Guests: Oriel Morrison, Roger Cressey, Bob Baer, Cynthia Tucker, Howard Fineman, David Plouffe, Diana DeGette, Jonathan Allen
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The president promises justice in the Ft. Hood killings.
Let‘s play HARDBALL!
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Justice for the killer. That‘s what President Obama promised today at Ft. Hood for the mass murderer who gunned down 13 Americans. But could the killer have been stopped before he acted? The FBI knew the shooting suspect, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, had been e-mailing back and forth with an imam now living in Yemen who had once been in touch with two of the 9/11 hijackers and who was calling on Muslims around the world to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. So why didn‘t the FBI or the Army take action? Former CIA officer Bob Baer will be here in a minute to deal with it.
Plus: Could the fight over abortion kill health care reform? President Obama says he doesn‘t want the bill to fund or even subsidize abortion. Could abortion be the poison pill that brings down health care?
And what about Bill and Hillary and Obama? How‘s the team of rivals getting on? An inside look from Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, who didn‘t want Hillary on the ticket. He‘ll be here tonight to talk about his new book, “The Audacity to Win.”
Speaking of Bill Clinton, he was brought in today to talk to the Senate‘s Democrats on the health care bill. Can this veteran of a losing health care bill unite the party on issues that are splitting them right now, like abortion and the public option, or won‘t he? That‘s in the “Politics Fix.”
And guess which Republican congressman had to miss his own son‘s wedding to vote on the health care bill? Well, that‘s in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”
Let‘s start with the Ft. Hood massacre and the dangerous person who nobody stopped. Here‘s what we know. The FBI knew that Major Nidal Malik Hasan had e-mail communications over the past two years with a known radical cleric living in Yemen who has used his Web site to encourage Muslims to kill U.S. troops in Iraq—the imam also had been in touch with two of the 9/11 hijackers—and how in a lecture to a medical student two years ago, Major Hasan advocated that the military should excuse Muslim soldiers to be excused from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan or else face, quote, “adverse events.” We also know that Major Hasan engaged in arguments with fellow classmates and soldiers about why he thought both wars were wrong.
Former CIA officer Bob Baer is an intelligence columnist with Time.com, and NBC News counterterrorism analyst Roger Cressey was a member of the National Security Council. I want to start with Bob. What do you make of this? The FBI had a look at this guy. They saw that he was talking—or engaging in e-mails back and forth with this imam over in Yemen who‘s been calling on Muslims worldwide to attack U.S. soldiers. We know he spoke out in a very dramatic way, passionate way, against the wars over there, saying that they‘re anti-Muslim and questioning whether Muslims shouldn‘t get CO status to avoid having to go into combat over there. A lot of information from fellow workers, fellow students, that this guy‘s been speaking out, as a Muslim, against the war, against what he believes is a war against Islam. Why didn‘t he get stopped?
BOB BAER, TIME.COM, FMR. CIA FIELD OFFICER: Chris, he didn‘t commit a crime. This imam we‘re talking about, Awlaki, is e-mailing thousands of people in this country. All of them are being looked at. The FBI, as I understand—somebody told me today—had this guy under investigation, Major Hasan. They were looking to see if he was part of a bigger network.
In any intelligence operation like this, you have to pull in all the threads. If you jump on a suspect right away, you could miss somebody else. And they were looking at these guys. So I don‘t really think we can call it an intelligence failure right now, unless something emerges we don‘t know about.
MATTHEWS: Well, my question is, why didn‘t his military commander above him, in their aptitude reports on him, when they‘re getting all this information about him—or aren‘t they getting it—would have put it all together and said, Don‘t send this guy into a combat zone, don‘t send him overseas. Why didn‘t that happen? Forget prosecution, why deployment?
BAER: Well, let me speculate on this. And I doubt that the military command knew about the e-mails. I mean, these things are intercepted abroad by the National Security Agency, who holds them very tightly for a good reason. Now, the question, did Army CID, criminal investigation side of the Army, find out about it? And usually, no. This stuff is all compartmented, even after 9/11. And I don‘t think we can really—you know, to say this is the Army‘s fault, they may not have known.
MATTHEWS: What about the FBI?
BAER: The FBI, you know, in 20/20 hindsight, yes, they should have jumped on the guy, taken him away. They should have looked at gun registration, seen that he bought a gun fairly recently, the fact that he had two. They should have called in witnesses. But remember, the FBI, as we speak today, is overwhelmed with the number of leads.
BAER: There are literally tens of thousands each day that are coming up.
MATTHEWS: Well, Roger Cressey, thanks for joining us, as well. What amazes me is—well, what worries me is that there are many people like this that meet this description, who come from this background, who have voiced opposition to the war, and have been in communication with somebody like the imam. If there are many people like this, we have a real problem. If this guy‘s unique in this regard of having all these dots connected, then something should have been done. It‘s one or the other. Either there‘s a lot of guys like this, and women, in the military who have this conflict in their souls, or there‘s only one. Why didn‘t they act in either case?
ROGER CRESSEY, FMR. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER, NBC ANALYST:
Well, Chris, to Bob‘s point, it sounds kind of crazy, but it is not a crime to be in communication with a known al Qaeda sympathizer. Anwar al Awlaki is not part of the al Qaeda network, he‘s not an operative, so he‘s not on anybody‘s prohibited list, but he‘s a person of tremendous concern.
I think where the system broke down on this one is, yes, the FBI was up on him. Two different joint terrorism task forces were looking at the electronic intercepts. They were looking at his performance reviews, as well. And they did not see anything that was threat specific, which is the first trigger. In all the OERs that they reviewed during the course of this investigation, they didn‘t see anything out of the ordinary there. So that was the second trigger that didn‘t happen.
Where I—where I have a big question is, if you‘re going to be in regular contact with someone like al Awlaki, somebody in Army counterintelligence should have been at the very least been told about it. And the Army should have approached Hasan and said, We understand that you are having issues and difficulties dealing with things associated...
CRESSEY: ... with your job. That didn‘t happen. Why don‘t know why.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s take a look at something he said back two years ago in a lecture. It‘s a lecture he delivered at medical school two years ago. Major Hasan said, quote, “It‘s getting harder and harder for Muslims in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow Muslims.” He also wrote, quote, “The Department of Defense should allow Muslim soldiers the option of being released as conscientious objectors to increase troop morale and decrease adverse events.”
Boy, the guy‘s laying it on the line here. And on one of his slide presentations in that lecture, he wrote, quote, “We love death more than you love life,” citing the attitude about people who engage in jihad.
It just strikes me, Bob, that this guy was basically laying out the situation and nobody was paying attention.
BAER: Well, I don‘t think we—well, we don‘t have a political intelligence service that collects on Americans. The FBI does it, but they don‘t have enough people. We just don‘t have anything like that in place.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about his colleagues? Weren‘t they afraid and saw this guy giving what‘s supposed to be a lecture on medicine and uses it as an opportunity to give this jeremiad and say, You‘ve got to have CO status for guys like me who have real religious difficulties with going to war with our fellows religion—religious? I mean, and then constantly rapping about this in the service with his colleagues, over and over again saying, I got a real problem with this war on Islam because we‘re killing Muslims all the time, and I‘m a Muslim and I don‘t want to do it. And then he gets sent overseas and he obviously gets sprung.
And I guess the question is, Roger Cressey, not whether or not he should have been prosecuted for having loose lips or attitude, or even anti-American attitudes at the point of disagreeing with the war—although we all on this show oftentimes express similar views about the decisions to go to war with Iraq, the decisions even to prosecute or escalate the war in Afghanistan. They‘re not considered criminal. In fact, in a free country, they‘re part of the joy of being an American. But this guy was under stress, and I wonder why nobody noticed.
CRESSEY: So Chris, he was definitely under stress, but everything you just related is all protected by free speech and is all perfectly legal. I mean, the gray area when it comes to dealing with terrorism threats—and Bob and I have both dealt with this when we were both in government—is when you have incomplete information, you‘ve got to make a judgment call on someone. If you don‘t see specific triggers in their pattern of behavior that allows you to say, You know what, We‘ve got to bring this guy in, or we think he‘s actually going to become violent, it‘s a real tough call.
CRESSEY: In hindsight, the Army should have done—the Army should have seen warning signs here and at least approached him, or at the—or taken him out of the pattern for deployment. What we don‘t know is whether or not the Army said, Hey, even if there are problems with him, we need to have more psychiatrists overseas because of all the problems that we‘re having in the battlefields right now. So regardless of his situation, we needed him overseas. And did they miss the warning signs in the process of doing that?
MATTHEWS: Bob, you know what struck me, was the president today, the president using such strong language. And it‘s so fitting, unfortunately, with the environment we‘re in right now, talking about how this guy is going to be punished in the next life, as well as in this. I mean, here‘s the president. Let‘s listen to him. This is extraordinary language, almost biblical language for a president to engage in at such a moment. This is at Ft. Hood memorial service today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy, but this much we do know. No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts. No just and loving God looks upon them with favor. For what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice in this world and the next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Bob Baer, your thoughts on that extraordinary statement by a president of the United States on such a religious matter, how a person will be punished in the afterlife for a crime—well, they have to be convicted of it, of course, but we know what we‘re talking about here.
BAER: Well, I think it was a mistake. I mean, if this man, the major, was driven by religion, the last thing we want to do is evoke religion on our part. This is not a war against religion, a clash of civilizations we‘re fighting. It‘s a war against terrorism. So to evoke God I think was a mistake on his part.
But this is exactly where we‘re heading, you know, day by day on this whole war on terror. The longer we stay in Iraq, the longer we stay in Afghanistan, I guarantee you, the more shootings and the more bombings we‘re going to see like this. It‘s just inevitable.
MATTHEWS: Well, I have to say that I agree with that sentiment and that observation. For ever since 9/11 now, or even if you go back to Somalia, the United States, every time there‘s a war on television, worldwide on any network worldwide, they‘re watching Americans shooting Muslims and being shot back at and being killed by IEDs. It‘s a war with a consistent theme, us on one side, Islamists, if you will, on the other side, but clearly Islamic people on the other side. Your thoughts, Roger?
CRESSEY: Well, I think whenever you see this type of an environment, where through the Internet especially, Chris—and so much of the self-radicalization has happened through the Internet, the people downloading what I call “jihadi porn” on a regular basis—and the other images we‘ve see on TV, as well, if someone is mentally disturbed to begin with and they feel despair and anger and no hope of an alternative path, than the likelihood of them resorting to violent means is exponentially higher.
You know, I think the biggest issue that the Army‘s going to have to deal with—and the other armed services are going to look at this, too—is was this an isolated case about one person, motivated by religion, by other events, and decided to take up arms against his fellow soldiers? If they believe that‘s the case, you handle it one way. If they believe this is symptomatic of a broader problem, the Army is going to have a serious introspection they‘ve got to go through and make a series of changes in how they deal with people now undergoing stress, both overseas as well as domestically.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think it‘s the former. I don‘t think this is a stress situation. I think this is a problem unique to this religious situation we‘re in right now, which is extraordinary and it‘s going to get worse. Thank you very much, Bob Baer. Thank you, Roger Cressey. Thank you for your discretion. It‘s called for her.
Coming up: Bill Clinton goes to Capitol Hill today to try to convince moderate Democrats in the Senate to back the health care reform bill. Will the tight restrictions now in effect in the House bill end up scuttling, killing reform?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. U.S. Congresswoman Diana DeGette of Colorado is co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus and she is opposed to the Stupak amendment language that wound up in the House bill. Congresswoman, thank you for joining us. What do you make of the president‘s statement, both before the Congress, where he said—back to two months ago—well, let‘s take a look at the president. Let him speak in his own words, and then you respond, Congresswoman. Here he is, speaking to Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up. Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions and federal conscience laws will remain in place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And here he is yesterday on another matter, on this matter, but stating it somewhat differently.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This is a health care bill, not an abortion bill. And we‘re not looking to change what is a core principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, federal dollars should not be used to fund abortion or even to subsidize abortion. Does that language bother you?
REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D-CO), PRO-CHOICE CAUCUS: Actually, Chris, that language was language that we compromised on last summer in the bill as it came through my committee, the Energy and Commerce Committee. We believe, as the president does, that this bill‘s about health care, health care for 36 million Americans, not about abortion. And so this summer, the Pro-Choice Caucus members, the pro-choice members of Energy and Commerce, we compromised with some of the other members on our committee and we passed language which said exactly that—In this bill, we will not have federal funding used for abortions.
Unfortunately, the Stupak amendment that was passed as part of the bill on Saturday goes far, far beyond current law. And what it says is, in the public option and in the insurance exchange, people cannot even use their private dollars to buy insurance coverage that will pay for full reproductive services. That would be the biggest expansion of anti-choice laws in my entire career.
MATTHEWS: But the president said he‘s against any subsidization of abortion. Wouldn‘t subsidizing insurance plans which cover abortion be a subsidy? It‘s his word, “subsidy,” by the way, not mine.
DEGETTE: No. Actually, the president I think agrees with us because under current law, there—we have several things. Some businesses get tax credits right now for offering—offering insurance plans to their employees, and those plans pay—cover abortions. Right now, under Medicaid, federal funding cannot be used to pay for abortions under the Hyde amendment, but 17 states fund abortions with their state dollar.
MATTHEWS: I know.
DEGETTE: A federal program that the states are administering and the federal money‘s not used. So in fact, what we‘re saying is, people who are in the exchange, if they get the premium support—let‘s say they pay $100 a month for their insurance and they get $10 of premium assistance. That $10 should not be able to be used for abortions, but why can‘t their private money be used to pay for full coverage? In the...
MATTHEWS: Well, now you‘re quibbling. It seems to me, Congresswoman, if the federal government is subsidizing something by saying, We‘ll pay 10 percent of it or 20 percent of it, like for ethanol or anything else they subsidize, they‘re subsidizing it. I‘m giving you the view of those who are pro-life. They don‘t like the idea of the federal government subsidizing abortion like it would ethanol or anything else the government chooses to encourage. Isn‘t the government encouraging insurance companies to cover abortion if it subsidizes that coverage? I‘m just asking you an analytical question.
DEGETTE: Yes, absolutely—absolutely not.
And, in fact, that‘s not what the Hyde amendment says. What current law says is, federal money shall not be used to pay for abortions, except for with the life, rape, or incest.
And—and we agree with that. But it doesn‘t—current law doesn‘t
talk about subsidizing. That‘s—that‘s beyond current law. And I think
· and I think...
MATTHEWS: Well, the president does. Last night, on “Nightline,” the president said...
MATTHEWS: ... he‘s against subsidizing abortion. He said he‘s against it. He used the word subsidize.
DEGETTE: Well, I don‘t think—I think the president agrees with me.
And I could be wrong, but I will tell you this, that—that—that we were willing to compromise. And we still are.
DEGETTE: We think that, if people don‘t feel like the Hyde language is well enough defined in the bill, we can talk about ways that we can keep federal dollars from funding abortions.
But why should we say to a middle-class businesswoman, a small-business woman, who can‘t get insurance right now because she can‘t buy into a big group, you can‘t buy insurance in the public option that has a full range of reproductive services with your own private dollars?
Why—why do we say that? That‘s way beyond anything contemplated in current law.
Let‘s see if—I hope you can solve this problem, in the interest of health care, Congresswoman. I hope we can get a compromise...
DEGETTE: Well, I mean, I—I...
MATTHEWS: ... because there wasn‘t one at hand last Saturday night.
There wasn‘t a compromise that satisfied your concerns.
And a speaker who is pro-choice went along with the other side of this argument.
DEGETTE: Actually, the speaker voted against this amendment, too. And she very rarely ever votes on the floor. And she didn‘t support the amendment either.
The reason she was forced to allow it to be put up on the floor is because Congressman Stupak and—and others said that they would vote against final passage of the bill. And she wanted to keep the bill moving along. I did, too.
MATTHEWS: I know.
DEGETTE: I would like to work this out. And I think we will be able to work this out.
MATTHEWS: Well, good luck.
Thank you very much, Congresswoman DeGette...
DEGETTE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: ... DeGette for coming on the show tonight.
Jonathan Allen is a reporter for Politico.
Is there any way they can resolve this? Because it seems to me—I mean, she‘s telling the truth there. She‘s making the case, but it seems like there‘s a real values difference here. Some people don‘t like the idea of anything that looks like a subsidy by the federal government for abortion, even if it‘s subsidizing an insurance plan which covers abortion. They don‘t like it.
JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICO.COM: Well, let‘s look at this...
MATTHEWS: I mean, Stupak knows how to read the bill. He wrote it.
ALLEN: Exactly. And it is a huge restriction, one sort of all-encompassing in terms of—as you talk about subsidies.
Two parts to this question. Can it be resolved? If these guys, if Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and Bart Stupak and Diana DeGette can get together and resolve this issue, President Obama should hand over the Nobel Peace Prize that he got to them.
MATTHEWS: Because it‘s hard to do it.
ALLEN: It‘s impossible to resolve this issue, or at least it has been to this point.
You know, when you talk about subsidies, what‘s interesting—and I haven‘t heard anybody bring this up—is, we already subsidize insurance companies that have abortion plans—have plans that cover abortions.
MATTHEWS: How do we do that?
ALLEN: We do it through the Medicare prescription drug law, through tax breaks.
Insurance companies are subsidized by the American taxpayer in all forms of way. And, so, it‘s a little intellectually dishonest for some of these Republicans and Democrats who are against abortion rights to say now, we don‘t want to subsidize...
MATTHEWS: Well, why do you think they‘re doing it? Well, why do you think they‘re doing it?
ALLEN: Because they want to get a restriction on abortion. And I—so...
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. You‘re missing the point that there are a lot of people in this country that support a woman‘s right to make the ultimate decision, but don‘t think federal money, other taxpayers should be forced to do something, under the penalty of law for not doing it, to do something they consider morally awful.
ALLEN: I think it‘s a perfectly legitimate argument, but what I‘m saying is...
MATTHEWS: Well, thank you. But it‘s a real argument.
ALLEN: No, it‘s a real—it‘s completely real argument. And if you believe that abortion is murder, you should try to stop abortions from happening. I mean...
MATTHEWS: No, no, you shouldn‘t have to have your taxpayer money, many people argue, pay for it. That‘s all.
ALLEN: Fair enough. But what I‘m saying...
MATTHEWS: By the way, the vice president of the United States takes this position.
MATTHEWS: It‘s not some oddball position you seem to be focused on here.
ALLEN: No. Of course. No. And, actually—no, to be—to be honest, a lot of politicians on both sides, even pro-choice politicians, have taken this position for a long time, that taxpayers shouldn‘t be forced to subsidize abortions.
MATTHEWS: It‘s called the majority will of Congress.
MATTHEWS: They have voted on it every year since 1970-something.
They have said no federal money should go to pay for abortions.
ALLEN: But what I‘m saying is that you already have insurance companies that have plans that cover abortions...
ALLEN: ... that are subsidized by the American taxpayer in a lot of ways. And, so, what I‘m saying isn‘t that the argument that taxpayers shouldn‘t subsidize is bad...
MATTHEWS: The president...
MATTHEWS: OK. Here‘s the problem. The president last night on “Nightline” said he doesn‘t want government money to subsidize abortion. What do you think he meant by that?
ALLEN: I think that he...
MATTHEWS: Did he misspeak it? Did he misspeak?
ALLEN: I think he‘s doing his best not to take a position that will block him in later on, because I think he wants to get a health care bill, and I think he prioritizes that above any of the—above a lot of these...
MATTHEWS: Jonathan Allen, you have been studying this. You‘re a great reporter. I have been watching this come like a snowball like in “Indiana Jones” that gets bigger and bigger and bigger.
The idea that this is going to be soft-soaped or somehow melt down to a smaller snowball in two months, when this finally gets voted on, I think, is crazy. We have watched these issues before. Same-sex marriage, abortion rights, they get hotter as you go on. They get hotter the closer you get to final passage.
And when the conference bill comes back, what‘s going to change? I‘m just asking, why will Congresswoman DeGette win and Stupak lose when that time comes?
ALLEN: Speaker Pelosi moved the bill. She kept it going.
ALLEN: She made it not die right now. She doesn‘t have a solution for this. There is not a solution for this right now.
Somebody‘s going to be disappointed in the end, because it‘s an irreconcilable difference.
ALLEN: She did use her considerable...
MATTHEWS: Forty people have said they will—they will not vote for this bill if it‘s not pro-choice. Forty people have said they will not vote for the bill if it funds—or uses taxpayer money to subsidize abortion coverage.
It sounds like a real no—no—no deal to me.
ALLEN: It sounds like that Nancy Pelosi is going to have to hope for a whole lot of special elections. She did do one incredible political thing the other night.
She had the Conference of Catholic Bishops in one room, the pro-choice lawmakers in another.
MATTHEWS: They were actually on the Hill? The bishops showed up?
ALLEN: On the Hill. She has two conference rooms.
MATTHEWS: Did the bishops show up?
ALLEN: The bishops showed up.
MATTHEWS: Well, they shouldn‘t have.
ALLEN: Two conference rooms.
MATTHEWS: Boy, I will tell you, that‘s...
ALLEN: She did shuttle diplomacy.
MATTHEWS: The clergy should stay off Capitol Hill.
Anyway thank you, Jonathan Allen.
I understand the argument. Don‘t show up.
Up next: Which member of Congress missed his son‘s wedding so he could vote on the health care bill? Boy, that‘s a tough choice. That‘s coming up in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL.
Actually, it‘s not a—you have got to go. He got a cell phone call from his son with the pictures.
Anyway, HARDBALL coming back in a minute.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”
In case you missed it, Republican Congressman John Shadegg of Arizona brought a curious prop to the House floor on Saturday night, one of his staffer‘s babies. It was a moment made for Jon Stewart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)
JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”: You know what we could use here? A fresh perspective—like, like, alarmingly fresh.
REP. JOHN SHADEGG ®, ARIZONA: Maddie believes in freedom. Maddie likes America because we have freedom here. She asked to come here today to say she doesn‘t want the government to take over health care. She wants to be able to keep her plan.
STEWART: Yes, the baby is right.
STEWART: Let‘s do what the baby says.
STEWART: Of course, she‘s a baby...
STEWART: ... which means that Maddie also believes that, if you shake your keys in front of her and then put them behind your back, the keys cease to exist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I thought the politicians were for keeping the kids out of this political business. That baby will grow up to some day realize she was a character on C-SPAN.
Next: Your son‘s wedding or the health care bill, how do you vote, how do you decide? That was the dilemma faced by Republican Congressman Steve King on Saturday night. The big vote was scheduled the same day as his son‘s wedding. So, the congressman had to miss the wedding.
His son sent him a cell phone picture of the event. Steve had sworn to do a job, and he did it. I guess it was the right choice. What a tough one.
Now for the “Big Number.”
Senator Joe Lieberman this weekend pledged to filibuster—I don‘t believe this guy—any health care bill with a public option in it. So, some of his critics on the left came up with a pledge themselves. They created the Facebook group, “If Lieberman filibusters health care, I will donate to his opponent.”
Well, they‘re signing up people to pledge money to Lieberman‘s challenger, whoever he is, in 2012 if Lieberman torpedoes the public option. So, how is the drive going? Well, over 3,000 people have signed up in just the first day, making for about $150,000 worth of anti-Lieberman pledges, by their estimate, all promised to Lieberman‘s yet-to-be-determined reelection opponent in 2012.
One hundred and fifty thousand dollars pledged to bring down the Connecticut filibusterer—tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Anyway, up next: David Plouffe. We have got a great guest coming up right now, David Plouffe, the campaign manager for Barack Obama‘s very successful presidential campaign. He‘s coming here to tell us how important getting health care reform is to this president, also some inside stuff on Clinton, Hillary, and Bill, the team of rivals, and how they‘re getting on.
I can‘t wait for the inside stuff.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
ORIEL MORRISON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Oriel Morrison with rMD-BO_your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Not a lot of movement today on Wall Street, stocks ending mixed in fairly light trading—the Dow Jones industrials adding 20 points, the S&P 500 falling a fraction of a point, and the Nasdaq dropping three.
Priceline was today‘s big winner, shooting up 17.5 percent on a blockbuster earnings report. The online travel agency said fee waivers and promotions helped generate a huge spike in summer bookings.
Homebuilder Beazer Homes is up more than 8 percent after reporting its first quarterly property since 2006.
AIG shares advancing after the analysts said the insurance giant is gathering resources to repay the federal government. As of the end of September, AIG owed around $122 billion in federal loans.
And shares in Yahoo! ticked up slightly after its CEO send the Internet portal is shifting back into expansion mode, with new hiring already under way.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—and now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Can President Obama get the health care bill he wants by the end of the year? Can he lead his party through a fight over abortion? And how can he help them keep control of Congress next year, when he‘s not on the ballot?
David Plouffe was President Obama‘s campaign manager in 2008. His new book is called “The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama‘s Historic Victory.”
David, thank you for joining us.
I first want to clear up something. We had a report a moment ago that bishops of the Catholic Church were actually on Capitol Hill this weekend. Apparently, staffers from the U.S. Conference of Bishops were doing the lobbying, not the actual bishops. I want to clear that up. It‘s important.
Let me get to this question about the health care bill.
The president said last night on “Nightline” that he‘s against subsidizing government money used to subsidize abortion. That goes a bit further than saying fund abortion. What do you think he meant, David?
DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I think he spoke very clearly about that.
And I think the entire health care issue, obviously, it‘s a complicated issue, and there‘s strong feelings within our party. But I think the fact of the matter is, we‘re the closest we have been to meaningful health insurance reform in the last 100 years.
It was a major reason why the president sought the presidency, was, he did not think we would be a strong country if we did not finally pass health insurance reform. Economically, we have to get these costs under control. So, there‘s going to be a lot of debate over the coming weeks.
But I‘m very, very confident that we‘re going to pass health insurance reform. And that‘s going to make our country much stronger for the long-term.
MATTHEWS: Did you see this abortion fight coming months ago? Are surprised?
MATTHEWS: When somebody said last night they were surprised by it, they must be balloon heads, to be surprised by this.
MATTHEWS: This was going to come. You could see it coming in conversations in covering the Hill, like we do, months ago, it was coming. And it wasn‘t going to go away until somebody dealt with it.
But the people who are saying they‘re surprised, one thing wrong with the last administration is, they were always surprised.
PLOUFFE: Well, listen, I think we‘re seeing remarkable progress on health care.
PLOUFFE: So, there‘s going to be moments, obviously, of tension.
But the fact of the matter is, the president, I think effectively, doggedly and clearly, has led this fight. The principles we talked about in the campaign are contained in most of these health care bills that Congress has passed and is working on.
So, my focus is on, obviously, there‘s going to be, you know, a lot of trees and important trees along the way. But the important point is the forest. And we are very, very close to doing something this country‘s desperately needed for decades.
MATTHEWS: Yes. To a lot of people, the forest is life and death, by the way, OK? So, don‘t just diminish somebody else‘s point of view by calling it a tree, and your view is the forest.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about three big questions.
You‘re a genius. I understand the way you put this campaign together. You focused on things like the caucuses. You focused on people who had gotten four years of college, who were kind of the ‘60s people. And you put together those victories in a way that you beat the Clintons, even though they were very strong in the big states and did very well in the primaries. You won enough delegates to put them away, in terms of numbers.
And you never lost the focus. So, let me ask you about the focus of this administration. It seems to me there‘s three models that this president has followed. And I find them fascinating.
The first is the—what you might be the Ronald Reagan/LBJ model. If you have something really big you have got to get done, get it done the first year.
Is that important to this president, that strategy, to get health care through in the first year?
PLOUFFE: Well, again, I go back to the campaign.
He‘s doing exactly what he promised in the campaign. And, on health care, on energy, he believes that, if we don‘t make fundamental progress in these areas, we‘re going to be a weaker country for it. So, obviously, health care‘s been a major effort. And it‘s...
MATTHEWS: But the first year—is it important to get it done this year, like Reagan did, like LBJ did with Medicare, the first year he had power as elected president?
PLOUFFE: Well, again, I think look at it less from that kind of analogy than, we can‘t wait. We can‘t allow more people not to have health care. We can‘t allow more people...
MATTHEWS: So, that‘s a value judgment. Sure.
MATTHEWS: I‘m talking politics and the political strategy. Does it have to get done, or is it easier to get it done during an election year, like next year, when you have the Congress up for reelection? Is it easier next year than this year? I will ask it that way.
PLOUFFE: I‘ll actually say a lot of questions emanating in Washington, they think everything has to do with political strategy. And this is a case of something he feels so strongly about. So he doesn‘t think we can wait. And I think, before too long, we‘re going to get it passed.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s a case of clear political strategy. I call it the Chicago model. The focus this president and his team, like Ax and the others, has put on these screamers out there, like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and the rest of them out there. He has really put the spotlight on them and kept the spotlight away from the Republican leaders in the Congress, suggesting that there‘s really a governing party, the Democratic party, that‘s trying to get things done for the people, and a bunch of critics out there.
That‘s really the choice. There‘s not choice between two governing parties. Do you sense their strategy behind putting the spotlight on people like Limbaugh and Beck, by people like your former colleagues and perhaps future colleagues, Axelrod and the rest of them? Is that strategy or is it just day-to-day tactics?
PLOUFFE: I just think it‘s the reality. The truth is that the Palin/Limbaugh/Beck wing of the party are calling many of the shots now. They purged a moderate woman out of that race in New York last week. I think they‘re not going to stop there. And I think there are plenty of Republicans outside of Washington that seem intent on trying to come up with solutions.
But Boehner and McConnell, they don‘t dare cross that wing of the party. So that‘s where the energy is. And I think that‘s really what the American people are faced with. The Republican party that either doesn‘t want to cooperate because of politics, not principle, or they‘re largely just offering warmed over Bush policies, which have been soundly rejected.
MATTHEWS: So it‘s not really strategic on the part of the president hardly ever mention the names of McConnell, the Republican leader, or Boehner, the Republican leader in the House. He never seems to mention their names, whereas you hear a lot of the White House talking about the Limbaugh/Palin crowd, as you put it.
That‘s not strategic? Never mentioning the leaders of the opposition, that‘s kind of odd, isn‘t it?
PLOUFFE: I‘m sure the leaders have been mentioned, but the point is -
· and listen, you don‘t see those leaders dare cross the Palins and the Limbaughs and the Becks, because, again, that‘s where the energy is. And listen, in the House of Representatives, there‘s very few Republican House members that have to be concerned about a general election, because we‘ve won a lot of those seats. So they‘re concerned about their base.
MATTHEWS: Interesting. I‘m going to give that some thought. Let me ask you about this Lincoln thing. Your president—our president—came out of Lincoln country, the land of Lincoln, Illinois. He believed in, I think, the Doris Kearns Goodwin book about the “Team of Rivals.” He named Hillary Clinton, to the surprise of many, his secretary of state. My hunch is it has to do with more than foreign policy. And help me here, please, at least once. Is it about domestic policy as well? Is it about uniting the Democratic party at home?
PLOUFFE: Oh, no. I think that—listen, I write about this in the book. You know, he obviously carefully thought about her as vice president, because she‘s got a unique set of skills. And I think this was an inspired choice. Because when Secretary Clinton travels around the world, she leaves an enormous footprint. And that helps, I think, promote American values. It certainly allows us to be more effective.
So I think they‘re a terrific team. And I think that she‘s doing tremendous work. And again, when she travels around the world, I‘m actually less interested, quite frankly, in the press back home than the press she gets overseas.
MATTHEWS: What about the impact in the Democratic—I lived through the fight between Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, working for Jimmy Carter as a speech writer. Let me tell you, the Democratic party was very much divided. It‘s not today. I will argue—you don‘t have to agree with me because I know I‘m right—because the Clintons are in the team. Bill Clinton was up there on the Hill today fighting for health care. Hillary Clinton has been a soldier in this campaign of making this presidency work.
You aren‘t going to even allow that, are you? You don‘t allow any of this strategic thinking that you engage in. You don‘t admit there was something really strategic about putting Hillary as State.
PLOUFFE: Strategic about what‘s best for the country and our foreign policy, not about politics.
MATTHEWS: It wasn‘t about uniting the party. It wasn‘t about uniting the party.
PLOUFFE: Let me finish. I was there in the campaign every day, so I think I have more inside sense of this. Right away—
MATTHEWS: No, I agree, but you‘re not sharing it.
PLOUFFE: Right after the primary—I‘m talking back in June of ‘08 -
· Hillary Clinton did a remarkable thing of sending the message very clearly, the primary‘s over. It was tough. It was long. We need to come together. President Clinton did a lot for us.
So I think we were unified way back then.
MATTHEWS: So the president, who loves Lincoln and studies him, and is one of the great readers ever to be president, did not engage in a strategy of a “Team of Rivals,” of bringing together the people he had as enemies in the campaign, as rivals, and brought them aboard so he could unite the country? He didn‘t do that consciously?
PLOUFFE: He brought in the people he thought were best, even if they had been rivals. And I think that speaks well of the president, which was even if people had run against him or had been for our opponents, he was going to bring in the people he thought would make up the best team.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you this, on the six people you mention in your book, let‘s get to tactics. You mention there were six finalists for the vice presidency: Hillary, Biden, Bayh, and Kaine were four of them. Who were the other two?
PLOUFFE: Well, obviously, Governor Sebelius was someone we thought very heavily about, Governor Richardson.
MATTHEWS: Richardson—they made the final six?
PLOUFFE: Yes. You know, it was actually—you know, that was the folks in the final group. There might have been a couple of others there at the end too.
MATTHEWS: So Richardson and Sebelius, as you recall, were in the final six?
PLOUFFE: Yes. It‘s been a while now, but—
MATTHEWS: You‘ve broken your own record. You‘ve given me some news tonight, David. Thank you. A hell of a book, David Plouffe, who seems to be mad at me for some reason. But anyway, I think there is strategic thinking going on in this White House, like there was in the campaign. Dare me to be wrong, but I think I‘m right.
“The Audacity to Win,” by David Plouffe. It‘s going to be a big book.
Thanks for joining us tonight on HARDBALL, David.
Up next, can big Bill be the closer of the team Obama on health care?
The fix is next. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time for the politics fix, best part of the show. Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst, and “Newsweek” columnist. Of course, Cynthia Tucker is a political columnist for the “Atlanta Journal Constitution.”
Well, it was like getting water from a stone, guys, talking to David Plouffe there. He is a genius, but, boy, he doesn‘t want to show it. It turns out that of the final six people they were picking for VP—they were going to pick one, of course, Joe Biden—it was Evan Bayh from Indiana, Tim Kaine, governor of Virginia, Hillary Clinton was on the list. It ended up being Biden.
But the two we didn‘t know about, and now know about, were Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, who ended up being HHS secretary, and Bill Richardson, the much troubled at that time. He‘s all been cleared and everything. But Richardson, what do you make after that? That was one of the final six. It was like that final bracket.
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK”: I thought that was very interesting. I knew Richardson was in the mix. But I didn‘t realize Sebelius had been that close in.
MATTHEWS: Another woman.
FINEMAN: Another woman as a possibility. I thought that was very, very interesting.
MATTHEWS: He ended up with Biden. Now we have news out of the—let‘s go back to the news of today, which is this health care bill. Bill Clinton up on the hill, I will contend, they may not admit it, that the president of the United States knew exactly what he was doing when he made Hillary Clinton his top cabinet member. He was bringing Bill aboard as well. He was getting two for the price of one, to use an old phrase. It‘s helped. They kept the party united. I don‘t know why this guy, Plouffe, doesn‘t want to admit it. It‘s a smart move.
CYNTHIA TUCKER, “ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION”: It‘s worked out. Hillary Clinton has been an effective secretary of state and she has certainly been a team player. There was a lot of worry early on about her ego. Would she be a team player? She‘s been so much the team player she has often delegated, so that her role is minimized, as when John Kerry went to Afghanistan to negotiate with—
TUCKER: Karzai. Exactly. And to have Bill Clinton on the Hill to talk to—
MATTHEWS: Today, he‘s up there lobbying for these guys.
TUCKER: To talk to centrists, reluctant centrists like Blanche Lincoln from Arkansas. And who knows? He may be having some private lunches or phone calls with them later on. So it‘s not just what he said to them today. I think it‘s a brilliant use of the former president.
MATTHEWS: He‘s up there saying things like the reason the Tea Baggers are so inflamed about health care is because we‘re winning. He‘s even used that term Tea Baggers which I don‘t quite understand. They‘re sticking it to these guys.
FINEMAN: The conservatives hate the term Tea Baggers because of its undertone on the Internet.
MATTHEWS: On the down low.
FINEMAN: It‘s the blue plate special in reverse. Remember during the campaign, the blue plate special. Bill Clinton is the extra added ingredient here this time. The Senate—Rahm Emanuel, whose idea this was, he cooked it up with the president I think. Understand the psychology of the Senate. The senators love the handling, you know? They like the individual attention. They love the idea that a former president is coming up there to have lunch with them. He‘s going to call them on the phone. The star power of—
MATTHEWS: From Arkansas, by the way. Who are two of the most troubling members? Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.
FINEMAN: Blanche Lincoln has a very tough reelection race this year. You can be sure that Bill Clinton, who didn‘t have one-on-one sessions with him today—was mostly at the lunch, and then talking to clumps of senators afterwards—he‘s going to be on the phone with them, listening to their concerns, taking them to the White House. He‘s an extra added lobbyist for the White House on this.
MATTHEWS: Who brought him in? Rahm Emanuel, former aide to him? Did he bring him in. Somebody did. Somebody is directing traffic.
TUCKER: But Obama certainly didn‘t object. He has been very shrewd about use of the Clintons.
MATTHEWS: The Clintons—will it help them with the moderates? Ben Nelson of Nebraska and the two from Arkansas and Mary Landrieu.
FINEMAN: We tend to forget Bill Clinton came up to the presidency through the Democratic Leadership Council, which was the pro-business—remember in the ‘90s the pro-business wing of the party. Bill Clinton still has some residual—
MATTHEWS: You‘re walking history, Howard. No, you‘re true. It‘s true. It‘s great having journalists on because they‘ll tell you what‘s happening when people run campaigns. They‘ll never admit the deal. Plouffe, I‘ve always respected him. He‘s mad at me about something. All I can tell you, I called him a genius and he got madder at me. Thank you. I‘m not going to call you guys geniuses. It causes trouble.
We‘ll be right back with Howard Fineman and Cynthia to talk about this fight. Talk about a Gordian knot. It‘s this abortion issue, which was coming for months. And these guys said it was a big surprise. Since when? You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Howard Fineman and Cynthia Tucker. The show‘s been hot so far, it‘s getting hotter. This is so hard, because sometimes when you figure out a bill, you can argue over you say five, I say eight; OK, we‘ll agree on seven or six and a half. When it comes to abortion, as an issue, people hate it because there‘s only one position, pro choice; the other position is pro-life. Somewhere in the middle, there‘s a small group of people who say, OK, I‘m pro choice, but I‘m not for funding; I‘m not for the government paying for it.
I think we‘re into that situation. Who wants to take this one on? It‘s terrible. You‘re going to offend somebody watching one way or the other.
TUCKER: It is a tough issue. It‘s going to get tougher. As you said, the Senate—it now looks, as if the Senate bill didn‘t have enough problems, enough political complications, now they have to deal with the abortion issue. Quite frankly, I think the majority of members of Congress in the House and in the Senate want to do just one thing, preserve the status quo, the Hyde amendment, which says, no taxpayer money may be used to fund abortion. And I think most of the 64 people who voted for the Stupak Amendment thought they were doing that.
But it goes much farther than that. The Stupak Amendment says that private insurers may not sell policies that give full reproductive rights coverage in the exchange. So even if I can afford my own insurance, if I‘m not getting a government subsidy at all, I cannot buy on that exchange.
MATTHEWS: Well said. That‘s the first time somebody‘s explained it clearly, Howard.
FINEMAN: Yes, and the rationale was that since some people in that exchange are going to be getting subsidies, you can‘t allow anybody the possibility of using that subsidy with that program. I think it can be—
Cynthia‘s right. They‘re going to have to tailor the language. It‘s going to have to be very carefully rewritten. It‘s going to be one of those things like the opt in or opt out, or the trigger or no trigger. When they come down to the conference committee, which eventually this will do, they‘ll have language trying to tease out those specifics.
MATTHEWS: How do you deal with a situation where there‘s such principle involved, and some people on the pro-choice side, who are the base of the Democratic party, don‘t want this thing fudged over? They want a clear statement supporting a woman‘s right to choose. They don‘t want any fudging.
TUCKER: Actually, Chris, I don‘t think that‘s what they‘re after. I think that abortion rights advocates, pro-choice advocates are satisfying keeping the status quo. They don‘t want health insurance reform to change anything to restrict abortion.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Howard. This is an issue. We‘re not going to get into it any more than we have to, but it‘s right where we‘re at. Howard Fineman, sir, thank you. And Cynthia Tucker. We got news tonight;
Sebelius and Richardson were in the top six that made the bracket. Join us tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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