Guests: Julia Boorstin, Leanne Gregg, Sheree Silver, Phillip Dennis, Pat Buchanan, Eugene Robinson, Ron Brownstein, David Corn
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The empty balloon.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Los Angeles. Leading off tonight: Was it a hoax? There are so many questions surrounding that nationally televised balloon flight yesterday. First, why did that 6-year-old boy say on TV, quote, “You guys said that we did this for a show”? And why did the father call a TV station before he called 911? The sheriff‘s office is now investigating the family. At the top of the show tonight, a woman who spent time with the family on the reality show “Wife Swap.” Well, she‘ll tell us, perhaps, what she knows about all this.
Also, President Obama is visiting Texas A&M today at the invitation of the first President Bush, and the tea party activists don‘t like it. They‘re making a lot of noise about it. We‘ll ask an organizer of the so-called Texas Tea Party Patriots why he‘s so angry.
Also, who are these right-wing activists, anyway? We have the results of a new study by a Democrat-leaning pollster that looks at what really motivates them. Is it about race? Well, or is it about something more complicated? The answer may surprise you. You may disagree with the answer.
Also, does the president benefit from being seen in a nonpartisan or bipartisan setting with the first President Bush this evening? And will the tea party types retaliate against President Bush 41? Check out the “Politics Fix” tonight for that examination.
And what do you say to a child who asks you, Why do people hate you? The question was put to President Obama, and we‘ll show you his I think charming answer in the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight.
Let‘s start with the latest on that bizarre balloon flight out in Colorado. NBC‘s Leanne Gregg is with us from the family‘s house in Fort Collins.
Leanne, I guess it comes down to how you hear something. This kid on television the other night said, quote—when asked about it, he said, You guys—well, you guys said we did this for a show. Does that mean that the kid was part of a PR campaign? Let‘s take a look at the tape. It was on CNN. We‘ll watch it first.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD HEENE, FATHER: (INAUDIBLE) Falcon, did you hear us calling your name at any time?
FALCON HEENE, 6 YEARS OLD: Uh-huh.
RICHARD HEENE: You did?
MAYUMI HEENE, MOTHER: You did?
RICHARD: Well, why didn‘t you come out?
FALCON HEENE: You had said that we did this for a show.
RICHARD HEENE: Yes. You didn‘t come out?
FALCON HEENE: No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Leanne, that‘s a tough thing to report on, but I guess it‘s the meat of this story so far, that little kid‘s answer.
LEANNE GREGG, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Right. The sheriff today during a news conference said that‘s why they plan on reinterviewing the family. They said they were going to do it today, but Falcon is sick today. He threw up today during an interview on the “Today” show. And his parents are exhausted.
In fact, just a couple of minutes ago, somebody stuck a hand out the door and put a note on the front door. That‘s where the Heenes live. And it says “Thanks for your support. We are not taking any interviews anymore. We‘re tired. Thank you.” Signed, “The Heenes.” So that interview is expected to take place tomorrow.
But the sheriff also said today that he really doesn‘t think it‘s a hoax. He said the family—their reaction was consistent with a family that would be traumatized, and he really believed that they thought that their child was floating away in a balloon. So if it does turn out to be a hoax, if they find that it is, you know, serious consequences for the family, but right now, they don‘t really think so.
MATTHEWS: What about this fact we have that the father—we just saw him in the clip there, we‘re looking at it—called the FAA—actually, he called the TV, the local TV station, in addition to the FAA, before he bothered to go around and call 911. Now, I don‘t know whether you call 911 when somebody‘s flying up in a balloon, whether the police can be any help anyway. But what do we—what do reporters out there make of that time sequence?
GREGG: Well, the sheriff himself said that he thought that was a little bit odd, but he put it into context, the fact that Richard Heene is a scientist and he was thinking perhaps that the FAA controls the sky, so that would be the first call. And he knew that KUSA, the local NBC affiliate, had a helicopter, so that would be an appropriate call, asking them if they could come and help and search for his child.
So about 20 minutes or so later, then he did call 911, and you can hear on those tapes that were released today that the parents were frantic and sounded like it was sincere.
MATTHEWS: What about calling the local TV station before calling 911?
GREGG: Well, that is a little bit odd, but again, they have the helicopter and he was asking them to help in the search for the child. So I don‘t know. It does seem a little strange, but everyone who knows this family agrees that they‘re not exactly mainstream. They are a little bit strange.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s talk about why the police are involved. What is the legal ramifications if a hoax becomes a possibility or a plausibility here?
GREGG: Well, they could be charged. In addition to that, they could be asked to offset the expenses. The Larimer County‘s sheriff‘s office alone, they had 80 people involved in the search. There were horses, police on horses looking. There were two different helicopters. They called in the National Guard. They were supporting with helicopters in the air. So this was a pretty big search, very expensive, a lot of trouble. So there could be quite a financial burden, as well as some charges.
MATTHEWS: Do you have any other information as to why the kid would be hiding in the attic during that whole kerfuffle we were all involved in? Back in Washington yesterday, as we were on the air, we‘re all running around, trying to figure out, Where‘s the kid? Where‘s the kid? He‘s up there in the attic. Any explanation as to why he was up there the whole day, all those hours?
GREGG: So far, just speculation. And the sheriff said that he thinks that it makes sense that the child was just scared. He was afraid that if he came out, he would get into trouble, that he heard all of the commotion below and that he just wanted to duck it and get out of the way.
MATTHEWS: OK. Leanne Gregg, thanks so much for joining us tonight on this strange story.
Sheree Silver spent time with Richard Heene—he‘s the father, Richard Heene, he‘s the father here—and his sons for the reality show “Wife Swap.” Sheree, what you can you tell us about this family? We just had a straight reporter, Leanne Gregg, say they‘re a bit different. Well, everybody‘s being careful here. What do you know about the nature of the sort of the idiosyncrasies of this family, the Heene family?
SHEREE SILVER, “WIFE SWAP” PARTICIPANT WITH HEENE FAMILY: Well, Richard Heene is a scientist. And there‘s not too many scientists that are self-proclaimed scientists in this world, so everything he does is extreme. So when he makes something, it costs him a lot of money to make, and he puts a big production into everything that he does.
But his heart is in the right place of what he wants to do with his science experiments. So basically, how he reacts as a person and how extreme he is and how off the wall he is with his emotions is all part of his character and his obsession with science.
MATTHEWS: Is he equally obsessed with publicity? Does he like to get on television? Does he like to get press attention?
SILVER: Definitely, because he needs press attention to be able to do the work that he wants to do because it costs a lot of money to buy all these science experiments. And this is his main work. I mean, he does the science and this is—you know, only by having publicity and support and people who want to help you do what you‘re doing can you really do what you need to do. So yes, he loves being on TV, but not for fame‘s sake. I really don‘t think just to be famous. I think it‘s about him being able to do what he wants to do.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s get back to the heart of the question. Here‘s what the father, Mr. Heene, Richard Heene, said on CNN Thursday night—that‘s last night—when he was asked what his son meant when he said, quote, “We did this for a show.” Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD HEENE: I‘m kind of appalled, after all of the feelings that I went through up and down, that you guys are trying to suggest something else, OK? I‘m really appalled.
Well, you know, we were on “Wife Swap” a couple of times. So the camera crews out there, I would imagine, they‘d asked him a couple of questions in reference to this. And I believe, you know, he meant something to do with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that, Sheree?
SILVER: You know, the little boy tended to do things like—of the extreme. And I do feel that he definitely was referring to a show, but Richard is doing so many shows. Like, he was going to video this whole thing going up anyway, otherwise he wouldn‘t have put the helium in it. So he was planning the press seeing the machine go up.
But I don‘t really believe that he was planning on saying or purposely saying his son was in it. So the son might have been thinking, as far as the show, because Richard‘s going to probably put it on his Web site and his webcam and all that stuff. So it‘s very possible he did mean the show, but not in the context of, you know, for a show kind of thing.
MATTHEWS: OK. So just to get to the bottom line here...
SILVER: I know it sounds like...
MATTHEWS: ... and to be fair to all, you don‘t believe there was any attempt to fake the kid being up in that flight to get press attention. Is that what you‘re saying?
SILVER: No. No. I don‘t think Richard is capable of being that extreme to make all of America think that there‘s something going to happen to his child. That is just—he may be weird and he may be strange and he maybe do way-out things in his personality, but that‘s something else. It takes a different kind of person to do something like that.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I think it takes a very bad person. Thank you very much, Sheree Silver, for your personal experience.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: President Obama is down in Texas at Texas A&M, and the tea people don‘t like it. They don‘t like him consorting with the guy they consider the bad guy. So what‘s really behind this fight, this tea party thing? They‘re mad. Apparently, these people think that George Herbert Walker Bush was the beginning of the problem. Are they mad about taxes, big government? Are they mad about everything that‘s happening in America? We‘re going to hear from a member of the Texas Tea Party Patriots group and find out what is ticking these people off.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Obama is in College Station, Texas, tonight talking about public service at the invitation of former president George Herbert Walker Bush, Bush 41. How will the bipartisan buddy show we‘re going to see tonight square with the folks down there?
Let‘s talk with Phillip Dennis. He‘s an organizer of the Texas Tea Party Patriots. Thank you very much, sir. Phillip, I really want to hear from you. What you do you make of the president, President Obama, meeting up with former president George Herbert Walker Bush at Texas A&M tonight?
PHILIP DENNIS, TEXAS TEA PARTY ORGANIZER: Well, President Bush...
MATTHEWS: What do you think of that?
DENNIS: President Bush can invite whoever he wants to Texas A&M, and has done so. He also has a history of hanging out with Bill Clinton. So it‘s his discretion to do so.
MATTHEWS: What‘s your feeling about it?
MATTHEWS: Personally, I‘m neither here nor there about whether President Bush associates with President Obama or anyone else. That‘s his right to do so. And I mean, I have friends that don‘t agree with me politically. And so that has nothing to do with the matter. I think what people are protesting down in College Station today is President Obama‘s politics and that we‘re not pleased with what he is doing politically in Washington, D.C.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s get the politics of Texas figured out here. Governor Rick Perry has been elected now a couple of times down there, and here he is in April, Governor Rick Perry of Texas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS: We‘re still part of the union down here in Texas. And our folks would like to keep it that way, but we see some things going on that are peculiar, they‘re frustrating, and I think Texans are—you know, we‘re an independent lot, and we‘d just as soon Washington not be mortgaging our kids‘ futures, and ours, for that matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, here he is a couple days later, Governor Perry again on the issue of secession.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PERRY: Texas is a unique place. When we came in the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave, if we decided to do that.
Well, my hope is that America, and Washington in particular, pays attention. We got a great union. There‘s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what may came—or may come out of that?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Phillip, that‘s strange talk for a guy like me. I grew up in Pennsylvania. Never heard of the governor of Pennsylvania talk about seceding from the union. What does it do you to you when you hear your governor talking like that?
DENNIS: Well, it‘s election time. I can speak...
MATTHEWS: What, is he a nut case or what? I mean, do you think he‘s
OK? Is he on the level? When he says secession, does he mean it, or is he
· what‘s he doing?
DENNIS: Personally, I believe he was patronizing people that—something that people wanted to hear. I can speak for the Dallas Tea Party, which is one of the larger Tea Party groups in the country, is that we do not advocate secession. Listen, we‘ve lost a couple of elections and we‘re going to fix that starting in 2010, but we‘re not talking about seceding from the country.
MATTHEWS: Well, he was doing this at a Tea Party event. You say he was patronizing. Was he patronizing your crowd? I‘m just asking who he‘s talking to here.
MATTHEWS: It sounds crazy to me. You say it doesn‘t sound like anything more than politics, but what‘s he talking about? And what is your reaction to that?
DENNIS: Well, my reaction is that I disagree with that. And I—you know, politicians say a lot of things and do another. We see that all the time. I think the tea party movement he was speaking at when he said those things was organized by the Republican Party, which does not take place in about 99.99 percent of the country. In fact, that group now has been disbanded. So we do not allow politicians, elected politicians or people who have announced they are running for office, to speak with our—to the tea party movement.
MATTHEWS: I see. What do you make of those six Texas Republican congresspeople, congressmen, who are birthers? They have real questions about Barack Obama‘s being an American.
DENNIS: Well, you know, I think we have a lot bigger fish to fry than that. When 46 cents of our...
MATTHEWS: Well, is it one of your fish?
DENNIS: No, it‘s...
MATTHEWS: Is that one of your fish?
DENNIS: No, it is not one of my fish. My fish is fiscal responsibility, and that‘s the fish of the group that I represent in the Tea Party Patriots, is that we are fiscal conservatives. And that‘s what we are calling upon both parties, Republicans and Democrats, who have not acted responsibly...
DENNIS: ... in spending our country‘s money.
MATTHEWS: Who did you vote for for president in 2000 and 2004?
DENNIS: I voted against President Obama and held my nose to vote for someone that I do not particularly care for in John McCain.
MATTHEWS: No, 2000. I‘m sorry, Mr. Dennis -- 200 and 2004.
DENNIS: In 2004, I voted for Bush.
MATTHEWS: Bush doubled the national debt—doubled it. He spent $700 billion bailing out Wall Street. He bailed out AIG. When you did you discover that you were concerned about fiscal responsibility? Was it after a Democrat was elected president? And where were you when Bush you was doing all this stuff?
DENNIS: Well, what we were not doing is we were not sending money to the RNC anymore and we were not voting for Republicans. And that‘s what happened. And I am not a fan of—
MATTHEWS: You reelected the guy. You reelected Bush.
DENNIS: I didn‘t vote for him the last time. And I didn‘t support what he does and I‘m not a fan of what he—he did some good things with cutting taxes and he did some good things with keeping us safe, but I am totally against what the Republicans did, spending money in Washington, D.C., when they were in power. And that‘s why they find themselves in the minority.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s go through that. Let‘s do some real serious work here for a minute. The Republican president, George W. Bush—and I agree you. I thought he was doing a great job after 9/11 for a while there. I thought going after bin Laden was dynamite and I was with the 90 percent, “Let‘s go get that bastard.” I‘m all for that. But he never vetoed a single spending bill by the Republican Congress. Where you were you each time—each time he didn‘t veto, he let them spend the money on the pork and the earmarks and all that crap, where were you guys?
DENNIS: Well, where I was and where...
MATTHEWS: Were you out there marching, holding tea party meetings?
DENNIS: No. No, we weren‘t at that point, because we were just getting extremely ticked off.
And we were—we were—as I mentioned, we were not supporting the Republican Party anymore. We were not voting for Republicans. And we were not sending our money to the Republican Party. And we—and we still are not doing so.
DENNIS: And, let me—let me make this straight, because I know where you‘re going at with this, Chris, and it is not fair, is that President Bush, as bad as he was, with—in terms of the deficit, President Obama, in six months, quadrupled the deficit with an $800 billion stimulus bill that quadrupled the deficit.
And that was, in my opinion, that broke the camel‘s back. And they did that without even reading it. Now, if our elected politicians that we send to Washington, D.C., do not take oath of office strong enough to read the bills that they sign...
DENNIS: ... then we need to bring them home. And that‘s what we‘re going to do, Republican and Democrat.
MATTHEWS: Well, the difference is between Bush and Obama is that, when Bush came in, we had a balanced budget. When he left, he doubled the national debt.
Let me tell you the other difference. When he left office, we were going into a Great Depression. Many economists believe that the only thing that could be done at that point was to run a big deficit to offset the cut in consumer spending and business investment.
So, you‘re right. Barack Obama did run up the deficit. He did it, many people believe, because he had to, facing another Great Depression.
DENNIS: Yes, my reaction is, we have got a bunch overeducated, under-smart people in Washington, D.C. They don‘t live like regular people do. We pay our bills on time. We go to work. We live within our means...
DENNIS: ... not like the government borrowing trillions and trillions of dollars from people who are—could be our enemies.
MATTHEWS: So—so let me get this straight. You think the correct
action for Barack Obama coming into office, with a—with a Great
Depression facing him—oh, you may disagree—you can certainly disagree
· that his correct response was to keep the budget down, let the government just laissez-faire, let the business community and the consumer bail us out, let the government—let the free markets operate? You thought that was the right answer?
DENNIS: I believe that—I believe the free market always prevails. I believe he should have cut taxes, released restrictions on businesses that have run our businesses overseas and jobs overseas now for decades.
What did Hoover do?
DENNIS: I wasn‘t around then.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know history, sir.
DENNIS: No, I‘m not that familiar..
MATTHEWS: What did Hoover do? He did what you prescribe right now, which is to do nothing, run a balanced budget, try to deal with it the old conservative way.
DENNIS: And didn‘t—haven‘t they come out now and said that FDR‘s policies Keynesian politics extended the Depression by at least seven years?
What we‘re saying is that if we—we would have never gotten ourselves in this situation if big-spending politicians hadn‘t been allowed to run wild in Washington, D.C., while we sit at home and pay the bills.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
Well, the only thing—you may have a theory there that says—I‘m all for any theory that can be proven. But Franklin Roosevelt was reelected with all but two states. I think he carried 46 states in 1936 against Alf Landon. So, whatever he did restored public confidence, and people believed in what he was doing, to the point where Vermont and Maine voted against him.
So, your theory that, somehow, he deepened the Great Depression wasn‘t believed at the time.
DENNIS: Well, who cares what was believed at the time, when it came out with the proof now showing that it is.
DENNIS: I mean, that doesn‘t give me a thrill up my leg.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, you‘re a worthy—Mr. Dennis, Mr. Dennis, the -
· the problem is that history shows that the Great Depression was about to turn this country into probably a revolution. The Communist Party was building up support, the Socialist Party.
DENNIS: Gee, it sounds familiar.
MATTHEWS: And what saved the country was, the Democratic Party at that time did something.
DENNIS: Yes. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: Or do you disagree?
DENNIS: Well, they did something, absolutely.
But it is very debatable whether it was really the good thing for the country.
All we‘re saying—and I‘m not going to get into—I mean, I don‘t care to, but I will debate about President Hoover. But if that‘s what you brought me here for, you‘re wasting your time.
MATTHEWS: No, no, no.
DENNIS: We are here...
MATTHEWS: What I bring you for is, when you—when you‘re holding tea party meetings and condemning this president taking dramatic steps to deal with the Great Depression that was facing us, and you‘re calling that socialism, whatever, and I‘m just asking you, what was the alternative, when he faced what he faced that was left over from Bush?
Bush left him...
DENNIS: I just told you.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s look at Bush. Bush did $700 billion in bailouts in TARP.
DENNIS: We were against that.
MATTHEWS: Then he bailed out AIG.
DENNIS: We were against that.
MATTHEWS: He did all that bailout stuff and then left the president coming into office on January 20 facing a Great Depression. He took dramatic steps.
Normally, no president should have ran the presidents we have had this year.
MATTHEWS: I agree you with completely. But your answer was do nothing.
DENNIS: And look—and look at the success he‘s had. Since he signed the stimulus bill to create jobs, we have lost more than two million jobs.
Look at the great success he‘s had. What we say is cut taxes, give us more liberty and freedom at the ground level here in the red states or in the flyover country...
DENNIS: ... as you New Yorkers call it, and let us live our lives like we do.
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m not a New Yorker.
DENNIS: But the government doesn‘t work that way.
MATTHEWS: Well, basically, you‘re saying to do what Bush did, a big tax cut, and then lots of speeches about the free enterprise system.
DENNIS: A big—a big tax cut with dramatic cuts in government spending and dramatic cuts in the size of our government. It‘s what we advocate.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.
DENNIS: We just don‘t disagree with...
MATTHEWS: You were very clear on that.
DENNIS: We just don‘t agree with your ideologies, Chris. It is not the fact we‘re racist or rednecks. We just don‘t agree with your liberal ideology. And, in 2010, we‘re going to see what happens.
MATTHEWS: Hey, look, fair enough.
But let me ask you this. If you think doing nothing for this new president to come in, I think there would have been a lot of Republicans on the other side, a lot of critics like yourself, who would have attacked Barack Obama had he come in and done the usual smooth sailing and said, we will get through this; just hunker down.
I think a lot of people believe that, if he had done, we would be in real trouble right now.
DENNIS: You know, that‘s crazy talk.
MATTHEWS: Worse trouble.
DENNIS: That‘s crazy talk.
I will tell you this. If Barack Obama would cut taxes, and if he would reduce the size of government, and secure our borders, I would have his face tattooed on my chest. And that‘s an open offer to President Obama right now.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, thank you very much.
I think I agree with you about the borders.
Thank you, Phillip Dennis of the Patriots.
DENNIS: My pleasure.
MATTHEWS: We are going to go deeper inside this tea party movement a little bit later on in the program. We have got the results of a new focus group about these conservative Republicans, what they really believe, what motivates them, and just how far out of the mainstream they may be.
Up next: what President Obama told a 9-year-old who asked the president, “Why do people hate you?”
That‘s next in the “Sideshow.”
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”
A telling moment in New Orleans yesterday, it starts with a 9-year-old‘s question at the president‘s town hall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (INAUDIBLE) What do you have to say?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to say, why do people hate you?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They‘re supposed to love you. And God is love, man.
OBAMA: That‘s what I‘m talking about.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: I did get elected president, so not everyone hates me.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: Once one party wins, then the other party kind of gets—feels like it needs to poke you a little bit...
OBAMA: ... to keep you on your toes.
And, so, you shouldn‘t take it too seriously. And, then, sometimes, as I said before, people just—I think they are worried about their own lives. A lot of people are losing their jobs right now. A lot of people are losing their health care, or they have lost their homes to foreclosure. And they‘re feeling frustrated.
And when you‘re president of the United States, you know, one...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (OFF-MIKE)
OBAMA: You‘ve got to deal with all of that. That‘s exactly what.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I think, sometimes, this president gives a better case for the other side than the other side does for itself.
And pretty impressive, that 9-year-old. He‘s going to remember that moment as long as he lives.
Speaking of the opposition out there, here‘s a rallying cry for you, Sarah Palin‘s op-ed in the conservative magazine “National Review.” It makes a push for domestic oil drilling and includes a not-so-subtle callout to the president—quote—“There‘s no getting around the fact that we still need to, drill, baby, drill. And if those in D.C. say otherwise, we need to tell them, yes, we can.”
And that‘s old fight song of Barack Obama.
Anyway, she‘s running. And you could win—she could win, by the way. Who knows what is going to happen next time around. She may not have the steak, but there‘s no denying this candidate, Sarah Palin, has got the sizzle.
Now for the “Big Number.”
Overseas wars are expensive, especially in a place like Afghanistan. Well, the country has got no seaports, not enough airports. And our air forces are stationed in remote areas over there. So, just consider this stat from the Pentagon. How much money is spent—you‘re not going to forget this number—on an average gallon of gas for our soldiers over there in Afghanistan? Four hundred dollars a gallon, about 100 bucks times what it costs here -- 100 times what it costs here.
If you figure it‘s four bucks for regular gas, they‘re paying $400. I guess it‘s for $400. Maybe it‘s for premium -- 400 bucks a gallon to put gas in the jeeps over there and the tanks, et cetera, et cetera—tonight‘s unbelievably “Big Number.”
Up next, back to the tea party people on the extreme right and the Republican politicians who pay attention to them. We have got the results of a new focus group showing who these people are and what really motivates them. Interesting stuff. We had an interesting guy in Phillip Dennis. Let‘s hear some real data backing him up, perhaps.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks finishing down for the day, but up more than 1 percent for the week. The Dow Jones industrials lost 67 points, to end the week back below 10000. The S&P 500 slid almost nine points, and the Nasdaq finished 16 points lower, despite some strong earnings from some of the biggest names in tech.
Disappointing results from Bank of America and General Electric sent both stocks sliding. Bank of America posted a larger-than-expected third-quarter loss, the strong showing from their investment arm not enough to offset ongoing problems with consumer credit.
General Electric beat out earnings, but missed on revenues. The conglomerate blamed the decline on downsizing at its GE Capital division. General Electric is the parent company of CNBC and MSNBC.
Meanwhile, oil prices continued to climb, up 8 percent on the week, finishing above $78 a barrel. That‘s a new high for 2009.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We‘re going to the belly of the beast right now.
Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and his partner, James “The Ragin‘ Cajun” Carville, put out a report today about a Republican focus group they held in the wake of Joe Wilson screaming “You lie” at President Obama during that joint session.
Here‘s part of their conclusion, which may surprise you—quote—and you can with this. We‘re going to do it—quote—“We gave those groups of older white Republican base voters in Georgia a full opportunity to bring race into their discussion, but it did not ever become a central element, and, indeed, was almost beside the point.”
So, if race is beside the point, then what is the point?
David Corn is the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones.” And Ron Brownstein is the political director for Atlantic Media.
Gentlemen, before we go further than that—that bottom line, that race is not a factor in this right-wing thinking, let me show you something from a poll, a research poll, done by the Daily Kos this summer. It talks about those who believe in this birther thing out there. It was back in July. And they sponsored this poll.
The highest percentage of people who believe that Obama wasn‘t born in the country was down in the South. Only 23 percent say he was born in America -- 47 percent—only 47 percent say he was born in the United States. The rest either don‘t know or thought he was born somewhere else.
Up North, the more liberal Northeast, which is attacked by the right, 93 percent say he was born in the United States.
So, the birther direction has radically different answers depending where you ask it in the country.
Ron Brownstein, you do a lot of number-crunching. What do you make of that? Is that, in fact, a counterpoint to the argument that there is not a race element to the right?
RON BROWNSTEIN, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, ATLANTIC MEDIA: Well, there is obviously a racial element to our politics. About 90 percent of John McCain‘s vote came from whites. Part of the reasons why the South would be inclined to believe the birther argument is, it‘s the most Republican region of the country today.
We have lived through a realignment of Southern whites from being the most Democratic to the most Republican portion of the electorate.
Where I agree—and, so, I think it is—it is—it is wrong to say that there is no element of racial resistance to Obama. Certainly, you look at the vote in places like Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, and you would say that.
But I agree with Stan Greenberg, who really is as sharp as they come in American politics, that the principal engine of the reaction we are seeing to Obama is not race. It is part of it, this kind of a sense of cultural alienation from the new America that he represents, the multicultural America that he represents.
But you the principal force that we‘re seeing here is an ideological recoil from the conservative Republican base on the broad sweep of his agenda.
MATTHEWS: So, Lyndon Johnson you was wrong, you‘re saying, Ron, back when he said, when he signed the civil rights bill, he wrote off the South for decades to come? He was wrong, you‘re saying.
BROWNSTEIN: No, that was the initial impetus. But we have moved way past that, Chris.
I mean, certainly, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the initial wave of realignment of white Southerners from the Democratic to Republican Party was overwhelmingly driven by race. But now it is—the attachment to the Republican Party goes way beyond that.
You‘re talking about cultural values, evangelical Christians overwhelmingly Republican, especially in the South, views on national security, views on the role of government. Race is no longer, I believe, the principal reason why conservative Southerners identify with the Republican Party. If you had to pick one reason, I would say it is religious values and cultural values, rooted in Evangelical Christianity, far more than race.
MATTHEWS: I‘m not sure. David Corn, I want to ask you this question:
why is it that all the liberals we know, every liberal we know was thrilled that this country was capable of electing an African American president? And you did not hear that thrill exciting the body or the soul of conservatives. They were not thrilled by the idea that this country was capable getting beyond its race past—it‘s racial past, not racist, but racial past.
Why is it that liberals liked that idea and conservatives didn‘t like
· were not thrilled by it? They just didn‘t have the same reaction.
CORN: You could say because, in fact, they liked Barack Obama. If it had been Michael Steele being elected president, god forbid, there might have been a different reaction.
MATTHEWS: Do you think so? I disagree with you.
CORN: I think to a part. I do think, though, that conservatives—it is hard to divide up the factors here. There is a racist component to the anti-Obama opposition and to Republican or conservative resistance.
MATTHEWS: David, you‘re wrong. Let me tell you, David—let me tell you, David, if Colin Powell were the Republican nominee for president in any one of the last cycles, a hell of a lot of Democrats you know would have voted for him. A hell of a lot. They would been thrilled if he had beaten their candidate. That‘s how they‘re different.
CORN: Chris, give me a moment to back up your point here for a second. I listened to Stan Greenberg today, and James Carville, when they released the report, and heard what they said about race not being a factor. But it‘s interesting to me that one of the key criticisms coming from these Tea Party people, or the conservatives they talk to, is that Barack Obama‘s—key suspicions, they still believe he wasn‘t born in the United States, and that he is a secret Muslim, and that he is actually advancing a secret agenda to destroy the United States.
This sounds hyperbolic, but that‘s what these people say. Now, is it just a coincidence that he happens to be black or not? Or are people finding other ways of opposing him, other ways of fearing him or thinking about him, because they know now that an explicit racial reaction is not acceptable in polite company.
BROWNSTEIN: Chris, first of all, I think Obama, to many people, to many conservatives, and to many of these kind of culturally conservative voters, symbolizes a new America, a changing America, whose face is literally changing. This was the first election, as was often said, in American history where more than a quarter of the vote you was non-white.
And I think Stan and James are right that there is an alienation bordering on separatism in big portions of the conservative electorate. That is exerting a tremendous centrifugal pull on Republican elected officials to oppose Obama.
The only thing I would differ with in that report is I think they understated the degree to which there is also skepticism about the expansion of government among the independent portion of the electorate, that, without having these conspiracy fears, share some of these concerns.
You know, Gallop polling, last month, 57 percent of Americans say that government is trying to do too much. That is the same level that we had in October of 1994. It is over 60 percent of independents agree with that sentiment. So while the conservative Republican base is among most agitated, they are not alone in having this kind of reaction that maybe perhaps we are going too far too fast. Obama does have to deal with it. He is never going to mollify the conservatives, but he does have to find a way to reassure those independents who have been moving Democratic, especially those upper middle class, college educated voters.
MATTHEWS: Do either of you guys believe that you get an honest answer on race from anybody in America? For example, take a group—this is tricky subject. But take the jury that basically acquitted O.J. Simpson. Everybody thought it was important who was on that jury. Jury selection was very important. The fact that there were a lot of African-Americans on that jury was considered important. And the fact that there weren‘t many on the later civil trial was considered important.
If you had polled that jury like a focus group, do you honestly believe, Ron Brownstein, that the jurors would have said that they voted along racial lines? Or they would have said no, I voted because we thought the police blew this case. They were dishonest in the way they handled the evidence. What would they have said? Would they said it was racial or would they have said it was the evidence?
BROWNSTEIN: I agree you with you that it was racial. On the other hand, Chris, Obama‘s approval rating among white voters at this point in his presidency is probably higher than Bill Clinton‘s was at the same point in his presidency. The fact is that his share of votes among whites was really within the band that Democrats have experienced for the last 30 years. You know, the share of the Democratic vote among non-college whites has only varied between 38 and 44 percent. He got 40.
So I have a hard time seeing race—sure, there are voters who will not be for him because he is black. But many of those voters are the same voters who would not be for almost any Democrat. The principal problem he faces now, I believe, is not a racial reaction, as it is an ideological backlash that is most fierce in the Republican base, but does extend beyond that to some independents that Democrats have been winning.
CORN: I think people have been able to find other reasons to oppose him, even if they, in some part of their consciousness or subconsciousness, they have a racial reaction, and they see his race as being symbolic to losing America. You look at these Tea Party rallies, there‘s a lot of signs, “I want my country back.”
They really believe that there has been something of an invasion. But they have so many other reasons to put forward that I think it is hard to get an honest answer, as you just said, on how much race is a part of it. to some degree, though, it doesn‘t matter. If this is the reaction they‘re having, whatever the reason—if they believe he is a secret Muslim and he has a secret plot to destroy America, does it matter if it‘s because they‘re crazy or they‘re racist, or they‘re just listening to too much Glenn Beck?
BROWNSTEIN I agree David. There is a cultural element to this alienation among conservatives, but it goes beyond that. That is one piece of the puzzle. I don‘t know if it is race specific, as Obama represents a new America in which they don‘t --
MATTHEWS: We could do an hour on this. We could do five hours on this. By the way, the only time this conversation is going to be over is when the young people, who are 25 years old right now, wonder what we‘re talking about 20 years from now.
Thank you, David Corn. Thank you, Ron Brownstein.
Up next, President Obama shares the stage in Texas with former President George Herbert Walker Bush. They‘re hanging around together. What‘s that about? The politics fix is next. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:
Ladies and gentlemen, the 44th president of the United States, President Barack Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time for the politics fix. Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the “Washington Post” and an MSNBC analyst, and Pat Buchanan, of course, is an MSNBC analyst.
Gentlemen, let me go to Pat on this first. Pat, we had an interesting bout last night with you and the Reverend Sharpton. I think some points were scored there on your side, as well as his.
Let me ask you about this focus group. Did you get a look at this Carville/Greenberg pollster group that shows basically the conservative, people in the Tea Party right, are not really pushed by race. They‘re pushed by attitudes about the role of government, et cetera, the old conservative versus liberal arguments.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I tend to agree with Carville on this. There are a lot of Buchanan Brigaders in there, Chris. These are folks—I was talking to Ron Brownstein. They not only don‘t trust the government, they don‘t trust the corporations, they don‘t trust the financial world. They‘re concerned about the loss of manufacturing jobs, that their kids aren‘t going to have as good as life. They‘re concerned about the border‘s not being closed—what the border‘s like. And basically the invasion from the south.
They‘re deeply concerned about the culture, what they‘re watching on television. They think, what is this? This isn‘t the country I grew up in. I understand these folks. They‘re not Republicans, Chris.
MATTHEWS: They‘re not buying into your protectionism, are they?
BUCHANAN: Sure. You got—if McCain had gone out and hammered NAFTA the way Hillary did, he would have won Ohio. For heaven‘s sake, those people—they resisted NAFTA right to the end. They‘re the ones that resisted the McCain/Bush/Kennedy amnesty to the end.
Chris, these people are grassroots folks. They‘re the folks Obama, himself, talked about when he said, you know, I can‘t reach some of those guys in middle Pennsylvania. They‘re bitter. They‘re concerned about foreigners coming in the country. They‘re concerned people are going to take away their guns. They‘re concerned about their Bibles and their church. These are deer hunter people.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask—Let me ask—I sort of like deer hunter people. Let me go to Gene Robinson. Gene, I got a brother who is one of these guys. Let me ask you, Gene, about this thing that Pat has ripped the scab off on, which is that the old speech the president gave when he was a candidate up in Russian Hill, or somewhere among the elite—the dainty elite up in San Francisco, when he talked about those people and their clinging—I love that word—clinging to their rifles and their religion, because they were afraid of change or let down by the government.
Is there some of this that‘s elitist, that they see—this guy I had on tonight, very smart guy—Dennis was just on calling me a New York liberal. That‘s fine. I don‘t care. But I‘m not. What do you make of this charge we‘re all elitists if we‘re liberals, and it‘s a class thing? It‘s an education thing? It‘s whatever? It‘s not a race thing?
EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Well, I think class, education, a sense of loss, of something being taken away, resistance to change—I think all those things play into this sort of core of resistance and rejectionism, not just to Obama and what he‘s trying to do, but to the media, and to, you know, what are perceived as the weanies who are running the country.
But I do think there‘s another element, which is the country is changing demographically. And who better represents that than Barack Obama, the first African-American president?
MATTHEWS: Gene, I agree with that. I think they‘re afraid of their kids. I think they‘re afraid of their kids. I think their kids are not racial and they don‘t understand it. They see the country changing. They see the America of the 21st century as a country they don‘t want to live in, and they don‘t want their kids to live in. But the kids want to live in it.
Gene, we‘ll be back with Pat and you in a minute with the Fix.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I am still thrilled to be introduced by this man whose vision of service we celebrate today, and whose life of service is an inspiration to all of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That‘s President Obama, obviously, paying tribute to Bush 41, the senior George Bush, down at A&M, down in College Station in Texas. We‘re back with Gene and Pat.
Pat, I have heard that some of the people that you‘re in touch with on the right, the people—the Tea Party people, they began to get disillusioned with the Republican party, as you did, I believe, personally, when Bush came in, Bush I came in. They don‘t think he was one of them culturally, ideologically, whatever.
BUCHANAN: It wasn‘t when he came in, Chris, because he had a lot of support from conservatives. He beat Dukakis by running—remember those ads, the flag thing, Willie Horton and all that? He hit all these themes that hit these people when he won. When we broke with him and Perot broke with him, he was a big spender. He was adding regulations. He had a quota bill in. He had all these different bills, legislation. He was working with the Congress.
He became a man of the city of Washington, D.C. And these folks are anything but. At one point when I was running in may of 1992, Chris, Perot was leading in the polls, a three-way race with Clinton and Bush. He had 40 percent. That‘s who these folks are.
MATTHEWS: If Perot hadn‘t proven he was a bit off the beam, he might have went down better. Didn‘t you just make a mistake there, Pat? You said, as long as he was against Willie Horton, he was OK with the Tea Bag guys. A lot of people thought that Willie Horton thing smacked of tribalism?
BUCHANAN: Willie Horton was, in fact, a big Massachusetts liberal, turning murderers loose on weekend passes. He‘s nuts. If it would have been Charlie Manson, they would have said the same thing.
MATTHEWS: Pat, clinically, you‘re right. But that Shroud of Turin picture—that Shroud of Turin picture of Willie Horton had an aspect to it that went to criminal justice. Let me go to—and responsible justice.
Gene, it seems like George H. Walker Bush is not part of the fold anymore, the right-wing fold.
ROBINSON: No, not the fold we‘re talking about tonight. He‘s cosmopolitan. He‘s an internationalist. He is—he‘s—he is a lot of things that these folks reject. And, perhaps, he—when he got into office, he turned out not to be authentic enough for them. This is going to be an issue going forward.
MATTHEWS: By the way, he was walking with a cane there like a senior statesman.
Wait until you see the pictures tonight. You narrated it well. Pat, Gene, thank you. Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz. Sorry, we‘re out of time, Pat. I‘m sorry.
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