Guests: Mary Thompson, Chuck Todd, Jeanne Cummings, Pat Buchanan, Barbara Lee, Howard Dean, Sen. Mary Landrieu
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Love it or Lieberman.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Battle to the death. Howard Dean says the Democrats should kill the bill. He called the latest version of the health care bill an insurance company bail-out and he wants the Senate to kill it in order to save true health care reform, as he sees it. Republicans agreed with Dean. They‘ll do anything they can do stop the bill, including forcing the reading—catch this—in full of a 767-page Democratic amendment that has no chance of passing. They‘ll do anything to kill time. Dr. Dean, by the way, is sitting with me. He‘ll join us at the top of the show.
Plus: Howard Dean isn‘t the only person unhappy about the health care bill. The new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll is out tonight, and to quote one of our pollsters, the wheels have come off on health care reform. Our poll has lots of red flags for President Obama and the Democrats, and some good news for one group in particular. And that one group—anyway, President Obama has been catching some serious heat from some African-Americans who say he hasn‘t done enough to help those hit by the recession. One of his most vocal critics joins us here later.
Also, what was the most important political move of the year? I‘ll give you my take in the “Politics Fix” tonight. And believe it or not, those infamous gate crashers were not the only most recent couple to make it into a White House party they weren‘t invited to. That‘s in the HARDBALL political “Sideshow” tonight.
But let‘s start with the health care bill with Dr. Howard Dean. He‘s the former chairman of the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, and of course, the former governor of liberal Vermont.
Now, here you are, sir, joining the right wing...
DR. HOWARD DEAN (D-VT), FORMER DNC CHAIR: Well, they‘ve joined me.
MATTHEWS: ... on this killing field on health care. You will bring this bill down. You will kill it.
DEAN: That is not what I said.
MATTHEWS: Will you kill it?
DEAN: I would vote against it if I were in the Senate. Look...
MATTHEWS: Well, that would be important since they need 60 Democrats.
DEAN: Well, they—I mean, there are some alternatives. One thing they can do is strip the bill down. There are some good things in this bill. One is the exchange mechanism they use in Massachusetts. That‘s a good way to buy insurance. Two, there‘s money in there, because of Tom Harkin, for prevention and wellness. Bernie Sanders has some money in there for community health centers. There‘s good stuff in this...
MATTHEWS: What don‘t you want in the bill that‘s in there now?
DEAN: I don‘t want all the goodies to the insurance companies. Here‘s what happened. We were promised that if we—in exchange for putting a ton of money into the insurance companies—which I was willing to do, as long as there were other choices—that, for example, people with preexisting conditions would be able to get insurance. Well, it turns out the insurance companies, in the fine print, can charge 300 percent more for those folks, for older folks, than they can for younger folks. So that‘s not really what happened.
And there‘s case after case—you are mandated under this bill to buy insurance. If you don‘t buy it, you could get fined. And the insurance company can take up to 30 percent out of your premium dollar and pay CEOs $20 million and put the rest in shareholders‘ pockets. This is a bill for insurance companies.
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. They can do what if you don‘t do what?
DEAN: The insurance companies are much less effective than Medicare.
They take a ton of money out and put it in non-health-care expenditures.
If you buy a policy, which you now have to do under this bill...
DEAN: ... or pay a fine...
MATTHEWS: Well, some policy.
DEAN: Some policy—the insurance company may take up—even more than 30 percent of the dollars you pay...
MATTHEWS: Well, go to some other insurance company, then.
DEAN: Well, yes, but have you noticed that there aren‘t many insurance companies that get anywhere near the efficiency of Medicare?
MATTHEWS: Well, we don‘t have Medicare for anybody under 65.
DEAN: Well, we could have. And that‘s the point.
MATTHEWS: Well, what government would you like to have pass this bill? Because the government we have right now has 60 Democrats in it, and one of those 60 Democrats them is Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who refuses to go along with it. So you have 59 Democrats.
DEAN: Yes. And you know what?
MATTHEWS: What are you going to do about it?
DEAN: Well, luckily, there‘s a procedure that‘s been used 23 times in the last 20 years, including recently by George Bush to pass tax cuts. That‘s what should have been done. It wasn‘t done...
MATTHEWS: But you can‘t do any of the reforms in insurance if you do it that route.
DEAN: You don‘t need the reforms in insurance...
MATTHEWS: You‘re not going to do anything on preexisting conditions.
DEAN: Chris, there are no reforms on insurance! That‘s just what I‘m telling you. If you can charge somebody three times as much for an insurance policy, how are they suddenly going to afford it? Even if you now say, Well, the insurance company‘s got to offer it, you can‘t afford it.
MATTHEWS: So you would go—you would go through this reconciliation process and basically rip the Senate apart. You‘d just do that.
DEAN: No, the Senate will—rip the Senate apart? It‘s been used before. It‘s been used—this process has been used 23 times.
MATTHEWS: OK. To create a new federal program like this?
DEAN: Twenty-three times.
MATTHEWS: When has it ever been used to create a federal program?
DEAN: I would use it...
MATTHEWS: No, when has it ever been used to create a federal program as big as a seventh of the American economy?
DEAN: I would simply expand Medicare. That‘s simple. That‘s all you have to do.
MATTHEWS: By reconciliation?
DEAN: Yes. Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: And this would—this would—this would destroy the United States Congress.
DEAN: Why would it destroy the United States Congress?
MATTHEWS: Because the Republicans would simply say...
DEAN: Wait a minute. Chris...
MATTHEWS: ... no more bills will be passed on any other matter.
DEAN: Excuse me. We have used this 23 times before. Bush...
MATTHEWS: Not to create a major national program.
DEAN: A major national program wasn‘t created by George Bush when ran us into trillions of dollars of debt by...
MATTHEWS: Yes, but what program did he create?
DEAN: He created enormous tax cuts of every sort.
MATTHEWS: Right. You‘re missing—you‘re dodging the question.
DEAN: I‘m not dodging the question.
MATTHEWS: You can‘t create Medicare, you can‘t create Social Security by reconciliation.
DEAN: You can‘t create it, but you can expand it.
DEAN: We already have Medicare.
MATTHEWS: ... it isn‘t Medicare if it‘s for young people. Medicare‘s for retirees.
DEAN: Exactly the—all you got to do is change the fine print...
MATTHEWS: OK. You can argue that...
DEAN: ... and lower the age.
MATTHEWS: OK, when...
DEAN: Or, frankly, you could start all over again in two years.
MATTHEWS: This is demagoguery. You know it‘s not going to happen.
DEAN: It could—why not?
MATTHEWS: You know they‘re not going to...
DEAN: Why isn‘t it?
MATTHEWS: They‘re not going to—because it won‘t work in the Senate because it‘ll grind the Senate to a halt.
DEAN: In two years, we‘re not going to...
MATTHEWS: It‘ll destroy the body.
DEAN: We‘re not going to have 65 votes, 60 votes in two years. We‘ll have something closer to 55.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t have 60 now. You have Lieberman aboard.
MATTHEWS: What would you do to Lieberman, if you were leader?
DEAN: Lieberman is not the issue. I think...
MATTHEWS: He‘s not? He‘s 60.
DEAN: No, I mean...
MATTHEWS: He‘s number 60.
DEAN: He can do what he wants. I mean...
MATTHEWS: Is he a Democrat?
DEAN: No. Of course not.
MATTHEWS: What is he?
DEAN: Well, that‘s a good question. You have to ask Joe. Look, I‘m not interested in dissecting Lieberman or anybody...
MATTHEWS: Why are you afraid to take on Lieberman?
DEAN: I‘m not. I‘m hardly afraid to take on...
DEAN: Everybody seems to me—I don‘t know, maybe he‘s good at...
MATTHEWS: ... fund-raising.
DEAN: I ran against the guy, right? I‘m not—I‘m hardly afraid to take on Joe. Look, the issue is, this doesn‘t...
MATTHEWS: When did you run against him? Oh...
DEAN: For president.
MATTHEWS: I‘m sorry. Back in 2004.
DEAN: That‘s right. This is not about Joe Lieberman. This is about whether we‘re going to have a decent health care bill in the country. Right now in the Senate, we don‘t have one. We have one that does some good things, but it does more bad things than good things.
MATTHEWS: Well, all I know is watching this the last couple weeks, every time it looks like the Senate Democrats are about to unite around 60 Democrats and get something done and beat the filibuster, Joe Lieberman comes up with something over the weekend, usually on a Sunday television show, with all the cameras going, and he says something like, Well, not the public option. No. And, Oh, yes, my staff or whoever put the word out this weekend that said I‘d go along with the buy-in at 55, age 55 for Medicare, that‘s not going either way. He‘s like Lucy in “Peanuts.” He holds the football until Charlie Brown‘s about to kick it, and then he drops it. And now you won‘t even take him on!
DEAN: I‘m not interested in discussing Joe Lieberman.
MATTHEWS: I know.
DEAN: I care about health care.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) this is it.
DEAN: Look, this is the—the culture in Washington is, Oh, it‘s Joe Lieberman!
MATTHEWS: No, it‘s numbers.
DEAN: It‘s So-and-So!
MATTHEWS: It‘s 60. You know how democracy works?
DEAN: The question is...
MATTHEWS: It‘s the reason you didn‘t get elected president. It‘s numbers. You have to get a certain number. In this case, to stop a filibuster, you need 60 votes.
DEAN: You know what the problem is...
MATTHEWS: Lyndon Johnson was able to do it with Civil Rights. They haven‘t been able to do it because they can‘t...
DEAN: He needed 67...
MATTHEWS: ... unite their own party.
DEAN: ... Lyndon Johnson. I‘ll you what the problem is. The problem is not 60 votes or George—or, you know, whoever, Joe Lieberman, or anybody else.
DEAN: The problem is Democrats aren‘t tough enough.
MATTHEWS: Oh, OK.
DEAN: If we‘d...
MATTHEWS: So it‘s an adjective that‘s missing.
DEAN: If we were—yes. If we were—if we were the Republicans right now, this bill would be done through reconciliation, done, just like Bush did and just like 23 other times it‘s been done.
DEAN: We‘re not tough enough.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question. We have 60 Democrats in the Senate. We have 59 plus Lieberman, who‘s an independent, used to be a Democrat. How come none of them are willing to go for reconciliation? They don‘t want to do it.
DEAN: I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: And you want—you‘re not a senator.
DEAN: I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: So you know something they don‘t know?
DEAN: When I know is it‘s been done 23 times in the last 20 years, and it works.
MATTHEWS: Not to create a massive national program. It‘s not supposed to be used that way.
DEAN: We‘re not—we don‘t need...
MATTHEWS: Reconciliation—I worked on the Hill on the Budget Committee for years.
MATTHEWS: I know what it‘s for. It‘s to reconcile what Congress passes as legislation with the budget numbers. It‘s not there to create new programs.
DEAN: We don‘t—I‘m not asking to create a new program. I‘m asking just to do just what George Bush did.
MATTHEWS: OK. All right.
DEAN: George Bush had existing tax cuts...
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s ask...
DEAN: ... and he expanded them.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask a member of the United States Senate. Let‘s put
thank you, Governor Dean.
DEAN: Thank you. It‘s my pleasure.
MATTHEWS: I know where you stand, go with reconciliation. Let‘s bring that up. Senator Mary Landrieu‘s a member of the Appropriations Committee, knows all about the spending on Capitol Hill.
Senator Landrieu, Dr. Dean‘s here with me, making a very hard case, saying that you guys don‘t—aren‘t tough enough, that you won‘t support the use of this procedure called reconciliation. Is he right or wrong? Are you not tough enough?
SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: He is wrong. We are tough enough. And you are right, Chris, about the process of reconciliation. It is not to be used to create broad additional new federal programs. Yes, it has been used in the past. It might have even been occasionally abused in the past, but you know what its purpose is. It‘s to reconcile budget numbers and to use for deficit reduction, not for the expansion.
The other point—I was listening—I want to make is, there is plenty of reform still left in this bill and there is still plenty to fight for. Medicare will be strengthened. Preventive care will be free for the first time. In my state alone, one million people that do not have insurance today, when this bill passes and goes fully in effect, will have coverage. That is something to fight for.
Look, I don‘t like everything in the bill. There are things I fought for that aren‘t in here. I‘d like more tax cuts to small business. But the fact of the matter is, this is the closest we‘ve come in over 40 years to do something good for the American people, and we shouldn‘t—we shouldn‘t get weak-kneed at this moment.
MATTHEWS: Has it become a bidding auction, where someone like you from Louisiana has been able to get concessions on issues you care about because you‘re a hard vote to get?
LANDRIEU: No. Every senator, all 60 senators submitted lists to Harry Reid, to Max Baucus and to Tom Harkin and to Chris Dodd. Those are the leaders that have managed this for a year. You know how this process works. And we say to them, Look, we‘re getting ready to go into a health care debate. These are some special issues that mean a lot to my state.
In my situation, Chris—and you know this well—we are not a rich state. You know how some states have certain percentages they have to pay towards Medicaid? If you‘re a rich state, you pay more. Like, you pay 50 percent and the federal government pays 50 percent. If you‘re a poor state, you only pay 30 percent.
Well, what happened after Katrina was our numbers were sort of distorted because of all the money that came in temporarily, and we got to be like New York. Well, we‘re not like New York. We‘re still good old Louisiana. And so that‘s all I asked, let us be treated the way we have been for the last 20 years. And that‘s what the leadership agreed.
And number one, it didn‘t buy my vote. That wouldn‘t be enough to get my vote. What is enough for me, does this bill work for the people I represent? Is it the right thing for America? And is it the best we can do under the circumstance? And I‘m convinced all those things are yes.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about political practicality. You‘re a moderate Democrat from Louisiana. Let me ask you this. If some of the people on the left, like Howard Dean, say, Wait it out, get more Democrats in there, try some other route—I am baffled by that because I don‘t know how you‘re going to get more Democratic senators in the election you face next year, where there‘s five open seats and not one I can see a Democrat being favored in, whether it‘s Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky or even New Hampshire. I don‘t see a Democrat actually favored in those seats in this environment.
Do you think it‘s likely the Democrats will ever have more than 59 Democrats in the Senate, and one difficult independent named Joe Lieberman? Will you ever have a better deal where you can pass health care?
LANDRIEU: Chris, in the near future, I don‘t think we‘re going to have a better lineup than we have now. And you know, Senator Lieberman has helped us on dozens and dozens of votes where we needed 60 votes, and he‘s been there. He just has a little different view than many in the party. But actually, I understand his view. He said, We‘re going reform health care, which means we‘re going to reform the insurance market, not eliminate it. There are governors like Governor Dean who wants to eliminate the insurance companies in America.
DEAN: Nonsense. That is simply not true.
LANDRIEU: The president did not run...
DEAN: It‘s just not true.
LANDRIEU: ... on that—that is true. Governor, that is. The president didn‘t run on that. He ran on reforming it and fixing it. So Joe has a little different view of wanting the private sector...
LANDRIEU: ... to have more, you know, at the table. I sort of agree with that, but I‘m a little bit more open to compromise on it than he is. But nonetheless, we need 60 votes.
LANDRIEU: We‘re still working with Olympia Snowe, hoping we can get her vote, as well.
MATTHEWS: Well, good luck. Senator Mary Landrieu, thank you.
LANDRIEU: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: You have a last thought, Governor?
DEAN: Yes. First of all, it‘s obviously not true that I want to eliminate the insurance market. Second of all, I‘d be interested to know why Senator Landrieu...
LANDRIEU: Well, you just spent a half an hour beating up on them, Howard. And we need to reform...
DEAN: Mary, I‘d like to know why you would...
LANDRIEU: ... them and...
DEAN: ... why you deny my people the choice to sign up for an alternative.
LANDRIEU: There is plenty...
DEAN: You are forcing us...
LANDRIEU: There‘s plenty of reform...
DEAN: ... into insurance companies.
LANDRIEU: ... in this bill for insurance...
MATTHEWS: We‘re in overtime here.
MATTHEWS: Thirty seconds for the governor and then thirty seconds for the senator.
DEAN: You would not let us choose another program. You forced us into the insurance industry. We don‘t want to be forced into the insurance industry. You took away our choice.
MATTHEWS: OK, your response...
DEAN: That is wrong.
LANDRIEU: That is not true.
MATTHEWS: A final response by the Senate.
LANDRIEU: You never—you never had that choice to begin with. This bill...
DEAN: The president—the president campaigned on it, Mary.
LANDRIEU: ... would always—no, he did not...
DEAN: The president of the United States...
LANDRIEU: ... campaign for public option.
DEAN: ... campaigned for...
DEAN: Yes, he most certainly did.
LANDRIEU: He did not campaign for Medicare for all.
DEAN: He most certainly did.
DEAN: He absolutely did. You are not accurate...
LANDRIEU: He most certainly did not.
DEAN: ... on that.
DEAN: He campaigned for a federal employee...
LANDRIEU: He told people, If you have...
DEAN: ... benefit with a public option.
LANDRIEU: ... if you—if you like...
DEAN: That‘s what he campaigned for.
LANDRIEU: ... the insurance that you have...
LANDRIEU: ... you‘ll be able to keep it.
DEAN: And he also said there‘d be a public option, along with the federal employee benefit package. That is what...
LANDRIEU: And there is.
MATTHEWS: ... just stop for a second, Governor.
LANDRIEU: There is one in the bill.
MATTHEWS: I‘ve got to let the senator respond.
DEAN: There is no public option.
MATTHEWS: The Senator gets to respond. Is that your last word, Senator? Because I want you to have the final word.
LANDRIEU: Yes. My last point—thank you, Chris. In the bill that the governor is now saying he‘s not for, there‘s a national non-profit option that gives the same choices that members of Congress and federal employees have. If that‘s not enough, I don‘t know what is.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana...
LANDRIEU: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: ... and Dr. Howard Dean. Gentleman, thank you, and lady.
Coming up: The new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll is out. It‘ll tell you a lot about this debate. It shows big trouble for President Obama and the Democrats and also for health care reform, which is now in somewhat -- well, it‘s not doing well. NBC‘s Chuck Todd‘s going to be with us to crunch those numbers and tell us what they tell us about next year.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We have a brand-new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll to share with you tonight, and Chuck Todd‘s here with the numbers. He‘s NBC‘s chief White House correspondent and political director.
Let‘s start with the mood of this country. It ain‘t good. Feelings in the Democratic Party have gotten worse since October of this year. It‘s a 10-point negative spread for Democrats now. Look at it. They‘re down. People don‘t like the Democrats—a 6-point positive spread back in October.
As for the Republicans, a slight improvement, just a 15-point negative spread—that‘s between favorable and unfavorable—compared a 21 negative point spread they had in October. And what about the tea party movement? This is the shockeroo. They have a 2 to 1 positive rating. But inside information from Chuck Todd explains why, perhaps.
CHUCK TODD, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/POLITICAL DIR.: Well, look, there‘s a couple of—a couple of demographic—you know, we—we—among Fox News viewers, the tea party movement is enormously popular, 75 percent of a positive feeling toward it, just (ph) 5 (ph) percent. Among everybody else, non-Fox viewers, as far as how you get your information, the tea party movement actually has a slight negative. Still, overall, it gives you that positive, that 41 percent...
MATTHEWS: Well, that tells you the power of Fox, doesn‘t it?
TODD: It‘s the power of Fox in branding this tea party movement...
TODD: ... as a populist, outside Washington—because that‘s the...
MATTHEWS: So it‘s a horse and rabbit stew...
TODD: It is...
MATTHEWS: ... an overwhelming love of these tea parties by one group of people...
TODD: Yes, and...
MATTHEWS: ... mezza mezza view from other people.
TODD: It‘s a large group. And that‘s why, for instance, you have the Republican Party in Washington trying to figure out how to embrace some of this tea party movement.
MATTHEWS: Did you read the question?
MATTHEWS: Here‘s a group of conservatives who get together who are concerned about high taxes. Well, what‘s wrong with that?
TODD: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: It isn‘t a bunch of screaming, crazy people yelling, like you see at these parties.
TODD: True. And the thing is, what we—what we need to just not focus on...
MATTHEWS: I think the question was a leading...
TODD: But let‘s not focus on...
TODD: The fact is, that issue is working. The fact is, anti-Washington sentiment...
MATTHEWS: Oh, that‘s for sure.
TODD: ... is growing. So which party is going to be the party of the populists?
MATTHEWS: Yes, they didn‘t show these pictures...
MATTHEWS: ... when they asked the question.
TODD: No. But this is about populism. There is a hot...
TODD: ... and it‘s...
TODD: It‘s blue-collar America...
TODD: ... who‘s angry at the economy...
MATTHEWS: ... against the establishment.
TODD: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s take a look at the health care issue right now, and that is something that everybody‘s following. Let‘s look at that. What do you think about Obama‘s plan? Just 32 percent now think it‘s a good idea. That‘s less than a third, less than 33 percent like the idea. That‘s down from 38 percent, a bit of a drop in just a month or so.
For the first time, by the way, this year, for the first time, people now say it is better not to pass the bill. Forty-four percent say we would be better off with the current system, as opposed to 41 who want change. That‘s compared to a more favorable look last time.
It is a flip.
TODD: It is.
Now, the spin on this from the White House is, they will tell you, yes, any time the health care debate has been front and center for the American public paying—to pay attention to, it is bad for everybody. It takes everybody down, Republicans, Democrat, the president, that it weighs down...
MATTHEWS: You mean more information is bad?
TODD: In this case, watching the sausage getting made is bad is the point...
MATTHEWS: Oh, about the process.
TODD: ... is when the process is the news, not the policy, the process is the news.
MATTHEWS: Have they started, by the way, along the polling—they get this polling when we get it.
TODD: That‘s right. They do their own polling.
MATTHEWS: ... have their own polling ahead of time.
TODD: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Do they know that it‘s time to start turning this pillow over to the cold side, and start—instead of arguing about the bill, right, to start selling its positive side to the country...
MATTHEWS: ... and stop debating the Republicans, and start saying, what you don‘t know is, 30 million people get health care, that everybody is going to be protected against preexisting conditions, that everything is going to be sunny-side?
TODD: Well, that was what the president tried to do yesterday...
TODD: ... when he came out of that meeting. And, notice, he made—he made reference to one senator. And it wasn‘t a conservative senator. It was a liberal senator, Tom Harkin, who is head of the Health Committee now.
And he was trying to give voice to the liberals and say, hey, guys, look, we are going to do X, we are going to do Y, we are going to do Z. You‘re not going to your public option. You‘re not going to your Medicare buy-in. But you‘re going to get a lot of things, and this isn‘t so bad.
MATTHEWS: The glass is half-full.
TODD: That‘s right.
And, if you notice, the Sherrod Browns of the world, a lot of the liberal senators, Jay Rockefeller, they are all now coming out.
MATTHEWS: Aboard now.
TODD: They are on board this talking point.
MATTHEWS: Maybe because they know what the Republicans have known for a long time. If this bill passes, the ship has left for national health. The American people are going to fall in love with national health care eventually. The—the wrinkles are going to be fixed over time. The insurance industry is going to be beaten up over time if they don‘t play ball.
MATTHEWS: Once the American people commit to this—I think the liberals know this. They have always known this about Medicare, about Social Security.
TODD: Get something.
MATTHEWS: When you move the ship out of port, it gets to its destination.
TODD: It is the framework argument.
TODD: Remember, the president made this argument six months ago when he tried to tell people behind the scenes, hey, guys, FDR and Secret Service got a framework in ‘38, and guess what? You added on to it over time.
TODD: So, relax. You won‘t get everything now. Get the framework.
Speaking of health, Chuck, you know what the most important part about working out every day is? Going to the workout center.
MATTHEWS: Going to the machine.
MATTHEWS: Not that I do it, but people tell me that that is the key.
And, in this case, the best way to get to national health is to have a national health care plan program passed.
Let‘s take a look at the 2010 election. In the poll, we asked if voters were more or less likely to support a congressional candidate who backed certain people more than 90 percent of the time. And here‘s how they stack up. Strong support of Obama: Only 36 percent of the people said they would be likely to support such a candidate. Forty-five percent said they would be less likely to support a candidate like that.
Let me go to that. That is astounding. The president doesn‘t do so well. Republican leaders do less well. Speaker Pelosi does least well.
TODD: Right. Well, look, the Republican Party has made—has spent a year demonizing her. And she has not fought back, because she is not the best image. There‘s this weird—she basically has conceded: I‘m a net negative P.R.-wise. I will work behind the scenes.
And there has been some argument with some Pelosi supporters who say, you know what? You need to get out there more, Madam Speaker, and you need to fix your image, because you are turning into an anchor to...
MATTHEWS: Let me give you an image. She gets hit because she gets things done. On every issue, from the stimulus package, to regulating Wall Street, to education, to health care, to cap and trade, she has won. She has held the party together. They have won on every major issue this year in the House.
It is the Senate that has had the problem.
MATTHEWS: She ought to get credit for that from the Democratic supporters.
TODD: It is interesting to me that Democratic supporters aren‘t more favorable. You would think they would.
MATTHEWS: Don‘t they know how good she‘s been?
TODD: But the same thing has been—we saw this with Newt when he was speaker. He was getting a whole bunch of stuff done, and his numbers only got worse over time.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you. If Pelosi, however, just having the case for her success as a legislator and a leader, is she perhaps going to follow the Democrats down to defeat, like they did in ‘94, because of the current conditions?
TODD: Well, it is tough, but the fact is, this is going to be a referendum on the president. I know the Republicans believe...
MATTHEWS: Yes, but he...
MATTHEWS: They take the hit.
TODD: They take the hit.
But this idea that she is going to be the reason why they go down—I mean, look, this is about the economy and the president.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you.
TODD: It is a referendum on him and a referendum on the economy.
It‘s not a referendum on Nancy Pelosi.
MATTHEWS: I talked to a top Democratic congressman last week who said to me that people who don‘t like the president are a little bit hesitant to say so, but they‘re going to whack the Congress.
TODD: Sure. You know the most striking thing about that number?
Nobody is a positive in Washington.
It goes back to what we brought up with the tea party movement. Look, the most effective candidates in 2010, the ones that are going to win, are the ones that figure out not to be Washington, but also not be part of their own establishment. That‘s why you are seeing these crazy primaries breaking out, the Rubio and the Crist in Florida.
You‘re going to see some more of this now on the Democratic side. Blanche Lincoln could face a primary challenge. But you‘re going to see more of this stuff. The benefit, voters—and they are angry—they are going to start throwing out incumbents, no matter their party, or throwing out establishment types.
And, again, I think we are seeing a taste of it, Charlie Crist already. You could see a taste of it on Blanche Lincoln if this lieutenant governor down there...
MATTHEWS: OK. In a totally nonpartisan sense, it is a good year for a young Republican to run for office?
TODD: It is a good year for a young independent to run for office. In fact, I‘m surprised we are not seeing more quasi-conservative independents or non-party-aligned making a challenge to the status quo.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Let‘s go inside. Let‘s go inside. I love to do this. You are in the White House right now. You are Rahm Emanuel, you‘re Axelrod, you‘re the president.
MATTHEWS: What are you thinking of this mess of numbers we have just put on your plate, which are all negative?
TODD: You have probably convinced yourself this: Once we get health care gone, then everything is about the economy, and we are not going to introduce new distractions.
The problem is this. Health care has been a self-inflicted wound. Maybe there was no choice, and the president, the only shot he had at getting some health care done was his first year. But the fact is, it is why all of these numbers are sour. In addition, the economy would be a drag already. Health care has started to hurt the president personally.
MATTHEWS: How about a big win over—if he gets a big win before his State of the Union, will he get an uptick?
TODD: I think only a little uptick. I think this thing is so polarized, I don‘t know if there‘s much left of...
MATTHEWS: OK, at this point.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, NBC‘s Chuck Todd. Happy holidays.
MATTHEWS: We‘re going to have more numbers from our poll in our 7:00 addition tonight of HARDBALL. Come back at 7:00 Eastern and catch a lot more numbers.
Up next: Those White House gate-crashers weren‘t the first to get into the White House event, an event they were not invited to, only the most recent, apparently.
Stick around for the “Sideshow.” You are watching it, HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Now time for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”
Up first: the breakfast club.
Just two weeks before that pair of grifters crashed that White House state dinner, a Georgia couple thinking they were going to take a regular citizens tour of the White House, they got there a day early by mistake, ended up at an invitation-only Veterans Day breakfast with the president and the first lady.
The White House says the couple, Harvey and Paula Darden of Hogansville, Georgia, were in fact cleared by security for the breakfast and screened by the Secret Service because they mistakenly arrived a day early, and no tours were available for them.
Well, the folks in charge of the breakfast simply invited the couple in as a nice gesture. The White House says it is not unusual for people cleared for a tour as regular citizens to be able to attend an event, if there‘s room.
Well, Mr. Darden said he felt a little funny being the only man in the room without a coat, a coat and tie. And he was just a plain tourist.
Anyway, no big deal, but it shows that if you show up at a White House
at the White House, even on the wrong day these days, fairy tales can come true. They can happen to you.
Anyway, thousands of people visit the White House this time of year. And, last night, the president and first lady hosted their first party for the TV press. I was there with the queen, Kathleen. There we are. And I waited in line to see the president and first lady. Here we are at the White House. You can see the picture of me and Kathy.
The president said something about me being a talking head when we got our chance to get our picture taken with him and what it must be like for the kids growing up at our house. I said something sarcastic, as you might expect. And I did say good luck to him, as we all hope he does have a good year next year, because then we all will have a good year maybe.
Anyway, Washington is a beautiful place to celebrate this season with the lighting of Christmas trees, the decorating of houses in the neighborhoods, and, of course, the door-to-door caroling, where you do have the caroling still in this country.
Anyway, this being Washington, there is always a political angle. Just check out these tea partiers caroling their version of “The 12 Days of Christmas” up on Capitol Hill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, number 12! Here we go! You ready?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right!
UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES (singing): (INAUDIBLE) Congress spending millions, czars with power, high unemployment, no (INAUDIBLE) mandatory health care, bankruptcy looming, no transparency, (INAUDIBLE) dollars, big bailouts, welfare for all, and the loss of liberty.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Oh, my God. Aren‘t they unhappy little elves?
Anyway, that‘s the spirit of the season.
Anyway, finally, tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Tiger is in the tank. Back in 1997, our NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll found that Tiger Woods had a 76 percent positive rating. Only 2 percent didn‘t like him. So, where is he now in our new poll? Big surprise here, 15 percent, almost three times as many. Forty-two percent now have a negative view of the world‘s most successful athlete -- 15 percent, tonight‘s, well, pretty small number, actually.
Up next: The Congressional Black Caucus is pressuring President Obama to do more to help African-Americans find jobs right now. Fair enough. It seems important enough. The caucus chair, Barbara Lee, from California will be here.
You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Mary Thompson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks ending relatively flat after a no-surprises statement from the Federal Reserve, the Dow Jones industrial average sliding 11 points, the S&P up a point, and the Nasdaq finishing with a gain of five points.
The Central Bank holding interest rates steady, as expected, the Fed noting improvements in housing and employment, but renewing its pledge to keep interest rates low for an extended period, the dollar moving higher on that report against both the yen and the euro.
And a lot of movement in techs today, Intel shares falling more than 2 percent after the Federal Trade Commission filed an antitrust suit against the company. It accuses the chipmaker of using its size to stifle competition—shares in rival AMD jumping almost 3 percent on the news.
Meanwhile, shares in the software-maker Adobe Systems climbing more than 4 percent, after beatings earnings expectations, but holding back on a forecast for next year, saying it all depends on the economy.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
President Obama is feeling the heat from the Congressional Black Caucus these days. Members of the caucus say the president hasn‘t done enough to help African-Americans struggling with this recession. And the chairman, chair of the Congressional Budget Office, U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, is here right now.
Congresswoman, thank you for joining us.
Well, what do you make of this president? Overall, what kind of a president has he been, from your perspective in Berkeley, California?
REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: Chris, from my perspective, President Obama has been a great president.
I mean, when you look at the hand that he was dealt, when you look at the economic downturn, when you look at two wars, when you look at this recession, when you look at the unemployment rates, when you look at what he has done in less than a year, I think he has done a fine job.
And let me just say, as members of Congress, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, we have our job to do to help the president turn this economy around and to help make this presidency the greatest ever.
And I have to say that we have been working very hard with our leadership, Speaker Pelosi, and the president to ensure that no community is left behind in our economic policies that we are putting forth.
Tonight, of course, we are debating a jobs bill. Very important to recognize the fact that, in the African-American and Latino communities, 40 percent unemployment rate among our young people. And, so, we have been very adamant about putting money in there to include a summer jobs program. That is essential if we are going to help young people and their families.
Also, Chris, let me just say, we‘re talking about a job initiative—a jobs initiative in new high-growth industries. But, oftentimes, when you look at the chronically unemployed, the skill sets and the qualifications just are not there.
And, so, we were able, in this jobs bill, to include some job training, some apprenticeship money, some money for people who want to work, but have not had the skills or the education to get these kinds of jobs that we‘re creating. That‘s our job to do, and we are working hard with the administration to do this.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Let‘s talk turkey. We have got 10 million—we got 10 -- 10 percent unemployment in this country right now.
You know, that is a couple million, three, four million jobs to get us back to normal, maybe five million to get us back to normal. How do we get huge numbers of jobs in the near future? The things you are talking about are not big-time. How do you get huge numbers of jobs created in the next couple of years even? How do you do it?
Do you know how to do it? I don‘t know how to do it? Does the federal government just start approving all construction jobs and just getting all the shovels going, say yes to everything that‘s—that needs to be met, in terms of getting back to code of bridges, everything?
What do they do? They can‘t hire just everybody to hold a rake. What do we do? What do we actually do?
LEE: Chris, I believe we have to have direct government spending, direct government investment now. I believe we need to put more resources in our infrastructure. And we need to create more jobs in the health care industry, in the growth industries. We need to do it now.
I think we should have put the investment in this first economic recovery package, up to the tune of over a trillion dollars. That is where we should have started. We didn‘t. We ended up with 740, 750 billion dollars.
But I believe it is important to have direct government spending to create jobs. Of course, we have to encourage and insist on public/private partnerships. But we also have to help our small businesses. Small businesses create jobs in communities, in communities where there are skills that are needed to create an—the economic security for everyone. We‘ve got to do that. But we‘ve got to get the banks to begin lending again to small businesses.
MATTHEWS: OK, the United States government is running a deficit of over a trillion and a half dollars every year now for the next three or four years. These deficits are going to be in the trillions for years to come. Here you are saying spend more money. You know what that sounds like? It sounds like you want this president to go further left?
LEE: Well, I‘m sorry, Chris, but let me just tell you, when President Bush was elected after President Clinton, we had a surplus, a huge surplus. Unfortunately, during the last eight years we dug ourselves deep in a hole, also created a recession where millions of people are unemployed. We have to invest in people. We have to invest in communities. We have to do that now. Because how in the world do you encourage consumer spending, how do we address the deficit, if people don‘t have any work? There are over 15 percent of Americans who are African-American unemployed, 14 or 15 percent Latino, ten percent overall.
MATTHEWS: I know.
LEE: You have a huge unemployment rate. We have to create jobs so people have money to spend, so, with that spending, the deficit will be reduced.
MATTHEWS: You believe that by increasing the deficit in the next couple of years, you will reduce the deficit? Is that what you are saying? You are asking the government to spend more money on job creation, on construction, on infrastructure, on bridge building, road fixing, all those things that cost more money, to create jobs. You are saying, to do that will eventually turn out to be good for the country. But in the meantime, this country—I know Larry Summers, the president‘s economic adviser, is scared to death of more debt, more deficits. You‘re not.
LEE: Chris, what is the option? If we don‘t invest in people—if we don‘t invest in people‘s economic security, I don‘t want to even think about where we will be this time next year. Of course we have to have to deficit reduction measures. We can‘t continue to spend, spend, spend. But we have to—
MATTHEWS: What would you cut?
LEE: Pardon? What would I cut? When you look at a defense appropriations bill of 640 billion dollars, with Cold War era weapons systems, waste and fraud in the Pentagon—we better start looking at where we can cut, in real ways, which don‘t cut into people‘s health care and their job security and their housing.
Of course, with the foreclosure crisis now, we have to help begin to mitigate that. We have millions of people who are continuing to lose their jobs. With this type of economic situation in our country, a deep recession, we have to begin to put people first. We have to increase our spending somewhat, so that people can have money, so they can start spending, so the deficit can then begin to be reduced.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, US Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who is chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Up next, those Tea Parties are the big winners in the NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll. You may not like it, but they are. People seem to like these tea bag—shouldn‘t call them tea bag meetings—these tea party meetings. How bad is it for the Democrats and the Republicans when the tea party people have higher approval ratings than either political party. The politics fix up next. It is kind of disturbing to hear this, but it is true, apparently. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time for the politics fix. It‘s always great. Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst. And Jeanne Cummings—I read her every day—she‘s assistant managing of a must read organ in Washington, “The Politico.” I get it on my drive in the morning.
Let me ask you, Jeanne, what was your reaction when you saw the NBC News poll that came out this evening, that shows—here they are -- 35 percent have positive feelings about the Democratic party, which is still a majority party in this country, 28 percent have positive feelings about the Republican party, the second party, 41 percent have positive feelings about the Tea Party. What do you make of that?
JEANNE CUMMINGS, “POLITICO”: I‘ve got to admit, I was surprised to see that. It seems to me that that number is big enough that you have a big mix of independents in there as well.
MATTHEWS: A lot of Fox folks.
MATTHEWS: A lot of Fox TV people. Yes.
CUMMINGS: Absolutely. You‘ve got Republicans in there, for sure. I think it almost looks to me like a default vote. It is pretty clear if you go—I was recently at a focus group, there is a palpable dissatisfaction with both parties right now. So given a third option, perhaps any option, people I think probably went for that, so they could record that dissatisfaction that they have with both the Democrats and the Republicans.
MATTHEWS: You know what I think, Pat? I think the American people are results oriented. Washington may measure input, how many hours you billed, how hard you worked. This country judges you by output. What have you done? Have you won any wars lately? Have you cut unemployment lately? Created any jobs lately?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: What you have is tremendous hostility to Washington, DC. It is not a pro-Republican thing at all. But I do think it is anti-incumbent, anti-Washington. Since the Democrats control both houses of Congress and the presidency of the United States, I think Republicans can enlist and harness this and use it basically to overthrow the establishment.
MATTHEWS: Do you see these Tea Party people as the old pitch fork guys from your brigades. They seem a little less interested in social issues.
BUCHANAN: I think what they are, they are clearly parotista (ph) types in terms of economic issues.
MATTHEWS: They‘re more secular.
BUCHANAN: I‘ll tell you what they are, though. They are very Sarah Palin types.
BUCHANAN: She probably has more support in this group than she does among the regular Republicans, certainly Republicans in DC.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that, Jeanne? Just looking at the analysis—you said you‘ve to focus groups. I watch—like everybody, I watch these rallies in Washington. I see what is going on in terms of who is willing to get a crowd out there. The left doesn‘t seem to be able to raise a crowd these days. I mean, even union people. I don‘t see any huge rallies in Washington anymore for the liberal causes, the progressive causes. You have a progressive president. But I don‘t see the rallies like I see on this anti-establishment right.
CUMMINGS: Well, I think we have a couple of things at work here. First of all, I think a lot of the liberal groups are very engaged right now on the health care debate. And that‘s where their energies and their organizing efforts are going.
But when you look at the Tea Party message, one that I think actually resonates is about spending, about the economy, about debt. In these focus groups, what you find is that while Washington is focused on health care—they can make an argument it‘s related to employment. But the real concern of people out there is the economy, jobs. They‘re not seeing Washington focus on that. That‘s part of their dissatisfaction.
BUCHANAN: Let me tell you my problem, Chris. Two cities are responsible for this crisis.
MATTHEWS: There‘s a nice one. It‘s got a hammer and sickle.
BUCHANAN: Two cities are responsible for the crisis, basically, or one part: Wall Street and Washington, DC. They‘re both making out like bandits. Take a look at the salaries of the federal government, by “USA Today.” Transportation Department had one guy making over 170,000 18 months ago. They‘ve got 1,680. They are hiring in the federal government. Their salaries are going up. They‘ve got security. Out there in middle American, they think this city doesn‘t give a damn.
MATTHEWS: Because it‘s recession proof.
BUCHANAN: Not only that; look at all the jobs that are—their jobs aren‘t coming back and their real incomes have never really risen in a number of years. They‘re very angry, I think, at the system, both political parties in Washington, DC. But it can be harnessed and enlisted.
MATTHEWS: Why hasn‘t the Republican party, which is the opposition party—and all opposition parties benefit when times are bad—hasn‘t exploited this. Why do you never hear the name Mitch McConnell, never hear the name John Boehner? They don‘t seem to be out there. You hear Eric Cantor once in a while. They haven‘t been out there blowing the trumpets.
BUCHANAN: Let me say about Fox News; the guys on Fox News are running those shows. They‘re for more popular, far better known than McConnell and these guys.
MATTHEWS: Fox is not the Republican party. We‘ll be back with Pat Buchanan, the pitch fork guy, and Jeanne Cummings, with more of the fix. I want to talk about this “Time Magazine” cover that just came out, man of the year, person of the year. Wait until you catch this one. You wouldn‘t believe the winner. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Pat and Gene. Gene, what do you make of this—“Time Magazine,” one of your opponents out there, one of your rivals in the journalistic world, has picked as person of the year Ben Bernanke, the head of the Federal Reserve. I think I know why. What do you think? What is this about? He‘s not an exciting guy.
CUMMINGS: No, he wasn‘t chosen for his vibrant personality. That‘s for sure. He was chosen because he took us through really unchartered waters. People forget that this time last year, at least September of last year, you know, banks like Wachovia, not Goldman Sachs, but Wachovia, big commercial bank, was on the verge of going down. We were near—people were literally taking money out of their bank accounts and bringing it home.
So he took us through that process. Did they make mistakes? Yeah, they did make some mistakes along the way. But we‘re still standing. Only the auto industry was almost completely wiped out. At one point, the fear was the airlines were next. But no, the economy fame through it, fragile. We‘re not out of it yet. He got us through.
MATTHEWS: I‘m with you. I think Bernanke is the guy that rolled the presses, printed the money at the time we could have gone into a tight money situation, and gone into a financial swoon at the beginning of this year. But nobody is going to give him credit except “Time,” because we didn‘t go into that swoon. Pat, you‘re view of Ben Bernanke‘s role as a liberal Fed chairman?
BUCHANAN: I think he printed all the money to get us out of the disaster we‘re headed for, and the Fed printed all the money that almost gotten us into the disaster. Only the Fed can create a bubble in the economy.
MATTHEWS: When did the bubble come up?
BUCHANAN: The bubble started after the dot-com thing.
MATTHEWS: Under Greenspan?
BUCHANAN: Yes. All those years, interest rates are low, all that money flows somewhere. So it goes into the stock market. It goes into housing. Boom, the bubble pops.
MATTHEWS: There was too much money out there.
BUCHANAN: And then the guys that did it, the guys that did, they took all the money. All our money was wiped out of middle America, and it was taken out, and they gave it to Wall Street to replenish the bubble supply.
MATTHEWS: Why are we facing an economic stop?
BUCHANAN: We‘re facing an—
MATTHEWS: Your party, the Republican party—
BUCHANAN: I don‘t care about the party.
MATTHEWS: -- was in, this country was coming to an economic zero, and this guy said, no, we‘ve got to print the money.
BUCHANAN: The point is, you‘ve had a bubble pop. Bush, you can blame him, or the Democrats, or whatever. Only the Fed can create a bubble, as Milton Friedman thought. It popped. Everything came crashing down. So then he pumped all this new money into—
MATTHEWS: Gene, your thoughts?
CUMMINGS: Chris, I mean, that just completely overlooks the subprime market, which is where we have real corruption in this system. If we had all of that money in the market, plus we had an honorable mortgage system, where the only people who got houses were people who actually could afford them, people who actually had jobs, then we wouldn‘t have had the bubble crash. So that‘s a really, I think, simplified version—
BUCHANAN: Everybody else says the problem was people were talked into buying houses that couldn‘t make the payments, in a normal economic year.
BUCHANAN: That‘s exactly right. And Bush is fully responsible—or partly responsible for that. So is Barney Frank and the rest of those guys, pushing mortgages on people who shouldn‘t have had them. At the same time, Chris, you have to have an enormous supply of money to go swishing around somewhere. It went straight—
MATTHEWS: Were you complaining back in the ‘90s when our economy was booming and everybody was investing?
BUCHANAN: Listen, I think the economy under Ronald Reagan, after Volcker squeezed all of that out of the economy—from there until 2000, Clinton‘s second term, was terrific. But it‘s a benefit of good money policy, and also tax cuts.
MATTHEWS: Who named Volcker?
BUCHANAN: Who named Volcker was Jimmy Carter.
MATTHEWS: That‘s right. Give him some credit.
BUCHANAN: But I‘ll give Bill Clinton credit, too. I think he ran a very good economy, and did his best to balance the budget. Of course, he took it right out of defense.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Pat Buchanan. We‘re going to be arguing about this forever, what we were facing coming into this presidency, how this president handled. He certainly took bold moves, and one of them was letting Bernanke do his thing. He‘s just been re-upped. I love him in that sailor costume we just saw. They look like yachtsmen, the two of them, the president and Bernanke.
BUCHANAN: That will sit well in middle America.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Pat Buchanan. Thank you, Jeanne Cummings. I read you every morning. 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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