Guests: Margaret Brennan, Chuck Todd, Steve Cohen, James Clyburn, David Corn, Mike Medavoy, Rep. Mike Pence, Charlie Cook
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: No recount.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
The ayatollah says aye-aye (ph). With the whole world watching, Iran‘s supreme leader gave his answer, aye-aye-aye, to the thousands of—hundreds of thousands of nay-sayers. The election was clean, he says. He said his government will stand by the results as counted. This election will be the only election, he says.
And oh, yes, the Ayatollah Khamenei said—now it‘s a bit more threatening. Here it comes. Opposition leaders, he says, will be held responsible for any bloodshed or violence if these protests in the streets continue in Teheran.
So now what? Is it time now for President Obama to say something strong about events in Iran? In a moment, we‘ll talk to a Republican leader in the House of Representatives who disagrees with the president‘s careful posture so far on the Iranian election and says the president needs to do more.
Also, the criticism from the right of the president‘s response to Iran‘s election is part of the week‘s—well, the week‘s flak he‘s been taking. With his numbers cresting in the polls, emboldened opponents are now coming out of the woodwork to attack him. Our chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd, and Charlie Cook, editor of “The Cook Report,” will join us in a minute to go through that.
And the Senate has unanimously now passed a resolution apologizing for slavery and racial segregation. Now comes the hard part. The resolution says nothing about reparations of any kind, and that‘s exactly what some people say is needed. Should Americans today pay for crimes committed decades and centuries ago? And what do we pay them with? Who pays the taxes to finance any reparation, or do we borrow money to pay for those reparations? And what about people who never owned slaves? And what about those whose families came to this country long after there was slavery? That‘s our debate tonight.
Plus: What does the world think about the fact that Americans still want to keep Gitmo alive? By the way, the polls show that this week. What does that say about us? Is that a great message to broadcast worldwide, that Americans want to keep Guantanamo operating? Well, that‘s in the “Politics Fix” tonight, and it‘s a tough one.
And I‘m giving out another HARDBALL Award tonight, much deserved, and it‘s a big one, an historic one, if you will. It‘s about people putting themselves out there for democracy.
We begin tonight with the latest in Iran and the ayatollah‘s threat of a crackdown on protesters. Republican U.S. congressman Mike Penn (SIC) of Indiana—Mike Pence, rather—introduced a bipartisan resolution today that condemns the Iranian government‘s violence against the demonstrators and affirms the importance of democratic and fair elections. Mr. Pence, thank you for joining us tonight.
REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA: You bet.
MATTHEWS: What are you trying to change in our national policy with this resolution?
PENCE: Well, we just thought that it was important for the American people, through their elected representatives, to have a chance to be heard on the world stage. And I partnered with the Democrat chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman. We put together a bipartisan resolution, Chris, that got 405 votes today, that expresses the support of the American people for the Iranian citizens who are standing up for freedom and democracy and basic human rights. We also took the opportunity to condemn the violence by the government of Iran against dissenters and to denounce the repression of communications and a free and independent press in that country.
We—I thought it was a very good moment for the House of Representatives. I‘m informed within the hour here that the United States Senate took up a similar resolution and passed it. So the American people have sent a clear and unambiguous statement of support to those extraordinarily brave men and women who have take to the streets on behalf of their right to self-government and fundamental human rights, and I‘m humbled to have been a part of it.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of Mousavi, the guy who‘s leading the opposition? What do you make of him? Is he any better than Ahmadinejad?
PENCE: Well, look, I think that‘s a very interesting debate. I know the president indicated that there wasn‘t much difference. I‘ve seen some accounts that suggest that he does, you know, reflect more of a reformist attitude.
But you know, today‘s resolution really wasn‘t about endorsing an opposition candidate. It was about endorsing the people who have taken to the streets in Iran on behalf of their right to free and fair elections.
And now that the Congress has spoken, I was pleased to hear the president through his spokesman today, welcomed our resolution. I think that—as David Ignatius wrote in “The Washington Post” this morning, I think the time has come, as well, for the president to speak an unambiguous word of support for those Iranian citizens, and I‘m hoping he‘ll do that.
MATTHEWS: What do you think the Iranian people, the mass of them who
are watching over there on both sides of this fight, the ones who like the
election results, who are apparently the majority, although who knows, and
the minority we‘re seeing out in the street, which is very vocal, obviously
and very impressive, I must say. I‘m rooting for those people myself as a citizen. What do you think they think of America?
PENCE: Well, I can‘t...
MATTHEWS: I mean you. What do you think they think of you and the other people in Congress who voted today? What do you think their reaction will be when they read this on the wires or see it on television? What do you think they‘ll think of an American resolution coming out of Congress like the one you passed today?
PENCE: Well, my hope is—and I‘ve actually received phone calls in my office from people within Iran who‘ve expressed their appreciation for our efforts to express the support of the American people for the courage of those men and women taking to the streets.
I—you know, there are obviously profound differences between the interests of our two nations at this time, interests—differences between our forms of government. But I must tell you, I thought this was a moment and still is a moment where the people of the United States could speak a word of encouragement to what is hundreds of thousands, or Chris, maybe millions of men and women who essentially are standing up for their right to self-government, to freedom, to free expression, and I hope it‘s received as just that.
MATTHEWS: Well, I just talked to Joe Klein of “Time” magazine. Of course, he‘s a serious reporter. He just got back from hanging around the streets over there the last week. And he said those people over there, even the ones we think are on the side, what we call the reformers—and I agree with you completely. I‘m with them all the way. I love the fact they‘re fighting for democracy. Who wouldn‘t?
PENCE: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: We‘re Americans. We believe in it.
MATTHEWS: But I‘m worried about our track record over there and what they really think of our motives because we backed that coup over there back in ‘53. We knocked off their incipient democracy and put a monarchy on the throne over there, a pro-Western oil potentate, the shah, who was useful to us, maybe useful to Israel, but he certainly wasn‘t useful to that country. We backed Iraq against Iran, that bloody war, that apparently—according to Joe, there‘s a guy he bumped into over there, a reformer, who said we‘re responsible for giving them the chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein used against in Iranians in that terrible war back in the ‘80s.
What do we have to do to reestablish that we‘re not in there to screw around with them, to interfere with their elections, that we want them to be a free people? How do we do that?
PENCE: Well, I think maybe it would be—maybe it began a little bit today in the House and the Senate, where the people of the United States of America, through their Congress, essentially gave a cheer of encouragement and support to the people that are taking a stand for their own right to self-government.
We also—again, I mentioned we condemn the violence. We condemned the repression of a free and independent press. You know, I know the president has drawn the line at—and I think it‘s been admirable that the president has said that he was troubled about the violence. He said that the people had a right to be heard and respected. But I respectfully disagree with the president drawing the line at not meddling and not going further.
I just think Congress was right today to say that this was an opportunity for our people in this country, and I hope ultimately, our president, to speak a word of encouragement for people who are obviously, Chris, fighting for fundamental human rights and freedom and self-government. I think that could be a new beginning.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s switch the topic to us, American interests, pure and simple, our interests. Forget there‘s even people over there that are human beings, just our interests in this country. We don‘t want them to get a nuclear weapon because we don‘t like the looks of their government. There are countries in the world that have nuclear weapons we can live with, certainly France, and we can live with Israel, as long as there‘s not a war over there, of course, and they don‘t use it, of course. We don‘t want them ever to use it. Certainly, the Indians are pretty trustworthy over the years, and the Pakistanis. We do worry about all those countries generally having weapons, but we don‘t have a particular worry about them.
We would have a huge worry if Ahmadinejad had a finger on the button. What do you think your resolution did to keep his finger away from such a button? Did it have any positive advantage in that regard?
PENCE: Well, you know, that‘s more of a—you know, I support the strongest possible sanctions against Iran. And you know, we‘ve supported bipartisan efforts to restrain their nuclear ambitions. I‘ll continue to do that. You know, today was really about saying that one week on, where people have risked their liberty and their lives, that the American people would not be silent. I mean, what I see happening on...
MATTHEWS: OK. Here we get into...
PENCE: ... and I think you see it happening. I think freedom appears to have gotten—the genie has gotten out of the bottle, if you will...
PENCE: ... and the cause of America, Chris, is freedom, and on that cause, we must never be silent, whatever the short-term diplomatic calculation is.
MATTHEWS: Well, my concern, I think, is the president‘s concern on a much higher level than me, and that is we start looking like we‘re interfering in their politics by taking an official position on this election. We get Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah Khamenei, those guys at the top, and they start saying, Now we have a real justification for building a weapon because this country‘s coming in, trying to influence us again, like it did back in ‘53, like it did back in the ‘80s, like it did when we took and protected the shah against their democracy last time.
Couldn‘t they make a case on the inside, the more we screw around with them, the more we tell them what to do through sanctions or whatever we do, that they‘ve got to fight, and the best way they can do it is to have a nuclear bomb? Don‘t we encourage them to circle the wagons by the way we act, if we get too aggressive?
PENCE: Well, I understand that concern, but I don‘t think condemning violence against innocent civilians or condemning a repression of the free press or supporting men and women who are standing up for fundamental human rights is ever against American interests...
PENCE: ... whatever the outcome would be. Whether it strengthens their hand or not—you know, to be honest with you, you know, I wasn‘t surprised when you saw Ahmadinejad this week say that after a week where the president had taken a very cautious, a very restrained approach, Ahmadinejad said that President Obama was meddling in their affairs.
MATTHEWS: I know.
PENCE: You know, the tyrants in Teheran will say whatever they‘re going to say. This opportunity today in Congress—and I hope the president takes an opportunity in the days ahead—was an opportunity, it seems to me, to speak to the people of Iran and let them know, just like Ronald Reagan did—you know, I was at that Reagan dedication, that statue dedication last time we saw one another. And you know, when he went and stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate, Chris, he didn‘t say, Mr. Gorbachev, that wall is none of our business. Ronald Reagan...
MATTHEWS: Yes, but we didn‘t have a history...
PENCE: ... said, Mr. Gorbachev...
PENCE: ... tear down that wall. He spoke truth to power, even all the while that he engaged the Soviet Union in a way that ultimately resulted...
PENCE: ... in the collapse of that flawed tyrannical communist system.
MATTHEWS: The trouble is, we don‘t have a clean track record in Iran. We fought for democracy—and by the way, in my religion, we prayed for the conversion of Russia every Sunday through the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. We were all for democracy in that country.
Our track record in Iran is not clean. We did not support democracy back there when we overthrew their democracy back in the ‘50s, when we encouraged Iraq to go to war with them, when we supported the shah against the people in the streets. Our record all these decades, for six decades now, has been against democracy over there.
I hope to hell now we‘re for democracy in Iran. I agree with you, by the way, it‘s a legitimate debate we‘re having here. I completely respect what you did today, but I think...
PENCE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: ... we got to be careful to be honest brokers. When we push for democracy in that part of the world, especially in a country that‘s getting ever more sophisticated and more modern all the time, like Iran, we better well have honesty on our own side.
Anyway, thank you. Congratulations on your victory today.
PENCE: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Mike Pence, a member of the House Republican leadership, who won through that bipartisan measure today overwhelmingly.
Coming up: A little turbulence this week for team Obama, criticism from the left and from the right and a bit of a drop in the polls. They‘re certainly cresting in terms of personal popularity down at the White House. And now new questions about whether the president‘s health care plan can pass the old fiscal mustard. Is it going to cost too much? NBC chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd is coming here and also Charlie Cook.
You‘re watching HARDBALL right here on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. This week, President Obama took some heat over Iran from the right. He‘s heard—by the way, he‘s gotten some noise from the gay rights community, of course, from the left, and he watched Congress come to blows over health care in the middle. That‘s in the middle ideologically. So he‘s getting it left, right and center.
Let‘s bring in Chuck Todd, of course, the White House—NBC chief White House correspondent and our political director, as well. He has all the hats. And Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of “The Cook Political Report,” which has all the numbers.
Chuck Todd, I want you to take a look at the Iran thing. Is the president happy with his position on Iran right now, the “See no evil, speak no evil,” or perhaps “silence is golden” is probably a better way of putting it, position is still the right one for the Iranian demonstrations?
CHUCK TODD, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, the White House right there, Chris, would take issue with your description.
TODD: And they seem to have taken pains today, I‘ll be ,honest because they know that that is the description, not just you, but a lot of us are using, that he is trying to stay out of it, that he‘s trying not to get involved. And they‘re pushing back a little bit on that, saying, Wait a minute. He has denounced what the ayatollah said and this violence. He has spoken out in support of these peaceful protests, and that he has been more aggressive on this than he is being told.
TODD: But look, that‘s been part of their problem. But you‘re right, they also are emphasizing the fact that, Hey, we want to wait to see what goes on. If it looks like we‘re inserting ourselves and then America gets used by the regime to, you know, put down a protest, then that will set us back. So look, they know that they have not probably won the PR battle domestically, but frankly, they don‘t care as much about that as they do about the PR battle in Iran.
MATTHEWS: Charlie, that‘s the battle down the road, the big—I hate to say it, but all America cares about really down the road is America. The average American cares more about their toothache than something going on in Africa, for example. So here‘s the question. Has the president played this right for down the road, when he has to negotiate with the people who have won this election because they say they won it?
CHARLIE COOK, “COOK POLITICAL REPORT”: Well, first of all, I think they played it right because, number one, you have people saying he‘s gotten involved in too many things. He‘s spreading himself too thin. Then they‘re criticizing him for not getting involved in an election in Iran, as if he could control that.
But the second thing is that‘s the beauty of what we‘re seeing in the streets of Teheran. We‘re see a spontaneousness. We‘re seeing—and we don‘t want to be blamed. We don‘t want the regime to be saying that this is all American-inspired. So I think the soft touch is definitely the right way to go.
MATTHEWS: To make your point, our new NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll shows that 69 percent of the country, that‘s us, are concerned about the government‘s intervention in the economy.
Chuck, this sense that the government is just getting too buttinski, too much involved, especially with running GM—I really worry about this GM thing. I wonder if anybody‘s going to buy a car that‘s got a public license plate on it, basically, that was built by government employees, it‘s going to look like. I worry about that. And I think the public‘s worried.
TODD: Well, I do, too, but I think—here‘s what they—here‘s what I think the worry is and the anxiety is. And I sort of relate it to the first time I signed a mortgage paper, where I agreed to pay back an amount of money that I didn‘t think was—that I would ever see—be able to come up with, if you said—if the bank said, Hey, pay me that money right now, and you sign your name to it, that you‘ve agreed to pay back this giant chunk of money, and you‘re, like, Oh, my God, you know, what happens if, you know, I do lose my job?
And I think that the public is responding to all of the IOUs, essentially, that the government has asked for or created with bailing out the banks and bailing out GM. And you‘re right, Chris, I think GM is sort of the umbrella that envelopes all of these things. And I think they just feel that anxiety of, like, Geez, are we ever going to see that money back? And God, the deficit is growing. How are we ever—how do we ever get out of this hole? That‘s the anxiety. But I think they will also—they are showing some signs of giving him patience, too.
MATTHEWS: Well, you have good parents, Chuck, because your parents taught you to look at the total cost of a purchase.
MATTHEWS: You know, if everybody in America looked at the total cost of those ARM mortgages...
MATTHEWS: ... those damn balloons that they imagined...
TODD: You know, I think...
MATTHEWS: ... what the total cost was going to be when they were done their 15-year or 30-year mortgages, we wouldn‘t be in the crap pile we‘re in right now.
COOK: I think Chuck‘s bankers are feeling very good these days.
COOK: Chuck, you‘re...
MATTHEWS: He‘s not a—he‘s a good...
COOK: You‘re not a risk, Chuck.
MATTHEWS: He‘s a good debtor.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look now at a new number. Fifty-eight percent
think President Obama, 58 percent, should focus more—again on that point
focus more, Charlie, on cutting down the deficit than boosting the economy.
Now, even though we got an unemployment rate kicking up to about 9.4 percent right now, the public still, for whatever reason, when asked the question—I‘m not sure they‘re focused on this—they would rather be focused on reducing the deficit than fight this recession?
COOK: Well, I think there are—there are good signs, and they do see signs that the economy is getting better.
And this was always the risk. OK, the economy gets better. All right, you have improved the economy. What have you done for us lately?
MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes!
COOK: And look at the whole—the price tag.
MATTHEWS: They‘re already worried about the cost...
MATTHEWS: ... and they just got the car. Well, they‘re thinking like Chuck. They‘re thinking about the bottom line.
COOK: I also think that the...
COOK: ... the thing is, the sum is greater than the parts. His overall approval, overall favorability is higher than the approval for specific elements.
COOK: But they like the general direction he‘s going.
COOK: They‘re just real nervous about the details.
MATTHEWS: I have got to ask you about the—the other side. I don‘t think it‘s the left—wing side. It‘s maybe the libertarian left, if you will, the gay community.
What do you make of this concern that he just hasn‘t come through, as he promised in all those speeches during the campaign, on don‘t ask/don‘t tell, et cetera, Defense of Marriage Act?
TODD: Well, I‘m going to put it all...
TODD: ... in a—I‘m going to put it all in a bigger picture here. And that is how this White House has stayed away from cultural hot-button issues, whether it‘s been on gay rights, or gay marriage, or don‘t ask/don‘t tell, whether it‘s been on immigration, whether it‘s been on guns, frankly, whether it‘s been on abortion.
You know, there‘s a lot of promises the president made in all of those areas that...
TODD: ... he has quietly avoided, done the absolute minimum.
MATTHEWS: That is Reaganesque. That‘s so Reagan. That‘s so Ronald Reagan.
TODD: Well, and—and let me...
MATTHEWS: That‘s what Reagan did.
TODD: Well, and this is also, though, Rahm—the lesson that Rahm Emanuel himself felt when he was in the Clinton White House...
TODD: ... those first two years, where they went ahead and took on the cultural issues head on, signed the Brady Bill, did don‘t ask/don‘t tell.
TODD: And what happened? It created this cultural war, frankly, that the Democrats lost in 1994.
MATTHEWS: You‘re so smart.
Chuck is so smart. I keep forgetting these things, but it wasn‘t just don‘t ask/don‘t tell that Stephanopoulos and the others brought up way too soon. Maybe they got tricked into it. But they brought it up way too way early.
And going after guns in America may be the right thing, by some people‘s lights, but it‘s one sure way to divide the country and lose half the country to start with.
MATTHEWS: Right off the bat, you lose half the country when you do that.
COOK: Democrats can‘t—they can‘t hold majorities, they can‘t win presidential elections with a gun—with a gun agenda.
MATTHEWS: It kills you in the middle of the country.
COOK: And, deep down, they may love to do it.
MATTHEWS: It kills you in Pennsylvania.
COOK: But they can‘t. They can‘t do that. But I saw...
MATTHEWS: Because the good people that own guns are listening. The bad people that own guns couldn‘t care less what politicians are talking about.
COOK: I saw a number recently, though...
MATTHEWS: And they don‘t even own theme legally.
COOK: Among self-described liberal Democrats, Obama had a 96 percent job approval rating.
MATTHEWS: By the way, that‘s the big story.
COOK: They‘re in love. It‘s independents that are key.
MATTHEWS: I think they‘re in great shape.
And, by the way, would you he is cresting, or is the honeymoon over, Chuck? What is your verdict?
TODD: I think it‘s just reality setting in. They‘re judging him now for what he‘s doing.
So, yes, look, he‘s just not being graded on a curve anymore. I think the first three or four months, you—he—there was so much optimism about the guy, and people liked him, they graded him a little bit on a curve. Not anymore.
MATTHEWS: Cresting or—or falling?
COOK: We knew...
MATTHEWS: Cresting or falling, Charlie?
COOK: Well, the thing is, he‘s settling.
MATTHEWS: You guys are so...
COOK: No, listen. No, listen.
MATTHEWS: You‘re so...
COOK: Two months ago, we...
MATTHEWS: I know. You have got to live with people. I know.
COOK: Two months ago, we could have told you the short strokes were coming on health care, climate change June, July.
COOK: This is when it‘s going to get hot again.
MATTHEWS: Remember the guy in the movie “Quiz Show” whose time was up; they weren‘t going to keep him on the air anymore?
MATTHEWS: They said—they took him to dinner one time, and they said, “You‘re cresting.” They didn‘t...
MATTHEWS: Anyway, I think that‘s where he is.
Anyway, thank you, Chuck.
Thank you, Charlie.
It‘s great to have you on, the two best guys around.
Up next: guts, grit, moxie, and standing up for your position, all the hallmarks of what we consider worthy of getting a HARDBALL Award. And we have got a winner for you, and by—We have got pictures to go with the winner.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
As people who watch HARDBALL—and you are the good people out there
know, I have extended a serious tribute over time to men and women who have had the moxie to stand up for their rights.
How can I give that coveted HARDBALL Award to anyone on this planet this week but the people in the streets of Tehran, the hundreds of thousands who have stood out there and demanded that their votes be counted, and counted fully?
Whether their cause is women‘s rights, greater freedoms, or a freer dialogue with the outside world, this crowd has refused to sit by and accept the results of a presidential election they say was rigged. And you can see them there, almost all young adults flooding the streets and the Internet airwaves with signs in English and French.
Their audience is the world‘s stage, and they have got a rallying cry that has forced everyone to take notice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do believe that something has happened in Iran where there is a—there is questioning of the kinds of antagonistic postures towards the international community that have taken place in the past, and that there are people who want to see greater openness and greater debate and want to see greater democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Of course, there isn‘t a cause without dangers. At least 10 protesters have already been killed.
Today, Ayatollah Khamenei rejected calls for a new election and warned of a harsh crackdown if the rallies go on. He said, street challenge is not acceptable.
Well, after that tough speech, Iranians took to their rooftops today, crying, “God is great,” in apparent defiance of the ayatollah and his attempts to quell the voices of the demonstrators.
So, here is what I say. I say President Obama may well be right in not taking sides in Iran. But we can, and I believe I should.
Tonight, I extend the HARDBALL Award to those men and women on the streets, and now on the rooftops, those who continue to fight for their vote. They are proving that democracy has got some real appeal to people out there who have long been denied a say in their government.
Up next: The Senate passes a measure today apologizing for slavery in this country, but some House members say did they go far enough? Should Congress apologize for slavery, and can there be an apology without reparations? That‘s our very hot topic—and it is an historic one—coming up next.
And this weekend on “The Chris Matthews Show,” Watergate sleuth Bob Woodward, plus Joe Klein, who is just back from a—with a firsthand report on what‘s happening on the streets of Iran. That‘s on “The Chris Matthews Show” this weekend.
You‘re watching HARDBALL right now, only on MSNBC.
MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks closing mixed on this quadruple witching Friday—the Dow Jones industrial average ended this Friday down almost 16 points. The S&P 500 gained nearly 3. And the Nasdaq climbed almost 20. It was the first down week for all three indices since early May, that spring rally giving way to some caution.
The Labor Department reported today that 48 states and the District of Columbia saw their unemployment rates rise last month. Nebraska and Vermont were the only exceptions. Eight states set record highs. Worst off—you guessed it—Michigan, where unemployment rose to 14.1 percent.
And Texas billionaire Allen Stanford appeared before a federal judge in Virginia, after surrendering on fraud charges outlined in a 21-count indictment. He‘s accused in a $7 billion Ponzi scheme. Stanford was ordered to remain in custody and sent to Texas for a detention hearing next week.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to Chris and HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
On Thursday—that‘s yesterday—the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution apologizing for slavery. But some members of the House of Representatives say it‘s a bad bill because of the last sentence in the resolution, which is, “Nothing in this resolution authorizes or supports any claim against the United States or serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.”
Well, can the U.S. apologize for slavery officially, as the Senate has done, without some greater form of reparation?
Joining me right—joining me now is Tennessee Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen, who sponsored the resolution in the House—he‘s sponsoring it now—and U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn, a hero of the civil rights movements, from South Carolina, a regular on this program. He‘s the former chairman of the Black Caucus. And he‘s now the majority whip, one of the top leaders in the House.
Mr. Cohen, I want to thank you for coming on tonight.
I want to thank Mr. Clyburn on this Friday night.
Let‘s talk about the issue at hand. What is the value of the resolution, sir, if it doesn‘t have any reparation attached to it?
REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: Well, I think any time a country, or person, for that matter, does a grievous wrong, they need to apologize. And they need—that starts the process. The process, I hope, is a dialogue that makes people understand that the effects and the ramifications of slavery and Jim Crow, they are great.
I see them in my district. I see them in the United States of America. And I think a dialogue can and should begin. We have apologized to Japanese Americans, appropriately enough, for their internment, to Native American Indians, to the Hawaiian people when we took their island. And, yet, we have not apologized for the greatest sin that this country has committed, which is 246 years of slavery and nearly 100 years of Jim Crow.
President Clinton came close, but he didn‘t do it. President Bush came close, but didn‘t do it. The—the churches, some of the churches, have. I think the Episcopalian Church has. But I think it‘s an appropriate thing to do. And I‘m proud of Senator Harkin and Senator Brownback for leading the Senate in this effort. And I was proud to pass...
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re from the—you‘re from what state? Tennessee. You‘re from a Southern state that was part of fighting the Civil War from the other side.
What about people from Pennsylvania, whose ancestors went down and fought, and fought the Civil War, and got killed? We lost 600,000 men in that fight in the Civil War, who died at point-blank range. These guys were killed fighting the evils of slavery.
And now you want them to apologize? It makes no sense to me. Why should the whole country apologize for what a good half or more of the country got killed opposing, sir?
COHEN: Well, first of all, you know...
MATTHEWS: I mean, you‘re from Tennessee. Maybe you should apologize first, before you ask the rest of the country to. Why should Pennsylvania apologize for something it fought and died—you‘re laughing. It‘s not funny.
COHEN: No, I‘m not laughing, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Why should anybody apologize for your sins?
COHEN: Chris, you know, Pennsylvania had slaves, too.
MATTHEWS: Or any state—in New York, Vermont, they didn‘t have slavery.
COHEN: Yes, they did.
MATTHEWS: They had some of it.
COHEN: Yes, they did.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
COHEN: They had slaves in New Jersey and New York and every state. The Constitution of the United States is the Constitution of all the people.
COHEN: It permitted slavery, and it counted slaves as less than human beings. And it was responsible for the Dred Scott decision, Plessy v. Ferguson...
MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes.
COHEN: ... segregation laws that came out of the Supreme Court of the United States.
This is a country that‘s united and committed that wrong. The slave traders came from the North. The benefits of the slave trade, in terms of...
MATTHEWS: Yes, except 600,000 people are dead because of the Civil War because your side wanted to fight it.
COHEN: Well, it‘s not my side. You know, East Tennessee was—it was a split state.
COHEN: And my relatives weren‘t here.
But that‘s not the issue. The issue is where we are today...
COHEN: ... in America and as American congressmen. And the American government...
MATTHEWS: All right.
COHEN: ... needs to—to apologize for the wrongs that were done by ancestors.
MATTHEWS: I just don‘t think that blame is equal. I don‘t think the blame is equal, sir.
A lot of our families didn‘t get here until after the Civil War. I think maybe some plantation owners who have the—still have the farm, still own the plantation, still benefit to some extent from slavery...
COHEN: Chris, that‘s exactly the point. That‘s exactly the point.
COHEN: They were wrong, but so were the people who had the goods that they sold. So were the people who built the ships. So were the people who insured the ships.
COHEN: So were the people who financed those ventures.
COHEN: They were all in—in the North, in Pennsylvania and New York.
COHEN: Those were the people that benefited from it, too.
MATTHEWS: Well, I don‘t hold—I don‘t hold—I don‘t hold General Grant responsible for the other side when he was fighting the war.
Let me take—let me go right now to Congressman Clyburn.
Sorry to take up your time, Mr. Clyburn, but I think there‘s an issue here. Your thoughts?
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I think that Congressman Cohen‘s resolution that was unanimously passed by the House offered an apology.
But it went into talking about how we ought to go about rectifying some of the current effects of that past discrimination. And that‘s what we‘re doing today, as we roll out this working draft of our health care bill.
We‘re talking about addressing inequities, disparities that exist in the health care in our communities. That‘s the kind of thing that we ought to be doing.
And when the Senate went even further, I think, and offered up this restrictive language, it seems to me it will call into question some of the stuff that we‘re now trying to do to eliminate the current effects of past discrimination.
And that‘s why there‘s a little bit of unease in the House of Representatives.
CLYBURN: We applaud this—Congressman Cohen. And we voted unanimously to approve his resolution.
But the Senate, I think sort of gratuitously, put in language, as you said, that last sentence, that disclaimer, that might call into question the things we‘re trying to do here today.
MATTHEWS: Well, Mr. Clyburn, why should maybe the slave states, maybe the Confederacy, maybe the—the states that had Jim Crow for 100 and some years, well, shouldn‘t they be the ones that have to kick up the money, rather than the people who fought it?
CLYBURN: Well, this is not about money. This is about health care. This is about energy. This is about employment discrimination. This is about addressing those issues.
And if you are not—and you—remember, back when the Supreme Court first addressed this issue of affirmative action back in the Davis (ph) case, the Supreme Court says, if you have not discriminated, then you don‘t have an obligation to do anything to rectify it.
So that‘s what we‘re trying to do. Looking at those areas where they did, in fact, discriminate and see what we can do about righting those wrongs. And that‘s what Representative Cohen‘s resolution does. It allows us to go forward in a proactive manner, be futuristic here, not just look back with words, but look forward with deeds.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the deeds, Mr. Cohen, Congressman, what do you think should be done in terms of reparations? Anything?
DEEDS: Well, Congressman Conyers has HRS 40, which calls for a study of reparations. I‘m a co-sponsor of the chairman‘s resolution. It would be a study. And the most imminent authority on reparations, Professor Charles Ogletree of Harvard University, has said that study could be anything, but it could be emphasizing more public health, public education, public jobs programs, public opportunity.
And not just for African-Americans. Wherever Americans have been held back, whether it‘s Appalachia or inner cities or rural areas. And that‘s what Charles Ogletree suggested when he testified before the Judiciary Committee.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think reparations make sense. I just wonder if we‘ll ever figure out how do to do it. Mr. Clyburn, do you have a clear sense of—if you could be president right now, and had the Congress 100 percent behind you, what would you do?
CLYBURN: What I would do is exactly what we‘re attempting to do with this legislation, energy legislation, health legislation. I would look at ways we can programatically, and with new policy, address these inequities and make concerted efforts to do things that will make up for them and eliminate the disparities.
That‘s what I would do. I think people, when they use that term reparation, they immediately start thinking about checks or money going out.
MATTHEWS: That‘s true.
CLYBURN: And that‘s what causes the problem here. I do believe that our government is doing a good job toward addressing these things. And we ought not to do anything, with a resolution or otherwise, that would call any of these efforts into question.
You know how the House of representatives are made up; 435 men and women from all across this country with various views, very diversified. And they‘re voting unanimously for Mr. Cohen‘s resolution. We would like to do the same thing with the Senate, but we believe that the Senate‘s resolution, with that restrictive language at the end, would call into question many of the efforts that we‘re trying to undertake here today.
MATTHEWS: Good point. I think that the fact that the slave owners wouldn‘t allow people—they wouldn‘t honor people‘s marriages. They broke up families with impunity. They showed no respect for the marital act, the marital relationship under slave ownership. They wouldn‘t let people learn to read or be caught reading or educating themselves.
All this held people back. Obviously, they stopped them from getting capital of any kind. I think we should have had 40 acres and a mule. I think Thaddeus Stevens was a hero. And I go back to my point. I am so tired of American culture glamorizing the south and the Civil War, with “Gone With The Wind” and all that nonsense about the wonders of the old south and the plantation heritage, when the good guys in that war were the guys in blue, who fought slavery and battled for the republic.
Thank you, U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen, for representing your state, and Congressman Jim Clyburn, thank you very much.
Up next, as Iranians take to the streets, what message should America send them? Is President Obama saying enough? Is he? The politics fix is up next. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Time now for the politics fix. If you have been to the movies at all in the past 30 years, you have seen the work of movie producer and founder of Phoenix Pictures, Mike Medavoy. He‘s been involved in producing hit moves, ranging from “The Silence of The Lambs” to “The Thin Red Line.” His new book is fascinating. It‘s called “American Idol After Iraq, Competing For Hearts and Minds in the Global Media Age.” Joining him is an old friend, David Corn. He‘s the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” and a columnist for CQ.
Mike, I talked to you last week in L.A. Tell me what you would do, based upon your writing in this book, about the citizens-to-citizen relationships that we should be trying to develop with Iran.
MIKE MEDAVOY, PHOENIX PICTURES: Well, I mean, the Iran problem, I think, is more than just a problem in Iran. I don‘t see it just as isolated as that. I mean, obviously to me is that we sympathize with those people who are out in the streets who claim that the election did not go well. I even think that the, you know, Congress—Congressional step is probably the right step, but I don‘t think the president ought to go out and get in front of this issue.
MATTHEWS: What do people—Mike, what do—you and I were talking. What American culture—what movies do they see over there from us? Are they allowed to see? What do we want them to see about us?
MEDAVOY: Well, in truth, actually, everything that we make or pretty much everything we make is seen everywhere in the world, every remote village. You know, a place in China will up an American movie, even though they only allow 20 movies. There is a lot of stealing of our movies. They‘re everywhere.
They know everything about us, and we‘re living in a global glass house. Everybody sees everybody else.
MATTHEWS: But just to finish your point, in World War II, we would people like Frank Capra producing movies like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” extolling the advantages of democracy. And the French, when they were under Nazi occupation, I read, were still trying to watch that movie, right to the very end, when it was banned. Are there any movies that would help our relationship in that part of the world if they were being made?
MEDAVOY: If you talk about, you know, being helped, it‘s only a tool. It‘s one of several tools. I mean, it‘s one that I think the government—the State Department and the president and the secretary of state have talked about smart power. It‘s actually one of the tool. It‘s the soft power part of it.
But our image—I came to this country as an immigrant when I was 17 years old. I lived in China during the occupation. I lived in Chile for ten years, which, as we all know, had a history of Pinochet. I mean, the reason I came to this country is because, as I looked at it, all the advantages of being able to live a better life were here. And all that came from the movies.
MATTHEWS: That imagery. Let me ask you this, David. It‘s an amazing thing. We watched those amazing pictures coming out of Tehran this week. They are very powerful, very inspiring. You see people who want what we want, to some extent. They want to have a voice in their government.
DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”: I think American culture has been one of its most successful exports, for good and bad, but I think largely for good. You can travel around the world—even during the World War, you down go to Cuba, go to countries where we have tremendous antagonism with, in terms of government to government relations, and people still quote movies, music.
And with the advent of technology now, Youtube, websites, it‘s even harder. If anybody wanted to, in the past, to try to diminish Western cultural impact or what they used to call western cultural imperialism, they can‘t do it now.
So you look at the pictures coming out of Iran and you look at the crowds. And those are the pictures of modernity. These are people who—middle-class workers and also students. And what I like about it is, it challenges the cartoon image that we‘ve had of Iran, which is basically based on Ahmadinejad. Could John McCain today get up in front of a group of people and sing “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran?”
He could do it a year ago because we had no image of that country in a collective way. He couldn‘t do that today.
MATTHEWS: That was an idiot thing for him to do. By the way, I think these over there—just judging them, Mike. I think these are the college-educated people in Iran, from the looks of them. I think they‘re very much like the Obama people in this country. They want a bigger life and they‘re more intellectually interested in having a wider role in their government.
MEDAVOY: Where do you think they got this from? They got it directly from seeing images of what was going on in the rest of the world. In part, of course, the trip and the speech that Obama made in Egypt.
I mean, they‘re getting the same news. That‘s the point. The world shrunk. It‘s all globalism. Everybody can see everybody else. And they can see and hear everything we‘re putting out, even though they‘re trying to stamp it out. Like, you know, the Chinese try to stamp out the Tibetans. But they can‘t do it. It‘s impossible.
MATTHEWS: I remember in Germany, ‘89, as they were covering the fall of the Berlin Wall, they called it the nightly immigration, when people turned on their TV at night, and they found out what was going on in the west.
We‘ll be right back with the author of “American Idol After Iraq,” about the chance we have to change the world positively, Mike Medavoy, who is going to come back, and David Corn. Let‘s talk about the bad stuff we‘ve got to sell, Gitmo. Why are the American people voting in a poll this week, in our poll, for Gitmo? They seem to want to keep it there. That‘s not a good sign to send around the world. The torture factory, we like it? You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with more of the politics fix with David Corn and Mike Medavoy, author of “American Idol After Iraq.” Let me go to this big question. It‘s not a nice one this week, which has been a tricky week for the president. Take a look at this new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll showing most Americans oppose closing Gitmo, Guantanamo. Only 39 percent want to close it; 52 percent oppose it.
Michael Medavoy, you talked about the positive of aspects of our culture. One of the negative aspects for the last couple of years have been Abu Ghraib, the pictures of our troops humiliating those Arab men in prison in Iraq, and Gitmo, the very idea of it. How do we control this one?
MEDAVOY: Well, I mean, that‘s become a symbol, a flash point for al Qaeda being able to get as many people on its side as possible. That‘s not what Americans stand for. America stands for liberty, democracy, the Constitution, protection of rights. I mean, that‘s what we stand for. I mean, I think the big issue has been, should we bring them here or do we send them to Palau and to the Bahamas, where some of them were accepted.
But, I mean, I think the issue of torture, that shouldn‘t even be an issue. Americans don‘t torture.
MATTHEWS: It doesn‘t sell very well, does it?
CORN: What‘s happened too, Chris, is that we‘ve seen a couple month-long scare campaign, led by people like Dick Cheney and House Republicans and Senate Republicans, who have said, if you close Gitmo, they‘re moving next door to you and your granny, and who knows what‘s going to happen. Those numbers have been affected I think by the fact that the Republicans saw a real opening here. They finally found a national security wedge issue which they can use demagogic techniques.
I mean, if they come to the United States, they‘re going to the super max facility in Florence, where already we have a couple of dozen terrorists who are never going to see the light of day. So it‘s been an issue that I think emotions have been preyed upon, and in not a very productive way, by Republicans looking to score any points.
I mean, the telling point will be, if—when Gitmo closes in a year, if it becomes an election issue next year.
MATTHEWS: I‘ve had enough of this. I‘m tired of looking at prison cells—
MEDAVOY: I‘ve got to ask you—
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
MEDAVOY: Remember the “Manchurian Candidate?”
MEDAVOY: “The Manchurian Candidate” was about a guy who was tortured, converted basically and came back. That‘s not who we want. That‘s not what we want to tell the world we are.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. By the way, Happy Father‘s Day to everybody. It‘s great to have Barack Obama as a great father in the White House. It‘s not a political assessment, but it‘s a great image for the world I think, along these lines. David Corn, Mike Medavoy. Join us again Monday night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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