted by both president-elect Obama and vice president-elect Biden, and they have explained to me the reasons why they believe Leon Panetta is the best candidate for CIA director.  I look forward to speaking with Mr. Panetta about the critical issues facing the intelligence community and his plans to address them.”

Well, that‘s very open-ended, non-committal. 



MATTHEWS:  Let me—let me ask you all, it seems to me—I want to start with Jill here—it seems to me that a lot of problems this country has, morally speaking, as well as existentially speaking, about our country‘s security, 9/11, the president got a presidential daily briefing a few weeks before that, bin Laden to attack inside the United States.  Nothing was done. 

WMD, they weren‘t there in Iraq, at least not stockpiled, as Cheney would say.  FISA, eavesdropping, the way it‘s been perhaps misused, torture certainly misused, the insurgency no one predicted in Iraq, it‘s been a bad 10 years for intelligence. 

Now, can Leon Panetta be the person who can fix the problem?  Is it credible, as a non-spy?



TRIBUNE”:  As a non-spy. 


ZUCKMAN:  I think...

MATTHEWS:  Non-spy.  Non-spook, if you will.  He has no background in that—in that world. 


ZUCKMAN:  Well, as White House chief of staff, I have a feeling that he got intelligence briefings with the president.  I don‘t think he‘s completely unfamiliar with the intelligence world, the way it‘s being painted. 

I think the big faux pas here was that no one talked to Senator Feinstein before, suddenly, the news became public.  I really think...


MATTHEWS:  She would have rejected it, it sounds like. 

ZUCKMAN:  Well...


MATTHEWS:  If they had talked to her, she might have said, no way, the way she‘s talked. 

ZUCKMAN:  Or—or maybe he nose is just out of joint.  And, apparently, both Obama and Biden have apologized profusely to her. 

I—I think that there have been a number of members in the House and the Senate on the Intelligence Committees who have put out statements of strong support for Leon Panetta.  My guess is, if that‘s what the president wants, if that‘s who wants, that is who he‘s going to get. 

MATTHEWS:  Roger? 

SIMON:  Let me just say, in—in small defense of the intelligence community, all—all the examples you gave were correct, the United States has not been attacked since September 11, 2001.  So, it‘s not like they were—have been totally out to lunch for these last years.  I mean, they have done a job. 

I think Leon Panetta is...


MATTHEWS:  We got involved in an unjustified war.  We got caught with our pants down on 9/11. 

SIMON:  Totally right.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, these—we engaged in torture, which embarrassed us in the world. 

SIMON:  You‘re absolutely right.

MATTHEWS:  We have eavesdropping.  This is not a great record. 

SIMON:  It is not a great record.  But, if you say one major task of the intelligence community...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SIMON:  ... is to protect the United States of America from terrorist attack, then you got to give them an A, I think.  I mean, you have got to admit, they have done a thing or two. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t have to admit nothing. 

SIMON:  You don‘t have to admit nothing. 


SIMON:  Well...


MATTHEWS:  I just wonder about—I wonder why...


SIMON:  The facts would argue we have not been attacked. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it—is it smart to pick someone who‘s a critic of the intelligence gathering and...

SIMON:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... performance of the last 10 years, not someone who has been cheerleading it, like you have been?  Excuse me. 


SIMON:  I said all your examples were correct.

But, no, it is smart.  And Leon Panetta satisfies one very important point that I think the president-elect is trying to make.  Leon Panetta is very strongly against torture.  He‘s denounced it as being immoral...


SIMON:  ... unethical...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s a very moral guy.

SIMON:  ... and ineffective. 

And I think that‘s part of the message that Barack Obama wants to send, that, if you send up to the Senate someone from the intelligence community, the first six questions are going to be, have you ever waterboarded anybody?  Do you know somebody who has?  What do you feel—how do you feel about waterboarding?  How do you feel about extreme sanctions—measures and all the rest? 

With Leon Panetta, you avoid all that. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, there‘s a big story today in the paper about rendition, where see send people overseas...

SIMON:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... to countries that don‘t have our scruples for torture. 

And it‘s not a pretty picture.

Let me ask you about this new development involving Senator Feinstein, as well, just breaking late this afternoon.  Senator Feinstein says she supports, perhaps in contradiction to the Senate leadership, the seating right away of this guy Burris, Roland Burris, who was named by Blagojevich, even in an hour of trial out there.  He has named this guy as the senator from Illinois. 

The senator from California says, name this guy, put him in the Senate, and stop the bother. 

What do you make of this, Jill? 

ZUCKMAN:  Well, that is an interesting turn, especially following this whole incident with...


MATTHEWS:  I caught you, didn‘t I?  You didn‘t know about this one, did you? 

ZUCKMAN:  No, no.  This is breaking news. 


ZUCKMAN:  Look, it‘s still possible that Burris will end up getting seated. 

I mean, Harry Reid was a little bit—he was equivocating a little bit on Sunday, when he was on “Meet the Press.”  And, you know, they‘re going through a dance right now.  And it is not clear how the dance is going to end.

But, for now, this issue is in Harry Reid and Dick Durbin‘s hands.  It‘s not in Dianne Feinstein‘s hands.  And I—it‘s not in the entire Senate‘s hands.  I—I think that this is going to take some time to play out. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what?  I disagree.  I think it is going to be resolved fairly soon, perhaps tomorrow. 

What do you think, Roger?  I don‘t think they like this potato. 


MATTHEWS:  You have got an African-American man who has got a clean record.  He‘s been named legally by a guy who is in trouble, but legally.  He‘s legally been sent to the Senate.  What is the problem here? 

SIMON:  Well, two problems.  One, the president of the United States issued a statement saying he doesn‘t agree—

MATTHEWS:  Last week‘s news. 

SIMON:  But secondly, you got the problem of what happens when and if Rod Blagojevich is impeached.  And then you have a lieutenant governor who might say, I‘m the governor.  Here‘s my choice to fill the Senate seat.  Then you got two people.  It‘s like two Popes.  Remember? 


SIMON:  And you have the Supreme Court decide.  So, you know, I don‘t think it‘s quite as simple as Reid saying, oh, let‘s seat the guy.  And then, you know, also this notion that you can get him to agree not to run again in 2010; how do you enforce that? 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think you can make that kind of deal.  First of

all, it would leak from the meeting.  It would like an extra-legal

sanction.  You can‘t punish a guy for being named to a job by saying, you

don‘t have the rights anyone else in America has 

SIMON:  He‘s 71.  And I don‘t think he could win a primary in 2010, but you can‘t stop him from running. 

MATTHEWS:  I just wonder—Jill, can you give me a non-journalist assessment of this answer?  Has Barack Obama, on these relatively small matters—I know I‘ll get in trouble for saying it, but this isn‘t about saving the economy.  This isn‘t about saving America from foreign attack.  On these relatively small matters, his luck seems to have turned or run out right now.  He used to have an amazing sense of grace and luck.  And now we have the Burris embarrassment, his own Senate seat coming in with a somewhat seedy providence.  You have his friend, or at least former rival, Bill Richardson, having to go back to New Mexico.  He can‘t be Commerce Secretary.  The Leon Panetta appointment being greeted with some hostility. 

What‘s going on?  Is this just the bottom of the barrel in terms of appointments?  Have they just—is it like when you get on an airplane and there‘s only a few seats left in the back?  And then the people have to be taken back there or what? 

ZUCKMAN:  And it smells at the back of the plane.  No, look, I think that we are all over-reacting a little bit.  I think because Obama—

MATTHEWS:  This is HARDBALL.  This is where we over-react.  I‘m sorry!

ZUCKMAN:  He is so—he‘s been so no drama for so long, everything has gone so smoothly, that people were getting carried away, saying, yes, he‘s going to sign a trillion dollar stimulus on five minutes after he‘s sworn into office.  No, that‘s not the way it works.  Being president is about surprises and dealing with grenades being thrown at you right and left.  And this is not even a grenade.  None of the—

I mean, the Burris/Blagojevich stuff, nobody thinks that Obama had anything to do with Blagojevich‘s problems.  These are just issues that get thrown in your path on the presidency. 

MATTHEWS:  I like your elan.  I think that‘s the right word, your elan.  Jill, Great reporting. 

ZUCKMAN:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you for coming on.  Thank you, Jill.  Thank you, as always, Roger, one of the great essayists in American journalism. 

Up next, should the Senate Democrats seat Roland Burris?  And is Harry Reid back pedaling from his hard line stance?  The politics is next in the fix.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  That‘s always a nice, warm ceremony.  There‘s John Boehner, the Republican leader of the House, hugging Nancy Pelosi, who has just beat him out for Speaker of the House.  It‘s a nice ceremony.  I guess when they‘re man and woman, it‘s little more huggy than it usually is.  I‘ve seen it with Bob Michael and Tip.  I don‘t think they hugged.  Probably shook hands, but it‘s a nice moment that shows bipartisanship at the beginning of the House session today, which did begin today. 

We‘re back now.  Time for the politics fix with MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and Susan Page.  It‘s good to have you back.  She writes all these front page stories for the “USA Today,” which everybody reads in their hotel room, no matter where they are. 

SUSAN PAGE, “USA TODAY”:  And in their homes, offices. 

MATTHEWS:  Really?  I thought you only got that at hotels. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I subscribe to it.  It‘s at the end of the drive-way every morning.

MATTHEWS:  You like those color charts. 

BUCHANAN:  It‘s my length of story. 

MATTHEWS:  Tip O‘Neill used to like the sports page, because it had all the overnight late games. 

PAGE:  There are all kinds of reasons to buy -- 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about this thing here.  First of all, this fight over Burris, is the first big sort of bad spat, spat of this new administration.  It hasn‘t even taken office and they‘re fighting over it.  Pat, you have taken the hard line for Burris.  Seat the guy.  Why?  Is this ideology?  Some people think you‘re hoping this guy will be easy to pick off in a year, for the Republicans.   

BUCHANAN:  There‘s no doubt he‘s going to have a tough time winning

re-election, but look, this is a Constitutional issue.  This man has been

named by a governor.  It is the rule of law and the Constitution.  There‘s no legitimate reason to deny him a seat.  Blagojevich, still governor, still got all the powers.  He is being investigated.  They may be working on impeachment. 

But he‘s still like Nixon was when he had all his powers, and Clinton was.  So I think the Democrats, Chris—the smart thing to do, seat the man.  Get it over with.  You are not going to be able to block, drive an only African-American in the U.S. Senate out, and try to replace him with someone else.  If you think the seat is in trouble now, it will really be in trouble then.  But you can‘t do it.  He has the law—

MATTHEWS:  Susan, is there any argument that can be made against Pat, to say that because he came in under this cloud, being appointed by Blagojevich, who‘s facing probable impeachment, not necessarily, but probably impeachment, and certainly facing indictment, based on the complaint by Fitzgerald? 

PAGE:  Yes, of course, there‘s an argument.  There‘s an argument that this is a tainted process and that the Senate has a Constitutional right to determine the qualification of its members.  Now, I realize there are limits to that and we have the Adam Clayton Powell case, which we‘re all familiar with. 

MATTHEWS:  Where a guy was re-elected after being kicked out once. 

PAGE:  Re-elected by the people, not appointed by a governor.  Maybe that‘s a distinction. 

BUCHANAN:  Who has suggested his nomination, this gentleman, Mr.  Burris, is tainted in any way or illegal in any way or he‘s done anything unethical?  Nobody has even suggested that. 

PAGE:  Well, no.  I disagree.  I don‘t know whether he should be seated or not, but there‘s obvious taint that the governor was allegedly shopping this appointment around, trying to get—

BUCHANAN:  He hasn‘t even been indicted for it. 

MATTHEWS:  One thing, Pat, you missed at the beginning of the program tonight, the attorneys, Kurt Schmoke and Tim Wright, for Mr. Burris, pointed out, acknowledged, when I asked them about it, will they have to demonstrate tomorrow with the Senate leadership that there was no deal making here?  They have to show that there‘s a very good chain of custody in this appointment, if you will.  There cannot be any evidence of a pay to play deal, because, as Susan points out, there is a history on tape of Blagojevich out there selling this seat.  So if there is any evidence—

BUCHANAN:  The burden of proof goes on Burris? 

MATTHEWS:  No, no.  Well, I think in this case they‘re going—they‘re going to ask him to testify, his attorneys and he himself, that there was no deal here. 

BUCHANAN:  They can ask him.  The burden of proof shouldn‘t be on an innocent man. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it fair to ask him?  If you watch this Blagojevich in action, don‘t you think they should ask him if there was a deal? 

BUCHANAN:  If Blagojevich is selling the seat, why hasn‘t he been indicted?  Why didn‘t Fitzgerald need four months?  Why did Jesse Jackson say no?  Rahm said no deal.  Jarrett said no deal.  Reid talked to him.  Did he ask for a deal, Reid?  He didn‘t ask for a deal from anybody. 

Fitzgerald has got nothing, as far as I can see.  You can‘t convict a man on nothing. 

PAGE:  He‘s going to get impeached on other charges.  The strongest charges for his impeachment aren‘t even related to Senate seat. 

BUCHANAN:  Clinton was impeached.  Did he lose his right to appoint ambassadors during the process? 

PAGE:  No, he didn‘t. 

BUCHANAN:  Why did Blagojevich lose his obligation to pick a senator? 

PAGE:  You may end up being right.  There‘s a report that California Senator Feinstein has come out and said he ought to be seated.  And that could be what ends up happening. 

BUCHANAN:  He‘s a nice gentleman.  There‘s nothing wrong with this thing.  Seat the guy.  Get it over with.  Blagojevich pulled one over on the Democrats.  There‘s no doubt about it.   

MATTHEWS:  Popular opinion, not that it matters, according to the “USA Today”/Gallup poll, 51 percent, a slight majority, say the Senate should block Burris, 27 percent say go along with the appointment.  Pat, you‘re bucking popular opinion here. 

BUCHANAN:  If popular opinion says we should do something against the Constitution, you go against popular opinion. 

PAGE:  One interesting cross tab in this poll, no racial divide. 

Black opinion, white opinion, virtually identical. 

MATTHEWS:  Despite Bobby Rush—

PAGE:  Despite the racial angle. 

MATTHEWS:  -- that this is plantation politics, the denial of the seat.  Do you agree with that assessment? 

BUCHANAN:  I disagree with Rush‘s statement about lynching and all that stuff.  Why does Reid not want this guy?  Why can‘t he get elected?  Because he‘s an African-American.  You know it as well as I.  If Ms.

Madigan had been picked—

MATTHEWS:  No, because Illinois has elected Carol Moseley Braun and Barack Obama.  It‘s one of the two states that has elected African-Americans.  I‘m not saying it.  You said it. 

BUCHANAN:  Why would you hold—I mean—

MATTHEWS:  You just posited the fact that they don‘t want him because they don‘t think he‘ll get elected.  I‘m saying, there‘s not evidence to that. 

BUCHANAN:  I‘ve talked to a number of Democrats who say, we can‘t win with this guy. 

MATTHEWS:  Not because he is black or African-American, because they figure he‘s lost five straight primaries, statewide, Pat.  Would you laugh once in a while.  That‘s why he‘s not electable, because he‘s lost five in a row, not because he‘s black.  We‘ll be back with Pat, who has finally a weak case tonight.  He had a strong one a minute ago.  Susan Page with more of the politics fix. 

By the way, Jeb Bush is not running for Senate down in Florida.  I thought he was an easy winner down there.  You‘re watching HARDBALL.  Pat will tell me if I‘m wrong, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Pat Buchanan and “USA Today‘s” Susan Page, who I must point out writes—if you ever get the paper, everybody gets it now, she writes all the big stories on the front page.  Susan, let me ask you about this—one of the rules that always changes, like the tallest guy always wins the presidential election.  They get broken because Nixon beats McGovern, who was taller then him.  Every rule gets broken. 

One of the rules was, never have a recount, or have them if you want, but they never change anything.  The one who wins election night tends to win the election after the recounting.  Al Franken, he beat it.  He turned around 500 votes. 

PAGE:  225 votes he is head. 

MATTHEWS:  He was 200 down.  This is good news for recounts and not so much good news for the first count. 

PAGE:  Yes.  And, you know, a good sign that—a good sign for him that he‘s going to end up being the junior senator from Minnesota. 

MATTHEWS:  It looks like he‘s going to be approved by a very clean state, by the way, not that I‘m knocking on the other states. 

PAGE:  Like Illinois. 

MATTHEWS:  It has a great reputation for every vote being honest and open, no games playing. 

BUCHANAN:  Can I tell you about a story about Reagan when I went to work with him in 1985?  I said, you did same is Nixon.  You won 49 states sir.  he said, no, I won all 50.  I said, sir, Minnesota.  We won Minnesota.  He believed it was taken away from him from Mondale. 

MATTHEWS:  And what‘s his name, right?  What was your campaign manager? 

BUCHANAN:  Who was he?  I came in after—

PAGE:  Ed Rollins. 

BUCHANAN:  Did Rollins say the same thing?

MATTHEWS:  Rollins said they gave him that as a little give me.  That you guys beat Fritz even in his home state, but decided not to contest it. 

PAGE:  Remember when he made that late trip to Minnesota, trying to pick it up? 

BUCHANAN:  Yes, that showed a real touch of class. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me about you about Jeb Bush, a far more fascinating figure.  I‘ve always been a—even though I‘m known to be a bit left of center sometimes on some issue, I have always thought Jeb had true principles, things like vouchers and affirmative action.  I may disagree with him, or agree with him, in some cases, but he‘s always been what he is, a real believer.  I always wonder whether he didn‘t have a little more political stature than his brother. 

BUCHANAN:  Listen, he‘s considered a very principled conservative, long before his brother.  He‘s got a tremendous reputation and record down in Florida.  I thought that was almost a give me.  I thought he would have won that easily.  I am very surprised as you are that he stepped down.  I think, he won in 2010, skipped 2012, and wait until 2016 or be vice presidential material on the 2012 ticket.  It was ideally set up for him.  I don‘t understand it. 

MATTHEWS:  Is he young enough to outlive the Bush problem that‘s so evident right now?  Everybody has begun to like 41.  They don‘t like 43 right now.  They may forgive 43 at some point and begin to love 41 again.  

PAGE:  Big hurdle for him though, given that seven percent of Americans—

MATTHEWS:  Are we Bushed? 

PAGE:  -- thought the country was going in the right direction.  There‘s a big hurdle for a guy named Bush to run for president.  Jeb Bush, two term governor of a big state, good reputation, good campaigner.  I assume he‘s skipping the Senate because he wants to go straight to the White House. 

MATTHEWS:  You do?  Where do people get these ideas?  That‘s an incredible proposition. 

BUCHANAN:  Nationally, he‘s not known. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean go next time? 

PAGE:  Go next time or the time after that.  Do something else. 

People can have different courses to the White House. 

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Anyway, it‘s so great to have you back, Susan.  Patrick, what a day we‘ve had.  Thank you, Pat Buchanan.  Thank you, Susan Page.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now it‘s time for “1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE” with David Shuster.



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