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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Monday, November 9, 2009


November 9, 2009



Guests: Rep. Jim Cooper, Cecile Richards, Sen. Kent Conrad, Chrystia Freeland, Clarence Page, John Barrasso, Zuhdi Jasser

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Will the abortion fight kill health care?

Let's play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight, the abortion challenge. With some late-night drama on Saturday night, including a big anti-abortion amendment, the House passed the health care reform with two votes to spare, 220 to 215. But that only was possible because the House first passed a ban on any coverage of abortion in the plan. Now many pro-choice liberals are promising to oppose any final bill with this restriction included, and many pro-life Democrats won't vote for it without it. So how do we resolve this fight?

And to borrow a phrase from the pre-Iraq war days, passing reform in the House may be a cakewalk compared to what's coming in the Senate. Supporters may need every Senate Democrat to get a public option passed, and Connecticut's Joe Lieberman said yesterday if the public option is in, he's out. He'll filibuster. Will the public option have to go in order to get Joe in?

Plus: We're learning more each day about the missed signals at Ft. Hood. Beyond that, the massacre has raised serious questions. Why didn't someone see what was happening to this man? And will this stir up worries about other American Muslims who could share the same feelings as Nidal Hasan?

Also, what do we make of President Obama's meeting tonight with Israeli minister Netanyahu? "The New York Times's" Thomas Friedman yesterday had this advice to President Obama: Walk away from the Middle East until the Israelis and the Palestinians decide they both really want peace.

And it was 20 years ago today that the Berlin wall came down. I was in Berlin at that time, and I'll tell you what it was like to be there on that historic moment and to talk to real East Berliners at the time about what it meant to them.

We start with health care reform and the abortion challenge. U.S. congressman Jim Cooper is a Democrat from Tennessee. Thank you for joining us on this day off for the world.

REP. JIM COOPER (D), TENNESSEE: Good to be with you.

MATTHEWS: Congratulations, as a Democrat, for getting health care through, but there was a price. You got 40 Democrats to vote for an amendment which basically took abortion coverage out of this program in order to get the bill passed. I'm told by one of your colleagues, Diana DeGette-DeGette is it?

COOPER: Uh-huh.

MATTHEWS: ... that she has 40 Democrats on the pro-choice side ready to vote down the bill if it comes back from conference with this provision in it. How do you cut this deal that saves health care?

COOPER: Well, first of all, Chris, as you know, it was a very historic night. The most important issue is to get health care to all Americans, men, women, children, everybody. This was a surprise, sort of last-minute amendment. A lot of folks were confused about the best way to preserve the status quo, the so-called Hyde amendment that has prevented direct taxpayer subsidy of abortion.

This is a new health reform plan, and a lot of folks don't quite understand it yet. And the Stupak amendment was really aimed at the exchange, and the exchange would really only affect 10 percent of the American people, about 30 million people, and that's a lot. And these would tend to be your lower-income folks, vulnerable, but not the poorest of the poor, who are already on Medicaid.

So the question is, how would the restriction on direct taxpayer subsidies affect the folks in that exchange? And this is something that we're still working out. The bottom line is this. The House bill will be substantially changed in the Senate. In fact, it may bear little or no resemblance to the House bill. That will be good news for a lot of choice folks on this issue. It will all determined by the senators, though. And as you point out, it could make the House passage of the bill look easy to try to get something through the Senate with 60 votes.

MATTHEWS: Well, not to be stubborn, but watching everything that happened Friday night, or Saturday night, I was not impressed or surprised, like you were, because I could see this coming. I kept watching and watching and watching this abortion juggernaut grow and grow and grow. There were 40 Democrats who voted for that amendment and then voted for passage. I can only assume Nancy Pelosi, being as sharp as she is, did what she had to do. She needed those 40, right?

COOPER: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: What happens if you lose them on final?

COOPER: Well...

MATTHEWS: Those pro-life Democrats? They may be inconvenient to the larger Democratic Party, but they exist.

COOPER: You're exactly right. You're Catholic. You understand. This used to be the core constituency for the Democratic Party. The key is helping people understand exactly what the Hyde amendment does. It's been law since 1977. Most people are pretty satisfied with that compromise. It's not fair. It's not easy. But that only affected direct taxpayer subsidy for abortion.

Now, with the new health reform, it's a lot more complex plan. It has a lot of indirect subsidies for various things in health care. So the question is, How do you get a complete health benefits package for men and women that would include choice and serve as...

MATTHEWS: Well, you keep-you tell me this over-you keep repeating the problem. What's the solution? There are, by the way, people who support abortion rights because they believe, ultimately, the woman has to make up the decision, after all the deliberation and counsel and advice and everything, in the end, that person, in a free society.

There are some people who hold that view who also believe the federal government shouldn't be subsidizing abortion. I think Joe Biden, by the way, Vice President Biden, is one of those who would not support funding but supports the right. Well, that may be too complicated for some people, but for me, it's easy to understand. You let a person make a decision you don't agree with, but you don't help them make that decision.

COOPER: Exactly.


COOPER: It's a free country. You can spend your money on whatever you want to.

MATTHEWS: Don't ask me to help.

COOPER: The question is...


COOPER: ... what's fair subsidy.

MATTHEWS: That's the way a lot of people look at these things.

COOPER: Yes. Exactly.

MATTHEWS: So what do you do with those people? How do you pass a bill that takes these 40 people, or some of them, at least-you're going to need this to pass the bill. How do you deal with it?

COOPER: Well, the Speaker was very artful getting the bill through Congress. It was a tough thing to get 220 votes. We nearly didn't get to 218.


COOPER: They had to pull out all of the stops, and this was one of them. I think, as members calm down, as members look at this carefully-one of the problems was the Rules Committee itself reported out language that said that the Stupak amendment codified the Hyde amendment. That was not accurate and it went beyond the Hyde amendment...

MATTHEWS: Explain how.

COOPER: Well, by affecting not only direct but indirect taxpayer subsidies. The Hyde amendment has never affected indirect taxpayer subsidies. For example, the second largest health program in America is a tax break for folks with employer-sponsored coverage. Anybody works for a private company gets some help from his fellow taxpayers to afford that coverage from the private employer. It's not obvious. It doesn't look like a government program, but it is and it's $250 billion a year. The Hyde amendment has never applied to that...


COOPER: ... should not apply to that.

MATTHEWS: But this-the problem with this is that it fits in the middle. It's a subsidy.

COOPER: For the 10 percent of the folks in America who are allowed to shop in the exchange...


COOPER: I actually think more people should be allowed to shop in the exchange. It's essentially acting like the federal employee-you know, federal employees have been able to shop from an annual menu for a long time. It works great. It works in all the states. It's worked for 30 or 40 years. Democrats and Republicans love it. We need a program like that so that all Americans can shop for health benefits in a sensible way. We can do that.

MATTHEWS: Well, OK. Thank you very much, Congressman.

COOPER: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you for coming over.

COOPER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Congressman Jim Cooper of Tennessee.

Let's bring in now Cecile Richards. She's president of Planned Parenthood. Cecile, thank you so much for joining-you know, we're hearing from Congressman Diana DeGette-I haven't had her on the program yet, but she speaks very authoritatively of the fact she has 40 Democrats who are pro-choice who will bring down this health care bill if it comes back from Senate conference, House-Senate conference, and has this Stupak amendment in it. Your view?

CECILE RICHARDS, PRES., PLANNED PARENTHOOD: Look, I think there are a lot of Democrats that are very upset and a lot of women that are upset about what happened Saturday night. This was-as you said earlier, this was sort of a last-minute effort, I think, to hold this health care bill hostage. And I think there are a number of Democrats who want to see a compromise in the health care bill and not the sort of extreme Stupak amendment that was adopted Saturday night.

MATTHEWS: Can you cut this in half? Is there-I mean...


MATTHEWS: How can you-I know you have to speak for Planned Parenthood, which I respect dramatically (ph). But Planned Parenthood is pro-choice. How do you get a bill which simply keeps the status quo? Doesn't make the government more pro-choice or less pro-choice, it simply leaves the law the way it is. How do you do that?

RICHARDS: Sure. Well, I mean, that's exactly the point, Chris, and that is actually what was in the bill, and it's in the Senate bill, as well. It was a carefully crafted compromise between pro-choice and pro-life members of Congress to say that the status quo was what should apply, that Hyde, which as Congressman Cooper has said, has applied since 1976, would mean no federal funding for abortion, but you shouldn't eliminate millions of women's access to purchase insurance coverage that covers full reproductive health care.

Unfortunately, that's what happened in the Stupak amendment. It literally is a middle class abortion ban now. It now impacts millions of women who would be able to...

MATTHEWS: Well, why did...

RICHARDS: ... purchase insurance...

MATTHEWS: Why did Speaker Pelosi agree to it, if it was bad?

RICHARDS: Well, if you'll notice, Chris, she actually voted against it. And it's very rare for the Speaker even to vote, but she did vote against it. The reason she-the reason it came up on the floor is that, literally, there were a handful of folks who were holding the health care reform bill hostage Friday night who said they would keep the bill from actually passing out of the House unless they got this amendment in. I don't think that's really how we want government to work. I don't think that's how...

MATTHEWS: Well, how do you want to...

RICHARDS: ... we want democracy to work.

MATTHEWS: ... deal with those people? You called them a handful of, but it was 40 Democrats...

RICHARDS: But look, here...

MATTHEWS: ... who voted for the-OK. Whatever, there was a number of them that were critical.


MATTHEWS: How do you deal with that critical number on the other side if you want a health care-how do you do it as a pro-choicer?

RICHARDS: It's a great question, Chris, and if you look at it, the compromise that had been crafted had brought a lot of those folks over. And that really is, I think, the question. There are a number of people who were looking for something other than the extreme measure that the Stupak amendment represents. They're ready to vote for health care reform. They're ready for a fair compromise. That was represented by the Capps amendment. Frankly, it's what's represented now in the two bills that are in the Senate.

So I think the-I think that was an anomaly. I think now we're all focused on the Senate, where I think cooler heads will prevail. You're not going to see this sort of 24th-hour attempt to derail health care reform. And I think that's really-I think we'll-I think there is a fair compromise that's still out there and that can attract a majority of folks in the United States House to vote for it.

MATTHEWS: Well, Cecile, I'm trying-as you know, I'm trying to respect both points...

RICHARDS: Sure. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: ... of view, the pro-choice and the pro-life, because we live in a democracy and we work these things out.

RICHARDS: I agree.

MATTHEWS: The problem with the Ellsworth proposal, the one that you talked about, the Lois Capps proposal...


MATTHEWS: The problem with that is it looks like an accounting trick. It looks like you're saying, OK, some of the money that goes into an insurance plan will go to abortion, some won't. Everybody knows that money's fungible and that this is basically an accounting trick. And I don't think it'll work with people who have a moral problem with abortion funding by the federal government.

RICHARDS: Chris...

MATTHEWS: I think you got to go back and cut at this again and find a different way to distinguish public support for health care and the individual right to choose to have an abortion...


MATTHEWS: ... that those have to be two separate decisions. If the federal government subsidizes abortion, a lot of people believe that it's encouraging it.

RICHARDS: And listen...

MATTHEWS: You don't agree.


MATTHEWS: You don't agree?

RICHARDS: What I fundamentally disagree with is your interpretation of what the bill was because the bill as written, that had the Capps language in it and the Ellsworth compromise, was supported by pro-choice and pro-life members of Congress. It was a fair compromise. It ensured that federal funding did not go to pay for abortions, which, as you said, is the fundamental point.

I think the real question is, what the Stupak amendment did is fundamentally rewrote the rules for women in America. It took millions of women, middle class women, and took away their right to even purchase health care coverage that included abortion care. And since a vast majority of private plans in America cover abortion services, and women are free to access those services or not, this bill-this amendment that was attached to the House bill undercuts the whole principle that no one should lose their benefits under health care reform. I think that's...

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you, as a political person, Cecile...


MATTHEWS: ... how do you solve this problem?

RICHARDS: I think-I think...

MATTHEWS: Because we disagree on that other amendment, by the way, and I don't want to argue it...


MATTHEWS: ... because you're the spokesman, I'm not.


MATTHEWS: But as I understand it, it simply was an accounting method to sort of have the subcontracting out of the benefit program for abortion rights for people who choose abortion as one of the options they want covered. But in fact, it was the same source of money coming into it from the government and no one was paying any extra money for abortion coverage.


MATTHEWS: And people believe if you don't pay extra for that-well if you don't pay extra for that, you're really getting it for free. You're really getting it subsidized. Anyway, how do you solve the problem of 40 people saying this bill's going down if it's not pro-choice, and 40 people saying it's going down if it's not pro-life, and you're Nancy Pelosi, you've got to solve the problem? How do you do it?

RICHARDS: I have great faith in the leader. The Speaker of the House is a very smart woman. She got us this far. She got a bill passed. I think what we're going to see in the Senate, as I said-this amendment, this-what I think was a very extreme measure that took away coverage for millions of women-this same amendment was offered in the Senate, and it was rejected by both committees.

There is a fair compromise in the Senate bill. I believe that's what will pass. And as Congressman Cooper said, these two bills are going to have to come together, and we're going to have to have a compromise that's acceptable by both bodies, which I am totally confident that we will.

MATTHEWS: Well, maybe it will be a deductible that's higher than the cost of the average abortion. I don't know what the deal's going to be.

RICHARDS: I don't know. We'll get you in on the negotiation, Chris.

MATTHEWS: It's going to be something like that. There's going to be...


MATTHEWS: Pardon me? I'm telling you, we don't know what it's going to be, but there better be something because we don't know it, and that's a problem, Cecile. If I don't know what it is, I don't think Congressman Cooper knew what the compromise is, maybe Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker, knows what it is. But I haven't heard anybody explain that compromise, and this is going to be a bugaboo, and I've been predicting this for months. I didn't-I wasn't surprised by this.

RICHARDS: Well, we've been working...

MATTHEWS: Because I Kept hearing from people about this problem.

Anyway, your thoughts?

RICHARDS: Sure. I mean, we've been working on this for months, I mean, from the very first day we went to the White House...


RICHARDS: ... on health care reform. And I think Planned Parenthood has been in a position to really...


RICHARDS: ... work closely with both pro-life and pro-choice Democrats to make sure...


RICHARDS: ... and Republicans to make sure we get a bill that can pass both bodies and finally expand access to millions of American families.

MATTHEWS: Well, as we say in Philly, I like your attitude. Good luck.

RICHARDS: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I hope we get a health care bill.


MATTHEWS: Cecile Richards from Planned Parenthood.

Coming up: What's going to happen with health care in the Senate? My God, if you think it's tough in the House, the Senate-you need all 60 Democrats, basically. And Joe Lieberman is saying he's off if it's got a public option in it. Where are we going with this thing? The Senate is even tougher. The president has turned up the pressure, but how's Harry Reid going to do the job? He needs 60 votes. That means 60 Democrats, or without Lieberman, that means Olympia Snowe. There isn't any room for a mistake on the Senate side.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now it falls on the United States Senate to bring the baton to the finish line on behalf of the American people, and I'm absolutely confident that they will. I'm equally convinced that on the day that we gather here at the White House and I sign comprehensive health insurance reform legislation into law, they'll be able to join their House colleagues and say that this was their finest moment in public service, the moment we delivered changed we promised the American people and did something to leave this country stronger than we found it.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Obama says it's all in the Senate's hands now. So what's going to happen over there, and how long will it take, if it ever gets done? In a moment, Republican senator John Barrasso of Wyoming will be here. But first, North Dakota Democratic senator Kent Conrad, who's chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

Senator Conrad, this gets trickier and trickier. Senator Joe Lieberman, your Democratic colleague, over the weekend said no way at all will he vote to even allow the vote to come to a vote for final passage if the health bill includes a public option. What does that do to the calculations of the leadership and yourself?

SEN. KENT CONRAD (D-ND), BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, it's always been the case that public option-it's hard to see how there were the votes for it in the Senate based on the public announcements of positions of individual senators, including Senator Lieberman and Senator Snowe. So that still remains up in the air.

I will say that the House made a major change in not tying public option to Medicare levels of reimbursement because those of us who represent low-reimbursement states simply could not accept that, could not vote for it because it would have worked such an extreme hardship on our states. And they changed that in the House. It is no longer tied to Medicare levels of reimbursement.

MATTHEWS: Well, is it going to pay enough for your hospitals?

CONRAD: Well, certainly, Medicare levels of reimbursement never would. In our state, Medicare levels of reimbursement are well below actual costs.


CONRAD: That's why tying it to Medicare levels of reimbursement would be so devastating.

It-it remains to be worked out. And I'm hopeful, as we go through this process, we can reach a conclusion that does manage to get 60 votes, and do it in the right way, because we have also got to reduce the deficit, both in the near term and the long term.

And the-the House bill is relatively good in the short term, but the long term does not have the savings that the Senate bill does-at least the Senate Finance bill. So, there's going to be a need for people to come together and to reach a conclusion.


On a non-quantitative measure, on the issue of quality or values, the issue of abortion, what will the impact be in the Senate side of that House-passed amendment which basically takes abortion coverage out of the bill?

CONRAD: You know, I have been listening to your conversation with the two previous guests, and I think you have captured it, Chris.

This is yet to be worked out. What we know for certain, if there is taxpayer funding of abortion in this bill, this bill goes down. That is the reality. That was the reality in the House. That's a reality in the Senate.

So, there has to be a way of working this out, so that we are left with something people can support.

MATTHEWS: Why can't the geniuses on these staffs up there-I used to be a staff maybe, but make I wasn't the genius that was required-but isn't there some way to separate out, so that people who are taxpayers can support a health care plan without getting involved in the individual decision which is a guaranteed right under this Constitution to choose an abortion? You don't get involved in that decision.

It's totally that woman's choice, that you're not subsidizing it or taxing it or anything-it's a neutral choice as far as you're concerned, which is what most Americans, I believe, are comfortable with, if they support abortion rights. Even those people say, let the person pay for it.

Now, how does this get involved here in this whole sticky mess of health care? People say, well, it's just like any other health care procedure.

Well, it isn't just like any other health care procedure. It wouldn't

we wouldn't be debating it. We don't have national debates over kidney removal or anything else like that. This is unique in our culture, in our value system.

So, how do we solve it?

CONRAD: You know, we have got to remember this is not an abortion bill.

On the other hand, this bill will not advance unless people are convinced that there is not taxpayer funding for abortion. As you know, we have the Hyde amendment. The Hyde amendment has been in place for more than 30 years.


CONRAD: And it assures that taxpayer funds do not go for abortion.

I-I think this is something that is yet to be solved in a way that is acceptable, and a lot of additional work is going to have to be done.


Thank you very much, Kent Conrad, senator from North Dakota and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

By the way, Here is Senator Joe Lieberman on FOX News yesterday. Talk about a barn burner. Here he is. Let's listen.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: If the public option plan is in there, as a matter of conscience, I-I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote, because I believe the debt can break America and send us into a recession that's worse than the one we are fighting our way out of today.


MATTHEWS: Wow, as a matter of conscience.

Wyoming Senator, Republican Senator John Barrasso is an orthopedic surgeon.

Senator, thank you so much for joining us.

Are you going to vote for any health care bill, or is this just for the Democrats to debate?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO ®, WYOMING: Well, the Democrats are the only ones that are doing the debating right now.

I want to vote for health care reform that is patient-centered, not government-centered, not insurance company-centered. There is a right way to do this. And, right now, I look at this bill as being the totally wrong way to address the health care needs that our nation has.

MATTHEWS: Republicans had been in power for eight years before this presidential election. You have had ample opportunity under previous administrations, when you have had control of Congress, under Reagan. Where was the Republican health care bill then?

I mean, everybody talks now on the Republican side how would have, could have, should have, maybe, what-might have done, didn't do it. How come you never did it when you had the power to do it, and now you say, we have got a better alternative?

I don't get it.

BARRASSO: I have only been in the Senate for two years, and, from the day I showed up, I was talking about the way to put patients at the center, allow people to buy insurance across state lines.

We know from a study, Chris, that 12 percent of Americans-or-no

12 million Americans would be able to get insurance affordably if they could just buy across state lines and then give them the same tax breaks as the rest of the country, as-as big businesses get.

And I have been talking for years about the fact that half of all the money we spend on health care is on 5 percent of the people who eat too much, exercise too little, and who smoke. And even front page "USA Today" the other day, a third of the Americans are at increased risk for cancer because of obesity.

Yet, there is nothing, Chris, in any of these bills that really ends up putting the patient in the center and giving that individual patient an incentive to stay healthy, get their diabetes under control or their weight under control.

And there is nothing that really deals with the lawsuit abuse, a loser pays, or a number of different ways that you could deal with this, all the defensive medicine.


BARRASSO: That has actually been scored at $52 billion.

MATTHEWS: But the Democrats are in bed with the trial lawyers, so they're not going to do anything.

BARRASSO: Well, does that mean it's the right solution for a country where we need health care reform?

MATTHEWS: No, I'm just telling you, I'm trying to deal with facts of life around here. I'm just trying to figure out how the health care gets built when you have a Democratic Party that's owned by the trial bench-it just is-a Republican Party that seems to be in bed with business and the insurance companies and really doesn't want to do anything.

And every time your party-you say you're not responsible. And I-

I haven't met you before, but everybody says you're a great guy, obviously your commitment to medicine is real and a lifelong commitment. But I haven't seen your party, which you're in, do anything.

Ronald Reagan, back in the '60s, talked about alternatives to Medicare. He didn't want an alternative. Your party never wants an alternative. What you want to do is stand on the sidelines and make catcalls against the Democrats when they try to do things, like civil rights and things like that. That is a problem.

Do you feel-are you proud of your party's record on health care?

BARRASSO: I think both parties have a long way to go on health care, and we ought to put patients first.

Look, your governor, Ed Rendell, was on "Meet the Press" yesterday, and he said there's probably 80 percent of the things that we can agree on, a step-by-step process.


BARRASSO: Why aren't we doing that?

MATTHEWS: Yes, but he is not going to-he is not going to touch-he is not going to touch tort reform.

BARRASSO: Well, if there's 80 percent...

MATTHEWS: Not Ed Rendell, no, no.

BARRASSO: ... of the things that we can agree on, we ought to do-we ought to pass those 80 percent of the things.

MATTHEWS: No, that's one thing. He's a good guy in many ways, but all parties seem to-the trouble with the political parties, Senator, is you have got to buy the blue plate special.

If you're a Democrat, you have got to buy all this stuff. You have got to buy card check, and you have got to buy the trial lawyers, and you have got to buy their whole kettle of fish. If you're a Republican, you got to buy the full-mooners on the cultural right, the wing nuts. They all come aboard, too.

When are we going to have a political party that's absolutely sane and absolutely operates in the national interest?

BARRASSO: Well, I'm-I'm trying to work in the best interest of the people of Wyoming.


BARRASSO: I have been the medical director of something called the Wyoming Health Fairs, where...


BARRASSO: ... we give blood tests, 50,000, 60,000 people a year, so they know their cholesterol. And they get their-get their-and it helps...


MATTHEWS: I wish-I wish you and Enzi, I wish you-you and Enzi are both from Wyoming.


MATTHEWS: You're both great guys. I hear great stuff about you, you and Enzi, the former CPA. You're both good on health care. And, yet, you're not partners on this health care bill.

And I don't understand why this is not bipartisan, with at least five or 10 Republicans like you aboard, why they couldn't reach agreement, why you couldn't reach agreement. Is there an answer to that?

BARRASSO: Well, I haven't been...


MATTHEWS: Why is this a Democratic bill?

BARRASSO: You know, I have had suggestions for the president. He hasn't listened to me or to Tom Coburn, who is the other physical. There are only two physicians in the Senate.


BARRASSO: And I have been taking care of families in Wyoming for 25 years.



BARRASSO: I know the consequences, Chris. I know the consequences of a big health care bill like this.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but-yes, but Coburn loves to be the odd man out. Coburn loves to be the odd man out. You may want to join in. He's not a joiner.

Hey, thank you so much for this, Senator Barrasso. It's nice to have you on the show. I have heard great things about you. It's too bad you're not aboard this health care bill.

Up next: I was witness to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Twenty years later, I will bring you my thoughts, more importantly, my memories. This was the greatest thing I ever got to cover, I think-maybe the first election in South Africa. But this one was right up there, maybe right at the top of the list, being a reporter.

I want to tell you what it was like to be there when the wall opened up.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.



Well, 20 years ago, I stood in the rain on the East Berlin side of the great Brandenburg Gate, that grim symbol of division between East and West during the Cold War. It was a rainy night, and it was cold, but people were standing around just awaiting word that had gotten out that the authorities might be opening the great Brandenburg Gate, that the VoPos, those notorious East German police, were still guarding.

Chance-actually, change was in the air. As I interviewed one after East German another, I kept asking them what freedom meant to them. (SPEAKING GERMAN) I kept asking in my limited German. Soon, a crowd gathered around me, a crowd of people, a kind of rump town meeting attracted by an American with a notepad.

People were eager to give me their personal meanings of what this whole thing meant, this coming down of the Berlin Wall, this fall of the Iron Curtain, this ending of their captivity, this first chance to speak their hearts and minds on matter on politics.

For a nurse, it meant free elections with real choices, multi-party choices. Only that would end, she said, the drain of her fellow workers to the West for better jobs and better lives.

For some, it was free enterprise, capitalism, like in the West. For others, it was socialism, but of a democratic kind, like in Scandinavian countries., For others, it was simply the ability to vote and choose what kind of system people wanted.

For one young man, freedom meant doing what we were doing right there on that cold rainy night, talking politics in public.

This is (SPEAKING GERMAN) he said, talking without fear about how they were going to be governed, how they wanted to be governed.

I doubt that I will ever forget that moment. He said freedom was talking to me.

There was more than that, too, I would discover in the days ahead. While the East Berliners I interviewed that week in November of 18 -- of 1989 differed on the question of capitalism vs. socialism or whether even to reunite with West Germany, they agreed on one thing. They felt abused, humiliated and robbed by their communist elite.

And the ones that felt it the most were the good people who worked hard and played by the rules.

It's a lesson for us. Watch what is happening on Wall Street right now, with all the bailouts and bonuses. Watch the abuse of the free enterprise system by those at the top. And look at those who are most angry. It's the true believers in the system who are disgusted at the way the politicians are kowtowing to the money guys who screwed things up-screwed things up in the first place.

So, this 20th anniversary the Berlin Wall falling is a good time to think of our own system, who is working to make it better, who is exploiting it and abusing it, and who is bringing it down?

And who in government is doing the job of really protecting the true believers, you know, the people who work hard and play by the rules, and don't like what they're seeing these days in this country we love?

Up next: How hard is it to be a practicing Muslim and serve in the U.S. armed services?

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


ORIEL MORRISON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I'm Oriel Morrison with rMD-BO_your CNBC "Market Wrap."

Another big rally for stocks today, as the G20 pledges to keep the stimulus funds coming, the Dow Jones industrials jumping 203 points, to finish at a new high for year, the S&P 500 adding almost 24 points, and the Nasdaq gaining 41.

This weekend's announcement by the G20 sent the dollar tumbling. Global stocks and commodities benefited, with gold surging to a new record high, and oil spiking, settling above $79 a barrel.

General Electric, one of the Dow's top gainers today, on reports GE and Comcast have settled on a $30 billion valuation for a joint venture between NBC Universal and Comcast.

GE is the parent company of CNBC and MSNBC.

Shares in Electronic Arts moving higher after-hours, the video game giant posting better-than-expected earnings, but said it will be laying off about 1,500 workers.

That's it from CNBC, first in business worldwide-now back to


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The suspect in the Fort Hood shootings, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, is in stable condition at a San Antonio hospital right now and is now able to talk. Since the shooting, numerous reports have revealed missed warning signs about Hasan. And now federal authorities are investigating whether the federal psychiatrist had any contact with a radical imam who had ties to two 9/11 hijackers and has since praised his actions as heroic.

Zuhdi Jasser is the founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. He's also a former Navy doctor.

What do you make? We have got a new Reuters report just out right now, Doctor. U.S. intelligence agencies learned on-that an Army psychiatrist-that's Hasan-tried to contact people linked to al Qaeda. And they give the information-these are the intelligence agencies-gave the information to federal authorities before the man allegedly went on shooting-the shooting spree in Texas.

Now, this is really incredible, that the-our-our U.S. intelligence people found out that this guy had tried to contact al Qaeda, and didn't do and-then told authorities about it, the FBI or the military, or whatever, and nothing was done, and then this guy went about doing what he did.

I think we're getting into a real, real problem here with our...



MATTHEWS: ... doing our job here in this country. And this has nothing to do with ethnicity, religion, or anything else. It's just failure to see a challenge coming, a danger coming, and people not doing their job.

JASSER: I can't underscore that enough.

I will tell you, my parents came here. They taught me. And the reason I joined the military was, this country was able to give my family the protection, the freedom, the liberty to practice our faith like we could nowhere else in the world.

And they left an oppressive Syrian government, where they-you know, oppressive type of fascism. And, then, elsewhere in the Middle East, you have theocracy. And we're able to be more Muslim here than anywhere else.

However, that's our Islam. There are other forms of Islam that are a threat. And we have to be careful that political correctness is driving us away from protecting ourselves from the enemy within and from the enemy abroad. And there is a political ideology that has masked itself within a theology that I love, but we can't deny.

It's time for Muslims to stop complaining and stop being victims, and say, you know, what we have to start within combating, no different than at the time of the American Revolution. They determined that there were Christians that were part of the Church of England, that were enemies of America, and there were Christians that believed in a country based on the Establishment Clause and based on freedom and liberty, that were about what the west was about.

And that's really what we need to start to make that distinction.

MATTHEWS: OK. How do you recognize an Islamist from simply a person who believes in Islam? An Islamist?

JASSER: An Islamist to me is somebody that believes that the Islamic state takes preeminence, the Islmaic law takes preeminence over western secular law, which is based on reason and one universal law. And I think Islamists may even tell you they adhere to the west's laws. They're a minority.

But the Islamists will tell you that if Muslims are a majority, they want the clerics or the scholars to make laws for the Omah (ph), or the Islamic nation or community. Until Muslims can reform that concept that's still in the 13th and 14th century-and that actually is still part of a majority of authoritative Islam-we are really going to continue to see this virus of Islamism spread.

MATTHEWS: Well, what percentage of Muslim people do you believe are Islamist, therefore dangerous?

JASSER: Well, I think that the militant version are a small three to five percent. But the nonviolent Islamists that believe, well, OK, the Western type of democracies are OK, but you know what? There's this utopian form that doesn't exist anywhere of the Islamic state. That some studies would say I think anywhere from 30 to 40 percent. And the Muslim Brotherhood-the Brotherhood is really-that's what they're all about, and that's why some of us are forming organizations, like our American Islamic Forum, to separate mosque and state, and counter the Muslim Brotherhood's movement.

MATTHEWS: Let's listen to Senator Lieberman. He said something pretty strong the other day on television about the suspect, Nidal Hasan, the major accused of doing all this shooting.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: If it the reports that we're receiving of various statements he made, acts he took, are valid, he had turned to Islamist extremism. And therefore, if that is true, the murder of these 13 people was a terrorist act.

This is not a matter of a Constitutional freedom of speech. If Hasan was showing signs, saying to people, that he had become an Islamist extremist, the U.S. Army has to have zero tolerance. He should have been gone.


MATTHEWS: You know, I have a hard time with this, because people like Sirhan Sirhan, who is still serving time for killing Bobby Kennedy, didn't like what Bobby Kennedy had said on television. Bobby Kennedy had made political statement, saying we're going to sell arms, fighter planes, directly to Israel, not under the table. We're going to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Those were the things that triggered his killing spree. He killed one person, Bobby Kennedy, horrifically. But did he become a different religious person because he committeed the crime? And when did this happen? See, we have a problem; how did we know when someone like Hasan is going to make his move, and do we know he's an Islamist until he has made his move?

He makes a phone call, whatever-according to Reuters right now, he apparently tried to contact al Qaeda. Is that the point at which you say, this guy is dangerous? That's not a crime to call up al Qaeda, is it? Is it? Where do you stop the guy?

JASSER: Well, Chris-hold on a second. You can't-you have to-we're not even out of the box in this contest. I mean, we are completely asleep, let alone following him and saying that we were going to stop him. We didn't have any of the signs that we were following. Sirhan Sirhan if he was around today-

MATTHEWS: He is around. He's in prison.

JASSER: I'm saying that if his type of prototype, he would be a lot more dangerous, because political Islam has made huge advances, while the West has been asleep against the spread of the, quote unquote, Islamic state movement. And I think clearly there are parts of the ideologies of hate of the West, of America, of conspiracy theories that this guy started to follow that were warning signs.

MATTHEWS: This guy, according to all the testimony-admittedly, it has not been admitted into court. We cannot call him the shooter until we have a trial. That's the way we work here, you know. That's how it works in America, certainly not in the news business. You can't call somebody a murderer until you get a conviction in court.

And the question here is when can you identify a problem? That's what we have to deal with. And you say it's an ideological point, you can find the problem. But then we get into the business of checking out on people's thinking. And that's the problem. When does a person become a danger, when they have a certain thought system? Or when they go out and start buying semi-automatic pistols? rMD+BO_rMDNM_Or when they start phoning up al Qaeda, saying how can I join the gang?

Where do you stop a person? This is criminology, maybe, not ideology, or even religion. But how do we weed out a guy-it seems to me, all of the warning signs-we have seen them all now. It's like looking at pictures of Mohammed Atta hanging around convenience stores and going to ATM machines. We have all kinds the information about this guy after it's too late.

But this guy was running around shooting his mouth off, saying how he hated this country's ward. You could listen to me on television and hear me say I didn't like the war with Iraq.

JASSER: Well, hold on, even in the streets-

MATTHEWS: A lot of Americans didn't like the war of Iraq. They didn't start shooting people about it.

JASSER: But even in the streets of New York this week, we saw the group Revolution Muslim applauding him. And nobody is taking their freedoms away. The issue is this guy was given security clearance and given access to our troops that are protecting our community, protecting our country. And that's what needs to be taken away.

Yes, we need to monitor them. If we start taking away their freedoms, then we're going to lose this war, because what Muslim families like me are here for is for the liberty. That's the best weapon we have. And you're going to alienate our greatest assets, which are Muslims, that we are going to, as devotion Muslims, win this war of ideas, by being given the freedom to fight them internally within the Islamic faith.

However, we also can't be asleep. We've got to follow them.

MATTHEWS: Maybe this guy should have just been given CO status the minute decided-he didn't do anything wrong until he realized he was going to Afghanistan. Then he acted. Thank you so much for joining us.

Up next, the health care debate moves to the Senate. What would it take for the bill to get passed? Still the big question. That's in the fix next. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: We're back. Time for the politics fix with the "Chicago Tribune's" Clarence Page and the "Financial Time's" Chrystia Freeland.

Chrystia, you first. Maybe all the men ought to get out of this conversation. But abortion has once again loomed out there as the number one issue before us. Everybody said it's a surprise. It really wasn't. It had to come to bear. It's come in the worst way.

Forty-now 40 Democrats in the House said they needed to have this out before they would be in, and now we're told that 40 Democrats on the other side, the pro-choice side, say this ban on abortion spending must be out before they're in. So it looks like a tough one for the speaker of the House.

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, "THE FINANCIAL TIMES": Yes. I think that it is really, really tough, and really unfortunate. You preempted the remark that I was intending to make, Chris, about men having such a voice in this debate. What I think is really unfortunate is the people who this debate is really about is poor, younger women who can't afford to pay for an abortion out of their own pockets.

No one, I think, ever wants to have an abortion. It's a terrible choice for anyone to make. And it, to me-it's really unfortunate that it's become a subject of such political horse trading.

MATTHEWS: But isn't-be careful for a second. In our health care system, poor women get Medicaid. Medicaid has never allowed women to get abortion paid for by the government. This is current law and has been law for 30-some years now, 32 years.

FREELAND: Sure, but the reason that this is so controversial right now is because people are concerned about plans allowing-about plans that exist that would cover abortions. By definition, if you're able to pay for it out of your pocket, it's not going to make a difference for you, is it?

MATTHEWS: The problem is we are extending-we have the ban on abortion for poor women. The government doesn't pay it. This has crept back into the issue here.

CLARENCE PAGE, "THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE": This is worse, Chris, because this is declaring that even a woman can't use her own money to pay for an insurance plan that also covers abortion.

FREELAND: The only thing about that, though, Clarence, who's going to buy an insurance plan-who's going to buy a specific abortion coverage for their insurance plan? I think that's a little bit-

PAGE: As I understand it-I believe the law says if the company offers that coverage, that company cannot get federal money, because the anti-abortion people are concerned about the fungibility of any money that goes to an insurance company that covers abortion, even if it's not-

MATTHEWS: They don't want-the people who have raised this concern on the pro-life side do not want taxpayer money subsidizing abortion, period. They don't want it. It's never been allowed under the law. They don't want it allowed under this law.

They argue they want the current law. Where they overreach, you could argue, is extending it beyond the subsidy to those who don't want a subsidy.

PAGE: I will argue. Does that mean that a hospital that offers abortion services cannot get any federal money at all, like Medicaid. That's where that argument goes. They have moved the ball. They, the anti-abortion side, has moved the ball now beyond the Hyde Amendment to restricting the choices of women who use their own money.

To me, that really is a reason why a lot of dissenters don't want to vote for it.

MATTHEWS: Temperatures are rising. We'll be back with Clarence Page and Chrystia Freeland to talk about Ft. Hood. We're learning more about this. It doesn't look good for the way this was handled. This man was clearly dangerous. Nobody did anything about it. You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: We're back with Clarence Page and Chrystia Freeland. Chrystia, this is amazing. You're with the "Financial Times." Look at this story that just broke on Reuters, that federal authorities were told by our intelligence agencies that this fellow down there, Major Hasan, who is the suspect-he's more than a suspect. He's the likely suspect I guess, killing all those people down there. That he tried to get ahold of al Qaeda, that he was trying to connect up with the terrorist group.

And they told the authorities about this, our intelligence people, and nothing apparently was done. The guy was just allowed to continue on course to this hell that broke loose the other day.

FREELAND: Clearly a colossal management failure. But I do think, Chris, that you made a really good point in the earlier segment talking about this, that there does also have to be caution about being mind readers, trying to suspect people and treat them badly because of what their beliefs are.

Having said that, probably not a great idea to try to deploy someone to a war if we know they've been in touch with al Qaeda, when the goal of that war is to get al Qaeda.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I realize that. I mean, I think that would be the more limited goal. I mean, we all agree on that one. Here's a guy who wanted to go hook up with these guys.

PAGE: We should definitely-

MATTHEWS: It's not even funny. I only find the irony funny. The whole thing is tragic. Under an ideal world, the guy would have said look, I'm Muslim; I have a particular set of beliefs. I have a particular background. My parents came from Jordan-or from the Palestinian territories, if you will, from Ramallah. I do not want to make this fight. Go see your superior office, I'll take any other duty. Give me KP. Give me anything. Don't send me over there, because I don't want to be in this fight. There must be some way to deal with this.

PAGE: There's a difference between having Muslim beliefs and contacting al Qaeda. You know, we're talking about contacting a known terrorist organization.

MATTHEWS: He had strong beliefs against the war on top of it.

PAGE: Well, we're talking about two different things, aren't we? A man's beliefs are one thing. When he's taking the action of contacting al Qaeda, to me that justifies our elaborate Homeland Security apparatus to keep on eye on this person.

MATTHEWS: Chrystia, they're supposed to be talking to each other, these people. Remember, that was all about Homeland Security.

FREELAND: Well, that's the point of having homeland security, isn't it?

MATTHEWS: To have Homeland Security, not just an organization, not just a building, but to have homeland security. Thank you, Clarence Page. Thank you, Chrystia Freeland. Join us again tomorrow night 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now it's time for "THE ED SHOW" with Ed Schultz.



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