Guests: Mary Thompson, Howard Fineman, Eugene Robinson, Dan Neil, Joe Sestak, Ceci
Connolly, William Saletan, Kent Kresa
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Life and death.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Violent outbreak. Anti-abortion groups, along with abortion rights advocates, have been quick to condemn yesterday‘s murder of an abortion doctor, George Tiller, in Kansas. The question now is, Will this act of violence backfire on the anti-abortion groups? Or could it reignite a potentially red-hot fight on the eve of Judge Sotomayor‘s hearings in the U.S. Senate? And never forget, violence leads to violence in this country. Let‘s study the consequences of what happened at that church on Sunday.
Also: Does GM now stand for “Government Motors”? The big company filed for bankruptcy today as the federal government spent another $30 billion on the company, on top of $20 billion it spent before. And it took a 60 percent stake in the restructured, now smaller car company. But let‘s think big here. “LA Times” automotive critic Dan Neil says if a colossus of industry like GM can go belly-up, so could the country by keeping to the same bad habits—short-term thinking, stick-in-the-mud policies, piled-high debt and the inability to reform itself. Neil joins us tonight, along with GM‘s chairman of the board.
Plus: If U.S. Congressman Joe Sestak wants to challenge Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania‘s Democratic primary next year, he‘s got his chance to announce it here on HARDBALL tonight. But listen to what Pennsylvania‘s governor, Ed Rendell, said to Ed Schultz late last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Joe should not run for the Senate in the Democratic primary. He‘d get killed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So will Sestak ignore Governor Rendell‘s shot across the bow? U.S. Congressman Sestak will be here with us tonight to answer that question.
And will Judge Sonia Sotomayor‘s activism be the issue her conservative critics need to rain on her confirmation? That‘s in the “Politics Fix” tonight.
And what‘s wrong with dinner and a Broadway show? Well, when it comes to Barack and Michelle Obama, just ask the Republicans. Here‘s the front page of today‘s “New York Post.” We‘ll have the GOP‘s jealous, pathetic swipe at the first couple in the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight.
We begin with the murder of Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas. Ceci Connolly is a top reporter for “The Washington Post” and Slate‘s Will Saletan is the author of “Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War.” Let me talk to Will, first of all. Will, factually, why was George Tiller—well, let me put it bluntly. Why did he have a target on his back?
WILL SALETAN, AUTHOR, “BEARING RIGHT”: Because he was one of the few doctors, one of the very few doctors willing to perform abortions very late in pregnancy, after viability, when there are exceptions for medical conditions or impairment of bodily function. He was one of the very few. Basically, if your local clinic wouldn‘t do your abortion because you were too late for them and then they sent you to somebody else and that person said, we can‘t do it, we don‘t do abortions that late, George Tiller was the last guy you would get sent to. And if he didn‘t do the abortion, nobody would.
MATTHEWS: Will, why won‘t—why—I‘m going to ask you an obvious question, but I want an answer, a factual answer. Why won‘t most doctors, except for three in the country, perform late-term abortions?
SALETAN: Well, some of it is that they don‘t know technically how to do it. It‘s very complicated. A lot of it is personal morals. I have talked to doctors who perform abortions, believe devoutly in a woman‘s right to choose abortion, but will not perform abortions after a certain point. Each doctor has their own point. And they leave those last abortions that they won‘t do to doctors like Tiller.
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t they—I‘m just asking this, I don‘t make value judgments about people‘s personal decisions. Why don‘t people make the decision to deliver the baby, even if earlier than normally appropriate?
SALETAN: Well, these are very...
MATTHEWS: If these are people who late in term who decide not to have a baby, why don‘t they deliver the baby, if it‘s a medical problem?
SALETAN: It‘s very complicated. A lot of these are—some of them are you discover late you have a terrible complication with the baby. It is either going to die inside you, or it‘s going to die during delivery or shortly after delivery and have a miserable couple of hours. Then there are also cases...
MATTHEWS: Well, why can‘t any other doctor handle that kind of a situation? Why do you have to go to one of these three doctors, if that‘s the case? If it‘s a real medical problem, if the woman has a health concern, which is totally legal under Roe v. Wade, why can‘t other doctors honor that?
SALETAN: Well, at some point, you know, there—I mean, there are regulations in place that say if it‘s a viable pregnancy and it doesn‘t qualify for one of these things, you do have to deliver the baby. And sometimes there‘s something that‘s sort of a delivery and sort of an abortion, where you‘re—you‘re—you know, this is what the whole “born alive” procedure, the whole “partial-birth” debate was about. It‘s a very complicated situation at the end.
But in most of these cases, there‘s nothing good. I should say, there are cases where there‘s no real medical situation other than some teenager was in denial and it went on for five months, and there‘s not really a good explanation...
MATTHEWS: They were hiding from their father or hiding from their family.
SALETAN: Exactly. Exactly. And in those cases—those are the much trickier question, where the debate is, Should you make an exception because the so-called mental health of the girl is at stake?
MATTHEWS: Well, why don‘t they just have the baby at that point?
MATTHEWS: If there‘s no real health problem...
SALETAN: That‘s a debate about whether, you know, you want to have—
MATTHEWS: This is where it gets very difficult to make judgments and very difficult for people from one side to except the other side‘s view, right?
MATTHEWS: It‘s very hard. Let me go to a really great reporter. Ceci, I‘m not asking for your opinion, but I want to know what your reporting can be on this subject. This doctor is one of three in the country. He apparently gave a lot of money to politicians to support a woman‘s right to choose, a couple hundred thousand dollars, according to the records. He was well known to be a doctor who almost advertised this unique procedure, this late-term availability he had for this procedure of abortion. What else do we need to know about why he became—he certainly wasn‘t—he shouldn‘t have been the target of anybody in terms of violence, but how did he get in the crosshairs here?
CECI CONNOLLY, “WASHINGTON POST”: Well, a couple points, Chris, that you started to get at. One, why did he seem to be such a target? And I would add that I think that there are other doctors that perform abortions in this country, whether late-term or just the earlier, that are also targets of harassment. We know about other incidents of some sort of violence that has taken place at clinics. A number of these physicians have private security or also now U.S. Marshals that protect them. So several of them appear to be in some sort of danger themselves.
But particularly with Dr. Tiller—as you point out, he happened to also be a politically active advocate for abortion rights. Some of these other physicians I think maybe keep to themselves a little bit more. They don‘t take on a higher profile in terms of politics. He had his own political action committee. He did, in fact, give money to many candidates that are abortion rights candidates.
And in addition, Kansas has become something of a hotbed for this whole abortion debate. So there‘s really been a spotlight there.
I also just wanted to add in, in terms of your asking about why certain other doctors may not perform this procedure—of course, there are many that have their own moral reasons for it, but late-term abortion is prohibited in many states. Approximately three dozen states have state laws on the books that limit or prohibit this procedure. Even in Kansas, the law states that two doctors must agree that the procedure is medically necessary for the life of the woman. I believe the phrase in the law in Kansas has to do with “irreparable harm” to the woman‘s life. And so there are certainly additional legal hurdles that have to be cleared, and again, for many, that‘s just too much to wade into.
MATTHEWS: Yes, and also the law says they can‘t be—the second doctor giving that second opinion can‘t be someone who‘s on the take, if you will. They can‘t be somebody being paid by the first doctor in a way that would bring into question their independence.
I guess the question here is Roe v. Wade. And it comes back to that, Ceci and Will—the question is, people who are pro-choice salute Roe v. Wade, OK? They believe—and there‘s a difference between viability and non-viability. They believe that as close—if it—early in the term, you should have much more freedom, if you will, to make that choice entirely yourself. And as you get later in term, it should be more of a community decision in the sense that a doctor, in some cases with the support of another doctor, agrees with you that there‘s a real medical question here.
I guess I‘m trying to find a rational decision here where people can stick with Roe v. Wade, if they believe in it, honor it right through to the end, not just the beginning part, when they like the pro-choice part of it, but stick with it in the end, when they have to honor, as well, it seems to me, the judgment of doctors as a profession, not just on demand, if you will. It‘s a terrible phrase. But there has to be some conditions set here when you have a late-term abortion.
SALETAN: I think it‘s very important when we talk about that to be clear about what actually happens, as opposed to what could happen.
SALETAN: Under Roe v.—people always talk—say, Well, under Roe, you could go all the way to birth, you know? You could either—there are conditions where you—well, you have to understand what the numbers actually show. There is a voluntary system—even these doctors—we were sitting here, talking about doctors who won‘t do abortions past a certain point.
SALETAN: Under the voluntary system, there are voluntary private doctor-by-doctor, state-by-state limits on what people will actually do, so that the numbers go down precipitously. First of all, only 12 percent of the abortions in this country happen after the first trimester.
SALETAN: So you wipe out 88 percent of them. Of that, you‘re down to about 5 percent by 16 weeks. By the time you get up to about 20 or 21 weeks, you‘re down to 1, 1.5 percent of all the abortions in this country. You‘ve gone down from around a million...
SALETAN: ... to...
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s very good to know. I mean, people need to know these facts. Although in absolute numbers, that‘s still a lot of...
MATTHEWS: That‘s a lot of abortions.
SALETAN: It is, but it‘s dramatically reduced.
MATTHEWS: Right. Let me ask Ceci on the political front here—let‘s switch from the morality and the law to the political thing. Is there a reignited anti-abortion move at the extremes that lead to violence in this case?
CONNOLLY: Well, it looks sitting here today, Chris, to be still a very small fringe element of the anti-abortion movement. The vast majority of statements that have come out since yesterday, from both abortion rights supporters and abortion opponents, have been sympathy and denouncing this murder. There have been a very small number that have suggested, in effect, Well, he deserved it, he had blood on his hands. But I think that that still is a very narrow slice of that community as we sit here today.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s good.
MATTHEWS: Can I render a judgment? That‘s good...
SALETAN: Sure you can.
MATTHEWS: ... because if you support murder, you support murder.
SALETAN: Right. I mean...
MATTHEWS: That‘s what it is.
SALETAN: Yes. And...
SALETAN: Look, in a way, this is a gut check. This moment is a gut
check. What this guy did was he treated George Tiller like he was a baby
killer, a real baby killer, not an abortionist. If you really believe that
you know, that abortion is the taking of a life, like killing babies, then this guy is a mass murderer, and that‘s what Randall Terry and other people have said. But...
MATTHEWS: Except—let me go back because I‘m a citizen of the United States, OK, and I keep reminding people I listen to and talk to that I‘m a citizen and so are they.
MATTHEWS: There‘s such a thing as the law.
MATTHEWS: OK? Abortion is not murder under the law, certainly not within the confines and with respect to Roe v. Wade.
MATTHEWS: So you can‘t just throw words like that around. You can say it yourself in a moral sense, but legally, you can‘t call it...
SALETAN: If you meant that the law was unjust and that this was murder and unrecognized by the authorities...
MATTHEWS: In other words, you‘re a revolutionary.
SALETAN: Yes, that you‘d do something like this crazy guy.
SALETAN: But every major pro-life organization has come out against this and said this is wrong. I think that is a gut check. I think that is a statement that to them...
MATTHEWS: Does that surprise you, Will, that these...
MATTHEWS: ... groups, the far...
SALETAN: Politically, no, but morally, I think it exposes a concession that this is not literally murder, that we are not to treat it literally like murder.
MATTHEWS: You know, I always ask people, Ceci, you know, rhetorically
not just rhetorically, but, When you say it‘s murder, as opposed to killing—you say “murder,” that‘s a legal term. And you start using terms like that, do you really think a woman, for example, should go to penitentiary for having an abortion performed on her? Do you think a person should serve any time for that? And inevitably, the answer is no. So there is a kind of an intellectual break point here, isn‘t there? And I think it is clearly in effect today in the aftermath of this murder.
MATTHEWS: I‘m just talking...
SALETAN: And none of these pro-life organizations—not a single bill that they have proposed has ever had a penalty for the woman who procures the abortion.
MATTHEWS: Why not?
SALETAN: Because they don‘t literally believe that she is a murderer.
MATTHEWS: But they believe who is—who commits the murder then?
SALETAN: Well, it‘s a contract hit, if you want to use that—that...
MATTHEWS: But then, if that‘s true, then she should be guilty, too.
SALETAN: Exactly. But they don‘t propose it...
MATTHEWS: If you believe that logic.
SALETAN: Right. Just...
MATTHEWS: I think people are very troubled—let me just say my little editorial for action (ph) here. It‘s a very troubling issue, and the simplicity of the issue to me is hard to find. And I think these late-term issues are very difficult morally, and I never want to put myself in somebody else‘s shoes. And there are situations, and I‘ve heard them defined to me all day today, that are very troubling, why a woman would seek an abortion in late term. And we‘re going to have to let some other people judge those moral questions because all we can do here is honor the law, and this doctor was obeying the law. He had been acquitted in court. And this should not have happened. This is a tragedy for everybody.
And thank you very much, Ceci Connolly. Good luck covering health care.
CONNOLLY: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I‘m going to be calling you again and again on that one because that‘s affecting millions and millions of people. Ceci Connolly is covering the bit health care debate for “The Washington Post.” And Will Saletan, one of the good guys in the blogosphere. Coming up—actually, you‘re better than the blogosphere. You‘re on line.
Coming up: The once mighty General Motors files for bankruptcy, for Chapter 11. GM is now “Government Motors” as American taxpayers kick in another—God! -- $30 billion on top of the $20 billion. We are into this auto industry as taxpayers and debtors, basically. We‘re borrowing money to invest in an industry that‘s not doing well. We‘ll be right back with the GM chairman and a very smart guy, Dan Neil, who thinks we may all be in for the trouble that GM‘s gotten us into—Los Angeles columnist Dan Neil. We‘ll be back with HARDBALL with two smart guys to talk about that building and where it‘s headed.
You‘re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. General Motors became the largest U.S. industrial company to file for bankruptcy today. The one-time automotive giant is cutting 21,000 jobs, closing 21 -- well, 2,600 car dealerships, and the federal government now has a 60 percent stake in GM. It‘s now “Government Motors,” in many ways, after infusing a total of 50 billion big ones into the company to keep it going.
Kent Kresa is the interim chairman of the board for General Motors. He joins us right now to start. Mr. Kresa, the automotive industry—we‘re also joined right now by “LA Times” columnist Dan Neil. He wrote of GM today, “Its executive leadership was myopic and insular, its board packed with thumb-twiddling cronies. If corporate mismanagement were a crime, you could lock up every one of these guys and throw the key in the Detroit River.” Dan Neil, you‘re a tough guy.
Let me start with the guy responsible for saving this company, Mr. Kresa. At some point in the 1970s, people stopped thinking the Japanese producers produced junk and decided or began to decide they produced quality and they began to buy Toyotas, and they got their reputation in that company for producing a car that would last pretty much a long, long time, whereas American car dealers had been producing planned obsolescence for years.
Is that the problem, that we went the wrong way? We produced cars that were meant to self-destruct in a couple years, and the Japanese got the point, No, people want cars that last?
KENT KRESA, INTERIM GM CHAIRMAN: I don‘t think it‘s exactly the point, but clearly, the Japanese did a fantastic job in working very hard on quality. That‘s where they made their major contribution. The cars did last longer. It took a while for the rest of the world, the U.S. included, to come up to their quality standards. I think the whole world is now—has very, very high quality cars that they‘re producing, and I don‘t think that‘s an issue anymore between them and anybody else.
MATTHEWS: You know, when I was a kid, when you were a kid, we waited for the new cars to come out every fall, and they‘d be called by the next year coming but they‘d be—the 2010 would come out in September of ‘09, and we were thrilled by that. And everybody in the neighborhood—if a parent bought a new station wagon or something up in my neighborhood in Philly, you went nuts over it. Everybody paid attention to the car. They couldn‘t wait to get in the car and smell it. There was an excitement about the cars. They were sexy. They were wild.
People just—we were a GM family, by the way. It was always an Impala or a Yeoman (ph), even bottom-of-the-line station wagons. We bought them all our lives. In fact, we were like a religious—it was like being Catholic. You were committed to GM.
What happened to that love of the American car- the American car?
KRESA: I don‘t know. I simply remember...
MATTHEWS: You don‘t know? Isn‘t that the problem.
KRESA: ... all of the things that you do.
MATTHEWS: Shouldn‘t you know?
KRESA: Well, you know, the world developed a lot of very good cars. People had many more choices than they had just when it was the big three in America. And there were many different offerings. People got involved with many different brands, and as a result, it lost some of that luster, particularly for the American car companies.
MATTHEWS: Yes, and for the kids, too. The kids usually—it‘s like the kids root for the sexy cars, and their parents end up buying them. You wonder where it starts from, you know, the love affair.
But you know exactly what I‘m talking about. It‘s like sports teams. It‘s all about American dream and the American notion of getting in that car and getting out there on your own. We don‘t really love mass transit in this country. We love cars. And I hope it comes back.
Let me ask you about this. When you guys out there figure out a way -
and I know you have been in other industries, like Northrop, and done a great job turning them around—when you—when the auto industry decides, well, we‘re going to have the minivan, and Chrysler says, that‘s going to save us, and we‘re going to do the SUV and it ways X-many tons, and that‘s going to save us, and then you go out there and sell the damn thing, and everybody has got an urban defense vehicle—it makes them feel safe.
They lock the doors. They‘re eight feet above everybody else in traffic. I get it. You sell it. You—we buy it. But is that the goodest idea, the best idea, or do the Japanese have a better model, which is, build a car that will last; don‘t be—don‘t be too caught up in what the fashion is this week, because, two years from now, that car will be rusting or it will be gone in fashion, and they will still be better off owning that Toyota?
Were we wrong in the way we set this deal up?
KRESA: I think—no, no, we‘re not.
First thing is that people have to be excited about their cars. I think most people are. They love their car, whatever it is. It is—because it gives everybody the mobility that they really want.
KRESA: We have to make sure we—we build cars and trucks that people really want. That‘s the first thing.
We also have to build in quality. Quality is an essential part of this. People do want their cars to last longer. And, even if they don‘t want them, they want them to be really good used cars, so that they can sell them...
KRESA: ... to other people for them to use.
So, the fact that we have good quality is an absolute essential. Both things are important. Both things must come through for—for people to buy a new car.
And I would say that the biggest concern that we all have is, we have got to make sure that we can build more efficient cars, more efficient trucks, with—with even higher mileage than they are now, and still keep them sexy, and still keep them...
KRESA: ... that people want to drive them and everybody is happy driving them.
MATTHEWS: How did you get to work today? What car did you drive?
KRESA: I drove a CTS, Cadillac. Love it.
MATTHEWS: Is that—is that your favorite? Is that your favorite?
KRESA: Oh, I don‘t know. It depends. I—I love a Corvette. I love the new Malibu. There‘s just great things. And I can‘t wait to get in a Camaro. I haven‘t done that since I was a kid.
MATTHEWS: OK, great. Camaro, Malibu, and a good old Cadillac.
Thank you very much, sir.
MATTHEWS: Good luck with the company. It‘s—we have got a lot riding on you. We have got 50 big ones riding on your success, sir.
Thank you, Mr. Kent Kresa, who is chairman of the board of GM.
KRESA: We‘re working on it.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, sir, for coming in tonight.
Dan Neil is an automotive columnist.
What struck a lot of our producers around here—and me, too—was your fore—forebodings. And I want you to repeat them, because you said that things that are wrong with GM—and they are patently wrong—the inability to innovate. Hey, let‘s face it. Steve Jobs isn‘t running the place out there. Bill Gates ain‘t running. And the sharpies out in the Silicon Valley aren‘t running that place. Or even the movie industry seems a little hotter than this crowd.
Quote: “If mighty GM can fail, can not also the United States? And the answer is, absolutely. This is the lesson of GM‘s bankruptcy. It‘s a rebuff of the notion of exceptionalism. Any organization that fails to sufficiently safeguard its means of self-correction and reform, that forsakes long-term investment for short-term gain, that piles up debt year after year, will eventually fail, no matter how grand its history or noble its purpose. If you don‘t feel the tingle of national mortality in all this, you‘re not paying attention.”
Want to develop that thought, Dan, the thought that GM is a model of the United States right now?
DAN NEIL, AUTOMOTIVE COLUMNIST, “THE LOS ANGELES TIMES”: Well, that‘s
that was just brilliant. Nice reading, too.
NEIL: The—here is the thing.
The fundamentals of General Motors and the fundamentals of the United States are both pointing in the—the same directions. You know, General Motors was, in fact, a vast welfare state. You know, it had generations of people on its—on its rolls as retirees, health care, all the things it did for its people.
Now, the United States, similarly, is overindebted. It—and it‘s not just social welfare, but corporate welfare and military welfare. Obviously, we are living beyond our means. We have also failed to innovate as—governmentally.
And I think it‘s clear is, what‘s happened in the past election is
that people have stepped forward to say, yes, we really need to reform our
our—our means of government, the way we steer the ship, because, if you don‘t, to the—the voters‘ credit, I think they saw us hitting an iceberg very similar to the one that General Motors hit, only much larger.
Dan, can you take the model that seems to work with Google, with Apple, with all the hot-shot high-tech companies, the model that seems to work with Bloomberg in New York, which is a fascinating company, the way they work, and they work in like a food court, where nobody has an office, and everybody works together, and everybody is thinking and moving, and the nervous energy of the company is so amazing—can you take that nervous energy of excitement and come up with an idea, even in Hollywood, when they‘re always thinking of new ideas—well, sometimes—coming up with new ideas—can you take that model of excitement and put it into old Detroit up in Bloomfield Hills, up in Grosse Pointe?
Are they all caught up in their country clubs and which dining room do they eat in? Can you break into that world we‘re looking at right there, and make it hip and modern, so it can catch up to the Germans, the Japanese, and now the Koreans?
NEIL: Well, first of all, I don‘t believe that many executives at GM are taking the three-hour martini lunch anymore.
And the—the—the most appalling thing of the—the—the Big Three executives showing up in Congress last year on their jets was that it was such a case of misdirection.
You know, the—the companies are actually—the executive staff are not overcompensated. What they get paid is tip money compared to bank executive. So, that‘s really not the problem.
And, also, Google and Bloomberg, they‘re not big diversified industrial companies with huge investments in physical plants. You know, it‘s a little bit different kind of model.
But I think that, when—as GM comes through this bankruptcy, it will be a purifying fire. They are going to get rid of a lot of debt. They are going to get a lot of—rid of a lot of dead weight that they were sort of contractually obliged to keep on board until bankruptcy.
NEIL: So, one of the things that‘s coming out of this is that GM is going to be a much leaner and, I think, a much smarter, hungrier company. And if I were Ford or Toyota, I might be looking at this, thinking, gee, you know, these guys could be scary.
MATTHEWS: Yes, they would be better off losing the Saab, I think. That‘s probably a smart move. I‘m not sure I like seeing Pontiac go away, but the Saab, I think we could live with it. I‘m sorry.
NEIL: Oh, that‘s terrible. You‘re—no, they‘re great.
MATTHEWS: Bad wheels. They can‘t handle potholes.
NEIL: They‘re cool.
MATTHEWS: Oh, you elitist.
NEIL: And—and they‘re...
MATTHEWS: ... elitist.
NEIL: Of course. Of course. And—and they‘re built in Germany, you know, Russelsheim, Germany.
The shame of it is, the rough justice of the bankruptcy is, you know, we‘re getting rid of Opel, and—or GM is getting rid of Opel, which sells cars...
NEIL: ... to Saturn, and they‘re...
NEIL: They‘re two very good divisions.
MATTHEWS: OK. Cadillac survives. So does the Camaro, and so does the Corvette.
Thank you very much, Dan Neil.
Up next: President and Mrs. Obama go to New York and take in a show, but the Republicans don‘t seem to like it. They‘re raining on their little parade. They go out for one day, and this phony outrage—next in the “Sideshow.” What a jealous little political party, the Republicans have become.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
Time for the “Sideshow.”
I don‘t think the Republicans get it yet. The problem many of us had with President Bush was not that he was any less intelligent than most presidents, or certainly not most journalists. God gave him brains. It was his utter disdain, George Bush‘s utter disdain for any kind of thought or culture, his total lack of curiosity toward anything beyond his own backyard.
And here goes the Republican Party that should have learned a lesson from this experience, taking a cheap shot at what the voters chose last November, a president, excuse me for saying this, with interests.
You can see Michelle and Barack Obama there returning from their night out in the Big Apple on Saturday night. The first couple dined at the West Village‘s Blue Hill restaurant and took in a Broadway show, “Joe Turner‘s Come and Gone,” about black America in the early 20th century.
The president was making good on a campaign promise—that‘s how he put it—the one he made to his wife, one that Republicans were all too ready to pounce on.
The day after Obama‘s dream date to New York, the Republican National Committee put out this e-mail, “Putting on a Show,” they called it, calling out the Obamas for jetting away at taxpayers‘ expense.
An RNC spokesman piled on, adding—quote—“If President Obama wants to go to the theater, isn‘t the presidential box at the Kennedy Center good enough?”
Let‘s get this straight. President Bush‘s jaunts to Crawford, Texas, were OK, by their lights, but President Obama‘s day trips to New York are cause for outrage?
This is the kind of pissant criticism that makes you wonder why Michael Steele still has his job. Is this jealousy or simply nincompoop anti-intellectualism? Whatever it is, I like having a president who takes his wife up to Broadway.
Up next: Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania—now, he would take his wife to Broadway—is considering a primary challenge to Senator Arlen Specter. He can take the train. But now Pennsylvania‘s Governor Ed Rendell is warning Sestak, do not run. Will he challenge Specter anyway?
Joe Sestak joins us next on HARDBALL.
You‘re watching it, only on MSNBC.
MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Mary Thompson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks rallying, as investors shrugged off GM‘s filing for bankruptcy protection, which had been expected for weeks. The Dow soared 221 points. The S&P 500 gained 23, and the Nasdaq finished up 54.
Helping to fuel the rally, positive data on manufacturing—an index of manufacturing activity shrank less than forecasts in, May thanks to improving orders at the nation‘s factories.
Also, construction spending rose a surprising eight-tenths-of-a-percent in April. That includes all types of buildings. And economists had expected a decline.
In the meantime, oil prices rose sharply, crude gaining $2.27, to close at $68.58 a barrel.
And General Motors and Citigroup are being dropped from the Dow Jones industrial average. They will be replaced next month by tech giant Cisco Systems and by the insurance company Travelers. Cisco jumped 5 percent on the news. Travelers shares rose 3 percent.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back that HARDBALL.
Well, the newest Democratic senator, Pennsylvania‘s Arlen Specter, has the blessing of President Obama, Vice President Biden, Governor Rendell of Pennsylvania, and many other national and state party leaders, but will he get a primary challenge from his colleague, U.S. Congressman Joe Sestak?
Who better to ask than Joe Sestak himself, the admiral himself, three-star Admiral Joe Sestak, who has served this country with distinction?
A Clinton kind of guy, worked in the Clinton White House, was very supportive of the president, enjoys the support of the Clinton family. Would you have that support if you were to run for the Senate, the Clintons behind you, Congressman?
REP. JOE SESTAK (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I—you know, I have not spoken to the president since this all came about, after the Specter announcement. And nor would I reach out to him and ever think that I should be able to place anyone in an awkward position. So, I really don‘t know.
That said, I think without a doubt that it‘s not who endorses anyone, nor do I think it‘s going to matter of who supports whom in the end—and I say that with a lot of feeling and belief that this issue that‘s got to be decided is going to be one that I think eventually turns on the issue of new ideas, the new type of energy, and the kind of accountability that I‘m not sure that someone who has a history of four decades in—in another party being given to us is going to be able to convince Pennsylvania he‘s the right one through 2016.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at Governor Rendell.
He was here on our network on Friday on “The Ed Show.” Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE ED SHOW”)
GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Joe should not run for the Senate in the Democratic primary. He‘d get killed. And let me tell you why he‘d get killed.
Number one, Arlen Specter has been going around Pennsylvania for three decades as the senator. Number two, Arlen Specter will raise two, three, four times as much money as Joe Sestak. Number three, Arlen Specter has the support of the president and the vice president, a president who‘s got a 90 percent approval rating among registered Democrats in Pennsylvania.
Joe Sestak does not want to be one of the candidates who ran against Bob Casey in the Democratic primary, when the whole governmental establishment was for Bob Casey.
ED SCHULTZ, HOST: Sure.
RENDELL: He doesn‘t want to be marginalized. He doesn‘t want to get 15, 18 percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You hear that, Congressman? He couldn‘t be more blunt. He‘s basically warning you you‘re going to get killed. I mean, I‘ve never heard it put so strongly by our friend, Ed Rendell. I mean, he‘s a good friend of Arlen Specter‘s. Specter gave him his first job as assistant DA in Philly. They‘re neighbors. They‘re friends.
By the way, look at the latest Quinnipiac poll in Pennsylvania. It has Specter beating you 50 to 21.
You know, he is going to be 80 next year. He‘s going into his sixth term, if he serves another term. What is your case against Specter, besides he‘s been a Republican all his life and what else? What do you have against him besides that?
SESTAK: No, I have nothing against Arlen. I actually respect his history. It‘s had some good spots in it in the past. As far as Ed Rendell, it was interesting—I imagine you could have substituted in there, instead of Joe Sestak, Barack Obama.
Actually, you could have substituted Ed Rendell in those words. Remember how he ran as anti-establishment against Bob Casey, down about 20-some points, and actually overtook him.
And polls, they‘re a snapshot in time. I‘m sure you saw the one today that said of the primary voters, the Democrats that are going to vote, 63 percent will vote for someone else, the Susquehanna poll that just came out, if that other individual is credible and they get to know him or her.
My take on this is it isn‘t anything about Arlen. And it‘s not even anymore about the Democratic political establishment in Washington, DC trying to anoint somebody again, as they are trying in New York state. In my mind it‘s now about the future. Do you think that someone who derailed health care plans, someone who voted for Alito, someone who pushed and shepherded Clarence Thomas through, someone who has actually voted for the war and the Bush tax cuts, is that the type of individual you want with you in the foxhole through 2016? Or is it—
MATTHEWS: You have just made the point. You have set up the question. This guy created the modern conservative court. He created the court that replaced the Warren court, single handedly, practically, with the exception of Bork. He voted for all these guys, put them in there, supported every ounce of the war policy of this administration from the beginning to the end; totally with Cheney from the beginning to the end; a Republican on all the key issues, including the economic issues right down the line. Are you going to run against him?
SESTAK: Yes, I am personally there that I want to enter this race. But you remember, Chris, when you were making your own deliberations that family really becomes the last step. I have talked with them over the last weeks, and we‘re going to be sitting down over the next month plus and just making sure we‘re all in this together. I cannot take Alex, my eight-year-old, out to Allegheny County and then to Adams county for the parades like I did in Springfield the last week.
We‘ll make this final decision together. I have to tell you something, when I heard the governor speak—and you walk around like I did Philadelphia today, it just says, wait a moment, that‘s kind of like saying the small guy doesn‘t have an opportunity. So that actually just moves me more into this race. I think the debate of ideas has to be had, not just what Arlen didn‘t do in the past, because I think that‘s as amiss as what he voted against, the kind of Democratic ideals.
It‘s how is he—like GM, how is he going to be the same model car and actually going to help us retool our future in the budget he voted against? President Obama‘s budget. And so that‘s kind of I think where the fight will be. I think it will be a great fight on the ideas.
MATTHEWS: So if you don‘t run, the only reason you won‘t run is that your family was against it.
SESTAK: Yes, and to be honest with you—
MATTHEWS: That‘s the only reason.
SESTAK: I can‘t think of anything else. I have been through all this. I‘ve thought it through. And this is something that‘s very important to us independent Pennsylvanians, that we have a choice, not an appointment by somebody.
MATTHEWS: Let me give you some advice. You run for the Senate. You lose your house seat forever. You won‘t be a Congressman anymore.
SESTAK: Yes, but, Chris, think about this—
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t that something you‘d rather be, a Congressman rather than somebody who lost a race for the Senate.
SESTAK: Chris, I have done everything I wanted to do in the world. I commanded a ship. I got to work in the National Security Council. That‘s all I wanted to do when I graduated from the Naval Academy. Then my daughter had her malignant brain tumor. This was merely payback for giving us Tri-Care in the military, that she had a chance to be who she is today.
I can let the chips fall a little bit easier than everyone else. The only disappointment to me will be I worked for 700,000 great citizens of the Seventh District of Pennsylvania. They—I will miss them if I lose. But I wouldn‘t get into this if I didn‘t think I could prevail at the end. It‘s not about holding a seat or having your time come. It‘s about principle at times. And that‘s the only reason I got into politics. I cannot in my mind, unless my family says back away from this, it‘s principle.
MATTHEWS: That‘s very patriotic of you to say. And I root for you, whatever decision you make. You have a great brother. Richard spent two hours bending my ear out in Los Angeles recently. He is your best supporter, as you know. Good luck with your decision. I hope you make the right one for the interests of your family, but also for the country, because fundamentally I‘m a big believer in democracy, and I really do believe voters like to go into that booth with a choice.
SESTAK: I agree.
MATTHEWS: No matter what anybody else, including my friend Eddie Rendell. They do like to have a choice confronting them. It‘s kind of dumb to walk into the room just to verify somebody else‘s decision. I say that with respect to the governor. Anyway, Congressman Joe Sestak, make the right decision.
Up next, will the murder of a doctor who performed late-term abortions reignite the culture wars in this country? The politics fix is next. This is HARDBALL, on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. Time for the politics fix with “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman, and the “Washington Post‘s” Pulitzer Prize winning Eugene Robinson, both MSNBC political analyst.
Let‘s talk about this—we all grew up with this in our later years, which is the fight over culture and values in this country. Now it‘s come to violence. George Tiller, a doctor who is well known in the country for performing late term abortions, killed at church. He‘s an usher at a Lutheran church. He was shot down. As we like to say in Cowboy movies and murder movies, cold blood, right in broad daylight.
We have a suspect in custody. We can make our own judgments, but let‘s leave that for the law enforcement people right now.
Is this opening up the fight again? After Notre Dame, after all this heat about Sotomayor.
EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: My guess is that this is a one off. I guess that‘s my hope. And that this doesn‘t reignite the whole fundamental battle about abortion. I think there‘s no consensus, really, that‘s universal on abortion. But as a country I think we‘ve reached a point where abortion is—years and years after Roe v Wade, abortion is here.
MATTHEWS: But late term?
ROBINSON: There is still a conflict over late term, what you mean by late term, why late term, wife of the mother, protect the life of the mother, protect the health of the mother? Those are things still being worked out.
MATTHEWS: Howard, you know the issue. There are two iconic notions. One is a young girl or a woman who finds that she‘s pregnant and she doesn‘t want to have the child; most people say that‘s her call. Very simply put. When you get into late term, when you have a child develop, when a baby says, my baby is kicking me—we‘ve all been through this. We know when it‘s in a mature state. Three guys here talking about it, by the way. It‘s always tricky, to say the least.
Most people have real problems with that morally. Doctors have a problem with it. It‘s politically tricky. In this case, George Tiller put the sign up. I do these things.
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”: He‘s allowed to do that under Roe v.
Wade, if you read the decision.
MATTHEWS: If the health of the mother is in danger.
FINEMAN: Right. If the health of the mother is in danger, that‘s what they wrote in that decision. A few things, over the years, and especially lately, if you believe the Gallup poll, more people identify themselves as, quote, pro-life. Over the last ten years there‘s been rhetorical progress made on the part of people who are pushing the pro-life view. That‘s number one.
MATTHEWS: What does that mean now?
FINEMAN: Well, that‘s the point. It‘s become a generalized good feel phrase that it didn‘t used to be. So they have some success in that regard, number one. Number two—
MATTHEWS: By the way, my dad used to say, I‘m pro-life, but it‘s up to the woman.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But Roe v. Wade as a decision—I‘m a lawyer. I have read lots and lots of cases. This case has never been fully accepted as legitimate by everybody in this country. There are some states, only a few, that basically are disregarding Roe.
FINEMAN: To what effect? They allow abortion in the third trimester only to save the life of the mother.
MATTHEWS: Not the health.
FINEMAN: That is manifestly narrow than what Roe v. Wade said. But that original expansive ruling of Roe V. Wade has been narrowed by practice. Also, doctors are either morally—they don‘t want to do a third trimester or they are scared.
MATTHEWS: rMD+IN_rMDNM_By the way, I think the first is probably more prevalent. But the fear factor is probably there.
MATTHEWS: But this issue of the mother‘s health, the woman‘s health who had the baby potentially, that situation clearly is at the heart of every court decision. The Nebraska case, every time we talk about partial birth, every time when this issue comes up, it‘s whether—if it doesn‘t protect her health, Sandra Day O‘Connor would not support the bill.
MATTHEWS: There was a Freudian mistake. Vote for the bill. Approve
ROBINSON: You know, the question is, OK, how do you define the mother‘s health?
MATTHEWS: Will the masters of the cloth hall sitting in front of me, the Dutch masters, do you guys believe this is a narrow situation. This isn‘t part of a conflagration, what happened yesterday?
FINEMAN: Especially because the economy and other things like that are taking precedence over this as a political issue.
MATTHEWS: I think same-sex has replaced it as sort of the hot burner cultural question for a lot of people. We will be right back. They are very different. Howard Fineman and—young people look at them very differently, by the way. They are much more pro-life in sentiment, very pro-same sex marriage in sentiment, young people. Not this group.
Eugene Robinson, Howard Fineman and me coming back with the politics fix.s. We‘ll talk about Judge Sotomayor and her case for the nomination to the Supreme Court. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Howard Fineman and Eugene Robinson for more of the politics fix. My hunch, Gene and Howard, is that the Republicans don‘t want to talk about identity politics. The Democrats do. The Democrats want people to think there‘s a woman here; there‘s an Hispanic woman here, a Latina here. Don‘t mess with her. Republicans say, no there‘s an activist here.
ROBINSON: Yes, it‘s—I think that‘s a dynamic that‘s been developing. But I think in the end, she‘s going to go up to the hill. She‘s going to have her courtesy. And she‘s going to wow them.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Why do you think that? Because she wowed the president?
ROBINSON: Yes, because she wowed the president. Because when—what you hear about that meeting is that she‘s dynamic and charismatic in person in a way that I think will be infectious.
MATTHEWS: I haven‘t had my hour meeting with her yet, Gene. I‘m not yet impressed. I find her somewhat opaque. As a citizen, I find her opaque and still a mystery person. I don‘t know whether she‘s tough, feisty, obnoxious, or really has some juice in her that people are going to like, like a Judge Judy personality, that they‘re going to like.
FINEMAN: Well, this is all speculation, because she hasn‘t—tomorrow she‘s beginning the rounds of seeing the senators. But what I‘m told is by people on the Hill that there almost certainly will not be a filibuster by the Republicans, but most of them are going to vote against her anyway.
MATTHEWS: Most of 40?
FINEMAN: Yes, there‘s 40. In other words, the way I hear it, 30 of 40 will vote against her just on general principle because she‘s too, for want of a better word, liberal. That‘s the way it‘s going to be. But they are not going to make a huge, dramatic stand against her for the reasons that you were saying.
MATTHEWS: I think 24 will vote against her. I think 24. The other 16 will vote for her.
ROBINSON: I would say 21.
MATTHEWS: Well, it matters. I think the White House would like to get her at least as many votes as John Roberts. John Roberts got 20 Democratic votes.
MATTHEWS: Last time they went after a woman candidate for the Supreme Court nominee, they got in trouble. Not a candidate, a witness, Anita Hill. Number two, there are a lot of Hispanics in this country, more than almost any other group. They are growing and growing and growing. If you want a long term career in American politics, don‘t offend that group.
FINEMAN: That‘s what I‘m saying. They‘re going to vote against her quietly.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. We won‘t let her. We won‘t let them.
Howard Fineman, let‘s make some noise. We‘re banging the drums if they vote against her. Howard Fineman, Eugene—just kidding. Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.” He‘ll beat the drum. Ed Schultz is coming up.
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