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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Matt Nesto, Jim Cramer, Chris Cillizza, April Ryan, Thomas Friedman, Mayor Ed Powlowski, John Feehery, Steve McMahon

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The unemployment office, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight:

The president pitches for jobs.  Afghanistan is life and death.  Health care certainly can be, too.  But politically, the issue that could be make or break for the presidency of Barack Obama in an election is the economy, specifically, that killer 10.2 percent jobless rate out there right now.

So today 130 corporate executives, economists and union leaders gathered at the White House to talk about jobs.  Could today be more than a PR stunt, or could what was said at the White House today, this December 3rd, spark the start of something really good?

Plus, those White House gate crashers.  Today the president refused to let his people testify before Congress on that matter.  Why did he do that?

Also, is the president right about Afghanistan?  Is it smart to send 30,000 more troops over there?  Pulitzer Prize-winning “New York Times” columnist Tom Friedman says, No, it‘s not the right thing do.  He joins us later.

Plus, farewell to arms.  For the first time in more than 40 years, Americans are saying we should mind our business and let the rest of the world take care of itself.  That‘s a big development.

And finally, which prominent Republican senator now says he wishes he‘d been the one to rudely interrupt the president during his speech to Congress by yelling “You Lie”?  Crass leads to crass in tonight‘s HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

Let‘s start, however, with the big story, today‘s jobs summit at the White House and what good might come of it.  Jim Cramer‘s the host of “Mad Money” on CNBC.  Put on your positive beanie, James...


MATTHEWS:  ... and say what good could come out of this meeting with all these big corporate big shots today, and labor leaders?

CRAMER:  Well, first, I have to tell you, it‘s great that he‘s even speaking to business leaders.  This is something that‘s been absent in this administration.  Second, he‘s got an unbelievable chance right now, wave the magic wand.  Bank of America is giving the government back a check for $40 billion.  All the other banks will be doing it soon.  Chris, just say every dollar back from TARP goes to new jobs in infrastructure!

MATTHEWS:  Well...

CRAMER:  Got to do it.

MATTHEWS:  ... how‘s that going to happen?  Is that money that‘s—you‘re recommending that?

CRAMER:  I‘m saying it‘s—he can use his power to say, You know what?  I‘m getting a check from Bank of America.  And that money which we lent to that company to save it is now going to be given to you, the jobless, to go to work.  And we‘re going to do it by bridges and tunnels and sewers.  That‘s what those business people all said today because they know those jobs that are created that way also breed other jobs—equipment jobs, U.S. jobs, high-paying jobs.  That‘s what those business people were telling him.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that would be good PR, as well, because the people see cranes operating and they see roads being built and bridges being built.  We‘re going to have the mayor of Allentown on in a minute.  I‘m going to ask him how many bridges does he have below code right now?  How many roads would he like to fix?  Seriously, that‘s the serious problem here...

CRAMER:  No...

MATTHEWS:  ... and I think...


CRAMER:  ... right into Allentown!


CRAMER:  They got to fix it!

MATTHEWS:  OK.  What else would you do besides move the money that‘s coming back from TARP back to the federal treasury and put it into job construction out on the roads and the highways and the bridges?  You‘d do that.  What else would you do coming out today?

CRAMER:  OK.  Absolutely.  Now, he is—he didn‘t go far enough.  He talked about caulking, that we need to save energy.  He‘s not talking—and then he said that‘s going to give us energy independence.  We have natural gas, so much natural gas that we could provide China.  They have a natural gas shortage.  We are excess.

The only jobs that are being created in this country in size by the private sector are in natural gas, in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.  If he said, You know what?  I think our federal vehicles should have a mandate to run on natural gas, we could create hundreds of thousands of—hundreds of thousands of jobs in the next two years!

MATTHEWS:  So we have—the buses down here in D.C. operate on gas, a lot of them.  You see it on the signs.  Is that something that can be actually done?  You can shift from gasoline to gas?

CRAMER:  Argentina...

MATTHEWS:  And make jobs out of that?

CRAMER:  Argentina did it in a very short period of time.  Denmark did it in a very short period of time.  It doesn‘t even take will because we have so much natural gas in this country, it would save every single driver money.  Who doesn‘t want to do that?

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Construction jobs, bridges, roads, gas-powered buses and cars.

CRAMER:  Trucks.

MATTHEWS:  Third goal—third thing you want to do, Jim Cramer.

CRAMER:  OK, I need clarity.  We can‘t start creating jobs until we start putting jobs in the agenda in Congress.  The president needs to say, You know what?  I care tremendously about cap-and-trade.  I really do.  But you know what?  We‘re not going to get to that until we create enough jobs in America that we can then start worrying about the cleaner environment.  He‘s got to change the timeframe of the agenda!  The clock is going wrong! 

He‘s got worse clock management than all those bad NFL coach!

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about all the arguments we hear from Al Gore and others that green is good, green is good for jobs?  There are green jobs...

CRAMER:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re turning your head.

CRAMER:  If you want to create jobs in this country, rather than have the major executives of this country decide, You know, what?  I‘m going to put my jobs in China and Russia and Brazil, you got to make it feel more hospitable to business.  I think—we have CEOs on “Mad Money” all the time.  You know what they say in the Green Room?  They say, You know what?  We‘d love to hire here, but it‘s so much better to hire over there because you don‘t have to worry...

MATTHEWS:  Why, because you can...

CRAMER:  ... about a lot of stuff.

MATTHEWS:  ... do dirty—you can make more pollution over there or more CO2 emissions or what? (INAUDIBLE) for the world?

CRAMER:  More clarity.  They have more clarity about what‘s going to happen in every other country other than this.  A lot of the people I speak to, the CEOs, are very worried about Congress.  They‘re much less worried about Obama, by the way.  They‘re worried about Congress.  They‘re worried about...


CRAMER:  ... what crazy thing Congress can come up with that‘ll make it so that they should have put that job in Brazil, which is like...


CRAMER:  ... what the United States used to be in the ‘50s!

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go back to what happened just today.  The president met with a lot of business and labor leaders today.  Did you hear anything during the course of monitoring what happened today that might be a spark to job creation?

CRAMER:  Yes, I did.  Look, first of all, I want to tell you it was much more substantive than I thought because there were real business guys.  You know, when you have Randall Stephenson, who runs AT&T—he‘s a really, really good businessman—when he‘s talking about what needs to be done with infrastructure, when you have some of these smaller guys who are saying, Look, if you would just give us a little bit less regulation or say that there are not more regulations, we‘ll do hiring—I heard a president who actually listened to CEOs, like a Dan DiMicco, the guy who runs the best steel company in the country, basically saying, Look, we have excess steel.  Please do something with our bridges.  I think it got through to the president.


CRAMER:  Now he‘s got to get it through to Congress, and that is something I don‘t think he can do.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me go right now to the numbers, and I want you to tell me—you‘re good at numbers.  Here we got a 10.2 percent unemployment rate.  Allentown‘s got a number almost as high.  We‘ve got 17.5 percent, if you count the people that are out of...

CRAMER:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... out of full-time employment or have given up.  You‘ve got a minority unemployment rate of about 15.7 percent among African-Americans, about 13-something among Hispanic or Latino.  So you‘ve got higher numbers among poor people, obviously.  Is anything going to change in the next year, Jim?

CRAMER:  Yes.  I would say yes.  I think the rest of the world‘s economy is so strong that we will be pulled up by it.  I‘d like us to be the locomotive.  We‘re clearly the caboose.  I think for some of the issues that you mention in terms of minorities, the president raised some good points with a lot of the business leaders about community education.  I don‘t think that is one of those pie-in-the-sky things.  Community colleges can put people to work by having people go to work at night, learn skills.  You know, that is not touchy-feely with me these days.  I think it made sense and I‘m glad the president heard it.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think the purchase of 51 percent of NBC by Comcast in Philly, where we‘re both from, is going to do for the economy, for everyone?  What do you think the impact‘s going to be?

CRAMER:  Oh, Doctor!


CRAMER:  OK.  I spoke to Brian Roberts, the Roberts family.  I‘ve known them for years...

MATTHEWS:  I have to tell you, it‘s a news story.


CRAMER:  I spoke to—I know the Roberts family for years.  I think that the Roberts family is about domination and competition.  In order to dominate and compete against other colossal family networks, including, say, Fox, they will have to have more jobs, better jobs, but it will be more and better jobs for Philadelphia, I believe, not New York.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  That‘s not bad news for us.

CRAMER:  No, it isn‘t.

MATTHEWS:  Hold on there.  I want you to stick there.  We have a mayor from a nearby town, from the famous town of Allentown, Pennsylvania, Ed Powlowski, a pal of mine.  Thank you, Mayor, for coming on tonight.


MATTHEWS:  You‘ve got an unemployment rate—I‘ve just been checking the numbers.  You‘re a little bit below the unemployment in the nation.  You‘re a little better off in Allentown than the rest of the country.  The president‘s coming there tomorrow.  What goodies is he bringing?  Is he going to bring you something?

POWLOWSKI:  Well, I don‘t think that he‘ll bring us anything, Chris, but you know, he‘s going to—he‘s coming in to listen.  He‘s coming here to listen to people, talk to everyday, average people, talk to businesses that are actually succeeding in this marketplace and really find out kind of—kind of what he did today, really have a listening tour, you know, finding out exactly how people are handling this particular economy.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think anybody in government is doing a good job right now, besides you, the mayor?


MATTHEWS:  In other words, the question that Jim Cramer and I keep asking is—I know that the president did a good job of helping mayors out meet some of their debts.  Every mayor was running into big trouble just meeting their payroll during this recession.  But you don‘t see the cranes operating.  You don‘t see the shovels operating.  You don‘t see the road crews and the bridges.  You don‘t smell construction going on.  It doesn‘t feel like that this stimulus package has a reality to it.  Is that—is that a problem with the way this money‘s being spent?

POWLOWSKI:  Well, you know, I mean, I think there is an issue there. 

But you know, I think what‘s happening...

MATTHEWS:  Well, what is it?  Explain that issue.


MATTHEWS:  Because most people want to see the stimulus because it‘s supposed to look like something.

POWLOWSKI:  Well, yes.  I mean, think the stimulus is hitting the ground.  There‘s no doubt about it.  I mean, you know, the—the money that he‘s putting out, we‘re seeing it here in Allentown.  We‘re starting projects.

What has happened, Chris, is something that I think we have talked about for a long time as mayors across the country.  We would like to see some of that money come more directly to municipalities.  A lot of it has flowed through the states.  That money helps stabilize a lot of the state economies that were having some very difficult, difficult issues balancing their own budgets since last year.  But that really, as you just pointed out, is not getting people, you know, working on the ground.  The money that has come...

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) Let me ask you this.  How many bridges do you have below code in Allentown?  How many would you like to get working on right now?  How much of a backup do you have in public works that you‘ve got approval for but you don‘t have the money for?

POWLOWSKI:  We have lots.  We have lots.  And we made that clear to him, that this is something that‘s really critical, I think, for mayors across the country.  You know, just a little town like Allentown, you know, a mid-sized city, we‘ve probably got a half a billion to a billion dollars worth of infrastructure projects that we could start addressing fairly rapidly if we had the funds.

MATTHEWS:  Shovel-ready.

POWLOWSKI:  For the most part, yes, shovel-ready.


POWLOWSKI:  And I mean, “shovel-ready” is a relative term when you‘re talking about bridges, Chris, as you know, being from Pennsylvania, and...

MATTHEWS:  Well, how about...


POWLOWSKI:  ... the Department of Transportation...

MATTHEWS:  How about could use some work?  How about a little rattling when people—the school bus crosses it?

POWLOWSKI:  I think we have all those projects, all those projects.


POWLOWSKI:  But you know, I think one of the things that—that I‘m really impressed the president, and Jim Cramer talked about it, was the fact that he‘s listening.  He‘s listening to people.  He‘s listening to mayors.  He‘s listening to CEOs.  He‘s coming to Allentown.  He‘s going to listen to ordinary folks.

We have not seen it, I don‘t think, in a very, very long time from a president and leader of this country, coming out and talking to people, trying to understand what the—what they‘re feeling in this economy and how to address this.  We came up with a lot of good ideas.


POWLOWSKI:  I was in is a small group session today with Secretary Geithner.  We talked about small business development.  We talked about the need for freeing up those capital markets to get capital flowing within the community.  And he—he listened.  You know, he listened.  We took the ideas.  I‘m very hopeful that this is going to lead to some really good programs that are going to stimulate this economy...


POWLOWSKI:  ... and work its way down to the local level.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Ed Powlowski, and thank you, as always, Jim Cramer.  Jim‘s new book is called “Getting Back to Even.”  That‘s—a lot of people say they just want it back.  They want what they had.


MATTHEWS:  You know what everybody wants.  They want that 401 they had a few years ago.  Thank you, sir, Jim Cramer...

CRAMER:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  ... from Philadelphia.  And thank you, Ed Powlowski, the great mayor...

POWLOWSKI:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  ... of the city of Allentown, home of “The Allentown Call,” one of the great papers.  Anyway, thank you.  Watch “Mad Money” weeknights at 6:00 and 11:00 on CNBC.

Coming up: What‘s the fight between Republicans and Democrats all about?  There are so many fights (INAUDIBLE) fight in a minute about the party crashers, whose fault is it, whether this jobs summit was just PR, and whether Democrats are opposing the war in Afghanistan the president‘s pushing now and Republicans are his new best friends.  This is so interesting, what‘s going on in politics tonight.  Let‘s bring it up when we have our strategists go at each other.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  White House crashers, today‘s job summit, the big push in Afghanistan—how the Democrats and Republicans disagree on this.  Let‘s bring in the strategists to find out, Democrat Steve McMahon and Republican John Feehery.

You know, John, let me get this straight.  What do you think of what happened with those crashers coming to the White House?  Was that an example of problem or no problem?  Two people walk in, sashay in, look great but have no right to be there, and nobody really takes blame until they stick to it the Secret Service.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  The problem was how the White House handled it after it happened.  The fact of the matter is that they—

Gibbs tried to kind of nonchalant it, and then threw the Secret Service under the bus.  And then it was a story that didn‘t need to be a story.  From a press perspective—the old the press secretary in me—they just bungled this whole thing, and now it‘s a huge story when it didn‘t have to be.

And I—you know, I just think that when have you the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, who should be a huge ally of the president, trying to subpoena the White House...

MATTHEWS:  Why are you being so wimpish on this?  I mean, the real problem—you thought—your thought.



MATTHEWS:  Play defense now.

MCMAHON:  The Republican strategist has a little bit right.


MCMAHON:  I think—I think the White House has bungled this, but I think they‘ve gone a long way toward correcting it today.  Jim Messina put out a memo that said, In the future—in the future, and probably in the past, a White House staffer will be and should have been with the Secret Service at a table inside the White House.  So the important...

MATTHEWS:  You mean the White House should guard the White House.

MCMAHON:  Yes, the important point here is that the...

MATTHEWS:  Original idea!

MCMAHON:  Hold on a second because there are two pieces to this.  The first piece is, was the—was—were the people put through a proper security procedure?  And anybody who‘s gone into the White House goes through those gates, goes through the metal detectors, goes through security.  The president was never in any danger.  The...

MATTHEWS:  Why wasn‘t he?

MCMAHON:  Because the Secret Service put them through the—you know, you walk through that gate and you walk through the metal detectors and the magnetometers and...

MATTHEWS:  You never saw “Line of Fire,” did you.

MCMAHON:  Well, no, but hold on a second...

MATTHEWS:  You never saw “Line of Fire,” the movie, did you?

MCMAHON:  He‘s in no more danger, Chris, than he would have been...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me tell you...

MCMAHON:  ... at a town hall meeting anywhere in the country...


MATTHEWS:  Every table at the White House is set with knives.  There‘s lot a of things that can happen in these events.  Your thought?  Let me tell you where you‘re wrong.


MATTHEWS:  A couple of people walked into the White House who had no right to be there and nobody did anything about it for hours.  For hours.

FEEHERY:  Well, yes, I...


MATTHEWS:  They let these people who are total strangers walk up to the president, shake his hand, hang all over Joe Biden, the vice president, hang all over the chief of staff, all over the place.  Everybody‘s acting like...


MATTHEWS:  Total incompetence.

FEEHERY:  You‘re right, Chris, absolute incompetence.  And it has...


FEEHERY:  And it‘s not just...


MATTHEWS:  But it‘s over with because now there‘s going to be somebody at the door...


MATTHEWS:  ... said there‘s going to be somebody at the door and—well, here‘s my question.  Three Secret Service guys were thrown under the bus, administrative leave, right?

MCMAHON:  That was wrong.  That was wrong.

FEEHERY:  That‘s absolutely wrong!

MATTHEWS:  How come they get thrown under the bus and nobody at the White House pays a price?

FEEHERY:  They should pay the price.  It‘s absolutely wrong.


FEEHERY:  Throwing the Social Security (SIC) under the bus is absolutely the wrong strategy.

MATTHEWS:  It just reminds me of Pelosi blaming the CIA.


MATTHEWS:  When in doubt, blame the guys below the line.


MCMAHON:  They should have put the memo out the first day, and it would have been a one-day story.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.  Let‘s get some—you guys agree.  Republicans attacking the White House, White House defended by Democrats.  Fairly enough, the normal sort of sequence around here.


MATTHEWS:  This job summit, a PR stunt or reality, John Feehery?

FEEHERY:  Complete PR stunt.

MATTHEWS:  What do you say?

MCMAHON:  Total reality.


MATTHEWS:  What good came out of it today?

MCMAHON:  Well, listen, I mean...

MATTHEWS:  Give me an example.

MCMAHON:  We don‘t know because it just happened.


MATTHEWS:  But something good came out of it?


MATTHEWS:  What could come out of it that‘s good?

MCMAHON:  Well, I mean, I—you know...


MATTHEWS:  Come on, give me a verb!

MCMAHON:  Here‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Give me a verb, Senator!

MCMAHON:  Here‘s what—here‘s what—here‘s what is good.  There were a lot of CEOs there.  Labor was there.  There were a lot of ideas exchanged.  Hopefully, some of those ideas are going to lead to job creation.

MATTHEWS:  Hopefully?  What makes you think they will?

MCMAHON:  And what is important is...

MATTHEWS:  What makes you think they will?

MCMAHON:  Well, you know...


MATTHEWS:  OK, you run—you run a company, right?  You go meet the president.  You run a small business, right?

MCMAHON:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  If you went to see the president and he said, Hire more people, what would you say?

MCMAHON:  I would say we need to have—you know, we need to have...


MATTHEWS:  ... jobs summit?

FEEHERY:  Cut my taxes!


FEEHERY:  Get the feds off my butt!

MATTHEWS:  You know what Cramer said?  A little less deregulation, less environmental, give us a break.


MATTHEWS:  ... tort reform.  You always say that.

FEEHERY:  Well, that‘s because they need tort reform.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask—so basically, you say something got done, but you can‘t find a verb for it.

MCMAHON:  No, no, no.  No, no, no.  Here‘s what—here‘s what—here‘s what gets done.  People in America are wondering, with all the things...

MATTHEWS:  Three hundred and twenty people came to the White House.  They presumably got a meal thrown at them.  They enjoyed—had a drink or two, probably a Coke or something...

FEEHERY:  Maybe more than that. 


MATTHEWS:  Yes.  But then they had a lot of time with the president, face time, which is very valuable in the world.  But do we have evidence that this will spark some move in the private sector to find a creative way to move the economy forward? 

MCMAHON:  There‘s a lot of stimulus money out there.  The idea today was for the president to talk to these business leaders and understand better, what are the—what are the impediments to creating jobs in this country and what can the government do to help?

I think the important thing is symbolic.  The American people have been wondering, with all these important issues being addressed, what‘s going on with job creation in the country?




FEEHERY:  This has more to do with CYA than it had with the GDP. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I think it might be buck-passing to the private sector, saying, it‘s not my job; it‘s your create jobs.

Did he do that today?

MCMAHON:  Well, it is the private sector‘s...


MCMAHON:  The private sector creates the most jobs.  The government can help a while, but it‘s ultimately...


MATTHEWS:  What do you think of Cramer‘s idea, why we don‘t take some of this stimulus money, this TARP money that is coming back and spend it on bridge-building and road repair and bridge repair and actual construction spending?

FEEHERY:  Well, isn‘t that what the stimulus was supposed to be about? 

MATTHEWS:  It didn‘t do it?

FEEHERY:  Well, wasn‘t what the...


MCMAHON:  By the way, by the way, the stimulus did do it.  It created as many as 1.6 million jobs...

FEEHERY:  Oh, come on. 

MCMAHON:  ... according to the GAO report. 

Now, we can all say that the CBO report...

MATTHEWS:  I think that was called saved jobs.

FEEHERY:  Saved jobs.  Come on. 

MCMAHON:  But guess what?  Guess what.  We trust the CBO when the CBO says it‘s going to a trillion, $1.2 trillion on the health care...

MATTHEWS:  You going to believe you or your lying eyes? 


MATTHEWS:  Where do you see all this construction going on? 

MCMAHON:  It is going on everywhere, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t see it anywhere. 

MCMAHON:  It is going on everywhere.

MATTHEWS:  Do you see it anywhere?  I don‘t see it anywhere. 

FEEHERY:  I see some, but not enough. 

MATTHEWS:  I want to see the big signs:  This is a stimulus job construction project.  This is a bunch of guys not just holding signs saying go slow. 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about the war, because we got a fliperoo going on here.

Your side is hawkish.  When the president of the United States, who is Democrat, calls for 30,000 more troops to go to Afghanistan, and gets the support, grudging support, of John McCain, the guy he beat last year, who was more hawkish than him last year, and the neocons like Robert Kagan and all these guys are coming out of nowhere saying they like him now, that‘s a little scary, if you are a Democrat.  Your new friends are all right-wingers. 

Go ahead.  Your thoughts.

FEEHERY:  We are consistent.  We believe that we need to win this war on terror.  I wish the president would have looked in the camera, looked in the eye of the American people, and said, we need to win this war, and that‘s why...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s win the war in Afghanistan mean? 

FEEHERY:  It means beating the Taliban once and for all, getting the Taliban out, making sure...

MATTHEWS:  Once and for all.  Getting them out?  They live there. 

FEEHERY:  Well, you know, there‘s plenty of ways to fight the battle. 

And I think that General McChrystal...


MATTHEWS:  You can‘t answer the question, can you?

They can‘t answer the question.

FEEHERY:  General McChrystal knows a lot about this.  And he—so does General Petraeus.


MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s all go to the—let‘s go to “Seven Days in May” and let the military...


MATTHEWS:  Look, the question you have to ask yourself is, how do you beat somebody who lives there, if they are staying and we are leaving? 

FEEHERY:  I would like to see the extremists lose and the moderate forces in Afghanistan win.  And I would like to see the president say, we are going to win this.  We‘re not going to lose it.

MATTHEWS:  Karzai‘s government is going to defeat the Pashtun—the insurgency?

FEEHERY:  Well, yes, to beat the Pashtun insurgency.


MATTHEWS:  We have an interest in that? We have an interest in that?

FEEHERY:  We do have an interest in that. 

You remember what happened when we left Afghanistan last time.  We had the elements that attacked us on 9/11.  I didn‘t say that.  The president said that. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you this.  Do you think there‘s anything about those training camps over there that has anything to do with 9/11?  A bunch of guys can get together and plan another 9/11 in Hamburg, Germany.  They can do it in Newark, New Jersey.  They could do it anywhere.  What‘s that got to do with Afghanistan, planning 9/11?

FEEHERY:  Well, the president and I agree on that Afghanistan—having Afghanistan be another sore spot and another festering wound that we don‘t deal with is bad for our national security.  I agree with the president on that. 


MCMAHON:  The reason we went to Afghanistan...

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Afghanistan is essential to our national interests?

MCMAHON:  Well, if al Qaeda is there, I think it is essential. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, al Qaeda is everywhere.  Al Qaeda is Pakistan.

MCMAHON:  Well, I think it‘s essential to go in and eradicate al Qaeda. 


MATTHEWS:  But al Qaeda isn‘t in Afghanistan.  It‘s in Pakistan.


MCMAHON:  I understand.  I understand, Chris. 


MATTHEWS:  So, why are we going in to eradicate it in Afghanistan? 

MCMAHON:  This is another mess that the Bush administration left for the Obama... 


FEEHERY:  Come on.  Come on.

MCMAHON:  Come on.  It is true. 

FEEHERY:  Oh, give me a break. 

MCMAHON:  It‘s another mess.  We went in there for the right reasons. 

And now we‘re there.  And we are stuck there. 


MATTHEWS:  We went in there to catch bin Laden.


FEEHERY:  The president campaigned on going on—there.


MCMAHON:  President Obama asked the generals how do you—how are we going to win?


MATTHEWS:  You know what the prime minister of Pakistan said today? 

Bin Laden is not here. 

So, where‘s this shell game going to end? 

MCMAHON:  Listen, the president, who is a very smart, very deliberative guy, brought all the experts in...



MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask a question.  We were talking about it off-camera.  If President Barack Obama were still Senator Barack Obama, would he vote for this? 

MCMAHON:  I don‘t think so. 

FEEHERY:  Of course not. 

MATTHEWS:  See, that‘s the irony.

Thank you very much, Steve McMahon—honesty, finally.  The truth serum works.  It is Christmastime. 


MATTHEWS:  Steve McMahon and John Feehery agree that Barack Obama, the president of the United States, would not back his own policy were he in the Senate. 

Up next:  Remember when South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson yelled out to President Obama, “You lie”?  Guess which lowbrow senator says he wishes he had said that.  This is unbelievable.  This is defining deviancy downward.  It‘s getting lower.  Check out the “Sideshow” coming back in a minute.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL, and time for the “Sideshow.” 

President used his speech Tuesday night to foretell the troop surge in Afghanistan.  For the comics, the surge is already under way. 


JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”:  In 2007, our war in Iraq was going badly, so President Bush proposed a bold new strategy: a surge of nearly 30,000 troops. 

Flash-forward present day, the war in Iraq seems to have stabilized, but the war in Afghanistan is going badly.  But, this time, the problem will be tackled by a bold new leader.  What shall his answer be?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S.  troops to Afghanistan. 

STEWART:  What the?  Thirty...


STEWART:  What, is 30,000 troops the military equivalent of two Advil? 




CRAIG FERGUSON, HOST, “THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON”:  Right now, in Scandinavia, the Nobel Committee is really rethinking the whole Peace Prize thing. 




JAY LENO, HOST, “THE JAY LENO SHOW”:  President Obama last night ordered 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan. 


MATTHEWS:  Wow.  As I said the night of the speech, the Taliban already has its surge planned for 19 months from now.  That‘s the month after we say we are starting to get out. 

Next:  Sarah Palin appeals to the days of yesteryear.  You know the old frontier days when the West was first settled by pioneer women like her?  So, you won‘t be totally surprised to hear that a memo went out instructing reporters covering her tour to address Palin as governor, but, more important, makes it clear that only English-speaking press are to attend any upcoming Palin events. 

Somebody in the Palin camp later said they didn‘t like the memo and pulled it out, but now to another right-wing darling.  U.S. Congresswoman Joe Wilson—Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina.  Remember, he is one who shouted “You lie” during the president‘s health care address in September. 

Well, it turns out that he has got a fan in fellow South Carolinian Senator Jim DeMint.  At a tea party gathering in Washington last night, Senator DeMint said that he was at first concerned that Wilson would be damaged politically from that outburst.  But DeMint says—quote—“A couple of days later, after Congressman Wilson raised a few million dollars off of it, I was thinking, why didn‘t I say that?”

“Why didn‘t I say that?”  That the president lies?  As the great New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, I think we are defining deviancy downward.  I think crassness—I‘m saying this—is now becoming more crassness in the GOP. 

Anyway, now for the “Big Number.” 

A Pew poll asked Americans whether they thought the United States should mind its own business internationally and let—let other countries get along the best way they can on their own.  Well, two wars ongoing in the Middle East right now.  How many Americans say, yes, we should mind our own business?  You won‘t believe this number, 49 percent now. 

In December of 2002, just 30 percent of Americans said we should mind our own business.  Seven years later, right now, half the country, 49 percent, cast their vote against interventionism of any kind.  Forty-nine percent of the American people now say, let‘s stay home—tonight‘s “Big Number”s. 

Up next, Pulitzer Prize-winning “New York Times” columnist Tom Friedman on why he is opposed to the president‘s plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.  That‘s going to be hot.

Stay with us.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATT NESTO, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Matt Nesto with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks closing lower today, as a surprisingly weak number from the retail and service industry offset another decline in jobless claims, the Dow Jones down 86 ½ points, the S&P down nine, the Nasdaq down almost 12, most of the damage coming in the final 30 minutes of trade. 

New unemployment claims falling last week to the lowest level in more a year, but monthly payroll numbers are due out tomorrow morning.  Investors were taken aback by a surprise slowdown in the service industry, the ISM index now showing that more firms see business as worsening, rather than improving. 

Dismal news for retailers also weighing on the markets today—Macy‘s down 3 percent, after the department store chain reported weaker-than-expected sales for November. 

And Comcast helping keep the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 positive, or less than it would have been down.  Shares are up more than 6.5 percent, its deal to acquire a 51 percent stake in NBC universal all done. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Thomas Friedman of “The New York Times” is opposed to President Obama‘s plan to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.  In his latest column, Friedman wrote—quote—“I can‘t agree with President Obama‘s decision to escalate in Afghanistan.  I would prefer a minimalist approach, working with tribal leaders, the way we did to overthrow the Taliban regime in the first place.  Given our need for nation-building at home right now, I am ready to live with a little less security and a little-less-perfect Afghanistan.”

Tom Friedman is the author of the book—it‘s now out in paperback—

“Hot, Flat and Crowded.”

Thank you, Tom, for joining us. 

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  Good to be with you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you reconsidered what you wrote today, or are you still with what you believe, that this is ill-considered strategy, to go in big into Afghanistan? 

FRIEDMAN:  Well, you know, Chris, first of all, as I even said in that column, this is a very tough call.  I think the president was in a very tough position.  Frankly, I could easily argue his side of the argument. 

But where I really came down was, I tried to put it in a broader strategic context, where are we in America today—I just came from observing the president‘s jobs summit at the White House—and our really crying need for nation-building at home, the risks of getting involved in an open-ended conflict and quagmire in Afghanistan, and, hence, just my gut feel that I wish the military had proposed to the president a smaller-footprint approach, one on basically consolidating Kabul and working with tribal leaders around the country to keep their areas free of Taliban and al Qaeda, much the way, as you recall, we took the country. 

So, it was really a strategy, I argued, much more rooted in a kind of sense of where America is today, what we can afford in our crying need for nation-building here, because, if we become weak and enfeebled and in debt, we are not going to be able to play any kind of global role in the long run.  So, that‘s really where I‘m coming from.

MATTHEWS:  I guess one thing that bothers me all the time when I think about this is that—and I want your view of this—you know, we are used to wars being over land...

FRIEDMAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And certainly over—Alsace-Lorraine or something on the border France and Germany could be a source of fighting forever.  Kashmir is certainly a piece of land that two sides, India and Pakistan, will forever be fighting over. 

This war isn‘t over land, it seems to me.  It is over a threat that‘s about a—what Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, calls a syndicate of terror -- 9/11 could have occurred, it seemed to me, if there‘s 20 or 30 guys getting together in—in Frankfurt, Germany—or Hamburg, rather, where they live, or that—getting together in New Jersey or Florida at some flight school. 

Why is the land of Afghanistan somehow critical to our need to fight terrorism? 

FRIEDMAN:   Well, you know...


MATTHEWS:  The land itself, the territory. 

FRIEDMAN:   Exactly. 

And I think you raise an important point.  And—and there‘s really two kind of bases now of terrorism, the threat against the United States, one old and one new. 

I would say the Afghan/Pakistan border is the old one, that it was a kind of open space which allowed them to in the past train and project power outside.  I would say it‘s much more limited now. 

The importance of that land was much more vital back in 2001, when they actually controlled all of Afghanistan.  Al Qaeda had a country in some way.  They don‘t have that anymore.  And, so, your land question is legitimate. 

What I would say makes it even more legitimate, Chris, is, since 2001, we now have what I would call the virtual Afghanistan.  The virtual Afghanistan is a web of literally thousands of jihadist Web sites, where would-be sympathizers can go for training, inspiration, ideas, and camaraderie.

And what we know about Nidal Malik Hasan, the major in the U.S. Army who is being charged for the murder of 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, is that he was in contact with and to some degree inspired by one of these jihadist Web sites.  Whether that can explain everything he did, we will find out at the trial. 

And, so, we have got really two problems here now, the virtual Afghanistan and the real Afghanistan.  But I think your question is a valid one.  I think the real Afghanistan, the real value of that real estate is less today. 

Now, the president, I think, would argue that, yes, it is less today, but, if they are able to take over Afghanistan again, or take over all of Pakistan again, then it would be valuable. 

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s the problem with the argument.  It is almost like a shell game.  I‘m not—I would spend months arguing this, because I think it is important.  We say we are fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan because we want to put pressure on the government in Pakistan to go after al Qaeda.  Well, that sounds like what I have been calling a Rube Goldberg solution.  Some punching bag knocks over a bucket of water.  The bucket of water knocks over a stool.  Something else happens.

You are asking gold star mothers to lose their kids, and wives to lose their husbands over this, in a very indirect campaign.  And my question is, well, basically, is this really stopping anybody from doing anything? 

FRIEDMAN:  Well, Chris, for—

MATTHEWS:  If they want to do it, why don‘t we just—to be Joe Biden for a second—he says go with a lesser footprint in Afghanistan, run an anti-terrorism campaign.  Let them come back into Afghanistan, if you will.  I‘m taking a little bit of a cartoon version, if you will.  Let them come back into Afghanistan where we can bomb the hell out of them.  We can‘t bomb them in Pakistan.  Let them come—

Everybody says, worst thing that can happen is they go back into Afghanistan.  I say great.  Let them come back into Afghanistan.  We can pulverize them.  We can kill every one of them if they come into the open space of Afghanistan.  Your answer? 

FRIEDMAN:  My answer is I was exactly where Joe Biden was on this story, you know.  It was for all of those reason reasons—I recognize hard calls—I don‘t want to minimize this.  It was for all those reasons.  The dots didn‘t fully connect for me, Chris.  And in a time when we have the crying needs at home, I just said couldn‘t we go with a smaller footprint, accept a little more risk, but maybe avoid the prospect or possibility of truly getting deeply enmeshed in, Chris, Afghanistan. 

Chris, as a country, we are like two out work parents who just adopted a special needs baby. 

MATTHEWS:  Yeah.  I wonder about how we fight this whole war, because I think everybody wants to avoid another 9/11, obviously. 

FRIEDMAN:  Absolutely.  It‘s a hard call.

MATTHEWS:  The question is—the question is, when our enemy wants to establish a Caliphate from one end of Islam to the other end, and restore all the land they ever took from Spain—that‘s their goal.  Is going into Afghanistan preventing them from achieving their goal or is it giving them a really good poster for why they have to fight the West?  That‘s another question. 

Let me ask you about this jobs summit today.  You attended it. 


MATTHEWS:  Did anything get done that is useful to the people?  Or is this going to be sort of pilloried as a public relations stunt?  ? 

FRIEDMAN:  I‘ll tell you, it was useful for me.  I have a feeling that it was useful for the president.  I can‘t say.  Because there was one overriding message that came through there.  I don‘t know how the president will exactly receive it.  But the message, Chris, was uncertainty.  You had business people, you had community leaders,  you had union people, really from all over the country.  It was a real cross section. 

Certainly, one of the big takeaways—it certainly wasn‘t the only one—but one of the big takeaways is we don‘t know anything.  We don‘t know what health care is going to be.  We don‘t know what the price of carbon is going to be.  We don‘t know what financial regulation is going to be.  We don‘t know what happens when the stimulus runs out. 

And there‘s so much uncertainty now overhanging middle and small business today that it is very hard for people to plan, and really make big bets that will make big employment opportunities.  That would—that was my take-away.  I think that—my sense in what the president said, when he wrapped up, that that was one of his takeaways as well. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s make some news, Mr. Friedman.  You‘re one of the biggest minds of the country right now.  I want to ask you this.  Will we have a second dip next year? 

FRIEDMAN:  You know, a really tough call, Chris.  My gut feeling is no.  You know, that we will—we are going to slowly climb out of this thing.  But I think that it really is going to be dependent on this uncertainty thing.  If we keep this kind of cloud of uncertainty over the economy, because Congress gets so paralyzed, Chris, that will, I think, really raise the prospects of a double dip.  If we can alleviate this, and unlock the potential there, I think we have a chance to avoid it. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you, Tom Friedman of the “New York Times.” 

Congratulations on your book, as always. 

Up next, does the White House looks good when it stonewalls this Congressional investigation into the people that crashed into the White House, that party the other night?  Do they look smaller?  Maybe they are still dealing with the issue.  The politics coming back.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.



APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORK:  The back and forth between the social office and—


RYAN:  Let me finish, please. 

GIBBS:  No.  I think—I think the question was asked.  So let me just reiterate my answer, again, April.  None of that really happened.  Right? 

RYAN:  Allow me to finish.  You can understand what I was saying.  The delay did not happen because that person was omitted from the gate at the social office. 

GIBBS:  Omitted? 

RYAN:  That person was fired earlier in the year. 

GIBBS:  Again, you can ask it seven ways. 


MATTHEWS:  We are back.  That‘s American Urban Radio Network‘s April Ryan questioning White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. It‘s time for the politics fix. With us right now is Chris Cillizza, who writes the fix for the, and April. Thank you, April.

It is getting tough out there. You know, having been around a long time, I remember a big fight in the early days of the Carter administration, which didn‘t end well. It was a big curfuffle, if you will, between the press corps covering the White House and the white house staff over the issue of Burt Lance, who got in some trouble with his banking before coming to the White House. And everybody circled the wagons, and got very angry at that time press for continuing to rip at this scab. It just reads like that.

To the outside world, this means nothing. But I smell a fight here growing. It is about loyalty. Loyalty to the press in getting the news.  Loyalty to the inside to protect your colleagues. Is that what‘s going on here?

RYAN: Chris, Mike McCurry, former White House press secretary, said it best. There‘s a friendly adversarial relationship between the White House and the press corps, as well as the White House press office. Some days, it is friendly. Some days, it is adversarial. You try to find that common ground.

At the same time,at the end of day, both sides are trying to complete a job. They are trying to up for the administration, and the reporters are trying to get information. And also, you have to remember, there‘s another day.

MATTHEWS: What is the most important information you‘ve been able to get out of this fact, that two people sashayed into the White House, without any right to be there.  No one stopped them the entire evening, let them approach the president, hug the vice president, hang around all the big shots that run our country.  And nobody did anything to stop them? 

By the way, here‘s Valerie Jarrett, one of the closest people to the president on “Today” today.  Let‘s listen. 


VALERIE JARRETT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR:  There‘s a long practise of having a confidential relationship with the president and his top advisers.  And there are only rare instances where members from his administration, the White House, have appeared before congress.  We don‘t think this rises to that level. 


MATTHEWS:  OK, that‘s about not wanting anybody to testify regarding this on the Hill.  That‘s another piece of it.  Your thoughts, April?  What is the most important news here you‘ve been able to get out of this story? 

RYAN:  Well, the fact that, indeed, that the checks and balances were not in place at the gate.  The most important thing about this is the fact that the United States president, his security is very important, of the utmost importance.  And there was a problem at the gate.  Not only that, it wasn‘t just about the US president.  It was about the prime minister of India, who has had threats against his life.  So this was the biggest thing.

And now this week, the White House has gone into an internal investigation.  To their credit, they have recognized it, and said they‘re going to start putting that second layer back at that gate, to keep the checks and balances in place, which needed to be. 

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s the story, Chris, which is the three Secret Service agents—and everybody has to love those guys.  They can be tough, but they‘ve got an amazing job.  They take bullets for the president, if necessary.  Three of them were put on administrative leave.  Nobody at the White House has any grief. 

CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  You know, what I‘m stung with by the Valerie Jarrett quote—

MATTHEWS:  About not wanting to testify. 

CILLIZZA:  It sounds like what the White House is trying to do here -

they‘re going to make some of the changes that April mentioned.  But it sounds like what they‘re going to do is a little bit of run out the clock, and hope national attention moves on. 

MATTHEWS:  It will.

CILLIZZA:  We know Congress is a reactive body.  They tend to—these things pop up.  We hold a hearing.  And then you never hear about it again.  I think the White House understands the way in which the American public psyche works.  This is a story that certainly over Thanksgiving we got a lot of—

MATTHEWS:  But, let me tell you, these grifters are not going to give up. 

CILLIZZA:  Yes, absolutely not.  

MATTHEWS:  They will keep doing it.  You‘ve got a bunch of—any way, it‘s a weird thing.  Luckily, these people are just clowns, luckily.  They could have been something else.  This could have been a John Malkovich operation, from “In the Line of Fire,” where they‘re putting a gun together, plastic gun together, in the men‘s room. 

We‘ll be right back with Chris Cillizza, talking about something even grander.  That is, all of a sudden, this country is isolationist.  The latest poll, for the first time in 40 years, the American people say stay home, America, at the instant this president is saying 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, on the other side of the globe.  Can he fight the head winds?  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.  Here‘s a huge story, April.  And I guess you noticed this new poll out from the Pew Foundation.  More than, really, any time since World War II, the American people are in a stay-home mood.  Call it isolationism, if you want to put it down.  But the country is basically saying, let the rest of the world take care of itself.  At the same moment that new poll comes out, the president of the United States is saying, let‘s make a big new effort in a country so far away, Afghanistan. 

RYAN:  Yeah.  You know, the American public is weary.  They‘re weary about going into—they were weary with 9/11.  Coming out of 9/11, going into the issue of a war in Iraq when, indeed, Osama bin Laden was the person we were supposed to go after.  And he was somewhere around Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

And the world community is tired of our fighting and what they perceive as an occupation.  And everyone is weary right now, especially as we‘re going into wars where we‘re not winning militarily. 

For instance, Chris, Africa; there was a possibility of putting the Afric-Con facility in Africa, and the African Union said no, we don‘t want US occupation militarily.  That‘s what the thought was.  And that‘s what many people around the world are looking at, possibilities of US occupation.  People are weary. 

MATTHEWS:  Chris Cillizza, the big problem the president is facing head winds here, political head winds. 

CILLIZZA:  You know what‘s amazing?  As amazing as the 49 percent number is, it‘s the highest ever in Pew data on that question.  The trend line, 30 percent said the same in 2002.  It went up to 42 percent in 2005.  Now it‘s at 49 percent. 

MATTHEWS:  War weariness. 

CILLIZZA:  Exactly right.  But it‘s going in the wrong direction, exactly as you point out, Chris.  The president is saying, we‘re going to commit more troops.  The American public clearly doesn‘t want it.  It‘s why it‘s such a hard sell, both from a policy perspective, but also from a political perspective. 

MATTHEWS:  April, is this because this administration is so stacked with people who are more hawkish than he is?  I go to Secretary of State Clinton.  I go to General Jones, who is national security.  I go to Gates.  I go to everybody but the vice president and Rahm Emanuel, people tell me, is to the right of the president.  Was he just out-voted here? 

RYAN:  The bottom line is, when it all is said and done, at the end of the day, it‘s about protecting the homeland.  I asked several people who are very close to many of those persons that you acknowledged.  They said, look, everyone was with the president.  Everyone is looking to protect the homeland.  And that‘s the key issue, when all is said and done.  And they feel in that area of the world, that‘s where we have to be. 

MATTHEWS:  There‘s one of the words I hate most, by the way, homeland.  It sounds like vaguely—it sounds like Russia.  It—

RYAN:  To protect the USA. 

MATTHEWS:  No, I don‘t mind it, because it‘s one of those neocon words I despise.  By the way, there shouldn‘t be any other territory we do protect, except the homeland.  It‘s called the United States.  That‘s what the Defense Department should be for, defending the United States.  You don‘t have to defend the homeland, and the off land islands, like we‘re Japan.  We have some other space we defend. 

CILLIZZA:  I do think, Chris—rhetoric aside—rhetoric aside, I do think the president—this is not an adviser‘s decision.  I do think, if you follow his logic, what he has said publicly, he genuinely believes this.  He said this in the Afghanistan speech.  This is the central front, that if we let this go, this will create a real danger to America. 

MATTHEWS:  By the way, when we start using terms like the motherland and the fatherland, that‘s when we are getting imperial.  Anyway, thank you, Chris Cillizza.  Thank you, April.  I don‘t think you are an imperialist.  I think you get caught in that language trap. 

Anyway, join us again 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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