Guests: Matt Nesto, Pat Buchanan, David Rivkin, Alejandro Beutel, Susan Page, Mark McKinnon, Drew Westen, Michael Steele
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Obama cracks the whip.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Too slow? President Obama just cracked the whip on the Christmas bombing intelligence failures, but is he going too slow, President Obama‘s big problem? That‘s when something happens, or should happen, it takes him a long time to get on it. Health care waddles its way through Congress, and he watches. There‘s a horrid (ph) terrorist incident at Ft. Hood, and he shows up days later and a bit too cool.
And he‘s only (ph) late today calling a meeting of his security people to find out why a guy nearly blew up an airplane over Detroit on Christmas Day. Is this slowness to act, this tendency to narrate events, rather than control them, the reason President Obama is being hit so hard these days from right, as well as left? Republicans are out to destroy him, obviously, but where are his supporters on the Democratic side? Are they slow to defend him because he, the president, has been slow to lead?
The head of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, who‘s coming here, has made his plans clear. His new book is called “Right Now:
A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda.” Could it be that the Republicans poll lower than any point in history because all they do—all they do—is say no? Michael Steele joins us later.
Plus, the increased check on airline passengers from 14 countries. Is this a reasonable thing for us to do, given that the 9/11 killers came from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and the Emirates? What are we supposed to do? Let‘s debate it.
And can we talk? How is it possible the underwear bomber makes it onto the plane but Joan Rivers can‘t? That‘s in the “Sideshow,” where it belongs.
And finally, is the tea party movement the answer to a Republican comeback or a sign of its demise?
Let‘s start with President Obama‘s meeting, just held this afternoon, with his national security team. Did he deliver a tough enough call to action in the wake of the failed Christmas Day bombing plot? Pat Buchanan‘s an MSNBC political analyst and Drew Westen is a professor of psychology at Emory University and author of “The Political Brain.”
You‘re a smart guy, Drew. What‘s the president‘s problem? Why does he seem to be taking a lot of heat from all directions, especially right now?
DREW WESTEN, AUTHOR, “THE POLITICAL BRAIN”: Well, I think, in general, what we‘ve seen from the president is just what you describe, which is often too late, too soon—I mean, coming on too—whatever the word—whatever that phrase is! He‘s a little too slow to react and typically waits until the damage has been done.
In this case, I‘m not sure he was—that was the case. I thought he delivered a pretty strong—strong speech today. But the problem was, the conflicting message between him today and his homeland security chief, Janet Napolitano, when this first struck, where her tone was very reassuring, Don‘t worry, the system worked, and now today his tone is very different. But I thought he took a much better tone today.
MATTHEWS: Yes, they‘re still paying for her comment, that the system works, when it‘s like a chicken in every basket. It sounded like something from the Hoover administration.
Here‘s President Obama after the meeting today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bottom line is this. The U.S. government had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot and potentially disrupt the Christmas Day attack, but our intelligence community failed to connect those dots which would have placed the suspect on the no-fly list. In other words, this was not a failure to collect intelligence, it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had. The information was there. Agencies and analysts who needed it had access to it, and our professionals were trained to look for it and to bring it all together.
Now, I will accept that intelligence by its nature is imperfect. But it is increasingly clear that intelligence was not fully analyzed or fully leveraged. That‘s not acceptable. And I will not tolerate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Would that have been a better statement on St. Stephen‘s Day, the day after Christmas, 10 days ago?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, it sure would. That is tough. He‘s—there‘s some anger in that, Chris. There‘s a sense of, Look, let‘s get to the bottom of this. Somebody dropped the ball here. This is a grave situation. Three hundred people could have been scattered across Detroit area. And I‘m going to find some answers. Somebody didn‘t connect the dots, and I‘m going to find out whether the information didn‘t get to DNI, the director of national intelligence, or whether the dots were not connected there.
I think out of this, you‘re going to see possibly...
MATTHEWS: Didn‘t you know, Pat—as an observer and reporter, didn‘t you know that everything that he just said...
MATTHEWS: ... a couple days right after Christmas?
BUCHANAN: As soon as you heard...
MATTHEWS: You didn‘t have to wait until the 5th of January.
BUCHANAN: No, as soon as you heard the guy had this manufactured bomb sewn into his underwear, he‘s a 23-year-old Nigerian, somebody...
MATTHEWS: You know all these facts.
BUCHANAN: Well, you can...
MATTHEWS: You knew that we had picked up information in Yemen...
MATTHEWS: ... just a few days after. You knew the kid‘s father had warned us...
MATTHEWS: ... more than a week ago. Why did he give the speech today?
BUCHANAN: Well, that‘s his problem. As Drew was saying, he is late. He is too little, too late. I think this is a good move. I think he is on top of it now, Chris. But he‘s been damaged by these 10 days. And I know Cheney‘s been hit, but I‘ll tell you, Cheney has stung him, and if he stung him to this action, that‘s a good thing.
MATTHEWS: Well, a broken clock is right twice a day. That would include Dick Cheney. Drew, your thoughts about this timing issue. Is this endemic? Is this, to use the term all over the place right now, systemic, this slowness and rather coolness with regard to Ft. Hood? The president arrived several days later and was part of that service down there, appropriately so. Many people thought he was a bit too detached, he didn‘t really feel emotionally connected to the event. It was about our service people getting killed in the line of duty. He didn‘t seem to act emotional, as most presidents would in those circumstances. Is it timing? Is it emotion? Detachment? Size it up.
WESTEN: I think—I think you‘re right on the money on...
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m asking you. You‘ll notice there‘s an interrogate.
MATTHEWS: I‘m asking you because I know what you think and I‘m asking you to define it.
WESTEN: Well, I think it‘s both timing and emotion. And I‘m really with Pat on this. I think this is—that this is a—I think this is, as the president would use the word, a systemic problem. We saw this on health care, where there was no passion in anything that he did until it got to be October and the plan was almost run into the ground. There wasn‘t a coherent story that he told on health care, really, until October, when he decided to say, OK, I guess there are some problems here, let me tell you about what they are. It took him a long time to get there. And I think that, you know, he‘s a—he‘s a guy who comes across as—he can be phenomenally passionate. That‘s what won him the election. But he‘s preferred to run...
BUCHANAN: Let me tell you his problem...
WESTEN: ... the government much more like a—much more like Dukakis.
BUCHANAN: His problem is he is not a natural executive at all. He is not engaged. He is diffident. He is—quite frankly, he is academic. He is professorial. He is aloof. And even on health care, the thing—the tea party people almost dynamited that thing during the summer. Then he did come back and give his speech...
BUCHANAN: ... but then he says, OK, Harry Reid‘s got it. He just doesn‘t seem to be terribly...
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s talk about...
BUCHANAN: ... engaged...
MATTHEWS: ... that executive role. And I want you to jump in here, Drew, because I think we‘re on to something very narrow and very particular and pointed here. Something like the White House security and those grifters broke in—a small matter, you could argue, because nothing really went wrong, but they did break in. They had no right to be there. It took him the longest time.
Now, Sally Quinn, who writes about things in Washington, said today in “The Washington Post” on the op-ed page, he should have fired somebody. It should have been Mark Sullivan out of Secret—somebody, Desiree Rogers, in charge of social life. That was a case. Then the other thing with this thing with the airplane almost being blown up—nobody seems to be—you don‘t get a sense he‘s the boss.
BUCHANAN: Look, I...
MATTHEWS: He‘s got some people like Rahm Emanuel enforcing them. And nobody gets sledgehammered.
BUCHANAN: Well, let me tell you—this is—now, I know you might...
MATTHEWS: ... what Sally said...
BUCHANAN: You might not like the...
MATTHEWS: ... the president explained (ph) every time.
BUCHANAN: You might not like this comparison, but Nixon would have called in Haldeman, if those two people had walked in there. What went on, Bob? What happened? You get to the bottom of this. Heads roll. And Haldeman would have been right on top of this. I know they ran into a lot of trouble, but I‘ll tell you, that was the best-run White House I have ever been in, first term of Nixon. I mean, when Nixon demanded this kind of action—and he would not have been satisfied...
MATTHEWS: Well, Watergate, was first term, though.
BUCHANAN: Well, Watergate was first term. There‘s no doubt about it.
OK. You can laugh about it, what I‘m saying...
MATTHEWS: I‘m not. I‘m just bringing it up.
BUCHANAN: ... is Bob Haldeman was an executive.
WESTEN: He was decisive.
BUCHANAN: And I don‘t know that—and Rahm Emanuel is a congressman and a guy that runs around getting money from Wall Street.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me get a little dispassionate from you there, Drew, and that is this question. Executive ability—this president was not a governor. He was not a mayor. He‘s not used to cashing the checks or signing them. He‘s not used to being there when there‘s a four-alarm fire downtown.
My idea of a president, my idea of a mayor, a police chief is exactly the same. In fact, the job I‘ve always wanted was police commissioner of Philly, OK? I want to be the guy standing on the curb when there‘s a big fire. I want to be there when the reporters come by and says, What happened here? Have you got things under control? How many engines you got here? Are you going to put it out in an hour or what? I want to see a president on the job. I love that stuff.
I thought Bush was out to lunch during Katrina. I think that really killed his presidency and his role in history because he wasn‘t there. He was somewhere in Crawford with his feet up, drinking near beers. I don‘t know what he was doing, but he wasn‘t on the job.
This president was in Hawaii getting some sun. Fair enough. But it looked terrible. It looked terrible. When there‘s a big fire, the mayor ought to be there.
WESTEN: Well, you‘re absolutely right, and...
MATTHEWS: That‘s my thought. What are your—what‘s your thought...
WESTEN: ... your example of...
MATTHEWS: I mean, you‘re the brain here. You wrote about “The Political Brain.”
MATTHEWS: Give me some brain, will you?
WESTEN: I just write about brains.
MATTHEWS: Well, tell me what his brain should have been doing.
WESTEN: He—well, you know, what his brain should have been thinking back to was the other Bush, who came out on September 12th with that foghorn because that‘s the Bush who actually captivated the American people...
MATTHEWS: I liked that guy.
WESTEN: ... because he showed the passion. You know, he was right there, and every American stood by him. And the president we saw today...
MATTHEWS: Then he let Cheney eat him up like a Pacman. Cheney and the neocons grabbed that little hero that we loved with the firefighter and turned him into a little agent of their causes.
WESTEN: Let me give you another example...
MATTHEWS: We all know that now.
BUCHANAN: Let me give you another example, Chris, Robert Kennedy. If something had gone wrong and Jack Kennedy calls up and said, Find out, he would have been...
MATTHEWS: He would have kneecapped the guy.
BUCHANAN: ... all over—he would have been all over it. Lyndon Johnson—What happened here? And he would have been right on top of it immediately. But you know, to be out there snorkeling...
MATTHEWS: I think—OK, here‘s the problem. Can a president who‘s naturally dispassionate—I‘ve been accused of being yesterday by saying he‘s Ray Milland because he‘s so calm, he never gets ruffled, he never sweats, like Pat and I do. He never shows the passion of leadership. Can he lead without passion?
WESTEN: No, I mean, you can‘t lead without passion. The reality is that you can‘t be motivated without passion. Passion is what gets us to move. And if he can‘t get that passion, if he can‘t get worked up, he‘s not going to be able to lead and he‘s not going to be able to motivate.
MATTHEWS: People don‘t change, though, Drew.
MATTHEWS: All my life, I keep asking people, women who want their husbands to change, wives—husbands who want their wives—I always say to people, Have you ever met anybody, Drew, who‘s changed?
BUCHANAN: Chris? Chris?
MATTHEWS: I mean, that‘s my question.
BUCHANAN: Passion is a reflection of conviction and belief.
BUCHANAN: I mean, you get passionate because you really care about it. You can‘t keep faking it if you don‘t have it.
MATTHEWS: OK. Ronald Reagan did not lose his temper often, but people knew where he stood.
BUCHANAN: But he was passionate.
MATTHEWS: Right. Well, what‘s the difference?
WESTEN: Well, this is where...
BUCHANAN: When you‘d go into a meeting with Ronald Reagan...
WESTEN: This is where...
BUCHANAN: ... and he‘d start—go ahead. Go ahead, Drew.
MATTHEWS: Go Drew.
WESTEN: I was going to say, Pat, I fully agree with you. This is where I think the real crux of the issue is, which is that no one really knows where Obama stands on virtually anything because he doesn‘t express his passion on anything.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me—let me...
WESTEN: We don‘t know where he stands on...
MATTHEWS: Let me stop you. Let me stop the music here. I know where he stands. He wants national health insurance. I know where he stands, he‘s a Keynesian economic with the cojones to put out a real fiscal and monetary policy to stop the hell that was breaking loose at the end of the Bush administration. I know those things.
I know—I disagree with him about Afghanistan. He‘s somewhere in the middle of Afghanistan. He‘s with me on Iraq.
BUCHANAN: But Chris, let me ask you...
MATTHEWS: It was a mistake. So I do know where he stands.
BUCHANAN: Well, you know, I agree. I know where he stands.
MATTHEWS: And Pat knows all those things.
BUCHANAN: I know where he stands. But again, about his belief. Do you think this is really a war president? We‘re going to go in and take them out the way Petraeus...
BUCHANAN: McChrystal and Petraeus believe in the war. I‘m not sure he believes in the war.
MATTHEWS: On the war against al Qaeda, he‘s been clear about from the beginning.
BUCHANAN: OK, he‘s also—we know his position on health care. Does he care deeply enough...
MATTHEWS: OK, Pat, let me tell you a problem. We had—we had Mr. Magoo running us for eight years, by the way. They went over to get al Qaeda. They ended up fighting with Iraq. I mean, they got—they were so off-base. So passion ain‘t enough. Vision, smarts, brains.
BUCHANAN: All right...
MATTHEWS: We should have gone after the guy. I‘m with Michael Smerconish on that, from Philly. We went after to get al Qaeda, we still haven‘t gotten them. We went after to get bin Laden and we went after to get Mullah Omar and the whole rest of them. We still haven‘t gotten them. So we say, Well, we can‘t get them, so let‘s go to war with Saddam Hussein.
BUCHANAN: But look...
MATTHEWS: That‘s what we did do. That was passion.
BUCHANAN: But George W. Bush had passion.
WESTEN: It was idiocy.
BUCHANAN: That‘s why he rolled the Democratic Senate...
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
BUCHANAN: ... with Daschle and Hillary...
BUCHANAN: ... and Biden and all of them voting for war.
MATTHEWS: OK, a great pollster once said to me—to end up here, Drew—every great leader needs three things—motive—Reagan had it, Thatcher had it, I think this president has it. You know where he‘s going. Big picture, you know where he‘s going. He needs passion and he needs, or she needs, spontaneity, to react quickly to events. The lights are on and somebody‘s home. I think the Obama problem is not passion. It‘s not motive. I know both are there. It‘s spontaneity, the ability to move quick and say, You‘re right, I don‘t like it, let‘s go. You say executive ability. That‘s what I think is missing.
BUCHANAN: Scotty Reston said every journalist needs three things—drive, drive, drive.
BUCHANAN: And that‘s what‘s missing.
MATTHEWS: OK, we all have our list. Pat Buchanan, Drew Westen...
MATTHEWS: ... “The Political Brain.”
WESTEN: Good to see you again.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: The chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, takes aim at, well, his own party, saying they‘ve screwed up after Ronald Reagan. Well, we‘ll get to that. He‘s much tougher on the Dems. But can Republicans right their ship by standing against everything? Can the no party get a yes from the American people? Michael Steele coming right here to sell his book on HARDBALL next.
You‘re watching it, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, “HANNITY”: Do you think you can take over the House? Do you think Republicans...
MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: Not this year. And Sean, I‘ll say honestly...
HANNITY: You don‘t think so.
STEELE: Well—well, I don‘t know yet because we don‘t have all the candidates. We still have vacancies that need to get filled.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele with Sean Hannity last night. A spokesman for the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, the NRCC, said, quote, “Independent political analysts and even liberal columnists have stated that Republicans have a very real shot at taking back the majority in 2010. Make no mistake about it, we‘re playing to win.”
Well, Chairman Steele has a new book called “Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda.” He joins us tonight from New York. Do you stick with what you said the other night on Sean, that you don‘t think your party can win back the House this time?
STEELE: Well, Chris, let me—let me just start by saying I gave, I think, an honest analysis of the situation. I‘m not a pundit there. I want to play to win. What—the point I was making, if you go through the rest of that interview, was we‘re in the process of now putting our players on the table. We‘re still building that farm team in some races. We‘ve got primaries that are going to be competitive. We want to see how that turns out. So there are a lot of things to take into consideration.
I agree with the NRCC and the NRSC and others around in the party who believe that we have real shots this November. And I‘m playing to win, as well. But I‘m not going to sit here in January, not knowing where all of my pieces are on this playground, or this chess board, and tell you, Oh, we‘re going to do it absolutely this way or that way.
STEELE: So what I was trying to say is, we‘re now beginning to put a good team in place. Coming off the wins in New Jersey and Virginia, I feel very good about next fall and I‘m excited and ready to rock and roll.
MATTHEWS: Let me restate the question...
MATTHEWS: ... that Sean put to you. Can you—it isn‘t “Will you,” he said, Can you win the House this year?
MATTHEWS: Can you...
STEELE: Yes, we can.
MATTHEWS: ... Mr. Chairman, win the House?
STEELE: I think we can.
MATTHEWS: OK, so you have a different answer. Let me ask you...
STEELE: Yes, we can.
MATTHEWS: Let me—let me—the question—you know, I get the feeling, reading your book—well, not having read it, but looking at the cover and checking my name in it, like everybody else—and thank you for the mention.
STEELE: Hey, look, if you...
MATTHEWS: A lot of...
STEELE: Can I just say real quick...
MATTHEWS: Well, by the way, I‘ve got to ask—sir, go ahead.
STEELE: No, I was just going to say, you know what I appreciate and why I put that in there? Because the one thing I‘ve always appreciated about you is that you don‘t try to hide or color what your perspectives or your views are.
MATTHEWS: Well, thank you. Well...
STEELE: You wear that passion...
STEELE: We know you‘re an unabashed liberal...
MATTHEWS: ... this president, by the way—no, no. I‘ll accept all of that, except I don‘t think unabashed is right, but liberal on a lot of things. But let me tell you this. I‘m also a critic every day of when things go wrong. And I made that comment—I‘ll say it again—I wished him well, like I wished Bush well in the beginning, I wished Clinton well in the beginning. I wish all these presidents well in the beginning. And I have been—I have been rooting for him and I will continue to root for his success because I think I want him to succeed. That‘s clear.
MATTHEWS: But I‘m a critic every day.
Here‘s a question for you book—for your book, which I found fascinating. I‘m looking, like all Washingtonians do, at your book, and I look in the back of it under P‘s. And I look at these names, Pacino, Al. We know who he is.
MATTHEWS: Party of Lincoln, great for a Republican like yourself.
MATTHEWS: Paterson, David, the under-attack governor of New York.
MATTHEWS: Pawlenty, Tim, from Minnesota. PBS, that‘s an odd thing for a Republican to quote.
MATTHEWS: Daniel Pearl, of course, the man, the great heroic journalist who was killed over there.
MATTHEWS: Pelosi, Nancy. Prejean, the beautiful woman from California who was Miss California.
MATTHEWS: And public option.
But there‘s a big P. missing here.
MATTHEWS: Where is the big P. from Alaska? What—no mention of her?
MATTHEWS: She‘s the most admired woman in the country, next to—alongside Hillary Clinton, and you don‘t even give her the respect of a mention in your book as chairman of the Republican Party?
STEELE: Hey, look, she just wrote a book.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s the book. Sarah, you‘re not even in here.
STEELE: She just wrote a book.
MATTHEWS: You‘re not even in here.
What do we make of that?
STEELE: Well, you know, there‘s nothing to make of that.
MATTHEWS: Nothing to make of it? She notices it, I‘m sure.
STEELE: Well, no, no, no. Look, first off, the governor and I are good buddies. And I have an enormous amount of respect and gratitude for her run last year and what she‘s done as governor of the state.
MATTHEWS: Well, why are you afraid to speak her name?
STEELE: Oh, come on, Chris. Afraid to speak—Palin, OK? I‘m not afraid to speak her name.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you go to say about her, since you won‘t write about her?
STEELE: The emphasis of the book—look, the emphasis of the book, the emphasis of the book—and I invite everyone, starting with you, to actually read it cover to cover. And you will understand that this is not about singling out one individual and focusing on one personality.
MATTHEWS: All right. OK.
STEELE: This is about a party that‘s in recovery, a party that‘s about to enter into a renaissance, in which we can begin connecting to the American people on—I think on some foundational principles, whether you‘re talking health care or the war in Iraq or whatever it happens to be. That‘s the focus here. This is the blueprint and the pathway to do that.
MATTHEWS: Can I use some common language? I want to use some street language with you, if you don‘t mind...
MATTHEWS: ... because I think we speak the language of the people of both parties.
STEELE: Absolutely. You hear me. I‘m street.
MATTHEWS: It seems to me that the Democrats have a problem. The economy is terrible, 10 percent unemployment. The president came in with hell on wheels and he‘s done, I think, a good job. But, clearly, there‘s nothing to hand—no roses to hand out yet, no rewards yet politically.
But the Republican Party keeps in all the polling by “The Wall Street Journal” and NBC keeps coming up as a bad brand.
STEELE: Sure, yes.
MATTHEWS: About one in five Americans call themselves Republicans. Even if you‘re a conservative, people aren‘t willing to say, I‘m a Republican.
MATTHEWS: If your brand sucks, how can you rebuild the product?
STEELE: Well, that‘s exactly what this blueprint is about.
That‘s what this—this book really focuses on, starting with the mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, which you and I are familiar with, as good little Catholic boys.
MATTHEWS: We are.
STEELE: And the reality of it is, you can‘t begin to make a step forward unless you understand what you‘re stepping away from, or, more importantly, what you have stepped into.
MATTHEWS: What, Iraq?
MATTHEWS: Was Iraq...
MATTHEWS: What were the big mistakes? Was it Katrina? Because you are getting honest here, and I know you‘re going to pull back, because you‘re almost getting honest.
STEELE: No, I‘m not going to pull back.
MATTHEWS: Not paying attention to Katrina, was that a mistake by the president?
STEELE: It was Katrina. It was the government buildup. It was spending.
MATTHEWS: Going into Iraq, when we should have been fighting al Qaeda, was that a mistake?
STEELE: No, I don‘t think that was a mistake, because...
MATTHEWS: Going into Iraq wasn‘t a mistake? The American people think so.
STEELE: Well, look, you have to—you have to look at the—the totality of what the president saw and what the president knew, the information, along with the Democrats, as you noted in the last segment, who stood with the president on the war in Iraq. And, when it became politically expedient for them, they flipped like a jailbird on the issue.
STEELE: But, having said that, the broader point here, more importantly, is that, as a party...
STEELE: ... we stepped away from principle. And this, I think, is a pathway back to regaining that ground.
MATTHEWS: OK. You know when you stepped away from principle? When President Bush wouldn‘t veto a single overspending bill the entire time your party ran the Congress, not one.
STEELE: Duly noted in the book. Duly noted in the book.
MATTHEWS: Not one.
Let me ask you a tricky question.
MATTHEWS: You know, I get—there‘s a lot of fight. And I may take the Republican side on this fight, whether we should be taking these people, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, up to New York and having them a big trial at the cost of $200 million in a year in New York City. And I would say that just exposes us to all kinds of trouble, including crazy jurors, potentially, who just have all kinds of theories.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this.
Is it a reasonable debate or is there a right side and a wrong side to this? Is the right side we have to have military tribunals for these kind of people, and the wrong side we have criminal cases? Is it as simple as that?
STEELE: I think, to a large extent, it is, Chris, because, at the end of the day, you have got to call it what it is. Who are you dealing with here? Who are the—who are the jury of Khalid Mohammed‘s peers? Who are his peers?
I mean, what American or what New York citizen is his peer that can sit in judgment of him?
MATTHEWS: So, that‘s the wrong side of this issue.
STEELE: It‘s the wrong side. And the reason it is...
MATTHEWS: So, then, why did your president, our president at the time, George W. Bush, try the shoe bomber under criminal court in the United States? You said it was the wrong way to go. Well, then why did your president and our president at the time do that?
STEELE: You know, look, again, I wasn‘t in that meeting.
MATTHEWS: Have I tricked you? I have tricked you.
STEELE: You have not tricked me.
MATTHEWS: I have let you give a policy position here which I have now explained to you ran contrary to what the Republican president did.
MATTHEWS: You‘re laughing. But you just took a principled position and said it‘s wrong to have a criminal trial.
STEELE: Wait a minute.
MATTHEWS: And I have just reminded you that the shoe bomber got a criminal trial...
MATTHEWS: ... and was convicted of life imprisonment.
STEELE: You haven‘t let me tell answer the question, bro. Let me tell you what the deal is.
MATTHEWS: You did answer it. I caught you.
STEELE: No, you didn‘t catch me, because you started...
MATTHEWS: I nailed you.
STEELE: I started to tell you that...
MATTHEWS: The tape will show it.
STEELE: Let‘s go to the videotape.
MATTHEWS: The tape will show, sir, that you said the right position was military tribunals and the wrong position was criminal. And the president of the last instance, George W. Bush, went the criminal route with the shoe bomber. And you cannot explain the contradiction in your thinking.
STEELE: No, I‘m not. OK. Well, you clearly have answered my question for me. So, I guess I will just leave that as the answer...
MATTHEWS: No, I have judged it. I have judged your answer.
STEELE: ... because all I said—my start was, I wasn‘t in the room on that.
But, then, if you let me finish it, I would have gone on to say that I do not think that we should subject our courts, whether it‘s under a Republican administration or a Democrat administration, to—to terrorists who are not about our Constitution. To wrap our Constitution around these imbeciles is not smart. It‘s not smart politics and it‘s not smart national security policy.
And the reality of it is, again, whether you‘re talking then or now, to be consistent, in review...
MATTHEWS: I agree. By the way, that‘s a reasonable position.
STEELE: ... that this—our criminal justice system tries crooks, common criminals. It doesn‘t try terrorists.
MATTHEWS: And, by the way, we can disagree, because I could argue that terrorist behavior is criminal.
But let me ask you this. Can you still be a liberal Republican, like the ones we grew up with like Rockefeller, and Henry Cabot Lodge, and Jack Javits, and Bill Scranton? Is it still OK to be a liberal Republican?
MATTHEWS: Or there‘s no—there‘s not—a liberal Republican, not a moderate, a liberal?
STEELE: Well, I don‘t know what a liberal Republican is, I mean, because I—what I do know, I know Republicans who adhere to certain core principles like, you know, taxes and the amount that we pay, the role of government, free markets and free enterprise, you know, looking at communities and appreciating the ability to create reinvestment and opportunities for people who are trying to move up the ladder of success, if you‘re standing with us on those core principles, if you value, you know, the livelihoods and the lives of individuals to achieve the American dream, then I think this is a party you can stand with.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. OK. Thank you very much, Michael Steele.
The name of your book is “Right Now: A 12-Step Program For Defeating the Obama Administration.” It sounds like something to do with Alcoholics Anonymous here, a 12-step program.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, we will talk about that the next time.
STEELE: It‘s all about recovery, my friend.
MATTHEWS: Oh, God, you‘re open-minded about it.
Up next: How did the underwear bomber get onto an airplane, but comedian Joan Rivers couldn‘t? That‘s coming up next in the “Sideshow.”
There she is.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”
Well, comedians take vacations, too, but they were back last night working the weird side of that attempted Christmas airline bombing.
Let‘s start with our pal Jay.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE JAY LENO SHOW”)
JAY LENO, HOST, “THE JAY LENO SHOW”: You know, it is good to be back. We were off for Christmas. And, apparently, so was the Department of Homeland Security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”)
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”: He wants to blow the plane up. He sets his underpants on fire.
LETTERMAN: And thank God the passengers on the plane subdue the guy.
They secure him. They tie him up, and they move him to first class.
And I was...
LETTERMAN: Wow. Are we sending the right message there, really?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He paid cash for his ticket.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
TOWNSEND: It was a one-way ticket.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paid nearly $3,000 in cash for his plane ticket and checked no bags.
JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”: What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?
STEWART: It‘s December. He‘s going from Nigeria to Amsterdam to Detroit without a coat?
STEWART: With a one-way ticket? Oh, do you think he‘s going to Detroit to start a better life?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I didn‘t know he didn‘t have a coat. It‘s cold in Detroit.
It was cold everywhere here this Christmas.
Anyway, meanwhile, another comic, Joan Rivers herself, got into this thing firsthand. She was bumped from a U.S.-bound flight out of Costa Rica because of her passport, which, according to “The New York Daily News,” reads Joan Rosenberg, AKA Joan Rivers. Doesn‘t anybody in Costa Rica know who Joan Rivers is? Apparently, nobody there at the security line. She was stranded overnight.
Finally, on “LARRY KING” last night, Republican Congressman Ron Paul, the libertarian, who is a hero to many, including a lot of young people out there, took on Dick Cheney‘s constant criticism of President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LARRY KING LIVE”)
LARRY KING, HOST, “LARRY KING LIVE”: What about Dick Cheney‘s complaints?
REP. RON PAUL ®, TEXAS: Well, I think he had his eight years and he‘s caused a lot of trouble for our country, and he perpetuated a war in Iraq that was unnecessary and wrongheaded. So, I would say that it best he not be so critical right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Well said.
I would add that a vice president whose chief of staff got nailed with four felony convictions shouldn‘t be advising us on how to run things properly.
Up next: The Obama administration orders pat-down searches of all U.S.-bound passengers coming in from 14 countries, and now some groups are crying foul. But when the people who try to attack us come from these countries, isn‘t it better to be safe than worry about hurt feelings? That debate straight ahead.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATT NESTO, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Matt Nesto with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks ended the day mixed. A blockbuster sales report from Ford helped lift the S&P. The Dow industrials were down 12 points, the S&P up just about 3 ½, and Nasdaq with a tiny little gain of its own.
Ford shares were up 6.5 percent after reporting a 23 percent jump in December sales. That‘s almost three times what analysts were expecting. The other big U.S. automakers not faring as well—GM sales down almost 13 percent. Chrysler saw a 10.5 percent drop, capping the automaker‘s worst year since 1962.
Kraft Foods at the top of the Dow industrials today, up almost 5 percent, after top shareholder Warren Buffett opposed the company‘s plan to issue millions of new shares to buy British candy-maker Cadbury.
And Continental Airlines up 13 percent, after the new CEO said he will forgo his annual salary and bonus until his airline is back in the black.
That‘s it from CNBC. We‘re first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
In an effort to increase security, obviously, the Transportation—the Transportation Security Administration—that‘s the TSA—the people that check us at the airports, has increased screening measures for airline passengers coming from 14 countries. Look at them around the world there. They‘re all highlighted there.
Alejandro Beutel is with the Muslim Public Affairs Council. He says this is the wrong way to go about safety. David Rivkin, a former Reagan and Justice Department official who has been with us, disagrees.
Let me start with you, David.
Why is it smart to go to these 14 countries, Afghanistan, Algeria—it includes Cuba, by the way, Iran, some on the state terrorism list, all these countries, mostly Islamic countries, except for Cuba, I guess. Why do we have to—and what they are doing in these case is have extra pat-downs, basically extra check of your carry-on luggage. It‘s sort of what they do—I travel all the time, gentlemen—it‘s what they do when you get on that SSS list, when they pull you aside and they say, OK, we‘re going to check out everything. We‘re going to wand you. We‘re going to check your luggage by hand.
They do that to you if you break one of the rules or your—the buzzer goes off too many times.
DAVID RIVKIN, FORMER ASSOCIATE WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Let‘s agree.
MATTHEWS: Is that a right or a wrong way to go?
RIVKIN: It‘s a reasonable way to go. Let‘s agree that profiling—let‘s leave aside political correctness—is a way of marshaling scare resources to manage a large threat.
The real question, is this the right way to profile? Let‘s agree that these countries, coming from these countries is a reasonable proxy for the probability, enhanced probability, that you might be a terrorist. I, frankly, think we need to look at other factors. We need to look at age. We need to look at gender. We need to do...
MATTHEWS: What does that tell you? What are you talking for?
RIVKIN: Well, young males are dis—but, again, we shouldn‘t be blinded by it. We have women terrorist bombers. But, by and large...
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you the bluntest question.
The people that attacked us on 9/11, hard, horrific evidence, they were checked. They were called back out of line again because they—they set off the metal detectors. They‘re carrying box-cutters. They were still allowed to get on the plane. They still killed the 3,000 people.
RIVKIN: Chris, we need to do two things.
MATTHEWS: So, what good does it do to pull a person out of line and do one of these pat-downs...
MATTHEWS: ... if all it‘s going to do is slow somebody down for 10 minutes?
RIVKIN: Nothing if it‘s ineffective, by itself. But if you combine it with other measures—you have to work the process from beginning to end. Selecting people, checking people and making sure they don‘t get through, if they are carrying something suspicious objects. You need to do all of them. It‘s not either/or.
MATTHEWS: Your thoughts? What do we do? These are countries, not ethnic groups, being identified. These are countries. By the way, just to remind everybody, 9/11, 15 Saudis, one Egyptian, one Lebanese and two from the union—from the Emirates countries, the UAE. So they come from certain countries so far. They could be coming from Denmark tomorrow, we don‘t know. But their countries of origin correspond to the countries on this list. Your thoughts?
ALEJANDRO BEUTEL, MUSLIM PUBLIC AFFAIRS COUNCIL: Exactly. My colleague mentioned we need a layered effect, and that‘s correct. But the sort of ethnic and religious profiling—
MATTHEWS: Where is that taking place right now?
BEUTEL: Right now with the USA standards, by selecting these 14 countries, that‘s just basically telegraphing our strategy. If we decide to profile from these countries, then terrorists are just going to recruit elsewhere. Profiling is not going to help against Richard Reid. It‘s not going to help against Jose Padilla. It‘s not going to help against any of the UK bombers in the 2006 plot.
MATTHEWS: Why not?
BEUTEL: because these are people who don‘t fit profiles. A 2005 study by the Library of Congress found that there is no such thing as a reliable terrorist profile, especially based on ethnic background. But this has been—
MATTHEWS: Country of origin.
BEUTEL: I understand that. Again, even based on country of origin -
MATTHEWS: If you only check certain people, because you can‘t check everybody, who should you check?
BEUTEL: Well, again—
MATTHEWS: If you have to—since everybody—have you ever been at the LA airport, LAX, in the morning, 6:00, when there‘s a billion people there? Or out here at Reagan, when there‘s a billion people on a Saturday morning? You can‘t check everybody through exhaustive checks or people will never get on a plane. How do you single out the people you check? That‘s a question I want answered.
BEUTEL: Let‘s go back to what President Obama was saying earlier in his statement about the review. What we need to do is make sure our intelligence actually connects the dots.
MATTHEWS: No, in terms of checking people when they get on airplanes, which people should be checked most thoroughly?
BEUTEL: Actually, what you need to do, in terms of a smart defense, is make sure that in the layers themselves, you need to check people beforehand, by having the proper intelligence.
MATTHEWS: No, how do you check people when you get on an airplane?
I‘m asking a simple question.
BEUTEL: I‘m getting to it. It‘s a nuanced issue. You have stage one beforehand. Then, once you get to the airport itself, then afterwards what you do is you look at certain perhaps behaviors that they‘re doing, behavioral profiling. If they‘re doing something that‘s strange, if you‘re asking basic questions about, you know, where are you going to be going --
MATTHEWS: Who asks these questions? I go to the airport and they don‘t ask any questions.
BEUTEL: Behavioral profiling. For instance, at Logan Airport in Boston, they‘re doing something right now where they have a pilot program, where as a part of airport security itself, as one of the last rings of defense, is that they do this thing where they look for things that are possible suspicious behaviors. It doesn‘t look at ethnicity or race or religion, but looks at the actual behaviors themselves, things that might be dead giveaways --
MATTHEWS: Like what?
BEUTEL: -- to someone who might have something suspicious. For instance, if someone‘s going to be doing something where they‘re going to be a little bit fidgety, or if they‘re not answering questions straight.
MATTHEWS: But there are no questions put to you.
BEUTEL: In some cases, though, there will be questions put to individuals.
MATTHEWS: I‘m all for that. But how do you decide who to ask the questions of?
BEUTEL: It‘s not just about questions either, though. It‘s also making sure to read the body language.
MATTHEWS: Give me a procedure to defend America, quickly. What would be your procedure to defend this country? His procedure is to at least start with this country of origin—
RIVKIN: I‘m not suggesting against --
MATTHEWS: What would be your approach?
BEUTEL: My approach would be a layered defense, starting with smart intelligence, making sure that we share the information. Then from there, making sure that once we get closer to the airport, we have behavioral assessments that don‘t rely on certain profiles that are not going to be—
MATTHEWS: Like country of origin.
BEUTEL: Like country of origin, ethnicity or—
MATTHEWS: OK. I just don‘t know how you would—you said ask questions. They don‘t ask any questions right now.
RIVKIN: We need this kind of profiling. I‘m not against nuanced We don‘t have the resources for behavioral profiling. Let me tell you, if we push al Qaeda to stop recruiting the people they‘ve been recruiting and start looking for Scandinavians—
MATTHEWS: They will.
RIVKIN: They will, but they would trickle down. This is what you do in warfare. You push your enemy to operate in less than optimal ways. I would bet you they‘re not going to be able to recruit enough Scandinavians.
Profiling is just a starting point. You‘re supposed to look at other things. It‘s not a panacea. To deny that it‘s useful as a foundational stone is just silly.
BEUTEL: It only displaces the problem. All it takes is one or two people to do these things. That‘s all it takes.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s get away from race and ethnicity to the simple question. Let‘s get to nationality. If you are looking for IRA, provisional IRA people, back 10 years ago, right, 20 Years ago, wouldn‘t you start with the Irish?
RIVKIN: Of course.
MATTHEWS: Is that unreasonable? Is that prejudicial? I‘m asking, is that prejudicial—no—to look for the IRA among the Irish. Is it prejudicial?
MATTHEWS: Because they recruit among the Irish.
BEUTEL: But the thing is it‘s very specific. There‘s a difference between the IRA, which was an ethnic-based group—
MATTHEWS: Don‘t you recruit Islamic terrorists among Islamic people?
BEUTEL: How can you tell who is a Muslim?
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m asking you—
MATTHEWS: They are starting by nation states. Like you would start with Ireland. If the guy‘s got a passport from Northern Ireland—
BEUTEL: Chris, how can you tell.
MATTHEWS: You can‘t tell.
MATTHEWS: A thousand people get on the plane. And you can only check ten. Which ten do you check? That‘s what we‘re talking about.
RIVKIN: Not the elderly grandmother. That‘s for sure.
MATTHEWS: Do you check Joan Rivers?
MATTHEWS: She got bumped off a flight the other day. I get a little heated on this, because I think everybody likes to push aside the issue. You have limited resources. I don‘t think we pay the TSA people enough. I think we need some New York cops, retired cops, with street instinct standing around those airports, who have the sense of these questions. By the way, you can‘t interrogate passengers. You can‘t ask them all these questions right now. We would need—
RIVKIN: My colleague doesn‘t want profiling, let‘s be candid, because you are afraid it would lead to broad stigmatization of the community. This is not what this country is about.
RIVKIN: All we‘re talking about is allocation of scarce resources.
MATTHEWS: Everybody from those countries knows why this is going on. And it‘s not done by prejudiced people. It‘s done because common sense tells you—by the way, if Americans kept attacking Arab countries, we would be checked.
RIVKIN: Of course. Profiling—
MATTHEWS: I can tell you. If everybody that bombed these countries were from America, we‘d be checked. Please come back. I hate to say it, but this conversation is going to get more heated as time goes on. If we get hit again, this won‘t be a calm conversation.
Up next, is there room in the Republican party for anyone other than these protesters? They seem to be running the party right now, even though they say they‘re not Republicans. They‘re all Republicans. The politics fix is next. This is HARDBALL. They don‘t just have the party label right now. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back with the politics fix, with “The Daily Beast‘s” Mark McKinnon and “USA Today‘s” Susan Page. What do we think about this fact, Mark—and I go with you—here‘s your “Daily Beast” quote, “tea is the new Kool-Aid for Republicans and a lot of candidates and office holders on the right are drinking from it like a fire hose. The Tea Party crowd is unlikely to become a third party, but their ability to leverage energy behind candidates and policies could be very similar to what MoveOn.org has accomplished on the left. Movements are often identified by a clear leader. The question is who will lead?”
So who will lead the Tea Baggers? Will it be Rick Perry down in Texas? Will it be Michele Bachmann out in Minnesota? Will it be Sarah Palin? You first, Mark. It is your idea. The Tea Baggers are an interesting group to watch. They‘re not far right. They‘re probably center right, in fact some centrists. But they‘re generally Republican voters, right? Is that fair to say? They vote Republican?
MARK MCKINNON, “THE DAILY BEAST”: Yeah, they‘re conservative voters, unquestionably. What‘s happened is the GOP brand is so damaged that when you ask overall voters right now their favorable impressions of the parties, they have a more favorable impression of the Tea Party than they do of the Republican party. And you ask that among the independent voters, and they have a more favorable opinion of the Tea Party than either the Democratic party or the Republican party.
MATTHEWS: That‘s true. Does that mean they end up voting—when they go to the voting booth, there is no Tea Party candidate. So I would argue that‘s good for Republicans, because they will end up voting for a Chris Christie or a McDonnough (ph) or a Tom Coburn from Pennsylvania this year. They will find a Republican that‘s not offensive to them and vote for them. Even if it is Pat Toomey, they‘ll just vote for any Republican because they are steamed up.
MCKINNON: They are the movement—movements are about people that are angry at the institution and the establishment. So, yes, they‘re Republicans. They‘re people who are out of power. They‘re unhappy. And the Tea Party‘s become the vessel through which they‘re fueling their anger.
MATTHEWS: They‘re monochromatic, right?
MCKINNON: I don‘t know that they‘re monochromatic.
MATTHEWS: They‘re not? Every picture I see shows them to be.
MCKINNON: There‘s a lot of people out there that cuts across a lot of demographics who feel disenfranchised.
MATTHEWS: But not that other demographic?
MCKINNON: The other demographic?
MATTHEWS: Meaning they‘re all white, all of them. Every single one of them is white.
MCKINNON: I think that‘s a fair characterization, predominantly.
MATTHEWS: What‘s that about? Let me ask Susan. What‘s that about?
SUSAN PAGE, “THE USA TODAY”: I don‘t think these are really Republican voters. These are the kind of populist—
MATTHEWS: Who do they vote for? McCain or Obama?
PAGE: Well, they vote for McCain over Obama.
MATTHEWS: OK, well, that‘s how we keep score.
PAGE: They vote for Palin over McCain.
MATTHEWS: They‘re both Republicans.
PAGE: They are both Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Why are you resisting this? Tea Baggers are Republicans.
PAGE: I don‘t think that‘s true. I think these are voters who don‘t like either party, and who went for Pat Buchanan and went for Ross Perot.
MATTHEWS: In almost all state elections for governor, senator, congress-people, there is a Republican candidate, Democratic candidate. And this coming election, coming in November, they‘ll vote Republican.
PAGE: The risk for republicans is not so much in the general election but will they be a real force for—in primaries to get Republican candidates who will not fare well.
MATTHEWS: When we come back, Mark and Susan, we are going to have a real full-mooner for you to watch. He is from Minnesota and he thinks the real danger to America are the—what he calls the radicals—wait until you hear his words. It is not the terrorists. It is the Democrats. Wait until you hear this guy. He‘s ready to fight, this guy. We‘ll be right back with Susan and Mark. You‘re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Mark McKinnon and Susan Page for more of the fix. Let‘s watch this right now. Here‘s Republican Congressional Candidate Allen Quist, who is running out in Minnesota. Let‘s listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN QUIST ®, MINNESOTA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I, like you, have seen that our country is being destroyed. I mean this is—every generation has had to fight the fight for freedom. This is our fight, and this is our time.
This is it. Terrorism, yes. But that‘s not the big battle. The big battle is in DC with the radicals. They aren‘t liberals. They‘re radicals. Obama, Pelosi, they‘re not liberals. They‘re radicals. They are destroying our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. You know, I think liberal is an OK word. This guy says liberal‘s not bad enough for Obama. What do you think, Mark McKinnon?
MCKINNON: I think he ought to be running for the border instead of the Republican party nomination.
MATTHEWS: Well, he obviously thinks this will sell, this hard-right
Democrats are all a bunch of radicals and they‘re worse than terrorists.
What a statement.
MCKINNON: That‘s the problem. I think we‘re pushing the extremes to the utter extreme, and we keep lowering the bar. I think a lot of this is about just being as outrageous as you can, to get attention from the media. And here we are providing it. But hopefully, over the long haul, they‘ll pay the penalty at the place that it really counts, in the voting booth.
MATTHEWS: I‘m comfortable with suburban Republicans in the northeast. My whole family fits that category. They‘re nice people. They‘re reasonable. They may and bit more conservative than me. But I have to tell you, they are reasonable people. They must think this guy‘s a barn burner.
PAGE: Welcome to Youtube, Mr. Quist. He may not have thought that this little affair he was talking to in Minnesota was going to get this kind of attention. Good news for Tim Waltz, who is a Democratic congressman from that district. It is pretty liberal for this—
MATTHEWS: He calls him a radical.
PAGE: You can do worse with an opponent.
MATTHEWS: This is the kind of crazy stuff that goes on in the Middle East, where every enemy is evil and the demon and everybody has to go crazy. It‘s tribalism. It‘s run amok.
Anyway, thank you, Mark McKinnon. Thank you. Mark McKinnon is a smart guy, Susan, and so are you.
Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now it is time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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