Guests: Pete Williams, Chris Matthews, Julia Boorstin, Rep. Jared Polis, Jonathan Martin, Clarence Page, Robert Gibbs
CHUCK TODD, GUEST HOST: A ruling from the Supreme Court, a sentence for Madoff.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chuck Todd at the White House, in tonight for Chris Matthews, who is out of the country this week—I can assure you, though, not on the Appalachian Trail nor in Argentina.
Leading off tonight: Robert Gibbs speaks. It‘s been a huge news day. The Supreme Court ruled for the white firefighters in the New Haven discrimination case, reversing a decision endorsed by the president‘s Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. Bernie Madoff got the book thrown at him. And there is still huge political and tabloid fallout from the Mark Sanford sex scandal. In just a moment, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs will join me to talk about most of those issues—not all of them, I‘ll promise you—and much more.
Plus, more on that Supreme Court decision. It has enormous implications for workplaces all over the country, and NBC justice correspondent Pete Williams and my White House colleague, who is also a lawyer, Savannah Guthrie, will be here to sort it all out.
Also, President Obama has been meeting right here at the White House with lesbian and gay activists today, many of whom are unhappy with the lack of progress in repealing “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act. Is the president breaking his campaign promises to a group that has faithfully supported him?
And then there‘s Bernie Madoff, who got what many felt was coming to him, the max, a 150-year prison sentence for swindling investors out of tens of billions of dollars. That‘s going to be in the “Politics Fix.”
And finally, Governor Sanford‘s Argentine mistress has broken her silence, admitting that, yes, those embarrassing love e-mails—they came from her hacked e-mail account.
But we begin with a guy I spend probably too much time with during the week and every day, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. Robert.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Happy to spend more time with you.
TODD: Well, there you go, and we brought the heat. We‘ll see if we (INAUDIBLE) heat here. Let‘s start with the president‘s agenda. Obviously, you guys feel very good about what happened with the energy bill, even though many will say, Hey, it was a squeaker, and if you‘ve got a squeaker in the House, what makes you think you can get anything done in the Senate? You‘re trying to get health care through the Senate.
So let‘s—I want to read you a quote, actually, that the president said. And he was asked about this in one of the interviews he did yesterday, about everything he‘s asking Congress to do. And he says, quote, “I just think what we‘ve been doing over the last six months is getting people back into fighting trim. When you start training again and you‘re pushing your body a little bit harder, sometimes it hurts. But if you keep on at, it after a while, your body adjusts. And I think that‘s what‘s happening to politics in Washington. Folks have been sitting on the couch for a while, and now they‘re starting to feel like, Hey, you know what? I can run.” So...
GIBBS: The president told me the same thing about going to the gym.
TODD: Yes, speaking of fighting shape. I don‘t think you and I qualify here as trim enough yet.
GIBBS: No, we‘re working on it.
TODD: So you really think Congress can handle all of these things you‘re asking them to do more? We‘ll get to “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell” in a minute.
TODD: They can handle all of these things this year politically and just legislatively?
GIBBS: Yes. Chuck, there‘s no doubt that it will be hard. The easiest thing for this town to do is the same old thing, the status quo. The president is asking Congress because the American people are asking Washington to do more. These are problems that we‘ve dealt with—I‘m sorry, problems that we‘ve faced for, in some cases, in health care‘s case, 40 years, but we continue to ignore. When we did an energy speech in the campaign, the intro to the energy speech was presidents since Nixon talking about reducing our dependence on foreign oil.
We have for decades put these problems off. This president was elected to deal with them, deal with them in a way that creates jobs and gets our economy back on track and lays that long-term foundation for economic growth. That‘s what the American people want, and that‘s what the president intends to deliver.
TODD: One of your colleagues was on “Meet the Press,” David Axelrod, and he seemed to hint, Look, if you have to prioritize, health care one, then energy. Is that how you‘ll spend your political capital? Is that a fair assessment here, that the White House will do that?
GIBBS: I think that‘s true, but I think David would agree with this because this is what‘s come from the president—we can do both. We can do financial regulatory reform on top of that. The Senate can also do a Supreme Court nominee in time so that she will be able to hear the rearguing of a case in September. We can do all of these things. I think we‘ve proven in a short period of time, we‘re not afraid to tackle a lot of big issues, and I think we‘ve seen progress in having Congress deal with a lot on their plate because the American people are facing a lot on their individual plate.
TODD: Speaking of “Meet the Press,” Lindsey Graham was on after, and he had an interesting quote and a way to criticize the White House. He criticized his own party and the White House for some of what he thought was strong-arm tactics in Congress. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: You know, I know bipartisanship when I see it. You pay a price for it. There has been no bipartisanship. The stimulus package was Karl Rove politics, pick a few Republicans off, call it bipartisan. The climate change bill was Tom DeLay banging heads and twisting arms to get one vote more than you needed. So there‘s really been no change in Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Now, to be fair to Senator Graham—and I know you‘re going to dismiss it...
GIBBS: (INAUDIBLE) problem.
TODD: But when President Bush got his tax bill, he got Mary Landrieu, Max Baucus and maybe one other, said it was bipartisan. When Tom DeLay for years was able to hold up the time on votes, if he needed to find the votes, it seemed like...
GIBBS: That wasn‘t done out of...
TODD: You didn‘t do that here, but...
GIBBS: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
TODD: ... but that there was...
GIBBS: Let‘s not—let‘s—don‘t confuse-
TODD: You know, there was some questioning whether you would even bring up—that Speaker Pelosi would pull the bill if she didn‘t have the votes, which was obviously something the majority can do. I mean...
GIBBS: Well, that‘s not a Tom DeLay tactic. That‘s a pretty smart legislative tactic. Chuck, we‘re not going to put something on the House floor that isn‘t going to pass. The president was actively involved in ensuring that members, Democrat and Republican, understood what was in this bill, understood what wasn‘t in this bill, because you had members of Lindsey Graham‘s party talk about the fact that this bill was a huge tax increase, even though the Congressional office budget says that‘s simply not true. This bill will create jobs. This bill will lay out a long-term foundation for economic growth by creating a market for those clean energy jobs.
Look, I think the president has made progress on bipartisanship. It is not...
TODD: Define it. Define it. What‘s it mean to this White House?
GIBBS: It means getting...
TODD: Republican ideas or Republican votes?
GIBBS: Both. Those why...
TODD: And how many? Does it matter, the number?
GIBBS: Well, but see...
TODD: Is it one? One Republican vote bipartisan in the view of the White House?
GIBBS: I think that if you look at any number of things that this White House has done—and look, change isn‘t easy in Washington, just like we‘ve talked about. We‘ve expanded—through the course of our legislative battles, we‘ve expanded the number of Republicans that support these things. You got a lot of people—you had a lot of people—you had seven Republicans on the climate change bill, even though—it‘s hard to get Republicans sometimes. I appreciate that Lindsey on occasion demonstrates some bipartisan tendencies...
TODD: He was here Friday.
TODD: Talked about immigration reform.
GIBBS: Absolutely. But you know, it‘s hard to make progress in this town when—you remember back in the stimulus bill, the president was going to Capitol Hill to talk to the Republican caucus about what was in the bill, and the Republican caucus leaders announced their opposition before the president got to speak to the group.
TODD: I want to go to...
GIBBS: I think to be able to get bipartisanship, we‘ve got to have a two-way street. The president is making progress. That‘s why just last week, the Senate health committee that‘s working through bipartisan health care reform accepted over 100 Republican amendments to that bill. That‘s incorporating Republican ideas into the most complex piece of legislation we‘re working on today.
TODD: The stimulus has been a political football for Republicans for a few months. They‘ve circulated releases today taking Christina Romer quotes, who‘s part of the economic team here, what she said then and what she says now, and taken with a number of economic advisers, saying, you know, When is the stimulus going to kick in? When does it work?
Forget all of that a minute and just say this. When should we judge the stimulus package?
TODD: On whether it‘s working or not.
GIBBS: I think we should judge it—we should begin to judge it now.
TODD: To judge it now?
TODD: (INAUDIBLE) job loss, judge it now? I mean, based on what?
GIBBS: But let‘s understand—I hate to do the long view. You get frustrated when I do this in the briefing room, but let‘s try to...
TODD: The long view.
GIBBS: You know, understand that nobody predicted where we were at the end of last year.
TODD: I understand that.
GIBBS: And nobody even predicted that what we saw in December and January was an economy that just about fell off the cliff, right? We had steeper job loss and steeper reduction in economic growth in the fourth quarter than anybody imagined by a factor of seven or eight. Nobody saw the economy contracting the way it did. Our problem got deeper.
It actually made the case stronger for the recovery plan. We are obligating money every day to get the economy moving again, to put people back to work, to build roads and bridges, to invest in those clean energy jobs. It‘s going to take some time. And I think you heard the president last week say, I‘m not satisfied yet because we‘re not seeing positive economic growth, and we‘re probably going to see more job loss on Thursday when the new statistics come out.
But understand we‘re making progress. It‘s a two-year plan, so it‘s not all going to be fixed in 90 or 100 days. But the president and his team feel confident that we have something that will get this economy moving again.
TODD: Let‘s move to gay rights. The president had a pretty high-profile event earlier today. I want to play a couple clips from you on “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” This is something from the transition, on January 9th. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIBBS: Thaddeus (ph) from Lansing, Michigan, asks, Is the new administration going to get rid of the “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy? Thaddeus, you don‘t hear a politician give a one-word answer much, but it‘s yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Now, I‘m sure you would object to the close-up and...
GIBBS: I would object as vociferously as your viewers wood.
TODD: Now let me tell you—let me play you a clip of what you said last month when asked a very similar question about the future of “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIBBS: The only durable solution to “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell” is through a legislative process, and the president is working with Congress and members of the Joint Chiefs to ensure that that happens.
A president can‘t simply whisk away standing law of the United States of America. I think that‘s maybe been the undercurrent of some of the conversations we‘ve had over the past few days on Guantanamo Bay. But if you‘re going to change the policy that is the law of the land, you have to do it through an act of Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Now, you provided a great segue because you talked about Guantanamo there, and we‘re talking about “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” You have made the argument that you want Congress—that Congress needs to deal with “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell” and the president will sign getting rid of that law. On Guantanamo, with the detainee issue about keeping them potentially indefinitely, you‘ve indicated you‘re not going to go through Congress on that.
GIBBS: No, I don‘t...
TODD: It potentially won‘t go through Congress. It was something that...
GIBBS: Well, don‘t told me responsible for what “The Washington Post” wrote and corrected three times on Friday. That I don‘t want to be responsible for. I said pretty clearly in today‘s briefing that the president doesn‘t believe that he holds inherent in his powers the right to detain indefinitely. This isn‘t something that we‘re going to do with a sleight of hand or on the dark of night. We‘ll work—during the dark of night. We‘ll work with Congress...
TODD: Oh, so you want Congress to pass something. That was a big complaint—Lindsey Graham was saying he wanted—he will get the bill through—he thinks he can get it through the Senate.
GIBBS: And we will work...
TODD: Are you going to get that through the Senate?
GIBBS: Absolutely, because I don‘t think people would have confidence in our policy if it appears as if we were doing it from on high.
TODD: So going back to Guantanamo, this will not be done by executive order. If we have...
TODD: ... indefinite detainees, Congress will pass a law.
TODD: Going back to “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” Why not, then, though -
you can stop—there‘s been a study that said you can stop—and I know you‘ve been asked this in briefings, but that you could stop the discharges. Why not do that as a first step?
GIBBS: Well, because the team has determined, in consultation with the Pentagon and others, that‘s going to exacerbate the long-term problem of getting something through Congress. In order to get something done that‘s enduring—you heard me say that, and what I mean by that is something that lasts, something that isn‘t overturned or isn‘t something that causes such a sharp political reaction that it becomes ultimately harder to do away with a policy that the president strongly believes is not in our national security interest.
He‘s working with the Pentagon, working with members of Congress, and said at this event just a minute ago, Don‘t judge me simply by the promises I made, judge me by the promises I keep. I can assure you that when we look back—and this is going to take some time, but when we look back, the president will be judged on the promises that he kept, and this will be one of them.
TODD: And when he runs for re-election, this will be a promise he will have kept?
GIBBS: I think that is the case, yes.
TODD: Fair enough. Robert Gibbs, I‘m going to let you go.
TODD: We keep it going.
Coming up: So far, so good for President Obama‘s Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor—that is, potentially until today. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed a high-profile decision she endorsed at the appellate level, deciding that white firefighters in Connecticut were unfairly denied promotions because of their race. Will this embolden critics of both the judge and the president? And what does this decision mean for workplaces around the country?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
TODD: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed a decision endorsed by President Obama‘s Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor today, and instead ruled in favor of those white firefighters in the New Haven discrimination case. So how does this ruling make Sotomayor look today? And what does it mean for the country and going forward?
NBC justice correspondent Pete Williams—he‘s at the Supreme Court, reporting this story all day, and NBC White House correspondent, my partner here, Savannah Guthrie, who is a lawyer and can go through these things, in her previous life.
Pete, let me start with you. Walk us through exactly what this case was about and what the Supreme Court ruled today—in particular, the fact that they seemed to, for lack of a better word, legislate of sorts from the bench. Maybe that‘s the wrong phrase.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, here‘s the—here‘s the—here‘s the thing to bear in mind, Chuck, as we go through this. There are two kinds of illegal discrimination, the kind do you on purpose, intentional discrimination, and the kind you do unintentionally, some job action you take that ends up being discriminatory, even though you didn‘t mean it to be.
It‘s that second kind that‘s at issue in this case, and it involves a test for promotion given to firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut. When the results came in, none of the African-American firefighters would have qualified for promotion, so the city said, Well, we better throw it out. It looks to us like that second kind of discrimination, since none of the African-Americans would have qualified for promotion, and if we don‘t throw it out, we‘ll get sued. But the...
TODD: And Pete, that‘s in the law. That is something that is...
TODD: ... written in law about...
TODD: ... unintentional—unintentional—or no?
TODD: But that‘s something written in the law about unintentional—or no...
WILLIAMS: Yes, yes.
WILLIAMS: Yes, the unintentional discrimination is written into the law. What do you do about it, was the issue in this case.
WILLIAMS: So the real question was, before the Supreme Court, Is it enough to say that you feared you‘d get sued to throw the lawsuit out because when you do that to avoid unintentional discrimination, then the white firefighters said, Wait a minute, to avoid unintentionally discriminating against the African-Americans, you are discriminating against us. And so the white firefighters sued.
And you hit the nail on the head. That‘s the legal question, Is it enough to say you feared you‘d get sued? And today the Supreme Court said, No, it isn‘t. It‘s not enough. The Court, in an opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, said once you set the standards for promotion, you can‘t change them. You can consult before, if you want to, but not once you set them.
TODD: Now, explain—they seemed to put in a new rule into that ruling today—that‘s 5-4, by the way, very narrow...
TODD: ... the normal conservative to liberal with Anthony Kennedy the swing vote...
TODD: ... so it‘s probably fitting that he wrote the opinion. But explain this new rule and how—and what it will mean going forward.
WILLIAMS: Well, what the Supreme Court said is, in saying it‘s not enough to say you feared a lawsuit—here‘s the new standard the Court set out today. They said a city like New Haven has to show not merely a fear that it would get sued, but strong evidence that it would lose a lawsuit. So it said, You don‘t have that. You can‘t show us that the test was defective or not.
TODD: Just based on a lawsuit, right.
WILLIAMS: Right. You can‘t show us whether there was some other alternative, other than this test, that would have achieved the goal you wanted. And because you can‘t do all that, you were not in a sufficiently strong legal position to throw the test results out.
WILLIAMS: So that‘s the new test.
TODD: Now, Savannah, it took about five minutes for the RNC to send out a list of I believe it‘s now seven cases that Judge Sotomayor...
TODD: ... that the—that the U.S. Supreme Court has—that went ahead ruled on, six of them they have overturned on her side.
Does that—what does that mean? Is that a meaningful statistic, or not?
GUTHRIE: Well, if it is, it applies not just to Judge Sotomayor, but also to then Justice Alito—or then Judge Alito and Judge Roberts.
And, so, the White House is saying, look, just because the Supreme Court reverses a decision that a judge was on, this is not a referendum of their competence or their abilities. If it were, for example, Chief Justice Roberts was on the losing side of the Hamdan case, the one that struck down the military commissions, when it came up...
GUTHRIE: ... on the Supreme Court. Justice Alito, I believe, wrote two opinions that came before the Supreme Court. Both of those were reversed.
So, they‘re saying this is not a referendum on whether Judge Sotomayor is a good judge or not.
TODD: Politically, having it as a 5-4, showing the normal political divide that the Supreme Court...
TODD: ... actually helpful to Sotomayor?
GUTHRIE: Well, I—I think the White House...
TODD: In an odd way.
GUTHRIE: ... views it that way...
GUTHRIE: ... because they‘re looking—they‘re saying, look, Republicans, conservatives, you don‘t have to get so excited about this major change in the ideological makeup of the court.
Justice Souter was where? With the liberals on the case. Where would Judge Sotomayor have been if this case had been before her on the Supreme Court? With the liberals on the court. So, this is really a wash. It‘s a net/net, when you exchange Souter for Sotomayor, in this kind of case.
TODD: All right. I want to take this up 10,000 more feet and talk about affirmative action.
Pete, we—the most recent poll that has asked just the public generally favor or oppose affirmative action, 56 percent say they still favor affirmative action. Thirty-six percent oppose.
But I want you two to take a listen to then candidate Obama on the issue of affirmative action and how he may believe it should—we should have another it should be not just race that we use as a way to determine affirmative action.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And race is still a factor in our society. And I think that for universities and other institutions to say, “You know, we‘re going to take into account the hardships that somebody has experienced because they‘re black or Latino or because they‘re a woman...”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, MODERATOR: Even if they‘re wealthy?
OBAMA: ... I think that‘s something that they can take into account.
But it can only be in—in the context of looking at the whole situation of the young person.
So, if they look at my child, and they say, “You know, Malia and Sasha, they have had a pretty good deal,” then that shouldn‘t be factored in.
On the other hand, if there‘s a young white person, who has been working hard, struggling, and has overcome great odds, that‘s something that should be taken into account.
So, I still believe in affirmative action as a means of overcoming both historic and potentially current discrimination, but I think that it can‘t be a quota system and it can‘t be something that is simply applied without looking at the whole person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Now, Pete, some could listen to the—now President Obama and those words and say, he might be open to revisiting how you define affirmative action in the 21st century.
If the—if somebody chose to do that, I mean, is there a specific law that would have to be changed if you wanted to take into account economic status? Because that‘s what he—in another interview, he talked about poor white children needing potentially a leg up.
And this is, in fact, already happening in admissions to schools, both public schools and law schools. You‘re seeing many states do this, saying the best indicator to look at is economic circumstances.
But, remember, Chuck, what we‘re talking about in this decision today is illegal job site discrimination. And, in her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, remember the legacy of written tests.
She points out that police and fire departments around the country have long used written tests as a means of frustrating minority applications and promotions. They have been used to try to keep minorities off police departments and firefight—fire departments.
So, she says, you know, you have to think about the past here and whether a written pencil-and-paper test is the best way to determine who is going to be a good commander at the scene of a fire.
TODD: Going—listening to then candidate Obama‘s words, do you—you know, this always has seemed to me a subject that he wants to be able to—Sister Souljah is an unfair description, but want to do something that seems...
TODD: ... counter to what you might expect from him on an issue.
GUTHRIE: Well, it‘s...
TODD: And affirmative action has always been one that he‘s hinted at.
GUTHRIE: It‘s true. And it‘s a classic Obama middle ground by—so, saying...
GUTHRIE: ... yes, I stand for affirmative action, but then trying to broaden the appeal by saying, you know, maybe it‘s not about these typical racial—racial classifications. Let‘s broaden it out. Let‘s look at it more holistically, socioeconomic background, which probably has an appeal to a wider swathe of people.
TODD: Very quickly, before we go, do you expect—Pete, can she duck having to say what she thinks of the new Supreme Court rule on this case when Judge Sotomayor is on confirmation hearings?
TODD: Or should she answer the question?
WILLIAMS: Oh, she will be asked about it. And I think she will have to answer it.
And it‘s well to point out here, Chuck, I think that, you know, while the majority does reverse her today, there‘s no—they don‘t come down on her like a ton of bricks. There‘s no wording in this ruling today saying, man, were they ever wrong.
TODD: So, do you expect her to reverse it and say, you know what, this new rule, I would have sided with their—on the other side?
GUTHRIE: I don‘t know.
TODD: Or do—you don‘t think she will go that far?
GUTHRIE: This thing happens in these confirmation hearings, the judicial fifth, right, where they say...
TODD: Right. Right. Right.
GUTHRIE: ... I have to remain silent because it might come up before me.
This case has passed, but...
TODD: The most frustrating part. I am going to count on Pete and Savannah to dissect the judicial fifth.
Thank you to both of you.
Up next: Say hello to Maria Belen Chapur—I hope I said that right.
Governor Mark Sanford‘s Argentinean mistress. How exotic.
Stick around for the “Sideshow” next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
TODD: And back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”
First up: from Argentina with love. Governor Mark Sanford‘s mistress, 43-year-old Maria Belen Chapur, broke her silence this weekend, confirming reports that she is, indeed, the other woman.
There is Chapur in an undated footage shown reporting from New York. Chapur also said this weekend that someone had hacked into her e-mail account and leaked a series of embarrassing love letters from Governor Sanford to South Carolina‘s newspaper “The State,” which published the e-mails last week.
Despite the scandal, Governor Sanford told NBC this morning he‘s still set on finishing out the 18 months left on his term.
Next up: Say this for John Boehner; he doesn‘t hold back. On Friday night, the Republican minority leader was looking to stall the House vote on the president‘s sweeping climate change legislation. How? By reading parts of the 1,200-page bill for an hour. When “The Hill” newspaper asked
Boehner to explain himself, he said—quote—“Hey, people deserve to know what‘s in this pile of ‘expletive deleted.‘”
Well, the bill narrowly passed the House 219-212, though it‘s expected to face a tough battle later this year, if it even gets this year, onto the floor of the Senate.
And time now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”
It‘s no secret that President Obama‘s getaway of choice during this term so far has been golfing greens. As of late, how many times has the president escaped the White House for a round of golf? By the Politico‘s count, four weekends in a row.
And we have a feeling we know why he likes to go out there. Let‘s just say, what happens on the golf course with maybe, say, little nicotine things stays on the golf course, because we have no helicopter footage or TV footage to prove otherwise.
We‘re not saying we‘re—we‘re actual for sure that he does that, but we think that‘s why the president may like golf. Anyway, that‘s tonight‘s “Big Number”—four weekends in a row.
Now, some sad news. Yesterday‘s TV‘s most famous pitch man, Billy Mays, passed away at his home in Florida. Mays was a huge presence in the world of cable television advertising, bringing that trademark voice and energy—kind of rivals a guy from HARDBALL—those unforgettable ads selling everything from Orange Go, OxiClean, to Kaboom, and, most recently, ESPN 360, which, to me, was the—the—the part of this career when you realized, this guy sort of got the joke, he got who he was, and he was comfortable in his own skin.
And, just when he looked like he was having a good time, he was taken a little bit—a little bit too short. So, Billy Mays was just 50 years old. We will miss him. And we hand out the best to his family.
Up next: President Obama hosts a high-profile gay-rights event at the White House today. Can the president win back gay rights activists who are frustrated with his failure to make good on campaign promises to them, like overturning don‘t ask, don‘t tell?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks finished higher on rising energy prices, with fund managers snapping up recent winners a day before the close of the second quarter. The Dow Jones is up about 90 points. The S&P 500 gained eight points, and the Nasdaq added five.
The White House says Bernie Madoff‘s 150-year prison sentence sends a strong message to potential fraudsters and the markets. A federal judge sentenced Madoff to the maximum sentence today, a decision that was met with cheers in the courtroom.
Oil stocks rose to more than $71 a barrel, after Nigerian militants attacked an offshore oil platform belonging to Royal Dutch/Shell.
And Apple CEO Steve Jobs is back at work, following a near six-month medical leave. The 54-year-old Jobs underwent a liver transplant while on that leave.
And fast-food Giant Wendy‘s saw its shares rise almost 11 percent after a ratings house said its shares appeared to be significantly undervalued.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I know that many in this room don‘t believe that progress has come fast enough. And I understand that. It‘s not for me to tell you to be patient, any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African-Americans who were petitioning for equal rights a half-century ago.
But I say this: We have made progress. And we will make more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was President Obama speaking to gay-rights activists today at a White House event honoring Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month.
Many activists are frustrated with the president‘s lack of movement on repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and the military‘s don‘t ask, don‘t tell policy. So, is President Obama breaking his campaign pledges to some of his most faithful supporters?
Democratic—Democratic Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado is one of the first openly gay members of the Congress to get elected running as an openly gay American.
Congressman, thank you for joining me.
I want to start off...
REP. JARED POLIS (D), COLORADO: Well, pleasure to be here, Chuck.
TODD: I want to start off with another quote the president said today, which, it seems to me, he went a little bit farther on don‘t ask, don‘t tell than we had heard before.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I believe don‘t ask, don‘t tell doesn‘t contribute to our national security. In fact, I believe...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: I believe preventing patriotic Americans from serving their country weakens our national security.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: Now, my administration is already working with the Pentagon and members of the House and the Senate on how we‘ll go about ending this policy, which will require an act of Congress.
Now, some day, I‘m confident, we‘ll look back at this transition and ask why it generated such angst, but, as commander in chief, in a time of war, I do have a responsibility to see that this change is administered in a practical and a way that takes over the long term.
And that‘s why I have asked the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a plan for how to thoroughly implement a repeal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Congressman, simple question: Is that enough?
POLIS: Look, I mean, this is a policy that continues to weaken our military every day it‘s in existence.
I mean, how much sense does it make to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars training a good soldier, only to discharge them just because of who they choose to date?
I—I am proud to take Obama at his word today. I think he‘s going to be moving to end this policy. And the sooner we can do it, the better we will be able to secure the interests of our nation abroad.
TODD: Now, he has made this distinction that this has to be done through Congress. There has been some legal analysis that says, you know what? He could stop the discharges immediately through an executive order.
You know, do you feel like he‘s waffling here a little bit by not immediately stopping these discharges with the power of the pen that he has?
POLIS: I think we‘re both in agreement that, in the long run, what we need to do is an act of Congress to put it in statute that people cannot be kicked out of the military merely because of their sexual orientation.
I would like to see the president go a little bit further, and, at least, while we‘re discussing this issue and while we‘re working to—to enact this change, that we should suspend anybody being kicked out of the military over this.
TODD: Now, there‘s been some speculation that politics has a lot to do with this.
And you look back on the first year of President Clinton‘s term, and the gays-in-the-military decision at the time was seen as one that seemed to just bog him down, give members of his own party problems when they were trying to run for reelection in 1994, among a whole bunch of so-called culture war issues.
Are you worried that that‘s what the White House is doing here, that maybe they‘re letting a potential midterm political issue get in the way of what they want to do?
REP. JARED POLIS (D), COLORADO: You know, this is really one of the least controversial issues that we‘re dealing with in Washington. We‘re talking about the energy issue, Cap and Trade, health care policy, universal care. Even an issue like gay marriage, there‘s really fervent people on both sides of the issue.
This is an issue, allowing people to serve in the military, making sure we put our best foot forward, 70 percent of the American public believe we ought to do it. Even some of the authors of the initial policy, Colin Powell, Sam Nunn, have said, it‘s time to change this policy.
Really, the only area where I have seen any disagreement over this is under the Capital dome. I think we need to make a lot of progress on that. The American people and the military are more than ready.
TODD: I want to read you something here that candidate Obama wrote in a letter to the gay community. It said, quote, “unlike Senator Clinton, I support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, known colloquially as DOMA, a position I have held since before arriving in the U.S. Senate. While come say we should repeal only part of the law, I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether. Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does.”
Congressman, obviously, I‘m guessing you completely agree with that statement. A lot of gay right activists completely agree with that statement. Is his action in office matching those words?
POLIS: You know, when the Defense of Marriage Act was first passed, it was more of a hypothetical issue. There weren‘t, in fact, any gay marriages to ban. We now have an increasing number of states—and it is a state prerogative to define marriage—who are choosing to allow same-sex marriage. My home state of Colorado doesn‘t yet, but many other states do.
And the federal government needs to respect those just like they respect other marriages in the states. I think that, again, we can take Obama at his words. He reiterated just last week he is committed to repealing DOMA in its entirety. We need to build the political will to do that.
TODD: How serious are these fund-raising boycotts? Is it taking—having an impact on the Democratic party in your mind?
POLIS: Well, you know, what a number of us were disappointed with was the president‘s decision to defend DOMA, and the language he used in a brief a couple weeks ago. First of all, he could have chosen not to defend it. There‘s not a legal requirement to do so. The attorney general of California, Jerry Brown, chose not to defend Proposition 8 to the state Supreme Court.
If he had chosen to defend it, he could have used legal arguments that were less offensive to the community than some of the citation that were included.
Again, this is a policy where it‘s time to say states have the ability to determine marriage and for the federal government‘s purposes, for tax purposes, et cetera, we need to accept that. I hope we can move forward and repeal DOMA.
TODD: Congressman Jared Polis, you‘re one of the lucky few members of Congress who gets to go spend the summer recess in Boulder, Colorado. Not a bad place to call home. Thanks very much.
Up next, pressure is building on South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford to resign. He says he‘s staying put, but does he hurt the Republican party nationally by not stepping down now? The politics fix is next. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
TODD: And we are back. time now for what I always need every hour, the politics fix. I got “Chicago Tribune‘s” Clarence Page and “Politico‘s” J-Mart, Jonathan Martin.
All right, guys, let‘s start first with our friend, Governor Sanford. He‘s still the governor of South Carolina. I want to see how long you guys think he will be or should be governor. Here is the governor talking to NBC‘s Mark Potter today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MARK SANFORD ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: My initial reaction was to resign. To be human is to, on occasion, fall flat on your face. I have done it in the most public of circles. The question now is what do I learn from it and what do other learn from it.
MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: To be clear you intend to remain as governor. You intend to remain?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: I‘m going to start with Jonathan first, because we got some news updates on this situation. Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer has said, I‘ll become governor, not run for re-election in ‘10, if he resigns now. How serious is that offer?
JONATHAN MARTIN, “POLITICO”: I think it‘s a trial balloon. I think he‘s floating that out there to see what kind of response he gets from that. And I think, Chuck, the hope in doing that is that he can sort of firm up perhaps his statesmen credentials. I talked to Republicans today in South Carolina, and they pretty much scoffed at that offer, because what they think is that Bauer knows—and what most of the folks in the state know—is that Sanford is probably not going to resign.
So by saying this, it‘s a pretty safe thing to say, knowing that you wouldn‘t have the opportunity in the first place.
TODD: So it‘s not a real offer. Clarence, you have seen people like Governor Sanford in trouble lots of times, and you get into these whole resignation watches, whatever you want to call them, feeding frenzies in the local press.
CLARENCE PAGE, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: And office pools.
TODD: Office pools, too. We haven‘t started one here yet. Maybe that‘s what we‘ll do tomorrow. But what is this window? You know, in your mind—you‘re watching this thing and you say to yourself, geez, if that guy is still in office by X, then you know what, it sounds like he‘s going to stay. No matter what details people want to share with me, that‘s sort of your political life span in a situation like this. What do you say to that?
PAGE: Well, we‘re going into the July 4th recess for Congress. It‘s the lazy, hazy days of summer, when incumbents can look around and test the waters, and see how public sentiments look. We already know that Governor Sanford has an opponent waiting in the wings, Lieutenant Governor Bauer, as you mention. There are other Republicans waiting to have a primary fight. Of course, Democrats champing at the bit as well.
So I suspect over the next month we should know. And if he does spend the rest of the term, that‘s just going to set up all the other opponents who are ready to challenge him in that primary fight.
TODD: Obviously this has become a national story because some of us thought Mark Sanford was a serious presidential candidate.
TODD: And it‘s gotten a lot of other Republicans talking. Here‘s Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty talking about the Sanford situation from over the weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. TIM PAWLENTY ®, MINNESOTA: -- engaged in behavior that is sad and troubling and hypocritical, other people are going to look at that and say, hmm, they don‘t walk the walk. The words and the actions don‘t ring true.
But it‘s a sad and troubling situation with Jenny and Mark Sanford. I know them. I‘m proud of Jenny for her strength and her commitment to her family and keeping that family together. Frankly, I was glad to see her not standing at the press conference like many others have, kind of charting her own path, saying, look, I‘m willing to forgive him, but I‘m not going to stand there and condone this in any way. But it certainly hurts the brand. It‘s hard to quantify it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Jonathan, on “Meet the Press,” Mitt Romney, who some already have decided might be the front-runner, if you can call somebody that this early—although nobody actually wants the title right now—in 2012, was particularly also pretty tough on Sanford and the values thing. Who is helped here in this situation, in an odd way? Is it a Romney and Pawlenty? Are we highlighting the two guys helped the most?
MARTIN: Yes, I think so. I had a very smart Republican point out to me that Sanford, Chuck, was going to be the Club for Growth candidate. That‘s the very fiscally conservative group. With him now gone, I think that could help a Romney or a Pawlenty, because now there‘s a lot of money available from those kind of folks that was probably going to go to Sanford next time.
I think you have to look at those two. Romney especially. Look, the guy is known for keeping his nose clean, the Boy Scout image. You‘ve got Ensign and now you‘ve got Sanford. The fact is, if you want somebody that‘s super clean, that we know has been vetted—and beyond dogs on roofs there‘s not much there—it‘s Romney.
TODD: Dogs on roofs. Clarence, is this criticism that somehow the Ensign thing and Sanford, hey, this is a reflection on the Republican party, when, look—look at the tabloids in New York today. New updates on the John Edwards saga from the Democratic side. So is this stuff as damaging to the Republicans as maybe some of the media has made it out to be?
PAGE: Well, somebody pointed out over the weekend that Sanford decided to destroy his own marriage before same-sex couples could do it for him. This is the kind of observation that you see rising now, because Republicans are the ones who raised family values as a big issue back in the Reagan era. Now, they‘ve got to live by it in ways Democrats don‘t quite have to.
Either way, Chuck, as I mentioned earlier, as long as you‘ve got opponents out there waiting to win your seat away from you, then they‘re going to pick whatever issue they can. This is a juicy issue for any politician.
TODD: All right. We‘re going to be back with both you guys, Clarence Page, Jonathan Martin. We‘ll talk about the Bernie Madoff sentencing and what that means for the economic crisis as a whole. If people are getting their just desserts out of the entire thing. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
TODD: We‘re back with the “Chicago Tribune‘s” Clarence Page and “Politico‘s” Jonathan Martin for more of the politics fix. Let‘s talk about Bernie Madoff. He got his 150 years. Work with me here a second, both of you. He‘s become the face, in many ways, of like the greed of Wall Street. You know, he is the Michael Douglas character, you know, the guy -everybody‘s throwing the book at him—
PAGE: Gordon Gekko.
TODD: And we got him. He‘s behind bars. And it feels good today. But is he enough, Clarence? You know, what I mean is: are people going to want to see more? And I feel like Madoff, in many ways—even though what he did is actually separate from what happened on Wall Street—because he‘s been the story, are people going to need to see more? And frankly do members of—whether it‘s the Obama administration or Bush administration, do they risk being sort of the next targets of maybe public anger at this?
PAGE: Well, I think it has tremendous repercussions across the lines of a number of issues. Listen to all the people you hear saying, boy, it‘s a good thing we didn‘t go along with Bush‘s Social Security plan to put our investments in the stock market. The faith in the stock market is at a long-time low, if not all-time. And the whole push to get more regulations out of Capitol Hill, whether they‘re effective or not is kind of secondary. People want more regulations. They want more watchdogs to stop the next Bernie Madoff.
So this is the kind of symbolic episode. Madoff is the kind of symbol that can lead to the sort of seismic political changes that can last for a decade or two.
TODD: Jonathan, he brought up more regulation on Capitol Hill. I was struck by an op-ed that was in the “Washington Post” Sunday from Mark Warner, junior senator, who was throwing some cold water on the administration, Obama administration. He‘s not one to take them on very often. But the Obama administration‘s regulatory plan; basically not liking this idea, too much power in the Fed.
This isn‘t Ron Paul arguing too much power for the Fed. This is Mark Warner, businessman, Democrat, saying—
MARTIN: Centrist, very cautious.
TODD: Does Ben Bernanke have to worry about becoming a political football himself?
MARTIN: He does. I think—you don‘t see the Mark Warners of the world doing that unless this issue has the potential at least for political resonance. We‘re going to see, I think, the first test of this Wall Street strategy this fall in New Jersey. Don‘t forget, Governor Jon Corzine, former Goldman Sachs executive, they‘re going to try to toss some of this Wall Street at him, try to sort of paint him with that brush.
We‘ll see what the response is in that state I think here in a few months.
TODD: I can‘t imagine being a Goldman Sachs Democrat today and trying to run for office. But you know what? It‘s New Jersey.
MARTIN: It is New Jersey.
TODD: Anything can happen. Clarence Page, Jonathan Martin, great politics fix. Join us again tomorrow night. It‘s 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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