Guest: Eugene Rivers, Jonathan Capehart, Joan Walsh, Todd Harris, Steve McMahon, Gov. Ed Rendell, Rep. Elijah Cummings High: Aides to Vice president-elect Joe Biden deny he was offered the choice between vice president and secretary of state, as Biden‘s wife claimed on “The Oprah Show.” As Barack Obama prepares to take the oath of office, speculation mounts about what he will say in his inaugural address.
Spec: Politics; Barack Obama
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hi. I‘m Chris Matthews, and we‘re live at the National Mall, where in less than 24 hours, history will be made when millions of people converge here to witness the swearing-in of the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama.
More than 200 years ago, two men on horseback, George Washington and a French immigrant named Pierre L‘Enfant, looked down from the hill behind me and laid out a new capital for a small new country of 13 former colonies, a small country but with a large soul, a republic where all people would be created equal. Tomorrow, on that same hill, the imagination of those two men on horseback up there on Jenkins Hill becomes a reality. The grand notions of our Founders becomes the America stretching forth into the 21st century.
Barack Obama takes the seat of Washington, leads the little republic that has grown to world power but struggles even now to fulfill the grand promise of life, liberty, and most fascinating of all, the pursuit of happiness.
Tonight, on this eve of history, on this Martin Luther King Day, we savor the promise of tomorrow, a country now coming at rapid speed that will be as different from today as the advancing Barack Obama stands from the retreating George Walker Bush.
With us now, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, “Washington Post” columnist and MSNBC analyst Eugene Robinson and “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman, who is also, of course, an MSNBC analyst.
Gentlemen, let‘s take a look at the breaking news now. Listen to this clip from the Oprah Winfrey show today, featuring Vice President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JILL BIDEN, WIFE OF VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN: Joe had the choice to be secretary of state or vice president. And I said, Joe...
JILL BIDEN: Well, OK, he did. So...
OPRAH WINFREY, HOST: Joe? Joe? It‘s OK. It‘s OK.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: That‘s right. No, go ahead.
WINFREY: Go ahead.
JILL BIDEN: So I said, Joe, if you‘re secretary of state, you‘ll be away. We‘ll never see you. You know, I‘ll see you at a state dinner once in a while.
JILL BIDEN: But I said, If you‘re vice president, the entire family -
because they worked so hard for the election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That‘s Dr. Jill Biden, the second lady to be, making news. Pat Buchanan, a show stopper. He had a choice from Barack Obama whether to have Hillary‘s job or number two. He chose number two over Hillary‘s job. What a dramatic statement.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It is...
MATTHEWS: Tremendous news.
BUCHANAN: ... tremendously dramatic, Chris, and it‘s—it really says something. First, it says Barack Obama had extraordinary confidence in Joe Biden. He wanted him right next to him, giving him the choice of the top two jobs. And it says about Biden he‘s a smart man. You recall back in 1956, Eisenhower said to Dick Nixon, You can give up the vice presidency, Dick, and you can have any cabinet job you want. He said, I‘ll keep the vice presidency.
MATTHEWS: You know why? You can‘t fire the vice president, that‘s why. You can fire the secretary of state.
BUCHANAN: Not only that, it‘s a straight path to the presidency.
EUGENE ROBINS, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Automatically, sometimes...
MATTHEWS: Eugene Robinson, what do you make of the news bite? On the eve of the inauguration, we have the to be second lady saying, My husband was offered the choice by the president-elect whether to be VP or to have Hillary Rodham Clinton‘s job. It sounds to me like political firewater here, as they used to say in the Westerns.
ROBINSON: Well, that‘s what it sounds like. I mean, what was the context, though? I always...
MATTHEWS: Oh, you push too hard!
ROBINSON: No, I just want to know how these jobs are offered. Like, Well, Joe, you know, you could be secretary of state. Of course, you‘ll be on the road all the time. But I really want you as vice president...
ROBINSON: You know, was it...
MATTHEWS: You think Barack Obama was trying to talk him out of being vice president?
ROBINSON: Or—or try to talk him out of secretary of state. I don‘t know. I mean...
ROBINSON: I don‘t know. It could have...
MATTHEWS: Howard—Howard, you were with Axelrod yesterday. Any indication this was coming as a news flash?
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely not. He was focused on the speech tomorrow. But Chris, I covered that vice presidential selection process very carefully, and you know, was one of the people who broke the news about Biden on the air and on the Web. And I think it really did come down to the last second. Had Joe Biden chosen differently, I think that probably Evan Bayh would be the vice presidential running mate, and I don‘t know where Hillary Clinton would be in the lineup.
So actually, Joe Biden‘s choice, if, indeed, that‘s what it was—and I bet it was—turns out for the best, I think, for Barack Obama because he has an incredibly strong lineup. It also prefigures the fact that I think there‘s going to conflict between the White House center of foreign policy with Joe Biden and the national security adviser and what happens with Hillary Clinton over at State.
So we can be accused of making too much of this now, but just remember this down the road a year from now, when the Biden/Jim Jones wing in the White House is up against the Hillary wing at State. You can write it down. It‘s going to happen.
ROBINSON: I think...
ROBINSON: I think that‘s a good point that Howard makes. I should point out, though, I once talked to somebody who was involved in the vice presidential selection process, who said that David Plouffe, the campaign manager, kept coming into the meetings and saying, Remember, Joe Biden is the third senator from Pennsylvania. Remember, Joe Biden is the third senator from Pennsylvania.
MATTHEWS: Right. And therefore?
ROBINSON: And that means that that wraps up Pennsylvania for you.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me read you...
MATTHEWS: ... flak-catching has already begun. This is a spokesperson, of course, the familiar Elizabeth Alexander, who‘s worked for Joe Biden for years when he was a senator, put this statement out. See if this covers all the bases. This is something of a denial that he...
MATTHEWS: ... that Jill Biden said what she said, that her husband was offered the choice between secretary of state and vice president. Quote, “Like anyone who followed the presidential campaign this summer, Dr. Jill Biden knew there was a chance that President-elect Obama might ask her husband to serve in some capacity, and that given his background, the positions of vice president and secretary of state were possibilities. Dr. Biden‘s points on Oprah today was that being vice president would be a better fit for their family because they would get to see him more and get to participate in serving more. To be clear, President-elect Obama offered vice president-elect Biden one job only, to be his running mate, and the vice president-elect was thrilled to accept the offer.”
In other words, a complete contradiction in what she said.
BUCHANAN: That suggests to me, Chris, this. Look, if Barack Obama came in and said, You know, Joe, you want to be secretary of state or vice president, suggests he‘s not deeply serious himself. I mean, the vice presidential choice usually can mean winning or losing the presidency.
BUCHANAN: And to throw out an offer like that, I—frankly, I tend to credit somewhat that second statement as much as I do the first.
MATTHEWS: So you think that‘s true?
BUCHANAN: I think what...
BUCHANAN: I think Obama‘s a crisp guy and he knows exactly what he wanted. We all talked about it coming down. He can‘t take Hillary, he can‘t do this. Biden‘s a logical guy...
MATTHEWS: You buy the retraction or the statement?
ROBINSON: I buy the retraction a bit more than the statement because, as Pat said, you don‘t just cavalierly say, Oh, Evan Bayh or Joe Biden? Gee, which one?
BUCHANAN: What do you like, fella?
MATTHEWS: Like a card. Hey, Howard, what do you buy, the statement or the retraction?
FINEMAN: Well, I think it‘s a contradictory statement, is what I think. I do know that this came down to the very, very last second, very last second, I think between those two people that I mentioned. So I think the offer was out there.
I think it‘s probably true that, in the end, Obama only made one offer. But he was sounding out how he was going to lay his cards out here. I think Gene is absolutely right about Pennsylvania. I think, in the end, that‘s what mattered most to Obama. But he wanted Joe Biden to be happy because he knew that Joe Biden cared a tremendous amount and does care a tremendous amount about foreign policy and about being a leader on foreign policy.
FINEMAN: So he wanted to make Joe—he wanted to make Joe Biden happy regardless, and I think from Obama‘s point of view, it all worked out well because it did add to the all-star nature, the “team of rivals” nature of the cabinet that he‘s put together.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s go to tomorrow‘s news, the biggest story perhaps in, well, current American history, certainly, the election and coming to power of Barack Obama, his speech tomorrow, highly anticipated inaugural address. Perhaps not since John F. Kennedy has there been so much talk about, What words will he use? He‘s probably the greatest orator of our time. Will he talk responsibility? Will he talk sacrifice, or will he talk hope? What will he talk, Gene?
ROBINSON: Well, some combination of the three. We keep hearing responsibility is going to be a major theme. I think “hope” has to be a big part of it because the nation wants to be uplifted, I think. And he‘s on a roll. I mean, he has people listening with the most rapt attention. It‘s an opportunity to set a tone of activism, of involvement, of optimism, and I don‘t think he will let that moment pass.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask the people watching now. How many of you are hopeful about Barack Obama?
MATTHEWS: So Howard, that‘s a theme of hope here. I don‘t think it‘s anything but that. Look at the radiant faces of these people here in Washington. Howard, the theme tomorrow, what do you make of it?
FINEMAN: OK. The theme of having—you know, Axelrod didn‘t give any details, but Axelrod said, number one, it‘s going to be pretty short, 17 minutes, and maybe 15 minutes if it‘s really cold. He said it‘s going to be about thematics. It‘s going to about poetics, not about detail.
And my sense is, Chris, it‘s going to be about the idea of common purpose, about the idea of unity in the country. That‘s what Lincoln was about. That‘s what the Founders were about. That‘s what Obama‘s message is going to be. And in a biblical sense, he‘s going to try to build an ark here. We have to go through some very stormy seas ahead. He wants with his rhetoric to build some kind of vessel of hope and unity that‘ll help us survive the storms ahead. We want to be able to look back to the speech.
And there‘ll be simple language, one-syllable words. I‘m struck by the way that the rhythm of his speeches rely on simplicity. One phrase you might hear again was a phrase he used over the weekend about having to do right when the moment requires it, when the moment calls for it. And that‘s the kind of thing you‘re going to hear in especially expressions of unity and common purpose. That will contain sacrifice because there is no common purpose, no unity without sacrifice.
And he‘s going to talk about government. It‘s going to be, in some ways, the polar opposite of what Ronald Reagan said in 1981, where he said that government is not the solution, government is the problem. Obama is going to say the diametric opposite of that, in many senses, tomorrow.
MATTHEWS: Pat Buchanan?
BUCHANAN: I think what Barack Obama‘s going to do—and I think we‘ve seen pieces of it all week long. I think he‘s going to root himself in the American tradition. He may be the first African-American president, but he‘s going to hearken back to Lincoln. He‘s going to hearken back to how the country‘s moved from one step to another, progressing toward a more perfect union.
And then he‘s going to put himself in this tradition, and he‘s going to point out we‘re all going forward together another step up this ladder toward this more perfect union. I think that‘s what I see him doing, Chris.
I think he is trying to get away from the idea that he is the first black president and getting to the idea that he is the 44th president of the United States carrying on a great and grand tradition of growth, development, progress, some falling back. And we can overcome what‘s here, just like other generations ran into these situations and overcame theirs.
MATTHEWS: Well, that corresponds to what I was thinking, as well as you gentlemen. One, the theme of hope is out here, right in front of us...
MATTHEWS: ... in front of this mall here. The reality of a perhaps coming depression, not just a recession, is a reality, and the unemployment numbers, half a million people every month being thrown out of work. It could reach into 20 percent by the way it‘s going right now, including the underemployed. Division—there‘s the spirit of unit in the country in all the polling right now. At what point will it fracture? He has to wonder, as Howard says, how long can he keep the compact.
BUCHANAN: When you decide, Chris...
MATTHEWS: Can he keep it two years? Can he keep it two-and-a-half?
BUCHANAN: When you decide, you divide. I think what he‘s going to say is, we‘re going to go through a valley here of tough times, hard times, real problems...
BUCHANAN: ... but there‘s a mountaintop up there, and we‘re going to start climbing that mountain a little down the road.
BUCHANAN: Let‘s stay together...
MATTHEWS: What does he hope for?
BUCHANAN: ... stay together...
MATTHEWS: Nixon, your guy, believed in a peaking political campaign.
MATTHEWS: When does he have to hope that things turn, three years hence?
BUCHANAN: Well, obviously, three years hence because we‘re an impatient people. But I think he‘s going to talk more poetically about going through this valley and coming up on the other side, through the mountains, just the way Dr. King, the crossing through the desert and the promised land is over there.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, remember, but he says, I might not make it to...
BUCHANAN: I might not be there.
MATTHEWS: Aaron had to do it for Moses. Go ahead.
ROBINSON: You have to realize, I think, that you can‘t understate the importance of Barack Obama being the first African-American president and how this is—you know, it‘s a culmination and a demarcation. However, he is likely to be remembered for the way he handles this economic crisis. He‘s going to be remembered for the way he handles these wars. He‘s going to be remembered for either succeeding or failing in getting the country moving and what we all believe is a positive direction again and pointing the way to the future. And I think he‘s—he‘s going to accept that challenge somehow in the speech.
MATTHEWS: You know, I never forget, growing up in Catholic grade school, we were told that God was on the side of the Catholics because he prevented Al Smith from winning in ‘28. If he had won, he would have been held responsible for the Great Depression as the first Catholic.
MATTHEWS: And you know, you don‘t want to have a situation where the first guy to do it gets blamed for it. Anyway, thank you, Pat Buchanan. Thank you, Eugene Robinson. Thank you, Howard Fineman.
Coming up tomorrow, the National Mall right behind me will be filled with millions of people, in fact, perhaps two or three million people celebrating the Obama inaugural right behind me, all the way up to the Capitol.
Up next, Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell and U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland are going to be with us.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, same as always, but tonight on the eve of history, live from the National Mall on the eve of Barack Obama‘s inauguration. Tomorrow by noon, a new president, perhaps a new country. We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We are live at the National Mall in Washington. Just about 18 hours until Barack Obama becomes the 44th president of the United States. With us now, Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell and Maryland congressman Elijah Cummings.
Governor and Congressman, I got to tell you, we‘re surrounded by people here, thrilled not so much at our presence but at the—tomorrow, what‘s going to happen here tomorrow on this mall.
Governor, first. I‘ve always thought, as you were mayor of Philly in the old days, and all the kids, the African-American kids that were surrounding City Hall—not City Hall—Independence Hall, and now they can trace back to those Founding Fathers the beginnings of what today is the government, the notion, if you will, the grand vision that allowed the election of an African-American president is now connected up. You started the Constitution Center. Talk about it. History now makes sense to a lot of urban kids that it didn‘t make sense to before.
GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Absolutely. You know, Chris, in the Constitution Center, in the 14, 15-minute film, there‘s a great line from Barbara Jordan who says, Now by act of Congress and court decision, I finally am included in “We the people.” I think tomorrow, millions and millions of not just African-Americans but minorities all over this country, and even some poor whites, are going to feel for the first time they‘re included in “We the people.”
MATTHEWS: Congressman Cummings, I‘ve lived in Washington a long time, and I‘ve never seen so many radiant faces, not just African-Americans. But this truly, for the first time, looks like an integrated city tonight here in Washington. It hasn‘t always been that way. In fact, I don‘t think it ever was. Your thoughts?
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I think that people have a tremendous sense of hope with Barack Obama. And what Obama has said over and over again is that we can be better.
And I expect tomorrow he‘ll talk about us being a truly great country, in other words, going back to being innovative and looking out for each other. And that same spirit that we had post-Katrina, when people came from all over the country to help out their neighbors, he‘s going to, I think, talk about making sure that we do that every day to lift up our neighbors and country.
And another thing I expect him to talk about is a sense of urgency, that we all are going to have to put our shoulders to the wheel and lift our country up.
MATTHEWS: Governor, you know, you‘re a city guy. You grew up in New York. You were mayor of Philly all those years. You‘re governor of a state with two big cities in it, including one headed to the Super Bowl, Pittsburgh now.
RENDELL: Sadly, only one.
MATTHEWS: You were a double threat all along.
MATTHEWS: ... know you‘re an Eagles fan. I know. You‘re all one family. You‘re an Eagles fan. That‘s how you pronounce it.
Let me ask you about having a city guy as president. I mean, this is the first time I can remember—I think it‘s the first time it ever happened—we‘ve got a president that used to take public transportation as a guy. He took the “L” out in Chicago like you took the subway in New York and in Philly. We‘ve got a guy from the city as president. I can‘t think of another one we‘ve ever had from the city.
RENDELL: No, I think that‘s right, Chris. And it‘s really important, because I think so many people who have looked at the problems confronting our nation say we‘ve got to solve them in the nation‘s big metropolitan areas, and I think Barack Obama understands that.
He understands where the rubber meets the road. He understands the needs of cities, but as they relate to their regions.
And they really are the hope of this country. Almost 90 percent of Americans live in our big metropolitan areas. And we‘ve got to start paying attention to them.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Cummings, a city like Philadelphia has $1 billion or $2 billion deficit now. How do you save the cities financially under these conditions?
CUMMINGS: I think basically we‘re going to have to take a good look at this stimulus package, make sure that our cities get a part of that. But I think that, you know, sadly, like Baltimore—and unfortunately we lost yesterday—but Baltimore...
RENDELL: So did we.
CUMMINGS: ... we just had to recently announce furloughs, so there‘s going to have to sadly be some belt-tightening, but I also believe that the federal government has a duty to come in and help our cities and our states, because our states are suffering, too.
RENDELL: Chris, can I say one thing about that?
RENDELL: The congressman‘s right, but it‘s incumbent upon governors and mayors to start first and take some of the pain themselves.
CUMMINGS: That‘s right.
RENDELL: We can‘t—we can‘t come to the federal government with our hand out until we‘ve made some of the cuts that are necessary ourselves, regardless of the pain.
CUMMINGS: That‘s exactly right. And...
MATTHEWS: You know, let me—let me—let me get the reality here. It‘s easy to say “tighten your belt” when cities have been tightening their belts for years.
I know you know Mayor Doherty from Scranton. He said a lot of his budget goes to fixing bridges that are 150, 175 years old up in Scranton. He‘s got a pension liability for health care of wives of police officers who had contracts, so they were off the force 30 years ago, and he‘s paying for them.
How can a city be a going concern when so much of its money goes to costs, like fixing old bridges, and paying for old pensions, and health costs, that the voters don‘t seem to be responsive to or benefit from?
Governor, you first. This is as politically troubling for any mayor.
RENDELL: There‘s no question. And I think the pension liabilities may be the single biggest problem facing American cities today. I think we‘ve got to find a way to deal with that problem.
But we‘ve also got to find a way to broaden the tax bases of those cities, to get people back to work. It‘s what I have tried to do in Pennsylvania. And if you ask Mayor Doherty, I think we‘ve been very successful in rebuilding Scranton economically.
Again, it starts at home. But the federal government can help dramatically, community development block grant funds, things like that, and I trust that the Congress is going to work with the president to do just that.
CUMMINGS: And, Chris, I think that...
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re going to have a big party tonight at the—I have got to go to—I have got to say good night. But thank you, Governor. You‘re going to have a big party for Pennsylvanians tonight. What‘s it called? “Yes, We Did,” right?
RENDELL: “Yes, We Did,” a key state in the union.
And, Congressman, thank you very much. We‘ll have you on again and again and again.
CUMMINGS: Thank you. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Elijah Cummings from Maryland.
Up next: All eyes are on Washington, as people from around the country and around the world are coming here for Barack Obama‘s inaugural. He is going to be president tomorrow. Tomorrow, at this time, Barack Obama will be our president.
We‘re going to talk to the crowd in just a second.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: We are back here out on the Washington Mall with these amazing people that have come from everywhere.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: And I want to give them a chance to explain why they‘re here, one at a time.
Sir, what brought you here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you doing?
What brought me here? Eight years ago, George Bush was elected. On my first time to vote, there was an African-American on there. And I made my voice ring.
(INAUDIBLE) Hey, mom. Hey. I love Chris. Hey!
MATTHEWS: OK. What brought you here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Change and hope and a new promise. And I‘m from Orlando.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we did. Yes, we did.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m just here to be a part of history. This is amazing. I always said I wanted to be the first black president. And I have got to change those words to the second.
I love you, mom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jade Jeremy (ph) all the way from Syracuse, New York, Howard university. Obama.
MATTHEWS: What brought you here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama and you.
MATTHEWS: What brought you here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m just so excited to see the first African-American president inaugurated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... tomorrow. Do you realize that, tomorrow, at this time, he will be president?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: What brought you here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: November the 4th was my birthday. All Americans can help me celebrate. God bless America.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m from Buffalo, New York, Tim Russert‘s hometown, here to see President Obama.
MATTHEWS: God, you know, it must feel pretty warm down here for you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this is like summertime.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Chris.
MATTHEWS: What brought you here? Hi...
MATTHEWS: I‘m from the Bahamas, all the way from Nassau.
MATTHEWS: You didn‘t bring your bathing suit, did you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Couldn‘t use it here in Washington. It‘s great to be here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m from Buffalo as well. It‘s just such a historic occasion, I couldn‘t miss it.
MATTHEWS: That‘s great. Thank you.
What brought you here, young lady?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s the first time my dad has felt like this since Kennedy. And so we thought it would be really nice to come down, because, you know, Obama just rocks.
MATTHEWS: OK. We are going to keep going here.
MATTHEWS: What brought you here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Martin Luther King.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today. And to think, tomorrow, the dream does come true.
MATTHEWS: Oh, well said. We‘re going to end on that. Can‘t do better than that.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: We are here in the Washington Mall. And a lot of these folks don‘t normally come down to the Mall. This is amazing day for a lot of people, coming down to the Mall.
History‘s being made here tomorrow. There I am on television. What a crowd.
We will be right back.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CONTESSA BREWER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Contessa Brewer. Here‘s what is happening.
Pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and other crew members from that U.S. Airways jet that landed in the Hudson River are asking the media to respect their desire not to give interviews until further notice. The plane is now at a marina in New Jersey. It was taken there by barge after being pulled from the river off Lower Manhattan over the weekend.
Israel say its troop withdrawal from Gaza should be complete by the time Barack Obama is sworn in as president tomorrow. A fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas began yesterday.
And on his last full day in office, the White House says President Bush phoned more than a dozen world leaders, including the heads of Britain, France and Russia. He also commuted the sentences of two former Border Patrol agents. They were convicted in the controversial shooting of an unarmed Mexican drug dealer in Texas in 2005. President Bush believes they‘re more-than-10-year sentences were too harsh—now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL, live from the National Mall on the eve of Barack Obama‘s inauguration. And on this, of course, Martin Luther King holiday, we‘re here seeing part of King‘s dream realized, of course. What will an Obama presidency mean for generations of African-Americans?
Jonathan Capehart is with “The Washington Post.” He writes editorials, sometimes unsigned, and just—he‘s just powerful without his name on it.
MATTHEWS: And, of course, that‘s maybe sometimes the most powerful way to be, as Joe Biden will discover someday. You have to be famous to be powerful.
And Jonathan Capehart, and Joan Walsh, of course, who often spars with me, takes a slight notch to my left and keeps things interesting, and the Reverend Eugene Rivers, who is a slight notch to my right.
Thank you, sir.
REVEREND EUGENE RIVERS, AZUSA CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY CHURCH: Yes, sir.
MATTHEWS: Coming from the Azusa—AZUSA Christian Community Church up in Boston.
Let me ask you to start, because you said something very provocative to our producer. You believe that the election of Barack Obama is a coup d‘etat for the black community.
RIVERS: It‘s philosophically and politically—what Barack Obama has done, which we‘re all celebrating, is introduced a substantial paradigm shift, in terms of philosophy, politics and program.
What he‘s done is the—he‘s produced a post-partisan agenda. Ninety
percent of the politics over the last 50 -- 40 years has been very
partisan, Republicans, the—the moral majority. Obama introduces a post-
partisan, new paradigm
MATTHEWS: But back to the original lingo you used that is far more provocative.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s come back to coup d‘etat, OK?
RIVERS: No, no, it‘s an ideological coup d‘etat.
MATTHEWS: Reverend, Reverend, paradigm shift is...
MATTHEWS: Coup d‘etat is exciting.
RIVERS: He displaces the old framework.
MATTHEWS: You said he is going to knock off all the black politicians of the country.
RIVERS: He‘s laughed off the politics and the approach.
MATTHEWS: You‘re softening your argument.
RIVERS: No, no, I‘m not softening it.
MATTHEWS: Jonathan, pick up.
MATTHEWS: He came in here saying he was going to get tough and say that a lot of the established black leadership is going to get shaken at their roots, like Al Sharpton...
RIVERS: They are already shaken. They were already shaken.
RIVERS: He won without the election without the Black Congress Caucus. They—he didn‘t need their backing to win the election. Who disputes that?
MATTHEWS: I think you were disputing yourself a minute ago.
RIVERS: No, not at all.
MATTHEWS: Let me go.
Jonathan, is there going to be a big change in the black—among the
we know there‘s an established crowd in the Black Caucus.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Sure.
MATTHEWS: They have been there forever.
MATTHEWS: They don‘t get challenged in primaries, unless you‘re Cynthia McKinney or you‘re Albert Wynn.
MATTHEWS: It‘s very rare.
CAPEHART: Look, it is not a coup d‘etat because those folks that you think has been displaced...
CAPEHART: ... who have been displaced politically are still there on Capitol Hill.
RIVERS: No, ideologically.
CAPEHART: Wait one second.
RIVERS: No. No.
CAPEHART: Wait. I‘m sorry, Reverend. Just let me...
RIVERS: I‘m sorry.
So, president-elect Obama—and I cannot wait to stop using the elect part, because it‘s such a trip—but I think president-elect Obama has made it clear that he wasn‘t—by running, was not the black candidate who was running for president of the United States.
He was reflecting the broad range of concerns of the country, the middle, the vast middle. And remember that just because someone‘s African-American sitting in the House or the Senate doesn‘t necessarily make them to the far left or the far right.
I think black politicians have longed to be lawmakers and legislators who—who legislate for the vast majority of folks. Sure, they know that they‘re going to be writing laws and carrying the concerns of their districts, which might be, by and large, majority African-American or majority people of color.
But, at the end of the day, they‘re looking at doing things that can bring other people along.
JOAN WALSH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, SALON.COM: Exactly.
CAPEHART: That‘s why you‘re looking at folks like Meeks—Meeks—
Meeks—Kendrick Meek in Florida...
CAPEHART: ... and Greg Meeks in—in—in New York City and other politicians who are rising up. I don‘t know if I buy this coup d‘etat.
CAPEHART: Ideological, but I do think...
CAPEHART: But I do think there‘s a generational shift going on here.
CAPEHART: ... going on here in the—within the black—black political establishment, in that you‘re moving away from the Charlie Rangel model of a black politician, which is you come from the struggle of the civil rights—civil rights movement...
RIVERS: But you concede that?
WALSH: I think...
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s bring in the white—I mean, there‘s a white issue here.
RIVERS: Come on in, Joan.
WALSH: Let the white person...
MATTHEWS: ... but we are talking like this.
MATTHEWS: Joan—Joan believes something about white voters and what this meant to them?
What was that?
WALSH: I think we saw a lot of change in the hearts of white voters.
It was very exciting. It was very important.
But I also think what happened is, the—the change that Obama represents is that he is a leader. He is a wonderful orator. He‘s an amazing politician, but he‘s now going to be our president. And he is going to be everyone‘s president. He is going to be a leader.
I—I used to get tripped up thinking about Barack Obama, because I really wanted him to be Dr. King. I wanted him to be the great redeemer, the great prophet, the person who healed our suffering and brought us together.
He did that, but in a way that transcended the black community, that brought in responsibility and community, as you have talked about. It is not only old civil rights solutions. It‘s also self-help in the community. That—that service going on today and being in the community and building things and painting is going to go down in history as an indelible image.
WALSH: But we are now liberating black people from the idea that they have to save us and they have to be the conscience of the country on race.
He is our leader. He is going to speak on trade policy. He is going to speak on scientific policy. He‘s not...
RIVERS: But he‘s done more than that.
There‘s a—no, no, no. He has done all of that. I‘m saying, he‘s done more. There‘s a fundamental philosophical shift. Jonathan made the concession when he said, yes, there was the old-school tradition, and now we have this new epoch. The Gwen Ifill book says, listen, there‘s a new generation.
And what I‘m simply suggesting is that, beyond the obvious, there are some fundamental philosophical shifts. When you talk about accountability, that‘s a shift from the redistributionist, liberal, you know, rights rhetoric to a more philosophically accountable, do for self, communitarian outlook.
WALSH: I think there‘s been a tradition in the black community, not to tell you about the black community -- I don‘t want to be presumptuous. I know, we‘re friends.
RIVERS: We‘re good.
WALSH: There‘s a tradition. Jesse Jackson talked privately about responsibility, but publicly about redistribution.
RIVERS: That was the problem.
WALSH: That was the problem. And that is why you have a Jesse Jackson a little bit uneasy through the campaign.
MATTHEWS: Jonathan, your thought?
CAPEHART: That has a lot to do with jealousies on Reverend Jackson‘s part. But I do think that—
MATTHEWS: Nothing like getting the motive is there?
CAPEHART: Say that again.
MATTHEWS: Always go to motive.
CAPEHART: Sure, of course.
MATTHEWS: How do you know somebody‘s motive? That‘s the worst sin you can commit. You think you know what another person‘s thinking. How do you know that?
CAPEHART: I know a few things about the relationship between Reverend Jackson and other folks.
MATTHEWS: Are you that guy on television, the mentalist?
CAPEHART: Actually, yes, I do talk to people. But let‘s remember something here; you mentioned Reverend Sharpton and how this might be a break from Reverend Sharpton. Remember, there‘s a—now watch for the inside/outside game to happen. Right? President-Elect Obama will be the president of the United States. He will have the entire country‘s concerns at heart, more or less.
What‘s now going to happen is you‘re going to have someone like Reverend Sharpton who will be playing the outside game, the guy who is outside the gate with enough authority and enough voice and power to make the establishment listen to the concerns and possibly get the attention of the president.
CAPEHART: Reverend Al Sharpton can say and do things that President Obama might want to say, might want to do, but can‘t.
MATTHEWS: Can I interpose one thought? I only have a few ideas, but I like to repeat them. I was in north Philadelphia, tough neighborhood. It‘s not middle class. It‘s north Broad Street. It used to be the point of entry, the poor people coming up from the south would move there first, cheapest real estate. Hasn‘t changed much in 40 years since I was there.
RIVERS: It is worse.
MATTHEWS: Yet, when Barack Obama spoke to—it is worse—spoke to that crowd, the biggest line he got, the best applause line, was I‘m going to be a uniter not a divider, which struck me as after 300 years of crap, which is blacks have taken in this continent --
MATTHEWS: -- a lot of it slavery, a lot of it Jim Crow, and a little bit of progress the last 30 years, 40 years, but most over historic terms hellish treatment, that still the crowd responded most to the simple, positive proposition of equality, not breakfast in bed by any means.
MATTHEWS: Just a reasonable share in the take. Now, what the—I want to ask you a question as an editorial writer, because you have to think on this level all the time.
MATTHEWS: I want to ask you a ridiculous question, white guy to black guy. What do blacks want?
CAPEHART: You know what African-Americans want? They want to be seen as a complete part of this country. I think for too long, because of wedge politics and race politics, you know, through the ‘50s and the ‘60s and into the ‘70s and ‘80s, African-Americans were made to feel apart from America. We live here. We work here. We pay taxes here. But we‘re not part of America.
And I think the beauty of what Senator Obama did during his speech in 2004 was to speak to the hopes and dreams and aspirations of Americans as a whole, but for African-Americans in particular. Black people desperately want—love this country, desperately want to be a part of this country. And now they have someone—
MATTHEWS: Reverend, do you agree with that? Do you agree with that thought?
RIVERS: North Philly, what they want in North Philadelphia is public safety, because it‘s a violent neighborhood.
RIVERS: They want emphasis on reducing the black/white achievement gap. They want public health, because black—under-class black girls have the worst STD statistics in the United States.
RIVERS: Let me say this. There‘s an issue, Jonathan, that we‘ll talk about later, that has to do with the fact that all across this country there‘s a black under-class whose interests and concerns have not been focused upon, and within black America there is a gap growing between the black elite, a lot of the folk that you and know, and the very black poor. Obama must be challenged.
CAPEHART: I‘m on the 38,000 foot view, and you are diving into very specific things. But when you‘re talking to people about how they feel about their country and their place and—
RIVERS: He asked what we wanted.
MATTHEWS: No, no, no.
RIVERS: He asked for—what do the people in North Philly want?
They want security. They want education.
CAPEHART: He asked what do blacks want.
RIVERS: Oh, OK. All right, fair enough.
MATTHEWS: I think both answers are very illustrative of something that‘s true. Thank you very much. I‘m being reasonable. Thank you, Reverend Eugene Rivers and Jonathan Capehart and Joan Walsh for being here with your thoughts about white America, which I think are relevant.
By the way, President-Elect Obama holds a dinner tonight—and this is a great tradition along these lines—for the guy he beat, John McCain. I‘ll think they‘ll never not be able to do this again, if I got my contradictions right. Two negatives. They‘ll never not be able to do a dinner in honor of the person they beat. He‘s having a dinner tonight for the guy he beat in a very tough election, John McCain. What a great tribute to democracy. I hope we continue that tradition even when they don‘t like each other.
Anyway, we‘ll be right back. This is HARDBALL, live from the mall.
What a place. Look it. This it the best audience we have ever had here.
WALSH: Oh, my god.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back with more preview, more eve of the nomination—actually, the inauguration of Barack Obama.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL tonight from the Washington mall. What a scene there. We‘re down below the U.S. Capital. Of course, that‘s a great story, the building of that capital, as they imagined George Washington and Pierre L‘enfant, as they laid the city out, the whole city, just as we see it today, was laid out back in the 18th century. They imagined the mall. They imagined Pennsylvania Avenue. They imagined the White House at one end, the Capital at the other end. It was all in the plan, as well as the democracy we now celebrate.
Democratic strategist Steve McMahon joins me right now. His counterpart, his doppleganger—how do you say it? the Republican strategist, Todd Harris. Are you a doppleganger? You‘re out in California for some mysterious reason. Is this news too bad for you to face head on? Three thousand 000 miles away you get for the biggest event of our lifetime.
Todd Harris, why are you in LA when everybody in America is in the capital city?
TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I‘m in a secret undisclosed location with the Cheneys here. We had to flee town.
MATTHEWS: Enjoy yourself.
HARRIS: I would love to be there. I‘m sorry I‘m not there.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Steve McMahon, and then you jump in here. There‘s an interesting new tradition in American life that begins tonight at the Washington Hilton, when John McCain is the guest of honor in a dinner given by Barack Obama, the man who bested him in the presidential election. I just think it‘s an interesting moment. It‘s something that‘s been missing in our American life, some formality to the civility we look for.
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely. It‘s a great moment tonight. It‘s a great moment for democracy and for the smooth transition of power. There are actually two of these. George W. Bush, who I often don‘t say nice things about, put together a luncheon of all the presidents who are still alive for Barack Obama. They all attended. That‘s a great tradition.
This is an even better tradition. And it—it demonstrates that Barack Obama is going to govern differently from day one, or from day minus one.
MATTHEWS: Todd, not only that, but there‘s a story out tonight that Obama has been reaching out to McCain for advice in terms of picking some people for his foreign policy, national security team. In fact, he even asked some questions of one of the candidates he was considering and then brought the answers to those questions back to McCain for his review. So there‘s a real consultation going on, has been going, between Barack Obama and John McCain in putting together national security team.
Now, this may offend some people on the left, but it must warm the cockles of your heart, perhaps.
HARRIS: Well, I think for people who had concerns about Barack Obama in terms of his foreign policy experience, the fact that he is not just willing to hear advice and thoughts from people like John McCain, but actually proactively soliciting Senator McCain‘s input and feedback; you know, it just goes to show that he meant what he promised during the campaign, which—and I‘ll tip my hat to him for that.
And as far as this dinner tonight, you know, inaugurations are largely about symbolism, the events that surround them. It‘s the pomp, the circumstance, the symbolism of our republic. And I can‘t think of a better symbol. I think you‘re right, Chris, that I think every four years now we‘re going to see this dinner happen, because it is a fantastic symbol of both parties of our entire nation coming together on the eve of a new presidency.
MATTHEWS: OK. Steve and Todd, I want you to stay with us. I‘m going outside with Steve. You can‘t join us, Todd. We‘re going to meet this crowd. We‘re also going to talk about, can this new president do something that George W. Bush said he could do and maybe sought to do, but didn‘t achieve, which is the unity of America. Not a bad objective. Let‘s see how he might do it. We‘ll be right outside with the people with Steve and Todd also on the phone. We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back here in the Washington mall. For anybody who doesn‘t think democracy is working, take a look at this crowd tonight. People are here to see the new president take office. This is great American crowd here, with a lot of hope. I want to ask our two experts here, not that they know any more than these people do—
MCMAHON: Not tonight.
MATTHEWS: They‘re participating. Todd is out there in California. And Steve, can President Barack Obama, beginning tomorrow at noon, keep the country united as is seems to be now and how?
MCMAHON: I‘ll tell you what, that‘s the great challenge. He‘s offered a new kind of doing business, a new way of politics. He‘s promised that this is how it‘s going to continue. He‘s having a dinner for John McCain. He had lunch with all the living presidents. And he seems to be offering legislative proposals that Republicans can support.
Hopefully it‘s a new day. Certainly everybody here today believes it‘s a new day. And they‘re very excited, Chris, you can see it.
MATTHEWS: Todd, what‘s the proper role of our your party, the Republicans, over the next six months to a year? What‘s your proper role in American democracy?
HARRIS: I think we‘re in the loyal opposition. I think where we can work with the Obama administration, we should. The American people deserve that. Where we have real problems, we ought to draw lines in the sand and fight to improve his proposals and improve his legislation.
One area where I think on the domestic front you‘re going to see a huge battle brewing is going to be on this card check issue. I know there is, you know, a lot of comity right now on foreign policy, you know some other issues. But on card check, this whole issue of getting rid of secret ballots, the Republican party is going to draw a line in the sand. And it‘s going to be a real battle with the Obama administration.
MATTHEWS: You know, Steve, if you look back at the last 50 years of political history, there was Richard Nixon, Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, people who were specialists at divide and conquer. Basically work your base, get the red hots up there, get them to the polls. To hell with the middle, to hell with the other side. That politics has been buried. Is it going to stay buried, that divide and conquer politics?
MCMAHON: I think it‘s going to stay buried for as long as the Republicans are willing to reach across the aisle and work with President-Elect Obama. If you look at his approval ratings right now and you compare that to the approval ratings of the Republican party and the Republicans in Congress, I think there‘s great incentive on their part to work with this president to improve the country and to change the direction that George Bush took us in for so many years.
MATTHEWS: You know, we have Shuster coming up in a few minutes. When I look at you, sir, I either see a maitre dis or I see—you know what you look like? You know what you look like? You look one of those guys at a boxing match that comes out and announces the winner.
MCMAHON: The winner is President-Elect Barack Obama and the American people, ladies and gentlemen.
MATTHEWS: Todd, we‘ve got a guy here in—we have to wrap now and toss to Shuster. Coming up right now, David Shuster with “1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.” I‘ll stay with him for a few minutes, then I‘ll be back at 7:00 for a complete edition of HARDBALL, in the dark here of Washington, the eve, just like Christmas Eve, the eve of a new president. We‘ll be right back.
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