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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for February 20, 2009

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guest: Roger Simon, Margaret Carlson, David Corn, Peter Canellos, Susan Milligan, Sam Allis, Rick Santelli, Margaret Brennan

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  So what‘s the problem, deadbeats or hucksters?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  And leading off tonight: Who do we hate now?  What do we make of these people who can‘t pay their mortgages?  Were they suckered into buying a house they couldn‘t afford, or were they lured into a contract to pay for something based on seductively low interest rates, no money down, and as an added bonus, no need to really prove they have the income they claim to?  Or—now, here‘s an alternative view—these people sitting in those houses about to be foreclosed are deadbeats, pure and simple, deadbeats, people who grabbed what they can and taking no real responsibility for paying their debts?

So who are the bad guys here, the hucksters or the deadbeats?  Let‘s see this argument through.  And what do we do if those mortgages are worthless?  What do we do to get rid of these toxic assets that our financial system has got to find some way of burping up?  By now, you‘ve seen yesterdays iconic moment, by the way, from CNBC‘s Rick Santelli on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Today, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs hit back.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  This is a copy of the president‘s home affordability plan.  It‘s available on the White House Web site.  And I would encourage him to download it, hit print and begin to read it.


MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Bill Clinton says Barack Obama deserves an “A” so for, but he also needs to show the country that he‘s, quote, “completely,” close quote, convinced we‘ll get through this economic mess.  Here he is.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I just would like to him to end by saying that he is hopeful and completely convinced we‘re going to come through this.


MATTHEWS:  Plus, lots of chanting out there for Senator Roland Burris of Illinois to resign his office.  The latest person yelling jump, the Illinois new governor, Pat Quinn.

Also: He‘s the last of the Kennedy brothers, and his mission is building a national health care system.  Three “Boston Globe” reporters come here tonight because they‘ve written a new biography of Ted Kennedy, the man they call “The Last Lion.”  I‘m going to talk to them about the life of the man many believe—and this is people on both sides of the Senate aisle—believe is the greatest senator of modern times.

And believe it or not, “The New York Post” has apologized—sort of -

for this now infamous cartoon that it ran two days ago.  We‘re going to look into that and more in the “Politics Fix.”

And finally, a special treat for you on the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight.  Nate Silver of the Web site, the man who became famous for his skill at predicting political races, has made some hard picks for the Oscars Sunday night, real hard picks.  He‘s picking the winners, every one of them.  HARDBALL goes Hollywood tonight in the “Sideshow.”

But we begin with CNBC‘s Rick Santelli.  Rick, it‘s great to have you on the show.  You made some noise out there.  I want to have—by the way, here‘s you—just for those who are—I was up in Pennsylvania, raising money for the Boy Scouts.  But here‘s you yesterday on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.


RICK SANTELLI, CNBC:  The government is promoting bad behavior because we certainly don‘t want to put stimulus forth and give people a whopping $8 or $10 in their check and think that they ought to save it.

This is America!  How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor‘s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can‘t pay their bills?  Raise their hand.


SANTELLI:  President Obama, are you listening?


MATTHEWS:  Well, apparently, he was because here his spokesman is, responding to you, sir, today.  This is Robert Gibbs on you.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I‘m not entirely sure where Mr. Santelli is or in what house he lives.

You can‘t stay in this program unless you continue to make mortgage payments.  That‘s important for Mr. Santelli and millions of Americans to understand.  Mr. Santelli has argued, I think quite wrongly, that this plan won‘t help everyone.  I would encourage him to read the president‘s plan and understand that it will help millions of people, many of whom he knows.  I‘d be more than happy to have him come here and read it.  I‘d be happy to buy him a cup of coffee.  Decaf.



MATTHEWS:  Well, do you have any personal reaction to being accused of being over the top or what?  First of all, get to the human interest side of this thing—are you offended?

SANTELLI:  You know, I guess I was a little disappointed.  I thought he would have a little bit more respect.  But I can understand his stance.  I have great respect for the administration.  We want them to win this.  I guess I would say it this way.  When there‘s actually some details in the plan, I will even pay more attention to it.

But my rant wasn‘t about the plan specifically.  It was about a philosophical issue, Chris.  And the philosophical issue is this.  In America, a card laid is a card played, OK?  Contract law should be sacred.  I don‘t know that any form of government should be able to come between a person who contracted with an institution and the person that signed on the dotted line.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s go around it a couple ways.  First of all, do you believe the problem here of these over two million people out there facing foreclosure, who are at the bottom of this toxic asset problem, which is at the bottom of our financial crisis, which is the bottom of our economic crisis today and the reason we‘re going into something close to a Depression—so let‘s get at it.

We got a bunch of people out there can‘t afford their houses they‘re living in.  Is it their fault because they‘re deadbeats, they shouldn‘t have bought the houses, or is the guy who sold them the house, the woman who sold them the house—was that person a huckster who got them to buy the house with phony-baloney low interest rates, with no down payment, and guess what, allowed them to lie on their application and claim an income they didn‘t have?  Who‘s responsible, the huckster or the deadbeat?

SANTELLI:  Everybody.  You know what?

MATTHEWS:  No, no, no.  No, no, no.  No.  You‘re an analyst.  Who‘s largely responsible for the problem of these two million cases of toxic assets which are weighing down our financial system and may bring us all to financial hell?  Who‘s responsible?

SANTELLI:  Well, Chris, think about it.  Were these mortgage brokers -

were they licensed?  Was there any supervision there?  No, OK?  Did the people that signed these have their lawyers look at them?  If not, shame on them, OK?  Chris Matthews, do you sign something without reading the fine print or having a lawyer look over a housing contract?  Have you had a lawyer for all your contracts closing on all your properties?  Have you?

MATTHEWS:  Am I supposed to answer that question?  Yes.  Occasionally, I find myself not reading the fine print.  But let me ask you a question.  Did you vote for Obama or McCain?

SANTELLI:  I voted for Mr. McCain.  It should be between me and my...

MATTHEWS:  OK, I‘m just trying to...

SANTELLI:  But I did.  And you know what?  This isn‘t a left or right issue, though.

MATTHEWS:  No, I want to know where you‘re coming from politically because you‘re coming down hard on Barack.  That‘s all I‘m asking for.

SANTELLI:  No, I‘m not!  I am not coming down hard on Barack!  I‘m coming down hard on the notion that I don‘t see anywhere in the Constitution where, if you work hard, you‘re looked at as being dispassionate (SIC), being non-humane because you won‘t let your government redistribute what you‘ve worked hard for.

I want to leave my kids a legacy, not trillion-dollar deficits, and the ability to wake up every morning and try to be the best they can be.  And if they work hard and they want to do things with the money they make, it should be theirs and it should be their decision.  And I don‘t understand why our leaders need to be in between that dynamic.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I‘m with you...


MATTHEWS:  ... your right to take that position.  Let‘s take that position all the way.  Suppose we take the Ebenezer Scrooge/Rick Santelli position all the way and we let those people just rot, basically.  They can‘t pay their mortgages...

SANTELLI:  That‘s not what I said!

MATTHEWS:  ... kick them out, put the couches out...

SANTELLI:  That‘s not...

MATTHEWS:  ... on the street.


MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s the question.  How do we get rid of these—look, I cannot stand one more banker or one more analyst from Wall Street telling me, We got this problem with toxic assets.  I don‘t want to hear it again.

SANTELLI:  Me, neither.

MATTHEWS:  So how do we get rid of this problem?  How do we get rid of this problem?  Do we just let people be foreclosed and kick them out?  What do we do?

SANTELLI:  You know, I don‘t think there‘s an easy answer here.  And I think charity begins with the individual.  I think we need to give them jobless claim benefits, if they‘re unemployed.  Maybe we have to come up with a way to securitize to the public a portion of their house or a portion of their bill.


SANTELLI:  But I think that the contract law becomes very difficult here.  I don‘t think there‘s an easy answer.  But let me rephrase this.  Your 401(k), it probably is a little bit less than it used to be.  You might not be able to retire as soon as you should.  Does that mean you need to be made whole?  Is there really any difference there?

MATTHEWS:  No, everybody wants their money—Rick, if you—if you think the people out there don‘t want their money back, you know what I know...

SANTELLI:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  ... everybody wants their money back that.  Everybody wants one political ambition.  They don‘t want a grand...

SANTELLI:  I‘ll give you a solution!

MATTHEWS:  ... strategy...


MATTHEWS:  You know what they want?  Their money back.  I agree with you.

SANTELLI:  That‘s right.  Chris, here‘s the solution.  You add up all the money that we have at risk, all the money for the programs, add it all up, it‘s a pretty large sum, right?  Divide it by how many households are in the country.  Those that are behind on their mortgages, those that aren‘t, and split it all equally and give everybody a check.  How‘s that for a solution?

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  They‘re all crazy.  Hey, thank you, Rick.

SANTELLI:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Your name is permanently iconized.  The president of the United States has sent his spokesman after you.  You‘re up there with Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.  It‘s quite a team.


SANTELLI:  It is quite a team.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re probably the smartest in that group, though, I‘ll tell you that.  Thank you very much, Rick Santelli, for joining us.

SANTELLI:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to Roger Simon now, the chief political columnist for “The Politico,” which is the hot new political organization in this country—the organization—this fight is getting real because I think people do want to know who‘s responsible.  It‘s so complicated.  You know, everybody says the banks are in trouble.  You know, Wall Street‘s in trouble.

Well, we can understand two things.  People aren‘t buying American cars because they‘re buying Toyotas and other cars they think are a better deal because they‘ll last longer.  People know that people have bought houses they can‘t afford.  They get it.  Is that why we‘re focus on this stuff, because we can get it?

ROGER SIMON, POLITICO.COM:  I don‘t think we should replace irrational exuberance with irrational anger or irrational selfishness.


SIMON:  And I think the White House may be showing Mr. Santelli the proper amount of respect.


SIMON:  Barack Obama did have a simple message even before the market crashed.  In the earliest days of his campaign, he said, We‘re all in this together.  He says, The other party, they‘re the ones who say, When things go bad, it‘s every man for himself and only the strong survive.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s what you just heard.

SIMON:  He said, That‘s not my message.  Barack Obama says, When things go bad, if things go bad, we‘re going to help each other, and the government is...


SIMON:  ... going to be there to help us.

MATTHEWS:  Bad behavior can‘t be rewarded.  If people...

SIMON:  It‘s going to be rewarded.

MATTHEWS:  If people were—it will be rewarded?

SIMON:  Every bail-out requires rewarding bad behavior.  Where was the outrage just a few months ago, when Wall Street got billions in bail-out money, spent it for millions on bonuses, $50 million checks, and then have refused to make loans to ordinary Americans, car loans...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re really—it reminds me of the prodigal son story that drives a lot of people crazy.  Here‘s the one—the son that goes away and screws around, throws all his money away, gets drunk, chases women, comes back broke, says to the old man, I need a job.

SIMON:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  The older brother sticks around, does everything right, gets none of the treatment.

SIMON:  Sure, and...

MATTHEWS:  That is—we are like the older brother.  That‘s the way Rick Santelli talks.  I‘m the older brother.  I stuck it out.  The other guy went and screwed around, and now you‘re rewarding him with a big feast.

SIMON:  And it burns your butt and you have every right to say so.  And the president said so last week during his the press conference.  He said, Look, he said, I understand when a guy‘s getting a $20 million bonus and has run his company into the ground and now is getting billions of bail-out...


SIMON:  ... you‘re going to be angry.  But the irrational position is to say, Well, we‘ll let the economy collapse, we‘ll get things worse, and so everyone will be out of a job, nobody will be getting anything.

If you reach out—this is the sacrifice that politicians like to say Americans want to hear.  Yes, maybe you have to help your neighbor by allowing him to get a break on his home mortgage.  He‘s still paying his home mortgage.

MATTHEWS:  I know.

SIMON:  Is it really better...


SIMON:  ... for a lower middle class family to be thrown in the street?

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I‘m reminding myself just this moment of what Babe Ruth said when he was asked by a reporter, How come you make more money than the president?  And he said, I had a better year than he did.


MATTHEWS:  And that was Hoover.  Anyway, thank you, Roger Simon.

Here‘s former president Clinton—just to take us out of this—this morning.  It‘s always great to hear him.


CLINTON:  First of all, the last thing that you want to do when you take office in a time like this is give people a lot of inane happy talk and false promises of how quickly we can get out of this.

Now, the only thing I‘d like him to do, I just would like him to end by saying that he is hopeful and completely convinced we‘re going to come through this.  But I actually—I like the fact that he didn‘t come in and give us a bunch of happy talk.  I‘m glad he shot straight with us.  I just want the American people to know that he‘s confident that we are going to get out of this and he feels good about the long run.


MATTHEWS:  That‘s sort of an “A” with an asterisk, isn‘t it?

SIMON:  Yes.  I think the president—former presidents are always asked how the current president is doing.  There‘s nothing wrong with replying.  But I think President Clinton ought to be careful about giving a daily scorecard to President Obama.  President Obama‘s a pretty good communicator.  I think he has a pretty good plan of—first he had to scare the American people to death to get these bail-outs...


SIMON:  ... and now he has to restore their confidence.  He has to calm the fears.  I think he‘s going to be working on the calming the fears part in the days ahead.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you, Roger Simon.  Great to have you on.

And coming up: Illinois—the new governor—the new governor of Illinois calls on the new senator from Illinois, Roland Burris, to get out.  How long can Burris hang in there?  My hunch, a long time.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Illinois senator Roland Burris facing mounting pressure to step down.  The latest call for his resignation came from the top, from Illinois governor Pat Quinn, and it came today.  Can Senator Burris survive this whole thing?

David Corn‘s the Washington bureau chief of “Mother Jones” and Margaret Carlson is a columnist for Bloomberg and also for “The Week.”

Let me ask you about this fight.  It seems to me that this is going to have a bad fall-out.  Barack Obama speaks to the nation.  The guy who has his Senate seat is going to be still sitting in that chair Tuesday night.  Can you see the visual?


MATTHEWS:  When the hearings come, which the criminal case comes for Blagojevich, which is going to be—we‘ll be covering it a lot—who‘s going to be sitting in the Senate, in that small box on the screen?  Senator Burris.  He‘s there, and nobody can get him out.  He‘s a headless nail.


MATTHEWS:  You can‘t get him out, OK?

CORN:  How about with a screwdriver?


MATTHEWS:  No, no!  (INAUDIBLE) screwdriver.

CORN:  You‘ve got to get behind the plank and hit up.


MATTHEWS:  You got to think this one through!

CORN:  This is—this is—you know, he is the fruit of a poisoned tree.


CORN:  You know?  Give you another metaphor.

MATTHEWS:  What are you, Felix Frankfurter?


CORN:  But you‘re right.  Once someone gets in a position like this, it‘s really hard to get them out unless they go voluntarily.  Look, you got in the Senate right now David Vitter, who...

MATTHEWS:  Larry Craig.

CORN:  ... Larry Craig—who both got involved in personal sex scandals.  And they‘re sitting there voting comfortably every day.

MATTHEWS:  Well, personal are the normal kind of sex scandals, by the way.


MATTHEWS:  We don‘t usually have group—well, anyway...

CORN:  Oh, we don‘t know.


MATTHEWS:  It‘s usually personal.  But anyway, so your point is you can‘t get him out, which is my point.

CORN:  I mean, you—listen, last time the Senate expelled anyone, I think it was 1862.  You probably know who that was.

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s about—it‘s a Confederate for swearing oath to another government, which is the South.

CORN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  I know that.  It takes a lot.

CORN:  It takes a lot.

MATTHEWS:  And it usually takes willingness because that guy was probably fighting for the Confederate army at the time.  He didn‘t mind being expelled from the Northern army‘s Senate.  Margaret?

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG:  But occasionally—occasionally, if you know you‘re going to be expelled, there‘s a voluntary resignation.

MATTHEWS:  The problem is, there‘s no way to know it because it hasn‘t happened.

CARLSON:  Bob Packwood, for instance.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, you think he would have been expelled.  Yes.

CARLSON:  Yes, and so he volunteered.  But you know, with Burris, he now looks like a hunted man.  He is alone.  And part of the Ethics Committee lore is that they never want to expel anybody in the club.  He‘s only been in the club a few days.


MATTHEWS:  You dare to think he would be expelled?  I‘ll bet you big money...

CARLSON:  No.  No, no, no.  I‘m just saying...


CARLSON:  ... but the pressure might...


MATTHEWS:  Margaret, you‘re right.  Here‘s the press secretary for the president of the United States, Robert Gibbs, not exactly—a man not exactly given to overblown statements.  Here he is going after Burris a bit.


GIBBS:  It might be important for Senator Burris to take some time this weekend to either correct what has been said—and certainly think of what lays in his future.




CARLSON:  That was great.

MATTHEWS:  That was cute, wasn‘t it? 


CORN:  It‘s too bad it‘s not a long weekend. 



CARLSON:  But—what—what—you know, what remains to find out? 

Not very much.

And, you know, he‘s going to have on that mausoleum of his U.S.  senator. 

MATTHEWS:  It is done. 

CARLSON:  This is what he wanted. 

MATTHEWS:  It is chiseled. 

CARLSON:  It is done.  And he could remain—you know, he could go away with a little honor.


MATTHEWS:  Just to recoup—excuse me, Margaret.

Just to recoup what we know, he started off by saying in the hearings on impeachment in the—in the Illinois legislature that he had no real conversations with Blagojevich in terms of a pay-to-play, no discussions of money. 

It turns out he was talking at least three times with Blagojevich‘s brother and finance director, Rob, who talked to him about raising money.  He then admits that he went out and tried to raise money for Blagojevich at the very time he was seeking the post of U.S. senator to replace Barack Obama.  He‘s directly in the strike zone in terms of what everybody was looking for. 

CORN:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Were you trying to pay to play? 

It looks he was trying to pay to play.  That‘s his problem, right? 

CORN:  Well, that‘s—that‘s right. 

I mean, that‘s the—the essence.  He came in and said—said:  I had nothing to do with Blagojevich.  I didn‘t know anything about the pay-to-play scheme.  And I had—really, he acted as if he had come in from left field into this whole sordid soap opera...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

CORN:  ... you know, just call in someone outside the field. 


MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I thought.

CORN:  And now it turns out he wasn‘t...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I thought.


CARLSON:  The two lawyers that I spoke to...


CORN:  Well, you gave him that nice award.


MATTHEWS:  I believed he had the chutzpah to take the job.  I had no idea this was going to come out.

CARLSON:  Right. 

He said they didn‘t ask the right question.  Remember that? 

CORN:  Oh, yes.  Yes, it was...

CARLSON:  One lawyer said, it‘s a—it was omission.  He did not volunteer anything. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  He said:  I talked to some friends. 

CARLSON:  Friends, Lon Monk. 

MATTHEWS:  Listen to his inflection.  I would say he was not talking about those five or six friends of Blagojevich the—the—the legislator had just asked him about.

But he will be able to say, in his legal defense:  I was talking about them.

And, apparently, perjury is very hard to prove. 

CORN:  Oh, yes.


MATTHEWS:  He‘s in there.  I say he is there to stay.  He will outlive all of us. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s not going to the mausoleum any time soon. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Corn.

Thank you, Margaret Carlson.

Up next:  Nate Silver, that hot shot predictor from, the man who nailed the popular vote within a tenth of a percentage point, who predicted every single U.S. Senate election this last November, has now got his picks for the Oscars.  We are going to give you his picks.  I would bet on these. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.”

First up: from politics to the Academy Awards.  Nate Silver of the Web site became a hit last year by applying statistical analyst to predict the winner in every one of the elections for U.S. Senate last year.  He won every time.  He predicted Barack Obama and John McCain‘s popular vote percentages within a tenth-of-a-point. 

Ahead of this Sunday‘s Academy Awards, Silver is now out with his Oscar pick, using key indicators and trends from previous races to predict this year‘s winners.  Here they are.  You will want to write them down.

In the race for supporting actor, we have got a lot of big names here.  This year, Silver notes that “The Dark Knight”‘s—that‘s the name of the movie—Heath Ledger swept all this year‘s other awards, and that, given the actor‘s untimely death, he says that Ledger has got it locked—Heath Ledger for supporting.

For supporting actress, Silver is going for an upset.  While Penelope Cruz won the British Oscars, his computer gives it to Taraji P. Henson from the movie that won 13 nominations, “Benjamin Button.”  She played his adoptive mother. 

In the lead actor category, while Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke split the two big awards so far, the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild, Silver gives it to Rourke, because he never won before—Mickey Rourke to win best supporting—best actor.

For lead actress, Silver makes Kate Winslet the odds-on favorite over Meryl Streep.  Why?  Because Winslet has been nominated five times without ever winning.

And, finally the big one, best picture—no surprise here.  He gives it to the film that has got all the buzz, “Slumdog Millionaire,” with a 99.9 percent shot at winning, he gives it.

So, you have got winners three days early, Hedger, Henson, Winslet, Rourke, and “Slumdog.” 

Up next, remember this above-the-fold front-page “New York Times” story from February 21, 2008?  Quote—let me read it to you—“A female lobbyist had been turning up with John McCain at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client‘s corporate jet.  Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself.”

Well, accompanying that article was a glamorous photo of the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman.  There it is.

Well, here we are, a year later, and “The New York Times,” in a legal settlement with Iseman, has published a note to its readers—quote—

“The article did not state, and ‘The Times‘ did not intend to conclude that Ms. Iseman had engaged in a romantic affair with Senator McCain or an unethical relationship on behalf of her clients, in breach of the public trust.”

You like those words, did not state, did not conclude?  Right. 

But what did the average reader take from that front-page election-time story?  What did you take from it when you read it on the kitchen table?  Did it suggest by its placement of this article at the top of the front page, by the employment of the word “romantic,” lead the reader to believe there was a romantic relationship between the candidate and the lobbyist, or didn‘t it? 

You decide, Which brings me to tonight‘s “Big Number.”  I love newspapers, especially “New York Times,” especially the Saturday edition, because, for some reason, I have more time to read it over my French roast coffee on Saturday morning.  I love that paper on Saturday.

But it‘s no secret that, in these tough times, the industry‘s in trouble.  Consider this.  What price did the shares of The New York Times Company close at today? -- $4.07 -- $4.07.

To put the number in context, that is just seven cents more than the Sunday paper “The New York Times” sells on the street corner, and less—well, it‘s less than if you buy it outside of New York.  The New York Company‘s bargain basement price, $4.07 a share—tonight‘s big low number. 

Up next:  He‘s the greatest senator of modern times—republicans and conservatives agree on that with the liberals—a man who never really dropped the torch for president.  We‘re going to talk—never dropped the torch of the Kennedys—we‘re going to talk to the author of a new biography of Senator Ted Kennedy.  It‘s going to be great stuff for history buffs and for Senate buffs. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


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

Stocks rebounding a bit from the day‘s lows, after the White House moved to quash rumors that the government could nationalize banks.  But the Dow Jones industrial average still fell 100 points, ending at a fresh six-year low of 7365.  The S&P 500 lost almost nine points, and the Nasdaq down a little more than a point-and-a-half.

A flight to safety, as gold prices soared more than $25, closing above $1,000 an ounce for the first time in a year. 

Meantime, oil was basically flat on the day.  Oil for April delivery fell 15 cents to $40.03 a barrel. 

And consumer prices rose three-tenths-of-1-percent in January.  That‘s the first monthly increase since last July.  That eased fears somewhat that the economy might face a troubling period of falling prices, known as deflation. 

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


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  I have come here tonight to stand with you to change America, to restore its future, to rise to our best ideals, and to elect Barack Obama president of the United States. 



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

A team of “Boston Globe” reporters have put together a new book on Senator Ted Kennedy.  It‘s called “The Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy.”

Peter Canellos is the Washington bureau chief for “The Boston Globe,” and he edited this book.  Two of his reporters contributed.  They are Susan Milligan, to my left, and my friend Sam Allis, who is up in New York.

Ladies and gentlemen—lady and gentlemen, thank you.  Congratulations.  I don‘t recommend many books on this show, but I recommend this one.  It has got new stuff in it.  It‘s good reporting.  It is solid.  And I think it‘s balanced.  It really was.  You have got some tough shots in there against Teddy Kennedy. 

Let‘s take a look at this one.  You start with this.  My question to you, as you listen to this, again, for the millionth time, you folks, did Ted Kennedy ever really want to be president, or is it simply the legacy he was born to, the family legacy?

Here he at 1979 with that interview with Roger Mudd, then of CBS. 


ROGER MUDD, CBS NEWS:  Why do you want to be president? 

KENNEDY:  Well, I‘m—were I to—to make the announcement to run, the reasons that I would run is because I have a great belief in this country. 

We‘re facing complex issues and problems in this nation at this time.  But we have faced similar challenges at other times.  And the energies and the resourcefulness of this nation, I think, should be focused on these problems in a way that brings a sense of restoration in this country. 


MATTHEWS:  You know, I like his use of the word restoration, because I think it was honest, to bring back the hope that his brother John and his brother Bobby stood for, that he wanted to carry on the legacy.  It took him a while to get there. 

Did he ever really want to be president, Peter, personally?


I don‘t think he did.  No, personally, he didn‘t. 

But I think he did feel an obligation to his brothers to sort of carry the torch forward.  I think he felt an obligation to all the people who worked for the Kennedys and really wanted to see Kennedy restore it.  And he probably felt an obligation to supporters to do it.

But, as you could see from that sort of look of panic when somebody said, why do you want to be—be president, I don‘t think he ever, ever really wanted to be president himself. 

MATTHEWS:  Susan, was he more humble than people are expected to see in a politician?  I think there‘s a humility in the guy.


KENNEDY”:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I think he surrounds himself with brilliant people.  He doesn‘t think he is brilliant.  He maybe thought his brothers had a tad of brilliance.  And he—and he doesn‘t think he‘s perhaps up to the job of leading the country sometimes. 

MILLIGAN:  Also, he‘s just a natural legislator. 

I mean, the Senate is—is where he belongs.  He loves wheeling and dealing.  He loves kind of figuring out what somebody‘s weakness is and—or strengths are, and working with them.  He‘s worked with people like Orrin Hatch and Pete Domenici and so forth.

Yes, I mean, what I‘m struck by and what so many senators told me, including Republican senators, is how generous he was about sharing the credit or letting somebody else‘s name go first on a bill...


MILLIGAN:  ... thinking that that might help the bill get along further, I mean, that he put the—the political agenda, and he put the issue ahead of his own personal ego and personal agenda. 

MATTHEWS:  Sam, your thoughts about wanting to be president or not.  And then you can move into the question I have about—well, I want to ask you about Chappaquiddick, because it‘s obviously a tragedy.  We lost a young woman there, Mary Jo Kopechne.

And I have always thought that part of his complete commitment to health care, his absolute commitment to little people, people with problems, came out of a kind of—and you guys mentioned it in the book—a sense of expiation, of making up for that tragedy. 

It was an accident.  But he was reckless, and he didn‘t handle it right.  He certainly didn‘t save her.  And, so, he has to deal with that morally.  That is just—maybe that‘s my—my—what do you call it?  What do you call that stuff?  Psychobabble. 


MATTHEWS:  But it‘s the best I got, Mr. Allis. 



I don‘t think he wanted to be president. 

That answer, by the way, to Roger Mudd went on for 336 words.  It was just endless. 

The people close to him I have talked to all said they cannot remember a private conversation when he passionately said how he wanted to be president. 

David Burke, an old adviser, told me that:  He never called me at 2:00 in the morning and said, I have got to run. 

I think he wanted to get rid of the noise of people who were telling him, you have got to run at one point.  You might as well do it now. 

Health care, I think, had less to do with Chappaquiddick, but a lot to do with his decision to run for the presidency in 1980.  People in both the Carter and Kennedy camps told me that, if Carter had fulfilled his promise in the first two years of his presidency to offer a universal health insurance package, Kennedy wouldn‘t have run against him. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that? 

ALLIS:  I do.  He felt betrayed. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought he said—I thought he said at the end, when he ran against President Carter in ‘79:  My dad taught me, if it‘s on your plate, you eat it.  And he was 20 points ahead of Carter, and he couldn‘t resist the chance to beat him. 


MATTHEWS:  Susan, you‘re laughing, because he‘s a politician, too.  I mean, he saw the numbers. 


MILLIGAN:  Absolutely true.  Absolutely true. 

I mean, I think—I mean, I don‘t know whether he would have run against him or not.  And I agree with Peter that it—that it was just the sort of thing that he thought he had to do.

But health care is a crucial issue to him. 


MILLIGAN:  If it‘s the last thing he does on this planet, he will do it.

CANELLOS:  I also think there was one other factor there that was working in 1980.  He felt guilty for not having run in ‘76, and that Carter was sort of a usurper who came in. 


You guys point out an interesting fact here that I had never heard before, because I always thought, when Nixon offered that thing in ‘71, universal health care, it was an employer mandate.  It was very strong.  It made every employer pay for the health insurance of his employee.  It was strong stuff.  It was almost like Social Security for everybody, Medicare for everybody. 

Kennedy says, according to this, it is really a part of—he was knocking it then, and then he feels now, according to your reporting, that may have been his last chance, back in ‘71. 

The irony of a Kennedy admitting that he needed a Nixon as a partner, and blew it. 

MILLIGAN:  Right.  We had a conversation about this a couple of years ago.

MATTHEWS:  You and the senator? 


And he said, you know, if he had one regret, we said, you know, we should have—we should have maybe moved on that.  He said, it was pay or play.  We didn‘t want to do it.

And if you look at it in retrospect, I mean, the Nixon plan now looks like the most left-wing plan that is out there on the Hill. 


MILLIGAN:  And, so...

MATTHEWS:  Well, Nixon was a liberal by today‘s standards. 

MILLIGAN:  Well, yes...


MILLIGAN:  ... certainly on domestic policy.


MILLIGAN:  So, he—you know, he had that chance, a second chance, within the Clinton administration, and that didn‘t happen. 

And he sees this now as his last effort. As I said, if it‘s the last thing he does...


MATTHEWS:  What do you think the deal is, Peter?  You‘re the bureau chief here.  What can you say is the deal between Barack Obama and Senator Kennedy, who‘s ailing right now with—with brain cancer?  Is there a deal that he‘s going to get that done? 

CANELLOS:  Well, as a deal, I mean, I think Barack Obama told him before the endorsement, he absolutely promised that he would get it done, and I know people who‘ve been in rooms with Obama and, when the subject comes up, Obama says, “Look, I promised Teddy I‘m going to get this done.”  But, you know, politics is politics.  Everybody thinks it‘s going to be hard, so nobody—nobody can guarantee anything. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the big question is, will he stake—will he stake his political heart on getting health care through this year, yes or no? 

CANELLOS:  I think it‘s a big—I think it‘s a big question.  I think it‘s a big question.  I think that he believes that he‘s capable of that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s Ted Kennedy, the senator, on health care at the convention last summer. 


KENNEDY:  And this is the cause of my life, new hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American—north, south, east, west, young, old—will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege. 


MATTHEWS:  I‘ve got to talk to Sam first.  Sam, I am so impressed by Ted Kennedy, one part of him, and he‘s like everybody else, all of us flawed in some way, seriously.  And yet these amazing phone calls he makes all the time, relentlessly calling, like you talk in the book, you report in the book, all these 150-some calls or whatever to people in Massachusetts who lost people in 9/11, individual calls that went on forever, where they were totally personal, where he shared his experiences with Caroline after losing John Kennedy, Jr., this incredible person that comes through in the middle of the night calling people.  What‘s it about? 

ALLIS:  It‘s about, I think, the core quality of Ted Kennedy, which is his generosity of spirit, and it manifests itself in many ways.  He‘s famous, when people are sick, of arranging medical care. 

There‘s a story about Carl Wagner, who was his political director, whose wife needed surgery, and he said he was going to have to be away and Kennedy said, “Fine.”  He got to the hospital.  The entire senior staff at Georgetown I think was there.  It was a huge mafia-like display of flowers and a handwritten note from Kennedy saying, “I have to put up with him.  I wish you the best.  We both have to put up with Carl.” 

Carl went in the next day.  It was as if nothing had happened.  He has that generosity of spirit that just—and that manifests itself, too, in the Senate and on the stump.  He‘s just somebody—he‘s a giver.  He‘s not a taker.  Always has been. 

MATTHEWS:  Peter? 

CANELLOS:  Yes, I—I agree with that.  I mean...

MATTHEWS:  Those phone calls, I got one once when I was sick, and, I‘ve got to tell you, you get one of those calls from Teddy, they‘re unbelievable. 

CANELLOS:  I know.  He really believes—well, I think it‘s because he suffered tragedies in a public kind of way.  And, you know, he really is sharing a piece of his own experience with other people.  There‘s no question about that. 

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s a story that‘s so gothic and so Irish-Catholic.  When Joe Kennedy, Sr., the founding father, died, the night before he died, was to be buried, Teddy Kennedy took a sleeping bag, and he was in his late 30s at the time, and he dragged the sleeping bag over to the—to the room where his father was being laid out, and got underneath the coffin, and spent the whole night sleeping in the sleeping bag under his dad‘s coffin.  What a story, Peter. 

CANELLOS:  Yes, I know. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s so gothic. 

CANELLOS:  I know.  Well, Teddy was especially tied to his dad.  He felt like his dad was advocating for him, even when his brothers were skeptical of him running for the Senate, Joe, Sr., said, “You‘re going to run for that Senate seat in 1962.  Forget about the fact that your brother, the president, doesn‘t want you to do it.”  Joe, Sr., really believed in Teddy, and I think—I think, to this day, Teddy carries that with him. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me report one little addenda to your book.  When Teddy was 13 years old and his family was celebrating what looked to be Jack Kennedy‘s first big political victory, and they were all celebrating out at Hyannis Port and around the table, and they‘re all toasting Jack.  And this little 13-year-old kid raised his glass and said, “I want to offer a toast to the brother who‘s not here.”  It was for Joe, Jr., who had died in World War II.  A lot of heart there. 

CANELLOS:  A lot of heart. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re all flawed, but what a great book.  This is a book called “Last Lion.”  If you love politics, if you love the Kennedys, you‘ve got to buy this book, written by the best reporters around, the “Boston Globe.”  You‘re not connected to the “New York Times,” are you?  Just kidding, Peter Canellos, Susan Milligan, Sam Allis, it‘s good to see you, Sam. 

ALLIS:  Nice to see you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  The book is called “The Last Lion,” “The Last Lion:  The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy.”

Up next, the “New York Post” issues a—well, something of an apology for that cartoon the world doesn‘t like.  And, by the way, it‘s not that Sharpton and Keith don‘t like it.  I didn‘t like it, either.  Anyway, we‘ll be right back with that one on HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Politics Fix” with Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief for “USA Today,” one of the great newspapers that will last.  It will last.  And the “Washington Post” congressional reporter Perry Bacon. 

Thank you, Perry. 

You know, I‘m amazed by this.  Here‘s a story—a cartoon that ran

two days ago in the “New York Post.”  It‘s a Jeff MacNelly cartoon.  He‘s a

hell of a cartoonist.  I wish he hadn‘t done this one.  Here it is.  Two

white police officers—two white police officers here looking at a—

we‘re looking at a picture here of a dead chimpanzee.  And they‘re saying -

this is the caption—“They‘ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” 

Now, a lot of us looked at that and said—that wouldn‘t have ran in South Africa 40 or 50 years ago.  It certainly wouldn‘t have ran in most newspapers, because it had that history, the monkey, the racist stuff.  We‘ve all been through this stuff, “macaca,” the whole routine. 

For that reason, this is what they said.  Here‘s their apology.  Here it is right now, the “New York Post‘s” so-called apology.  “Wednesday‘s Page Six cartoon—caricaturizing Monday‘s police shooting of a chimpanzee in Connecticut—has created considerable controversy.  It shows two police officers standing over the chimp‘s body, quote, ‘They‘ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill,‘ one officer says.”

“It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill, period.  But it has been taken as something else, as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism.” 

“This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.  However, there are some in the media and in public life who‘ve had differences with the “Post” in the past, and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback.  To them, no apology is due.  Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon, even as the opportunists seek to make it something else.”

Susan Page, there‘s a lot more information there than anybody wanted to have.  Apparently, Rupert Murdoch or his minions feel they can‘t apologize exactly, so they give an apology “to those who might be offended” and then move on to attack those who criticized the cartoon. 

SUSAN PAGE, “USA TODAY”:  It‘s like, “Mistakes were made.”  My mother in Kansas would not find that an acceptable apology.  She would make them apologize over again. 

MATTHEWS:  I think P.W. Botha might have a problem with that baby. 

Perry, let me ask you about the journalism involved here.  There seems to be a new approach now to retractions.  You don‘t exactly retract.  You say, “Well, somebody must have had a problem with this,” or, “You misinterpreted what we said.  It was your problem, because our lawyers told us never admit you did something wrong.” 

That‘s what I think.  I think these guys are all lawyered up.  That‘s my hunch.  Your thoughts, as a journalist?


PERRY BACON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:   There are plenty of papers, including mine, who do retractions about things we get wrong often, so I don‘t think that‘s generally the approach.  I think the “New York Times” and the “New York Post” felt these were particular circumstances that were different the last couple days, and they handled them differently.  And I suspect there were—I‘m sure the “New York Times,” since—versus with the McCain story, there were definitely lawyers involved, I‘m sure, so...

MATTHEWS:  OK, I‘ve got to interrupt myself here.  I don‘t like to do it.  It was not Jeff MacNelly.  Somebody the other night told me it was Jeff MacNelly.  He‘s a great guy.  I‘m glad it wasn‘t him.  He did not do that cartoon, Jeff MacNelly, the great cartoonist. 

Let me ask you about this, Susan.  Where is this going to end?  Is this going to be the end of it now for the “New York Post”?

PAGE:  Well, they still had protesters outside their doors today, Al Sharpton and others...

MATTHEWS:  Spike Lee.

PAGE:  ... Spike Lee criticizing it today.  I don‘t think it‘s quite -

I mean, that‘s one reason you do a full-fledged apology.  “We made a mistake.  We‘re sorry.  We won‘t do it again,” so that you settle it.  I‘m not sure kind of this half-apology puts it entirely to rest. 

You know, it‘s—it‘s amazing that they would—they would run a cartoon that has this kind of traditional racial slur in it, and they ought to admit to it and say—say they wouldn‘t do it again, they‘re sorry. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be right back with Susan Page and Perry Bacon for more of the “Politics Fix.”  You‘re watching it on HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with “USA Today‘s” Susan Page and the “Washington Post‘s” Perry Bacon for more of the “Politics Fix.” 

Big night Tuesday night, Perry, here in Washington.  The president is going to address the Congress for the first time.  It‘s going to be basically a State of the Union, if not formally called that.  He has got a problem.  We‘re in an elevator economically right now, and it‘s going to the basement.  And that Dow keeps dropping every day.  And economic news keeps getting worse.  Can he sell a dream as we‘re going downhill?

BACON:  I think he‘s going to try to do two interesting things next week.  He‘s going to have this fiscal summit on Monday, where he‘s going to bring in a lot of Republicans and Democrats to talk about how he wants to balance the budget and fix the budget crisis, but I think he also is going to try to lay out on Tuesday how he wants to expand health insurance and accomplish some of the goals Senator Kennedy talked about that you mentioned in the previous segment.  So that‘s a balancing test.

His supporters want to see more done on expanding the safety net, but the Republicans he wants to woo want to see more done in terms of balancing the budget and reducing the deficit.  Those are two things he has to start balancing in the next—and next week, he‘ll tell us how he‘s going to try to do that.

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that riding two horses? 

PAGE:  You know, I don‘t...

MATTHEWS:  How do you talk about cutting the budget and spending more? 

PAGE:  Well, I think you have to reassure people that we‘re spending these billions and billions of dollars, but eventually we‘ll look to—to bringing things back under—under control. 

I guess I disagree with Perry.  I don‘t think his real task, his main task on Tuesday night is to enumerate a lot of programs.  I think his main task is to say, “We‘ve taken all these steps.  We‘ve spent all this money.  We‘ve got a plan.  We‘ve got a path that‘s going to lead us back to good times.” 

I think he needs to reassure people.  The part about scaring people to death about the economy, that‘s worked.  The stimulus plan has been passed.  He now needs to say, “OK, we‘re going to do these hard things, but there‘s a light at the end of this tunnel.” 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Perry, the challenge, of course, comes down to numbers.  A lot of people will be looking at numbers and not listening to words.  And if the market drops again Tuesday, as it‘s been dropping, it‘s heading down to 6,000, it looks like.  We thought 8,000 was the floor with the Dow Industrials Average.  It seems like it‘s going down. 

Unemployment rates—we‘ll get another one at the beginning of February.  Those numbers seem to be more compelling to a lot of people than the rhetoric.  Maybe we live in a different time than Roosevelt, where the numbers now are so immediately available to us they carry more punch than the president‘s words. 

BACON:  And I think not only the numbers, but the terms—in terms of the layoffs people are seeing, companies closing, layoffs that affect their communities and big companies in their communities.  I think people are really aware of this negative economic news.

Some of the polling is saying that people—people are happy to see the stimulus pass, but still not sure the stimulus is really going to change their economic condition that much.  I think there‘s still a lot of doubts about that. 

And you saw President Clinton this week.  He wants to see Obama be more—less gloomy about the economy.  And I‘ll be curious to see what Obama‘s tone is on Tuesday.

MATTHEWS:  What did you make of that, Perry, that the president was giving—was giving some advice from the former president to—to say he‘s certain that the economy is going to get better, in other words, that absolute Rooseveltian certitude.  Is that credible at this time?  Do you think people who read your paper are going to believe a president who says, “Everything‘s going to be swell”? 

BACON:  Yes, I‘m not sure of that.  I think that Obama does have to say that—I think he actually probably believes that, I mean, no matter what we do, there‘s going to be—this is going to be an uncomfortable year, in terms of the economy.  So I don‘t think he can go out and say, “Things will be great, you know, in six months.”  I think there‘s a balance between, you know, saying things are going to improve and not—you know, but not seeming too overly optimistic. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, it‘s almost like Einstein and relativity.  You—you say you‘re going to do something, but, really, you‘re moving in a relationship to something else.  And he‘s moving with rhetoric and his plans and his ambitions for health care and energy against something that‘s moving around him, which is the—the real economy.  And it‘s still hard for me to believe that Barack Obama fully understands what‘s going on or anybody around him does, including Larry Summers and Geithner and the rest of them, they really get what‘s wrong.  It seems elusive. 

PAGE:  Well, we—we know that they kind of threw this bank plan together, that they‘re—that—who knows what is really going to work?  But Barack Obama has some big advantages.  People like him.  They‘re pulling for him. 


PAGE:  His approval ratings are high.

MATTHEWS:  His numbers are way up. 

PAGE:  He‘s got to—he‘s got some...


MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s see.  Everybody‘s going to be watching, Susan and Perry.  Everybody watches Tuesday night.  Join us again Monday night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more of a preview of what‘s to come from the president.  Right now, it‘s time for “1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE” with David Shuster. 



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