Guest: Ron Brownstein, John Culberson, Lucas Powe, Ben Affleck, Michael Isikoff, David Corn, Lucas Powe, Rep. John Culberson, Harold Ford, Margaret Brennan
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A history of violence.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. In Washington, leading off tonight: Torture—read all about it. So he‘s done and done it. He‘s gone and done it. President Obama has put out those Bush administration memos laying out their handbook for torture. So why not do the next thing and nail the people who wrote those rules? Does the president want it both ways, to score points against the Bush administration but not offend the political center by going after the people whose behavior many in the world view as criminal? Why release the memos if you‘re not going to do something with them? That debate in a minute.
Also: Read my lips, no new Texas. I have no idea why the governor of a state would talk about maybe seceding from the union. It‘s unconstitutional. It‘s what caused the Civil War back in 1861. It‘s what cost us the lives of 600,000 Americans shot to death on battlefields that would have been peaceful farmland if states like Texas had not attempted to secede the first time. Is he, the governor of Texas, to use a common term, nuts, or simply a cynical politician playing to the yahoo vote? Is he trying to pitch (ph) off the pitchfork crowd, or is he just an ignoramus of American history?
About the motive, well, if you watched last night, you saw former House Republican leader Tom DeLay talk about how Texans were angry because Texas is a donor state. That is, it pays more in taxes than it gets back. Well, HARDBALL‘s hard-working producers did some digging and found that the top 10 donor states, none of which included Texas, were all blue states, Democrat states, states that voted for Barack Obama. The 10 states at the bottom of the list, those that get more from Washington than they send to Washington, well, eight of them are red states. So what‘s the complaint here?
And Ben Affleck joins us tonight. He stars in a new thriller, “State of Play,” about Washington, corruption sex, murder and the newspaper business. We‘re going to be talking to one of the smartest and best-informed guys in Hollywood, Ben Affleck, coming here.
Also: Sarah Palin isn‘t discouraging anyone from believing that her thoughts are on the lower 48 states, not Alaska. She did a fund-raiser in Indiana last night, and she‘s back there for another one today. Could we be seeing the start of her run for 2012? That‘s in the “Politics Fix” tonight.
And if you think we‘ve had some fun at the expense of Texas governor Rick Perry and his secession dreams, wait‘ll you hear what Jay Leno and David Letterman have said about this guy. Got that in the “Politics Fix.”
But first, the release of those torture memos. “Newsweek‘s” Michael Isikoff is with us, along with David Corn of “Mother Jones” magazine and CQPolitics.com. Gentlemen, what do we make of this? Why did he put them out but not do anything about it, Michael?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, “NEWSWEEK”: There was a huge debate within the White House about this. Eric Holder, the attorney general, had recommended releasing the memos. Basically, his people said, There‘s no longer any reason to keep these memos classified, we‘re not using these enhanced interrogation techniques anymore. The argument had been all along...
MATTHEWS: “Enhanced interrogation.”
ISIKOFF: That‘s the phrase that‘s been used.
ISIKOFF: But the argument had been all along, We can‘t tell the bad guys what we might do to them if we captured them, so therefore, we have to keep it classified. But since we‘re not, since—under Obama‘s directive, we‘re not using the techniques anymore...
MATTHEWS: So we‘re not going to tell them...
ISIKOFF: ... there‘s no reason...
MATTHEWS: ... we‘re going to put a bug in their coffin.
ISIKOFF: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: So you put a guy in a coffin. You scare him to death. You make him think about imminent death. And then you find out what his biggest phobia is and you throw that into the coffin with him, right? Is that the strategy?
DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”: Yes, like Winston Smith in “1984” and the rats...
MATTHEWS: With the rats.
CORN: ... the cage of the rats. I mean, the ACLU had sued for these documents under the Freedom of Information Act. And some documents had come out already, and a lot of these details actually had been known, at least...
MATTHEWS: We knew about waterboarding.
CORN: We knew about waterboarding and sleep deprivation. We knew
about most of this. There are a few more details. The bugging, the using
the use of insects, which they say in these memos actually never occurred—they set up guidelines for it but then did not use the bugs—you know, there are some new details here. But by and large, it just gives us, I think, a fuller picture of what I think is the big story, and that is the tortured legal reasoning that went into justifying these acts of torture or “enhanced interrogation.”
MATTHEWS: Which is?
CORN: Well, they kept saying again and again and again that this—with waterboarding, for instance, it‘s not prolonged harm. It only lasts for 40 seconds. What they do is they break down all these activities into really small, manageable parts. So what they‘re doing is they‘re making it...
MATTHEWS: If you keep waterboarding a person and don‘t stop, you drown them, right?
CORN: Yes, eventually.
ISIKOFF: Yes, eventually, you would. But here‘s an example of the tortured legal reasoning in this. Let‘s look at the bugs in the coffin-like box.
MATTHEWS: Do we know what kind of bug it was?
MATTHEWS: ... very scary five-inch bug, an insect, or not?
ISIKOFF: You know, they knew Zubaydah had a fear of insects. But the torture law says you cannot inflict—you can‘t threaten a detainee with imminent death, right? So if Zubaydah thinks that a poisonous tarantula is going to—is in the coffin box with him and he‘s going to die and he‘s told that, then you‘re committing torture, the Justice Department lawyers said. So how do you avoid that? You don‘t put a poisonous tarantula...
MATTHEWS: Don‘t ask, don‘t tell.
ISIKOFF: Yes, yes. You don‘t tell him what the bug is...
ISIKOFF: ... and then you‘re not committing the predicate act of threatening him with imminent death.
CORN: But at the same time...
ISIKOFF: You‘re just letting him think that he might die. You‘re just not telling him...
CORN: But at the same time, they‘re allowed to say to the detainees at the beginning of these procedures, We‘re going to do whatever it takes to get you to talk. Now, in that position, the threat of imminent death would seem...
MATTHEWS: OK, you know...
MATTHEWS: ... a common sense person would say, no matter—I mean,
I‘m talking about a middle-of-the-road person out there, watching right now
would say you can use a lot of this stuff if it‘s about a guy who knows there‘s another attack coming in the next 48 hours, or whatever, next week. But to have it as a manual of arms, basically, to be used all over Abu Ghraib, all over Gitmo, to be sort of like the standard technique—I personally believe this mentality you‘re describing led to those people like Lindy English (SIC) and all those people, the non-coms who got in trouble over at Abu Ghraib for stacking people up naked and manacling them together—that‘s all in this list of torture stuff.
Take a look at this stuff—slapping, nudity, sleep deprivation, confinement with an insect, waterboarding. The nudity part—apparently, nudity with handcuffing to go with it—this is what these people got in trouble for.
CORN: I mean, the sleep deprivation, which is the beginning of the process, they say could go up for 180 hours, which is...
ISIKOFF: That‘s a week.
CORN: That‘s a week, seven-and-a-half days. And then you can give someone eight hours of sleep and then start all over again. Then you can slap them. You can confine them with...
MATTHEWS: Twenty times.
CORN: Yes. You can confine them with insects...
MATTHEWS: ... wouldn‘t leave a mark. Slapping on the stomach—I never heard of slapping on the stomach.
CORN: They have this device or this practice called “walling,” where they put you up against a flexible false wall...
ISIKOFF: Which is new, actually.
MATTHEWS: How does that work?
CORN: And then they slam you against it. And the memo says it doesn‘t hurt really because they put a protective collar around you, but yet it shocks you. I want to see this demonstrated not out of any...
ISIKOFF: Well, you won‘t because the CIA destroyed the tapes of the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah. But it‘s worth pointing out—David mentioned the legal reasoning—a couple things. There are a number of ongoing inquiries, one of which is a completed Office of Professional Responsibility report, ethics report within the Justice Department, looking at whether these Justice Department lawyers who wrote these memos violated their own, you know, professional canons of ethics in using torture and...
MATTHEWS: Apparently, we got some information—I‘m getting it through my ear.
MATTHEWS: It was Lindy England, obviously—I forgot her name, it‘s not English. Lindy England is the one who was charged and convicted of this. Kelly O‘Donnell, one of our colleagues here at NBC, said it was a caterpillar. Now, I heard this earlier today, a swell. Would a caterpillar scare somebody to death?
CORN: Well, they suggest in the memo said it might be a caterpillar.
I don‘t think the...
ISIKOFF: But the point is, they‘re not telling Zubaydah it‘s a caterpillar. They‘re just letting—they‘re not telling...
MATTHEWS: Well, he can see it‘s a caterpillar.
ISIKOFF: Well, maybe not...
CORN: No, no, no! It‘s dark box!
CORN: ... feel something on your leg...
MATTHEWS: OK, so they dreamed this up and they apparently hadn‘t used that technique yet when they put this report out.
Let me ask you about this—let‘s take a look at why some people didn‘t want this out. “The Wall Street Journal” today, CIA director Michael Hayden and former attorney general Mukasey, Michael Mukasey, wrote this. “The release of these opinions was unnecessary as a legal matter and is unsound as a matter of policy. Its effect will be to invite the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past and that we came sorely to regret on September 11.”
There you have the threat...
MATTHEWS: ... that getting soft—in other words, not using these techniques—will expose us to attack.
CORN: You know, this has happened...
MATTHEWS: This is coming from the two former top guys.
CORN: Every time in the last 30, 40 years there‘s been any investigation or any public disclosure of CIA or intelligence community activities that some people have deemed improper, you hear the same thing. This means that everyone will go soft inside the CIA. They‘ll quit.
Morale will go down.
MATTHEWS: Doesn‘t that charge make sense, though?
CORN: Well, listen, if...
MATTHEWS: Wouldn‘t you be afraid, if you saw this stuff all over the paper, your kids are reading it, your family is reading it? Is this what you do, Daddy or Mommy?
ISIKOFF: Well, in fact, that‘s precisely the argument that Panetta, Leon Panetta, used to try to keep these memos under lid...
MATTHEWS: Which one?
ISIKOFF: ... which is that this will destroy the morale of the agency. A lot of the top people currently in the CIA were involved in aspects of this interrogation program. John Rizzo, the recipient of all four of these memos, he‘s still the top lawyer at the CIA. Steve Kappas (ph), deputy director of the CIA, number two, is—was involved in—was a top operations chief at the time that this interrogation program was put into place.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s talk blowback.
ISIKOFF: So there was a reason...
MATTHEWS: You know what blowback is.
CORN: Oh, sure.
MATTHEWS: That‘s when something in an intelligence thing goes bad and the people (INAUDIBLE) people we call the mujahedin—we equipped them with Stingers...
MATTHEWS: ... turn into something different that comes after us, al Qaeda. What happens if one of the people we‘ve tortured down there at Gitmo has a bad attitude about it afterwards and becomes one of the terrorists? Who gets blamed then?
CORN: Well, that‘s...
MATTHEWS: He comes back at us and says, You guys screwed me, you guys tortured me for three or four years, I‘ve got a new career plan.
CORN: Well, that‘s always the risk if you treat people poorly. I mean, at one point, Barry McCaffrey, a general, went down to Gitmo and said that it was his estimation that about only a third of the people there deserved to be there, meaning that two thirds didn‘t.
MATTHEWS: And those two thirds are going to think like the other third when they get out, though.
ISIKOFF: But to be fair, the guys we‘re talking about here are the high-value detainees. These guys aren‘t getting out, under no circumstances. I mean, you know, they‘ll either be tried or...
MATTHEWS: OK, well, that‘s my question.
ISIKOFF: ... the Justice Department will come up with...
MATTHEWS: How much...
ISIKOFF: ... a new legal theory to hold them...
MATTHEWS: Of the hundreds of people we‘ve got...
ISIKOFF: ... indefinitely.
MATTHEWS: ... in custody, in detention, how many of them are going to be exposed to these techniques we‘re talking about, slapping, nudity, sleep deprivation...
ISIKOFF: About 100 detainees went through the CIA, up to 100 went through this program and were subjected to enhanced techniques.
MATTHEWS: And they were all high value, they‘ll never get out.
ISIKOFF: Waterboarding—no, they‘re not all high-value, but they were all in the CIA detention program. About three—not about, three were waterboarded.
MATTHEWS: When the president had to make the decision to release this under Freedom of Information because the ACLU—and by the way, good credit to them for doing this, getting this out—who wanted to keep it secret, Leon Panetta, head of the CIA, former congressman...
ISIKOFF: And John Brennan at the National Security Council, who was another former...
MATTHEWS: So they were for secrecy.
MATTHEWS: Who were the guys—was it Greg Craig, I would bet, who‘s the president‘s counsel...
ISIKOFF: Craig and Eric Holder.
MATTHEWS: So they‘re Obama people.
CORN: Yes. They didn‘t want to cover up for what had happened in the Justice Department beforehand. The people connected to the intelligence community still working from the intelligence community obviously had an interest...
MATTHEWS: But Panetta also wanted to keep it...
CORN: Yes, well, that‘s understandable. He‘s protecting his new troops.
CORN: Does he want these guys rebelling against him so early on...
ISIKOFF: But what‘s really interesting...
MATTHEWS: What‘s the blowback going to be out of this whole thing, the fact that we all know this now? All the world now, everywhere in the world, our enemies now know how we torture, what we do. And every local paper...
CORN: But we‘re not doing it now.
MATTHEWS: No, but everybody knows what we‘ve been doing. They‘re not going to say that...
ISIKOFF: This will add to pressure for more accountability on this issue. You got Leahy and...
MATTHEWS: More anger in the Arab world?
MATTHEWS: More anger in the Arab Islamic world?
ISIKOFF: I mean, yes, oh, I—you could have—that argument was used. I haven‘t seen it today...
MATTHEWS: Well, we‘ll see over the weekend. The papers are still being printed over there in Egypt and elsewhere. Anyway, thank you, Michael Isikoff, sir, and thank you, David Corn. You got to see this new movie, “State of Play.” I think you guys are in it.
MATTHEWS: You are the Russell Crowe characters!
Coming up: Texans, hold onto your hats. Your governor, Rick Perry, suggested Texas could leave these United States. Let‘s take a look at what the governor‘s words mean. Are they just simply crazy?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. So what did Texas governor Rick Perry mean when he said this?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS: Texas is a unique place. When we came in the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that.
My hope is that America, and Washington in particular, pays attention. We got a great union. There‘s absolutely no reason to dissolve it, but if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what may come out of that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So what‘s the governor talking about? Has he left the door open to secession? Does he believe it‘s even constitutional? Joining us right now are Texas congressman John Culberson and constitutional law professor at the University of Texas Lucas Powe.
Professor Powe, is it legal for Texas to secede from the union? Is the governor correct? Is it an option?
LUCAS POWE, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: No, the governor‘s not correct. We were given the right to split up into five states, if we wanted to, but we were not given the option to leave the union. And the Supreme Court has held in Texas versus White that it is illegal for a state to leave the union.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, what is your view?
REP. JOHN CULBERSON ®, TEXAS: Well, Chris, I agree with the professor. We in Texas are, I think, the most patriotic of Americans, and Governor Perry was just revved up. I think he was excited and expressing the intense frustration, Chris, of every Texan that I know who is concerned about this government in Washington, this new liberal Congress, this new liberal president, who has spent more money in less time, Chris, and piled up more debt than any other Congress in history.
And we in Texas want Texans to run Texas. We in Texas have—as the professor said, have a special history and have always felt ourselves the values we hold dear as Texans are the same values that made America great. So we‘re very passionate about keeping government small, letting Texans run Texas.
And I wouldn‘t make too much of it, Chris. Governor Perry is a patriot. He just got revved up and was expressing the frustration of a lot of Texans that you can see the tip of the iceberg in these tea parties.
MATTHEWS: But he‘s wrong in saying Texas has the option of secession.
CULBERSON: Absolutely. No state has the right to secede, Chris. That question was settled with finality at Appomattox in 1865, as you said, with the blood of 600,000 young Americans. That tragic and terrible war should never have been fought. But Texas did reserve two special rights. When we joined the union as an independent nation on December 29, 1845, we kept all the publicly owned land, and all that black sticky stuff. All those minerals under the ground are the public property of Texas.
And then secondly, Chris, as you and I mentioned once before when I saw you at Ford‘s Theatre, Texas reserved the right to split into as many as five states. And no Texan wants to see Texas divided up into smaller states.
CULBERSON: But Chris, we are—we could, if Texas chose to do so, add six new rock-ribbed conservative senators to the Senate overnight by dividing into five states.
MATTHEWS: Well, you might get one liberal in Austin. Do you think you might get one liberal in Austin if you did that?
CULBERSON: Well, you‘d probably have two Democrat senators from the valley. And then you‘d have—of course, we have two Republican senators today. But the other six new senators would all be rock-ribbed conservatives. And that‘s not likely to happen, Chris, but that is a right that Texas reserved.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at this poll, Professor. A lot of people don‘t know the history of our own country. You know, 31 percent in this new poll, this Rasmussen poll, say that they think states should have the right to leave the union. I mean, that doesn‘t answer the question whether they think it‘s constitutional or not, or historically acceptable.
What do you make of that impulse, that at least a third—almost a third of the people believe that their state should be allowed to walk? And that includes a lot of landlocked states, I would assume, which would be hard to walk with. I mean, I don‘t know how they would do it. This is Texans, by the way, voting on this, but they think states generally have—should have this right.
POWE: I‘m not surprised. There‘s been feelings in American history, mostly before the Civil War, that states should have a right to secede.
But it seems kind of crazy now. One would have thought the Civil War put it to an end. One would have thought that the civil rights movement put it to an end.
MATTHEWS: Well, I tell you, after years of doing this show, like about 10 or 15 years of being on television, I have learned a lot of people just don‘t know what we have been through. And they need to be reminded by the congressman and you of what the hell we have been through...
MATTHEWS: ... when we have got this divide.
Let me go to the economic issue, because Tom DeLay, the congressman, former congressman, he‘s always on this show. And he raised a very tough issue the other night. Let‘s listen to what he said, because I think this does cut the way the congressman was talking just a minute ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM DELAY ®, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: The state of Texas is a huge donor state. We only get about 70 cents back for every dollar we send to the federal government.
Now, we‘re paying for a lot of this. And the American—and Texans are fed up with the government growing like it‘s growing. Texas is wealthy because it works hard. It‘s a pro-business state.
DELAY: It doesn‘t overtax its businesses and its citizens. It‘s nowhere near what California or New York or New Jersey, that‘s losing businesses left and right, losing jobs left and right. It isn‘t even close to what the Rust Belt is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, two points about what Congressman DeLay said right there.
First, Texans get back 94 cents for every dollar it sends to the federal government. It‘s a donor state, but barely. And, when he cites California and New York and Jersey, he‘s right that those three have high taxes in their states, but all three also get much less back from the federal government for every dollar they send in, in taxes.
In fact, of the states that give more in federal taxes than they receive, the donor states, the 10 that pay the most in taxes compared with what they get back are all blue states, states that voted for Barack Obama in last year‘s election.
And the states that get the least back for every dollar in taxes is Jersey—New Jersey. They get 61 cents back for every dollar. So, if you go by the states that have the biggest complaint out there about how they‘re doing vis-a-vis Washington, it‘s the Democratic states, if you will, the Obama states, that have the biggest complaint.
Let‘s take a look at the 10 biggest recipient states. These are the states that get the most back from the federal government for every dollar in taxes they pay. Well, eight of the 10 are red states, states that voted for John McCain.
So, Congressman, if you get into this who is getting the worse deal from Washington, it would be the liberal states. The conservative states, generally speaking—I know you‘re going to start laughing at this, because this is so ironic. The people with the biggest complaints are the ones who have the least to complain about.
REP. JOHN CULBERSON ®, TEXAS: Chris, your children and my children are getting the worst deal from this new administration and this new Congress.
MATTHEWS: Well, why are we changing the subject? I‘m talking geography. And now you‘re going to generation on me.
CULBERSON: No, no, no, no, I‘m not changing the subject, Chris. No, no, no, no, Chris, what I‘m telling you is that Texans understand instinctively that it is our children that are getting the worst deal out of this.
We don‘t—you know, that—that calculation you just went through, we understand in our hearts that the federal government is taxing too much and spending too much. We want Texans to run Texas. We just want the government out of our lives, out of our pockets. Get out of my way, and I will make my business a success.
CULBERSON: And it‘s instinctive, Chris.
I‘m telling you, with Texans, that calculation you just made is secondary to the core fact that we, as Texans, want to run our lives, we want to run our state without the federal government interfering with us.
And—and, Chris, I have to tell you, you know, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama may send a thrill up your leg, but they send a shiver down the spine...
MATTHEWS: Oh, here we go.
CULBERSON: ... of every Texan that I know. And it is a...
MATTHEWS: OK. I get you. Now we‘re going to...
MATTHEWS: Now we‘re going to get to this. OK, you want to get personal, you‘re a Texan, all right?
MATTHEWS: And you‘re complaining. You guys are whining, when the
states that ought to be whining are the liberal states that get the biggest
they pay the most and get the least per capita.
So, why are you complaining? Why is a big, strong Texan guy like you...
MATTHEWS: ... whining about, gee whiz...
MATTHEWS: ... how come we Texans give so much? And it turns out, we did the arithmetic, Congressman, and we‘re ahead of you on this one.
CULBERSON: Hey, Chris, we don‘t...
MATTHEWS: You have got the weakest case here, so you go to generation.
CULBERSON: No, no, no, no.
MATTHEWS: You change the subject.
CULBERSON: Chris, the TEA Parties are the tip of the iceberg.
And I think you‘re missing the bigger story here. And that is, the TEA Parties were a spontaneous horizontal reflection of the mood of the American people in general, and certainly in Texas, Chris. The country is at the tipping point, Chris.
We don‘t want money that we don‘t have, that our children can‘t afford to pay back spent. The government is spending too much and taxing too much. The country is at the tipping point, Chris.
And I think that what you saw—and don‘t make too much of what Governor Perry said. Again, he was just revved up, and—and, I think, in the heat of the moment, said something that—that certainly he didn‘t mean in his heart. We‘re patriotic Americans. No one wants Texas to secede.
We don‘t want to split into five states, Chris, but we need to work within the law to take back control of this government.
CULBERSON: I‘m fed up with Washington telling Texans how to run Texas, Chris.
And this TEA Party movement is something we need to keep alive. And we‘re going to do it through the Internet. And frankly, Chris, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
MATTHEWS: Do you think Texas has a special complaint against the union, because you believe that you‘re a donor state?
MATTHEWS: That‘s what Tom DeLay said last night, a special complaint.
MATTHEWS: And it turns out that a lot of the liberal states, which you guys would call Democrat states, up in the Northeast, states like New Jersey, are the ones that spend the most money in taxes.
Now, maybe they should be complainers, like Texas, but they‘re not complaining. Why are you guys complaining? Why are the pitchforks all out in the rural states, the Southern states?
CULBERSON: Because Texas is—because we see Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama and this Congress trying to turn America in France. And Texas is not going to become France.
We don‘t want to be a socialist European nation. We treasure our freedom. We treasure local government. We treasure the right to let Texans run Texas. And we know, instinctively, Chris, that this government has gone too far. They spent more money in less time than any Congress in history.
Barack Obama‘s budget has created more debt than—than was created from George Washington to George Bush. And, by the way, Chris, I voted against $2.3 trillion in spending of George Bush‘s...
CULBERSON: ... just as I voted against $1.6 under Barack Obama.
The point is, Chris, is—and don‘t miss it, and I‘m really not trying to change the subject—what you‘re missing, the core point here is that Texans have a special feeling in our heart about what it means to be an American. And to be an American means that government should leave me alone, get off my back, and get out of my way, and get out of my wallet.
And we don‘t want the government running our...
MATTHEWS: Who has this special feeling? Who has that special—who has that special feeling?
CULBERSON: More than anyone else, I think Texans have a special feeling in their heart about what it means to be an American. The core values that made America great are the values that made Texas great.
MATTHEWS: You know how absurd that sounds? You know how absurd, Congressman—Congressman, you say that you guys are more emotional about your Americanism. And, yet, you have got a governor talking about splitting from America. You know how absurd that sounds?
CULBERSON: He‘s not serious about it. Governor Perry is not serious about that, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, why did—he did it all week this week.
CULBERSON: Don‘t—don‘t make too big a deal out of it.
MATTHEWS: You say you love the country, but you can‘t wait to leave it. You‘re threatening to leave it.
CULBERSON: ... leave the union, Chris.
MATTHEWS: It doesn‘t make sense. I‘m just telling you...
CULBERSON: Chris, Chris, you‘re the one whipping this up.
MATTHEWS: The governor did twice. You want us to play the tape?
MATTHEWS: All we do is play the tape.
CULBERSON: Well, he said it, I think, in the—Chris, I think he said it in the heat of the moment. He was revved up. He‘s not serious about it. No Texan wants to leave the union.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well...
CULBERSON: We‘re, I think, among the most patriotic of Americans.
CULBERSON: But we want to let Texans run Texas, Chris. Don‘t miss that key point. But we want to do it within the law...
CULBERSON: ... within what the rules of the Constitution gave us.
MATTHEWS: But you‘re doing a good job of defending your governor, except your governor did a bad job of representing himself, because your governor—you say he was revved up. Fair enough. I get revved up. I get thrills up my leg. You hit me on that one. Fair enough.
MATTHEWS: But he made the comment...
CULBERSON: Fair enough.
MATTHEWS: ... to Lawrence Kudlow on CNBC, not exactly a red-hot venue, as far as I know. He made it deliberately, on purpose, I believe, for political purpose. He wants to rouse up people against Washington—and I think he did a good job of it—by talking up secession, to the point where 31 percent of Texans are talking secession. They think it ought to be an option.
CULBERSON: No, people...
MATTHEWS: That‘s something I haven‘t heard since the ‘60s, the 1860s.
CULBERSON: Chris, the government...
MATTHEWS: What is everybody talking about this—because your governor is talking about it.
CULBERSON: The governor—the government is not listening to us, Chris. And it‘s time for we the people in Texas...
CULBERSON: We understand that Washington is not listening to us.
They spend too much money.
CULBERSON: They tax too much.
CULBERSON: And that‘s the key issue here, Chris.
CULBERSON: The TEA Party movement is a—I think...
MATTHEWS: I just want to know why the pitchforks were all the barn, and nobody had them in their hands, during the Bush administration, when you doubled the national debt.
CULBERSON: Hey, not me. Not me.
MATTHEWS: And you didn‘t have a pitchfork in your hand either.
CULBERSON: Hey, you‘re looking...
CULBERSON: ... at a guy that voted—I voted against $2.3 trillion of spending under George Bush...
CULBERSON: ... and 1.6 trillion under Barack Obama. You‘re looking at a Texan who is a true conservative...
CULBERSON: ... who keeps his word.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, sir. It was nice to meet you the other night...
CULBERSON: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... at Ford‘s Theatre.
You‘re a great gentleman, but stop talking about the thrill up my leg.
CULBERSON: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: It embarrasses me, deeply.
MATTHEWS: Congressman John Culberson, thanks. Thank you.
Professor Lucas Powe, thanks for joining us. We got caught up in our little intramural there.
Up next: Leno and Letterman have a lot more fun with this secession talk than I have been having. Stick around for that.
We will be right back with more HARDBALL—with the “Sideshow,” in fact—coming back.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And, obviously, time for the “Sideshow.”
As comedian Mark Russell used to say, sometimes it‘s just rip and read in this business. You don‘t have to make up the jokes. The politicians turn themselves into them, like Rick Perry, the Texas governor, who has some bizarre, whacked-out notion he can take Texas out of the United States, that, somehow, Texas has some special deal, where it can threaten the rest of the country if it doesn‘t like the way things are going in Washington. It can head out on its own.
It‘s a nincompoop idea with not a drop of historic validity, but that makes a perfect joke for late night.
And here they are, Leno and Letterman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”)
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”: Wouldn‘t that be crazy? All of a sudden, Texas is not part of this great land of ours?
Take a look. Watch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Texas is threatening to secede from the union. Let‘s imagine what America would be like without the contributions of Texans, an America without people such as George W. Bush.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sounds good to us.
A message from the other 49 states.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LETTERMAN: Yes, you see?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”)
JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”: Yes, I guess you heard we have a new border czar.
Yes, yes. His job, to make sure nobody sneaks into the United States from Texas. That‘s his new...
LENO: On the plus side, if Texas did secede from the union, we could then invade them for the oil.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And just think. As I said, 31 percent of the people of Texas are as out to lunch as their governor. They think they do have the right to secede, either that, or they just—they just want to show their attitude.
Anyway, this week, on “The Chris Matthews Show,” I have got some top reporters digging into those torture memoranda we mentioned today. That‘s going to be exciting.
Up next: Ben Affleck. He‘s got a new movie out—it‘s coming out tonight, in fact—about the conflicts between politicians and newspaper reporters, both caught up into a sex and murder scandal. Ben is coming here to talk about it.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks finishing higher for a sixth straight session, as we hear—six straight week, even—as we here at CNBC rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange from our global headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, to celebrate that 20th anniversary. The confetti was flying, as the Dow crept up a little bit higher, just about five points today, the S&P 500 up four, and the Nasdaq closed higher by two.
There was some major earnings news today, though. Beleaguered banking giant Citigroup beat expectations, saying that it earned $1.5 billion, with a profit in the first quarter. That follows five straight quarterly losses.
Meantime, General Electric, our parent company, reported first-quarter earnings fell about 35 percent due to sharply lower profits in GE‘s troubled finance unit. But that was still better than expected. And Wall Street liked that news.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to Chris and HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Yesterday, I had a chance to talk to a good friend of this show, Oscar winner Ben Affleck, who is starring in a new film that is coming out tonight, “State of Play.”
MATTHEWS: You‘re in the middle of a scandal. You‘re a U.S. congressman. Your girlfriend dies mysteriously, a little bit of Chandra Levy, a little bit of, what, Clinton? Who knows here? Not really Clinton, but, you know, sex scandal stuff.
What does it teach you to play a guy like this?
BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR: Well, it was really interesting.
You know, to a certain extent, I have had some experience with the paparazzi, right, a little bit, not obviously to the extent of being embroiled in—in that kind of a scandal. But it was—so, I had a little bit of preparation for it.
But it was pretty interesting, you know, trying to prepare for it and
trying to look at what that kind of scrutiny was like from the press on a -
on a political side, because, on the one hand, the press isn‘t—take—it takes it a little bit more seriously, because they know that the stakes are different, because they‘re potentially affecting public policy.
But, by the same token, they—they maybe even have more of an appetite for—for scandal. And that—one of the things I learned about it is, it‘s not a place you want to be, is in one of those scandals, you know.
As you say, it was kind of like—in the movie, it‘s a bit like the Chandra Levy case, which, interestingly enough, you know, of course, Congressman Condit turned out to be innocent.
AFFLECK: And, you know, the whole time, everybody just thought he was guilty. They staked out in front of his house and hounded him for, you know, months and months, and even years.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at a clip from the film. It‘s a hot film. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “STATE OF PLAY”)
AFFLECK: You were just seeking the truth. That‘s all. You‘re just -
you‘re a truth-seeker. That‘s all. You can‘t help it. It‘s who you are.
You‘re such a hypocrite. You‘re not interested in me. The minute you come in here, it was all about you and getting your story.
I trusted you. You‘re my friend. You were supposed to be my friend when you were with my wife. You were my friend, Cal. I never would have done this to you!
RUSSELL CROWE, “CAL MCAFFREY”: Sorry, Stephen, OK? I‘m sorry about all of it. Please, look, now I can understand why you hate me for it. You‘ve just got to put aside how you feel about me and stay with this.
We‘re so close. Every single part of this I have put myself on the line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What a scene. I love that guy, Russell Crowe, you‘re acting with there. But so much is going on in that script. He‘s your buddy. He has been messing around with your wife. I mean, there is so much.
AFFLECK: He‘s not the kind of journalist that treats his friends very well there. I hope you treat your friends better than that, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s—thanks for that. But the idea that you have a loyal friend, but he‘s really loyal to his trade, his first job, his nervous system is get this story and run it.
AFFLECK: Yes, you know, it wasn‘t a kind of a conflict I was as familiar with, you know, the ethics of journalism. I thought it was just kind of a—you know, I thought you guys just played pretty fast and loose with it, but as it turns out, you know, there are some ethics to the trade.
And one of the things, in all seriousness, that I found really kind of fascinating with it, digging down deeper into this as we did some research into the role was the pressures that were brought to bear on journalists not just to get a story, but also to kind of—between hard news and getting more, you know, prurient stories, you know, taking the more gossipy angle on stuff, and that there can be editorial pressures brought to bear and trying to take, you know, a more honorable, legitimate look at news versus one that they think, you know, will sell papers or, you know, get ratings or make ad revenues.
And, you know, I guess that was something I didn‘t appreciate, and it‘s fascinating because it‘s not an easy line to walk.
MATTHEWS: Well, some day you won‘t have to worry about newspapers, Ben. They‘re dying.
AFFLECK: Some day soon, I‘m afraid, yes.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at a last scene, then I want to talk to you about the rest of what‘s going on in this crazy country right now. Here is the last scene. I happen to have a little cameo in this. This is not really me. This is me playing somebody like me, but here it is.
AFFLECK: Playing a journalist.
MATTHEWS: All right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWE: His roommate in college, I don‘t live with him now.
HELEN MIRREN, “CAMERON LYNNE”: Well, that‘s a shame, isn‘t it?
CROWE: Yes, because that could sell some newspapers.
MATTHEWS: Ms. Baker died this morning in an apparent accident on the D.C. Metro. Suicide is not being ruled out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you.
AFFLECK: Hard to tell the difference between real journalism and fake journalism.
MATTHEWS: It‘s truth and reality here. Let me ask you about this crazy thing. Talk about crazy reality. The last couple of days in this country we‘ve had this tea party. Fair enough. Some of it is politics, some of it is crazy ideology.
But what do you make the governor of Texas the other day talking about maybe seceding from the union? I mean, I have been reading about Lincoln the last couple of days in this great book by McPherson. This is illegal. You can‘t secede from the union. It has been proven. What do you make of a guy talking about it?
AFFLECK: It sounds like, you know, political showmanship, you know.
I think folks are—you know, it‘s kind of a reach, I think. You know,
Republicans are having a hard time finding something that I think they can
that will give them any political traction. So they‘re sort of reaching for stuff in particular that will appeal to a certain part of the base, and, you know, language like secession I guess hits the mark, I suppose.
But I mean, obviously it‘s just, you know, rhetoric.
MATTHEWS: But what‘s this Boston—so you‘re a Boston Red Sox fan, obviously, but what about this Boston Tea Party imagery? You know, I mean, the idea that we‘re somehow still protesting against King George and the British Empire and somehow we‘ve got a monarchy we have got to knock off our shoulders when, in fact, what we have is an elected government, elected rather dramatically recently.
AFFLECK: Yes, I think that the symbolism they‘re going for has to do, I guess, with taxes more—high taxes, right, more than—I mean, the no taxation without representation thing doesn‘t land, I don‘t think, with the people that are liking that more than—as much as the taxation issue is landing with them.
But the events have been relatively small, I don‘t think any more than 200 or 300, you know, which is—doesn‘t indicate that it has a lot of real support. You know, I think it‘s—it probably is kind of an Astroturf event, although maybe there are real people—people are certainly frustrated and so people will find some outlets for that.
But it‘s not really—I mean, Barack Obama is not taxing people unduly. If there is real frustration out there, it probably has to do with the simple fact that these are really difficult economic times, but I don‘t think people who are suffering from the recession legitimately are, you know, wearing like a lot of tea bags on their head.
MATTHEWS: OK. Ben Affleck, thanks for coming on. Good luck with the movie, “State of Play.” I‘ve read the script.
AFFLECK: I really appreciate you having me. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a hell of a movie. Thanks for coming on.
Up next, Sarah Palin is in full campaign mode down in the Lower 48 right now. She took on President Obama at an anti-abortion rights rally last night. Sarah Palin‘s big ambition, well, that‘s coming up next in the HARDBALL “Politics Fix.” This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, an America without Texas? What would life be like if Governor Perry were to be able to follow through with his plan to have Texas secede from the union? And why is he even talking about this? HARDBALL returns with the “Politics Fix” next.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. Time for the “Politics Fix.” Former Democratic U.S. Congressman Harold Ford is now an MSNBC political analyst, and the Atlantic Media‘s Ron Brownstein writes for the National Journal.
Gentlemen, let‘s take a look at Sarah Palin last night talking about taxes. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN ®, ALASKA: Now, you will appreciate this. The day after tax day, because of responsible resource development up there, we derive benefit and revenue from our oil and gas developments and we‘re the only state in the union with a negative tax rate. We‘ve got no income tax for the state, no state sales taxes, no state property tax, and I want to keep it that way because I truly believe that our families and our small businesses can spend the money that they earn better than government will ever be able to spend for us.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the act is still on, it hasn‘t changed. Ron Brownstein, what do you think of that, that performance?
RON BROWNSTEIN, ATLANTIC MEDIA: I‘m guessing they have no income tax in Saudi Arabia either.
BROWNSTEIN: I mean, you know, when you have that level of a resource that kind of exempts from the normal rules of political gravity, she‘s not going away. I mean, she‘s clearly keeping her name and her visibility in front of the public. And she is a challenge for the Republican Party because having the party coalition been shrunk in ‘06 and ‘08, what‘s left is predominantly conservative.
She is a popular—potentially, and attractive candidate to that base, but she faces real hurdles in trying reach beyond it to the center of the electorate.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, John McCain has given all kinds of indication since he selected Sarah Palin that he might not do it again if he were given the choice, based upon he continually fails to mention her name as a potential Republican presidential nominee, and on other occasions has made it clear she‘s not top on his list these days.
Do you think that the Republicans would consider her on the ticket next time?
HAROLD FORD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I do. And I say this for this reason. I‘m here in Austin, Texas, this evening. Governor Perry, who has obviously been the subject of a lot of conversation, had Governor Palin come in and endorse him in his primary here.
Governor Palin remains one of the hottest tickets in the Republican Party for many of the reasons that Ron articulated. I think it also speaks to the schism and attention within their party right.
They can‘t decide if they want to go to the Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor route, which seems to be slightly more substantive and mindful of the fact that the country is looking for answers and substantive answers at that, or if they want to go the Rush Limbaugh/Palin, and some would argue even now, the Rick Perry approach, which borders on asinine in the sense that talking about Texas seceding from the union, politically, legally, just doesn‘t make that much sense.
I think that they are trying to find an identity. And I like Rick Perry as a person but it just seems as if he has moved in the direction closer to Limbaugh and Palin than he has to being a—sort of a serious—developing a serious Republican agenda to counter the Obama agenda.
MATTHEWS: The—it seems like there‘s a coincidence of message here. The Obama people, I assume this kind of Chicago method of saying, there‘s no real alternative out there, it‘s just the Democratic Party, it has always run Chicago, always running the country. There‘s no Republican governing party, there‘s a bunch of yahoos, Rush Limbaugh leading the way.
And it seems like there‘s a big portion of the Republican Party that is playing ball with them, saying, yes, we‘re the party.
BROWNSTEIN: Right, because.
MATTHEWS: The people on whackjob end of things.
BROWNSTEIN: Well, even moving in from that, to just simply the
conservative end of things, the dominant interpretation of the Republican -
in the Republican Party of the losses of ‘06 and ‘08 was that the party was not conservative enough, that it lost its way, particularly on fiscal issues...
MATTHEWS: Conservative or not full-mooner enough?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, there you go. But.
MATTHEWS: I mean, when start back talking secession—by the way, in all fairness to Congressman Culberson, the governor of Texas, his governor, has been talking about it all week. And in very quiet circumstances where he had plenty of time to reflect, and he brought it up.
BROWNSTEIN: He‘s angling for the John Calhoun endorsement in the primary race against Kay Bailey Hutchison. No, but you know, in reference to the Congressman (INAUDIBLE) point from a moment ago, both wings of the - - both wings of that he is describing of the Republican Party, wherever you look, they are moving toward a much—a very conservative kind of definition of the party.
The House budget that Paul Ryan put together, and Eric Cantor put together as the alternative, reduced the top marginal tax rate to 25 percent, a level it hasn‘t been at since 1931. So.
MATTHEWS: But a very respective rate for those in that rate.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes, well, there you go. But I would—we are talking about kind of a shift to the right on all segments of the party right now, in part because that is what is left after these losses.
MATTHEWS: And that‘s what they did in ‘64 and that‘s what they did in ‘80.
We‘ll be back with Harold Ford and Ron Brownstein to talk about Rick Perry and what he was really up to. I think there is more to this than just clownishness. I think there are real politics behind a lot of this talk about secession. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with MSNBC political analyst Harold Ford and Ron Brownstein of the National Journal. I want to start with Ron.
Your theories about the geographical reason why some states are really getting anti-Washington, I mean, more than usual?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, part of what is happening here is that as the Republicans have been pushed back and contracted in these last two elections, what is left is increasingly southern. The southern face of the party is solidifying and you have—think about the fight over the economic plan over the last year.
Who have been the leading Republican voices? Mark Sanford of South Carolina, doesn‘t want to take the money, Bobby Jindal, Haley Barbour, now Rick Perry kind of raising and trumping them by saying he‘s so angry that he wants to secede.
I mean, the challenge is that the—what works in the South is kind of a militant and small government message in many ways, and certainly a cultural conservatism, but it is difficult for that message to sell in other parts of the country, particularly the upper middle class, culturally moderate, economically moderate suburbs that have been moving towards the Democrats over the last 15 years and are the principle reason why Democrats are now in a stronger position than they were in the ‘80s and ‘70s.
If you look at the kind of arguments that work for a Rick Perry, and they are not the kind of arguments I think that will allow Republicans to recover on a national basis.
MATTHEWS: Speaking for Tennessee, Congressman, what about people like Lamar Alexander, who are conservatives, but hardly far out? How do they feel about all of this sort of this pitchfork talk?
FORD: I don‘t know, but I doubt that he will raise serious objections to what is happening. He hasn‘t done it up to this point whether he agrees with them or not. Where I go to church, listening to what Ron said, we would just say amen. I think he‘s right in a large part in how he has described this.
MATTHEWS: And that is that the country—what is left of the Republican Party is not the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan even, of center right and right, it‘s that...
FORD: Or even the Northeast. There are no Republicans in the Congress from the Northeast. And I think he will—if the party continues down this path, the Republican Party, it will be purely a regional party and dominate it. The presence will be dominated by the part of the country I‘m from, Tennessee and throughout the SEC.
MATTHEWS: Was Rick Perry really anticipating a primary challenge from Kay Bailey Hutchison, and he is trying to hold on to the far right?
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. I mean, he‘s trying to position over to her right, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: We made the point. Thank you, Harold Ford, thank you, Ron Brownstein. Join us again Monday night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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