Guests: Melissa Rehberger, Chuck Todd, Mike Viqueira, Rep. Mike Rogers, Larry Sabato, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Charlie Cook, Joan Walsh, Susan Page
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Violence from the right.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Los Angeles. Leading off tonight: atmosphere of hate. By now, you‘ve heard the details. An elderly gunman who was associated with white supremacists and with a history of anti-semitism opened fire inside the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, killing a security guard.
But as President Bush used to say in another regard, Don‘t make the mistake of looking at this as an isolated crime. At its heart, this was a political act. It has come among other political acts. In the past two weeks, we‘ve seen the abortion doctor, George Tiller, murdered in Wichita and the fatal murder of a military recruiter in Little Rock. Something‘s happening here, to quote a ‘60s lyric, and what it is isn‘t exactly clear. But temperatures are rising in that extreme political back alley of this country. We‘ll talk to U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers, who‘s a member of the Intelligence Committee and a former FBI agent himself, in just a minute.
Also, bad day for Bill‘s guy. Last night, Creigh Deeds pummeled Bill Clinton‘s money guy, Terry McAuliffe, to win Virginia‘s Democratic gubernatorial primary. It‘s a huge embarrassment for team Clinton and sets up a November showdown that will be seen as a referendum on President Obama and the Republicans. We‘ll cut to the inside of that one with NBC News chief White House correspondent and political director Chuck Todd.
Plus: Nobody knows his name. Who speaks for the Republican Party? A new “USAToday” Gallup poll says nobody. With 52 percent, nobody‘s winning. After that, it‘s RNC, as in Rush, Newt and Cheney. That was Howard Fineman‘s number, by the way, the RNC, Rush Newt and Cheney. The brilliant Charlie Cook and former McCain campaign adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin both join us to break down the GOP breakdown.
Later in the “Politics Fix” tonight, we‘ll take a closer look at the politics of hate and whether we‘re looking at something big here.
And on a much lighter note, David Letterman had some fun at Sarah Palin‘s expense last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”: And number two, bought make-up at Bloomingdale‘s to update her slutty flight attendant look.
LETTERMAN: And the number one highlight of Sarah Palin‘s trip to New York, especially enjoyed not appearing on Letterman. Well, there you go!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Sarah Palin‘s response, which you might imagine, is coming in the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight.
But we begin tonight with the latest on this shooting at the Holocaust Museum with NBC News‘s Mike Viqueira. Mike, you‘re on site right now. Give us the full sense of what the feeling is about this horror today, where the security guard was killed and this guy who did the killing is a white supremacist.
MIKE , NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, that‘s right, Chris. According to NBC‘s Pete Williams, our Justice Department—this was a gentleman named James Wenneker von Brunn. He was born in 1920. He‘s from close by here, on Maryland‘s Eastern Shore. And as you pointed out in the open, he‘s got a history of white supremacist activities on the Internet and elsewhere.
At 12:50, 10 minutes before 1:00 today, according to police, he approached the doors of the Holocaust Museum here on 14th Street in Washington, D.C., with a rifle quite prevalent. He was immediately engaged by two security guards but not before he fired a shot that turned out to be fatal. One of those security guards has died. The shooter himself, von Brunn, is now, we suspect, at a local hospital, we suspect George Washington University Hospital just up the street here.
The Holocaust Museum located here amid the monuments, amid many of the agencies, next to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, across the street from the Department of Agriculture, just less than a mile from the Capitol in that direction, the White House in this direction.
Chris, I talked to a number of eyewitnesses here, people who were inside the museum. One individual, an elderly gentleman from Florida, a tourist visiting with his wife, said he saw somebody laying halfway on the sidewalk, halfway in the door. Apparently, von Brunn, the purported suspect, did not fully enter before he was engaged, apparently did not have to go through any of the metal detectors. It happened just that quickly, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, Mike, it‘s so horrible to say it on a day like this, but it‘s one of the most state-of-the-art, best museums I‘ve ever been in. It‘s so evocative of the horror of the last century of what happened in the Holocaust.
This is a political act here by this gentleman, this guy named von Brunn. Do we know much about him? I‘ve heard he has a Web site which is very anti-semitic. He‘s a white racist. He also hates Catholics. It‘s the classic KKK syndrome of hatred. Is there any other aspect to this we might be missing in the first look?
VIQUEIRA: Well, there are reports this individual was arrested at one point at the Federal Reserve, outside a board of governors meeting many years ago, with weapons on him. So obviously, someone on the fringes of society, Chris.
You mentioned the Holocaust Museum. There‘s some 1.7 million visitors a year. It‘s one of the most popular, if that‘s the right word for it, places for tourists to go. And this is the high tourist season. We talked to any number of people, a mother and her daughter who were inside the museum, and it‘s shocking. And what they told me was that, you know, they‘re there, they‘re taking in this solemn atmosphere. Everybody‘s heard about the display of all the shoes that were recovered from many of the concentration camps that are there, displayed in a case, the thousands of shoes. It really strikes people, really sets people back.
And then in the middle of that, to be exposed to such hatred, according to this mother and daughter visiting from Austin, Texas, was something that they just almost couldn‘t fathom and they had to take some time to get their arms around.
But it‘s the high tourist season here. There are school groups at the end of high school and junior high here with their chaperones. And it‘s almost heartbreaking to see this kind of event happen here in the nation‘s capital while it‘s being visited by so many people who come here because they‘re proud of their country and they want to see all these monuments that the Holocaust Museum is situated right in the midst of.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mike. Hang in there. We want to say a word about the man who died today, Stephen Tyrone Johns. What a courageous man doing his duty, a six-year veteran of guarding the Holocaust Museum. He was killed—there he is, the gentleman who died defending a couple thousand young people in that museum today, who God knows what would have happened if he hadn‘t stopped the assailant today, Mr. von Brunn. That man was a hero today, and he‘s gone because of the bad guy.
Let‘s bring in U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan. He sits on the Select Intelligence Committee. He‘s a member of the—a former member of the FBI, and he knows that culture. Congressman, what do we know about this? Here‘s something I want to quote to you, sir, before we get started. This is what was on the Web site. “In 1981, von Brunn attempted to place the” poisonous—or the treasurer—the “treasonous Federal Reserve board of governors under legal, nonviolent citizen‘s arrest.” This is how this guy portrays his exploits. He was tried in a Washington, D.C., superior court, convicted by a, quote—these are his words—“Negro jury, by Jew Negro attorneys, and sentenced to prison for 11 years by a Jew judge. A Jew Negro white court of appeals denied him his appeal. He served 6.5 years in federal prison.”
So there‘s a hater, obviously, who‘s got all kinds of attitudes about ethnic groups in our country. Clearly, he fits the bill of the KKK type. What else do we know about him, sir?
REP. MIKE ROGERS ®, MICHIGAN: Well, we don‘t know yet if he‘s acted
alone or with someone else. And what—the investigation and how it‘ll
unfold—and by the way, this is why the FBI takes, even today, white
supremacy so seriously, because they have such a violent side to their
behavior. They‘ll go to his home. They‘ll make sure that they check his
records, his computers, everything associated with him, to make sure that
this was a guy that just got tipped over the edge and acted on his violent
his violent inclinations.
And that‘s really the key. It‘s too early to tell many—the early indications is he‘s acted alone. He reached that point of frustration. And if you realize the last time he tried to do something at the Federal Reserve, it was because, interest rates were climbing. So he had some financial stress in his life...
ROGERS: ... and you can now—you know, this is another time in his life where he had financial stress, pushed him to that point and led him to act on all the feelings, obviously, he had expressed on that Web site.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s talk about this mood because the FBI has to be aware of the atmospherics in this country and the stresses which you mentioned, which are endemic in this country. So many people, especially retired-age people, poor people, people without jobs, people in heavy industry who‘ve lost their jobs—there‘s a lot of stress out there and a lot of anger about the failure of our establishment, our government, to protect us from this economic calamity.
What do you make of that Department of Homeland Security report of a couple weeks back about the rise in this kind of hatred on the far right? I should say not the usual right, not people who are conservatives, but this far right element.
ROGERS: Yes, you have to be very careful.
MATTHEWS: I am.
ROGERS: This is an ideological set that has really nothing to do with mainstream politics. These folks have very extreme views, and in many cases, they collect and organize around those views. They‘re either KKK members, white supremacists. We even see it on the left side, as well, from some radical movements and environmental movements that have risen to the level of violence. So it‘s not—both of those groups are not part of mainstream politics. And we should be really careful not to try to put them in there because they are so radical and so detached from the rest of functioning society. And this is a great example of it.
But what we do see when the FBI trends in—when the economy goes bad, that all kinds of these types of crimes go up, including things like bank robberies and other simple—well, not simple crimes, if you‘re involved in it, but crimes of that nature because it‘s financially generated.
And people are at the point, when you talk to profilers—they‘ve reached a point in their life where they feel absolutely no control. They‘ve lost control of their financial wellbeing. They feel frustrated. They don‘t feel like people are listening to their point of view. And they reach a point like this gentleman did, where he picked up a weapon and said, I‘m going to act out all of the things that I believe is the problem, and it was based on his deranged view that it was based on ethnicity in America, which we certainly know is a pretty radical view.
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s some more radical views. This is also on von Brunn Web site. Quote, “Through manipulation, bribery, slander, assassination and control of the mass media, Jews contrived to pit nation against nation, race against race, financing all sides in the resultant wars, then at exorbitant interest rates, financing reconstruction of the devastated countries.” So that‘s classic anti-semitic stuff.
But let me ask you about—is it dangerous to tie together some of these things? We‘ve seen attacks on recruiters, military recruiters. We‘ve seen this—as you said a while back, this guy went after the Federal Reserve. We‘ve got this attack on the abortion clinic in Kansas. This edginess out there, this heightened whatever you want to call it, zeitgeist, the sense out there of anger, of concern about all this social change and economic change in our country—do you put it together as a possible dangerous period for this country?
ROGERS: Well, remember, anytime that you have that much stress on
people‘s economic wellbeing at any time in our history, we‘ve seen a spike
in violent behavior. The groups that you see now are acting out. Now, the
Muslim, converted Muslim, who was radicalized in prison, who attacked and
killed our U.S. soldiers, was ideologically driven, and it was about troops
in Afghanistan and those kind of things. And I‘m not sure I would put that
without knowing all the facts, I would put that in the same category.
He was passionately ideologically driven, based on his conversion to radical Islam, if you will.
And the other instances are people who believed that their political beliefs aren‘t being listened to or acted upon by the establishment, and all of the other pressures in your life—and if you do some of the profiling, again, of these folks, you‘ll find out that they had financial stresses, they had other stresses, and they‘ve reached that boiling point. And whatever it is—it could be a mental illness. In many cases, it might not be. They could be as rational as you and I, but their philosophical belief that is detached from reality allows them to act out in a violent way.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, I‘ve studied history, as you have, and I‘ve watched these assassinations of people like Robert Kennedy and John Kennedy, and inevitably, you‘d like to strike it off to mental illness, but in almost every case, there‘s a deep political motivation. And it‘s rational. It‘s horrible, but it is thought through. These people want to achieve a violent goal, and they do it. Thank you, U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers.
We‘re coming right back. It‘s a horrible story. We have to cover it. It has hard right, you might say, political overtones, this shooting at the Holocaust Museum. We‘re going to look at politics of hate and whether we‘re looking at something bigger here.
But coming up next: A big upset in Virginia, the Old Dominion, the state where Creigh Deeds, a guy nobody ever heard of, who got the endorsement of “The Washington Post,” beat the establishment candidate, Terry McAuliffe. The big Clinton fund-raiser who everybody thought was going to walk into this thing, got blown away yesterday. What an amazing political upset in Virginia. It could look like—it could be one of those states like New Jersey where the Republicans are going to make a big comeback this November. We‘re going to talk about that politics when we come back. Is this a referendum coming up on Obama?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, sometimes good deeds do go unpunished. I‘m talking about Virginia state senator Creigh Deeds, who won the Democratic primary for governor yesterday, beating Clinton confidant and big shot, you might argue, Terry McAuliffe. He also beat former state delegate Brian Moran, who was on HARDBALL last Friday. So what does Deeds‘s win mean for the Democrats, and what does McAuliffe‘s loss mean for the friends of Clinton?
Chuck Todd is NBC News chief White House correspondent and political director for our network. And also, we have joining us one of the real experts on Virginia, University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato, who‘s author of “The Year of Obama.”
Let me go to Chuck first for a little transition. How‘s the White House reacting to this shooting that caused the death of that guard a few blocks away? They‘re long blocks, but it‘s nearby, over at the Holocaust Museum?
CHUCK TODD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well,
I can tell you this. At the White House briefing with Robert Gibbs, he had
said that the Situation Room was dealing with it, the Homeland Security
Council. The president at the time had been briefed about the shooting,
but they did not know at the time that the shooting was a white supremacist
that the shooter was a white supremacist.
And so during the briefing, Robert was asked if whether that there is a concern at the White House or among law enforcement that there might be linkages to these political crimes that we‘ve seen, or political-related shootings, the abortion doctor killed in Kansas, this one, the shooting in the military recruiter‘s office in Arkansas. And Robert obviously had ducked it, you know, saying, Look, you know, let law enforcement decide whether these things are linked or not.
TODD: But there is no doubt that there is...
MATTHEWS: What do you think?
TODD: ... there‘s a lot of commentary about it. I can just tell you,
there‘s going to be a lot of commentary, there‘s going to be a lot of
questioning about it. I think that the idea that you link all of these
right now—I mean, you got to be careful. That‘s a—that‘s potentially
you know, you go down a road that people will feel that is potentially irresponsible. The fact is, this guy, what we know about him, he clearly was a dangerous individual for quite some time.
TODD: And obviously, to a—led to a horrible incident today. But I think you see a rise in commentary, that Homeland Security report that came out a few months ago about the—about nervousness about some chatter that‘s going on in domestic—potential for domestic terrorism. So I think that the commentary is going to lead to you‘re going to see some government officials have to deal with this question, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to a political science professor, and stay on this for one moment because it‘s such a hot issue. Larry, you know, you and I grew up in the ‘60s and watched the atmospherics turn very hot and negative during the ‘60s. And the atmospherics, I think, have a lot to do with the crime situations that develop, especially in the political area. It‘s not just economic stress, it‘s political craziness that takes over. Lee Harvey Oswald was a man of the left. He committed the crime of assassinating John F. Kennedy during a time when the right-wing atmospherics were very hot. And yet here was a guy of the left.
So I do think there‘s a weird connection in our sort of zeitgeist, where people get a weird kind of permission slip in their crazy heads that say, you know, Things are so bad, I can take things into my own—in my own and I can commit a violent act.
What are your thoughts about these periods we get into, where there is a lot of political violence connected together?
LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: There‘s a lot of truth to that, unfortunately, Chris. Let‘s face it, today—unlike in the 1960s, when you had a Lee Harvey Oswald or Sirhan Sirhan, today you‘ve got the Internet. I think the Internet and the kind of unfiltered, unedited junk that travels from coast to coast and around the world in the blink of an eye encourages some of this.
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.
SABATO: It really feeds the crazies. You know, often, people get this nutty stuff and they actually believe it. They think that the stuff being said is true, and of course, it isn‘t.
MATTHEWS: You know, I was just in the Middle East recently, Chuck and Larry. I got to tell you, over there, even the smartest, most sophisticated people buy the biggest malarkey, like, you know, the Jews had something to do with 9/11 and they all took off that day. And people believe crazy things, and I‘m afraid it has infected our country sometimes with people. Luckily, smarter people that still read the newspapers still have their feet on the ground. Luckily.
Let me go to Chuck on a simpler, more nicer topic, which is politics, the usual kind.
I thought Terry McAuliffe had a lot of money. He has a lot of charm. He‘s a great-looking guy, a happy-go-lucky guy, the kind of person we generally like to see in politics. He‘s a winner, by most standards.
He‘s a loser today. What happened, do you think?
TODD: Well, look, I‘m going to start where the basic premise is. And that‘s the old Roger Mudd test, right? Why do you want to be what you‘re running for? Why do you want to be governor?
And I don‘t know if Terry ever answered that fundamental question for the people that followed this. And, remember, the people that turned out in the Virginia Democratic primary, these are the elite of the elites, OK? These are—in Northern Virginia, they‘re amateur political pundits, OK?
TODD: ... watch this thing. It‘s a very small turnout.
And, you know, all of a sudden, people that follow this stuff closely said, you know, they knew Brian Moran had been running for a while. They knew Creigh Deeds had been running for a while.
Terry McAuliffe, all of a sudden, comes out of nowhere, as far—and
and does this quick jumping into the race. Nobody in Virginia really knew that he had a history with Virginia politics. And he didn‘t.
And, so, I think—you know, we can go into a lot of reasons. You know, did he talk too much on camera himself? You know, did he sound too much like a New Yorker or some guy from Central New York, Syracuse, New York, in his ads, and that added to this idea that he‘s an outsider?
MATTHEWS: I love you, Chuck. You are so good.
MATTHEWS: You know why I think you‘re on the mark here? Because you‘re so astute.
I‘m going to—Larry is astute, too, but he‘s more academic.
TODD: Whoa. He‘s—he‘s—he‘s the—he‘s the non-academic academic.
MATTHEWS: Chuck, the Friday before the primary, he wouldn‘t come on HARDBALL. The fact that he wouldn‘t come on HARDBALL told me, that he wouldn‘t take free airtime in a show that‘s watched heavily in our region of Washington, told me...
MATTHEWS: ... he had overdone it, that people didn‘t want to see him anymore.
What do you think, Larry Sabato? Was he overexposed? Did Chuck have something there?
SABATO: Yes, he—he was very much overexposed.
Look, a little bit of Terry McAuliffe goes a long way. And I say that with respect. He‘s an energetic fellow. He had a great staff. He raised millions of dollars.
But I‘ll tell you what, Chris. I don‘t care what state it is. If you‘re going to parachute in and run for the top position, you really ought to have done something in the state politically or governmentally. Terry McAuliffe had to learn the names of most of the cities and counties as he visited them.
That‘s generally not the way people get elected governor. Most people in most states take the governorship seriously.
SABATO: It‘s their little president. It matters.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I want to thank Terry for being my—my canary in the mine on this baby.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, let me ask you about...
MATTHEWS: Chuck, let me ask you about November. It seems to me that...
MATTHEWS: It seems to me that it is going to be a close race.
TODD: It is.
MATTHEWS: You have got a relatively conservative Democrat, a guy with a Southern accent with Southern appeal, up against a Republican guy who‘s pretty strong.
MATTHEWS: It looks like a hell of a race coming up.
TODD: It‘s going to be a great race.
And I think that that‘s—if you‘re just a simple political junkie, look, Virginia was America‘s bellwether in 2008. It matched the national numbers with Obama. The Bush job approval, every way you wanted to slice it, how Virginia felt and voted was exactly the way the nation voted.
So, here you have a perfect bellwether state. You have the strongest Republican candidate, arguably, that the Virginia Republicans have come up with for governor, maybe since the 1993 version of George Allen. And the Democrats ended up coming up with somebody who I think, you talk to a lot of people in the state say he‘s the most electable.
It‘s the same—he comes from—it‘s the same mold of how Tim Kaine and Mark Warner...
TODD: ... and Jim Webb and these guys try to position themselves, as saying, hey, I‘m a Democrat, but I‘m not a liberal Northern Virginia Democrat. I‘m—I‘m pro-gun, all this stuff.
MATTHEWS: You know, I‘m betting—Larry, I‘m betting on McDonnell to win in your state. I‘m betting on Chris Christie to win in—in New Jersey. I think it‘s going to be a Republican year at the statehouse level.
What do you think?
SABATO: Well, it could be. Normally, that‘s what happens in the off-off-year races. You have a kind of snapback to the out-of-power party.
But, you know, I think...
MATTHEWS: That‘s why I said it.
SABATO: ... they‘re both going to be interesting races. New Jersey is deeply blue, and that could save Corzine. And, look, don‘t underestimate Creigh Deeds. He came from 50 points back...
SABATO: ... to win with 50 percent of the vote against two strong candidates who were rated more highly than he was. This is going to be a close, competitive contest.
MATTHEWS: So, good Deeds do go unpunished?
TODD: There you go. You just love it.
SABATO: Well, I guess you could put it that way.
TODD: That‘s the beauty of Creigh Deeds, is that this guy—I think our boy Chris Cillizza in “The Washington Post” said it. He‘s a headline writer‘s dream. Creigh, you know, in-Creigh-able, Deeds, good Deeds. You‘re going to have a mouthful of puns for the next six months, Chris...
TODD: ... I promise you.
MATTHEWS: And, young man, I can also tell you, Chuck, there‘s a great movie...
MATTHEWS: ... called “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.”
TODD: I—you know...
MATTHEWS: And it stars Gary Cooper. You can‘t beat that for a standard.
TODD: Adam—here, I will really—I will one-up you here on the—
Adam Sandler redid it.
MATTHEWS: That‘s your generation.
TODD: A version of it.
I hear you.
MATTHEWS: That‘s your generation.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
We have got the “Sideshow” coming up. This has not been the “Sideshow.” This has been important.
Chuck Todd—Virginia‘s not the “Sideshow.”
Larry Sabato, good luck with your book, “The Age of Obama.”
What‘s it called?
SABATO: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: “The Age of Obama”?
SABATO: “The Year of Obama.”
MATTHEWS: “The Year of Obama.”
SABATO: “The Year of Obama.”
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe it will be the age of Obama when you‘re done, when you get the paperback out.
We will be back after this.
MATTHEWS: You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Who‘s the main person who speaks for the Republican Party? A new Gallup poll just out finds most Americans can‘t come up with a name. And, of those who do, the one name tops the list—and it‘s not that high at the top—is Rush Limbaugh.
Coming up next.
Well, by the way, Newt Gingrich and Cheney are on that list, so it is RNC, Rush, Newt, and Cheney.
And, later, how much—well, let‘s talk more about the Holocaust horror today. You have got to get back to that one and the far-right implications on this thing.
We will be right back.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MILISSA REHBERGER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Milissa Rehberger.
We continue to follow breaking news today, the shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. An elderly gunman opened fire with a rifle immediately after entering the crowded museum just before 1:00 p.m. He shot a security guard before other guards shot him.
The security guard died hours later at a hospital. The gunman was also taken to the hospital, where he is reported to be in critical condition.
The gunman is identified as 88-year-old James Von Brunn from the Maryland shore. He is a well-known white supremacist. He has a racist anti-Semitic Web site. And he was convicted back in 1983 of trying to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve Board. The guard who was killed is identified as 39-year-old Stephen Johns, seen here. He had worked at the museum for six years.
At the White House just a few blocks away from that museum, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he informed President Obama of these events. The president was obviously saddened by what had happened.
More to come—now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The Republican Party has a failure to communicate right now. And the cover of “USA Today” makes that painfully clear. I‘m talking about today‘s paper. There it is.
When asked who speaks for the Republican Party, the average American could only come up with -- 13 percent said Rush Limbaugh. Ten percent for Dick Cheney. And tied for six, John McCain and Newt Gingrich. But the big winner is a big question mark. Look at this one? Fifty-two percent of all Americans couldn‘t come up with a name when asked to specify the main person who speaks for the Republicans today.
Charlie Cook is an expert. He‘s the editor of “The Cook Political Report.” And Doug Holtz-Eakin was an adviser to John McCain‘s presidential campaign.
Gentlemen, this is a strange time. I can‘t tell you whether it‘s a good time or a bad time. But we in this world, out here on television, love it, because we, like the Obama White House, can designate who the Republican Party is. And we can say it is Rush Limbaugh or, Howard Fineman put it beautifully, the RNC, Rush, Newt and Cheney.
Charlie, it seems like the Republicans don‘t have anybody to put up besides them. The liberals seem to like that name to shoot at. And what else? Cable television just enjoys the whole craziness of it, that the Republican Party is led by the talk show guys.
CHARLIE COOK, EDITOR & PUBLISHER, “THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT”: Well, I think Chris, it‘s that‘s not that that unusual for a party that has lost their majorities in the House, the Senate, the governorship, and lost the presidency to have a vacuum.
I mean, that is normal. This is probably worse than normal.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s a nice way to put it.
COOK: Well, no, no, it‘s—it‘s—it‘s relatively normal. This is probably worse than normal. But...
MATTHEWS: Yes. If you lose everything, you don‘t have a leader, right?
COOK: It‘s understandable.
COOK: But, to me, the devastating statistic in this Gallup poll for “USA Today” was—was simply that they asked favorable, unfavorable ratings of the Republican Party among Republicans.
And 33 percent of Republicans had an unfavorable view of their own party, compared to 4 percent of Democrats who had an unfavorable view of them. I mean, that‘s like sports fans disliking their own team.
COOK: And—and—and, you know, this is a party that just needs rebranding, retooling, reworking. And—and they—they—they just need a lot of work.
COOK: But we have seen Democrats in this position, too.
MATTHEWS: You mean it‘s like—it‘s like people not liking their home team. Well, I grew up in Philly. So, I‘m somewhat familiar with that.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Doug.
Doug, your thoughts about your party. I know you have to be careful here, because you‘re a loyalist.
MATTHEWS: But what is this self-hatred that is going on right now that forces your party to say, we don‘t like the guys we elect; we don‘t even like the guys that have either been kicked out of office, like Newt Gingrich, are yesterday‘s trolls—I‘m not going to mention them, because we know who that is—or you‘re Rush Limbaugh, who is just probably the funniest, most mischievous member of the right?
DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE DIRECTOR:
Well, I think Charlie has a—a lot of it right.
If you look historically at bad losses—and this is a really bad period for the Republican Party—no one speaks for the party. And what we‘re going to have to see is issues and ideas emerge that are appealing to people, so that they‘re not—have a negative view of their party.
And the—the next person who can articulate new ideas, who can reach out to the kinds of things Americans care deeply about, the—the future of the middle class, will become the leader of the Republican Party. And it‘s going to be about ideas. It‘s not going to be about personalities.
MATTHEWS: How much, Charlie, do you think Rahm Emanuel has been sort of choreographing this, the clever way in which this White House seems to be on message?
They constantly turn the media attention—it‘s not hard to do it—to Rush Limbaugh, who‘s a good show, and to Cheney, who‘s out there running around out there still actively in politics, and to Newt Gingrich, who is trying to run for the nomination next time. And he‘s saying, don‘t pay attention to Boehner, who is the Republican leader in the House. Don‘t pay attention to Mitch McConnell, the Senate leader. Pay attention to these guys on the—on the fridge.
COOK: Well, I think it‘s a well-known political tactic that—I think that the Obama folks have taken to a high art form.
But you—you remember, for example, when Bill Clinton was in so much trouble early on, after ‘94, he—he made Newt Gingrich the fall guy. You know, in politics, it‘s great to have a foil. It‘s great to have somebody to push off against.
And if you get to pick who that is, it—it‘s so much—it‘s so much the better. But, you know, yes—no, Rahm—if Rahm is awake, he‘s thinking. And this is just...
COOK: ... just a very clever group of people, who are thinking, what can we do to stick it to the other side? And they‘re doing it very, very well.
And—and—and Republicans are at a point where, you know, when you‘re out of power, how do you create a new leader? How does a new...
COOK: ... leader right now rise to the top? I—I couldn‘t begin to tell you how somebody would rise to the top right now.
MATTHEWS: Doug, it‘s not too cartoonish to describe Rush Limbaugh as sort of a walrus under water. That‘s what he talks like.
MATTHEWS: He‘s like a drowning walrus, the way he talks.
And then you have got Newt Gingrich, who is clearly a—well, he looks like Mephistopheles.
MATTHEWS: And then this guy—well—well, Cheney is a troll. So, you have got a troll, a walrus, and the devil as your cartoon characters. Can‘t you guys find more attractive figures that...
MATTHEWS: ... the right might rally to?
HOLTZ-EAKIN: Well, I understand the tactics of pointing to Rush Limbaugh as the leader of the Republican Party.
But Rush himself says he‘s a conservative entertainer. He‘s not the leader of the—of the party.
HOLTZ-EAKIN: And, so, that can‘t last very long.
And I‘m with Charlie. I think a new leader has to emerge. As I said, I think it‘s going to be grounded, not in—in the politics of personality, but in the politics of real issues, where the party has been failing both its followers—its followers, and then the ability to reach out to independents and—and Democrats in the past.
So, this is now going to be an ideas contest. And we‘re going to see the next generation compete on ideas. We‘re going to see them try to reach out and build a Republican Party that‘s broader, can compete nationally, has some following in the younger and an ethnic following.
HOLTZ-EAKIN: And—and that‘s going to be the key challenge.
And I will give you just this food for thought, politics vs. ideas. Think about Dick Cheney. Since he has left the vice presidency, he has talks about the importance of national security. People care about that idea. He‘s talked about having a little bit of compassion toward gay rights. People like that idea.
If you look at personalities, he polls better than Nancy Pelosi.
Ideas matter. And that‘s how the Republicans have to go.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he might run for the nomination next time?
HOLTZ-EAKIN: Oh, who knows who‘s going to run. I—and I‘m not here to pick winners.
I think that‘s the key. No one speaks for the party now because no one has earned the ideas platform that is going to broadly bring the party back. And—and that‘s what we need to look for.
MATTHEWS: Charlie, I guess there‘s a question for the Republicans. Do they wait for Barack to really create an opportunity or do they wait for next time? What do you think they‘re going to do?
COOK: Well, I think they‘re kind of wandering around in the wilderness right now.
But, after a time, you know, they are going to have an opportunity. I mean, you and I were talking last week. And—and, to me, right now, the public‘s not really listening to Republicans. They don‘t care what they think.
They‘re sort of in a time-out chair. But, after awhile, they are going to be allowed to come back to join—rejoin the class. And the question is, will they have something to say?
I was laughing when you were talking a minute ago, because, you know, Rush and Newt and Vice President Cheney had such nice things to say about you. But...
MATTHEWS: Oh, I think I have captured them. No, I don‘t think it‘s a subjective view.
MATTHEWS: I think—I think Rush Limbaugh does sound like a walrus under water. I‘m sorry. That‘s a fact.
COOK: But the thing is, though, notice that there was one guy that was coming through that looked interesting, Governor Huntsman of Utah. And what did they do? They picked him off. It was sort of like the really fresh face that was really getting attention, and the Obama folks take him out and send him to China. Now, these guys, you can agree or disagree with them, but boy, they‘re on the ball.
MATTHEWS: They Shanghaied the bastard. Isn‘t that smart. Thank you, Charlie Cook. Holtzman, I think you‘re right about Dick Cheney. He‘s your guy.
Up next, we‘re going to go back to our top story, and it‘s not a happy one, the shooting today at the Holocaust Museum. Let‘s talk about the violence today. It‘s always more tragic, obviously, than the other politics we talk about, and we‘ve got to get back to that, and what it may mean. Is there something afoot here that we ought to be watching carefully? This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Salon.com‘s Joan Walsh and “USA Today‘s” Susan Page. Thank you ladies for this. I want you on because there‘s news developing tonight. It just broke. We‘ve got a “New York Daily News” story which will run in tomorrow‘s paper. We‘ve got a copy of it right now.
This is the ex-wife of the racist Von Brunn, who did the shooting and killing today. She describes him as an abusive alcoholic who‘s hatred against Jews and blacks, quote, ate him alive like a cancer. It was all he would talk about, she said. When I questioned him, he would get very angry and abusive.
She asked her name not be used. He used to make the statement that he was going to go out with his boots on. I took it to mean that he wasn‘t going to lay down and die of old age, that he was going to go out and try to take people with him. He would talk about what the world would become in 20 or 30 years, that most of the country would be governed by black governors and that the Jewish people owned the media. That‘s why I divorced him, because he was eaten alive with a cancer with this matter.
Joan Walsh, this is a political action by a far right extremist. I just wonder what‘s in the water, what‘s in the air as we speak.
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Well, I wonder, too, especially in the wake of the murder of Dr. George Tiller, who performed abortions, and another really unhinged right wing nut job. And I want to be very careful here, Chris. The only people responsible are the people who pulled the triggers. Unless we find out that these guys had help, that might be a different story.
From what we know now, the people responsible are the killers. However, I don‘t think you can deny that there is a rising climate of right wing hate, a lot of it directed at Obama. You and I go way back to the beginning of the campaign. And the level of craziness—he‘s a secret Muslim; he hates America; he wasn‘t born here.
This guy, Von Brunn, he was one of the birthers. He didn‘t believe in Obama‘s birth certificate and he was constantly online agitating about that. There is a very disturbing and disturbed element of political discourse. And I would throw in Rush Limbaugh, not blaming him, but when you say that our president is more dangerous than al Qaeda, you‘ve gone off into crazy nut job land. You are off the charts crazy. And you are whipping people up.
If he‘s worse than our mortal enemy, al Qaeda, who killed thousands and thousands of Americans, I don‘t know. Where do you go after that? It‘s awful.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Susan to check that in terms—you‘re a serious reporter, as well as a person who‘s lived in this country, like I have and Joan has. And we‘ve seen the ‘60s had a certain Zeitgeist to them, where violence was in the air right and left. Lee Harvey Oswald was a man of the left. He did the killing down if Dallas, which was certainly tormented at the time by a lot of hatred from the right, that had just gone after Adlai Stevenson a week or so before. He had been spit upon, a member of the cabinet.
so I wonder whether the Zeitgeist thing is serious. I look at these events you point to, Joan, the attack on the recruiter. I look at the killing of that abortion doctor. I look at this event. I see the reporter at the Department of Homeland Security about action on the far right and the fear that there is action coming here. Susan, what‘s reportable?
SUSAN PAGE, “THE USA TODAY”: Well, I think that Department of Homeland Security report is interesting. It got a lot of criticism when it came out, because it talked about returning war veterans as being possibly prime folks for hate groups to recruit. But other parts of that report, which I reread this afternoon, sound pretty prescient, that the bad economy increases hatred of Jews among these fringe groups. You see more rantings about Jewish cabals that are responsible, they say, for the bad economy.
The election of an African-American president has been part of that too. And concern about immigration the Department of Homeland Security report also cites as a factor and notes the increasing number of hate crimes against Hispanics in this country.
So there is a combination of things happening in this country, including this long recession we‘re in, that stokes some of these hatreds that we‘re seeing take this terrible turn today.
WALSH: Chris, can I make a point about the DHS report too that I think is relevant? Susan hits the high points. It also says, you know, the single biggest danger, in their view, are lone wolves and that looks prescient today, too.
But if you look back at the way Janet Napolitano, who didn‘t even write it—it was commissioned by the Bush White House. If you look back at the way she was vilified at Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin and that whole right wing echo chamber, acting as though it was now open season on conservatives, they have this incredible capacity to be shrill, to polarize. And I don‘t know what happened to that report. It got shelved until today.
Susan and I read it. I hadn‘t read it when it came out. It‘s very calm.
MATTHEWS: We live in a country where it‘s easier to get your hands on a gun than it is to get someone to make you a waffle. It‘s easy. It is totally easy in this country. We believe in the First Amendment. Our Constitution is protected. The right to bear arms is an individual right, as recently reviewed by the Supreme Court. It‘s a fact of life.
You put together the prevalence of guns in this country, the easiness with which someone can engage in gun play, in gun smoke in this case, where people can be killed, it doesn‘t surprise me. I wonder whether, in a free society, violence is always going to be part of it if guns are available and people are allowed to walk into places like the Holocaust Museum.
You know, Susan, the guy standing there at the perimeter, this fellow Johns who got killed today—the guy at the perimeter is always going to get shot, because that‘s the only way you stop a person. That‘s why every time you have a federal facility, or an establishment facility in this country, the person who‘s out there on point, defending that facility, can‘t be protected. That person is going to get shot.
I feel for this family of that guy, because he protected hundreds of lives today against that killer. And as a citizen of Washington, I‘m so proud we have people like the Capitol Police, who every day stand out there at that perimeter, on point, protecting us against the guys who will come and shoot them first. And there‘s nothing we can do to protect them.
We‘re going to come right back. I want to keep this conversation going, because I want to know more about the implications of what our law enforcement people have to be doing. They‘re the ones on the front line. I mean it. There‘s no way to protect them. They protect us. We‘ll be right back with Joan and Susan. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Salon‘s Joan Walsh and “USA Today‘s” Susan Page. Susan, you first. You know, we‘ve grown up in a country where there‘s been an extreme, generally on the right, sometimes on the left—
Lee Harvey Oswald clearly fascinated, in love with, infatuated with Fidel Castro when he killed Kennedy. This thing here, where you have a person who claims to be—or is actually anti-semitic, anti-black, anti-Catholic, I guess on the periphery, which is the big three of the KKK historically—what we do with this? Are we going to hear from conservatives who are going to start saying, let‘s stop some of this black helicopter talk. Let‘s stop this villainization of the government, of the establishment?
Which way do you think the tone of the debate is going to go now?
PAGE: Well, I don‘t think it‘s really fair to conflate being a conservative with these fringe groups that engage in this kind of violence. I mean, you can be a critic of the Obama administration without endorsing these kinds of views and certainly these actions.
But yes, I do think this sparks a kind of debate and concern about what‘s happening in politics. And most Americans really want vigorous politics, but civil politics and certainly non-violent politics. And those eras where we saw political assassinations in the ‘60s certainly caused a lot of Americans to try to think hard about what was happening in the country and what they could do about it.
Although, in that time period, of course, it took a couple of years before we got out of that time period.
MATTHEWS: I remember it very real well. Joan, it seems to me, we see Lebanon learning how to have a recent election the other day. And a country that was torn together, where everything was violence and assassinations and horror. Here we have our country, certainly the greatest democracy in history, and yet we have this fringe where people get very frustrated by life. Here we have the ex-wife saying this guy was unfit to live with. He was violent, abusive, drunk, and he just wanted to kill, and he wanted to go down with his boots on, like he‘s some cowboy star.
WALSH: I hope she reported that to the police.
MATTHEWS: Well, a little late might be.
WALSH: Exactly. I was watching MSNBC all day today, Chris. And there were a couple of experts on these right wing groups saying, this guy was known to authorities. He went to jail in the ‘80s for an assault on I think the Federal Reserve Bank. This is not a lone wolf who has never come into contact or expressed publicly expressed his hateful views. He published a book.
I think there is a certain amount of surveillance that would have been wise. How somebody like that gets a gun when he used a gun in his prior crime—all these things, I think, should be looked at. I support the Second Amendment, but I think guns are too easy to get. All these things will come into play.
And I will say, you know, I do hope that some conservatives stand up. I don‘t blame them. I don‘t blame mainstream Republicans, by any means, for this. I want to be clear. But they could help in ratcheting down some of the rhetoric. When Bill O‘Reilly goes on TV every night and calls Dr. Tiller a baby killer and a Nazi and a Mengele, and shows where he works, why do we put up with that? Why is that entertainment in our culture? It‘s demonizing a private citizen for doing a lawful job? Why are people doing that? Why is that acceptable? I would like to see a debate about that.
MATTHEWS: Susan, “USA Today,” how is this going to get covered tomorrow? Because it seems to me that this is a story that goes beyond Washington. It goes even beyond anti-semitism. It goes to something about the dangers of extreme politics.
PAGE: Yes. We sent one of our reporters off on his bicycle to the mall, other reporters there to the hospital. We had several people working the web, where we quickly found this—the rantings of the shooter. So it‘s going to be all over the front page tomorrow. It‘s our big picture on page one. Major story inside about the record that was so easy to find, as Joan said, of this guy‘s violent views in the past.
Although, in a way, you think, what can you do? I mean, it‘s—you‘re allowed to have extreme views in this country. You‘re not allowed to act on them in this way. And it‘s just so difficult to figure out what law enforcement could have done to keep this from happening.
MATTHEWS: Well, I just want to say again a tribute to Stephen Tyrone Johns, the gentleman. I hope we can show his picture again—who died defending the people there today. These guards in Washington defend our federal buildings, these national sites that we all treasure, and we go into to enjoy and learn our history, including the Holocaust, world history.
It‘s astounding how these people are willing to risk their life and stand there with a badge and say, no, you‘re not going to hurt anybody in this room.
WALSH: He worked there for six years. It shouldn‘t be dangerous, but it is a dangerous job.
MATTHEWS: There‘s no way to protect these guys. They have to protect us. Thank you, Joan Walsh. Thank you, Susan Page. Join us again tomorrow 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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