Guest: Ed Schultz, E. Steven Collins, Elizabeth Brackett, Carol Marin, Evan Thomas, Richard Wolffe, Margaret Brennan, Chuck Todd
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Obama-in-the-round. Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening, I‘m Chris Matthews. Leading off tonight, listening tour. President Obama showed Europe tonight how it‘s done, giving his continental host a display of American-style democracy in the 21st Century. For an hour he turned a small town in France into a university field house back home, taking questions and giving answer to a multi-national crowd arrayed in the stands around him. It was theater-in-the-round that the world hasn‘t seen before.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In America, there‘s a failure to appreciate Europe‘s leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So can President Obama corral European support for what he wants done? Can he convince Europe to become, for example, more involved in Afghanistan? Well, NBC News chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd, is in Strasbourg. He‘ll be here in a minute.
Plus, ousted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was indicted on 16 felony counts yesterday. Where was he when the bad news hit? Disney World, down in Florida sitting under a cabana with a Chicago tough guy fighting off a local news reporter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE MEREDITH, WESH 2 REPORTER: I want to ask your husband a question.
PATRICIA BLAGOJEVICH, WIFE OF ROD BLAGOJEVICH: I don‘t think so, please leave.
MEREDITH: I just want to know what you‘re doing here and how you feel
your response to possibly.
MEREDITH: Do you feel like answering my question?
P. BLAGOJEVICH: No.
MEREDITH: Excuse me, sir? Do you feel like answering my question, sir?
P. BLAGOJEVICH: No.
R. BLAGOJEVICH: I came to Disney World with my kids. And I don‘t think you‘re supposed to be here. Would be happy to talk to you at the appropriate time. Who are you?
MEREDITH: Well, my name is Michelle Meredith, I‘m with channel 2.
And we had heard you were here.
R. BLAGOJEVICH: Isn‘t that nice?
R. BLAGOJEVICH: This is a news reporter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She doesn‘t—you don‘t need this. It‘s family here. Go.
MEREDITH: Who are you with, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m just someone that knows who he is. And you don‘t need to be bothering him. He has a right until he‘s convicted. Just leave him alone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Did you catch that? Until he‘s convicted? That guy is a classic, a Chicago ward healer looking out for the boss, but also a guy who figures the boss‘s days are numbered, “until he‘s convicted.” You‘ve got to love it. We‘re going to talk about “B-Rod” in the next segment tonight.
Also, President Obama met with the country‘s top bankers last week. But when they started defending their fat pay packages, the president got tough. More on that in the “Politics Fix” tonight.
And we‘re welcoming a new member to the MSNBC team tonight. Ed Schultz will be here to talk about “The Ed Show” which starts here Monday night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.
And Final Four weekend is here. And I‘ll give you my picks.
We begin with the latest on President Obama‘s trip to Europe. NBC News chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd is in Strasbourg, “FrAHnce,” France. And Evan Thomas is here with Newsweek.
Thank you, Chuck. I don‘t want to get too continental here. What do you make of this amazing performance by our president over there in front of a multi-national crowd, fielding questions like he were home? As somebody here said, at the University of Wisconsin?
CHUCK TODD, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I was just going to say, look at this backdrop behind me, it is a basketball arena, OK? We could have been in Waterloo, Iowa. In fact, we were probably in a basketball arena somewhere in Waterloo, Iowa, probably about a year and two months ago at this time where he was doing a town hall meeting and taking questions.
And so that‘s what happened here. And what I was always still trying to figure out is, OK, would Nicolas Sarkozy be able to get 4,000 people to show up at the Fleet Center in Boston? All right. Strasbourg, a big university town, a lot of young kids here that came to this town hall. Well, Boston, similar college town. Could we have seen that kind of—and probably not.
Now some of this is—you know, is sort of new guy treatment. Some of it is a lot of just interest and intrigue in this new president. Who knows if the next time he comes back here he‘ll get a similar reception. A lot of people, the first time they do a lot of these events get huge receptions.
But he obviously was very well-received. I do wonder on that Europe comment in particular, because I know that right-wing talk radio is already fired up, you know, did he get—you know, was he too forward-thinking or forward-looking in how he was copping to this idea that Americans are too dismissive of Europeans?
And, you know, I know that some of them have already gotten fired up about it. At the same time, he did go right at Europeans, saying, hey, your anti-Americanism has been a little bit stale and a little bit, you know, I think he called it insidious.
So he seemed to do well. He won them over. But the real test? Will he convince them that the Afghanistan war is their war, not just America‘s war?
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at a bit of President Obama talking about the legacy he inherited and the one he wants to leave behind, himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think that over the last seven, eight years, as I‘ve said in my speech, a lot of tensions have developed between the United States and Europe. And one of the legacies I hope for my administration is, is that we start bringing our historic alliance back together in a much more effective way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, it‘s interesting, Evan Thomas from Newsweek, it seems to me that he‘s not out there, you know, dragging himself around saying, gee whiz, we‘re the bad guys. He‘s setting the rebalance, he‘s saying, look, we‘re not perfect, we have made mistakes, and you guys have this tendency to whine all of the time and blame everything on the big guy, us.
EVAN THOMAS, NEWSWEEK: Remember, you know, he did this in race speech. Remember that? When Reverend Wright came out, he said we are both wrong, the blacks have a chip on their shoulder sometimes, but whites are also—can be discriminatory and that there is a balance.
He is doing that here. But I.
MATTHEWS: Does wisdom work?
THOMAS: It can. I mean, it depends how you present it. In this particular case, I think there‘s a deeper message which is, this has been the white Anglo-Saxons have been the top in the world for a long time here. Remember.
THOMAS: . he was talking about Churchill and Roosevelt yesterday?
MATTHEWS: My heroes. My two heroes. And he was saying.
MATTHEWS: What was he saying was wrong with those two guys making all of the calls? What was wrong with that?
THOMAS: He said it was easier in those days. But I think he‘s sending the message that that age is over, just look at me. You know, I‘m a black guy here. I‘m not Churchill, I‘m not Roosevelt. This is a new age, a new order, I‘m living proof of it.
MATTHEWS: Is this really an interesting new development, the fact that someone who has sort of a Third World background, meaning his father came from Kenya, clearly he has a connection of the continents beyond Europe and the North American people that separates him from other political leaders in that room largely.
What do make of that? That he said that it‘s not like the old days where two guys like Churchill and Roosevelt in World War 2 could sit over brandies and decide the fate of the world—Chuck.
TODD: Well, I think it was an acknowledgment. Why was he in there with 21 nations? And he was also trying to explain why, guess what, they didn‘t get a lot done at that G-20.
They got a lot of promises and pledges and they wrote just the exact type of language that the French president, Sarkozy, had said he was going to be critical of, which is this idea of you write it as broadly as possible so that everybody can sign on.
And guess what, you have to write it really broadly if you want to get unanimous consent on some stuff. I mean, you know, even the most dramatic moment that the White House and Sarkozy and some others were talking about in the room with all of those world leaders when you had President Obama playing—you know, doing shuttle diplomacy between the Chinese president and the French president.
You know what they were debating, Chris? Whether to use the word “recognized” or “noted,” OK? I mean, it wasn‘t exactly shuttle diplomacy about whether, OK, we‘re going to make this bank, you know, held accountable on this tax shelter or not. I mean, it was over an incredible amount of nuance.
Now granted, that is what the world of the G-20 is and that‘s why the president used the Churchill—I think that‘s why he used the Churchill/FDR comparison, because there was a time when the two of them could just draw up exactly how the world was going to work.
If there are two countries that are going to do that now, by the way, it isn‘t going to be—it‘s probably going to be Obama and Hu, the guy from China.
MATTHEWS: Chuck, you‘re over there. And I trust your sensibilities about this. What was it like over there today? When you bump among people who are not Americans over there, what‘s your sense about them right now? How do they feel towards us now that we‘re governed by an Obama administration?
TODD: Well, no, there‘s definitely a much more positive reception for all Americans. And it is amazing how many of them want to question any American they run into, you know, whether it‘s a member of the press or not, they don‘t need to necessarily know, they want to ask you, what do you think of your new president? You know, isn‘t he doing well? Or isn‘t he doing this right? You know, really just sort of—that encouraging language that you hear.
You know, you always have some people say, you know, I guess you put away the Canadian Maple Leafs for those folks that used to travel to Europe and said they didn‘t want to get in an argument.
MATTHEWS: Ha! That was pretty sad.
TODD: Didn‘t want to get in arguments. No, I mean, you had some people who said, you know, they don‘t like to be Americans and go overseas and hear people criticize the president or any of that.
And, remember, some of that stuff was always overboard and it was sometimes, as President Obama pointed out, an excuse to just pick on America.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s take a look at the president here paying tribute to France in a way we haven‘t heard in quite a while. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Well, first of all, thank you so much for the extraordinary hospitality. And it is thrilling to be part of what is a true celebration. France, which is the United States‘ oldest ally, our first ally, once again taking an extraordinary leadership role in NATO thanks to the courageous leadership of President Sarkozy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, we haven‘t had a whole lot of—except for the spaghetti, a lot of Franco-American connection the last 30, 40 years, right?
THOMAS: No. I mean, this actually goes way back, us not getting along. You know, de Gaulle, you go back.
THOMAS: . in the ‘60s and they were kicking us out.
THOMAS: This is a good turn in Franco-American relationships, as they say. Look, I really do think that Obama is trying to send a different signal here, which is that the Anglo-Saxons are no longer in charge. It‘s.
MATTHEWS: Is this killing you, buddy?
THOMAS: I think it‘s a necessary thing.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a—here‘s the president at the town hall tonight, another part of his in-the-round performance which only I thought American politicians knew how to do. And apparently he‘s showing that stuff over there today, his ability to do in a multi-national and multi-language, linguistic setting, take all the questions.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: And we wanted to know if you—did you ever regret to have run for presidency until now?
OBAMA: It‘s very frustrating now—you know, it used to be when I came to Europe that I could just wander down to a cafe and sit and have some wine and watch people go by and, you know, go into a little shop and watch the sun go down, and now I‘m in hotel rooms all the time.
OBAMA: And I have security around me all the time. And so just—you know, losing that ability to just take a walk, you know, that is something that is frustrating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I couldn‘t tell there, Chuck, are those people getting simultaneous translations? Were they aware of what he was saying? Some of them looked a little mute when you were looking at them.
TODD: No, I got the sense that the town hall was somewhat subdued. And I assumed it had to do with the language barrier. Not that—you know, I think a lot of people in there understood English, but I think just like when, you know, I‘m hearing something in a foreign language that I might be able to understand, you just are taking your time to have to listen and you might forget to hit your applause lines.
And I think—it‘s funny, I actually think that affected the energy level of the president. He has got this cold anyway. You know, he really feeds off a crowd. And the crowd, because they were not—they just didn‘t hit the applause lines the way they normally would in a speech in America.
MATTHEWS: Well, did they get simultaneous? Or how were they getting the information he was giving them?
TODD: No. There wasn‘t—I didn‘t see any translators out there. I didn‘t see that there was.
MATTHEWS: So they were listening to him the way I listen to—the way I like to listen to.
MATTHEWS: . French music, because I like the sound of it and have no idea what the words mean, right?
TODD: Well, I have a feeling the people who showed up here came here because they probably did understand English. I mean, I think we forget—and part of it because of the economic necessity for some of these folks to have to learn English, a lot of Europeans here speak two languages, and the second one usually is English.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Evan on the history of the thing. We have had presidents who have had good relations with different European leaders. Certainly Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, certainly Roosevelt and Churchill, certainly—let‘s see, George Bush and Helmut Kohl.
We pick different dancing partners over there. Do you sense something happening here? Are we going to keep—are we going to play the field? Are we going to work closely with all of the leaders there, Brown, Sarkozy, Merkel, the rest? Berlusconi?
THOMAS: It has usually been in the past British, it‘s the special relationship, with occasional outliers. I don‘t think that‘s going to be Obama‘s game. He wants to play on a broader field. And the world is ready for him to do that. He holds a high card here. He can—until he screws up.
THOMAS: This is going to work.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the fact that so quickly this president has.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to—stay with Evan. So quickly that he has forged these decisions, he is going to go to Russia this summer, he is going to go to China in the fall. He‘s almost laying out the panoramic look of this year, the big pictures already for us.
THOMAS: Yes, because he knows he had better do this stuff early.
THOMAS: Not necessarily in the first hundred days, but better do it fast before your political capital declines. He has a moment here. He has a chance, an opportunity.
MATTHEWS: So abroad as well as at home?
THOMAS: Same thing.
MATTHEWS: Last thoughts, Chuck, on the meaning of the trip this week so far.
TODD: Well, look, I think there‘s going to be lots of it. But I want to go to that leadership front. Sarkozy, Obama, even Medvedev, and possibly if Gordon Brown doesn‘t survive and you get a guy like David Cameron, there seems to be a generational shift that you‘re seeing on the world stage.
We saw it here in America where sort of the Baby Boomers handed things off to the post-Baby Boomer generation in Obama. We‘re seeing it in Russia, it‘s a young leader there. Sarkozy projects himself as sort of a post-Baby Boomer guy. And so does the—probably the guy who, if an election were held today in Britain would be the next prime minister there, the conservative leader.
MATTHEWS: Not so fast, Chuck, we haven‘t completely handed it over.
But thank you very much for that attempt. The Boomers are still here.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Chuck Todd. You do an amazing job. Thank you for the reporting. You know, I‘m always sensitive to everything.
TODD: I know.
MATTHEWS: Evan Thomas, my buddy, thank you very much.
TODD: Hey, let me guess, it‘s all Villanova, right?
MATTHEWS: No, I think Villanova and UNC have—I have a piece of both. But Villanova for the Catholic thing and the Philly thing.
TODD: All right.
MATTHEWS: . UNC, because I went to grad school there. But you‘re very sharp. Anyway, thank you, Chuck. I bet on UNC to win the whole thing though.
Coming up, now that former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been indicted, we‘re learning the full extent of the political corruption he was charged with. Two Chicago reporters take us inside the B-Rod case. That‘s coming up next. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, President Obama gets tough on the Wall Street biggies, telling them that the only thing standing between them and the pitchforks is him. More tough talk from the new president ahead on HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The latest chapter in the Rod Blagojevich corruption scandal grabbed headlines across the country today, and especially in Chicago, where The Tribune headline declared “Feds Widen Net. And The Sun-Times showed an old photo of the ex-governor and his brother, Rob, with a simple headline, “Indicted.”
Carol Marin is a Sun-Times columnist, who is also the political editor for NBC‘s Chicago affiliate WMAQ. And Elizabeth Brackett is a correspondent for the “Newshour” on PBS, and the author of a new book called “Pay to Play: How Rod Blagojevich Turned Political Corruption into a National Sideshow.”
I want to start with Carol. This whole story here—well, let‘s start with this amazing story. I want you to put a picture around this sort of context. Here‘s from our NBC affiliate in Orlando, WESH. They found Blagojevich at Disney World. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEREDITH: I want to ask your husband a question.
PATRICIA BLAGOJEVICH, WIFE OF ROD BLAGOJEVICH: I don‘t think so, please leave.
MEREDITH: I just want to know what you‘re doing here and how you feel, your response to possibly...
MEREDITH: Do you feel like answering my questions?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) work with the media?
P. BLAGOJEVICH: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me, sir.
MEREDITH: Do you feel like answering my question, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: (INAUDIBLE) Disney World with my kids. And I don‘t think you‘re supposed to be here. I‘m happy to talk to you at the appropriate time.
Who are you?
MEREDITH: Well, my name is Michelle Meredith. I‘m with Channel 2.
R. BLAGOJEVICH: (INAUDIBLE)
MEREDITH: And we had heard you were here.
R. BLAGOJEVICH: Isn‘t that nice?
P. BLAGOJEVICH: Yes.
R. BLAGOJEVICH: This is a news reporter, I think...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She doesn‘t—he doesn‘t need this. His family is here. Go.
MEREDITH: Who are you with, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m just someone that knows who he is. And you don‘t need to be bothering him. He has the right until he‘s convicted. Just leave him alone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Carol.
Who was this guy who says, just someone who knows? I love this character. Well, who is this guy?
CAROL MARIN, COLUMNIST, “THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES”: You know, we don‘t even know who that guy is. But he‘s a guy who knows a guy, you know?
MARIN: It‘s Chicago‘s—Chicago‘s way.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t want nobody nobody sent. It was like out of the old story. I don‘t want nobody nobody sent.
MATTHEWS: Is that a classic look at Blagojevich off guard, the way he behaves, very—almost somewhat charming, but tough?
MARIN: He‘s charming. He‘s tough. He‘s a good retail politician, as we learned post-indictment both, in the bad way, but also in the good way.
Let‘s remember, Chris, that he got reelected in 2004, even though everybody knew that the feds were all—or, rather, 2006 -- when the feds had been investigating him for four years. So, you know, you must be doing something pretty charming to be able to be reelected.
Elizabeth, I met Rod Blagojevich when he was a U.S. congressman back in the old days, when he had Rostenkowski‘s seat. I thought he was a young man on the hurry to be the—sort of the first Serbian Jack Kennedy. I thought he was going all the way. He was ambitious. He looked great. He was gung-ho. What happened? What moved him the other way, perhaps?
ELIZABETH BRACKETT, AUTHOR, “PAY TO PLAY”: Well, he thought he was going all the way, too.
And that really is almost one thing that moved him the other way. He had such an ambition to be president. And the way he thought he could do it was by raising more money than anyone else.
So, when—what wound out sending him to the place where he is right now was this unbridled ambition and the desire to get there by using his position as governor to bring in funds for his governor‘s race and for a presidential race.
MATTHEWS: So, if—pay-to-play was, you paid him money that he would use to advance his political career, not have to more nice trips to Disney World?
BRACKETT: Yes, I think that‘s right. You know, he never...
BRACKETT: He never was a man who was who lived high on the hog. You know, his—his home was modest.
His home—and he never went to the mansion down in Springfield, where he could have gone. So, I think this money that he was so desperate to bring in was to advance his political career and not his personal life. The only thing he did, he had—his suits were custom-made. That was one of his few private luxuries.
Carol, your thoughts on what motivated this guy, who looks to be in so much trouble, with all these counts on him. Who knows whether he‘s going to get convicted. But with that many counts facing him, he‘s in trouble.
MARIN: He‘s in bad trouble. He‘s in bad trouble.
And, you know, as they say, the feds cannot only indict, but convict a ham sandwich. I mean, his—the odds are not in his favor.
But beyond what I think Elizabeth is saying—and I think she‘s exactly right.—Rod Blagojevich has this sort of idiosyncratic history fetish. You know, he‘s almost an idiot savant.
He can quote Jack Kennedy and Teddy Roosevelt and Rudyard Kipling. He‘s always had a kind of grandiose notion. And through much of this, people have began to ask whether there is some sort of personality problem for Rod Blagojevich that, even, at the very last, a week before the feds busted him, when he knew he was being listened to, Rod Blagojevich was still talking about how he could trade something to become a Senate candidate and/or a presidential candidate.
MATTHEWS: Elizabeth, he‘s so funny.
BRACKETT: You know, Chris...
MATTHEWS: I met him out in California. I said this on the air before. And I said, “Who are you going to give that Obama Senate seat to?”
And he‘s kidding around. He says, “I will give it to you, if you get residence.”
I mean, his attitude, his whimsical attitude about something that important, is that part of his sort of narcissism? What would you call it, how would you describe it, that sort of almost idiotic laughing at serious things? What do you make of it?
BRACKETT: You know, when I did the book, I did talk to several psychiatrists about—about whether or not he really had a personality disorder, because so many of his staff people that I talked to thought that he did, thought that he really had a serious mental problem.
The psychiatrist, of course, they were good psychiatrists, so they wouldn‘t give me an analysis, because they had not seen him. But they did point me toward the Mayo Clinic definition of a narcissistic personality disorder. And it fits him to a T.
It‘s an inflated sense of their own importance, with a deep need for admiration. And behind the mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem.
That‘s what was so interesting about it. With all this outgoing, you know, ability to charm, he really—his staff told me, also, they really felt that he did have a low sense of self-esteem, a really lack of confidence.
So, many times, they couldn‘t get him out of his house or out of his office to be out there on the trail. It used to drive them crazy, because they...
MATTHEWS: Well, how does that separate him from Bill Clinton or anybody in politics who has a big personality like that?
I mean, so many politicians, it seems like, do have that need for public adoration. I mean, I have a little bit of it. A lot of people have it. They like to be liked.
MATTHEWS: I will be honest. I mean, who—by the way, Carol, don‘t you have any? I mean, it seems like anybody on television has some of that.
MATTHEWS: Excuse me for suggesting the possibility...
MARIN: But, Chris...
MATTHEWS: ... that we all want to be liked and—and have a little bit of a self-esteem problem, Carol Marin?
MARIN: Well, exactly, Chris.
MARIN: But here‘s the other piece of it.
MARIN: You know, Rod Blagojevich was—wasn‘t indicted alone. He had guys around him who were listening and participating in those equally crazy conversations about, hey, who can we get to kick over this, so we can make him a U.S. senator, and we will make my wife an ambassador, or the head of the pollution control board?
I mean, if there was sort of a personality—or a sort of lunacy going on, it was shared. There‘s also a culture of corruption in Illinois politics that has absolutely nothing to do with psychology. It has to do with, where‘s the money?
MATTHEWS: I think so, too. And that‘s just not Chicago. There are other big cities, like the one I‘m from.
Let me ask you, Elizabeth, about this pay-to-play thing. There‘s some big-city politics—politicians—and not all of them—who somehow get the idea—sometimes, they come from ethnic neighborhoods—where they have this attitude, if it‘s not nailed down, and you can use it—you can use the job to get to it, sell it for something.
You know, if it‘s patronage, if it‘s some sort of perk of office, don‘t just grab it. Use it to leverage something else that will get you more fund-raising, get you more power, more of a political army. We see it all the time. Isn‘t that right? That‘s what pay-to-play is.
BRACKETT: That‘s what pay...
MATTHEWS: Find any power you have, and sell it to get more campaign money, so you could have more power.
And there‘s not doubt that that was the tradition that he came from.
But I think Patrick Fitzgerald, when he indicted Tony Rezko, said it best. This was pay-to-play on steroids. I mean, Rod Blagojevich took that notion of, if you—if it—it‘s not moving, nail it down, sell it.
BRACKETT: You know, give me something for what I‘m going to give you.
And he just expanded it to even beyond Illinois‘ standard of corruption.
MATTHEWS: There‘s some people that think, if you don‘t use these toys of office to get more power, you‘re a chump. I mean, that is an attitude of the old city guys, I know. And it‘s still there a lot of places.
Thank you. Your book is called “Pay to Play,” Elizabeth.
Congratulations on having a book that‘s pretty timely.
And, Carol, it‘s great to spend some time with you and to share my psychological condition, at least my notions of it, with a colleague.
MATTHEWS: Have a nice weekend, both of you.
Up next, it‘s...
MARIN: You, too.
MATTHEWS: I know because Blagojevich is having a nice weekend, because he is. He‘s amazing.
It‘s Final Four weekend in college basketball, and I‘m torn, of course. I have got something for each of the Final Four teams, North Carolina, where I went to grad school, Connecticut, because it‘s Northeastern, Michigan State, because it‘s poor—Detroit is having a tough time—and Villanova, because I‘m from Philly, and, you know, with Big Five and all that.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, the Final Four tips off Saturday night in Detroit. And it presents certain challenges for me, political challenges, as in “all politics is local” challenges.
OK, let‘s go at it. Before we get started, this whole quartet of teams and constituencies gets the way I root for teams generally in sports.
First, you have got UConn, a Big East teams, one of the two Big East teams in the Final Four. Now, usually, when I have to pick a team, I go with the team from the Northeast, being that‘s where I‘m from. So, in any other year, I would be rooting for the Huskies.
Holy Cross, my team, used to play them in basketball when I was there, and beat them a couple times a year. So, following my usual shorthand, I would rooting for old rivals, UConn, the Huskies.
But I can‘t do that this year, because this year is a year, as in many times in the past, I have got an alumni thing going. I went to UNC in grad school. And I loved Chapel Hill. I loved it, southern part of heaven, Tar Heel born, Tar Heel bred, Tar Heel dead, Dean Smith and all that.
Look at the president. He knows how great UNC is. After all, Michael Jordan went there. Who was the only guy to hold Jordan below 30 points? Coach Dean Smith. Trick answer.
Anyway, you saw the president there practicing with the Tar Heel last year during the campaign. He‘s picked them to go all the way this year.
But, wait. There‘s also Villanova, my hometown favorite, one of the Big Five that fights each year for the Philadelphia championship. Hey, Paul Arizin went there and Wally Jones, and my favorite teacher, Jerry Dremley (ph). It‘s been 24 years since the Wildcats pulled off a stunner to win it all. A big part of me is rooting for them to do it again. They have got heart and a hometown hungry for another championship, even though the Phillies just won it all five months ago and I say will do it again.
OK, I‘m up against a four-corner offense here. How about Michigan State from East Lansing, close enough to Detroit to feel the hurt these days in the still deepening recession? Aren‘t they America‘s favorite? They might be.
It‘s no small irony that the Spartans get to play this Final Four right next door in Detroit, where there‘s literally no good news these days. For that town, the state, and, frankly, this country, their winning could be a feel-good story for everybody. They already knocked off Kansas and Louisville to get there.
With the hometown crowd, two more wins are very possible. I guess a national championship could be a nice pick-me-up for the hardworking folks in Michigan, who keep working hard, even when faced with the grimmest picture of all.
No matter what happens, the end of March madness is coming. It will bring a lot of cheers and even some tears.
OK. What a great weekend it‘s going to be.
Anyway, watch “The Chris Matthews Show” this weekend. I have got Dan Rather and some other reporters judging this president‘s historic week in Europe—a great show coming up Sunday or over the weekend.
Up next: President Obama keeps up the campaign over in Europe. He‘s running for something over there. How is it going to help his standing here at home? The “Politics Fix” coming up next.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks finishing higher, after being down for most of the day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 39 points, closing above 8000 for the first time since February 9. The S&P 500 picked up eight, and the Nasdaq up 19.
The Dow and the S&P have now had their best four weeks since 1993.
The Nasdaq has had its best four weeks ever.
And that came despite the day starting off with more dismal news about unemployment. The economy shed another 663,000 jobs last month. And the nation‘s unemployment rate climbed to 8.5 percent. That‘s the highest level since 1983. Since the recession began in December of 2007, the economy has now lost a total of 5.1 million jobs.
And oil prices dipped after yesterday‘s big run-up. Crude fell 19 --
13 cents, closing at $52.51 a barrel.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to Chris and HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back.
President Obama took to a sports arena in Strasbourg, France, today, where he used a campaign staple, the town hall meeting format, to engage his French and German audience.
It appears he‘s a hit so far overseas. So, how does that translate here at home?
Richard Wolffe is an MSNBC political analyst. And E. Steven Collins is a radio talk show host.
I want to start with E. Steven.
This ability to take your act on the road, which our president has done, what did you make of his performance today before a multilinguistic crowd?
E. STEVEN COLLINS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, already in Europe, they love him. And he‘s been able to transcend so many of the things that we saw, Chris, during the Bush administration over the last eight years into a specific, almost healing approach.
He—he brought China and France presidents together. He offered leadership in the face of the worst economic crisis the world has seen in 60 years. And he did it in a gentle, kind of calm, confident way.
And I think it went a long way in restoring a number of things that he campaigned on, the—the kind of hope that many people certainly around the world, but particularly in Europe, have for this first African-American president.
And then, of course, Michelle Obama‘s performance with the queen of
England, and just—just the warmth that they shared, I think, speaks
volumes, too, that this administration isn‘t just about the money, and the
and the war in Iraq, and the kind of concerns that we all are looking at, but they are certainly concerned about touching people in a way that America has not done in the—in the recent eight years.
MATTHEWS: Richard, let me try to get to something interesting here, all right, something new. I grew up as a white American knowing that in France, over the years, over the generations, there was a receptivity to African-Americans over there that they didn‘t have here. Josephine Baker, James Baldwin. You know what I mean? Especially musicians, show business people, that they were embraced over there. Is what we are seeing now just totally different than that, just a totally different thing?
WOLFFE: I think it builds on it, but it is different. It‘s different in the sense that they like his politics. They like his style. They like the stardom of it, for sure. And there‘s always been this love/hate relationship. If you go to Paris, they‘re wearing American clothes. Some of the most popular clothing chains are mock American style.
MATTHEWS: They love our movies, too. They love Jerry Lewis. Figure that one out.
WOLFFE: And they have servers in McDonald‘s. Here‘s the thing: here is the guy who lives up to the kind of America they idolize.
MATTHEWS: Hip America? There is something they like about us. I have seen so many of the movies, I know how they like us. And they get into things. Trufaeu (ph) got into Hitchcock. They get into Jerry Lewis. They get into, you know, Buster Keaton. There are a lot of things they pick out over here that we don‘t necessarily pick out that they like.
WOLFFE: Sure. And there‘s a flip side to this, which is look at the town hall event. We‘re very familiar with that. That is so unusual for this audience.
MATTHEWS: Very democratic.
WOLFFE: Their politicians just don‘t do that kind of thing. So these people are loving being part of this American political process, which they have followed this year and last year with tremendous sort of interest. And it‘s a very low-cost way for an American president to reach out, beyond the leaders, to say, here, I have a base here and we can work together because these are your voters. They‘re not my voters. They‘re yours. Listen to them.
MATTHEWS: E. Steven, your thoughts about this amazing—do you want to watch and then comment? Here he is giving an address to both American and European—he‘s talking about both attitudes here. He‘s sort of balancing out the scales here in terms of the relationship between us and them over the last, say, decade.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: In America there‘s a failure to appreciate Europe‘s leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.
But in Europe there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious. Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what‘s bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: E. Steven, do you like the way the president took off a little bit off that word—he said the word arrogance. But just as he was saying it, he just pulled it back a little bit.
COLLINS: Yes. I got that. I think, you know, Barack Obama has demonstrated time and again—people have talked, Chris, a little bit about how he‘s been angry a few times, kind of chided the vice president for cracking a joke while he was doing something, and a few other questions during the former—the previous news conferences.
But generally, he has displayed a kind of confidence and a kind of specific direction; no matter what he is facing, he can handle, first. Second, I think he recognizes that many segments in Europe, not just in England, but throughout Europe, there is this kind of desire—very similar to how many of us feel as African-Americans, who are just celebrating the fact that in our lifetime, we see the first black man to be president of the United States.
They are pulling for him. They want to see him win. And he is the guy that—he‘s honest. He‘s telling them how he feels. And he‘s doing it in a way that kind of compels a sense of human understanding. I think that‘s what needed right now.
He‘s reached across the board to say to those in Iran that he wants to try to bury the hatchet. When did President Bush do that? Or when did any president do that? He‘s tried very hard to really do things differently.
My father used to say to me all the time, for you to get what you‘re not getting, you got to do what you‘re not doing, think like you‘re not thinking. Barack Obama, the president, the commander, is doing exactly that.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he, E. Steve, that he got the skill, the finesse, if you will—he‘s been compared to Fred Astaire, in terms of this perfect pitch, growing up in politics as an African American, in a largely white political environment, where he had to learn all of the moves. He had to learn all of the nuance, all the way to see things from the other guy‘s perspective, the other person‘s world.
There‘s something going on here. This ability to so quickly translate yourself into these different environments, wasn‘t a dance learned for the occasion, do you?
COLLINS: No, I don‘t think so. I think that‘s who he is. But I think in this generation there are a lot of African-American men and women who kind of see this as an opportunity to really be above race. And I think—
COLLINS: They asked him that question at the news conference, Chris, and he said, you know, for a day or two, it was something huge. Now we have to go on. We have major challenges and he‘s beginning to address many of the things that for a lot of people would—would really, really be scary. He‘s being president and race is secondary, although it is, I think, enormous character within this president, in Barack Obama as a person.
MATTHEWS: Home front question. Did you see the “Politico” report, Richard and E. Steven, where the president was meeting with these big shots on Wall Street and said, be careful. I‘m the only guy defending you from the pitchforks. What did you make of that, Richard?
WOLFFE: His political sense is much better than these banking CEOs for sure. The argument that they don‘t need federal money because, you know, they want to have their own compensation package is just not going to wash with people. Either these banks are sound or they‘re not. Either they need the money or they don‘t. The idea that they want to be freed of all of this pesky government stuff just so they can have a nice, fat paycheck, or their executives need to be incentivised, quote/unquote, that is just not going to work politically.
He knows that and he is actually taking some heat because he is saving the banks. So it‘s something personal for him, too. It‘s not just a political piece of strategy.
MATTHEWS: Does he have to decide which side he‘s on, E. Steven, between the big shots in New York and the people? Because he has to work with those big shots, because they‘re the only one who seem to know the inside game of finance? And yet politically, who wants to be in that crowd?
COLLINS: I think it‘s a balancing act. But so much of what this presidency is right now is a balancing act. He has to tell them, you can‘t take bonuses and do it in such a shameful way. But at the same time, he has to forge a new kind of order and, to some extent, completely change rules on a variety of areas here.
So it‘s a balancing act. But if there‘s ever a politician who can do it, Barack Obama is that man.
MATTHEWS: So, E. Steven, you‘re a Wildcats fan this weekend I guess?
COLLINS: I can‘t believe you have any question about the Wildcats.
You know this is their year. They‘re going to go all of the way.
MATTHEWS: They got the spark. They have been done amazing upsets.
Thank you, Richard Wolffe. And thank you, E. Steven Collins.
Up next, the big announcement here on MSNBC; Ed Schultz, our new colleague, debuts—a French word—Monday at 6:00 pm Eastern, “THE ED SHOW”. Where did he get that name? We will ask him when we come back. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We here at HARDBALL want to welcome a new member of the MSNBC family. Doesn‘t that sound nice? Ed Schultz, a frequent guest on this show, will now be hosting “THE ED SHOW,” which debuts on Monday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Welcome Ed. How did you come up with this title for this program?
ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SHOW”: Well, it‘s short, sweet, to the point, Chris. And oftentimes in my life, people have misspelled my last name. S-C-H is the way you do it. They always forget the C. So I said, OK, let‘s keep it simple, it‘s just Ed. That‘s where we are.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s get in trouble. If we don‘t get in trouble now, we never will. I want you to place for the viewer your political point of view in the context of Chris, me, Keith Olbermann, and Rachel Maddow. You‘re all joining us now. You‘re part of a Chris sandwich. I‘m on at 5:00 Eastern. You‘re on at 6:00. Then I come back at 7:00 with maybe a new show.
So, as part of our team, what position are you going to play?
SCHULTZ: I‘m a progressive, liberal on a lot of issues, but I‘m also very pragmatic on the key issues of what has to be done to turn this country around. We‘ve got to focus on the middle class. Chris, I‘m looking for the health care stories. I‘m looking for the education stories. I want to know what we‘re really going to do in this country when it comes to manufacturing.
There are some severe liberal positions on all of those subjects if we‘re going to reinvigorate this country. I‘m not going to back away from the word liberal. I‘m not going to back away from the word progressive. But I also am going to be true to the facts. I think that‘s what we have gotten away from in this country in recent years. We fought a lot of propaganda and we‘re in a heck of a pickle jar right now. I think we‘ve got to do some tough play to get out of it.
MATTHEWS: I‘m with you on health care. I think we need some kind of national health care plan. I don‘t like people working every day, coming to work, especially catching the bus at 6:00 in the morning and coming home without health care. I‘m definitely for that action. I think I disagree with some of the labor/liberal positions on trade. What did you make of the president this week? I think he came away from Europe, so far, being a for trade relations, not for some new kind of protectionism, like some labor guys seem to want.
SCHULTZ: That‘s true. In fact, the big battle coming up is going to be the Employee Free Choice Act. I think that story is made for talk television in this country. We have not examined all the angles. This is what the unions want. This is not slowdown time or back down time. They want this passed. It‘s the most important issue out there for unions in 40 years.
They put Barack Obama in the White House. They put Mr. Casey in the Senate seat in Pennsylvania, Sherrod Brown in Ohio, also Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Jon Tester in Montana. This started in ‘06, this progressive movement. Now the unions, after boots on the ground, after millions of dollars put in, they want to make sure the Employee Free Choice Act gets through. It‘s a heavy lift, because the U.S. Chamber is against it, business is against it.
But if we‘re really going to help workers in this country, we‘ve got to get rid of intimidation in the work place. We‘ve got to give people an open choice. We‘ve got to give them a date specific when it comes to arbitration. Voting a union into the work place and actually getting a deal is a totally different thing. This will take it to the limit.
This battle is brewing. I don‘t hear President Obama coming out saying, if you get this to my desk, I will sign it. I want the answer to that question. And that‘s coming up on the Ed program.
MATTHEWS: The only question you‘ve got to ask is part of the selling piece, if you‘re going to sell this legislation, is the way you described how Barack Obama won all those primaries, the way he got support from labor, the way those Democrats all got elected was in a secret ballot. If that‘s the way they came to power, what‘s wrong with unions going to power with a secret ballot?
SCHULTZ: The fact is there‘s a big difference between an election, where we have elections to put people in office. But these people, Chris, are going to be voting on their future. They‘re going to be voting. Most of workers in this country want to organize if they are given the opportunity and if intimidation is taken out of the work place. It really puts management on an even playing field with the worker. Look at what CEO salaries have done in recent years.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you.
MATTHEWS: Your argument is going to have to be the end justifies the means, because the Democrats in the Senate are going to have to vote on this, perhaps up to 60, elect their leadership in a secret ballot. That‘s how they do business. Ed, you‘re going to be able to do this fight. Thanks for joining us. We‘re going to have you and you‘re going to create a huge audience at 6:00.
Thank you, buddy. Welcome aboard, Ed Schultz. The name of the show is “THE ED SHOW.” You can watch it week nights here, right here at 6:00 Eastern starting Monday night.
Join us Monday night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more of this HARDBALL. See you then.
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