Guests: Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Chris Smith, Martha Coakley, Neil Swidey, Roger Simon, Charles Blow, Jim Greer
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Fighting over the kids.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Republican attacks, Barack‘s speech, and Teddy‘s book—three big stories tonight.
First, the chairman of the Florida Republican Party has a problem with
the president delivering a speech next week to schoolchildren to kick off
the new school year. Jim Greer says the speech is an attempt to—quote -
“spread Obama‘s socialist ideology” and to use students—quote—“as tools to spread liberal propaganda.”
Let‘s talk to this gentleman, Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer. He‘s going to be here in a minute.
Second, President Obama‘s address before a joint sessions of Congress next week could well be his loudest hurrah on health care so far. He‘s been under fire for not providing enough details of his own and for leaving the job to Congress. But now he plans to be more detailed, more prescriptive, if you will, of what he wants included in the plan.
Will he scale back on his focus on public options, or will he be able to get moderate Democrats and a couple Republicans aboard?
Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Republican Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey will be here to discuss what they want to hear from the president.
Also, we have got a bootleg copy of Ted Kennedy‘s memoir. His words are far more personal, far more candid, and more confessional, if you will, then we have heard from him over the years. And he didn‘t shy away from the low points in his life. It‘s really an impressive book. It includes discussions about Chappaquiddick and the tragedies of his brother‘s assassinations. We will get to all of that and revelations with a Kennedy biographer here tonight.
And speaking of Ted Kennedy, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is the first person to jump into the race to fill Kennedy‘s seat. She will be here tonight to answer the kind of questions, HARDBALL questions, a senator has to answer.
And, finally, who‘s the Hollywood celebrity people would most like to see in the Congress? Interesting result coming your way tonight on HARDBALL. That is in the “Sideshow.”
Let‘s start with the attacks on President Obama‘s speech next week to schoolchildren.
Jim Greer is the chairman of the Republican Party in Florida. He joins us right now.
Mr. Greer, thanks for coming on.
You put out a pretty strong statement the other day. You said the president—you referred to him as the pied piper Obama. Pied piper is a guy who took children away, and they were never seen again. Is that what you think, I mean, really?
JIM GREER, CHAIRMAN, FLORIDA REPUBLICAN PARTY: Well, I don‘t want him to take children away, but I don‘t want him to take their minds away either to push his agenda.
I will tell you, Chris, you know, as a parent, I want to know what my kids are going to be taught, what they‘re going to be exposed to in the school system. And when I saw and heard about this speech and saw the lesson plans that the White House was preparing that talked about, you know, what can you say good about President Obama‘s initiatives...
GREER: ... new ideas, things of that nature, that concerned me as a parent, as an American. And before anybody talks to my children from a political perspective, I want to know what they have to say.
MATTHEWS: Well, according to the White House—and then we can argue about this—you may believe they‘re dishonest, but they have put out a statement, the White House, saying, first of all, the president‘s entire speech is going to be made public next Monday. And any teacher that doesn‘t want his or her students to hear it won‘t have to hear it.
Number two, it‘s going to deal with the importance of taking personal responsibility for your success in school. That strikes me as kind of a Bill Cosby conservative, get-your-act-together speech. It doesn‘t sound like what you would call liberal propaganda, does it?
GREER: Well, that doesn‘t.
MATTHEWS: Does that sound like liberal propaganda to you? Well, that‘s what the speech is supposed to be about.
GREER: Well, Chris, that—well, how do we know that until they decided to tell us? Up until yesterday...
MATTHEWS: Well, why do you think it‘s about something else?
GREER: Well, up until yesterday, the talking points that teachers were given across this country dealt with writing a letter, how can I help President Obama...
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.
GREER: ... President Obama...
MATTHEWS: But there wasn‘t anything in there about health care.
MATTHEWS: There wasn‘t anything in there about health care or all of the other stuff.
GREER: Well, last night, they scrambled, they scrambled, after parents across this country became concerned, and they changed their Web site. They took all that information out.
GREER: It‘s no longer out there.
And now they have decided they are going to release the text, where, yesterday, they were saying they weren‘t.
GREER: I think this is good, but I think it did, Chris, substantiate my concern and parents‘ concerns that President Obama may go into the policy discussion areas. And that‘s not what children should hear when they go to school.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you. The question is, were you right in assuming he was going to use this as a—as a pulpit to push his politics?
And I agree with you he shouldn‘t do it with students. And I also agree with you, whatever person—I‘m not going to use an adjective—at the Education Department said, we‘re going to ask the students to help figure out how they can help the president doesn‘t sound right to me.
But here‘s my point. I think, if he‘s going to talk about how to get kids to talk about personal responsibility for staying in school and doing their homework—here‘s what he said just a couple of months ago to the NAACP. And I was so impressed with it. And if this is what he‘s going to talk about, I think even you would agree it‘s a good lesson. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We‘ve got to say to our children, yes, if you‘re African American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that somebody in a wealthy suburb does not have to face.
But that‘s not a reason to get bad grades.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE).
OBAMA: That‘s not a reason to cut class.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: That‘s not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands. You cannot forget that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Mr. Greer, that strikes me as, as kick-ass as Bill Cosby is. It‘s get off your butt, do your job, and stop complaining.
That doesn‘t strike me as what you call liberal lies or liberal propaganda. It doesn‘t.
GREER: Well—well, listen, I think that the president should have
an opportunity to motivate children, to encourage them to stay in school
But this president has been aggressive and very vocal on his vision of America, his vision of America. Where government does everything for us, as citizens...
MATTHEWS: Well, I don‘t—yes.
GREER: ... is not mine.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he‘s going to—do you have—do you have...
MATTHEWS: Yes, you don‘t have any evidence that he was going to do that, though.
GREER: I want to make sure that that‘s not what he‘s going to say.
MATTHEWS: But you‘re arguing against something there was no evidence he‘s going to do it.
GREER: Well, they put out teaching plans, Chris. They put out teaching plans with things in it that talk about, you know, how can I help President Obama?
MATTHEWS: I agree with you.
GREER: Well, the only way you can help President Obama is to promote his liberal agenda, his socialist agenda.
MATTHEWS: Well, OK. Fair enough.
MATTHEWS: Fair enough. I agree with you.
GREER: So, before President Obama talks to my kids, I want him to go through our parents. Go through parents first.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you. That was a line—that was a bone-headed line that some bureaucrat put in there. And I can‘t believe it wasn‘t caught by some politically smart person, because it‘s directly aimed at you, so you could beat the hell out of them with it.
And fair enough. That‘s politics.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t have a problem with presidents addressing students, though, do you, per se?
GREER: No, not at all.
MATTHEWS: OK, because President Bush, who...
GREER: As long as they don‘t talk about public policy.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the president. Do you have a problem
I want to know how far your party is down there. Do you have a problem with his legitimacy as president?
GREER: No, not at all.
I think Florida respects—Floridians respect the office of the presidency. I think, you know, Florida does things a little differently under Charlie Crist, where our government is problem-solvers. And I think when—at the end of the day, we‘re all Americans.
But there‘s a difference in philosophy certainly in Florida. We believe in less government, less taxes, more freedom.
GREER: And when you look at President Obama‘s vision, he believes in more government, more government, and more government.
MATTHEWS: You know what? You sound like a reasonable person. Did you write—did you write this statement? This statement said he‘s going to be a pied piper, in other words, take our kids away, we will never see them again. You accused him of liberal propaganda. You call them liberal lies.
You have got lines in here like, this is—this is—this is propaganda. Did you write this or some staffer of yours? I think you have got to be accountable for your staffers, too.
GREER: Well, Chris...
MATTHEWS: Did you really write this yourself with a typewriter?
GREER: I think everybody should be accountable.
And I think before...
MATTHEWS: Did you write this with a typewriter, sir, Mr. Greer? I think you‘re very impressive on the air.
MATTHEWS: Did you write this yourself, or did some staffer write it?
GREER: I had a lot to say about what was in it, and I approved it, ultimately, so it‘s my statement.
MATTHEWS: OK. Great. Thank you very much. You‘re—you‘re nice to come on. Thank you very much, Mr. Greer.
Your first name is?
MATTHEWS: Jim Greer. And you‘re—and I—by the way, I agree with you about Charlie Crist. I think he‘s hell of a public servant, a—I dare say he‘s a moderate Republican, but that would probably get him in trouble down there.
Thank you very much for joining us.
GREER: He‘s a get-things-done Republican.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Mr. Greer, Mr.
We‘re going to be right back with more of HARDBALL tonight.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, we got ourselves a copy of Ted Kennedy‘s memoirs way ahead of when we were supposed to, a bootleg copy, if you will. That‘s coming up. We‘re going to read you some of new stuff that‘s not out publicly yet—when HARDBALL returns.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Obama‘s going to speak to the nation and to the United States Congress in joint session next Wednesday night in prime time, his topic, health care.
Today, President Biden—Vice President Biden offered this preview of the coming speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With regard to the question of whether or not or what the health care system‘s going to look like that we‘re going to get, stay tuned for Wednesday.
One thing I have learned, don‘t step on your boss‘ lines.
There‘s going to be a major speech laying out in understandable, clear terms what our administration wants to happen with regard to health care and what we‘re going to push for. Specifically, it‘s going to be an awful lot of screaming and hollering before we get there, but I believe we‘re going to get there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Will the president offer understandable, clear terms to shift the health care debate back in his favor? Can President Obama unite enough Democrats to support what he wants?
With us now, Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Republican Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey.
You two are very civilized people. I‘m looking forward to a very civilized discussion, although, Chris Smith, you‘re going to vote against no matter what this guy puts forward. There‘s not a chance in a zillion you will vote for this guy‘s bill. But let‘s talk about the substance—substance.
Ms. Schakowsky, Congresswoman...
REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: Yes.
MATTHEWS: ... do you think you could possibly vote for a bill that comes back from House-Senate conference, a compromise, that included some other way to monitor, regulate tax, control the insurance industry, to keep them honest in offering accessible, affordable health care, without having a public option?
Is there any other way to bring the insurance companies into line with the public interest, any other way to do it?
SCHAKOWSKY: I‘m on of—I‘m one of many Democrats in the House who believes that, in order to really break the stranglehold that the insurance industry has had on our health care, denying coverage, denying care, that the best way to do it is to have a public option, and to—and it would also control costs.
I believe, at the end of the day, Chris, that, because it‘s the best way, not ideologically, but just—or politically, but it‘s the best way, that we‘re going to have that at the end of the day.
MATTHEWS: Well, the problem—well, you, Congressman, you‘re a conservative Republican from the Northeast. You‘re not that conservative. Do you think that a public option ends up being single-payer eventually?
REP. CHRIS SMITH ®, NEW JERSEY: Oh, I think it‘s inevitable.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t that the...
SMITH: And many people, including Barack Obama and others, have said, we may not get there right way, but we are on a—on a mission to get there over five...
MATTHEWS: When did he say that?
SMITH: He said that—I watched it on a—YouTube. And...
MATTHEWS: Oh, a while ago.
SMITH: And it was a speech he made. Jan has suggested that the...
MATTHEWS: Do you think Barack Obama is a secret believer in—in single payer?
SMITH: Not secret. I think he‘s put it in plain view. People have not focused upon it.
And I think what‘s going to happen this coming week, frankly, is that all of what has happened so far in the House and the Senate and the...
MATTHEWS: So, you think he‘ a secret—secret national health care policy person?
SMITH: Not secret. Well, I think he wants it. He‘s said as much on numerous, numerous occasions.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you the congresswoman.
Are you ideally suited to someone who—are you secretly a believer in national health care, where the government basically runs the national health care system, and there‘s no insurance companies involved?
MATTHEWS: Is that your ideal?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, no. Well, here—that—that...
MATTHEWS: Is it?
SCHAKOWSKY: That is irrelevant. What I—what I believe in, that...
MATTHEWS: No, is that your ideal, though? It‘s not irrelevant, because I‘m asking.
SCHAKOWSKY: OK. I....
MATTHEWS: Is that your ideal?
SCHAKOWSKY: I—I think—I think a single payer would be a good idea, but that‘s not where we‘re going and that‘s not the—what the president wants to do. And that is not what this is going to lead to.
If the insurance companies are willing to change their ways, they are willing to compete, they will be able to survive just fine. They may not have—make so many—such high profits, or their CEOs may have to cut back by a few million dollars, but I think they will absolutely be able to compete and lots of people will continue to choose them.
MATTHEWS: You know, the polling shows...
MATTHEWS: ... despite the president‘s not-great handling of this, to put it lightly—he hasn‘t been clear. He hasn‘t been strong. He hasn‘t made it clear what he thinks the country needs since the election.
But the polling still shows an overwhelming percentage of American people don‘t like the way things are right now. They want a national health care plan that fixes the problems of portability, of preexisting conditions. And they do want the people who aren‘t covered covered.
And the question is, are we better off—Congressman Smith, are the Republicans believing the country‘s going to be satisfied with a complete blowout here? In other words, come Christmastime, Thanksgiving, nothing gets done. The president goes down in defeat, like Hillary and Bill Clinton did. Is that good for the country...
SMITH: Well, I think...
MATTHEWS: ... total defeats of the Democrats? Is it?
SMITH: We need—we need to have a bipartisan plan.
MATTHEWS: Is that good for the country, total defeat?
SMITH: Well, if it‘s a bad plan, hopefully, that is the outcome.
We need a good plan. Jan Schakowsky said on April 18 -- and I watched her speech. A man told her that the public option puts private insurance out of business. And she goes, he was right.
There‘s no doubt it will happen...
MATTHEWS: Let me ask her that.
Is that what you said, Congresswoman? Do you say it‘s good that the -
the public option puts the private out of business?
SMITH: ... watch it.
SCHAKOWSKY: Actually, the man next to me said that it may be hard to compete. That is not what that—that is not what that gentleman said. And that is not what—what I believe.
SMITH: Watch it on YouTube.
SCHAKOWSKY: But it‘s the—look it, I didn‘t take an oath to protect the profits of the insurance industry.
SCHAKOWSKY: I think we have set up a system where they can compete, if they want to, and they don‘t have to go out of business. But they are going to have to change their ways.
SCHAKOWSKY: They have a stranglehold right now, and millions of people left out of the system because of them.
SMITH: Chris, what we need now—you know, Barack Obama will come in as if he‘s been apart from this process. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We know Rahm Emanuel and his whole White House has been engaged in health care reform.
MATTHEWS: Do you think Rahm Emanuel has been advocating a particular plan?
SMITH: Oh, I think he—the intricacies of this, of course, he has been. This has not happened in a vacuum. Are you kidding?
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
Here‘s my—OK, here‘s my option. I want to ask you, Congresswoman Schakowsky. You vote in the House. You‘re a very impressive member. So, let me ask you the question. If you had to choose in the end between a bill or no bill, what‘s better?
SCHAKOWSKY: I don‘t think that I have to choose, but—but I do believe we will have a bill.
Don‘t underestimate Barack Obama. He may be reaching out to the Republicans, but he has a steely spine. We‘re going to get a bill. It‘s going to be a good bill...
SCHAKOWSKY: ... and I think with a public option.
MATTHEWS: Will the Senate—will the House pass a bill before the Senate does? Will the House pass a bill before the president says he‘s for a single—for a public option? What do you folks need to pass a bill, with your majority in the House?
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, I—I—I think, as Nancy Pelosi has said...
MATTHEWS: What do you need for him to say to get it passed?
SCHAKOWSKY: I think, as Nancy Pelosi said, that we‘re going to pass the bill and it‘s going to have a public option.
And I think it would be good for the momentum...
SCHAKOWSKY: ... of the—the whole bill for us to pass it right away, as soon as we can.
MATTHEWS: And you don‘t expect—you‘re not—in other words, your party is not saying in the House, Madam Speaker‘s not saying, wait until the Senate acts; you‘re willing to act first?
SCHAKOWSKY: I—that‘s my thought. I believe that‘s true, yes.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Thank you.
Let me go to you.
SMITH: Thank you, Chris.
First of all, Americans are awakening to what this bill will actually do. They will be forced to become part of health care. They have to do it, or else they get hit with a 2 percent tax.
Employers will be...
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m with that. I support that.
SMITH: OK. Well, I don‘t. The employers will be forced...
MATTHEWS: I think every grownup ought to be responsible for their health care.
SMITH: ... will be forced—it‘s all about force, to force this, force that.
MATTHEWS: We have to have a—we have to have car insurance to drive on the highway.
SMITH: The health care...
MATTHEWS: I can‘t get on the Jersey Turnpike...
SMITH: The Health Care Advisory Committee...
MATTHEWS: I can‘t get on the Jersey Turnpike or the Garden State Pike...
MATTHEWS: ... without insurance.
SMITH: OK. You‘re asking questions. And I‘m trying to answer it.
The Health Care Advisory Committee will say what the parameters are for health care. Rationing is a very real concern. FactCheck.org found that the president was mistaken—hopefully, he wasn‘t deceiving by design, but was...
SMITH: ... mistaken when that he said abortion will not be covered. It is covered in both the premiums that will be paid when people get these affordability credits or premium subsidies, and it will be in the public option as well.
SCHAKOWSKY: That is just not true.
SMITH: Then check FactCheck.org.
SCHAKOWSKY: It is just not true.
SMITH: They are a nonpartisan—oh, it is true, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Is there a fact difference here?
Do you argue, Ms. Schakowsky, Congresswoman, that abortion services will not be subsidized in any way by this bill; they won‘t be subsidized?
SCHAKOWSKY: That‘s exactly right.
Government funds, taxpayer dollars will not go to fund abortions.
SCHAKOWSKY: It will all be private dollars if they had—if they choose...
SMITH: That‘s not true.
SMITH: ... that‘s not true.
MATTHEWS: You guys, every time—men and women on the Republican side—and you have a right to your conservative views—obviously, it‘s part of the American debate. Every time the Democrats move to do something on health care, you say, well, there‘s a better alternative. It‘s a Republican alternative.
SMITH: Well, that‘s not true either.
MATTHEWS: It usually means tax cuts.
You haven‘t done anything since Abe Lincoln to deal with health care.
MATTHEWS: And now you‘re saying you‘re going to do something. Why do you always say you‘re going to do something when the Democrats are in power?
SMITH: Who created SCHIP? The Republicans in 1997, one of the most innovative programs to enfranchise children who don‘t have health insurance. I have proposed...
MATTHEWS: I thought that was bipartisan.
SMITH: It was Republican Congress, and it was signed by President Bush.
MATTHEWS: Well, Teddy was for that.
SMITH: Well, you said not since Lincoln. So, we have...
SCHAKOWSKY: And a Democratic president.
SMITH: We—right, in 1997.
SCHAKOWSKY: A Democratic president at the time.
SMITH: But we were the ones who supported that. And it came out of a
the controlled House by the Republicans.
So, you‘re saying, Congresswoman, that that was initially proposed by a Democratic president?
SMITH: Are you?
SCHAKOWSKY: That‘s exactly right.
SMITH: Well, let me ask—we had a “patients bill of rights” bill
that was pushed—I was one of the co-sponsors of it—which would help -
you know, there are—there have been excesses by the insurance companies. No one‘s going to say that they don‘t do it right all the time. I actually handled the expenses for my parents. They denied coverage on them numerous times. We fought...
MATTHEWS: Have you ever been in an emergency room?
MATTHEWS: Have you ever sat in an emergency room? Do you know how many people are sitting in there...
MATTHEWS: ... just to get basic health care...
SMITH: ... with my wife.
MATTHEWS: ... primary health care, just sitting in a room for hours and hours and hours because they don‘t have insurance?
SMITH: And you don‘t just sit...
MATTHEWS: Do you think that‘s good?
SCHAKOWSKY: No, and Chris...
SMITH: There are a large—there are millions people who could become part of Medicaid and SCHIP but aren‘t aware of their eligibility. We got to enfranchise those people...
MATTHEWS: OK. Last word, Congresswoman. Last word, Congresswoman.
I just wonder what the Democrats...
SCHAKOWSKY: I just want to make the point...
MATTHEWS: I just want a bill
SCHAKOWSKY: ... that we are already...
MATTHEWS: That‘s my view. I want a bill.
SCHAKOWSKY: We are...
MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Congresswoman.
SCHAKOWSKY: We‘re going to get a bill. It‘s going to be a good bill. And just—people should just know, they are already paying, the average holder of insurance, $1,000 a year to pay for people who aren‘t covered, who aren‘t insured. We‘re paying for this system already.
SCHAKOWSKY: We‘re paying too much and getting too little. We can do better.
MATTHEWS: OK. While we watch you guys next week, as you sit in the House chamber...
MATTHEWS: I‘m going to see if you stand up to applaud anything. I want to see if you applaud anything. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois...
SCHAKOWSKY: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... U.S. Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, the Garden State.
Up next: What Hollywood celebrity wins a poll that was just taken on line as to which Hollywood type would you like to see in the U.S. Congress? A friend of mine just won. The answer‘s ahead in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.” First up: Wild pitch. Guess who‘s gotten into the talk about the possible line-up to run for Ted Kennedy‘s Senate seat? I mean, possible. Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling, a hero to Red Sox fans everywhere. The conservative all-star, who would have to run as an independent, was asked by a local radio station this morning about the rumors.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you planning or contemplating running for the vacant seat?
CURT SCHILLING, RED SOX PITCHER: I‘ve thought about it. The fight would be fun. You know, the whole spotlight media crap, not so much. But the fight would be a lot of fun because pretty much anybody that you‘re fighting against that‘s in office right now doesn‘t really have much of a leg to stand on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Not a bad argument, actually, but he‘s a conservative and doesn‘t have a chance in Massachusetts.
Speaking of Massachusetts and the Kennedys, who doesn‘t remember this image, John Jr., John Kennedy, Jr., hiding under President Kennedy‘s Oval Office desk back in ‘63? Well, fast forward to 46 years later, to now, to the next president with young kids, this photo of the president, of President Obama and his youngest daughter, Sasha, was just posted by the White House on line. A lot (ph) goes on. By the way, the charm translated overseas. “The London Telegraph” put those pictures on this morning‘s front page.
Time for tonight‘s “Big Number.” A new Internet survey from “U.S. News and World Report” rounded up this group of politically active celebrities—Ben Affleck, who‘s on this show a lot, Ann Hathaway, who ought to be on this show, Tom Selleck, who‘s on once in a while, musician Ted Nugent and Angelina Jolie—and asked correspondents who they‘d most like to see in the U.S. Congress. Well, the top vote getter, Tom Selleck with 41 percent. I don‘t think Rosie O‘Donnell would agree with that one. Sounds like the old Massachusetts rule, the shape of the field determines the winner. In other words, the field of liberals there—most of those Hollywood stars are liberals—and the one right of center guy was best positioned to win with 41 percent of the vote in that poll. They said they‘d like to see Tom Selleck make the move to Washington. That‘s tonight‘s “Big Number.”
OK, up next, Ted Kennedy‘s memoir is being released earlier than originally planned. In fact, it wasn‘t planned at all. NBC has bought copies at a nearby book store here. Wasn‘t exactly the plan of the publishers. That‘s coming up. Now we got some of—some of the citations from the book, a lot of interesting stuff in this about Ted Kennedy, amazingly honest. Well, it‘s a memoir, a real one, like, Chappaquiddick and all that stuff‘s in here and his failed presidential bid, a lot of new stuff in this. We‘re going to bring it to you for free in just a minute.
Plus: The candidate many expect (INAUDIBLE) goes after Ted Kennedy‘s seat is going to have to answer some tough questions. Martha Coakley‘s going to have to do that when we come back. She the top candidate, the only candidate, the attorney general of Massachusetts announced today that she‘s running for Ted Kennedy‘s seat. She‘s in the field all alone right now.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(CNBC MARKET WRAP)
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. NBC News has obtained a bootleg copy of Senator Kennedy‘s memoir, “True Compass,” and we‘re going to be taking a closer look at that and what the late senator wrote in just a minute.
But first, Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley was the first to announce her candidacy today in the race to replace Senator Kennedy. Martha Coakley, the attorney general, joins us right now.
I want to get to some of the hot-button issues that people ask every senator to respond to. Right now, we‘ve been covering on this program this whole question of Eric Holder deciding to at least look into a preliminary investigation as to whether U.S. interrogators broke the law in their handling of alleged terrorists. Do you think that investigation, if undertaken, should include the vice president and other higher-ups who gave the guidelines?
MARTHA COAKLEY (D), MASS. ATTORNEY GENERAL, SENATE CANDIDATE: I think if he‘s opening the investigation, and that seems what it is at this stage, he‘s got to go where the facts and the evidence lead him. I‘ve been a prosecutor for a long time. I think you‘ve got to do it fairly and you have to look at everything. He‘s obviously decided it‘s worth doing. We don‘t know what all the facts are, but he—if he‘s going to get to the bottom of it, he has to do that.
MATTHEWS: So even policy makers like the vice president, who‘ve been very clear—I mean, the man has been incredibly candid in supporting waterboarding, et cetera, et cetera, in terms—in fact, he‘s supported even those cases where interrogators went beyond the guidelines. He said they should be left alone. Where are you on that question, generally speaking? Do you think they should be held harmless—held—outside the line of inquiry or not, if they broke even the guidelines set by the administration that left office last January?
COAKLEY: Well, generally speaking, you know, we have rules of immunity, who we include, who we don‘t in those investigations. But if there‘s criminal behavior and the attorney general feels that they should be the subject of that, you know, he has—I think the investigation will lead him where it needs to. I think he can look at that, and then there will be other defenses or other decisions that get into play on that. But they obviously feel there‘s a real reason to do this investigation, and I think they‘ll do it in a thorough and fair manner.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about some of the issues before the Senate right now that would be coming up right away. They may even be still alive if you become the next senator from Massachusetts. What do you think of the idea of covering abortion in the new health care bill? Should it be covered?
COAKLEY: I‘m pro-choice, and I believe that the ability of people to have access to that should be unfettered. That‘s my belief. It‘s been true in Massachusetts and true for a long time. That‘s a political question. It‘s a difficult one. I think that—you know, I personally believe that‘s true, but the legislature has put some restraints on that. And you know, that‘s not, as I understand it, something that right now people are discussing, but I know it will be in the health care bill, and that will be one—that‘s one of the very thorny issues.
My own personal belief is that the Constitution allows it, permits it. And when we recognize a constitutional right, we have some responsibility to make sure people have access to that right.
MATTHEWS: So the subsidies which are going to be in the new health care bill as provided by the House committees, will provide for abortion—if they do provide for abortion rights, that‘s fine—for abortion, that‘s fine with you, abortion services?
MATTHEWS: If the subsidies include (INAUDIBLE) even though the Hyde Amendment says the federal government cannot spend a dollar on abortion. How do you square that?
COAKLEY: Well, Chris, look, this is the first day I‘ve announced this. This health care bill has so many pieces that are critical and complicated.
COAKLEY: On that particular issue, that‘s where I am. I know there are going to be a lot of ways that those pieces will fit together. But I can‘t really answer you right now how we square that with the Hyde amendment, but...
MATTHEWS: Well, just a general principle—as a general principle, Madam Attorney General, do you think the federal government should be, as part of the health care reform, subsidizing abortion? Yes or no.
COAKLEY: Yes. And I think—yes.
COAKLEY: The short answer is yes, and I think they will have to change other laws to make them consistent. I‘ve always felt that way.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the recent—I was—I‘m not an attorney, but you are, certainly you are. And I‘d like you to know—I‘d like to know your view on this. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that we have an individual right to bear arms, not a right to join a militia and therefore have a gun, but you have a right to own a gun, like any other element in the Bill of Rights we were taught in school. Do you agree with that decision, we have an individual right to bear arms?
COAKLEY: You‘re talking about the Heller decision.
COAKLEY: The Heller decision in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Yes, the one about the D.C. law, that struck down the D.C. law that outlawed gun ownership. Do you support the individual right to own a gun? Forget the militia stuff. Do you support the individual right to own a gun?
COAKLEY: Well, that decision right now applies to D.C. There‘s a—we have a case on appeal right now that we just filed an amicus on as to what the reach of that decision is, as to individual states. It‘s still not clear that—and I think it is clear from the Heller decision that there‘s a lot of room for states to still regulate. There are ways in which our state in particular, and that‘s what I‘m most familiar with, puts restrictions on who, what, where and when, and...
MATTHEWS: So you‘re not—you believe there should—states should
have the right to restrict gun ownership, even if there‘s an individual
right. You don‘t buy it as an absolute right.,
COAKLEY: I think there‘s a huge counterprevailing public safety issue. Having said that, look, my husband‘s a police officer. I understand and support the right of well-trained and responsible gun owners. That‘s not the issue. But this—this Heller decision has opened up a lot of concerns around what will happen and how can states keep people safe. And I think there‘s going to be a lot of litigation around it.
MATTHEWS: Are you a gun control advocate?
COAKLEY: I believe in public safety that controls guns in an appropriate way. I think Massachusetts has some very strict gun control laws, but we also respect the right of sportsmen and others to own personal handguns.
COAKLEY: And I think that people can and should be licensed to own handguns in many circumstances.
MATTHEWS: It‘s an honor to have you on, Madam Attorney General. Martha Coakley, who‘s announced for the United States Senate seat held until recently the late, great Senator Ted Kennedy. It‘s great to have you on. Thank you for coming on HARDBALL tonight. This is what we do here, and it‘s great to have you aboard. Thank you.
COAKLEY: Look forward to seeing you again. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much for coming on and answering our questions.
Now let‘s turn to Neil Sidey—Neil Swidey, rather—co-author of
the Kennedy biography “The Last Lion,” for a closer look at the late
senator‘s memoir, “True Compass.” Well, I‘ve been calling it a bootleg
copy. The fact is, our people at NBC bought copies at a nearby book store
here. So it certainly violates the plans of the publishers, who wanted to
hold this book off until the 14th.
But here we go. Let‘s take a look at what the late senator said about Chappaquiddick. And I found it very poignant. “That night on Chappaquiddick Island ended in a horrible tragedy that haunts me every day of my life. I had suffered sudden and violent loss far too many times, but this night was different. This night I was responsible. It was an accident, but I was responsible.”
“Every day of my life”—Neil.
NEIL SWIDEY, CO-AUTHOR “THE LAST LION”: Well, Chris, I think, you know, from the excerpts I‘ve read so far, and that is a particularly telling one, the book seems more notable for its sense of reflection more than its sense of revelations. I mean, that—those words are haunting and honest, but they‘re fairly consistent with what he said after Chappaquiddick, after the accident, taking—talking about his behavior being inexcusable.
I think the legacy that he‘s talking about, about how, you know, this story has dogged him for the rest of his career, but that he‘s talking personally, it stayed with him. And I think he was also smart to acknowledge that as much grief as it caused him, the grief was much stronger and more lasting for the Kopechne family.
MATTHEWS: That‘s right. I thought it was a very honest statement, as far as it went, of course.
Let‘s take a look at what else he wrote. “In the months and years after Bobby‘s death”—that‘s, of course, the former attorney general, late attorney general, Robert Kennedy—“I tried to stay ahead of the darkness. I drove my car at high speeds. I drove myself in the Senate. I drove my staff. I sometimes drove my capacity for liquor to the limit.”
There‘s a couple other references in this book, and let‘s take a look
at another one here. This is about the Alaska trip. “On the homeward
flight to Seattle, I drank too much in an effort to numb myself.” Wow, “in
an effort to numb myself.” “The accounts that eventually surfaced of my
resulting rowdiness and leading everyone in childish chants of ‘Eskimo
power‘ were on target. Someone later quoted me as saying in the course of
one of those legs that if I were to run for president, quote, ‘They‘re
going to shoot my ass off the way they shot off Bobby‘s.‘”
Acknowledging all that as fact now.
SWIDEY: That to me was the most incredible of the excerpts that have been released so far because what it shows is just what kind of place Ted Kennedy was in, in 1968 and 1969.
I mean, this was from—in six years from going from the kid brother to assuming the mantel of leadership for the family and in some ways for the country and the Democratic Party, he was not prepared for it.
He could not grieve except publicly, so he had to sort of be stoic publicly. And that Alaska trip is notorious for what it showed of what he was feeling and how he just sort of needed this kind of release, and sometimes reckless release.
But I agree with you, those were pretty incredible for their candor, those comments.
MATTHEWS: I‘ll tell you, that sounds like a guy, I don‘t know if it‘s clinical or not, but when you say you‘re drinking to numb yourself, you‘re keeping busy to numb yourself, that the feeling that—you know, I‘ve heard this said about—I know there are so many mixed feelings about the late senator, and, of course, every one of us is a mixed bag, but I‘m profoundly affected by this book.
Let‘s look at something else he wrote. Quote: “As I walked in a St. Patrick‘s Day parade,” this is also after Bobby was killed and Jack was killed, “in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in March 1969, a burst of popping fire crackers caused me to freeze in my tracks and prepare to dive to the pavement. I stayed upright by an act of will. Years later on another occasion I was enjoying a walk in the sunshine near the Capitol Building with Tom Rollins—then my chief of staff—when a car backfired down the street. Tom recalls I was suddenly nowhere to be seen. Turning around he saw me flattened on the pavement.
“‘You never know,‘ Tom recalls me saying, even now I‘m startled by sudden noises. I flinch at 21-gun salutes at Arlington to honor the fallen in Iraq. My reaction is subconscious. I know I‘m not in danger but it still cuts through me.”
You know, I have heard stories with him taking different routes every day to vote. You know, I saw him years ago looking to everyone who came into the hearing room and making sure they looked OK. All of these years since ‘68 thinking you could be next when you have two brothers shot right there in public life.
SWIDEY: I think that‘s exactly right, Chris. And I think in 1968, remember, when everyone around Bobby Kennedy was encouraging him to run, Ted Kennedy was the singular source of opposition. He did not want Bobby to run.
He was careful enough in the Kennedy family, as you know, to frame it politically, not worrying about Bobby‘s safety, although that was unsaid. And I think they both understood that. They feared that this might happen again.
And, of course, when both of your brothers are shot and your oldest brother was killed, you have to have that weight of doom in some ways, even though he sort of—and that‘s why I think he looked forward so often in life as opposed to looking back because that was his only way to deal with tragedy.
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m going to read every word of this book. I have been looking at Xerox copies this afternoon as we have gotten copies from the book store. Here‘s what Senator Kennedy wrote about Jimmy Carter, my old boss. I was a speechwriter for him, as I‘ve said before.
“Clearly, President Carter was a difficult man to convince of anything. One reason for this was that he really did not really listen.” Well, those two guys were like oil and water. They never got together. They just were different strokes. I have to tell you. I don‘t know who‘s right. I‘m loyal to Carter, but I have to tell you that those guys did not belong on the same planet. Your thoughts?
SWIDEY: Well, I think it makes you wonder if the ‘80 race, Ted Kennedy‘s race against Carter, would have happened if there had been a better personal equation between the two. And I think the answer is no. It was a bad decision to run against an incumbent president. It weakened them both. But I think it really was.
I think Teddy Kennedy felt that Jimmy Carter was a bit of a scold and a bit of arrogant and did not respect the leadership in the party that Ted Kennedy had given in the ‘70s when he came in.
And that just sort of hurt him and bothered him all the way right up until his announcement to run.
MATTHEWS: And I think a lot of people around the senator, and a lot of liberal—the columnists who supported him never gave him the straight skinny. Once you‘re responsible for a death, the level of atonement that is required is almost beyond human ability. And that‘s why he wasn‘t going to be elected president.
Anyway, Neil Swidey, thank you very much. Up next—by the way, congratulations on your book. I read it and I loved it. It‘s a great book.
SWIDEY: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: It‘s called—your book?
SWIDEY: “Last Lion.” “Last Lion.”
MATTHEWS: “Last Lion.” Up next—there‘s a picture of it.
Up next, can President Obama take control of this health care fight? The big story next Wednesday night, “The Politics Fix” is next. This is HARDBALL on MSNBC only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, is Wednesday night‘s speech to Congress a make-or-break time for President Obama and his health care bill? HARDBALL returns with “The Politics Fix,” next.
MATTHEWS: Well, what a night for politics. Time for “The Politics Fix” with the Politico‘s Roger Simon and The New York Times‘s Charles Blow.
Thank you both for joining me. You know, we just had on a candidate for Ted Kennedy‘s Senate seat. The first time she has been on anywhere. I thought she was pretty good. However, when I asked her about abortion and whether it should be subsidized in the new health care bill, she wasn‘t quite ready but she did say she supports subsidizing abortion services as part of the health care bill.
It seems to me that might be OK in Massachusetts. But is it tough when given the Hyde Amendment, which says you can‘t pay for abortion with federal money?
ROGER SIMON, POLITICO: It‘s a tough one. I thought she was impressive for the few minutes that she was on. But she was, I think, not really up to speed on all of those issues she‘s going to be asked during the campaign. It‘s understandable. She has just announced. But there are so many pitfalls that she‘s going to face on the way and she just faced her first one, talking about, yes, I‘m for public funds being for abortion.
On the other hand, there is something called the Hyde Amendment. On the third hand, the president of the United States does not really want to deal with this issue on the eve of voting—we hope on the eve of voting for health care reform in America.
MATTHEWS: I thought it was within the strike zone, though, to ask the question.
Charles, it seems when you run for Senate, you have got to start answering the questions right away. Your view, her position on gun control, she‘s pretty much for gun control. Her position on Vice President Cheney, he ought to be investigated along with everybody else in terms of interrogations. Your thoughts about how she answered those questions?
CHARLES BLOW, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Those are all winning answers in Massachusetts. It may not be for the national stage, but it‘s a winning proposition in Massachusetts.
But what—she‘s an interesting candidate to me because—simply because she‘s a woman in Massachusetts. If you recall during the primaries, Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama in Massachusetts by 15 percentage points, even though Ted Kennedy had endorsed Obama.
And that‘s because she won female vote by 26 points. If she could—and she was a Clinton supporter. If she can mobilize that, it kind of puts her well out in front of the rest of the field.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think the Senate is going to have a lot more women in it the years ahead. It may get up to 50 percent. That‘s the way I look at it. I think there are really strong candidates, per se.
And by the way, in Massachusetts they say the shape of the field determines the winner. Here‘s the people that look like they might run against her. Maybe Ed Markey, who is very strong, very strong, and a very friend of mine obviously, but a very strong senior who did all of this work pushing the climate change and the energy bill. He got it through.
He‘s the hero of that one. You‘ve got Steve Lynch from Southie, from South Boston who is a pro-lifer. He will like what she had to say there because he will position himself directly against that. And Capuano, who took Tip‘s seat. That‘s an interesting field, but I think she does well in that field.
SIMON: She does well in that field, but I‘ve got to say, in that field, and he‘s not a friend of mine, I met him a couple of times, I get about 20 e-mails from him a day like all reporters do, Ed Markey has served in the U.S. House since 1976. He‘s 63 years old. It‘s a good time to get to the Senate.
He has paid his dues. He‘s a smart guy. And I think if he chooses to run, he‘s going to immediately move to the head of the pack.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. We‘ll be right back. We‘re going to talk more about this new Ted Kennedy book and other things. Amazing confessional stuff in this new Kennedy book. I think even Kennedy critics will be wowed to the extent they‘re wow-able about his honestly. Charles Blow and Roger Simon, we‘ll be back in a minute with “The Fix.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Roger Simon and Charles Blow. Roger Simon of Politico, and Charles Blow of The New York Times. I want to go to Charles Blow first on this one. Next Wednesday, the president is going to address the nation and he is going to address the Congress in joint session.
The vice president put out the word he‘s going to be detailed, he‘s going to be cleared. Is that enough to unite the Democrats?
BLOW: I‘m not sure that it is. I think that the president has waited a little too long in the debate, and not giving clear direction and not actually explaining things in ways that people understand.
The great thing about the GOP is that they speak in bumper stickers. The president does not do that. He is inclined to soaring oratory. It‘s great, you know, for the history, but it‘s not great when you‘re trying to win a political battle. And so it never sticks.
They‘ve turned him into, you know, the party of no. No, I‘m not going to kill your grandmother. No, I‘m not going to take away your health insurance. He‘s on the defensive and I think that it probably has gone on for a bit too long at this point for him to salvage the original plan. He has to give up much more than he wants to give up. I mean, he basically has to move the goalposts to claim a victory.
MATTHEWS: I agree. I think a lot of people out there are sitting worried they‘re not going to get the liver transplant, they‘re not going to get the protocol, they‘re stuck in a huge bureaucratic system, it has gotten out of hand, the debate.
SIMON: He has to give the most nuts and bolts speech—major speech of his life in front of Congress. This isn‘t a State of the Union speech, even though the setting is the same. He has to get down off the mountain top and into the trenches and tell us what he wants.
MATTHEWS: OK. The liberals will be watching, Charles and Roger, will he support definitively and strongly a public option? My hunch is if he doesn‘t, if he waffles or he says he prefers one or anything that sounds soft, the netroots, the talk show people, including my colleagues, all kinds of people in this country, are going to spend a couple of days hosing the guy. Your thoughts, Charles?
BLOW: Every time we hear from the administration these days on the public option, it‘s like they‘re licking soft serve ice cream. They never come out with any sort of passion on either side of that.
And that leads people to believe that they do not—that it‘s not imperative that they have it in the bill. I think that is the message that he will continue to send, which will mean that there will not be the public option as we know it in the bill.
MATTHEWS: If he continues with the soft ice cream approach to this, as Charles refers to it, and I think it‘s not bad, if he does that next Wednesday night, what will the people like Schakowsky, who was on the show, from Illinois, Anthony Weiner, the big city liberals, what will they do?
SIMON: They won‘t vote for it. It‘s not that the left wing of the Democratic Party wants the public option. The left wing of the Democratic Party wants single-payer. The mainstream of the Democratic Party, the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party wants the public option.
MATTHEWS: Why? Do they want it as a first step towards first—single-payer?
SIMON: No. Because as the president himself has said, it is the only way to keep the health care industry honest. If they‘re not forced to compete, they won‘t compete. They will get the icing on the cake. They‘ll get the whole cake. They‘ll get 46 million new customers, but they really won‘t have to agree to do any of the stuff that we call reform without being forced by the public option.
MATTHEWS: Of all people, Charles Krauthammer, a man of the right, said the one thing the president could do is call for—not for a public option, which could bring the whole thing down in the Senate, but for regulation of the insurance industry like you regulate gas companies, electric companies, public utilities.
You put them in a position where they can‘t charge huge profits, they can‘t steal the money, they‘ve got to provide the service. It seems to me, you regulate them, you make them into a utility, that‘s what you do to health care companies—insurance companies. What do you think?
BLOW: I think that‘s a long shot. I mean, maybe it would work, I‘m not saying it wouldn‘t work. I think it‘s a long shot but that‘s going to be part of this bill. I think that the president is trying to get this behind him because he has seen what it has done to his poll numbers and in fact he will take any win. A W is a W.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well said. I get your point. I get your reporting.
Thank you, Roger Simon. Thank you, Charles Blow.
Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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