Guests: Mike Huckman, Steven Gillon, Charles Blow, Anne Kornbluth, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Judd Gregg, Susan Page, Ron Brownstein
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The start of something big.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Saturday night it is. Finally, the train is leaving the station. Tomorrow night, the United States Senate votes on whether to let debate on the health care reform bill begin. The Republicans are all voting nay. If the Democrats can‘t get 60 votes, that‘s it, it‘s over. But it looks like they can do it. Health care leaves the Senate station, the top of the show tonight.
Plus, President Obama has his chin out on just about every hot issue out there—health care, terror trials, job losses, even the breast cancer report. He‘s exposed and vulnerable. His poll numbers are dropping. Is he just too darned intellectual, too much the egghead? Why did he bow to that Japanese emperor? Why did he pick Tim Geithner to be his economic front man? Why all this dithering over Afghanistan? And who thought it was a wonderful idea to bring the killers of 9/11 to New York City, the media capital of the world, so they could tell their story? Is Obama channeling Adlai Stevenson, for heaven‘s sake?
And 46 years after the JFK assassination. Sunday is the anniversary. We‘re still learning fascinating new details bout what really happened in the frantic hours after the shooting, especially about LBJ. The author of a new book on the Kennedy assassination joins us tonight. Don‘t miss it.
Also, for someone who claims she‘s forsaken vengeance, Sarah Palin was pretty vengeful in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. Is she Irish? Bigger question, Is she qualified to be president? It‘s an easy yes or no question, and I posed it to Haley Barbour over and over last night on HARDBALL. So why didn‘t he just say yes? Check out the “Sideshow” tonight.
We start with a big up or down vote tomorrow night on starting the health care debate. Senator Bernie Sanders is an independent from Vermont and Senator Judd Gregg is a New Hampshire Republican.
Let me ask you, first of all, Bernie, what is the difference, Senator, between a Democrat, or an independent like yourself, and a Republican on health care? Because we‘re getting a strict party line vote tomorrow night. So what‘s the difference in their feelings, their attitudes, their philosophy? What‘s the difference in the two parties?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Chris, I can only speak for myself. We have a health care system which is disintegrating, 46 million uninsured, 45,000 people a year dying because they don‘t get to a doctor on time. Health care costs are soaring. Of course, you have to do something.
Bush was president for eight years, not a word of substance in the health care reform. Now, I have got to tell you, as an independent, I believe the bill that we‘re now discussing, it ain‘t a great bill. I would prefer to see a Medicare for all single-payer bill, which is the only way, in my view, to have cost-effective comprehensive universal health care. And I will be watching intently as the amendment process goes forward.
But at least Obama and the Democratic leadership are trying to address a problem which impacts million of Americans and the business community and our place in the world.
MATTHEWS: So you, Senator Sanders, believe the federal government should have a major role in ensuring that every American gets health care. You believe that.
SANDERS: I think, Chris, there‘s something wrong with the United States as the only nation in the industrialized world that does not guarantee health care to all people, and yet we spend substantially more than any other country and our outcomes are worse. Clearly, we need major health care reform.
MATTHEWS: OK, that‘s the point of view from the liberal Democrats. Senator Gregg, what‘s the Republican view on health care? How is it different than the Democrat view? Because this is a strict party line vote we‘re seeing tomorrow night.
SEN. JUDD GREGG ®, NEW HAMPSHIRE: Well, clearly, we disagree with Senator Sanders, but I really respect Bernie‘s forthrightness because he‘s really telling it like it is as to where they want to take this bill, which is a single-payer system like the English or the Canadian system.
We genuinely believe that a single-payer system will undermine the quality of health care in this country and is not affordable. This bill is a $2.5 trillion bill. That‘s what it spends when it‘s fully phased in over a 10-year period. It would, if it led to a single-payer system—and we think—I happen to think it‘s basically a precursor for that—put the government in charge of every aspect of health care in a very direct way, so that you would end up with, basically, a bureaucrat between and you your doctor.
And you would end up inevitably—if you were to go to Medicare for everyone, which is what Bernie suggested, you end up with price controls and rationing because Medicare can‘t reimburse the full cost. And so if it can‘t reimburse the full cost today—it‘s paying 80 percent of costs...
GREGG: ... and Medicaid pays about 60 percent of costs—then that difference can only be picked up by the private sector subsidizing it. Well, if there‘s no private sector, then the only way you can pay it up is by rationing.
MATTHEWS: Well, the problem with that, Senator Gregg, is...
SANDERS: Well, let me...
MATTHEWS: ... that your party‘s pretty good at criticism, but you don‘t have an economic plan of any kind for health care for everybody. How are you going to...
GREGG: No, that‘s absolutely inaccurate, Chris!
GREGG: That‘s absolutely inaccurate.
MATTHEWS: Thirty-one million people are going to—OK, how are you going to give health care? I‘ll give you a minute. You get—and I‘m back to Senator Sanders. How is the Republican Party going to get health care for all Americans? All Americans, not just those with money.
GREGG: OK. There are three major plans on the Republican side. There‘s my proposal, there‘s a proposal by Senator Ryan and Senator Coburn, there‘s a proposal which is co—which is a bipartisan plan, Senator Wyden‘s plan and Senator Bennett. They all accomplish the same thing, which is to get health care to everybody.
Now, I‘ll just take my proposal as an example. What I basically say is we don‘t need to give a Chevrolet plan, a Cadillac plan, an Oldsmobile plan to everybody. We need to insure people in a way that they want to be insured. We let them pick their insurance. And for younger people—who really generally don‘t need a lot of coverage, what they need is catastrophic coverage in case they have an accident or they get really sick so that everybody else doesn‘t have to pick up their care—we would have them pick up catastrophic coverage.
How would we control costs? We‘d do it in a variety of ways. First we address abusive lawsuits. This bill does not do that. That saves a lot of money, $230 billion of cost as defensive medicine. Second, we do a major initiative in the area of preventive care and healthy lifestyle by changing the laws so that companies can reward with you cash if you quit smoking, if you live a healthy lifestyle, if you reduce your weight, if you take the tests you should take, like colonoscopies. This bill does not do that.
We also put in place a very aggressive plan following the Dartmouth model, which I suspect Bernie also supports, which is quality health care over quantity of health care. We also picked the major diseases that‘s drive health care, like...
GREGG: ... obesity and Alzheimer‘s, and focus a lot of effort on them. So don‘t say we don‘t have a plan.
GREGG: What we have is a step-by-step approach...
GREGG: ... which would actually reform and make health care better in this country.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. The problem with that...
GREGG: Rather than nationalize it.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Senator Sanders.
MATTHEWS: The problem with what Senator Gregg said—and it sounds good to those watching for the first time. But I‘ve been watching this since the early ‘60s, when Ronald Reagan started to talk like that. Every time the Democrats move to do something on Medicare or anything in the health department, the Republicans say, Oh, we have a better alternative. But the minute they get power, they do nothing. All this stuff he‘s talking about...
GREGG: ... drug coverage today.
SANDERS: Wait a minute. You had eight years—you had eight years of the George W. Bush. There was not one serious health care proposal for universal health care brought forth.
GREGG: Did you miss the Part D premiums?
SANDERS: Judd talks—Judd talks about...
GREGG: I mean, everybody in America has drug coverage today, Bernie!
SANDERS: ... tort reform. That‘s one half of—that‘s one half of 1 percent—one half of 1 percent of health care costs. Judd criticizes Medicare for all. Of course, that is not the bill that‘s on the floor. I support Medicare for all. And Judd has got to tell the American people why, under our private insurance-dominated system, where the function of private insurance companies is to make as much money as possible, where we spend over $300 billion every single year administering thousands and thousands of separate health care plans, all designed to make profits for the company—he‘s going to have to tell the American people how that brings cost-effective health care.
Bottom line is...
GREGG: I‘ll be happy to.
SANDERS: ... the Democratic leadership is not talking about Medicare for all. What they are talking about is something very different. I wish they were talking about Medicare for all. In fact, unfortunately...
MATTHEWS: OK, why...
SANDERS: ... the Democratic proposal...
MATTHEWS: Senator Sanders, why is socialism...
GREGG: You want me to respond to Bernie‘s question or yours, Chris?
MATTHEWS: Well, I want to ask both of you the same question.
GREGG: Let me respond to...
MATTHEWS: ... like this question. Here‘s a question for both of you. Why is socialism a pretty OK word in Europe? It‘s not a hated word in Europe, Senator Sanders. But in the United States, it‘s a bad word. What‘s the difference between the two cultures when it comes to medicine?
SANDERS: Well, in Europe, for many, many years, people have seen democratic socialist policies provide health care to all people. They have seen these countries provide free college education to working families. They‘ve seen a much fairer distribution of wealth and income. In this country, for a variety of reasons, you‘ve had a right-wing Republican Party and a centrist Democratic Party, in my view not effectively representing working families, being dominated by big money interests. So what you have seen in recent years is the very richest people becoming richer, while the middle class collapses and poverty increases. I think we have a lot to learn from Scandinavian countries.
MATTHEWS: Same question to you.
GREGG: Well, do I get...
MATTHEWS: Same question to you, Senator Gregg. Why is socialism a bad word in this country when it come to medicine and health?
GREGG: Well, unfortunately, we‘re obviously gravitating towards a European model here in a lot of different areas under this administration where the government is expanding at a rate that we‘ve never seen before and the cost is being thrown on our children through expanded debt.
But why doesn‘t socialism work? Because it undermines basic core American values. First, that people have choice. Second, that people are entrepreneurial and want to go out and be—create better things by being entrepreneurial. And thirdly, that people expect to be rewarded for that. We have a capitalist system, and it works pretty well to have a capitalist system.
Now, Bernie doesn‘t like profit. I understand that. He is a socialist. And it appears a lot of people in his party don‘t like profit, either. But the simple fact is that profit is one way to deliver efficiency into a system. And he will look at Medicare as a more efficient system than a system that has some profit in it. Well, Medicare has a 15 percent to 20 percent fraud factor in it.
MATTHEWS: Well, you—let me...
GREGG: You know, I‘m sure profit may be 5 percent or 7 percent, but it‘s not 15 percent to 20 percent.
MATTHEWS: Senator Gregg, I‘ve been to emergency rooms. I once had malaria and I had to go to the emergency room. It‘s not really an emergency room anymore because there are so many people there.
MATTHEWS: You have to wait for two hours because everybody who‘s in an emergency who‘s poor and can‘t afford health insurance.
MATTHEWS: Are you happy...
GREGG: Everybody goes to the emergency room.
MATTHEWS: ... to live in a country—are you happy to live in a country where emergency rooms are right now filled with people who don‘t have emergency situations but they can‘t afford health insurance? Does that make you happy? Is that...
GREGG: Of course not.
MATTHEWS: ... the status question?
GREGG: Of course not, Chris. But you‘re not going to correct...
MATTHEWS: Well, what are you going to do about it?
GREGG: You‘re not going to correct that with this bill. In fact, this bill will aggravate that situation because this bill throws another 20 million people into the Medicaid system, which is reimbursing at 60 percent, and doctors won‘t see those folks, so they‘re going to end up in the emergency room. And you want to expand the system in a way that creates a public plan where you will again see a pushing out of doctors, a pushing out of health care so people will get less quality care.
The way you address that is by taking on those elements of the system which are not working well. One of those elements...
MATTHEWS: Why haven‘t you done it before? Why have you never done it? I‘ve heard this argument...
GREGG: What do you mean we haven‘t done it?
MATTHEWS: ... from the Republican side since 1960s...
MATTHEWS: ... and every time your party gets in power, you do nothing. Every time the Democrats get in power, you say, We‘ve got a better plan. It‘s the same malarkey you—I mean, the Democrats may have an expensive plan. You never have a plan. Eve!
GREGG: Well, Chris, I think it‘s a bit of an exaggeration to say...
MATTHEWS: No, because-
GREGG: ... we do nothing...
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m an American. You‘re an American. How come we don‘t have national health care under the Republicans? Why don‘t we have a Republican version...
GREGG: Because we don‘t believe in national health care.
MATTHEWS: ... of a national health care—well...
GREGG: We don‘t believe in nationalizing...
MATTHEWS: ... what is your plan for...
GREGG: ... the health care system.
MATTHEWS: ... the 30 million people who don‘t have health care?
What‘s your plan for those people?
GREGG: I gave you a plan. I gave you an outline of a plan.
Everybody in America would get coverage under my plan...
MATTHEWS: But you‘ve never done it.
GREGG: ... and everybody in America would get coverage under the Coburn plan. Everybody in America...
MATTHEWS: You‘re leaving the Senate—you‘re leaving the Senate after 12 years, and you‘ve never done it. All the senators, every time a Republican retires...
GREGG: Well, we only have 40 votes, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... he retires without having done it. You‘ve had more than 50 before, sir. You‘ve had a lot of Republicans in the past.
GREGG: Well, I would point out, Chris, that in the last administration...
SANDERS: Well, look...
GREGG: ... we had the single biggest expansion in health care coverage, by picking up Part D drug coverage for Medicare recipients, that this country has seen since the start of the Medicare system. It wasn‘t done correctly...
SANDERS: Well, Chris, I mean, I think you‘ve asked...
GREGG: ... by the way, because it wasn‘t paid for...
MATTHEWS: Senator Sanders?
GREGG: ... but it was a massive expansion of health care.
SANDERS: Chris, you‘ve asked the right...
GREGG: I don‘t think your premise is correct here.
SANDERS: ... question. I think the American people—let me be clear. I‘ve got problems with the bill that‘s on the floor and I‘m going to try to amend and it improve it. But at the end of the day, I think the American people are embarrassed that we continue to spend more money than any other country on earth and we‘ve got 46 million people who are uninsured, 45,000 die every single year because they can‘t get to a doctor. This is unacceptable. It‘s got to change.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you...
GREGG: But the answer is not—the answer is not to take a trillion dollars out of Medicare, which is already insolvent...
GREGG: ... and headed towards a more severe insolvency, and move it over to start a new entitlement. We can‘t afford a massive new entitlement and fund with it Medicare funds. Those Medicare funds should go to...
SANDERS: You want—you support...
GREGG: ... support making Medicare solvent...
SANDERS: ... the repeal of the estate tax.
SANDERS: Judd, you support the repeal of the estate tax with the trillion dollars to the top of 3 tenths of 1 percent. That doesn‘t make a lot of sense...
GREGG: I‘m not a socialist.
SANDERS: ... if you‘re concerned about the national debt.
SANDERS: ... want to give tax breaks to billionaires!
GREGG: ... and government. I mean, we have a different approach...
SANDERS: We sure do.
MATTHEWS: On a different point, I want to ask Judd Gregg...
GREGG: (INAUDIBLE) from different states, I guess.
MATTHEWS: Senator Gregg, it‘s great having you on. I have to ask the same question...
GREGG: It‘s always a pleasure.
MATTHEWS: ... that I asked to the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Haley Barbour, last night. I asked him—and I think it‘s a reasonable question—is Sarah Palin qualified to be president? What would be your view?
GREGG: Well, of course she is. She was governor of a major state in the United States and she‘s run as vice president. She‘s qualified.
MATTHEWS: OK, great. Thank you very much, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Judd Gregg.
Coming up: President Obama‘s got his chin out on just about every front right now—health care, that mammogram report, Afghanistan, that trial coming up in New York for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. He‘s taken on a lot of political risk. Can he find a way to get a big win? We‘re going to get back to those questions in the next block.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Health care, Afghanistan, terrorist trials up in New York, the economy—after 10 months on the job, has President Obama stuck his chin out too far on too many things? How badly does he need a big win now?
Ron Brownstein is political director for Atlantic Media and Susan Page is Washington bureau chief for “USA Today.”
Susan, I want to start with you because you and I are familiar with history, as is Ron, and I want to talk about the possibility that this president—and I know I‘m not attacking intellectuals because I do appreciate their contribution. But when politicians begin to get a little too intellectual, they lose connection with the American people.
I look at Geithner. I don‘t think he‘s a great political spokesperson. I look at this decision to put the trial up in New York City. I look at releasing a mammogram report that says we can do better with less testing. And I begin to think this administration is getting almost like one that you would imagine Adlai Stevenson running, highly ethereal, highly intellectual, egghead, not connected to real people and their emotional gut feelings about things. Your thoughts.
SUSAN PAGE, “USA TODAY”: Well, you know, I have thought that one possible—there are many strengths to the Obama administration, but they‘ve got an awful lot of people who went to Ivy League schools, which is great, but you also need some people who went to big state colleges. And it seems to me while, you know, Vice President Biden has been the target of some fun, he is maybe the only voice in that inner circle that reflects that kind of big state school mentality, that would say, Hey, wait a minute, we‘d better not do this, and would say, at this point, you know, Health care is great, but what I‘m really hearing from people about is concern about jobs.
I think that—I think it‘s fair to say that—that, you know, your strength is always your weakness and that the great intellectual firepower around the president, the highly educated Ivy Leaguers—you need some other voices there of people who are maybe very connected with folks back home.
MATTHEWS: You know, I wonder whether—to make Susan‘s point, I wonder if people know how much Geithner looks like all the guys on Wall Street. He even wears that same European-cut shirt. He dresses and acts like them. He has the same manner of all those guys with all the money. Not that there‘s anything wrong with it, but they‘re not Democratic.
Number two, the mammogram—to tell women our doctors—our intellectuals have decided, based on data, that you don‘t have to have these tests—everybody‘s been taught since birth, Get tested.
RON BROWNSTEIN, POL. DIR., ATLANTIC MEDIA: Although, in fairness, the administration really backpedaled away from that...
MATTHEWS: Not fast enough.
BROWNSTEIN: ... as fast—as fast—almost as fast as they could. Look, I—Susan said something very profound, your strengths are your weaknesses. One of the reasons people have liked Obama from the beginning, and particularly in his portion of the electorate, is that he seems cool, calm, rational, not just kind of a gut decider. But in fact, there is that kind of reserve and that kind of a step away.
Now, their—their inner circle...
MATTHEWS: It helped him in beating Hillary.
BROWNSTEIN: Absolutely, and—and in beating Obama—I‘m sorry—in beating McCain, by seeming cool when McCain seemed to melt down during the financial crisis.
BROWNSTEIN: Look, the inner circle is not completely devoid of people who have been in kind of the rough and tumble, Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, as you said, Vice President Biden. But there is a lot of that other element.
And, in fact...
MATTHEWS: You mean Sarah Lawrence was the key to this administration?
BROWNSTEIN: Right. No, look, as we talked about before, the modern...
MATTHEWS: Just kidding.
BROWNSTEIN: The modern Democratic coalition—the modern Democratic coalition that Obama not only kind of benefits from, but personifies...
BROWNSTEIN: ... it relies more on those kind of well-educated voter, than blue-collar folks.
MATTHEWS: Do you buy her argument that it is too egghead? I mean, maybe it‘s my argument this week.
BROWNSTEIN: Well, I agree with Susan that your strengths are your weaknesses. There are assets in it.
MATTHEWS: So, you‘re not willing to say it‘s an egghead administration?
BROWNSTEIN: No. I think that it has—it has—it definitely has tendencies in that direction...
BROWNSTEIN: ... but it is not clear that that is really the core of the problem right now.
MATTHEWS: We are going to talk later in the show about political touch. And I want to jump ahead here, because I‘m very proud. I came across this story. I was reading Jack Valenti‘s book. You know him. You knew him, the late Jack Valenti.
And he writes about the amazing political touch of one man, Lyndon Johnson—and we‘re going to talk about this later in the program—where, even in the minutes after he heard that his president was dead, he understood the importance of getting the oath taken, so people could see it taken, the importance of the wire photographers getting the pictures of that, so they could see all around the world that the United States still had a president, the importance of asking Jacqueline Kennedy, at the moment of her worst moment in her life, with the blood all over her, and part of her husband‘s brains all over her, it was important that she be standing next to him, so the American people could see that there wasn‘t some coup going on, that there was in fact a continuation of John F. Kennedy‘s legacy right there.
That kind of magical sense of touch, political touch, seems to be missing with this president right now.
BROWNSTEIN: You know, and yet...
MATTHEWS: Bowing to the emperor of Japan...
MATTHEWS: ... down to below the guy‘s chin, I have never seen a bow that low.
BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I mean...
MATTHEWS: This is out of the movies.
BROWNSTEIN: The Johnson...
MATTHEWS: And I—by the way—look, there he goes.
MATTHEWS: Oh, God, did he have to go that low?
BROWNSTEIN: The Johnson story really tells you something about the presidency. He was a tremendously talented politician in many ways, and he left office virtually repudiated by the country.
MATTHEWS: Right. Because of the war, Vietnam.
BROWNSTEIN: Because of the war, because of what was happening in the cities.
MATTHEWS: That he got stuck with.
BROWNSTEIN: I mean, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a very dangerous neighborhood.
BROWNSTEIN: And, if you stay there, bad things happen.
MATTHEWS: OK. Back to my point.
BROWNSTEIN: Obama—Obama is in—Obama is in a difficult situation in many ways because of conditions, also because of choices that he‘s making, fights that he‘s picked. But, generally speaking, to be—even though today he has fallen under 50 percent approval in Gallup for the first time, he is still a lot higher than, say, Ronald Reagan was at the same level of unemployment. He has the base.
MATTHEWS: OK. Take a look at this poll. He‘s down below—he‘s down below 50...
MATTHEWS: ... which is not the end of the world. And, by the way, good presidents make tough calls.
Let me go back to Susan.
I worry about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He is going to find himself an ACLU lawyer, not that there is anything wrong with that. I may want one. I like the fact we have them, and I like the ACLU. But if he gets himself a good civil liberties lawyer up there in New York, he‘s going to use that as a platform from hell, where he gets to spew his point of view on the Middle East, that kind of thing he will is going to, with the beard and everything. “The New York Post” is going to be reborn with this guy as the enemy.
I just worry that he is going to win this argument for months before he gets executed, if he does get executed, if that ever happens.
PAGE: You know, I...
MATTHEWS: I worry about this trial becoming a show for the bad guys.
PAGE: I do not worry about him having a platform that is—somehow persuades people, that he gets the advantage of that argument.
But a couple things do worry me. I worry about incidents of terrorism that might be associated with this trial. I also think—I was taken aback, I have to say, when the attorney general said—basically guaranteed a conviction. I mean, I guess...
MATTHEWS: Yes, what does that mean?
PAGE: I guess one assumption he makes...
MATTHEWS: We will give him a fair trial before we hang him.
PAGE: I thought that was out of synch with the whole idea of saying, we believe in justice. We‘re going to follow American rules and regulations. We‘re going to give this guy the same rights that we give everybody else.
BROWNSTEIN: You know, the reaction of this strikes me as part of a larger narrative of what has happened in these 10 months.
The polling has been divided almost exactly in half of the country on whether it was appropriate to try him in a civilian court or not. And it really goes to what we‘re seeing in kind of the overall reaction to Obama. The part of the country that was with him is still, I think to a striking extent, still with him, despite 10 percent unemployment.
But big chunks of the country are turning away.
MATTHEWS: Independents are turning away from him.
BROWNSTEIN: Independents, especially right-of-center independents, all those pieces of the electorate that were skeptical of him in ‘08, during the election, but were kind of kicking the tires in the first month of the presidency, they‘re moving back away. The conservative base is reanimated.
And we‘re back, at least in this time, temporarily, in the trench warfare that we saw roughly from ‘94 to 2008.
Ron Brownstein, you are a student of politics at the most drilled-down level, the new phrase, drilling down.
MATTHEWS: Where can you see between now and the holidays a win?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, a win.
MATTHEWS: A win, a W. on this guy‘s score book.
BROWNSTEIN: Well, a big W. is the fact—you mentioned talking about health care. Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, Harry Truman all pursued universal health care. None of them ever got as far as Obama and the Democrats have already gotten. None of them ever got a bill to the floor of either chamber.
MATTHEWS: So, making the playoffs—making the playoffs is...
BROWNSTEIN: No, he needs—when this—when this bill—the next obvious win for him—and who knows what the unemployment numbers are going to look in December. It‘s probably not going to be good news again.
MATTHEWS: Not a win.
BROWNSTEIN: But health—but getting health care through the Senate.
BROWNSTEIN: Excuse—I mean bless you.
Getting health care through the Senate would be an achievement of historic legislative magnitude.
MATTHEWS: Excuse me.
MATTHEWS: It‘s Friday afternoon. And that was a real gesundheit.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Talk about health care.
MATTHEWS: Susan, when is the next win for the president?
PAGE: You know, Afghanistan can‘t be a win, because all the options are bad and are going to create problems with some people. And joblessness is not going to get better for months.
And, so, health care is the one place where Democrats and the White House could really show, we‘re in charge. We can do something.
I think that makes it more likely—that—that cold reality makes it more likely that they will actually be able to get it through.
It‘s great having you both on. Have a nice weekend...
BROWNSTEIN: You, too...
MATTHEWS: ... Ron Brownstein and Susan Page.
Up next: So, why couldn‘t Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a very
smart fellow, just answer my simple question? I asked him if he thought
Sarah Palin was qualified to be president of the United States, and he said
· well, he asked—we asked him about presidency, and he wouldn‘t answer.
I asked him four times.
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”
First up, here‘s the verdict from the Senate Ethics Committee on the circumstances involved in Rod Blagojevich‘s appointment of Senator Roland Burris to replace Barack Obama of Illinois. This afternoon, the Ethics Committee put out a public letter of admonition, saying the Illinois senator provided incorrect, inconsistent, misleading, or incomplete information to the public about his appointment.
The committee says the senator‘s actions and statements reflected—quote—“unfavorably upon the Senate of the United States.”
So, did Burris make a deal to raise funds for then Governor Blagojevich in return for getting his appointment to the Senate seat? The committee said that a November 2008 phone conversation Burris had with the governor‘s brother, Robert Blagojevich—quote—“while not rising to the level of an explicit quid pro quo in that regard, was inappropriate.”
The committee admonished Burris for talking to Blagojevich‘s brother about raising money for the governor and then in that same phone conversation saying he wanted to be appointed to the Senate. It also noted his failure to admit having had that conversation when asked about it by the Illinois House impeachment committee. Burris said today he is pleased the matter has finally come to a close.
He has hardly been cleared.
Next: the always of unintended consequences. Amid a bruising battle on the health care front, does the president‘s next big goal, cap and trade, have a chance? Not so much, says freshman Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri—quote—“After you do one really, really big, really, really hard thing that makes everybody mad, I don‘t think anybody‘s excited about doing another really, really big thing that‘s really, really hard that makes everybody mad. Climate fits that category.”
Well, Missouri is one hard state to represent.
Now for the “Big Number.”
For those of you who missed last night‘s HARDBALL, I asked Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, who is head of the Republican Governors, what I think is a simple question: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be president of these United States? Qualified, that‘s all. Check out how many times in how many ways Governor Barbour dodged giving a straight answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Is she qualified to be president?
GOV. HALEY BARBOUR ®, MISSISSIPPI: Well, constitutionally, she sure is.
MATTHEWS: The latest “Washington Post”/ABC poll has it that 60 percent of the people say that she‘s not qualified to be president.
Are you with the 60 percent or with the 38 percent who say she is?
BARBOUR: Well, I have been in the minority a lot in my life. You know, I was...
MATTHEWS: I mean, if I were polling you, if I were polling you on the phone right now, and I called you up on the phone, Governor, and I managed to get through to your mansion down there on—in Jackson, and I managed to get you on the phone, and I said, you‘re just a regular person. Is this woman qualified to be president or not? And you would have to be one of the people who would respond. Or you could hang up on me.
Are you going to hang up on me, Governor?
BARBOUR: I‘m not going to hang up on you.
I don‘t know anything that disqualifies her for being president.
MATTHEWS: Is Governor Palin qualified to be president? And I won‘t ask it again. This is the last time.
BARBOUR: And the last time I answer it would be this. I don‘t know of anything that disqualifies her from being president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. So, there you have it. Four times, I asked Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors, whether Sarah Palin was qualified to be president. Four times, he avoided giving me an answer. Is he afraid he will look stupid saying Palin is qualified to be president someday or afraid if saying so would be used as a TV endorsement of a person he may well be running against for president?
That‘s the possible answer as well. Smart guy, Haley Barbour. There‘s a reason why he didn‘t say she is qualified. And we are going to find that out someday.
Up next: new information about the critical hours following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a day none of us are going to forget who lived through it, and the transfer of power to Lyndon Johnson. We have got the author of the new book “The Kennedy Assassination -- 24 Hours After.” What an amazing book that has come out now, all these—what, 46 years later this Sunday.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MIKE HUCKMAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Mike Huckman with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
And a late-day rally not enough to lift the markets into the green today—the Dow Jones industrials losing 14 points, but up a fraction-of-a-point on the week, the S&P 500 falling 3 ½ today, and the Nasdaq finishing almost 11 points in the red.
Techs taking it on the chin again today, with Dell shares tumbling 10 percent on a weaker-than-expected earnings report.
And shares in software-maker Intuit following 2 percent—or falling 2 percent. The maker of QuickBooks accounting software posted a smaller-than-expected third-quarter loss, but its profit outlook didn‘t live up to Wall Street expectations.
Homebuilders having a rough time today as well—D.R. Horton shares plummeting more than 15 percent on a much-larger-than-expected quarterly loss.
And health care stocks one of the few bright spots today, though, with Merck, Pfizer, and Bristol-Myers Squibb all finishing in positive territory.
That‘s it from CNBC. We‘re first in business worldwide—and now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Forty-six years ago this Sunday, President John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas, Texas. And a new book sheds light on the assassination and the transfer of power to Lyndon Johnson.
With us now, historian Steven Gillon. His new book is called “The Kennedy Assassination -- 24 Hours After.”
Steven, thank you so much to bring this book to our attention.
And I guess, like anybody, I have to ask you, what‘s new? What have you found out here?
STEVEN GILLON, AUTHOR, “THE KENNEDY ASSASSINATION -- 24 HOURS AFTER:
LYNDON B. JOHNSON‘S PIVOTAL FIRST DAY AS PRESIDENT”: Well, there‘s a lot of things are new.
I had access to the papers of William Manchester. As you know, Manchester wrote the bestselling...
GILLON: ... book back in 1967.
And I had access to all the interviews he did with people back in 1964 and 1965. And, also, just through sheer dumb luck, I happened to be at the Kennedy Library on the day that an interview with Brigadier General Godfrey McHugh, who was Kennedy‘s military adviser, was declassified.
In this—in this oral history, McHugh describes a scene that he says he saw on Air Force One, where he found Lyndon Johnson in the bathroom of the presidential bedroom in Air Force One crying hysterically that it was a conspiracy, it‘s a conspiracy.
GILLON: So, there‘s lot of—what‘s interesting for me is...
MATTHEWS: You don‘t believe McHugh, do you?
GILLON: You know, I—I do. I do. But here‘s the thing, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t.
GILLON: I agree...
MATTHEWS: I don‘t because I read a book a couple years ago by Jack Valenti that said he was a screwball that day. He was running around hysterically.
GILLON: He was.
MATTHEWS: He was running around hysterically. And now he tells somebody years later that he was not the one hysterical; the president was.
I believe the president more than I do, because—let‘s go through some of the facts of that day. Who came up with the idea of having the oath administered to the new president so quickly that afternoon?
GILLON: Lyndon Johnson.
MATTHEWS: And who came up with the idea of making sure Jacqueline Kennedy was standing next to him during that picture?
GILLON: Lyndon Johnson, yes.
MATTHEWS: The sense of continuity that he was...
MATTHEWS: ... able to achieve with that picture is historic.
GILLON: No, I agree with you.
MATTHEWS: The idea that anybody claims that that man, who came up with the importance of those decisions and coming back, as he did, with the president‘s body, putting it all together, was historically significant, and some sniveling general, who claims the president was hiding in the toilet, when I have got records showing that the man himself was hysterically running around...
MATTHEWS: ... who never liked Johnson, who apparently was yelling at the time after—in your book, after Kennedy was dead, saying that the president who was dead is still president, because he wasn‘t aware, according to your book, of the order of succession.
He didn‘t know, when a president was dead, the vice president became president. And you‘re trusting him as a source, when he didn‘t even know the most basic fact of that day, that Lyndon Johnson had become president?
GILLON: Well, I think—first of all, everything you say about Lyndon Johnson is right. And I came...
MATTHEWS: Well, why would you trust a general who doesn‘t know—I mean, everybody watching this show, every single person knows if a president is killed, that instant, the vice president becomes president. And your source here didn‘t know that that day...
GILLON: Well, you know what...
MATTHEWS: ... according to your book.
GILLON: Right, but...
MATTHEWS: According to your book. And yet you trust him as a source about a president hiding in a toilet, crying, that nobody else saw. Go ahead.
GILLON: OK. Well, first of all, there‘s a lot of reasons to doubt McHugh‘s story, and I think you point out many of them. He hated Lyndon Johnson. And he—McHugh himself was historical that day. But everything else...
MATTHEWS: He hated him, and he was hysterical that day...
MATTHEWS: ... and yet you put in your book direct quotes from this guy, that some people, like Johnson‘s enemies...
MATTHEWS: ... will write and say, Well, that really happened.
MATTHEWS: That‘s the trouble with oral history, sir.
MATTHEWS: If you‘re an historian, you have to check the facts and you have to make a judgment...
MATTHEWS: ... about whether when somebody says something, it‘s true or not. It‘s not journalism, at this point. Nobody wants 46-year-later journalism. They want history.
MATTHEWS: I think.
GILLON: I think one of the things I do is—you know, in the book, is I point out—I lay out the evidence for and against what McHugh said. And in the book, what I say is that we‘ll never know for sure. We will never know for sure whether an encounter that took place 46 years ago between two men, both of whom are now dead, actually took place.
But everything in McHugh‘s oral history that can be checked against the facts turns out to be true, number one. Number two, we know that McHugh got on the plane. He was looking for Lyndon Johnson. He‘s running up and down the aisle. We know that Lyndon Johnson was in the bedroom, the presidential bedroom, and that he was alone for a period of time.
Can I prove that what McHugh says is true actually happened? No. But I think, given the evidence, given the fact that he was there, that it‘s very likely that he had this encounter, and the fact that you have to look at who he tells the story to. You know, he tells it to investigators at the House Select Committee on Assassinations. He tells it to an oral history...
MATTHEWS: Well, that was a crowd with...
GILLON: ... at the Kennedy Library...
MATTHEWS: That was a crowd with a—that was a crowd with a lot of credibility.
GILLON: Well, I think—McHugh was really trying...
MATTHEWS: Those were the guys who said that—those are the guys who said there was somebody hanging around the—where were they saying there was another shooter?
GILLON: Right. Well, they said that the audiotape said that there were four shots or five shots, when, in fact...
MATTHEWS: Yes, they were the guys...
GILLON: ... it‘s unlikely that happened.
MATTHEWS: ... who claimed there was another shooter.
MATTHEWS: So you‘re using them as your source...
GILLON: Here‘s the point, Chris. I think...
MATTHEWS: The “grassy knoll” types, we call them.
GILLON: I know, but...
MATTHEWS: And I wouldn‘t use them as a basis for credibility...
GILLON: But here‘s the...
MATTHEWS: ... for any account, would you?
GILLON: But here‘s what I come down to...
MATTHEWS: Do you believe in the grassy knoll theory?
GILLON: No, no. I don‘t. No. But here‘s...
MATTHEWS: OK, but you‘re using them as your source.
GILLON: No, I‘m not. I...
MATTHEWS: I don‘t get this. Let me ask about McHugh.
GILLON: This is a brigadier general.
MATTHEWS: No, let‘s get back to the history here.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s get back to something—I know something about history. Johnson—forget all this claims and hysterics by a person who was claimed—who was known to be hysterical at the time and he didn‘t even understand the Constitution. Johnson understood history. He saw what had happened with Lincoln, and that memory must have flashed in his mind that very hour. Lincoln was the victim of a conspiracy by people who were diehards in the Civil War. And Johnson had every reason to believe that they were after more than one person because that was the case with the Lincoln assassination, right? He wasn‘t in rational thought at the time.
GILLON: No, but here‘s the thing. I think Johnson overall is masterful. I think he‘s brilliant in the way he handles the crisis. This is the most violent, sudden transfer of political power in American history. And I think Lyndon Johnson is brilliant. And even if what McHugh says is true, except for—even you accept that it‘s true, it doesn‘t bleed in. It doesn‘t impact the overall view of the way Johnson handled that situation.
So he had a private moment. So he was hysterical in the bathroom of the presidential airplane. It doesn‘t—it did not impact any decisions he made that day.
GILLON: And every step along the way, what Lyndon Johnson understood more than anyone else was it was important to emphasize the theme of continuity, and he does that brilliantly.
GILLON: He does it by choreographing...
GILLON: ... that picture. He does it by meeting with congressional leaders that night. He does it the next day. You know, he has these meetings with all the Kennedy people...
GILLON: ... and they go in thinking they‘re having a private meeting with Johnson. There was photographers there.
GILLON: He understood more than anyone else...
MATTHEWS: Yes, you know what the problem is?
MATTHEWS: ... and I got people like Evelyn Lincoln I don‘t believe,
MATTHEWS: They‘re people that just have an hysterical view of history. They‘re not to be believed. And that‘s why I like the rule of Bob Woodward...
GILLON: What‘s the Bob Woodward rule?
MATTHEWS: Two sources. Two sources.
MATTHEWS: And then you believe it.
GILLON: Right. But here‘s what...
MATTHEWS: And you went with one source here and it doesn‘t fit with the rest of your book. But good luck. I‘m going to read every page of it. I‘ll get back to you. I love this topic. I love the work you did on this.
I just don‘t believe this General McHugh.
GILLON: Fair enough.
MATTHEWS: I just don‘t believe him.
GILLON: Fair enough.
MATTHEWS: I think he was a nut case that day, and I don‘t believe nut cases when they call somebody else a nut. Anyway, thank you...
GILLON: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... for coming on the show, Steve Gillon. The name of the book is “The Kennedy Assassination 24 Hours Later.” Read the book, make your own judgments.
MATTHEWS: And check some other books, like Jack Valenti‘s book.
That‘s another book to read about this. He wrote about that moment, too.
And you can catch our documentary on “The Kennedy Brothers” this
Sunday. Please watch. We put a lot of work into this, the producers and
I. This Sunday at noon on Eastern time—noon on MSNBC. Catch it after church on Sunday morning. Come back and watch “The Kennedy Brothers” at noon.
Up next: Sarah Palin responds to the poll showing that 60 percent of Americans don‘t think she‘s qualified to be president. Let‘s see her reaction to that. That‘s ahead in “The Fix.”
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back now with the “Politics Fix” with Charles Blow, the visual op-ed columnist for “The New York Times,” and Anne Kornbluth of “The Washington Post.”
Charles, you first. What did you make—I hope you saw early in the show, we had Governor Haley Barbour, who is the chairman of the Republican Governors and I think a very shrewd politician—I‘m setting him up, of course, by saying in his shrewdness, he passed four opportunities last night to say that he thought that Governor Palin, formerly of Alaska, is qualified to be president.
Now, here‘s Governor Palin just to start the show—David Brody (ph) of the Christian Broadcasting Network asked Governor Palin just now about a poll showing that 60 percent of Americans saying she‘s not qualified to be president. Here‘s how she responded. And then you respond, Charles.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I think, well, if I read and believed everything that‘s been written about me, too, I‘d say the same thing. That‘s why I want people to read my book so they can read unfiltered what my values are, what my record is, what my accomplishments are as mayor, as a city manager, as a governor, as an oil regulator. People need to know how I have been able to walk the walk, not just talk the talk as a politician, saying what I want to do and what kind of change I want to provide in order to effect new policy, see what I‘ve already done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Charles, you ever wonder what it‘s like to be somebody who‘s famous enough to have a ghost writer and to go read the book that‘s supposedly written by you for the first time? That must be quite an experience to be Governor Palin, to have recently read a book that somebody wrote with her name on the cover.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, your thoughts about this—this thing of 60 percent of the people saying she‘s not qualified, and Haley Barbour, basically, the leader of her party right now, saying—he‘s not willing to say she is, either.
CHARLES BLOW, “NEW YORK TIMES”: Sixty percent, and they‘re right.
And Haley Barbour, you know, is a shrewd guy. He‘s a Southern politician. I‘m from the South. He doesn‘t want to be caught out saying something that he will regret later.
People are wise enough to know that—that Governor Palin‘s experiences do not make her qualified to be president of the United States. It‘s just a fact. She‘s an impressive woman in many ways. I think that she‘s a fighter, but she‘s not a strategist. You know, she hasn‘t thought strategically about kind of slamming people in this book. She hasn‘t thought strategically about how that plays out if you want to run for office later on. She hasn‘t thought strategically about, you know, kind of making herself available in the right ways to the right people. She could actually deal—she could use a handler right now. I think that a lot of what she‘s saying is not actually helping her out very much.
So I think Haley Barbour is right to kind of dodge your question. He doesn‘t want to be a Republican governor saying, you know, that Sarah Palin is not qualified, but he knows that she‘s not.
MATTHEWS: Anne, you‘re out there. What do you make of her holding the baby up and all that stuff? You watching those pictures?
ANNE KORNBLUTH, “WASHINGTON POST”: It‘s really something. I mean, it makes me wonder, on the Haley Barbour question, if there‘s going to be some kind of Palin litmus test for all of these guys who are running or any Republican. We kind of had it during the 2008 campaign. You know, what did they think of her? Was there a point when they were going to break with her? We saw all those Republican women at a certain point start turning on her, Peggy Noonan and others. But now you have to wonder, you know, is this going to the question when everybody comes on here and goes on “Meet the Press,” What do you think of Sarah Palin? Is that going to the question they‘re going to have to answer?
MATTHEWS: Remember when George H. Walker Bush, the first President Bush, put in his diary, I made a big mistake picking Quayle...
KORNBLUTH: Oh, yes!
MATTHEWS: ... but I can‘t admit it? Is this going to be a moment we‘re going to see in the next couple of weeks where McCain says—or we find out that McCain says, I blew it? Charles?
BLOW: Well, I think—I mean, he intimates all the time he that blew it. I mean, he‘s trying to be nice to her and he says nice things about her, but you know, he was forced to come out and defend the campaign staff because, you know, Palin continues to slam them.
But I think that McCain realizes that it was a gamble, it was a political gamble. He wanted to win. This was a way to shake things up. It shook things up for a little while. They actually—you know, they surged in the polls a little bit. And until the economic crisis came along, they were doing very well. And in fact, you know, if you had followed that trajectory, they may well have won.
MATTHEWS: You are very, very hopeful here about that potential.
MATTHEWS: I‘m going to put that down. I mean, Haley Barbour was more careful than you are!
BLOW: You can write that down.
MATTHEWS: That Hail Mary pass could have been completed in the end zone!
BLOW: If you go...
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back with Charles Blow and Anne Kornbluth. More coming back. We‘re going to talk about the president of the United States when we come back and his difficult time right now.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back with Charles Blow of “The New York Times” and Anne Kornbluth of “The Washington Post.” Well, you two establishment figures, would you please both tell me why has Barack Obama, a man who ran as an outsider, gotten so much tied in with the establishment? Tim Geithner, New York trials—everything seems to be big-city and intellectual, even this report on women‘s health that comes out as some scientific medicine that sort of suggests the math says you don‘t need to be tested for breast cancer, and every woman says, Wait a minute, I want to be tested.
He doesn‘t seem to be connecting with the real life of the country, Charles.
BLOW: Well, I think, in many ways, that‘s true. I think that the Obama—you know, it appears to me, you know, and I‘m an outside observer myself—it appears to me that, you know, they wanted to start a lot of things and have them all kind of finish up right before 2010. I mean, none of the initiatives, or very few of them, do they get started and finished before something else begins. So you get this impression that they have something cooked up that none of us know about, that they have a timetable working that we don‘t see. All we see is start of something, start of something else, start of something else, and nothing comes to completion.
That‘s a problem for the general public, and as you say, it‘s a problem of connecting with people because, you know, in my household, you start one thing, you finish that project before you move on to fixing the windows. And so you know, people—the general public doesn‘t connect to this long-term historical strategy, where, you know, in the end of the four years, we‘ll have the accomplishments, even if they don‘t come in a way that people can keep track and kind of root for them and see them come to fruition.
And that‘s a problem for the administration, I think, particularly going into this mid-term election, you know, next year, and even before that. I think the tide and political opinion is turning against him mostly because people cannot connect with the idea that things are getting done that they think should get done.
KORNBLUTH: Yes. I agree. I mean, I‘m a reporter, so I know all about pushing deadline, but it seems like that‘s kind of his MO now, too, is to set a deadline and actually not make it. I mean, health care, remember, it was going to happen by August. Guantanamo is now definitely not going to close by January. We‘ll see when the Afghanistan decision gets made. But I think this idea of just getting something finished is one of his big challenges (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: How about these trials? They‘ll go on and on, won‘t they?
KORNBLUTH: Well, yes. We‘ll see when Khalid Shaikh Mohammed actually gets moved to New York, but they will be—we‘ll be talking about them a lot here, I think.
MATTHEWS: You know, my late mother-in-law, a wonderful woman, said when she met me the first time, Charles, He‘s not the kind of guy to get up Saturday morning and look for things to fix in the house.
MATTHEWS: Did you get that kind of advance reading?
MATTHEWS: I‘ll just leave you on that thought. Charles Blow of “The New York Times,” Anne Kornbluth of “The Washington Post,” two establishmentarians.
Well, anyway, join us again Monday 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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