IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Thursday, September 24, 2009

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guest Host: Mike Barnicle

Guests: Sharon Epperson, Gov. Deval Patrick, Tony Blankley, Jennifer Palmieri, Joe Conason,

Chris Cillizza, Jennifer Palmieri, Dominic Carter, Fred Dicker

MIKE BARNICLE, GUEST HOST:  The Democrats have 60.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Mike Barnicle, in today for Chris Matthews.  Leading off tonight: Filibuster-proof.  The Democrats got their 60th Senator today.  Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick named Paul Kirk, a close Kennedy ally and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, to temporarily fill Ted Kennedy‘s seat until next year‘s special election.  Kirk is expected to be a reliable vote for the Democrats‘ health care reform plan, which was Ted Kennedy‘s long-fought mission.  And the man who appointed him, Governor Deval Patrick, will be here tonight.

Next: President Obama told the United Nations General Assembly that he‘s seeking a new era of engagement with the world.  But can an extended hand prompt world leaders to solve the same international problems that vexed the Bush administration, like Iran‘s nuclear ambitions, Middle East peace and Afghanistan?

And playing the victim.  New York governor David Paterson sure has a strange way of pushing back on President Obama‘s suggestion that he not run.  First, his wife said it was, quote, “very unfair,” unquote, of the White House to discourage the first African-American governor of New York from running.  And then Governor Paterson himself said he never really wanted this job and was hoping for Hillary Clinton‘s Senate seat.  Is Paterson any match for the Obama machine?

Plus: President Obama wasn‘t the only one who embarked on an all-out media blitz.  Bill Clinton has been making the rounds himself, and he may be one of Obama‘s best salesmen for health care reform.  That‘s in the “Politics Fix.”

And finally, the late-night reviews are in on Sarah Palin‘s first overseas speech in Hong Kong.  Here‘s a sample.


CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST, “TONIGHT”:  Today former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin gave a speech in China.  That‘s right.  Yes, the topic of her speech was, Are you sure you‘re not Japan?



BARNICLE:  Oh, Sarah Palin, still a gift to late-night comedians! 

More of that on the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

But first we begin with Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick.  Governor Patrick, thanks for your time.  We appreciate it.  Give me the degree of difficulty, if you could—one to ten, ten being the most difficult—in arriving at who you chose to fill Ted Kennedy‘s Senate seat.

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Well, you know, Mike, I give

it probably an eight.  You know, it‘s a headache, in a way, politically

that I don‘t need.  But I think when you think about the greater good, the

interests of the commonwealth of Massachusetts and the people interests who

people‘s interests that are being voted on in the next few weeks and months in the Congress, we need that second voice to help John Kerry and to have a full complement of votes on those issues.

So I think having the depth of talent that—political talent that we

do in Massachusetts, as you well know, and a very strong field of finalists

about six in number, half of them women, a couple of people of color, as well—and then thinking mainly about the need for stewardship, someone who is going to respect and continue the values and mission of Ted Kennedy, Paul Kirk is a perfect choice.

BARNICLE:  And here was Paul Kirk earlier today, Governor, if we could listen to this.


PAUL KIRK (D-MA), SENATORIAL APPOINTEE:  It is a profound honor and I accept it with sincere humility.  To also have the encouragement and support of his family that I be a voice and a voice—and a vote for his causes and his constituents in the Senate that he loved is a blessing I can only repay by giving my very best efforts to be the best public servant I can be in the few months ahead.


BARNICLE:  You Know, Governor, most people—everybody in politics, actually, and a lot of people in America—are familiar, vaguely familiar, some very familiar, with the comedy show that took place in Illinois with Governor Blagojevich.  Tell us, if you can, about any pressures that were brought to bear upon you by the family, the Kennedy family, by the White House?  Or what kind of pressures did you feel in the course of coming up with Paul Kirk?

PATRICK:  Well, I had lots of calls, you know, many that I initiated, some that were volunteered supporting either actual candidates or would-be candidates or rumored candidates.  And I listened carefully to all of them.  We did a certain amount of sort of standard vetting of, you know, background information and affiliations and financial information to make sure that the individuals would be consistent with and compliant with the Senate ethics rules.

But as I say, mainly, I was thinking about what is best for Massachusetts?  Who‘s going to deliver on constituent needs?  Who‘s going to pay attention to transportation and education reform, to health care reform?  Who‘s going to pay attention to climate change, and so forth?  All of those issues.  And it‘s an unusual concentration of them that are important to Massachusetts as they are to the nation that‘ll be voted on in the next—in the next few weeks.

And as I say, I think when you think about stewardship as being the main driving idea here, knowing that the people get to go in a special election and elect—and choose their own senator in January of next year, stewardship was really what I was looking for.  And Paul Kirk is a perfect steward.

BARNICLE:  You know, one last question on the Senate seat before I‘d like to talk to you about health care a bit.  Why Paul Kirk and not former governor Dukakis?

PATRICK:  Well, like I said, we‘ve got a lot of political talent.  I love Mike Dukakis, and I think he brings a lot to the table.  But when you think about all of the factors and contributions, and again, this point of stewardship, I think Paul Kirk is the right one.  I prefer to talk about why him than why not—why not others.

You know, there is a—there is one thing I will say that is so—has been so humbling about this experience, and that is looking at this extraordinary field of candidates and appreciating their deep sense of service.  And that was certainly true of Mike Dukakis, as it was of Paul Kirk, as it was of the other finalists.

BARNICLE:  You know, the health care debate that‘s going on now in the

Senate and in the House in Washington that has consumed the nation, it‘s

consumed much of the country with all the town hall meetings this past

summer—Massachusetts health care reform that was initiated several years

ago, that joined former governor Mitt Romney and the late Senator Kennedy -

how‘s that working out?

PATRICK:  That‘s right.

BARNICLE:  How‘s that working out?

PATRICK:  Well, look, it‘s the—we are probably further along than any other state in the country in terms of health care reform.  It is very much a public/private hybrid approach.  Ninety-seven-plus percent of our residents are now insured with reliable, affordable health care.  We‘re tackling now the issues of cost.  But the overall, the costs added to our state budget is about 1 percent, so it hasn‘t been a budget buster.  It‘s a challenge during these economic times, as everything is.  But it‘s been enormously important to us, and I think it has offered a lot of lessons for the national debate, as well.

BARNICLE:  But in terms of the cost, I mean, haven‘t—haven‘t you had to deal with eliminating some people from the health care provisions of the bill because of costs?

PATRICK:  Well, that was a proposal, Mike, as you know in the budget.  And as we negotiated—and the population that was suggested be taken out is a population of legal residents, tax-paying, working members of our community.  We came up with a compromise so that we could continue to cover those individuals, who should be covered in any system that is about universal care.  So I‘m very proud of that.

But I will say this.  You know, what we learned, maybe two lessons that are important for the national debate, if I have a minute just to make them, that came from Massachusetts.  One is that here, we decided we had something better than or more than the usual two choices, which was between a perfect solution and no solution at all.  And so we tried something.

And the other lesson of all this is that that broad coalition of providers and advocates and hospitals, doctors and insurers, and so forth, and policy makers that came together to invent this experiment have stayed together to make adjustments as we‘ve gone along.  And I think that will be necessary—both of those lessons will be important on the federal level, as well.

BARNICLE:  You know, speaking about the national debate, race has been injected into several elements of it, the national debate, most recently by former president Carter.  I have paid attention to your career.  I watched you run for governor, and I think that you were an African-American when you ran for governor, as was Barack Obama when he ran for president.


PATRICK:  Before.  Yes, indeed.

BARNICLE:  What‘s your take on former president Carter‘s take on it, on race in American politics with regard to the president?  What‘s your personal take on it?

PATRICK:  Well, look, race is with us in this country.  And I think we always struggle to strike a balance between acknowledging the extraordinary progress we‘ve made in this country, much of it during my lifetime—I‘m 53, really incredible transformations—and at the same time acknowledging that we still have work to do.  That is a balance that we, I think, in this country struggle to acknowledge, that there are people who say nothing is happening, and there are other people who say it‘s all over.  We still have work to do.

I think that there are high and broad emotions on both sides of the health care debate, and I‘m not at all convinced that all of that is driven or even much of it is driven by race.  I think that it has to do with—a whole lot to do with the unknown, and that for many people, we‘re talking about stepping out into new territory.

But that new territory is about the greater good, and I think that what has been great about this country at moments of our greatness has been when we have acknowledged the greater good and we have linked arms across all kinds of differences and stepped forward.  And I think that‘s what‘s at stake right now with the health care debate, and I think we‘ll get there.

BARNICLE:  When you say the unknown, what do you mean by the unknown?

PATRICK:  Well, I think an awful lot of people haven‘t seen up close what we‘re doing in Massachusetts, which is bringing both private sector and public sector together to try to address the question of the uninsured, and then the question of how we get system costs down and pass those savings on to premium payers.  And those are enormous challenges facing individuals and companies and families all across the company (SIC), governments, too, for that matter.

And the notion of trying to solve it in a—in sort of a hybrid fashion by coming together is unfamiliar to a lot of people, but I think that is what the president and the Congress are working toward.  I think it is a very, very worthy goal.  And because we‘ve tried it in Massachusetts and have had tremendous success with it, it‘s not so scary for us, and I hope it won‘t be in the end for the American people.

BARNICLE:  One last question.  On the coming together thing, we keep hearing every time something occurs—the election of Barack Obama, your election, your campaign for reelection—that when race is discussed, everybody says, you know, Well, it‘s going to be nice because now we‘re finally going to have a good national conversation about race.  I don‘t think we‘ve ever had one.  Do you?  Do you think we‘ve ever?

PATRICK:  Well, not really.  Not really.  I mean, in some ways, we—you know, we‘re hungry for it, and in other ways, we‘re not entirely ready for it.  But it‘ll come.  I think the most important thing is to acknowledge that race is with us, but it doesn‘t explain everything that goes wrong in my life, private or political, or in the lives of other people of color.  And people of color know that, by the way, and I think most of the general population does, as well.

BARNICLE:  Governor Deval Patrick, thanks very much for your time.  We appreciate it.  Coming up...

PATRICK:  You bet.  Good to be with you, Mike.  Thank you.

BARNICLE:  Coming up: President Obama says he wants a new era of engagement with the world.  Will the world engage with him?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


BARNICLE:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  President Obama drew a sharp contrast with his predecessor, George W. Bush, and came to the United Nations General Assembly this week seeking to usher in a new era of diplomacy.  Here‘s what he said.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world‘s problems alone.  We have sought in word and deed a new era of engagement with the world, and now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.


BARNICLE:  But can the president get world leaders to work with him on countering Iran‘s nuclear ambitions, solving Middle East peace and stabilizing Afghanistan?

Tony Blankley is a syndicated columnist and former press secretary to Newt Gingrich, and Jennifer Palmieri is with the Center for American Progress.

Tony, I heard a rumor today that you had actually said, today, some very nice things about President Obama‘s appearance before the U.N.  What‘s the story?

TONY BLANKLEY, FORMER NEWT GINGRICH PRESS SECRETARY:  Well, don‘t take it too far.  I read his remarks a number of times overnight because I think that he‘s saying more than just he‘s going to be better than Bush.  I think that he is suggesting that the great power diplomacy that America has practiced really since World War II, where we wandered around the world, pushed our way around, told people how to act, sold our values—that that time is over.  And now we‘re going to sort of pull back and be one of many in a more cooperative approach to solving the world‘s problems and to advancing our interests.

So it‘s going to be fascinating to see how that plays out because, already, the question is, Well, what is he going to accomplish at the G-20 tomorrow?  Well, based on his formula now, it‘s not up to him.  It‘s up to China and Germany and Japan and everybody else to work cooperatively together.  But I do think this is an important moment and we shouldn‘t just judge his tactics by our old strategies because he‘s suggesting something different.

BARNICLE:  Jennifer, he‘s a new president.  It‘s a new presidency.  There are a whole range of problems that aren‘t new.  You just heard Tony‘s assessment of the speech.  What‘s yours?

JENNIFER PALMIERI, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Well, I think that I take a slightly different view of what Obama was trying to achieve then I think what Tony laid out, which is—I mean, the way that I heard that was that as—in the short time he‘s been president, is that he‘s done what he can to restore the world‘s faith in the United States.

And I think that he was calling them out, if you will, and saying, You know, you no longer have the excuse of saying the United States is uncooperative and you no longer have the excuse of saying the United States won‘t listen to anyone.  We have shown by closing Guantanamo, we have showed by banning torture, that this is a different—this is a presidency that is going to have a different approach in dealing with the rest of the world, but these are your responsibilities, too.

And it was easy for some of these countries during the Bush administration to say, Well, the United States isn‘t listening to us.  They‘re not going to cooperate, so we‘re not going to cooperate with them on Afghanistan, or whatever it may be.  And I think that he was challenging them to say that, You‘re going to need to step up to the plate, too, but not saying that it‘s not the United States‘ problem.  It certainly is.

BARNICLE:  Tony, you‘ve been around a while and you‘ve been around a

couple of presidents and more than a few Speakers of the House.  So you can

my theory is, you can only dance on someone else‘s dime for so long. 

And now President Obama is at the point where in his administration, it‘s his war in Afghanistan, it‘s his problem, the Israelis and Palestinians, it‘s his situation in North Korea.  What does he do?

BLANKLEY:  Well, yes, it‘s a wonderful—I mean, I think saying he‘s not Bush is not enough anymore, and it‘s not going to be enough for the G-20.  The first two times—or the first time in April, people were glad he wasn‘t Bush.  Now he‘s got to be Obama, whoever that is.

But, yes, I mean, I—I was saying this morning on another place that I—I wonder whether the president is really going to listen to and take the—the recommendation from the Pentagon. 

I said it reminded me a little bit of Jack Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs.  Before the Bay of Pigs, he kind of listened to what—and took the advice of the general.  He found out that wasn‘t so great, so he started making up his own mind afterwards, particularly in the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

Now, Obama hasn‘t had a Bay of Pigs.  But I wonder whether he hasn‘t shifted and decided he‘s not going to simply take the advice of the—of the establishment in this town.  He‘s got his own vision of where he wants to take the country, and he‘s going to do it substantially on his own authority and his own judgment. 

So, I‘m not convinced he‘s going to go into Afghanistan.  I think he may very well decide to try to—try to take a path that doesn‘t have more troops and gets out pretty quickly, and take the consequences—and take the consequences of contradicting what he had said only a few weeks ago. 

BARNICLE:  Jennifer, Tony is clearly referencing the—the—General McChrystal‘s report to the White House that was leaked Sunday—Monday, actually, to “The Washington Post” and Bob Woodward. 


BARNICLE:  Where do—who do you figure leaked it?  What—what element of the government leaked it?  And why do you think they leaked it, off of...


BARNICLE:  ... off of Tony‘s view, which I‘m inclined to agree with, by the way. 


FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  I‘m inclined to agree with Tony‘s view as well.  It seems that he‘s building—it seems—it feels like the White House is building up to not doing—not accepting, at least in total, McChrystal‘s recommendations. 

And I worked—I worked in the White House for eight years under Bill Clinton.  And predicting where leaks—or trying to figure out where relief come from is a very perilous business. 

But it does—it does feel like that the military may have done that to try and force the president‘s hand.  But I think that the president—the White House has been very clear that, even though McChrystal—that his military recommendations are—are what they are.  They are based on the theory that there‘s a functioning Afghani partner, a functioning Afghani government.

And they have made, I think, clear, and when they talk about how they‘re trying to make this decision, that they‘re concerned that‘s not the case, and that you need to have a functioning partner in order for the military strategy to work. 

BLANKLEY:  Well...

PALMIERI:  They don‘t feel like they‘re going to be bullied into this by the military pressuring them to make this decision...


PALMIERI:  ... as you may have tried to do with other Democratic presidents. 

And I think that Tony‘s right, in that, you know, he—this president seems to be willing to step back and say, and I‘m not just taking the military advice.  I‘m looking at the whole picture and understanding that there‘s a lot more at play here. 

BLANKLEY:  I—you know, I...


BLANKLEY:  I think more interesting than who leaked it is how “The Washington Post” has discussed it this week.  They had an editorial earlier this week which is as sarcastic an editorial as I have seen “The Post” charge even at an Republican, let alone a Democratic president. 

I mean, they were very concerned with Obama slipping away.  He said, don‘t—doesn‘t he remember what he said two weeks ago? 

PALMIERI:  Right. 

BLANKLEY:  Doesn‘t he remember what he said two months ago?  So, what you have is the great liberal institution of “The Washington Post” chastising the president sarcastically, for fear that...

PALMIERI:  Right. 

BLANKLEY:  ... he‘s going to slip away from what his commitment is. 

PALMIERI:  Well, the same—the same paper that criticized Bush for not reacting to facts on the ground and being stubborn and... 


BLANKLEY:  Yes.  But it‘s different when “The Post” attacks a Democratic president.

PALMIERI:  Yes, I know.

BLANKLEY:  I think it‘s interesting.

PALMIERI:  Oh, but they love it.  They love attacking a Democratic president.   

BARNICLE:  You know, last element here, Tony and Jennifer.  What is a really interesting nugget, at least to me and I think maybe out in the country, is that you clearly have a difference of opinion between Vice President Biden‘s assessment of Afghanistan and what is supposedly the administration‘s assessment of Afghanistan. 

Where do you think that‘s headed? 

BLANKLEY:  I think it‘s not as clean as that. 

Biden‘s plan—which, by the way, hasn‘t fully been leaked yet—I think we need to hear a more complete leak to understand it—is essentially a withdrawal from Afghanistan and doing some stuff regarding Pakistan. 

But I think that General Jones‘ is very—very questionable about supporting what was the president‘s plan.  It‘s not even clear that—that Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, who has taken the more hawkish position, is definitely on that side. 

I sense a general retreat on the part of this administration from the position that it held until a few weeks ago.  And I don‘t think it‘s because of the election, because everybody knew it was going to be corrupt.  I mean, we were all on TV before the election saying, how are they going to deal with a corrupt election?  So, this was nothing new. 


BARNICLE:  Jennifer Palmieri, one last word, quickly.  Go ahead. 

PALMIERI:  Well, I think that he‘s—I mean, one thing, I think, we haven‘t brought into this discussion is as that the president is reacting to—to how facts change on the ground. 

And I think that you do want a decision-making process that is—is

constantly taking into account how the realities on the ground are

changing.  And I think that‘s what‘s behind, you know, from the McChrystal

or, from the policy that they put forward in March and reconsidering now, you know, McChrystal thinks he needs more troops to get it done, and the president is deciding if—what the facts on the ground are now, if that‘s what‘s warranted to do. 

So, to have this kind of check-in at this point seems like a—you know, a responsible and smart thing to do, not a change in strategy. 

BARNICLE:  I‘m—I‘m for keeping talking. 


BARNICLE:  Jennifer Palmieri and Tony Blankley, thanks very much. 


BARNICLE:  Up next:  The late-night comments have a field day on Sarah Palin‘s big speech in Hong Kong.  That‘s next in the “Sideshow.” 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


JAY LENO, HOST, “THE JAY LENO SHOW”:  She was very tough on President Obama.  She attacked President Obama on foreign soil.  Well, I‘m sure the people who went after the Dixie Chicks will be going after here right now.





Back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.” 

First up: Palin mania.  You can bet the late-night shows were happy to have Sarah Palin back in the headlines. 

Here are the reviews of Palin‘s big speech overseas. 


CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH CONAN O‘BRIEN”:  Today, former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin gave a speech in China.  That‘s right.  Yes, the topic of her speech was, are you sure you‘re not Japan? 




JAY LENO, HOST, “THE JAY LENO SHOW”:  She was very tough on President Obama.  She attacked President Obama on foreign soil.  Well, I‘m sure the people who went after the Dixie Chicks will be going after here right now.




DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”:  The people who heard the speech said it was articulate, it was well-prepared, it was—it was compelling.  It‘s a year late.  But...


LETTERMAN:  And, if it was that good, I‘m thinking it must have been Tina Fey. 



LETTERMAN:  That‘s probably what happened. 



BARNICLE:  That‘s great. 

Next up: Hammer time.  Mr. Tom DeLay, known as the Hammer back when he was House majority leader, made his debut on “Dancing With the Stars” earlier this week with a routine set to, what else, “Wild Thing.”

Though DeLay earned a respectable 16 out of 30 for that performance, he was on the show‘s chopping block last night. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tom, on Monday, your cha-cha to “Wild Thing” left Carrie Ann and good portions of the nation speechless. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do the viewers want to see more?  The next couple definitely safe to dance next week is Tom and Cheryl. 



BARNICLE:  Yes!  He stays in.  Let‘s see what old twinkle toes Tommy comes up with next week. 

Time now for tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

When soon-to-be Senator Paul Kirk of Massachusetts is sworn in tomorrow, how many appointees in total will be serving in the United States Senate?  With replacements already in for former Senators Obama, Biden, Clinton, Salazar, and Martinez, that makes six appointees. 

It doesn‘t come close to the record, though.  In the 1940s, 13 appointees served at one time.  At any rate, we have got six appointees serving in the United States Senate right now.  That‘s tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next:  After the White House pressured New York‘s struggling Governor David Paterson not to run for election, Paterson strikes back, blaming the president‘s governance style for his own misfortune.  Is Paterson really a match for Obama?  And should Obama be taking sides in a Democratic primary fight? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


SHARON EPPERSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Sharon Epperson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks retreating today on signs of weakness in the housing market and word the Fed is cutting back on emergency lending.  The Dow Jones industrials are down 41 points.  The S&P 500 lost 10 points, and the Nasdaq finished 23 points lower. 

The Federal Reserve says, with the economy moving from recession to recovery, it‘s time to start scaling back its emergency lending program.  But investors are worried the process of weaning banks off government support could be tricky. 

A big drop in existing home sales showed the housing sector is still fragile.  Economists were actually expecting an increase, as homebuyers try to beat a deadline for government assistance. 

Shares in BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion are tumbling in after-hours trading.  RIM posted a better-than-expected rise in profit in the second quarter, but sales fell short. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to


BARNICLE:  Welcome back to HARDBOIL.


BARNICLE:  HARDBOIL, that‘s good.

HARDBALL, how about that? 


BARNICLE:  Turmoil in the New York States‘ governor race has drawn in President Obama and involves some of the biggest boldfaced names in politics, including Andrew Cuomo, Rudy Giuliani, even Caroline Kennedy. 

With a 17 percent approval rating, New York State Governor David Paterson would be a huge liability atop the Democratic slate in 2010.  White House advisers are concerned he could drag down the whole party in New York.  They would like him to go, but he‘s standing firm.  And he will make his case this Sunday on “Meet the Press.” 

What‘s going on here? 

Joining us, “The New York Post”‘s great Fred Dicker and New York 1‘s Dominic Carter. 

Fred, you have been covering governors of New York and politics in New York since Al Smith was governor, I think, OK?


BARNICLE:  So, my basic...

FRED DICKER, “THE NEW YORK POST”:  Your—your hero, Mike. 



BARNICLE:  That‘s exactly right. 

My basic question to you is, how crazy is this stuff? 

DICKER:  Well, you know, the last three years here in New York, Mike, have been extraordinary.  So, is it equal to, say, Eliot Spitzer announcing that the sheriff of Wall Street is also a patronizer of prostitutes?  I‘m not quite sure it it‘s at that level. 

But this is extraordinary.  In many three decades or so at the state capitol, I have never seen anything like it.  We have a governor now who is being widely described as being in the political death throes.  And it does look that way.

BARNICLE:  Well, widely described as being in the political death throes is one thing, but what about his—his balance, his—I mean, just his equilibrium, in terms his mental equilibrium in dealing with this stuff?

DICKER:  Well, yesterday, he looked like he was melting down in front of the public.  It was like a—a statewide therapy session, as he declared he never wanted this job. 

Well, if you didn‘t want the job, why are you saying now that you want to run for election next year?  Why are you prepared to defy the president? 

I mean, he‘s been contradictory in many ways.  He does not have a good reputation.  He‘s known for mendacity, for kind of flip humor in inappropriate times.  But, most importantly, he‘s widely seen, as you noted in the intro, by the people of New York as a failure as governor. 

He‘s now the least popular governor in the United States.  That has to do with his policies, his appointments, his style.  And even the president of the United States, as extraordinary as that is, recognizes what a liability he is for Democrats here.  And that is absolutely true. 

BARNICLE:  Hey, Dominic, let‘s—let‘s play this out in terms of some other characters here, because it seems, at least according to news reports, Fred Dicker‘s own news report in “The New York Post” today, that there‘s a lot of finger-pointing going on now in Albany from the governor, even from his wife involving, you know, trying to drag Andrew Cuomo into this. 

What‘s your read on it? 

DOMINIC CARTER, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, NEW YORK 1:  Well, Mike, I just want to be clear about this before answering a question. 

And you were right in your introduction, because no one knows the state legislature of New York better than Fred Dicker does.  The man is an expert. 


CARTER:  And, so, with that said, you know, for the governor‘s wife, Michelle, to comment on this, it was a little bit surprising, Mike, given that she has not had much to say about political matters. 

But one would expect for her to defend her husband.  She‘s been an active first lady, in terms of social issues.  But the handwriting is on the wall.  You said it in the introduction, 17 percent approval rating. 

Whether you like it or not or agree with it or not, all the White House did was express to the governor the will of the people, based on the polls, that it‘s basically over.  Anything can happen, but it‘s—it‘s not looking good for David Paterson. 

BARNICLE:  Hey—hey, Fred, would you be surprised if—if Governor Paterson went on “Meet the Press” this Sunday and said, you know, I‘m done;

I‘m pulling the plug; I‘m not going to be on the ballot? 

DICKER:  I wouldn‘t be all that surprised, although I think the timing would be surprising.  I wish he would do it in “The New York Post,” though, if he‘s going to do it, not give it to NBC. 


CARTER:  Or New York 1.

DICKER:  But, that said, I mean, people, I think—or New York 1, Dominic, absolutely.


DICKER:  By the way, Mike, we should note that, about a month-and-a-half ago, the governor was nice enough to cite Dominic Carter and myself as his leading enemies in the press corps, apparently ignoring the fact that he‘s brought this on itself—on himself. 

And he‘s been—a year ago, he was a very popular governor. 

Just quickly, the expectation is that he will make up his mind in consultation with his family, his wife, his famous father, probably sometimes between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It‘s probably still a couple of months away before he decides. 

BARNICLE:  So, Dominic, Fred just informs us that the governor, in addition to all of his other issues, has an enemy‘s list, like Nixon used to have an enemy‘s list.  And you two guys are on it.  So my question to you is, I think I heard earlier in the week that Congressman Charlie Rangel is sort of supporting the governor, sort of saying, cut it out.  Leave him alone.  He‘s going to be OK.  If that‘s true, how can that be? 

CARTER:  Well, keep in mind the so-called gang of four in Harlem, Mike, in terms of Rangel has a long-standing relationship with the governor‘s father.  But I just want to point out that I have been told by two people with direct knowledge that claim that this also has a lot to do with the White House—it‘s payback time, as far as how it all went down with Caroline Kennedy. 

This is the governor that came in with great, great promise, good approval numbers.  One can make a case that for a while he was on top of the world.  But his indecisiveness, the Caroline Kennedy mess, it‘s been—it just hasn‘t been good for David Paterson at all. 

BARNICLE:  Fred, I can understand that story line.  But I don‘t buy it.  Given the fact that the governor becomes governor, and like within a week, he‘s having a press conference announcing that both he and his wife have had extramarital affairs.  Immediately the thing goes off the trolley tracks.  So tell me now, Andrew Cuomo, Rudy Giuliani, what‘s your best assessment?  What are they going to run for next year, if anything? 

DICKER:  Well, I think the White House was trying to prevent Giuliani from getting in the race by singling—signaling early that Andrew Cuomo was going to be the nominee and he‘s their preferred nominee.  I think it‘s going to work.  The sense is that Rudy Giuliani just does not have the fire in the belly.  Certainly doesn‘t want to take on Andrew Cuomo.  So I think we‘re going to have a pretty easy race next year for the next Democratic governor of New York, if that all holds true. 

BARNICLE:  Dominic, what‘s your assessment?  You have a Senate seat up next year, too. 

CARTER:  I agree.  Andrew Cuomo, it appears, may be the Democratic nominee.  And if that‘s the case—and let me just make this quick point, Mike, as far as Mr. Cuomo, it‘s one thing as attorney general that he has to be careful about because you get to pick and choose your issues.  It‘s another thing when you‘re the governor of the state.  But with that said, it looks like Cuomo will likely run.  It looks that way, and will be the nominee.  If that‘s the case, in all likelihood, Giuliani will not run. 

BARNICLE:  You guys are great.  And you have a great job, both of you. 

You get to cover the Big Apple circus, the zoo every single day. 

CARTER:  You can say that again, Mike. 

DICKER:  We‘re watching the disintegration of New York. 

BARNICLE:  Well, that‘s sad.  But, you know, there‘s a certain amount of accuracy to that.  Fred Dicker, Dominic Carter, thanks very much.  We appreciate it. 

Up next, Bill Clinton‘s media blitz.  Can he sell health care reform better than President Obama?  The politics fix is next. 

And this Sunday on “Meet the Press,” David Gregory will interview both Bill Clinton and the aforementioned New York Governor David Paterson.  That‘s Sunday on “Meet the Press.”


BARNICLE:  We‘re back.  Here‘s what Joe Conason wrote this week in “The Daily Beast,” a terrific website, by the way, about Bill Clinton.  Quote, “in short, Clinton is doing global business as usual.  And as usual, he is mocking the widespread predictions last winter that his wife‘s new role as secretary of state would somehow sideline him and his foundation, or that he would prove to be an irritant to her and President Obama,” end quote. 

Joe Conason joins us now, along with the‘s Chris Cillizza for the politics fix.

Gentlemen, I would like both of you to listen to what President Clinton—he was on with Larry King, you know, first-time caller from Pomona, earlier this week.  Let‘s listen. 


BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And they somehow believe that miraculously we should be the only rich country in the world that can‘t figure out how to cover everybody, and keeps shoveling literally 900 billion dollars a year at health care.  You think about how much our deficit is today.  Think about how much we‘re at a competitive disadvantage with other countries in manufacturing. 

We‘re throwing 900 billion dollars a year in health care that has nothing to do with good health, and doesn‘t even cover everybody.  So the people that are getting the big chunk of that money don‘t want to give it up, and they‘re ready to stoke all of these fires. 

That‘s the fight Barack Obama wants.  He wants to fight this on the merits.  And I respect that and he‘s right about it. 


BARNICLE:  Joe Conason, right there you had the former president of the United States, in about 35 seconds, sort of giving an outline of the health care reform issues I think in a far more cogent way than the incumbent president has.  What‘s going on with Bill Clinton? 

JOE CONASON, “THE DAILY BEAST”:  Well, you know, Bill Clinton I think really does support President Obama‘s attempt to reform health care.  He said it many times.  He‘s supported the public option in some of his remarks.  And I think he does have a great talent for summing up and helping people understand the issues from his perspective.  I mean, that‘s always just been true of him, Mike. 

This week at his Clinton Global Initiative, he asked the Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, how much is the—he was talking about how they cover everybody in Chile, and they have universal health care reform they.  He said how much is the per capita income in your country?  She said 13,500 dollars a year.  And he laughed.  He said, boy, if I were a member of Congress, I would be ashamed that you can do it and we can‘t. 

BARNICLE:  Chris, you know, what Joe just said what happened at the Global Initiative this week and President Clinton‘s performance with Larry King, the extended performance as well, it makes you wonder is there something larger for former President Clinton to do on behalf of the Obama administration, because he‘s pretty good at this stuff? 

CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  You know, Mike, whether you like him or you don‘t like him—and there‘s lots of people that fit in both of those camps—the guy is a very gifted communicator.  I remember in Iowa—this is probably a week and a half, two weeks before the caucuses that his wife came in third.  For one full hour—he was one full hour late and then he spoke for one full hour without stop.  The guy delivered a captivating address.  No one got up and left.  No one moved. 

He has a tremendous command of facts, number one.  And number two, he‘s able to bring those baskets to bear in a real-life way that your average person thinks about, listens to, and says yes, I never thought of it that way.  That‘s his unique gift. 

But, of course, with Bill Clinton, with the good comes the bad.  He does carry some negatives from his time, although those are fading.  He does carry some negatives from his time from during the presidential campaign, though those are fading.  So it‘s neither all good nor all bad.  But he clearly is among, if not the best communicator in the Democratic party or in politics in general, about personalizing it, about making it about people‘s everyday lives, taking these dry factoids and saying this matters to you and here‘s why. 

BARNICLE:  I absolutely agree with that assessment, Chris.  Joe, given the fact—first of all, the incumbent president is a highly skilled communicator, no doubt about that.  We have the proof of it in the fact that he‘s sitting in the Oval Office.  But former President Clinton, as Chris just pointed, has a way of taking all of these complex issues and bringing it right down to sidewalk level, where people nod their hands and say I get it.  So it begs the question now, what could Bill Clinton, do you think—what could he do for Barack Obama that Barack Obama can‘t do for himself? 

CONASON:  Well, you know, if I were in the White House, I might consider sending President Clinton out to speak about health care reform in states where the senators are pushing back against it, especially Democrats.  Privately, I know he‘s talked to some Democrats about this, in his home state and elsewhere, why they should be supporting health care reform.  Maybe one would turn up the heat a little bit and say, we would like President Clinton to give a speech about health care in Arkansas or Florida or in Maine or some state where there‘s a senator or members of Congress who need to be persuaded gently to change a little bit. 

CILLIZZA:  You know, Mike, I think Joe is exactly right.  I would take it one step further.  I would take it from gentle persuasion to more aggressive persuasion.  If you look at sort of who the White House has in terms of their communicators, they don‘t have an attack dog.  Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, clearly not comfortable in that role.  Howard Dean, who is more comfortable in that role, isn‘t in a position really to do it. 

President Obama shouldn‘t be doing it.  Bill Clinton has shown over the years he‘s very much willing to deliver those sorts of attacks.  And the truth of politics is you have to put those hard choices out in front of people.  It‘s just not all candy and lollipops and happiness.  Sometimes you have to say it‘s either this or that.  Bill Clinton has shown a willingness to do it, and shown an effectiveness most of the time. 

Obviously, he slipped up badly in South Carolina, in terms of trying to deliver a negative attack.  But he‘s someone who could be that attack dog.  And I don‘t say it with a negative connotation, but someone who goes up and delivers that negative message that some of these members might need. 

CONASON:  I would say that a little differently.  I would say what he could is go to some of these places and ask the questions that are very hard for the opponents of health care reform to answer.  Why are you defending this system?  Why do you defend a system that doesn‘t cover everyone, that delivers worse outcomes that systems in other countries, that cover everyone for much less money?  What is it about this that you want to preserve?  And those are hard questions for a lot of politicians to answer now. 

BARNICLE:  We‘re going to be back with no hard questions, with Joe Conason and Chris Cillizza in a couple of minutes.  For more of the politics fix, you‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


BARNICLE:  We‘re back with Chris Cillizza and Joe Conason for more of the politics fix.  Chris, you follow politics the way I follow the American League Wild Card race. 

CILLIZZA:  Is that a good thing? 

BARNICLE:  Yes, I think it is a good thing.  It‘s a good thing for you.  It‘s a good thing for me, I know that.  Today, Governor Patrick in Massachusetts sent Paul Kirk, a Kennedy ally, to the United States Senate.  That leaves people in Massachusetts with about 90 days for a Senate race.  There‘s a primary, and then there‘s going to be a general election in January.  What is your sense of what‘s going on in the Massachusetts Senate race?  And it‘s only the Democrats that count. 

CILLIZZA:  Yes, look, I think Paul Kirk is, I think, a good choice, in keeping with the way in which we‘ve seen senators be replaced.  We saw Joe Biden be replaced with former long-time aide, Tim Kaufman.  Charlie Crist named one of his very close aides in Florida to the Senate seat that Mel Martinez had resigned from.  So it‘s in keeping with what we‘ve seen lately. 

But you‘re right, the special election—and the special election primary, which is December 8th, is really what to watch for.  This is a field that doesn‘t have that big person in it, Mike.  When we think of Massachusetts politics, we think of a Kennedy or a big name.  But there isn‘t that person.  The favorite is State Attorney General Martha Coakley, simply because it‘s a very short primary, and she has the most name I.D.  and the only one with a statewide organization in place. 

So I think a lot of us, me included, thought this was going to be a race with Joe Kennedy in it, the second, with Ed Markey in it, with some of these bigger names that have been waiting, people that have been waiting a long time to run.  All of them decided not to run. 

So it‘s that second tier, but it‘s still a Senate seat up for grabs. 

So you don‘t down play it. 

BARNICLE:  I‘m going to give you a Spring Training report here.  Pay attention to Mike Capuano, the Congressman also in the race.  Summerville, Massachusetts.  Joe Conason, Paul Kirk goes to the United States Senate, 60 votes.  Let‘s get back to what Chris was talking about in terms of former President Clinton.  Does he have any role to play, do you think, in talking with incumbent senators right now?  People like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe?  Any clout there? 

CONASON:  President Clinton you mean? 


CONASON:  Look, he has clout as a former president.  He has clout as somebody whose popularity, not only in the United States, but worldwide is still very great.  He has clout as somebody who I think most Americans look back to as a president who governed the country in a time that was better for all of them. 

So I think he has that kind of clout.  He also has fund-raising and campaigning clout.  I don‘t think any Democrat and few Republicans would want Bill Clinton to campaign against them. 

But I think he also just has credibility.  As Chris was saying before, he‘s able to explain things to people in ways that they understand.  I think a lot of these politicians would have trouble arguing with him.

BARNICLE:  Thank you very much.

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.



Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED.

No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.

User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s

personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,

nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion

that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or

other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal

transcript for purposes of litigation.>


Watch Hardball each weeknight