Guest: Michelle Bernard, Sharon Epperson, Ron Christie, Karen Finney, Ron Gattuso, Michael Smerconish, James Gattuso, Cecile Richards, Luke Ravenstahl, John Heilemann, Michael Scherer
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Republicans pick an African-American to lead the party.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Leading off tonight: Republicans pick an African-American to lead their party. In a dramatic move for the party of Abraham Lincoln, members of the Republican National Committee elected Michael Steele of Maryland to be their new national chairman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: It‘s time for something completely different, and we‘re going to bring it to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The election, held late this afternoon, came just a week after the inauguration of the country‘s first African-American president, the candidate of the Democratic Party. Does this signal a move by the Grand Old Party to aggressively compete for the votes of African-American voters? Does this mean that the Republicans now know they cannot hope to contest for national leadership in the 21st century unless they expand beyond their white rural base, the only area, by the way, where they gained support in 2008?
Meanwhile, the battle of the bases rages on. Rush Limbaugh continues to relish his role as the man President Obama has taken on as leader of the country‘s right. Now Democratic activists under the banner of Americans United for Change are running radio ads attacking Limbaugh and his call for the destruction of Barack Obama‘s presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every Republican voted with Limbaugh and against creating four million new American jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Did President Obama err in tagging Rush Limbaugh, an unelected radio jock, the ramrod, indeed, the ringmaster of the Republican Party? On the other hand, is he? Is the man down in Miami for all practical purposes playing the tuba in the GOP marching band, setting the tune for the party‘s daily talking points? Is he, dare we say, the man behind the curtain? More on that in a moment.
Plus: Is Wall Street capable of shame, or do these “masters of the universe” laugh all the way to the bank? President Obama scolded bank executives who paid themselves an incredible $18 billion in bonuses last year while taxpayers were bailing them out. But so what? Money talks, as one outrageous Philadelphia politician once said, BS walks.
Anyway, Senator Claire McCaskill had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: We have a bunch of idiots on Wall Street that are kicking sand in the face of the American taxpayers!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, can the president and Congress cut the sharpies on Wall Street off from their candy bars? We‘ll debate—we‘re going to debate that one.
And what about equal pay for equal work? That‘s the first bill President Obama signed this week, signed it into law, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which allows women to sue employers if they‘re not given equal pay. Who‘s against that?
Also tonight, the mystery continues. Why did Caroline Kennedy drop out of her chance for the U.S. Senate?
And finally, on the eve of the Super Bowl, we‘ve got the mayor of “Steel Town” talking up Obama‘s team.
We begin with the election of Michael Steele to head the Republican National Committee. Karen Finney is the communications director for the Democratic National Committee and Ron Christie is a proud Republican strategist who engineered today‘s feat.
MATTHEWS: Well, I have to tell you, there must be some connection. Lay it out for me. Last week, the country relished the election—rather the inauguration of the first African-American president. Now we have the first African-American to lead the Republican Party. Is there a connection, sir?
RON CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don‘t think there‘s a connection, but I think this is a great movement for the Republican Party. Michael Steele is a very articulate person. He is one who can go to the airwaves, go to the rural—the rubber chicken circuit, if you will, and espouse what the Republican ideals are. How do we get of the having lost the last two election cycles and how can we rebuild ourselves as a party?
And the fact he is black I think is a bonus. The Republican Party has long tried to have significant inroads and outreach with the African-American constituency. Now you have somebody who is very comfortable in different environments who can make those inroads and that outreach and that he will be taken seriously. I think it‘s great for the party.
MATTHEWS: Well, I voted for the guy last time, when he ran...
CHRISTIE: Oh, I‘m sure you did. Oh, for the Senate?
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes. I thought he‘d be a good senator.
MATTHEWS: And by the way, I think—can I disagree with you, Ron? I think it‘s ridiculous for you to say it‘s not connected. I think the fact that he‘s African-American is probably a big plus for the Republicans right now, whereas a couple of years ago, it may not have been a plus. Just my opinion.
CHRISTIE: Well, no, no, no. No, no. I didn‘t say that. I think it‘s a plus that he‘s black. But I‘m saying, again, we have to recognize he is a very strong leader who happens to be black. Republicans don‘t look at people based on the color of their skin.
MATTHEWS: ... accept the fact that you don‘t believe in identity politics.
KAREN FINNEY, DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: It‘s not just about skin
color. The challenge that the Republican Party—the Republican Party is really at a crossroads and they really had to decide, Do we go back, do we go forward? Michael Steele is an outsider. He‘s not an RNC member. He‘s kind of a different guy, not a creature of Washington necessarily, so I would hope that part of what the members of the...
MATTHEWS: He is establishment.
MATTHEWS: He was the lieutenant governor of Maryland.
FINNEY: But I think part of what the Republican Party realized is, you know, We can‘t keep catering to the far ideological right and think we‘re going to win elections. That‘s just good politics. So whether it‘s...
CHRISTIE: I don‘t know if it‘s catering to the ideological right. But look, you win elections by addition, not subtraction. We‘ve been losing people. We‘ve been losing people who say, Why am I a Republican? I think Michael Steele is a new brand and a new identity to say, We need to add to this party, we need diversity in this party, we want people in our party.
MATTHEWS: ... he came through on the ticket with Ehrlich a couple years back. I think he got your party to pull a big upset. You know, Maryland is almost automatically Democrat. You won the governorship there with him running on that ticket. I think he‘s proven himself that way.
FINNEY: No. Absolutely. Look—and again, the question is going to be, though, for him, Can he pull together these disparate factions within the Republican Party?
FINNEY: I mean, you‘ve got Sarah Palin coming to town this weekend, a darling of the far right. You‘ve got Rush Limbaugh out there, another darling of the far right.
MATTHEWS: Well, Ron Christie says he‘s articulate.
FINNEY: That‘s good. He‘s going to need it!
MATTHEWS: Look, you called him that. We can go on from there. I wouldn‘t choose that word, but go ahead. Here he is. Just kidding. Just kidding.
CHRISTIE: I know.
MATTHEWS: Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEELE: We‘re going to bring this party to every corner, every boardroom, every neighborhood, every community. And we are going to say to friend and foe alike, We want you to be a part of us. We want you to work with us. And for those of you who wish to obstruct, get ready to get knocked over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Whoa! Was that fighting words to anybody who doesn‘t want a big tent, Ron?
CHRISTIE: I don‘t think so. I...
MATTHEWS: What was it—what he said—“get ready to get knocked over.” What‘s he mean?
CHRISTIE: I think what he‘s talking about is culture in Washington, D.C. And we see it with the new Obama administration. If you‘re not with us, if you‘re not, Oh, Obama‘s great, hope and change, and Speaker Pelosi, then suddenly, you‘re part of the problem, not the solution, and you‘re not for bipartisanship.
MATTHEWS: Well, what‘s he mean...
CHRISTIE: That is exactly what he means.
CHRISTIE: I heard it when he said it live. That is how I perceived it.
MATTHEWS: What‘d he—what‘d he say?
CHRISTIE: He does not want obstructionism to persist in the country. You need to get out of the way, he‘s going to knock you over. He doesn‘t want people to be obstructionists, he wants people to work together. That‘s what he needs.
FINNEY: Well, but—right, that‘s...
CHRISTIE: He wants to knock the people...
CHRISTIE: Wait, wait, Karen. What he‘s saying is those people who are for the status quo in Washington, who are for gridlock, those people who get in their ideological tent, who don‘t add to the solution, get out of the way.
FINNEY: Well, and again...
CHRISTIE: That‘s what he means.
FINNEY: ... that‘s been a major part of the Republican Party for the last eight years, and maybe they‘ve learned their lesson. Now, my favorite part of his speech is something that sounded a lot like a 50-state strategy to me, actually.
MATTHEWS: It sounded like your guy.
FINNEY: Sounded a lot like my guy!
CHRISTIE: But wait a second. I want to go to what you‘re saying. It‘s interesting how the Democrats say that, Oh, if we get a Barack Obama in, we‘re going to have a new spirit and a new tone in Washington, Speaker Pelosi is going to bring a new sense of civility. Look what we‘ve seen since the new president‘s been in office and the Speaker has been running...
FINNEY: He‘s gone up to Washington—he‘s gone up to the Hill...
CHRISTIE: ... the House of Representatives.
FINNEY: ... several times.
CHRISTIE: Absolutely not.
FINNEY: He‘s invited people over to cocktails. That is a part of a new civility.
CHRISTIE: No. We had a bipartisan vote, Republicans and Democrats standing together, that said that this stimulus bill is not going to stimulate the economy. The Speaker and the president could not put their ideological differences aside to work with Republicans...
MATTHEWS: I want to talk about the Republican Party and how it‘s advancing here, if you want to talk about that or talk about this other old fight here.
MATTHEWS: By the way, here‘s a big fight going on here. There‘s a battle between the activists in the Democratic Party, the base, if you will, going against Rush Limbaugh. They‘re running this ad in Vegas, in Cleveland, in Philadelphia. It targets Republican senator John Ensign, but it‘s a cookie-cutter ad. They‘re running it everywhere against the targeted Republicans. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can understand why an extreme partisan like Rush Limbaugh wants President Obama‘s jobs program to fail, but the members of Congress elected to represent the citizens in their districts? That‘s another matter. Now the Obama plan goes to the Senate, and the question is, will our senator, John Ensign, side with Rush Limbaugh, too?
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I hope he fails!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or will he reject the partisanship and failed economic policies of the past and stand up for the people of Nevada? Call Senator Ensign now at 202-224-3121. Tell him he represents you, not Rush Limbaugh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK. And here‘s Rush Limbaugh responding to that series of ads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIMBAUGH: This ad is aimed at these senators. It‘s about getting them to buckle. And here again in this ad, all of this concern for the Republicans, all this concern to save the Republicans. Why does Moveon.org and why do the unions want to save Republicans? Why do they want the Republicans (INAUDIBLE) do the right thing? Don‘t they want to—they want the Republicans to fail. Why not wipe them out? If this plan‘s going to be so great, do it alone, get all the credit for it and freeze the Republicans out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Rush Limbaugh, it seems to me, having a week of his life here because I think the new president made a mistake by tagging this guy as the leader of the opposition. He made him even bigger in his own mind than he is already, which is...
FINNEY: Seems almost impossible to do!
FINNEY: Well, wait a second. No, no, no, Ron. Here‘s the thing. Anybody that says that you want the president to fail, you might as well say you want the country to fail.
CHRISTIE: OK, I am...
FINNEY: We are all in this together, and we can‘t afford for the president to fail. So I salute Americans United for putting that ad out there and putting people on notice.
CHRISTIE: I think...
FINNEY: They need to make a choice. Are they going to listen to the American people and go with change, or is—you know, is this the guy that‘s running the party?
CHRISTIE: That ad is a disgrace.
FINNEY: No, it‘s not.
CHRISTIE: If you look at what Rush Limbaugh actually said, he said...
FINNEY: “I want him to fail.”
CHRISTIE: Actually, I have the transcript here, if you‘d like me to read it to you. He said, he is an American. He‘s my president. I look at him and I judge him based on his opinions and based on his policies. And he said he did not want to saddle his kids or the kids of the American future with liberalism and socialism. And that‘s what he wanted to fail.
CHRISTIE: Wait, wait, wait. I didn‘t interrupt you, Karen. I didn‘t interrupt you. It is a disgrace to go after Rush Limbaugh and say that he‘s the voice of the Republican Party or he‘s the leader. Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, a lot of conservative radio talk show hosts represent tens of millions of Americans who are tired of President Obama and Nancy Pelosi trying to ram a bill through. They‘re not working in a bipartisan fashion. So to suggest that this ad, Oh, it‘s Limbaugh‘s fault and the Republicans, I think is a disgrace. It‘s a disgrace.
FINNEY: I don‘t think—I don‘t think what the ad is saying is that it‘s Limbaugh‘s fault. What it‘s saying is, you know, Rush Limbaugh is one part of your party. Is that who you listen to, or do you...
CHRISTIE: No, they‘re saying...
FINNEY: ... listen to the...
CHRISTIE: ... follow Rush Limbaugh...
FINNEY: No, they‘re saying, Or do you listen to—or do you listen to the people of your district who need economic relief?
FINNEY: And again...
CHRISTIE: ... whet these members are doing are listening to the tens of millions of their constituents who say...
FINNEY: Well, that‘s what they should be doing.
CHRISTIE: ... that $825 billion stimulus bill that doesn‘t stimulate the economy is a joke and it‘s a waste and it‘s going to...
FINNEY: Now you‘re just giving Republican talking points.
CHRISTIE: No, I don‘t...
CHRISTIE: No, I can give you economic statistics. You don‘t want to go there.
FINNEY: So you don‘t want three or four million news jobs?
CHRISTIE: I think that number is a lie.
FINNEY: You don‘t think that‘s a good idea?
CHRISTIE: The Joint Committee on Taxation said that they don‘t know how many jobs it would create. The Congressional Budget Office said they don‘t know how many jobs it would create. Of the $350 billion in new spending, Karen, these (ph) say that only $26 billion is going to go out in the first fiscal year and $110 billion is going to go out to directly stimulate the economy in the next two years. The remainder of the $825 billion is going in the out years, which is...
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question...
CHRISTIE: ... not going to stimulate the economy.
MATTHEWS: ... about the synchronicity, though. John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House, told his members the other day, before he even met with the president or they met with the president, Vote to a person against this package. Rush Limbaugh said, I want this package to fail. What‘s the dime‘s worth of difference between Rush Limbaugh and the Republican Party? What is the difference between the two of them?
CHRISTIE: The difference is that Rush Limbaugh is not a Republican.
He‘s a conservative. And he‘s an entertainer and he has a radio talk show. John Boehner is the leader of the Republican Party and he speaks for his members.
MATTHEWS: But on the issue, what‘s the difference?
FINNEY: OK, but the point that Chris is making, John Boehner and Rush Limbaugh said the same thing, they wanted it to fail. And there was a straight party-line vote after the president of the United States went up there several times, consulted with them, had them over to the White House, tried to get their ideas. And what did they say? We‘re going to go straight party-line vote. That is not change. That is more of the same, and you know it.
CHRISTIE: Oh, OK, Karen. So let‘s see. What happens? The president of the United States goes to Capitol Hill, then the Speaker shuts them out of the negotiation process, doesn‘t accept any of their amendments, doesn‘t have an open floor process...
CHRISTIE: ... says, Oh, let‘s go have some tea, let‘s go have some drinks at the White House, but we don‘t want your input.
MATTHEWS: OK, I want you to imagine something, the Republican marching band, right?
MATTHEWS: Who‘s playing the clarinet and who‘s playing the tuba? I would say that you‘re (INAUDIBLE) you‘re agreeing that John Boehner is playing the clarinet and Rush Limbaugh is playing the tuba. Thank you, Karen Finney. Think about that for a minute. I like metaphors. Ron Christie agrees with me, the tuba player is the big guy in Miami.
Anyway, coming up: President Obama says it‘s shameful that Wall Street executives took home $18 billion in bonuses this past year after taking bail-out money from you. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri says they‘re a bunch of idiots up there. I wonder. They got 18 billion bucks in their pockets! Anyway, the president can shame them, but can he do anything tougher, like take the money back? I don‘t think so legally.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Obama publicly chided
Wall Street executives this week for paying themselves $18 billion in bonuses last year while taxpayers were bailing them out. Let‘s listen to the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I saw an article
today indicating that Wall Street bankers had given themselves $20 billion worth of bonuses, the same amount of bonuses as they gave themselves in 2004, at a time when most of these institutions were teetering on collapse and they‘re asking for taxpayers to help sustain them, that is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, those are warm words, but can the president or Congress really control Wall Street? Michael Smerconish is a radio talk show host, a big one, up in MSNBC-land, up in Philadelphia, and also here as a political analyst, and James Gattuso is a senior fellow with the Heritage Foundation.
James, you first. Is this our business? Is this the business of America to be concerned or even to talking about how much money people take home in bonuses up in Manhattan? Is this our business?
JAMES GATTUSO, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I don‘t think it‘s the politicians‘ business. I don‘t think it‘s Capitol Hill‘s business. The problem is that the money was given to start with. And once you provide these subsidies, these bail-outs, then you have inherent problems with how the money is spent.
Look, I‘m as outraged as anyone else, probably more outraged. I think I‘m the lowest paid person on the show today. I got a bonus last year that hit four figures, counting the decimal points.
GATTUSO: So these figures are incomprehensible to me. Every politician worth his salt is outraged about this and is going to show the outrage. The problem is, what do you do about it? And the simple answer, the easy answers, Let‘s cap salaries, let‘s say no one makes more than the president, just don‘t work. The problem is much more complicated than that.
You have, you know, boards of directors that have struggled with this for years about the proper compensation is. The worst thing to do is to put the problem in the hands of Congress. You know, if anyone does worse at running the financial industry than the financial industry itself, it‘s probably Congress. So that‘s the wrong route.
MATTHEWS: You think so? You want to bet on that? You want to bet on that? These sweetheart deals by corporate boards, where they put together a group, a cute little group of executives on the board and they agree on the executive compensation and it just happens to go through the roof every single time? You think that‘s—that‘s the—that‘s not the worst system in the world? I think it is. Isn‘t it?
GATTUSO: Well, I think it‘d be worse to have 535 members of Congress, who themselves know a thing or two about excessive spending...
GATTUSO: And maybe they‘re experts on that. But no, I think it would be worse to have Congress do it.
GATTUSO: The best thing to do—the best thing to do is not to have the bail-outs.
MATTHEWS: Michael, I—well, let‘s go to that, Michael. Michael, it seems to me what we ought to do is like the big newspapers of the country ought to be listing full pages, full pages devoted to showing the checks that are written by TARP. Who‘s getting these checks? I want to see them made out to who? And I‘ve seen a short list of them, and it‘s all the big banks of America. The people getting the money are the people that blew it, or stole it.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
MATTHEWS: That‘s where the money is going.
SMERCONISH: Traditionally—look, Chris, traditionally, the answer that has just been provided is the one that I would have offered.
But these are not normal times. And the presence of public dollars is what changes the dynamic, because to the extent we‘re talking about public moneys that came in through Bank of America and ultimately bailed out Merrill Lynch and ended up in the trash can of John Thain, those are our dollars. And I think we do have a right to say something about it.
By the way, where were the boards of directors while these entities are losing 435 billion and paying out $18 billion in bonuses? It‘s disgusting. And I think we do have a say in it because of the presence of the public money.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at Senator McCaskill because...
MATTHEWS: Let me just give her a chance, James, because this is what...
JAMES GATTUSO, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW IN REGULATORY POLICY, THE
HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Sure.
MATTHEWS: Senator McCaskill said today. And it‘s something you believe is absurd. But let‘s take a look at her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: We have a bunch of idiots on Wall Street that are kicking sand in the face of the American taxpayer. They don‘t get it. These people are idiots. You can‘t use taxpayer money to pay out $18 billion in bonuses. What planet are these people on?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, my reading of the comic books growing was, the person who kicked sand in your face as the bully, not the idiot. They‘re financial bullies, James, it seems to me. They are doing it because they know they can get away with it.
MATTHEWS: And the question is, will Congress vote more bailout money in the context of this kind of stuff going on? Is this a terrible advertisement for any further bailout money?
GATTUSO: Look, I—I think that‘s exactly right.
The question isn‘t whether they‘re idiots or bullies. We can talk about that later. But the question is, should we vote more bailout money? And there‘s talk of another vote bailout coming by. We have got to be very, very careful about signing on to another bailout until we make sure that there‘s absolutely no other way to help the economy.
And I‘m very, very skeptical that—that we should move forward with another bailout. But the question isn‘t whether we should regulate compensation. That‘s not the answer. The question is looking at the bailout. Is that really needed?
SMERCONISH: All politics are local. And I think that the real story is what you have just identified, Chris.
These are heady times. I think most of us don‘t understand what is going on in the markets and can‘t explain it. But we do understand $18 billion in bonuses at a time when they‘re all losing their fannies. And, consequently, it‘s going to make it much more difficult for members of Congress or the Senate to be on board for a stimulus package or to support additional TARP funds. That‘s the reality.
MATTHEWS: You know, over in China, they execute people that screw up at the top.
And I‘m just wondering, if we are in a situation in the next couple of years that might be not a recession, my biggest fear, gentlemen, this is not just another business downturn, like we have every couple of years, every five or seven years. This is something different, something really scary. It has to do with a real failure of those people with fiduciary responsibilities in this country at the highest levels in New York and elsewhere, and oversight in—in Washington here, a real failure to watch our system.
And it may well have been destroyed in the last couple of years. And that‘s what I worry about, Michael, that this isn‘t just something that you create a stimulus package for and goose the economy a bit and cut taxes a bit or spend some money and somehow it‘s going to roll back into action.
Maybe it‘s something systemic that is a problem here, and there were real bad guys, the hedge fund people, the derivatives people, the oversight people, the regulators, where they all contributed to a perfect storm of catastrophe here, and we‘re not going to be able to get out of this thing for many years ahead. That‘s what I worry about, Michael.
When you talk on the radio every day, what are people in Philly, which is pretty close to New York, what are they saying about this? What do people think is going on? Just a recession?
SMERCONISH: Well, there‘s...
SMERCONISH: There‘s an ideological divide as to what should be done.
And—and you don‘t need me to tell you that there are a whole host of people who say we can‘t spend ourselves out of whatever it is that we‘re in the midst of right now. You get a lot of arguments about what happened historically. You know, was it—was it the outbreak of war that took us out of Depression, or was it FDR, with all the spending programs that he initiated?
People are going back and having some awfully highbrow conversations for talk radio about what drove it before and what is driving it now. And one final thought. I wonder how much of it is attitudinal. I recognize there are a lot of problems with the economy, but, you know, Chris, a lot of people are watching television for a sign that there‘s light at the end of the tunnel.
And, until they get that, they‘re not going out the dinner. They‘re not spending money. They‘re not buying goods.
James Gattuso, what is going to get us out of this thing?
GATTUSO: Well, I think you are right and just throwing more money at this is not going to help, even in terms—in terms of bailouts or a stimulus program that just has people digging holes and filling them back up again.
I—I think we need the market to be reinvigorated. I think that means businesses taking responsibility for their own decisions. I think it also may involve, frankly, decreasing regulations, decreasing taxes, opening up the way for people with new ideas and new business plans to come in and remake the market.
You know, Bill Gates was talking the other day about how he felt that the economy was still fundamentally sound. New technology is moving forward. There are new ideas out there. Just give them a chance. They will come back.
And I tend to agree with that. But we need to, frankly, just drop our reliance on just throwing money at this, because that will not get us to the answer.
I‘m not sure that Reaganism you‘re just describing is either.
Anyway, thank you, James Gattuso, for that conservative point of view.
GATTUSO: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And thank you, Michael, that suburban point of view.
Michael Smerconish and James Gattuso.
Up next: This Sunday is the Super Bowl, Pittsburgh vs. Arizona.
President Obama has his got pick. It‘s Pittsburgh. And so has Biden.
He‘s picking Pittsburgh.
By the way, just look at an electoral map, you can figure out why. They are not going to carry Arizona for years to come. But they have got to hold Pennsylvania. It‘s so interesting how these guys think. They think politically.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Lilly Ledbetter did not
set out to be a trailblazer or a household name. She was just a good, hard worker who did her job, and she did it well, for nearly two decades, before discovering that, for years, she was paid less than her male colleagues for doing the very same work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
On Thursday, as you just saw, President Obama signed his first bill into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which will give workers, women workers, who allege pay discrepancy more time to take their cases to court.
With us now is the Planned Parenthood president, Cecile Richards, and MSNBC‘s Michelle Bernard, who is president of the Independent Women‘s Voice.
Cecile, welcome back to the show.
MATTHEWS: I want to ask you, what is the historic significance of the signing yesterday by Barack Obama?
CECILE RICHARDS, PRESIDENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: Well, it is a great
day for women. I think it is a new day in America to have a federal government and a president who‘s looking out for women and families.
The fact that this is the first bill that President Obama signed is a wonderful sign that—that women are going to get fair and equal treatment from the government.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about it, Michelle.
What is wrong with this bill the president signed? It seems to me it allows women who find out later that they were being underpaid, compared to men, for the same job or comparable work, that they can take legal action. They don‘t have to do it within a certain number of days of their hiring.
MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That‘s true.
What happened, it—the case was overturned tat Supreme Court on a technicality. Instead of being able to bring—instead of being forced to bring a lawsuit that alleged discrimination within 100 days -- 180 days, women now have a longer period of time to do that.
The problem with the—with the legislation that was signed yesterday is, we don‘t know what the unintended consequences are going to be. Number one, it tells women that you‘re a victim. Number two, we don‘t know what the burdens are going to be that are going to be put on employers.
Will they all of a sudden say, if I hire—maybe I should hire less women, because they—fewer women in the workplace, because they might sue me 20, 30, 40 years from now. Insurance is going to go up. What‘s the negative impact that this could possibly have on women?
And, for that reason, the Independent Women‘s Forum and the Indictment Women‘s Voice doesn‘t think that this is a great day in America for women.
MATTHEWS: So, you expect—your prediction is that there will be nuisance—nuisance litigation?
BERNARD: I think there will be—I think this is a payday for trial lawyers. I think they‘re going to be very happy. I think we are going to see the shuttle gates open up to all kinds of litigation, some of which will have merit, and some of which will not.
MATTHEWS: Cecile, your thoughts on this?
RICHARDS: No, I think that is—I think that is completely incorrect.
And, look, Lilly Ledbetter is a heroine to women and families across America. This is a woman who spent all this time really fighting for what is equal, what is right for women, which is to have equal pay for equal work. Women, still in America, we have made great progress, but we only earn 78 cents on the dollar to every dollar that a man earns.
And I think it is time that in fact we be paid equally. And I think we—you know, it‘s interesting, because Lilly Ledbetter of course didn‘t do this for herself. She said she will never see a cent out of this, so it wasn‘t about monetary gain. She said she did this for her daughters and for her granddaughters and for all women that will come after her.
BERNARD: But, see, that—the problem with that is, that‘s a red herring.
People say that this is about equal pay, that women earn 77 cents on the dollar for every dollar that a man earns. And it is just not necessarily true. If you really go in and you do an analysis, there are a lot of reasons. Sex discrimination does exist. We‘re not saying that it doesn‘t exist.
But there are a lot of reasons why women might earn less. If you decide that you‘re going to work for a nonprofit, instead of working for a Fortune 500, you are going to earn less money. If you come out of the work force for 10, 15, 20 years to raise your kids, you are going to earn less money. That‘s not sex discrimination.
So, to say that this bill is a champion of women‘s rights and the federal government is looking out for women, it is completely incorrect. It‘s just not true. And we do our daughters a disservice and our sons truly a disservice when we say that this is—this is great legislation.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask, Cecile, this there pay discrimination afoot right now in this country between the sexes?
RICHARDS: Well, any woman who has worked in America knows that there‘s pay discrimination. And, again, I think we have made enormous progress.
I think the difference about today, we have eight long years of a government that really wasn‘t looking out for women and families and particularly on issues of equal pay. The great news is that President Obama has made a commitment, and now his very first bill that he has signed, to say, in fact, equal pay for women is a priority.
And particularly at a time in which our economy is so tough, very tough on women and families, we should be doing every single thing we can to make sure that women aren‘t losing any money out of their paycheck due to discrimination. And that‘s simply what this bill does.
And I can‘t imagine that there‘s anyone in America that would oppose equal pay for equal work.
MATTHEWS: You know, I have to tell you, I‘m the male in this, and I‘m older than both of you, but I have to tell you that my experience is that women are underpaid.
Nurses, I just—I have an intuitive sense that their worth is far beyond than what they get paid, far beyond what they get paid. And it‘s because—isn‘t it because of their gender? In most cases, they‘re women who are nurses. They are underpaid.
BERNARD: Well, but, Chris, here‘s the point.
If you decide you want to be a nurse and you know that it pays less, then...
MATTHEWS: Well, why does it pay less?
BERNARD: I don‘t know why. That‘s what the market has decided.
BERNARD: But if you make a decision that you want to be a nurse, instead of a neurosurgeon, then you know that you‘re going to get paid less income.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s not fair, because—OK, there are different educational tracks, obviously, to become a neurosurgeon.
But a nurse is—to become a registered nurses takes a lot of years of education. You have to be really good at it. And the really good ones are unbelievable. And, yet, you just can tell they‘re underpaid. You just know it.
MATTHEWS: Cecile, it‘s your argument here, not mine, but I think it‘s intuitive.
And, by the way, one thing I learned in this last campaign is women my age do really feel they were screwed economically over the years. They really were.
BERNARD: But they were.
MATTHEWS: You agree with that?
BERNARD: I absolutely agree with that.
MATTHEWS: So, you agree with that.
MATTHEWS: OK. You go ahead. Go ahead.
RICHARDS: Well, I mean, it is true, because not only are women‘s jobs traditionally have earned less, the point that you‘re making here.
But when we say that women earn 78 cents on the dollar for every dollar a man makes, it‘s doing the same kind of work. So, I‘m sorry. The argument that‘s being made doesn‘t make any sense. And that was Lilly Ledbetter‘s case. She was getting—she was doing the exact same job as her male counterparts, and earning less money.
So, all of this—this isn‘t about unequal treatment. This is about bringing women simply to the same kind of pay levels that men get. And particularly in this economy, where more and more women are single—maybe single mothers, single breadwinners in their household, they need to be making equal pay to support their families.
It is not just a women‘s issues. It‘s a families issue.
BERNARD: It is an everyone‘s issue, but there‘s not a sexist boogeyman around every single corner that is victimizing women.
RICHARDS: No one said there was.
BERNARD: And this act does nothing...
RICHARDS: No one said there was.
BERNARD: ... to ensure equal pay.
RICHARDS: No one said there was.
RICHARDS: Simply, this is about equity, nothing more.
It‘s great having you on. Have a nice weekend. It‘s an important debate.
RICHARDS: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Cecile Richards, thank you very much.
RICHARDS: Good to see you.
MATTHEWS: Michelle Bernard, as always.
Still ahead, what happened to Caroline Kennedy‘s Senate bid? I—it‘s one of the great mysteries. It‘s like, where Judge‘s Crater? I mean, what happened here? Where—where did this go? She was going to be the next senator from New York. All of a sudden she is not. What happened here? By the way, who is the next—I forgot her name.
Anyway, let‘s get ready for Super Bowl. We are going to have the Steelers vs. the Cardinals here for just a little bit, a pile of sports here on HARDBALL, because we have got the mayor of Pittsburgh coming here.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
SHARON EPPERSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Sharon Epperson with your
CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks falling, as the economy contracted at the fastest pace in 26 years, and as the Obama administration‘s plan to buy the bad assets of banks apparently hit a snag. The Dow Jones industrials dropped 148 points. The S&P 500 lost 19. And the Nasdaq shed 31 points.
It caps the worst January ever for the Dow and the S&P, each dropping more than 8.5 percent.
Meantime, the economy shrank rank 8.3 percent in the final quarter of the last year, the weakest showing since 1982, but it was not as bad as expected.
Despite the recession, ExxonMobil reported a record profit for any U.S. company in 2008, $45.2 billion. It broke its own record set in 2007.
And gasoline futures rose 4 cents, that with 24,000 refinery workers threatening to strike tomorrow night, when their contract expires, which could disrupt gasoline and diesel fuel supplies.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—back to MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I wish the best to the Cardinals. They‘ve been long suffering. It‘s a great Cinderella story. But other than the Bears, the Steelers are probably the team that‘s closest to my heart.
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I‘m having a Super
Bowl party at my house with some Republican and Democratic friends. But I want to make it clear, I‘m rooting for the Steelers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The Super Bowl is just a couple of days away now. It‘s going to be on Sunday night. But the vice president of the United States and the president of the United States are making their pick. I‘ve never seen anything like this. Not even a pretense of equal treatment here. They‘re both for the Steelers. Let‘s go right now to the mayor of the city.
Mayor Ravenstahl, I think the jinx might—this may be the like the old “Sports Illustrated” jinx you‘ve got to suffer from. You‘ve got Obama and Biden picking you guys, saying that they owe the campaign contributions of Dan Rooney. What do you make of this thing?
MAY. LUKE RAVENSTAHL (D), PITTSBURGH: Well, we‘re certainly happy to
have the support of the president and the vice president. I guess it really doesn‘t matter much what I think if President Obama and Vice President Biden are Steeler fans. So we‘re happy to have their support. And it‘s probably a smart pick, because when you look at the Steelers and Steeler fans, not just in Pennsylvania, but throughout this country, there are strong supporters of our black and gold.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s the story. I always root for the existing team since the oldest days. I like the oldest teams, you know, like the Steelers, the Eagles, the Bears. The expansion teams always confuse me, but although the Cardinals, of course, are an old team. They‘ve just moved around a lot.
Do you have a sense that every time there‘s a Super Bowl, it‘s usually an ice bowl team against a Sunshine Team. And you got an ice bowl team. You have a northern team, gritty. You have to wear heavy clothes to a game. Just going to a game is torture sometimes. Don‘t you always root for the cold team? I always do.
RAVENSTAHL: I do, too. Growing up as a Steeler fans, it‘s something that we‘re certainly very proud of the history of the organization. If we‘re able to be successful on Sunday, we‘ll be the six-time Super Bowl champions. I know the Arizona Cardinals‘ franchise has only won five playoff games. We have won five Super Bowls. So certainly the history of our franchise is something that we‘re very proud of, and, of course, as a die hard football fan myself, you know, to see football played on natural grass like it is on Heinz Field, with the snow falling from the air, as far as we‘re concerned, that‘s what football is all about. You certainly have that with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
MATTHEWS: You know, when I was growing up, it was the Pittsburgh Pirates, you know, the baseball team out there. And then the Steelers, I heard about them the first time, are they like thieves, too, like pirates, Steelers. It stands for something else. It doesn‘t stand for people that steal stuff, right?
RAVENSTAHL: No. It was originally named after—
MATTHEWS: What does it stand for?
RAVENSTAHL: The steel workers of Pennsylvania, the steel mills.
MATTHEWS: Hah! Hah! I‘m just kidding you. Let me ask you about this spread, Seven points. Are you in that? Are you good for that? Seven points?
RAVENSTAHL: I think so. I also believe it‘s going to be a high scoring game.
MATTHEWS: We talk afterwards, you‘re good for that? You‘re good for the seven?
RAVENSTAHL: I am. I think it‘s going to be a high scoring game. I think the Steelers are going to put up more points than you expect. I think that the offense of the Pittsburgh Steeler is going to do well. Of course, we know—
MATTHEWS: You‘ll give me the spread for a buck, Mr. Mayor, right, for a buck?
RAVENSTAHL: You got it. I made the prediction already, Steelers 37, Cardinals 20. So we‘ll see what happens.
MATTHEWS: OK, you are the hot shot. Congratulations, Mr. Mayor.
You‘ve got a hot team here. Maybe you‘ll get the six pack after all.
RAVENSTAHL: Appreciate it, Chris. Thanks for having me.
MATTHEWS: Mayor of Pittsburgh. We should mention that we invited the Glendale mayor, Elaine Scrugs (ph), but she was unable to make it. So she‘s making her way to Tampa to the Super Bowl already. We welcome them at any time.
Up next, one week after the inauguration of the country‘s first African-American president, the Republican party just happens to—just happens to select an African-American for the first time in history. The party of Lincoln now led by one of the people—well, an African-American. An amazing move by the Republican party. They‘re in the business, the party of diversity. With Republicans on the verge of becoming a regional party, can Steele lead them back to a full court press politically? This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time for the Fix. Joining me is “New York Magazine‘s” John Heilemann, who is the hottest journalist this season, “Time Magazine‘s” Michael Scherer.
Heilemann, with that big set up, I want to ask you this: I really do think it‘s going to be like one of those old legends we grew up with, like who was Judge Crater to disappear on the Atlantic City Boardwalk? What ever happened to Caroline Kennedy‘s Senate seat? It is just one of those - - is this just going to fade from history, that she was almost a senator from New York, but isn‘t, and we don‘t know why?
JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK MAGAZINE”: I think in the absence of a later run by her for national office, or for state office, I think it probably will Chris. I think you have a footnote in the making here. It‘s possible that somewhere down the line, if she really is committed to politics and public service, the she‘ll put herself back in the arena. And I think she is not in a position where she couldn‘t be rehabilitated and win.
But absent that, I think this will fade from memory pretty fast, especially given our very short attention span in this country and certainly in the state of New York.
MATTHEWS: But Michael, you cannot imagine someone like me growing up with her as an iconic figure to see how quickly an iconic figure became a loser, someone who blew their chance, and somehow is responsible for that, but we‘re not sure how.
MICHAEL SCHERER, “TIME MAGAZINE”: Everyone is going for the smoking
SCHERER: I think you might just want to look at the situation. We know Caroline Kennedy was always a very private person. We know she always did things on her own terms. She was never the one to go out in public and be the public face until this most recent Obama campaign. I think a big part of her being involved in this was the Kennedy seat. This was the seat that John Jr. would have run for, presumably. There were discussions late ‘90s about it.
She felt an obligation to do that. And then, in the end, she got in the arena, as John McCain would say, and realized she just didn‘t like it. I mean, I don‘t know the—I don‘t know the smoking gun, but that makes a lot of sense to me.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about what this sets up. This sets up a Rudy Giuliani campaign against David Paterson. I would bet Rudy could win that race. What do you think, John, covering New York?
HEILEMANN: Look, I think David Paterson is a damaged figure in New York. I think he is probably going to have to face a Democratic primary. He might face that primary from Andrew Cuomo. He might face it from others. If he does win, a race between him and Rudy Giuliani will be a pretty close-run thing. Rudy Giuliani also a damaged figure in New York politics after his presidential race, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I know that and the question is, who‘s more damaged and whether Rudy would find the ethnic root to success, being an Italian-American, going against an African American in New York, the cauldron of ethnicity up there, and how that would work. I would think Rudy would be in great shape, my sense. I‘ve been wrong about Rudy before. He always looks good to me. Maybe because I grew up with guys like Rudy Giuliani. He blew his presidential race, nowhere.
SCHERER: As someone who covered him in New Hampshire, he was a terrible candidate. He‘s got a really good—
MATTHEWS: Is he good in New York?
SCHERER: He was good. Obviously, he was great when he was running for the mayor‘s race. I got the sense that he was running for president out of, this is sort of the next thing I‘m supposed to do. If Rudy wants to really make a show of it in New York, he‘s got to really put his heart into it, in a way he didn‘t do with his presidential race. The other question is, is New York ready—
MATTHEWS: He can‘t say 9/11 again, not one more time. It‘s over.
SCHERER: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back with John Heilemann. We figured out Caroline Kennedy is a mystery story. Rudy Giuliani may be coming back again. I want to come back and talk about Sarah Palin and of course this story. I think she‘s got a niche in the Republican party that‘s not going away. I think—I want to talk about that when we come back. You‘re watching HARDBALL with these two fellows. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with John Heilemann and Michael Scherer with the politics fix. I want to start with John Heilemann, again, sir. I think Sarah Palin, based upon Republican history, has a good shot at the nomination next time, just because the Republican party tends to go back to its ideological base after losing with a moderate like McCain, Nixon, Gerry Ford. They go back to Goldwater or to Reagan or to somebody like her. I‘m sensing they go back to their base when they lose. What do you think?
HEILEMANN: I think that‘s right, Chris. Second, I think also they tend to go to the person who is next in line. It‘s the party of premogenator (ph), the Republican party. She is next to line. She was the vice presidential nominee. She‘s clearly incredibly ambitious. She‘s going to sell this memoir of hers for whatever large sum of money, multiple millions of dollars. She‘s trying to stay in the headlines.
Her media strategy has not been that great. But she‘s got a huge base of support. I‘m working on this book about the 2008 campaign. She still has a huge number of defenders, people who do not think she was a disastrous candidate, and who think that with the right amount of schooling, she can still tap into that grassroots, populist core base Evangelical community, that is the biggest part of what remains of the Republican party.
MATTHEWS: What do you do, Michael—here‘s the great conundrum. There are a lot of people out there who are wonks. They know all the issues. They can explain economics. They can explain social policy, all the issues of health care and everything, and they have no charisma whatsoever. Then there are some people with charisma who have no substance. Isn‘t it easier for a person with charisma to get substance than a person with substance to get charisma? Why can‘t she go to school?
I‘m being patronizing here. Just bulk up on the stuff.
SCHERER: She has to come down regularly to the lower 48. She has to work the rubber chicken dinners in South Carolina, all these different places.
MATTHEWS: Just giving the same old speech isn‘t going to solve her problem, is it?
SCHERER: She has to convince all these people that she‘s actually going to school. I‘m agreeing with you. She does have to go to school. She has time to do that. She also has to convince the grassroots that she‘s going to be able to convince the American people to come back.
MATTHEWS: I‘ve studied history enough to know there‘s a lot of politicians out there who are not intellectuals, Bobby Kennedy, Nelson Rockefeller, John, who made a point of surrounding themselves with smart people and learning enough to be pretty substantial people as public servants. They just make a point of doing the work. You don‘t have to be an intellectual.
HEILEMANN: I agree with that, Chris. I think the thing about her is there‘s a big difference between being stupid and being information poor. I think she is not a dumb woman. What she was was a woman who did not know enough about international and domestic politics and policy to be qualified to be president or vice president the last time around. You‘re right, that stuff you can learn. She has enough time that if she really does go to school, and crams on it, she can learn enough to pass that bar.
MATTHEWS: What do you think, Michael?
SCHERER: I think so too. You see her logo on her new PAC though? The logo has the lower 48 and then the state of Alaska superimposed over it. I think she needs a new logo for her PAC looking in the lower 48.
MATTHEWS: I think she‘s a comer. What about Michael Steele tonight? What do you make of that? The Republicans have elected a guy—I voted for the guy for senator. I think he‘s a great guy. He ran for senator—he was lieutenant governor of Maryland, serious politician, mainstream. Now he is the chairman of the party.
SCHERER: It‘s not that they‘re going for the black vote. The black vote is going to be Democrat as long as Barack Obama is in office. But the Republican party does have a real diversity problem. I think he is a great public face. Mike Duncan was never a good spokesman for the party. Steele can be a good spokesman. He also might help move the Republican party forward some. In this race, you had Katon Dawson, who is getting in trouble for once belonging to an all white club.
MATTHEWS: The guy he beat.
SCHERER: Chip Saltsman was also running for the race. He was in trouble for—
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to Heilemann. Can this guy move the Republican party over into the mainstream of picking up African-American and minority votes generally?
HEILEMANN: I think that‘s going to be awful hard to do that with Barack Obama in the White House, Chris. But what I do think is that the Republican party in this election faced a choice between the future and past. The past—Mike Duncan was the past. Chip Saltsman was the past. In many ways, Katon Dawson was the past. Michael Steele was the one candidate who represented a more forward-looking vision of the Republican party.
I‘m not sure he‘s going to help with black voters in the era of Obama. But he was certainly the better choice to cast the party forward this time around.
MATTHEWS: The Republicans are in the game right now in terms of diversity. At least they‘re in the game. Thank you John Heilemann. Thank you Michael Scherer. Join us again Monday 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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