Guests: Chuck Todd, Howard Fineman, Bertha Coombs, Rep. Donna Edwards, Rep. Trent Franks, Melinda Henneberger, Eugene Robinson, James Stewart, Andrew Ross Sorkin
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Say it ain‘t so, Joe.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Joe Wilson‘s war. It came to the floor less than an hour ago, the resolution of disapproval over Joe Wilson‘s “You lie” outburst. We‘ve got a House Democrat and a House Republican joining us to debate whether it‘s right to offer this resolution against Wilson, or whether Wilson, as he claims, has apologized enough.
Plus: Medical chart. When it comes to the human body, 98.6 is a normal temperature and healthy. When it comes to passing the health care bill, the number is 60, 60 senators to beat a filibuster and get the bill passed. The Democrats have 59 seats. That means right now, they need at least one Republican to vote for the health care bill. That‘s if they can get all 59 Democrats aboard. So tonight, HARDBALL—let‘s do a hard check of the numbers.
Also: Bad, bad, bad! A year after Lehman Brothers went belly up, triggering the global financial meltdown, two journalists are coming to HARDBALL tonight to say nothing has changed. Wall Street biggies are still grabbing the big bonuses and taking the big risks that almost brought down the whole house of cards last year. So how come?
Plus: Look where President Obama is this afternoon, attending a fund-raiser for Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Not only is he taking sides, but he‘s taking sides in a primary against many in the old progressive Democratic base. That‘s the “Politics Fix” tonight.
And remembering a friend and colleague who knew how to be straight with the public and talk truth to power, Jody Powell.
But first the debate over the resolution to rebuke Congressman Joe Wilson. U.S. Congresswoman Donna Edwards is from Maryland. She‘s a Democrat. Congresswoman, why is it important for the House to vote disapproval of the conduct of Congressman Joe Wilson?
REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: I think it‘s really important to our institution. I would have preferred that Mr. Wilson go to the floor and offer an apology to the institution and to the office of the president, but he didn‘t do that. And so he really didn‘t leave us with much choice but to express our disapproval for his conduct before our joint session. I mean, it‘s about our rules, it‘s about the process, and it‘s about honoring and respecting the office of the president and the House of Representatives.
MATTHEWS: You think this is a race thing?
EDWARDS: I don‘t think it is at all. I mean, I spent my time over the weekend in my district, you know, black folks, white folks, you know, across the stripes, Democrats and Republicans, who themselves expressed their disapproval, and really, their dismay. So I don‘t think it‘s really about race. It‘s really about our institutions and...
MATTHEWS: No. I think...
EDWARDS: ... the rules that govern us.
MATTHEWS: I wasn‘t clear, Congresswoman. I mean, was it a racial thing on the part of Wilson? Was he expressing contempt for Barack Obama because of his heritage?
EDWARDS: No, I don‘t think that at all. I mean, I think there‘s been a vigorous debate about the policy and about health care. The problem is that, you know, while he offered a personal apology, it was actually a public offense to the institution. We just don‘t do that. And we have to distinguish ourselves, and in fact, our rules are what distinguish us from other kinds of government.
MATTHEWS: Well, thank you, Congresswoman, for—let‘s take a look now at—thank you for coming over. We‘re going to have to hear from a Republican right now. But stay tuned for—stay—hold on there for a second, please, Congresswoman.
Here‘s Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina in his own defense of saying “You lie” to President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE WILSON ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: I am humbled and grateful for the support and prayers of my wife, Roxanne (ph), my four sons, my staff, the people of South Carolina, my colleagues and the American people. Mr. Speaker, I think it is clear to the American people that there are far more important issues facing this nation than what we‘re addressing right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Did Congressman Wilson have a point? Is there any way that this bill that we‘re going to vote on in this country—this health care bill, you in Congress, I should say, formally (ph) are going to vote on—does it provide health benefits or subsidies for people in the country illegally? That was his complaint. That was his “You lie” comment.
EDWARDS: Well, I really wish he had read the bill because, in fact, it‘s not what we do at all in the bill. And even if that were true, what he did was actually inappropriate. There‘s a way for him to express his concerns about the substance of the bill, and that wasn‘t it, yelling out “You lie” to the president of the United States.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that the health care bill should cover people in the country illegally, with its benefits?
EDWARDS: I think we can have that debate, but the reality is that the language...
MATTHEWS: Do you think it should be—no, do you think it should cover illegal immigrants into this country? Should the health care bill cover undocumented workers? Yes or no.
EDWARDS: Well, no, I don‘t. And that‘s not what we‘ve done. What I do think is that we‘re going to have an important debate about immigration, but that‘s not the debate in the health care bill.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, thank you very much for joining us, Congresswoman...
EDWARDS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: ... Donna Edwards of Maryland.
Michigan Republican Candice Miller hearkened back to President Obama‘s comments about the arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates. Here‘s the congresswoman from Michigan in a debate just a moment ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CANDICE MILLER ®, MICHIGAN: Recently, President Obama made a mistake when referring to actions of the Cambridge police while acknowledging that he did not have all the facts. And in the national uproar that ensued, he called it a “teachable moment.” And I thought that was a very human response to an incident that was blown totally out of proportion, in my opinion. And some actually inferred that it had racial overtones. I think what we have here today, Mr. Speaker, is a teachable moment, and it has nothing to do with race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK, here‘s Democratic whip Jim Clyburn, who is really ramrodding this resolution on the floor. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (SC), MAJORITY WHIP: This is not a partisan stunt. I do not participate in partisan stunts, and I think every member here knows that. This is about the proper decorum that should take place on the floor of the United States House of Representatives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go right now live to Congressman Trent Franks, who joins us. He‘s an Arizona Republican. Let me get to that question with you Congressman. Do you believe this is a, quote, “partisan stunt”? That‘s what your leader, John Boehner, said a moment or so ago on the floor.
REP. TRENT FRANKS ®, ARIZONA: Well, I guess I‘d first say, you know, there‘s an irony here that Joe Wilson is one of the most decent gentleman that we have...
MATTHEWS: OK, is it a partisan stunt...
FRANKS: ... in our House of Representatives.
MATTHEWS: Is it a stunt on the part of the Democrats?
FRANKS: And consequently, if you look at what President Obama and Nancy Pelosi said that night, that we should move on, they‘ve changed their minds. So yes, I think it‘s become a partisan stunt, and I‘m sorry to see that.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think that? How do you know the motives of the House Democrats?
FRANKS: Well, I don‘t speak to their motives. I only speak to what they‘ve said in the past. Nancy Pelosi...
MATTHEWS: You said it‘s a stunt.
FRANKS: ... and the president—yes, Nancy Pelosi and the president said it‘s time to move on, but I think that they begin to see that there might be some political advantage to this, and I think that they have pushed it into a stunt.
Joe has apologized. He knows that he did the wrong thing. And the bottom line is that, you know, there‘s—if I were a doctor, I would diagnose this as selective indignation and double standard. Harry Reid called President Bush a liar, but there‘s two differences. President Bush is a Republican, and Harry Reid has never apologized. So to somehow suggest we‘re going to be restoring the reputation of the House by this vote—we really want to restore the reputation of the House, we‘ll start voting for policies that reflect the great ideals that made America the greatest nation in the world.
MATTHEWS: I respect you for being a member. I look up to anybody who‘s been elected to the House. Somebody once criticized me, saying, I look up to all politicians because I couldn‘t get elected. Boy, finally, some blogger got it right. I do look up to you guys.
Let me ask you this question. Was the affront by Joe Wilson, your colleague, your Republican colleague, against the House or the president? It‘s critical you answer this one way or the other.
FRANKS: I truly believe...
MATTHEWS: The House or the president?
FRANKS: I truly believe that the affront was toward the president...
FRANKS: ... because he spoke to the president there. And he knows he did the wrong thing. But I have to say to you, Chris, if you examine the reality, the president‘s the first one to utter the word “lie” here, and Joe was sort of responding. It was only a minute earlier that the president had...
FRANKS: ... used that word and called a lot of us in the House really indirectly liars. And so the whole process has, indeed, been—like the president says, it‘s been coarsened, but the president has to take responsibility for his part in coarsening this debate...
MATTHEWS: Yes. He...
FRANKS: ... because (INAUDIBLE) people that disagree with him on the health care plan. I myself said something that night that didn‘t get heard. When he said that it didn‘t cover—wouldn‘t cover abortions, I said, That‘s not true. If you look on the tape, that‘s what I said. I didn‘t say it as loud as Joe did. But I think that would have been a better way to say it because Joe was just speaking for a lot of people that they feel like they‘ve just not had their voices heard. And he did it in the wrong way. He recognizes that. But now we really should get to the truth of things...
FRANKS: ... and get back to the policies that really matter to the people.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s listen to Steny Hoyer, the Republican—excuse me—the Democratic leader. Here he is making his case for this resolution. Stay tuned, Congressman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER: None of us—none of us—is happy to be here considering this resolution. I know I am not. At the same time, my colleagues, what is at issue here is of importance to this House and to our country. And that issue is whether we are able to proceed with the degree of civility and decorum that our rules and our democracy contemplate and require. The House code of conduct requires that each member, every one of us—each and every one of us—conduct himself, and I‘m quoting from the rule, “at all times in a manner in which shall reflect credibly on the House of Representatives.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Congressman Franks, I‘ve been on that floor as a staffer.
It‘s a hushed moment, as you know as a member...
MATTHEWS: ... when the president is in joint session. It‘s very—almost a sacramental religious experience. You‘re totally in awe of the moment that you‘re lucky enough to share or been elected to share. Do you really think that that wasn‘t an offense against the House, for a member of the House to speak against a guest of the House in public on national television in the way that Mr. Wilson did? You say that‘s just an affront...
FRANKS: I think...
MATTHEWS: ... against the person of the president.
FRANKS: If that had been Joe‘s intent...
MATTHEWS: That was a House infraction.
FRANKS: I don‘t think there was any intent on Joe‘s part to do that. I think that he let his love for country—this is a man that had three sons in Iraq at the same time. He has given his life to the service of his country, and he let his passion get the best of him. He knows he was wrong. He did it the wrong way, and he apologized to the person that he affronted. And he apologized before the whole world. And I just don‘t know...
MATTHEWS: How did he do that?
FRANKS: ... how you beat up a guy like...
MATTHEWS: I guess I missed that. OK, look, I‘m with you on this. I mean, you‘re looking out for a colleague, Congressman. I completely respect the impulse you‘re...
FRANKS: Well, but I‘m also saying what I believe...
MATTHEWS: He did not—he called up Rahm Emanuel, the president‘s staffer, and said, I was told by the Republican leader to make this call. And then the next day, he told the press, I was told to make the call and I did. Excuse me. Do you call that—that‘s a high schooler‘s definition of an apology, My father told me to say I was sorry.
FRANKS: That‘s not how I read it at all. That‘s not how I read it at all.
MATTHEWS: Well, where did you hear the word...
FRANKS: It was a very contrite—it was a very contrite apology. The statement was very clear to everyone. He didn‘t say in any written statement or any statement that I heard about being told what to do, and I think that‘s probably what he‘s chafing against right now, being told...
MATTHEWS: He did say he was told by the leadership to make the call and he made the call. He did it in a formal way that means it had no, well, emotional or real content. And now you guys are saying he‘s apologized twice. I would like to hear the quotation on record somewhere of this apology because I don‘t think...
FRANKS: Well, it‘s there, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... it‘s been personal. I think it‘s been formal.
FRANKS: It‘s there. It‘s there. And I have the advantage of knowing Joe Wilson, and I...
MATTHEWS: Well, you know Joe Wilson, but you don‘t have any record of him saying...
MATTHEWS: Has he ever said to you, I‘m sorry I said that?
FRANKS: Well, he hasn‘t said it to me, he said it to the president. He said it to—on record. The statement is on record. And I challenge you to go and look at that and read it to the people and see which one of us has a more accurate description of what Joe said.
MATTHEWS: Well, it was a comment made to the staffer of the president, not to the president. Let me ask you this...
FRANKS: Well, I don‘t know if...
MATTHEWS: What do you think about...
FRANKS: ... he had the cell phone of the president. You know, he called the White House. If the president would have taken the call, I‘m sure he would have been more than happy to speak directly to the president.
MATTHEWS: You know, I‘ve watched this for years and I—even when Harry Truman was down around 23 percent and was pretty much looked down on as president, I never heard anybody yell out personally to the president of the United States, You‘re a liar, in the House chamber.
FRANKS: Oh, listen, Bush lied...
MATTHEWS: I never heard anybody say that.
FRANKS: They attacked—listen, I‘ve been here about seven years now, and I never saw anybody called a liar more—more often than George Bush. And if you look back...
MATTHEWS: Where was that done?
FRANKS: ... those were things that—they may not have been during an address, but they booed him. If you‘re talking about keeping the decorum of the House, even the people that were applauding the president that night were breaking the rules. The fact is that Joe made a mistake. But I will tell you that this man‘s motivations and his heart are good and right for this country, and I wish we had about 434 more like him. I could go home and be with my babies.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, you‘re a good colleague. Thank you for coming on. Congressman Trent Lott...
FRANKS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Not Trent Lott! Used to be a guy named Trent Lott! Trent Franks of Arizona, thanks.
FRANKS: Thank you, sir.
MATTHEWS: Please come back again as often as you can, sir.
FRANKS: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: Several Republicans in Congress may be close to signing onto the Democrats‘ plan, some people believe. We‘re trying to find this out, if this is a good story or not, if it‘s hard or not or it‘s wobbly. We‘re going to find out whether it‘s developing, a possible pick-up of some Republicans for this vote for the health care among U.S. senators. We‘ll be right back with that. With most Americans saying they want bipartisanship in Washington, could President Obama get some of that bipartisanship he‘s been looking for, after all?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Tomorrow, we expect to see the Senate Finance Committee‘s health care bill unveiled, the one Senator—actually, the one Senator Max Baucus has been working on to make a bipartisan proposal. But the bottom line is getting to 60. It‘s all about 60. How do Democrats get to 60? And could there be some surprise Republicans to help out in getting there?
Joining me right now is NBC chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd, and “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman, who‘s our expert here on many, many things.
Chuck, let‘s take a look now—Chuck, thanks for joining us. Let‘s take a look at some names here. These are the three players most prominently discussed over the weeks and weeks and—Snowe of Maine...
CHUCK TODD, NBC CORRESPONDENT/POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right.
MATTHEWS: ... Olympia Snowe, long-time moderate Republican, it‘s fair to say. Mike Enzi from Wyoming, an accountant, a CPA, who‘s actually been very good on health issues, if you care about those issues. And Chuck Grassley, who‘s the ranking on Finance, a real penny-pincher when it comes to fiscal stuff.
Are any of those three looking better than likely to vote for an Obama health care bill right now?
TODD: The only one is Snowe. The most likely—and the question is, frankly, tomorrow, when Senator Baucus formally unveils this plan, he‘s going to call it a bipartisan plan, but he‘s going to be the only name on it. And the question was—and there‘s still some, you know, lingering wonders, questions, whether—will Olympia Snowe put her name on the bill in advance or not?
MATTHEWS: I see.
TODD: My sources tell me she won‘t. She will wait for the amendment process and become a reluctant supporter down the line as she negotiates different things that she wants out of the thing, but that she may not initially put her name behind it. And she‘s the only one that is a likely candidate to even do that.
MATTHEWS: It‘s so interesting, the Northeast has become so Democrat, even with all the troubling times right now for the Democratic Party. Olympia Snowe...
MATTHEWS: I‘m going to Howard right now with this. I mean, Olympia Snowe from Maine, one of the two Maine senators, both women, it turns out, one‘s Susan Collins, as well—that‘s so interesting. Arlen Specter flipped completely.
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He‘s flipped. And they‘re about the only two left, and it‘s a question of what they do before they go out the door and turn out the light for what used to be the moderate party of Lincoln in the Northeast.
FINEMAN: It barely doesn‘t exist. But Chuck‘s right. It‘s—within the committee right now on this first stage of it, it‘s Snowe or nothing.
MATTHEWS: We do have, by the way, it‘s been (INAUDIBLE) I‘ve been informed that we have Judd Gregg, of course, a conservative, fiscal conservative, on most issues, a conservative from New Hampshire.
FINEMAN: And he‘s leaving.
MATTHEWS: And he‘s leaving.
FINEMAN: He‘s retiring.
MATTHEWS: So, let‘s go. So, you think it‘s good for Snowe, a good bet for her. Is there still a chance of them picking up Enzi and Grassley, Chuck?
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: No chance. I say no chance.
MATTHEWS: No chance?
TODD: Ninety-nine percent no.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s go through some other names.
TODD: I will leave out the 1 percent just for—just for giggles.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, let‘s look at other possible joiners of the Obama health care bill.
Susan Collins of Maine, what do you make of her chances...
TODD: I think it‘s...
MATTHEWS: ... joining up?
TODD: I think it‘s very likely. It‘s my understanding she has been in talks, just like Olympia Snowe, has a direct personal relationship with the president. The president and this White House has reached out to her a lot.
The question is, you know, what can she sign on to? She has publicly said, take the public option off the table, and, supposedly, that would be enough to get her on for anything else.
The question is, would she support...
MATTHEWS: Well, that looks good.
TODD: ... this idea of the trigger, which is...
TODD: ... something Olympia Snowe has been supportive of?
It would be hard to imagine Olympia Snowe being a yes, and Susan Collins being a no. The two of them seem to almost provide each other cover on various issues...
TODD: ... depending on which one—which issue matters more to the other.
I mean, look, they‘re both—they‘re both on—you know, in a very blue state.
TODD: And they, you know, know it‘s a dying breed up there.
MATTHEWS: But she is—but, Chuck and Howard, she is formidable.
She got reelected handily...
MATTHEWS: ... in this past election as a Republican in the Northeast. So, she knows she can be—she can be a tough politician; she can do what she thinks is right.
FINEMAN: Yes. Well, I think she has a lot of freedom to maneuver here.
I should explain that—all the junkies know this—but we‘re talking about a two-step process here in terms of getting to 60.
FINEMAN: Procedurally, what the leadership can do is say, we want some of you to help us get to 60 to shut off debate.
FINEMAN: And then you can be free, depending on what happens, to vote against the final bill in the end. Don‘t forget there are two stages of the appeal here.
MATTHEWS: I understand. I know.
FINEMAN: Two stages of the appeal.
MATTHEWS: I know. But the voters out there who watch know exactly what‘s going on procedurally.
FINEMAN: OK. Good. Yes.
MATTHEWS: And you can go home and then say, all I did was vote to stop debate. And they say wait a minute, buddy, or this case, madam, you voted.
FINEMAN: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Let me try some other names by you.
Corker, who won that close election over Harold Ford, is he a possible, from Tennessee?
TODD: You know, three months ago, I would have said yes.
You know, he was one of this group of senators—and I‘m glad you identified these—there was about nine Republicans that supported the president on the expansion of children‘s health care, so-called SCHIP.
MATTHEWS: SCHIP, yes.
TODD: And Corker and Lamar Alexander, both Republicans from Tennessee. You had Lugar on that list. You had Voinovich.
The—the thing that has surprised me in this process is, I thought the White House would make more of a public effort to try to keep this group together and make it their own bipartisan working group, take it away from Max Baucus, frankly, and Chuck Grassley, and create their own working group here.
MATTHEWS: OK. Right.
TODD: At this point in the debate, I don‘t think they‘re going to be there, but these are guys that are going to be—they‘re players. They want to be involved in legislating.
TODD: And if the White House figured out how to manipulate the process a little bit better and go around Republican leadership, I think they could find ways to cut deals with a Corker, with a Alexander, and with a Lugar.
MATTHEWS: OK. We‘re doing a hard count here so far. I mean, it all changes. But we have got right now Olympia Snowe and possibly Susan Collins of Maine. That‘s two.
Is there any chance—do you agree with that?
FINEMAN: Yes, I—I agree that that is in play.
MATTHEWS: Is there any chance they can pick up Corker from Tennessee?
FINEMAN: Well, possibly. But I—I—I hate to go out of order here, but I would say Voinovich is a guy to watch.
MATTHEWS: From Ohio, because he‘s retiring?
FINEMAN: He‘s—yes, and, also, he‘s expressed his disgust with what he sees as the Southern-dominated rejectionist Republican Party.
FINEMAN: He‘s kind of a renegade guy to begin with. Ohio is a state where voting for some kind of health care proposal is a good thing to do.
FINEMAN: I would keep an eye on him.
MATTHEWS: Checking in with you, do you see Voinovich as a possible, Chuck?
TODD: It is.
But, again, I have been—you know, I don‘t see evidence that this White House is working those folks very well. But, yes, I think Voinovich, for the reasons that Howard stated.
FINEMAN: Well, I mean—yes, by the way, I‘m not sure that you want to get a group of these people together publicly and make them a target.
FINEMAN: All Obama needs...
TODD: That‘s been the White House point on this.
FINEMAN: ... all the White House needs is one or two people to slip in there at the last moment to vote to get to 60 to shut off debate and go to action on the bill.
FINEMAN: If somebody materializes at the last minute, they avoid being targeted by the conservatives who are out to...
TODD: That‘s right.
FINEMAN: ... create Barack Obama‘s Waterloo.
TODD: And, Chris, quickly...
FINEMAN: Stay under the radar until the last minute.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Go ahead.
TODD: And, Chris, quickly, the difference between Corker and Voinovich, Voinovich is done as a Republican—active Republican politician.
TODD: Corker might have his own presidential ambitions.
TODD: And, frankly, I don‘t think he can afford—if he ever really...
FINEMAN: I agree with Chuck on that.
TODD: ... no on Corker.
MATTHEWS: Any other—just to complete our work here—and I think we‘re getting good work. We‘re getting beyond the B.S. in this discussion.
MATTHEWS: Snowe, Collins, maybe—maybe Voinovich, maybe Corker.
Anybody else on a possible list here, if you were in the White House inner mode—in the inner sanctum there? Anybody else...
FINEMAN: Well, Lugar is...
FINEMAN: Lugar is a wild card. I find it hard to imagine that Lugar would support something Evan Bayh, the Democrat, would oppose. You never know.
MATTHEWS: Well, he‘s going to—they‘re going to both...
FINEMAN: But Lugar—Lugar is a wild—Lugar considers himself a statesman.
FINEMAN: He‘s pretty much impervious to the party line.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s last—let‘s take a look at this list one more time. Show the names. Here they are.
We have got Collins, Corker, Lugar, Voinovich all possible there. And, also, that‘s the—that‘s the list that we‘re looking at as possible Republican pickups, in addition to Olympia Snowe.
Thank you, Chuck. We‘re doing hard counts here already. Chuck Todd, Howard Fireman, thank you.
Coming up: A year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered a global financial crisis, has anything really changed on Wall Street? I am worried about this. Have we fixed the problem, or is the house of cards still likely to come down again?
And has President Obama done enough to quell concern about the economic meltdown and the people on Wall Street who keep grabbing those big bonuses and taking those big risks, at our expense?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
Well, the death of former White House Press Secretary Jody Powell yesterday reminds me of that last night of the 1980 presidential campaign.
I remember Jody, who had been with President Carter from the very beginning, as his press secretary and confidant, all those years, telling the president late that night that we weren‘t going to overnight anywhere that night, that Carter would give his last speech in Seattle to catch the last time zone, then would fly through the night, what was left of it, back to Georgia, so the president could vote.
I remember the way Jody put it: “There‘s no tonight tonight, Governor.”
I had a seat next to Jody that election eve on the way out West and back, a big deal for a speechwriter. I kept answering the phone from—for Jody from Patrick Caddell, the pollster and the adviser who had been playing such a big part in President Carter‘s reelection campaign.
At about 1:00 in the morning West Coast time, the president, having given the Seattle speech to a roaring crowd in an airport hangar, was now back with the staff, with us, having drink with the press corps, people like Judy Woodruff and Helen Thomas and Sam Donaldson.
Jody had gone forward to take that call from Pat Caddell, and it was bad news. Pat was back at the White House with Hamilton Jordan and Jerry Rafshoon, who had also been with Carter from the very beginning. And when President Carter came forward and took the phone from Jody, he got the news hard. He was going to lose the election for reelection by 10 percent, a landslide.
I remember Rick Hertzberg, the president‘s chief speechwriter, coming back to the staff section and saying, “Jody is a soldier.”
Jody Powell, who had been Carter‘s press secretary and a lot more than that all the way from—from the beginning, was now asking us to write something the president could say to both get out the best possible vote for the party, while lessening the anti-incumbent fever that had grown through the long brutal year of the Iranian hostage-taking and all the bad economic news.
But there was Jody still giving the commands, child of the South standing up for the good fight, remaining at his post.
Jody is a soldier. You can‘t say it better than that.
BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Bertha Coombs with your CNBC
Investors welcomed some encouraging economic reports for another day of moderate, but steady gains. The Dow Jones industrials added 56 points, the S&P 500 up three, and the Nasdaq climbing up 10 to send the indexes to their 2009 highs.
Industrials led the rally after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the recession was probably over, though recovery would take time. Caterpillar, Alcoa, and DuPont shares all seeing strong gains today.
Stocks also got a boost from the August retail sales report. It showed a much-larger-than-expected jump in retail sales, thanks in part to that cash for clunkers program. And sales rose at their fastest pace in three-and-a-half years. Those cash for clunkers sent auto sales up over 10.5 percent.
And in news breaking just after the bell today, Adobe Systems says it‘s going to buy Omniture software for about $1.8 billion. Omniture helps business customers analyze information that‘s generated by their Web sites.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
A year ago today, Lehman Brothers collapsed, filed for bankruptcy, and set in motion a global financial meltdown. So, a full year later, do we have the right regulations in place to avert another major financial crisis?
James Stewart wrote about the Wall Street collapse for the cover story of this week‘s “New Yorker” magazine. And Andrew Ross Sorkin is a financial columnist and reporter for “The New York Times.”
Gentlemen, nothing to laugh about here, I don‘t think.
James Stewart, the—the guys that grabbed all the big money and made all the big risks and got us into trouble and almost had the entire house of cards fall down, have they been caught and put under control, or not?
JAMES STEWART, “THE NEW YORKER”: Well, some of them are gone.
I mean, Lehman Brothers is gone. Its top management is gone. Bear Stearns is gone. But when you drill down a little bit, you will find that many of these people are resurfacing at jobs somewhere else. It always astounds me that—the ability of Wall Street people to reinvent themselves and reappear under another guise.
And is—has the—are the reforms in place? By no means are they in place. Any significant reforms in place? Not really. And they don‘t seem to be making any fast progress. There‘s certainly attempts to rein in Wall Street pay. Isn‘t that the number-one issue that outrages most Americans?
As I show in my story, there was a guy Merrill Lynch hired from Goldman Sachs. He started working the day after Labor Day. They sold the firm the following weekend. He was working there days. And he got a guaranteed bonus of $29.4 million. Does that make any sense?
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to—let me go to Andrew on that. Who are on the compensation committees of these big corporations? Who signs the checks?
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, FINANCIAL COLUMNIST AND REPORTER, “THE NEW YORK
TIMES”: Well, that‘s actually a very good question, because many of those same people are still in the exact same place that they were a year ago.
Frankly, you look at a firm like Citigroup, some of the board has been reconstituted. It is still being run in this case by Dick Parsons, who is there. And, in many of the other cases, the same people on the boards are -- are still in place.
But I think there‘s a larger issue, which is the legislative one, Chris, that you mentioned, which is, we have not seen any meaningful legislation, not—zero, to—to really get at the underpinnings of what happened and—and really be able to fix things.
And what that means is, we need to be able to, A, to the extent we have too-big-to-fail institutions, be able to rein them in and be able to take them over if they get in trouble, and, B, we need to do something on the compensation issue.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you.
SORKIN: And, C, we need to do something on the systemic risk issue, and we haven‘t done anything on those.
MATTHEWS: James—and then I want Andrew to get in here—it seems to me I have been warned about this. The trouble with politics, the real crud in the American politics is this. You know what it is?
It‘s that you take money from people who chill you from ever doing anything that might actually do something to regulate these guys. You don‘t go out and do stuff for them. You will get caught doing that. What you do is nothing, James.
STEWART: Absolutely. You‘re absolutely right.
MATTHEWS: You do nothing, because, if you even suggest doing something about the trial lawyers, or, in this case, the big bank guys, or the hedge fund guys, or the guys who come up with these Rube Goldberg ways to make money and create value, if you even think about doing that, the money gets cut off. You lose the next campaign.
STEWART: You know, you‘re—you‘re more the political expert than I am, but the Obama administration actually came out a few months ago...
MATTHEWS: Well, isn‘t that the crud...
STEWART: It is. A few months ago...
MATTHEWS: ... to use the best word we can use on television?
STEWART: Well, a few months ago, the Obama administration came out with some very sensible proposals to curb Wall Street pay.
When the actual proposal finally surfaced, it was watered down to practically nothing. Give shareholders, give them a little more transparency, so they can see what people are being paid. That is not even a fig leaf.
Now, what happened in between there? Well, where is the money coming from, not just for the Republicans, by the way, who are considered free market and maybe the natural allies of Wall Street, but for Democratic senators and congressmen, too? How much of it is coming from Wall Street? Huge amounts.
And I think that plays a massive role in the fact that we‘re not hearing anything about this.
MATTHEWS: Andrew, that‘s the—the problem is, the Republican buy this nonsense. Democrats don‘t believe it, but they take the money and act like they believe it.
SORKIN: I—I think you‘re right.
And, you know, I was at the Obama speech yesterday. And, you know, at some level, he was trying to bring them into the fold. At some level, he was trying to wag the finger. But he didn‘t wag the finger that hard. And, when he did, there was so much wincing in the room, that I got the sense that I‘m not sure you‘re ever going to get over that.
The idea that you‘re going to get Wall Street to reform itself, I think, is a fallacy. And the question is whether Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd are going to actually do it themselves.
SORKIN: And I‘m not sure, at least this year, we‘re going to get...
MATTHEWS: That‘s a great question.
Let‘s go to the question whether Geithner and Paulson and all the big guys who helped save us, Bernanke—and I think they are heroes in many ways—they saved us from a Great Depression.
Well, first of all, let me ask you that question. On the big macro stuff, not the little sleazy under-the-table...
MATTHEWS: ... but the big macro question of reflating the economy, creating a—printing money, $2 trillion in deficit this fiscal year, the big stuff that—that stopped us from the big freefall, weren‘t they right in that regard?
MATTHEWS: Your thought, James?
STEWART: Yes, I believe they were right.
And, look, I‘m a free market person myself in many ways, but I think it‘s—any fair-minded person who reads what happened in this period—and I did—spent eight months researching it—would conclude that Keynes is the victor here, not Adam Smith, Keynes.
Yes, when the markets fail...
MATTHEWS: I‘m a Keynes guy, too.
STEWART: ... you absolutely need market intervention—government intervention.
STEWART: And markets will fail when it‘s an emotional response that has taken hold.
We had a panic a year ago. And this is—you needed overwhelming force, as Bernanke put it, to combat that. So, I applaud what they did. And, you know, there‘s still people out there—you know, Senator Shelby said just recently that he still thinks nothing is too big to fail. Bring them all down. Let the market discipline.
MATTHEWS: Yes, that‘s cool.
STEWART: Send us back to the Iron Age, and the market will eventually correct itself.
MATTHEWS: Yes, though, two seconds after it falls, he will be saying that the Democrats blew it.
MATTHEWS: Well, he used to be a Democrat, by the way.
Let me go to Andrew on this question. It seems to me that Keynes had a very simple theory; you need demand; people have to buy things. If the consumer stops buying and starts saving, if the investor won‘t invest, then you need somebody else buying. That means the government. Especially if the government is borrowing money to do it, because that works.
SORKIN: For better or worse, he was right. We are right. You know, it‘s funny because I think, you know, we‘ve given a little bit of short thrift to the Bush administration in an odd way. You look at them and you think, they put us in this place. But in an odd way I think, over history, we‘re going to go back and look at what happened in the fall of 2008 and we‘re going to give credit to people like Hank Paulson, you know, for better or worse. And then I think, in many ways, you‘re going to give credit to Bernanke and this administration for keeping it going.
The question is whether this is just prolonging the inevitable, whether Rome is just burning longer, or whether we‘re really improving the situation.
MATTHEWS: I‘m worrying about Nero here. The new “Washington Post”/ABC poll shows that 60 percent of Americans are now—not—let‘s get that not in there—not confident financial institutions will alter their business practices. That seems to be your assumption, based upon your expertise. James and Andrew, both of you. First James.
STEWART: I would look to make a point that I think is very important about politics, is that people don‘t get credit for crisis averted. Lehman was a disaster. And yet at least it focused enough attention to bring about some of these reforms, to get the stimulus bill going, get the Tarp plan in place. But why does it take a disaster to get us to do the right thing? Congress, now that things are a little better, are running away from the whole reform proposals.
And I want to echo what Andrew said; we absolutely must have government authority to resolve floundering institutions like AIG, not a bank, Lehman Brothers, not a bank. It doesn‘t technically come under the jurisdiction of the Fed.
MATTHEWS: James, keep writing. You‘re the best. “Barbarians at the gate.” Andrew Ross Sorkin, thank you. The “New York Times,” we rely on it each morning with my coffee. I have to know the facts and people need to hear this stuff. It‘s not working. We‘re not regulating. Congress is not doing the job. They got to get at it. These guys have money. They pay for your campaigns. Stop listening to them and stop taking their money.
Anyway, we have some breaking news right now. The House of Representatives has voted to rebuke Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina for yelling you lie at President Obama during his speech this week. The vote is in and the final tally is 240 to 179 to rebuke the Congressman. Seven Republicans voted to rebuke, and 12 Democrats voted against rebuking. That was something of a wash, although a bit more in favor of the Republicans.
Up next, the fight over Congressman Joe Wilson. His wife is rushing to his defense with this ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joe called me after the—after the speech on Wednesday night and I said, Joe, who‘s the nut that hollered out you lie or you liar. And he goes, it was me. I said, no really. Who did it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. With his outburst, the Democrats rebuke, will that help South Carolina or not? Let‘s talk about it when we come back with the politics fix. It‘s coming up next. This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the politics fix, with Pulitzer Prize winning “Washington Post” columnist Eugene Robinson, an MSNBC political analyst, and Melinda Henneberger of the PoliticsDaily.com. Thank you both. You run that place, don‘t you 1234.
MELINDA HENNEBERGER, POLITICSDAILY.COM: I do.
MATTHEWS: Yes, you do. Let me ask you this. I‘ll start with you, from South Carolina. Game cock. It seems to me that the one charge that cannot be believed here is that this is a political stunt. You look into the eyes of Jim Clyburn, and even Steny Hoyer, who, obviously, is trying to be a leader here, and I think doing a fine job, by the way. This isn‘t a stunt.
EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: No. I actually saw Jim Clyburn last night and chatted with him. And he‘s dead serious about this. I mean, he believes this was a—this was not just a breach of protocol, but a real insult. And he‘s conscious not only of the politics of it, but of the traditions of the House. And he‘s dead serious about it.
MATTHEWS: Do you thinks he smacks of the old days here?
ROBINSON: Who? Joe Wilson?
ROBINSON: Yes, I do. I do. That‘s my opinion.
MATTHEWS: He‘s got the old white/black attitude of the south?
ROBINSON: Well, he‘s—you know—
MATTHEWS: Let‘s call it—
ROBINSON: He has a history that‘s kind of new south/old south, and—
MATTHEWS: Was he a confederate flag guy?
ROBINSON: Basically. He has said very nice things about die-hard confederate flag advocates, including one who is the state‘s leading die-hard segregationist to this day. So—and, you know, he has—he hasn‘t taken those positions. But he has—you know, he hasn‘t renounced that era of South Carolina politics.
MATTHEWS: Melinda, I watched the floor and I didn‘t see politics in Jim Clyburn‘s eyes. I saw history, a man who‘s been through the civil rights fight, and smelled the bad stuff.
MATTHEWS: By the way, when I saw it watching the floor that night, I was stunned.
MATTHEWS: I have never heard anybody yell out to the president. There is a hush in that chamber. When Reagan came back from being shot and all the other nights I‘ve been there, it‘s a hush. It‘s a religious experience to be there when the president speaks. For somebody to speak back to the president like he was his equal in that setting is beyond—
HENNEBERGER: Like he was yelling at a kid. I felt like Nancy Pelosi looked. You know? And I just thought this is truly an outrage. So I completely understand where these people who want to censure him are coming from.
If it‘s a stunt, I‘m not sure it‘s a wise stunt. That‘s why I don‘t think it‘s political at all, because the political thing to do would be to do—take the cue from the president, and just keep walking. But I really can understand very much that they feel it‘s an outrage that can‘t go unchecked.
MATTHEWS: I‘m not sure I respect this, but let‘s take a look at this. Here‘s something being Twittered by Joe Wilson, the man who was rebuked today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE WILSON ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: We‘re now awaiting—there‘s a Democratic conference on what actions they‘re going to take against me. I‘m very grateful that actually today it was reported several Democrats feel like, correctly, that we should be discussing health insurance reform and not playing politics. The president said do not play politics. Obviously, what‘s going on is playing politics. I‘m so grateful for your support. It‘s been overwhelming across the nation. Thank you. God bless you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I do understand. I think this guy is playing. Talk about stunts, I think that was a stunt. I think this guy knows what he‘s doing. He‘s playing Johnny Reb here. He thinks it‘s a good cause. He‘s fighting for the cause. I think it‘s a totally deliberate act of insolence and contempt for the president of the United States. I think he knew exactly what he was doing.
All this game he‘s been doing—all he had to do if it was an accident was come to the floor of the House, to the well, which they all do -- I‘ve been there a few nights when they‘ve had a few drinks and said a things they shouldn‘t have said. They come right back to the well and said, I wish I hadn‘t said that. I apologize. It‘s over in a second.
He wouldn‘t do it because he sees glory in this.
ROBINSON: I certainly am with you from the point where he said, I‘m not going to apologize again. I‘m not going to go apologize again. I‘m not going to go to the well. I think from that point certainly, if not from the very beginning, it was political.
One thing Jim Clyburn pointed out to me, reminded me of last night, is that the real sin is the idea of accusing the president of mendacity, saying you lying. They don‘t accuse each other of lying.
MATTHEWS: There is a rule against the House, you can‘t be ad hominum. Believe it or not, I worked there for years. You can‘t say the other guy is no good. You can say I disagree with you.
MATTHEWS: Exactly. That is completely out of bounds. Even in the House of Commons, in London, that‘s out of bounds and gets you an immediate rebuke from the speaker and you apologize.
MATTHEWS: This is one time I‘m taking a stand. I think Jim Clyburn, whoever else is in there—I think Steny Hoyer gave a beautiful presentation today, by the way. It was his finest hour today, Steny Hoyer, as a leader of that caucus. I think these member, not just the African-American members, smelled something here that smacked to the old days, as I said—as Maureen Dowd said in the “New York Times,” she almost heard the word, almost sub-audibly, a word we don‘t like.
ROBINSON: Silence implies consent.
MATTHEWS: I think contempt is something you should never show to the other side in the debate. Respectful argument, take down their argument. Well, we do it he. We‘ll be right back with Eugene Robinson and Melinda Henneberger for more of the politics fix. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Eugene Robinson and Melinda Henneberger with more of the politics fix. We‘ve got some hot news here. Seven Republicans voted to basically rebuke—I love these Biblical terms, rebuke—This was Cal of Louisiana, Mary Joe Emerson of Missouri, Flake of Arizona, Inglis of South Carolina, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Petri of Wisconsin, and Dana Rohrabacher, my friend, the former Reagan speechwriter, longtime Congressman. He voted to—
ROBINSON: It‘s an interesting list. It could be they thank the Democrats are right on this, and that Wilson was way out of line. And it could be, also, in part, out of respect for the traditions of the House.
HENNEBERGER: Well, two-thirds of the public thinks it was an outrage, so it doesn‘t seem politically silly for them to take that view either.
MATTHEWS: It certainly takes the sting out of the charge of partisan trick. Let me ask you about the president maybe making a mistake today. I‘m from Pennsylvania. I have something of my interest in this, but not much anymore. He came in today and campaigned like it was his best friend for Arlen Specter, the longtime Republican. I think it‘s very transactional. Let‘s put it that way. Against Joe Sestak, the longtime Democrat, who is running a hard fought, underdog race on the Democratic side. I don‘t know what‘s wrong or right here. I‘m going to stay out of this. Your views?
ROBINSON: He promised to do this, didn‘t he, when he was --
MATTHEWS: Heart felt.
ROBINSON: So you make the pledge—
MATTHEWS: Was this the deal that‘s being kept here? Was it a deal? Was it a deal to get him to become a Democrat that he would campaign for him actively?
ROBINSON: I do not know that it was a deal. I suspect part of a deal was we won‘t help your opponent.
HENNEBERGER: I would say, sure. I would say, it sure looks like it.
MATTHEWS: Don‘t presidents get in trouble for getting in primary fights historically?
HENNEBERGER: What he needs immediately is it pass this health care thing. He can‘t risk alienating Arlen Specter right now. He‘s very strongly in support. I think he would be taking a bigger risk not to do this, especially if he did make a promise.
MATTHEWS: So the president keeps his deals.
ROBINSON: Keeps his deals.
MATTHEWS: Are they savory deals?
ROBINSON: Well, political deals, are they savory?
MATTHEWS: I‘m just asking. The president of the United States gets involved in a primary fight because the guy agreed to switch parties after 30 years. Is that good? I‘m just asking. I‘m trying to be somewhat passive here.
ROBINSON: Perhaps it‘s not what the framers intended. But it may be the way to get your health care bill passed.
MATTHEWS: Who‘s going to win South Carolina? Is Joe Wilson going to look good after this? Will he look good like a Republican hero? Will he be out on the speaking tour now, because of his rebuke by the Democrats, or will he look like the bad guy?
HENNEBERGER: Joe the plumber and Joe the Congressman. I think he comes out as a hero in his district, for sure. And for a certain section of the party, right.
MATTHEWS: I think he was wrong to do what he did. I think it‘s over.
Thank you, Eugene Robinson, Melinda Henneberger. Thank you for joining us.
Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.
Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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