Guests: Hampton Pearson, Pat Buchanan, Martin Frost, Steve McMahon, Todd Harris, Bob Herbert, Woody Harrelson
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A Reid shaking in the wind.
Let‘s play HARDBALL
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight, the trouble with Harry. What is Harry Reid up to? In one step, he has jumped aboard the public option bus and thrown Olympia Snowe under that bus. And while running over the only Republican senator to vote for health care, he doesn‘t have the 60 Democratic votes needed to even get the public option considered.
A lot of people think Senator Reid has pushed the public option not because he has the 60 votes he needs to get the bill passed in the Senate, but because he fears losing the hard-core Democratic activists he needs back home in Nevada to win reelection next year.
Plus, civil war in the Republican Party. It‘s conservatives versus moderates. I‘ve said this before, when Republicans lose with moderates, like Nixon in ‘60 or Jerry Ford in ‘76 or McCain this past time, they veer over to the right the next time, Goldwater in ‘64 and Reagan in ‘80 being great examples. Pitchforker-in-chief Pat Buchanan will tell us whether that will be the case in next year‘s mid-terms. Could Palin or a Palin be (INAUDIBLE) the Republican nominee, by the way, three years from now?
Also, October has been the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the war began eight years ago over there, and it isn‘t over yet. Just today, eight American troops were killed in a bomb attack. A new movie, by the way, starring Woody Harrelson depicts the emotional toll that this war has had on families who‘ve lost loved ones. He‘ll be tonight on this set to talk about his new film, “The Messenger.”
And with all the anger these days at both Democrats and Republicans, is there any appetite out there for an independent party, a third party candidate in 2012? Our first look at the new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll coming up in the “Politics Fix.”
And George W. Bush, motivational speaker? If ever there was a story for the HARDBALL “Sideshow,” this baby makes it.
Let‘s start with what Harry Reid‘s up to with the public option. Martin Frost was a longtime Democratic U.S. congressman from Texas and Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky was a Democratic congresswoman from Tennessee (SIC).
Marjorie, thank you so much for joining us. By the way, go Phillies.
You‘re up there in Philly tonight.
MARJORIE MARGOLIES-MEZVINSKY (D-PN), FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN:
MATTHEWS: The game‘s tomorrow night. There‘s seven games coming up.
I think it will go to seven.
Let‘s go to this question. You know what it‘s like to have to vote when the vote may bring a real conflict in your situation. In your case, you represented a very wealthy, well-to-do congressional district in the suburbs of Philadelphia that was very anti-tax. You had to vote for the Bill Clinton budget-balancing measure that raised some taxes back in ‘94 --
‘93, rather—and you lost the next race.
I remember the Republicans on the floor of the House hooting and hollering that you were going to have to go because you took this profile in courage. What‘s it like being on the other end of that stick right now, someone like Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, or Bill (SIC) Nelson from Nebraska, or Mary Landrieu from Louisiana, people whose states voted 3-to-2, overwhelmingly, for John McCain and against Barack Obama? They have to stand up to their own states‘ politics. What‘s it feel like when you‘re in conflict?
MARGOLIES-MEZVINSKY: Well, mean, I did a drive-by. I wasn‘t a good politician. But I thought that it was the right thing to do. But it was a miserable vote, no question about it. And also, of course, we weren‘t prepared for what happened in ‘94. I just think, you know—I don‘t know. I‘m a believer in Pericles. I think you‘ve got to lead and you can‘t be led. But once again, I didn‘t stay very long.
MATTHEWS: Yes, well, I remember—let me go to—let me go to Marty Frost on this because, Congressman, it seems to me Jake Javits, one of the great senators of all time from New York—he was a moderate Republican—in fact, I should dare say this, a liberal Republican. There‘s something that‘s gone. And he said that—a friend of mine said that he told him—it was Ken Duberstein, a lobbyist, said that he once said to him, There‘s three ways you decide how to vote. Number one, you vote your state. Number two, you vote the interest, the larger interest of the body, of the Senate. And third, you represent the interests of the president, if he‘s in your party. But he‘s always third.
What do you do if you‘re from Arkansas this time, you‘re from Louisiana, you‘re from Nebraska, and the president‘s pushing you for, say, the public option? What do you do?
MARTIN FROST (D-TX), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Well, first of all, Chris, in 1993, the Democratic leadership made a mistake in making Marjorie cast that vote. There was another Democrat in the cloakroom who could have cast that vote. They should have given her a pass because she had a tough district.
Now, what do they do? They have to pass something on health care because moderates can‘t go home with a failed president and a failed Congress. There has to be an end result here. But they got to—they have to keep talking until they can figure out how they can get the votes for this. You know, maybe it‘s the trigger. Maybe it is the opt-out. I think probably, what Harry Reid has done is to put this on the floor to demonstrate where the votes are or where they aren‘t. And if there aren‘t enough votes for that, then they‘ll come back with something else.
But Congress cannot leave town without having passed something. It will be terrible for moderate Democrats who ran on the—on a platform of change in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Well, Marjorie, it seems to me that the problem with leadership in the Congress is they almost inevitably come from safe seats. You know, one exception being Tom Foley, of course, from the state of Washington. He got killed finally in ‘94.
MARGOLIES-MEZVINSKY: He thought he was from a safe seat. He just—and he wasn‘t.
MATTHEWS: And he thought he was. But you‘ve got people from Weiner from safe Brooklyn. You got people like Schumer from New York. You got Boxer from San Francisco. They couldn‘t be beat in a billion years in a general election. They don‘t have to worry about general elections. They don‘t even have primary challenges. But then you have people out there in the country, in the flyover country...
MATTHEWS: ... Claire McCaskill, Evan Bayh.
MATTHEWS: I feel for those people because they‘ve got to balance all the time the interests of their states, which are more conservative than the national Democratic Party, and their loyalty to the party.
MARGOLIES-MEZVINSKY: No question about it.
MATTHEWS: Again, why do we make heroes out of the Weiners and the Schumers and let the liberal people go after people like Blanche Lincoln, you know, who are struggling to hold these seats?
MATTHEWS: Your thoughts again.
MARGOLIES-MEZVINSKY: No, you‘re right...
MATTHEWS: Obviously, I have a point of view...
MARGOLIES-MEZVINSKY: That‘s exactly...
MATTHEWS: ... which is the moderates are as much a Democrat as the liberals.
MARGOLIES-MEZVINSKY: No, you‘re absolutely right...
MATTHEWS: There are more moderates in the Democratic Party than there are liberals by any poll. Go ahead.
MARGOLIES-MEZVINSKY: Marty‘s right, though. I mean, something has to be done and it has to be done now. It‘s not going to be done later. I think we‘re all at fault. I mean, you know, we have a tendency to give people what they want to hear and not what they need to hear. And I mean it—and people have to understand this is not an easy issue. It‘s very complicated. And we keep on feeding people what they want to hear.
And you‘re right. I mean, we‘ve got to make sure that those people are somewhat protected. You know, it certainly wasn‘t what happened to me. But you have to make sure that some of those people are protected, and it comes down to that basic question. What‘s the difference between representation and leadership?
FROST: But Chris, in the ultimate—what has to happen here is the leadership on both sides has to get everybody in the room and keep them in the room until they come up with a resolution, something that can get the votes necessary to pass.
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t they do that?
FROST: They can‘t walk away from this.
MARGOLIES-MEZVINSKY: They‘ve got to do it now.
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t they get the Democratic caucus, go off to Greenbriar or some place (INAUDIBLE) go to Atlantic City, go somewhere and sit in a room with all those Democratic senators, and when they all agree, the 60 agree, come out of the room and say, We agree. We did that with the Soviet Union in the cold war, we go into rooms and then we come out of the room with a deal!
FROST: Chris, the problem...
MATTHEWS: Don‘t we?
FROST: The problem, of course, is cable television, as we all know. Everybody wants to be on TV. It‘s hard to get everybody in a room and keep them there until they make a decision. But that‘s the real test of leadership right now. Can they do something that the moderates are comfortable with but which actually results in a bill? Because I really believe—I think that the Democrats are OK for the 2010 elections unless they just totally fall on their faces...
FROST: ... and have to go home and explain why they couldn‘t get something done on what the president has identified as the number one issue for the country.
MARGOLIES-MEZVINSKY: Marty‘s right...
MATTHEWS: Marjorie, it seems to me this is one of the things I hear a lot. It‘s called brinksmanship. Remember that phrase, you guys, back in the ‘50s? Nobody—the war‘s not—there‘s not going to be a war between the Soviet Union and the United States because neither side wants to use nuclear weapons, but each side would test the other side.
What I hear they‘re saying in the cloakrooms is when it comes down to it, those two or three Democrats from moderate or conservative states, like Ben Nelson from Nebraska...
MARGOLIES-MEZVINSKY: Like Arkansas.
MATTHEWS: ... or Mary Landrieu or Blanche Lincoln from Arkansas—they‘ll be forced by group pressure to not be the odd person out and they will have to vote with the party. They‘ll have to be 60 united because in the end, they don‘t want to bring down this president. And they will vote against their states‘ interests.
FROST: But they have to be...
MATTHEWS: They‘ll vote against their own personal interests.
MARGOLIES-MEZVINSKY: But they‘re not voting...
FROST: But they have to be given something...
MARGOLIES-MEZVINSKY: But they‘re not against their states‘ interests. That‘s the problem. I mean, the problem is that this is a long conversation. It‘s a good 30-second commercial against you, it‘s a really tough four-minute explanation, and that‘s the difference.
FROST: They have to be given...
MATTHEWS: Well, what‘s to stop your opponent from nailing you...
FROST: Hey, Chris...
MATTHEWS: ... as a socialist if you‘re from a state where that kind of language works, Marjorie? Your district in Pennsylvania—I know, my brother is the county executive there, the county commissioner.
MARGOLIES-MEZVINSKY: And he‘s a Republican.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a very wealthy county. He‘s a Republican. It‘s a very wealthy county. They don‘t like taxes one bit. They feel they‘re giving away too much in their income. They don‘t want to hear taxes! You know, well, I‘m talking to the expert.
MARGOLIES-MEZVINSKY: Well, I mean...
MATTHEWS: What do you do with...
MARGOLIES-MEZVINSKY: I called it a deficit reduction plan, thank you very much. But yes, I mean, it...
MATTHEWS: You tried that one!
MARGOLIES-MEZVINSKY: ... it raise taxes—yes, it raise taxes on 1.2 percent of the population, and they all lived in my district.
MATTHEWS: And that‘s how you lose...
FROST: Yes, but Chris...
MATTHEWS: ... to a guy like John Fox. Go ahead. I‘m sorry.
FROST: The moderates have to be given something in exchange.
FROST: I‘m not—I don‘t know what that is, but that‘s why you have leaders in Congress. They‘ve got to figure out, OK, what do we have to give the moderates...
FROST: ... so that they can vote yes so that we can produce something? And maybe it is—maybe it ultimately is this idea of a trigger. I don‘t particularly care for triggers. They weren‘t popular when I was in Congress. But that may be the ultimate fallback position.
MARGOLIES-MEZVINSKY: But it has to be done now.
MATTHEWS: Yes.. That seems to be where the president‘s headed. Anyway, thank you very much, Congressman Frost. Thank you, Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, the late, great, wonderful congresswoman from the county of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
Coming up: Republicans are at war with one another. It‘s conservative at moderate in the Republican Party, and the conservatives seem to have the wind at their back. Is the best strategy for the R‘s to go to the hard right and stay there?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. A civil war of sorts has erupted already in the Republican Party. It‘s conservatives versus moderates, and according to a new Gallup poll just out, conservatives look like they‘re winning big-time. Forty percent of those surveyed described their political views in this country as conservative, while 36 percent said their views are moderate. Among Republicans, 72 percent identified themselves as conservative, with only 24 percent saying they‘re moderate these days. So is the best way forward for the Republican Party to go hard right?
Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst. He‘s also the commander-in-chief of the pitchfork brigades. And Bob Herbert is probably not a big Republican and probably has never—I guess since the days of Rockefeller. You‘re probably a Rockefeller guy, I guess.
BOB HERBERT, “NEW YORK TIMES”: There were some liberal Republicans back in the day.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think Lindsay, when he was 100 percent with (INAUDIBLE)
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think you got ‘em all!
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look now at this polling number. These numbers are dramatic. Pat, your party has a very strong tradition of win it (ph), loses (ph) with a so-called middle-of-the-roader like McCain, they go right.
BUCHANAN: Well, that‘s true. They did with Reagan, certainly, and they did after—I mean, with Jerry Ford and they did with Reagan.
MATTHEWS: They did it with Goldwater, too...
BUCHANAN: Goldwater—they did it with Goldwater...
MATTHEWS: ... after Nixon lost the first time.
BUCHANAN: ... after Nixon lost. But what this poll says, Chris, if the Republican wants to be America‘s party again, it‘s got to be the conservative party. Now, that doesn‘t mean go hard right, but they got to have no pale pastels. That‘s what Ronald Reagan said. There‘s got to be a clear difference between Democrats and Republicans. That‘s the way Americans...
MATTHEWS: But where‘s...
MATTHEWS: There‘s a BS factor here. I was reading William Kristol‘s column today, and I thought there was a lot of BS in it.
MATTHEWS: He said the conservatives are taking over. And it‘s no surprise, right, to you.
MATTHEWS: But he says the Republicans are going conservative. And then he says Mitt Romney is a conservative? Mitt Romney has been all over the board politically. He‘s been pro-choice, pro-life. He‘s been everything up in Massachusetts. And who says he‘s an outsider?
MATTHEWS: Where did that come from?
BUCHANAN: But look, you‘re exactly right. He has been all over the lot. But every time he flips, he‘s always coming to our side.
MATTHEWS: But you love him!
BUCHANAN: I like him. I like him a great deal.
MATTHEWS: You love him! Is he one of you? Is he a pitchfork guy.
BUCHANAN: I like Sarah Palin. I mean, Sarah Palin...
MATTHEWS: OK, do you want to vote right now, here, put a piece of paper down. No, no. Palin or this other guy, Mitt Romney. Which one do you put a check next to?
BUCHANAN: If you‘re voting your heart?
BUCHANAN: You vote Palin...
MATTHEWS: No, vote for who you want to lead the country.
BUCHANAN: If you vote in your heart, you‘d vote Palin. I‘m not sure if you‘re voting your head...
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m asking you the bottom line (INAUDIBLE) stop this withering, dithering, waffling. You‘re acting like they accuse the other guy.
BUCHANAN: I‘m for Hoffman in the 23rd district.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. What a chicken! See, this is...
MATTHEWS: This, Robert, is what dithering and waffling look like because (INAUDIBLE) his sister is running the Mitt Romney campaign, so he doesn‘t want to go home and deal with her, with Bay, so he‘s all over the place!
Your thoughts, as an observer from a distance of the Republican Party.
HERBERT: All right, I...
MATTHEWS: Do you see a lurch to the right? I feel that if I went to a Republican event and heard Palin there, I think people would be out of their chairs jumping up and down. I don‘t care if it‘s western Pennsylvania or western United States. If I went to a Mitt Romney event, I would expect a lot of businessmen there from the Rotary Club and the Lions Club with polite applause when he said, Let‘s cut taxes. But I wouldn‘t sense passion. Your thoughts?
HERBERT: I wouldn‘t disagree with that. I mean, you know, Palin is charismatic and a big name and a big star and she fires the people up. The question is, what are your goals? Do you want to try and take back control of the American government, if you‘re a Republican? And they‘re not going to be able to do that moving to the right.
The Republicans have a real advantage now, as we got off-year elections coming up. We‘re coming out of a recession, but employment is still high and maybe getting higher, and there‘s a chance for the Republicans to make some inroads. But they have to move to the center to do that.
And if you look at Kristol‘s column today—you have the poll and you have those numbers, but I would look past those numbers because I think in the same poll, they ask the public at large, What do you think about—who do you think would be best in running the country? And the Republicans came in last there...
MATTHEWS: Well, they‘re down—they‘re terrible. They‘re about 19 percent.
BUCHANAN: Chris, this is...
HERBERT: They‘re down about 19 percent. They‘re behind the congressional Democrats.
BUCHANAN: But conservatives are at 40.
HERBERT: And they‘re behind President Obama, who graded (ph) out the highest at 49 percent.
BUCHANAN: All right, Chris...
HERBERT: So what the Republicans really need to do, I think, is move to the center, appeal to some of those independents, and I think they can make some inroads.
BUCHANAN: No, no. We‘re not running—Chris...
HERBERT: But right now with this infighting, they‘re playing into the Democrats‘ hands.
BUCHANAN: Look, we‘re not running a presidential campaign. If you‘re talking 2010, you‘re talking Sarah Palin. We can all unite behind what we are against in the Obama administration...
BUCHANAN: ... the Obamacare...
MATTHEWS: She‘s a better opposition leader than Romney.
BUCHANAN: She‘s an opposition leader, a rally leader.
BUCHANAN: But all Republicans can unite. Our problem‘s going to come, Chris—or conservative problems are going to come 2011, 2012. How do you stand on Afghanistan if we‘ve been there four years? Are you going to cut taxes to get the economy moving if we‘ve had four...
MATTHEWS: Bob, there‘s a big disconnect here in the polling. And I‘m looking at the NBC polling. We‘re going to have it more tonight. I‘ve looked at the Gallup numbers. Here‘s the disconnect. The Republican Party is a lousy brand name right now. It is way down below one in five. But on every issue, from semiautomatic weapons to “traditional values” to abortion to—every—regulation of business...
MATTHEWS: ... every issue, the country is lurching to the right in ideological terms. At the same time, they have debased the Republican brand. How do we explain that, Bob?
HERBERT: Are you saying the country is lurching to the right?
MATTHEWS: On every issue. If you look at the Gallup poll...
HERBERT: I completely disagree with that. I mean, you can—you‘re giving too much credence to this poll. Pat just said a moment ago that Republicans...
MATTHEWS: Well, I believe (INAUDIBLE)
HERBERT: ... can unite behind all these issues for the off-year elections. They can‘t even—haven‘t even been able to unite in this upstate congressional district in a congressional election that‘s coming up next week. You‘ve got—you‘ve got Republicans lining up behind a Conservative Party candidate who‘s putting the knife in the back of the Republican candidate. So where‘s the unity?
MATTHEWS: Which one‘s going to win?
MATTHEWS: Who‘s going to win that race, Pat? Is Doug Hoffman...
MATTHEWS: ... your guy, the Conservative Party, going to beat the regular Republican and the Democrat?
BUCHANAN: He will...
MATTHEWS: Or is the Democrat going to sneak past both of them?
BUCHANAN: The Republican will run third.
I think Hoffman will do a Jim Buckley, what we did in 1970, Chris. We signaled to guys up there that the Conservative, if he can win, go with him. This fellow can win. He‘s rallied—I mean, he‘s rallied everybody all over the country. And this shows that, look, conservatism is a fine brand.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you this. Suppose—suppose the Democrat wins because the right was split? Does that make your point?
I hear that says the Conservatives are more powerful than ever, Robert...
MATTHEWS: ... because that says—that says—Bob, that says that they can destroy any Republican ticket. And, in a way, the Conservative Party becomes more powerful if they‘re the spoilers.
What do you think?
BOB HERBERT, COLUMNIST, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: The conservatives become more powerful. The people on the hard right in the Republican Party become more powerful.
But that‘s bad news for the Republican Party nationally overall.
HERBERT: I mean, that‘s just—that‘s a narrow base, that hard-right base.
BUCHANAN: Suppose the Democrat wins, Bob. In 2012, you nominate Hoffman as the Republican candidate, and he takes the seat, because he‘s going to beat her and he‘s stronger than she is.
Chris, the pendulum is going to come back to the Republican Party somewhat in 2010 and 2012. You want Ronald Reagan there. You don‘t want a moderate or liberal Republican, when the opportunity hits.
HERBERT: The Ronald Reagan who raised taxes or the Ronald Reagan who said he wouldn‘t?
MATTHEWS: OK. The problem with your Jim Buckley—I liked Jim Buckley, too, but Jim Buckley ran against two liberals, and that‘s why he won.
MATTHEWS: You have got two conservatives here. I‘m just asking you, Pat...
BUCHANAN: You‘ve got two liberals in the 23rd District.
MATTHEWS: Oh, Scozzafava—Scozzafava?
BUCHANAN: Uh-huh, a liberal Republican, Chris, one of the 4 percent.
MATTHEWS: You have a good point there. You make a good point.
HERBERT: I love who you guys call liberal now.
HERBERT: I mean, there aren‘t anymore liberals left in this country.
BUCHANAN: But she is—she is more strongly pro—pro-gay.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s get—give him the definition. Why is she a liberal?
BUCHANAN: She‘s more pro-gay marriage than Barack Obama. How is that?
MATTHEWS: What do you mean?
BUCHANAN: She‘s in favor of gay marriage. Barack Obama says, no, no, I‘m man and a wife, you know, man and a woman. She‘s pro-choice on abortion, pro-card check, taking away the right of a union guy to vote.
MATTHEWS: OK. Here‘s—here what is going on, strangely enough.
Bob, here‘s something that‘s going on. You don‘t like the new polling, but I find fascinating the polling. The country is getting more libertarian in many ways, much more for same-sex marriage than it ever was in our history. In fact, one of the pollsters said they have never seen a lurch in any direction like they have seen in the last couple of years towards support for same-sex.
So, we know it from talking to people in their 20s and 30s.
HERBERT: So, how is that a lurch—how is that a lurch to the right in the American public?
MATTHEWS: That‘s right. It‘s not. It‘s libertarian, but it‘s liberal.
HERBERT: I don‘t think the public is lurching to the right.
BUCHANAN: But, look, it is moving in that direction, but they have had 30 votes, and we have won every single one.
MATTHEWS: But look at the direction. How do you correspond that? How do you reconcile the fact the country is getting more supportive of same-sex marriage, but, yet, on the issue like guns, more conservative?
HERBERT: I can reconcile that.
BUCHANAN: Well, I can understand that. I can understand the guns very easily. People are afraid of what‘s happening. They‘re afraid of the future.
MATTHEWS: And they need semiautomatic weapons to walk around the streets?
BUCHANAN: Look, they‘re afraid of the future. Don‘t try to take away the guns.
But I will tell you, it is true that young people more and more are pro-gay marriage. That‘s the great civil rights issue for those folks. I don‘t agree with it. Our folks are dying off on this issue.
MATTHEWS: Yes. That‘s interesting.
HERBERT: Chris, here‘s—here‘s what I think. Here‘s what I think is happening.
I think—I don‘t think the—the voters for the most part are interested in the ideological arguments. I think they‘re interested in economic matters. I think it‘s a time for a populist to emerge. That populist could emerge on the left or the right.
I think a populist who focuses on jobs, who gets the attention of the public, if the public believes that that person will help get their family finances back in order, that‘s the person that will emerge in the leadership role.
BUCHANAN: I agree with Bob 100 percent on that. I agree with him 100 percent on that. Jobs, American jobs, manufacturing jobs, industrial policy, whether you‘re left or right, is going to be a huge winner. It is going to be a winner.
I mean, look what—McCain killed himself by going out there for NAFTA. He went to Canada.
MATTHEWS: There it is. We‘re back into the rant here.
MATTHEWS: I know where...
MATTHEWS: Economic nationalism. Put up the wall. McKinley is back.
Pat Buchanan fighting for the Scots-Irish at all times.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Bob Herbert from “The New York Times,” sir.
HERBERT: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you for joining us, Pat Buchanan.
Up next: George W. Bush, motivational speaker? Anything is possible, anything, if this guy gets paid for motivation—up in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Now it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Sideshow,” things I didn‘t know when I got up this morning that I could forget by the time I go to bed. Them‘s the “Sideshow” rules these days.
Anyway, we have seen and heard a lot about Dick Cheney since he left office—Do you think? -- but not so much from his boss, or at least that guy who had the higher title all those eight long years.
Well, last night, former President George Bush the younger made his debut as a motivational speaker. I‘m serious about this, although I think it has to be a Halloween prank, you know, like toilet-papering somebody‘s house. Motivational speaker, George W. Bush.
Now, you might ask yourself, what kind of advice could George Bush give to motivate anybody? This is the man who got this country into two wars that feel like Chinese handcuffs right now. He brought our economy to the brink of a second Great Depression, and thought it was a good idea to torture our enemies.
In fact, the only thing former President George W. Bush ever did to motivate people was to get them to vote for Barack Obama. Come to think of it, that may well be the reason he goes down in history, seriously.
Anyway, attention, baseball fans now. The World Series between the New York Yankees and the Phillies starts tomorrow night. And the political bets are already on the table. Oh, my, are these people fascinating.
New York Senators Schumer and Gillibrand—or Gillibrand—are betting Brooklyn cheesecakes, probably from Junior‘s on Flatbush Avenue, against Pennsylvania Senator Casey and Specter‘s Philly cheesesteaks, either from Pat‘s or Geno‘s.
Anyway, but, please, can‘t these politicians or their press secretaries, who have the jobs of cooking up this crap, come up with something a little more than original than these bets?
Next, is the loudmouth of the House of Representatives getting a little too lewd? First, he declared on the floor of the House the Republicans wanted sick people to die, well, quickly. Last week on HARDBALL, he called Dick Cheney a vampire.
Now Florida Congressman Alan Grayson is catching hell from Democrats and Republicans alike for calling a female adviser to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke a K Street whore on a radio show last month.
Well, a spokesman for Grayson‘s office told us they were not doing any on-camera interviews today, but sent us this comment. I love this comment. This is from the press secretary. “Let‘s be clear about the context. The attack was on her professional career, not her personal life.”
So, that makes it OK?
MATTHEWS: Finally, tonight‘s “Big Number.”
A week from today, Virginians go to the polls to elect a new governor. And a new “Washington Post” poll shows Republican Bob McDonnell has a double-digit lead over Democrat Creigh Deeds, and is gaining on him.
But is the Virginia race an early referendum on the Obama presidency? Not according to the poll. The president, President Obama, remains popular in Virginia, and seven in 10 people say the president won‘t be a factor in the way they vote or whatever. Anyway, that‘s our big HARDBALL number tonight—seven in 10 of those polled in Virginia say that how—what they think of President Obama is not going to be a factor in how they vote for governor next Tuesday.
That‘s what they say, ladies and gentlemen, but let me tell you something. How they vote is going to say a lot about what people in Virginia think of President Obama.
That‘s the “Sideshow” tonight, stuff, as I said, that I didn‘t know when I woke up, stuff I could forget by the time I go back to bed.
Anyway, up next, actor Woody Harrelson is coming here. He‘s in a new movie, a serious-as-hell movie, about the casualties of war, at a time when U.S. troops in Afghanistan have suffered through the deadliest month since the war began over there. Woody Harrelson is coming here next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
A mixed session on Wall Street today, after a surprise drop in consumer confidence. The Dow Jones industrials added 14 points, but the S&P is down three-and-a-half, and the Nasdaq slumped almost 26 points.
A sizable dip in consumer sentiment, not what investors wanted to see heading into the holidays. Consumers see the labor market going from bad to worse in the months ahead, and the present situation rating is at its lowest level in 26 years.
One bright spot today, IBM‘s announcement that it‘s boosting its stock buyback program by $5 billion. That‘s on top of a $4.2 billion layout earlier this year—IBM shares up a fraction.
Shares in Visa moving lower in after-hours trading—this despite a better-than-expected earnings report posted after the bell—Visa beating on earnings and revenue for the seventh straight quarter.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—Now back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm‘s way. I won‘t risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: And if it is necessary, we will back you up to the hilt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That‘s, of course, President Obama speaking to troops at the Naval air station in Jacksonville. And a likely window of time, by the way, for him to make that solemn decision about whether to send more troops to Afghanistan apparently is going to be between the November 7 runoff election over in Afghanistan, where Karzai is up for reelection again, and some time before the president leaves the country for Asia on November 11.
So, he‘s got about a four-day window. He‘s advertising it now for some reason. The irony is, he‘s going to do it right before Armistice Today, November 11.
Anyway, today, eight American guys, eight American service people were killed in one of these IED situations, where an IED blew up, and then they opened fire on our guys and women. It‘s horrible.
Fifty-five people now have been killed this month, just in October.
And October is not over yet.
And to mark this horror over there, we have got a new movie out we want to talk about tonight with the great movie star, Woody Harrelson. He‘s in this movie. He‘s sitting next to me. We‘re going to look at some highlights right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE MESSENGER”)
WOODY HARRELSON, ACTOR: First of all, men don‘t ask for directions, much less soldiers. Soldiers on a notification, definitely, positively do not ask for freaking directions, no GPS, no MapQuest. We navigate.
Second, you never want to park too close. They hear a car park, go to the window, see two soldiers getting out, it‘s just a minute of torture.
Now, I should warn you, some of them do have guns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. That‘s Woody Harrelson. He sits with me right now. He stars in the new movie you saw a bit of, “The Messenger.” It‘s about servicemen who have to go out and see the people of America that they have lost their son or daughter in battle in the service of their country. He‘s made great movies, this fellow, “Indecent Proposal,” “Transsiberian,” a recent movie I really like, “Natural Born Killers,” hellacious movie, I mean, a great movie...
MATTHEWS: ... Oliver Stone flick. And, of course, everybody got to know him in “Cheers” all those years. Those people that don‘t go to movies know him in “Cheers.”
Thank you, Woody.
HARRELSON: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: It‘s great to have you on, but this is a somber subject.
We had Kevin Bacon on a while ago in that great thick, an HBO flick—actually, it wasn‘t theatrical—about the guy who has to take the body home.
Now, you‘re—you‘re talking about your character has to give the bad news.
HARRELSON: Yes. Myself and Ben Foster play casualty notification officers, you know? And so it‘s about really people dealing with the consequences of war, you know? But, in the end, it‘s a very hopeful and uplifting movie.
MATTHEWS: What‘s the—what‘s—what‘s the procedure for—for telling parents and loved ones, wives and husbands?
HARRELSON: Well, now they do—within 24 hours of someone—they try to do it within four hours of—of someone dying, that they—they go notify. And they just go to the door and knock on the door, and—and let the people know.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at another piece from “The Messenger.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE MESSENGER”)
HARRELSON: Never say stuff like lost or expired or passed away, things people misunderstand.
I knew this guy who once told this old lady that her grandson was no longer with us. She thought he had defected to the enemy, started calling him a traitor.
We need to be clear, need to say killed or died. What we don‘t say is the deceased or the body. We call each casualty by name. We honor them.
You with me?
BEN FOSTER, ACTOR: Yes, sir.
HARRELSON: Then look at me, Sergeant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
A lot of ceremony here.
HARRELSON: A lot of ceremony?
MATTHEWS: Ceremony. I mean, it has to be done a certain way.
HARRELSON: Yes, yes, they‘re very specific about it.
And one of the big things which Ben Foster character‘s crosses the line of is not—never to touch the NOK, the next of kin.
But, yes, they...
MATTHEWS: Well, what happened—what happened then?
HARRELSON: Well, they just—you‘re just not supposed to do it.
And, anyway, my character gets really upset with his over it.
But, you know, it‘s an incredible movie. There‘s a lot of humor in it. And I think it‘s the movie I‘m most proud of being a part of, of any movie I have done. And, you know, I hope you get a chance to see it.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about this—the war. I mean, and we have go two wars going now, one that hopefully is settling down. We‘re coming home next year from—from Iraq.
But the other one looks like we might be beefing up. Your feelings about it?
HARRELSON: Well, I have been pretty vocal about how I feel about the war, which is I‘m against it. I think it‘s—I think it‘s—I think the reasons that we went to war were pretty obvious.
And I think that the—the thing that happened for me, though, during the course of the filming of this movie, I got to spend a lot of time with people in the Army. And I really came to love the people that I met. And I felt they were heroic. They are not making any money. They‘re putting their life on the line every day. And they‘re doing it out of the love of their country.
And I really was knocked out by them. And I felt like, in the end, I
· I loathe the war, but I love the warriors. So, it was a big thing for me...
MATTHEWS: Well, the great contradiction is that we keep hearing stories like General McChrystal says more troops, and in a weird way, the guys out there who are risking and giving their lives, under orders, are getting confused with the people giving the orders. I mean, it seems to me the challenge is to give them the right orders, to give them the right mission, the right wars to fight. And that‘s the civilian‘s job.
HARRELSON: I think there‘s a lot of similarity between what‘s happening now and what happened with LBJ. It‘s an unpopular thing that‘s happening over there, and I think that—I think what I would love to see is they bring the troops home, because I think it‘s not a war they should be fighting.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of Barack Obama‘s predicament? He ran and said that was the necessary war, that Iraq was a mistake, that we didn‘t have to do that. But this one we went in and chased the Taliban, so we could get rid of them because they allowed al Qaeda to operate. Well—and his challenge now is the military guy over there, McChrystal, saying, I need another 40,000 troops. If he doesn‘t give him the 40,000, he‘s not giving his guy enough to carry out the mission that he gave him.
HARRELSON: Yes, there‘s a lot of parallels between this and Vietnam. And I just hope that, you know, what LBJ—I think, probably, what LBJ should have done was pulled those troops out earlier, even though it seemed like that wasn‘t the move at the time. And I think that‘s what should happen here. But then again, I‘m just an actor.
MATTHEWS: You‘re also humble. Thank you. You‘re right about LBJ. We‘ll discuss the rest of this issue as the time goes on here. But you‘re dead right about LBJ. I don‘t think we gained anything from ‘68 on. That war just continued, and we ended up pulling out the same way we would have pulled out in ‘65.
Anyway, thank you. Good luck with this movie. The movie is “The Messenger.” It‘s obviously heavily freighted with importance right now, as this war continues and perhaps get escalated sometime between the 7th and the 11th of this month. The president is going to call for something, perhaps up to 40,000 more troops, somewhere in between. It doesn‘t look like he‘s pulling out. He‘s not going to follow the recommendation of Mr. Woody Harrelson, it looks like.
Up next—although he might be better off doing that.
Why is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pushing for a public option now when he doesn‘t have the 60 votes? What‘s he up to? Is this a bluff? Is he going for an inside straight? What‘s going on here. He doesn‘t have the 60 votes. That‘s coming up in the politics fix, where this issue belongs. We‘re going to talk politics, not whether it‘s right or wrong, but whether he‘s got his act together. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. Time for the politics fix, tonight with the strategist. They‘re back, Democrat Steve McMahon and Republican Todd Harris. Politically, what was Harry Reid up to yesterday? Everybody saw him come out there and say, I‘m going for the public option with the opt out feature. But everybody wrote this morning, he doesn‘t have the 60 votes. It was a complete bluff. What was it, Steve McMahon?
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know in football, when they run a naked reverse, and the offensive line and the defense goes this way, and the quarterback runs this way? You‘re all by yourself. What happens is you either score a touchdown or you get destroyed by the defense when they catch up to you. The outcome is not clear here.
MATTHEWS: But did he have the ball?
MCMAHON: No, he‘s got the ball. And what he‘s trying to do, I think
· number one, he‘s running for re-election. He‘s acutely aware that the left is putting pressure on him. And I think this is actually a victory for the left, for Ed Schultz, and for the people that are pushing on the public option.
He doesn‘t have the votes. The question is, is he going to get the votes before the public option is taken out? Or is the naked reverse going to result in a weakening of not just the public option, and perhaps—but perhaps a weakening of the Democrats‘ opportunity to pass health care reform.
MATTHEWS: Is there a possibility, Todd, in the last days of this, as they get down to the close end of this, that they could blow it? Do something that would so alienate, say, Olympia Snowe, so—who is apparently already under the bus. She‘s saying she‘s disappointed, blah blah blah, because he went for this public option and she‘s against it. Lieberman, who represents—and openly says so. He‘s not a Democrat. He represents the insurance industry of Hartford, Connecticut, the Hartford, if you will. He says so. That they could just lose those votes, lose the 60, and lose the whole thing?
TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Absolutely. In fact, I think that‘s the path that they‘re headed down right now. And not just people like Lieberman and Olympia Snowe, but you‘ve got Russ Feingold, who has said, if some of these opt-in, opt-out—
MATTHEWS: But what about more reasonable people—more conservative people from states—reasonable in the sense they are looking out for their rear ends. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, overwhelmingly Republican state. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, same deal. Ben Nelson. They have to vote against their states to vote for this bill.
HARRIS: You can write those votes off. There‘s all this talk about national polling, how people are—the public is inching closer to supporting a public option. None of those polls matter. The polls that matter are the polls in places like Arkansas and Louisiana, where you‘ve got incumbent senators who are up for re-election in 2010. And there is no way that they‘re going to support a public option.
And I‘ll tell you who puts this little maneuver that Reid is doing, this puts ridiculous amounts of pressure on President Obama, who, if I were a liberal, if I were Steve, I would be very, very upset with President Obama.
MATTHEWS: Does that do that? He basically says, the trigger‘s not good enough, you‘ve got to have an option. It‘s got to be an opt out, which is much tougher to get rid of. Each state has to pass legislation to take itself—and if I was from a state like Nebraska, I would be saying, if I take myself out of this national health system, am I going to be paying the bills of people and subsidizing people in the other 49 states, but not getting the benefits of this thing?
MCMAHON: This puts pressure on President Obama. It puts pressure on the moderates in the Senate, who now are going to have to make a decision about health care reform, letting it go or not.
If you‘re Harry Reid, it‘s a no lose proposition. You put the public option in there, and there‘s a chance that you get your 60 votes and you get health care reform with the public option. The progressives have won. If, on the other hand, it doesn‘t get to the floor, or it doesn‘t get out of a filibuster, then Harry Reid can go to the liberals and say, listen, we tried and we couldn‘t get it done. So we‘re going to take it out and we‘re going to get health care reform.
Then the progressive will actually believe that Harry Reid tried to get it done. They will see that he couldn‘t get it done. And they‘ll accept health care reform. It‘s actually probably the best way to keep the Democrats together.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that‘s smart? So, in the end, it‘s smart for Harry Reid to go in there and bluff. He says, I‘ve got a full house here. He doesn‘t have the full house, but there‘ll be another big hand later on.
HARRIS: There are two winners and one big loser in that scenario. You‘ve got winners on the left, because they see that Harry Reid tried to get this done, and he wasn‘t able to, but he really tried. You‘ve got winners on the right, because they were able to defeat the public option. The one big loser, President Obama, because his big, signature domestic policy issues goes down in flames.
MATTHEWS: You say it will pass in the end.
HARRIS: I don‘t think it will pass with a public option.
MCMAHON: Here‘s what I think. He may get to 60 votes.
MATTHEWS: He never—you are—you are doing what you cannot do on this show, Todd Harris. You‘re saying something that didn‘t happen. He did not campaign ever on a public option. You cannot tell me—
HARRIS: Since he was sworn in to office—
MATTHEWS: You‘re buying this nonsense.
HARRIS: Health care reform—Barack Obama has been synonymous with the public—
MCMAHON: Never, never, never, never. Never, not for one second.
HARRIS: You guys are moving the goal post right now.
MATTHEWS: You‘ve set it up so he can‘t win.
HARRIS: I—this is his standard.
MCMAHON: Todd just said health care reform is going to go down.
Under the scenario I outlined—
MATTHEWS: He said 100 times he doesn‘t have to have public option.
MCMAHON: Harry Reid puts public option on the table. If he has the votes, the progressives win. If he doesn‘t have the votes, the moderates win. And health care reform passes either with a public option—I don‘t think that‘s going to happen—or without a public option.
HARRIS: If President Obama supports the public option, why isn‘t he footing tooth and nail for it? If this is really what he supports—he‘s like a nose bleed section bystander.
MCMAHON: You‘re contradicting yourself, Todd.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back with more. Let‘s talk about what‘s going on, this new latest development in public opinion. It is shifting in weird ways. The more libertarian country is getting more conservative, but also more libertarian on things like same-sex marriage. This country is really in a swirl right now, and it may want a third option right from the Democrats and the Republicans. Back with McMahon and Harris with the fix. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Steve McMahon and Todd Harris for more of the politics fix, and with our new NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll out today. Look at these numbers; 65 percent of the country trusts Washington to do the right thing only sometimes; 46 percent of the country likes the idea of creating an independent third party to field a presidential candidate in 2012. That‘s very high, by the way, historically, 46 percent. And 57 percent of the country blames both countries for bipartisanship.
Todd, it looks to me like it‘s a curse on both houses. They don‘t like either Democrats or Republicans, least of all your party, I must say. Least of all.
HARRIS: I‘ll tell you what, with numbers like that, I tell you who I wouldn‘t want to be, and that‘s the party in power. They may be saying a pox on both houses, but there‘s only one party in power right now that controls every lever of government in Washington, the Democratic party. They‘re on the ballot, just as Republicans are. I wouldn‘t want to be sitting on top of those numbers, trying to ask for two more years of being in control.
MCMAHON: You don‘t want to be the party in office is what you don‘t want to be when you look at those numbers. But what you also don‘t want to be is the party of no, which this party, Todd‘s party, has become. The party of no --
MATTHEWS: Suppose the country‘s in a no mood.
MCMAHON: The parties—you can see it in these races right now, the parties that have controlled the governor‘s office—
MATTHEWS: Let me make a prediction. Virginia goes Republican next week. Let me make another prediction, upstate New York, that crazy 23rd district up there, it will be about 70 percent Republican.
HARRIS: No, I think—
MCMAHON: The Democrat is going to win up there.
MATTHEWS: But the vote will be overwhelming conservative.
MCMAHON: The vote will be conservative, but the Democrat will win.
Look, we‘ll take it any way we can get it, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Corzine will squeak it.
HARRIS: I‘m not sure Corzine wins. This is why, because if Corzine and Christie are tied going into election day, there‘s absolutely no turnout machine for this third-party candidate. He has no proven ability to turn out votes. I think his polling is probably—
MATTHEWS: Christie can win this?
HARRIS: I think Christie can eak out—
MATTHEWS: By the way, the mood this country is in right now, I would bet against any incumbent. Therefore, I think Christie could pull an upset. I think it‘s very hard with the high negatives Corzine has—they‘re incredibly high—for people to go in that ballot box and say, this is as good as it gets. The country is a pretty optimistic country. If they don‘t like somebody, they are unlikely to vote for him.
I went through this with Carter. You can say anything you want about Carter, but they all said we can do better than this, at the time, and they voted against him.
MCMAHON: You‘re right, Chris. His numbers are bad. But guess what, Christie‘s numbers are actually worse.
MATTHEWS: He‘s not the governor.
MCMAHON: I know. But people make a judgment first about whether they like you and second about whether you‘re competent. You know what? They might not like Corzine, but they‘re convinced that he knows what he‘s doing, particularly with financial stuff.
MATTHEWS: I think there‘s something going on in the country now. There‘s a lot of mood towards more gun rights, which scares the heck out of me, semiautomatics, assault rifles, they‘re almost 50/50 now with people who think they should be banned. Tremendous push for gun rights. I mean, not just holding a gun or carrying a pistol around with you. People who want to have major armaments in their household.
Pro-same-sex marriage; people are very much moving in that direction. It‘s almost there. Times have changed radically in that regard. The country is getting more libertarian, more pro-gun—abortion is still a bit more conservative than it was. On other issues, it tends to get more liberal.
HARRIS: I think what you‘re seeing is whether it‘s—
MATTHEWS: More libertarian.
HARRIS: Whether it‘s the talk about the government takeover of health care, whether it‘s all of the spending from the stimulus and the bail outs, people are tired of it. They‘re saying, Washington, slow down; get your hands off every single aspect of our lives. And, you know, especially out West, that message is so powerful. If I—so you look at these House members for the health care vote, these Democrats incumbents, especially the freshmen, they should be very, very wary about voting against their constituents.
MCMAHON: He‘s so often partially correct. Again, he‘s partially correct. There‘s no government takeover of health care. The Republican—that‘s a Republican talking point. He‘s right about the libertarian streak. You‘re right about the libertarian streak that you see out there, whether it‘s guns or gay marriage.
One of the things that the Republicans have to be concerned about is
young people aren‘t getting their news from Fox News. They‘re getting
their news from Stephen Colbert and from Jon Stewart. And if you look at
their attitudes on cultural issues, the Republican party is way, way, way -
· the younger the voter gets the farther out of step—
MATTHEWS: The country is going to be a same sex couple, American Gothic. Right, it‘s going to be a same-sex couple, both carrying machine guns. That‘s what America is going to look like. What a picture we‘re going to be.
Thank you, Steve McMahon. And thank you, Todd Harris. Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 eastern for more HARDBALL. I hope I didn‘t offend anybody with that. It‘s too strange. It‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” now with Ed Schultz.
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