Guests: Richard Engel, John Breaux, William Cohen, Richard Mack, Steve Kornacki, Katie
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Broken government.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
revolt of the center. What happens when the center gets tired of taking grief from left and right and just says, Take this job and shove it? Say it can‘t happen? Look at the people leaving politics or deciding not to run these days. They‘re from states like North Dakota and Indiana, or Delaware, states where a Democrat can only win if he or she has some appeal to the political center. And what happens when a body like the U.S. Senate can‘t function because there‘s no one left in the middle to grease the wheels, to work across the aisle and find something that works for both sides? What happens when the Senator Bayhs of this world want to go home to Indiana? That‘s my question tonight for two former U.S. senators who know the situation up there, John Breaux and William Cohen.
Plus: For all this talk from people like Dick Cheney, who are dining out on the false claim that President Obama isn‘t tough enough when it comes to fighting terrorists, well, there‘s this bit of news, real news. CIA and Pakistani intelligence forces have just captured the Taliban‘s top military commander in Pakistan. This is a huge fact. He‘s the most significant Taliban leader catch since the start of the war in Afghanistan and he‘s being interrogated right now. NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel will give us the latest from out there.
Let‘s start with what‘s happening in the Senate right now with two men of the middle, former senator John Breaux from Louisiana, he was a Democrat, and former senator William Cohen from Maine, he was a Republican. He served as defense secretary, however, for Democratic president Bill Clinton.
Mr. Secretary, you first. Let me show you, first of all, gentlemen, something you‘re familiar with. This is what Senator Bayh said this morning on my colleague‘s show, “MORNING JOE,” about what‘s wrong with Congress. Let‘s listen to the about to be retired Senator Bayh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: I don‘t feel that the Senate or Congress in general is working as well as it should. I think it‘s in desperate need of reform. I think you‘ve got a lot of good people trapped in a dysfunctional system right now. And with regard to the left-wing bloggers, you know, I believe in the 1st Amendment. They‘ve got a right to criticize me. Sometimes it gets a little personal. You know, you‘re only human, you don‘t like that. But you know, you‘ve got to accept that in our society, so I do.
I do think that what people are yearning for—and I do think—and you and I‘ have discussed this before—what our party needs to understand, people want practical progress. They‘re tired of the two extremes. They‘re tired of people who focus on short-term tactical political advantage, rather than getting the job done. You know, some progress is better than none.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Senator Breaux, he took a shot at the left-wing bloggers, as he calls them. And the question is, is that part of the difficulty of being a U.S. senator, you get hit from your extremes, from the liberal side, the left, and the right, if you try to work a deal in the center?
JOHN BREAUX (D-LA), FORMER SENATOR: Chris, I think one of the problems is that the center in the country is getting larger, while the center in the Congress is getting smaller and smaller. There‘s not a significant center like they used to have. Your old boss, Tip O‘Neill, used to speak more in one day to his Republican leader, Bob Michel, than probably Speaker Pelosi speaks to John Boehner in a year.
BREAUX: Literally. They don‘t—they don‘t converse.
MATTHEWS: They don‘t talk.
BREAUX: They don‘t talk. They don‘t go to games together. They don‘t go to dinner together. They‘re only here Tuesday through Thursday. You can‘t stick someone in the eye that you had dinner with the night before. But if you‘re not friends and you don‘t talk with them, you don‘t deal with them, it‘s really easy to be very partisan.
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s a mystery quote for everybody. “We are witnessing a gravitational pull away from center-based politics to the extremes on both the right and left.” Well, I wonder who said that.
MATTHEWS: Bill Cohen, do you recognize those words? They go close to home, I believe.
WILLIAM COHEN (R-ME), FORMER SENATOR: It sounds very familiar, Chris. And as a matter of fact, you could take Senator Bayh‘s comments and just substitute my name for those comments and they‘re almost identical. I think that those of us who served in the Senate and the House found that the middle was collapsing, that we were being pulled apart, that those who were in the center were dismissed as being the mushy middle that had no principle, and those who were planting their feet in the ideological extremes were seeing—being seen as truth, justice, and the American way. And I think that...
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you say to the J.D. Hayworths on the right who are to there beating the heck out of John McCain and the Katrina Vanden Heuvels over on the left who are raising hell about the Democrats like you, Senator, or anybody that might go to the middle? I want to start with you, Mr. Cohen. What do you say to your extremes when they get all the noise on TV? They got nothing to lose. I guess that‘s one thing you can say, that you‘ve got nothing to lose!
COHEN: What you say is, How do you make government work? And if you‘re going to simply try to govern at the extremes, then nothing will take place. And what we‘re seeing now is very little movement made on the key issues that affect our country, on national security, our infrastructure. We are rotting away from the inside, as well, in a physical sense. And when you start looking at what other countries are doing by investing in those things that make a country strong, you say, Why can‘t we do this? What is wrong?
What‘s wrong is no one is willing to take tough decisions. It used to be, when Senator Breaux and I were in the Congress, that in the Senate, you could be a statesman for four years and then go run for reelection the last two. Now it‘s running every moment, raising money, out on the road. And what we‘re seeing is the polarization taking place and no decisions being made because they‘re too tough.
Well, we need tough decisions. You need tough leaders. And you don‘t need people at the extremes saying, We have an absolute solution, which doesn‘t accommodate anybody else‘s view.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, I‘ve got to ask you the same question. But why, Senator—I mean, Abraham Lincoln built the land grant college system, he built the intercontinental railroad, all during fighting the Civil War.
BREAUX: Well, we used to have a centrist coalition in the Senate. Bill Cohen and I were both part of it. The problem now, Chris, I think, is the activists in both parties tend to be far to the left or far to the right, and the country is not there. But the people who are in control of running the political elections out there want you to be pulled all the way to the left and destroy your...
MATTHEWS: What would you have said—say, just take somebody who‘s on these shows, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, a woman on the left, from “The Nation” magazine. She gets a lot of—Arianna Huffington. They get a lot of air time.
BREAUX: I would say...
MATTHEWS: They blast away at people in the middle. They don‘t like them. They think they‘re rotten. They think they‘re crooked. They think they‘re bought.
BREAUX: I would say to people on the far left and the far right, You don‘t represent the majority of the people that are in this country. And this is a government by a majority. And when you become the majority, then your view can be the predominant view. But you‘re not in the majority. We‘ll listen to you, but we have to govern—you have to govern from the center out.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about the noise makers, people—I respect Bernie Sanders from Vermont. He‘s a socialist, basically—an independent, he calls himself a socialist. And he‘ll say to you, you‘re not pure enough if you‘re a Democrat. What do you say to him?
BREAUX: I would just say, Look, I think that the people who‘ve elected me, the majority in my state, feel I‘m the right person for this job at this particular time. And when your opinion becomes the majority, then you can elect someone who agrees with you 100 percent of the time. But until then, the majority has to rule and the majority doesn‘t agree with you.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take look at this. I want you to respond, by the way, Bill Cohen, Senator Cohen, Secretary Cohen. I want you to respond to this charge from—this J.D. Hayworth guy is real—we‘re going to have him on because he‘s just so incredibly incisive. He is attacking John McCain for being John McCain, basically.
Here‘s—by the way, here‘s Senator Bayh talking about deal making and President Obama. Let‘s listen. It‘s today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BAYH: The president is making a sincere effort to reach out and try and bring the two parties together. He knows about the dysfunction here. But it takes two parties to make that work. Look, I‘d say to the far right, disagree with the man, if you must, on some policies, but he is reaching out and you should cooperate and compromise with him where you can. I‘d say to some of my friends on the farther left, Look, sometimes half a loaf is better than none!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, who‘s going to buy that, Senator Cohen, these days?
People on the left want the full loaf, people on the right want no loaf.
COHEN: Well, both will end up getting exactly what they are bargaining for here, nothing. Those on the left will get no action, those on the right may not want any action.
But here‘s the irony involved. Here you have conservatives on the right saying that they want less government, less taxes, but more services. And this is something that the American public has to understand. They can‘t keep beating up on government and yet want the same level of service or more for lower taxes.
And so something has to give. Either you‘re going to have higher taxes or you‘re going to have less government, or something in between. That something in between has to be part of the solution.
We know what the solution is to dealing with the insolvency of Social Security or what‘s happening with Medicare and Medicaid. No one is willing to take the decisions that have to be taken. And this leads to paralysis, stagnation, and no action.
So maybe the Republicans want no action at all, but—and they want less government. So I‘d say, Well, how about less Centers for Disease Control, less NIH?
COHEN: Let‘s go through the list of things you don‘t want.
MATTHEWS: Remember that congressman, he‘s an old-school guy from Massachusetts, Jimmy Burke? Everybody loved him up there. But Jimmy Burke voted for every spending bill and against every tax increase. And somebody said, Why do you do that? He says, Why shouldn‘t I?
MATTHEWS: So the trouble is, the Congress is now filled with Jimmy Burke‘s. They vote for all the spending, including the Republicans. They don‘t veto anything. And they vote against all taxes. So we have deficits of $1.6 trillion, we have a debt facing us of $13 trillion because nobody will pay for what they‘re spending on either side.
BREAUX: And you have a Congress that has a 70 percent disapproval rating...
MATTHEWS: For this reason, maybe.
BREAUX: ... for that reason. I mean, and the people say, Well, it has to be more liberal, it has to be more conservative. In fact, it has to be a more cooperative Congress that can get things done instead of paralysis and just defeating each other.
MATTHEWS: And the problem started in the ‘70s, Senator, when—
Senator Cohen, when the Republican Party says, We‘re going to stop cutting programs because that‘s unpopular. And then the Democrats said, We‘re going to stop taxing programs because it‘s unpopular. So neither party did what it believed it should do and both of them played to this—played to the politics of the situation—Don‘t cause any pain, just promise a lot of pleasure and the people will be fooled. That seems to be the game everybody plays now.
COHEN: I think it has been played now. The public is justifiably outraged in terms of what has happened. Now they look at the long-term deficit of this country in terms of what that pain is going to be inflicted on their children and grandchildren.
And I have said before, and when I was in the Senate, we are engaging in fiscal child abuse because we‘re not paying for the programs that we are adopting. So we need to have some fiscal discipline. I think the Republicans are right on that. And the Republicans who are campaigning in that theme ought to measure up in terms of their actions. But both parties have been giving the public more and more, and the public has a responsibility here, too, to understand that they can‘t keep asking for more without paying for it.
And so what we need to do is have some kind of a resolution here
saying, Here are the big issues, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and
firemen, also our infrastructure, which is crumbling
MATTHEWS: I know..
COHEN: And we need to take action on this, or else we‘re going to find ourselves being shifted to second or third world status over a period of time.
MATTHEWS: Would you recommend, Senator, somebody who is in their 30s or 40s, a moderate Democrat who represents the South, for example, like you did, to run for the Senate today? Would you actually tell them that‘s a good move personally?
BREAUX: Oh, absolutely. I think...
MATTHEWS: You would and take the chance?
BREAUX: It‘s a great...
MATTHEWS: Even with all this hell you‘re getting from the left and the right?
BREAUX: Well, that‘s why you need good people who are willing to work on both sides of the aisle. I think as much as it is a difference in issues, it‘s also a difference in the personalities, where each party says, We‘ve got to destroy the other party in order to be successful.
BREAUX: And that‘s wrong. If you have that attitude, you don‘t want to go to Congress, especially the United States Senate.
MATTHEWS: Well, you two guys are the guys I know who you are. You‘re not just talkers. I watched both your careers, and you are what you say you are, a moderate Democrat who liked to make deals, right?
BREAUX: That‘s it. That‘s (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: And Bill Cohen, a true moderate Republican from the Northeast who was willing to be defense secretary for Bill Clinton. You‘re what you say you are. Pay attention. These are the real deal. Thank you, John Breaux—with an X! By the way...
BREAUX: Happy Mardi Gras.
MATTHEWS: Happy Mardi Gras. It‘s a big day for you guys down there. Congratulations on the Saints. Bill Cohen, I don‘t know who you‘re rooting for, but congratulations on your wife! You married right. Anyway, thank you—Janet Langhart.
Coming up: U.S. and Pakistan intelligence forces captured the Taliban‘s top commander. He‘s the highest-level Taliban figure. He‘s up there with Mullah Omar. In fact, he‘s operations. He‘s not just the tuttle (ph). He‘s got more than the tuttle. He ran the show. And we‘ve got him. And the Pakistani intelligence people, who we wondered about, picked him up. This is so interesting. It‘s on Obama‘s watch. He gets credit for it. Let‘s talk to Richard Engel, who‘s over there, knows what‘s going on. We‘ll be right back with Richard Engel.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The Taliban‘s top military chief was captured by CIA and Pakistani intelligence forces in Pakistan. He was the second in command to Taliban founder Mullah Omar. He‘s the highest-ranking Taliban leader captured since the start of the war in Afghanistan in 2001.
So what does this capture mean for the Taliban‘s fight against U.S. forces in Afghanistan? And could it lead us to Mullah Omar himself, or even Osama bin Laden, who they‘ve been hiding over there? Richard Engel is NBC News—well, he‘s NBC News chief foreign correspondent.
Richard, you‘re a heroic guy, so here‘s the toughest question in the world. Could they lead us—could this capture through interrogation lead us to the ultimate bad guy?
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I thought you were going to ask me the toughest question, what am I doing in London?
ENGEL: But the question, could it lead to Osama bin Laden? Probably not likely. The trail more likely would go to Mullah Omar. The two of them were very, very close, childhood friends. They were two of the founders of the Taliban.
However, we‘ve been told that because of the pressure on the Taliban, the—Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the one who was arrested last week in Karachi, only met with Mullah Omar a few times a year. So he might not know where he is right now. He might only know where he was last.
MATTHEWS: But he‘s operations chief, according to the reporting. Wouldn‘t he know if he‘s operations chief pretty much everything, including where the old man is, the guy that they protect?
ENGEL: He would know a lot about the operations. He would know a lot about the financing. He would know about where equipment is brought. He would know where weapons are cached. Right now, Mullah Omar is playing a role, more like Osama bin Laden, of a spiritual adviser...
ENGEL: ... someone who comes out from the dark, he offers some guidance and then disappears. He‘s not playing an active day-to-day role. But the person who was arrested was playing that role, so I think he could have a lot of tactical intelligence that U.S. and Pakistani officials are trying to exploit. And we‘ve been told that U.S. officials have been given access to that interrogation.
That‘s highly significant. U.S. officials are very happy with this level of cooperation from the Pakistani ISI. They said that only recently, they would never have gotten access to somebody this high-level.
MATTHEWS: Would the ISI be using Miranda rights?
ENGEL: Probably not.
But it seems also unlikely that they would torture somebody like Baradar. He was considered a moderate in the—in the Taliban.
MATTHEWS: I see.
ENGEL: There are still efforts under way to try and reach some sort of agreement.
ENGEL: So, they‘re certainly trying to get information. I can‘t imagine they‘re treating him terribly well. But he is the kind of person that they may eventually want to strike a deal with and release him and try and use him to—to get other people on board.
So, I think, with somebody this important, when negotiations are under way, that it would be unlikely that he would be water-boarded or—or treated like that, like other suspects have been.
Before we go to Iraq, let‘s step back a bit. We have got men and women over there fighting for our country, getting killed, risking their lives every night, every hour. What are we aiming for as a goal in Afghanistan?
ENGEL: A Marine was just killed today.
MATTHEWS: What are we aiming for as a goal over there in the next couple years? Well, we‘re only going to be there a few more years, obviously. So, what are we trying to get done in a couple more of years in Afghanistan, Richard?
ENGEL: Try to prevent the Taliban from taking over the country again.
And I think if—if Afghanistan were able to become a—a country like, let‘s say, Sierra Leone, or another war-torn, but relatively non-threatening, fairly undeveloped country in West Africa or Central Africa, I think a lot of people would be satisfied with that.
As long as it‘s not a direct threat to itself or its neighbors, and is just something of a—an undeveloped, relatively violent place, I think people would be satisfied.
MATTHEWS: Is Pakistan on our side in trying to reduce or eliminate the—the Taliban in Afghanistan? Are they actually on our side? I hear they‘re afraid of Karzai. They think he‘s pro-Indian. They want some check on his power. What would they like to see? Because they are our key ally.
ENGEL: They definitely want quid pro quo.
And the question is, who are you talking about when you talk about is, is Pakistan on our side? Right now, there seems to be—and this week—there seems to be close cooperation between the U.S. military and the Pakistani intelligence agencies.
There—there are major rivalries, however, between the Pakistani civilian government and the Pakistani military. U.S. also has close ties to the Pakistani civilian government. So, it‘s often like peeling back an onion when you‘re trying to figure out...
ENGEL: ... who‘s really in charge in Pakistan. And, often, it just ends with—with more tears...
MATTHEWS: Last question, 30 seconds. Can we get out of Iraq if we don‘t let the Sunnis participate, if we let the—the current government run by Shia basically keep Sunnis out of the country who have any connection with the old regime? Can we ever have stability in that country and really be able to leave peaceably that way, with one side winning and the other side losing totally?
ENGEL: These elections—these elections are bringing up old wounds. And there are concerns that the election next month could—could trigger Sunnis to go back into the opposition, if they feel they—they weren‘t given a proper chance.
A lot of Sunni candidates right now are complaining that they‘re being discriminated against unfairly by the Shiite government. Some of that is political posturing. As you know, political campaigns are very aggressive.
ENGEL: And there are monitoring stations that have been set up. But if the Sunnis feel excluded and are excluded, yes, there is a danger that old wounds could be resurrected.
ENGEL: And that would keep U.S. troops there for longer.
MATTHEWS: I am worried about that.
Thank you so much, Richard Engel, reporting on Afghanistan and Iraq.
Up next: So, what does Hillary Clinton think about Sarah Palin? What would she do if Sarah Palin actually got elected president of the United States? What would she do and where would she—would she live? She was asked that question at a town hall in Saudi Arabia and gave a very powerful answer, which you will fully enjoy and appreciate.
When we come back in the “Sideshow”: Hillary Clinton speaks out on a presidency of Sarah Palin.
We will be right back—more HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now for the “Sideshow.”
First up: worst-case—Secretary of State Clinton couldn‘t escape the speculation about who the Republicans will run in 2012 at a town hall in Saudi Arabia this morning. The question was about Sarah Palin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and I assume a relatively liberal person. Does the prospect of Sarah Palin one day becoming president maybe terrify you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, if so, would you consider immigrating to Canada or possibly even Russia in the—the event of this happening?
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, the short answer is, no, I will not be immigrating.
CLINTON: It is part of the American political environment that people are always speculating on who will run for president and who will become president. And I have gone through that experience personally, so I‘m very well-acquainted with it.
But I‘m not going to speculate on who might or might not be nominated by the Republicans.
I am very proud to support Barack Obama, and I will continue to support Barack Obama.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that could turn out to be a very important statement by Secretary Clinton. It‘s a case where an off-the-wall question got an important question.
Speaking of candidate, Mitt Romney was flying back from the Vancouver Olympics yesterday when a fellow passenger got up and took a swing at him. Romney had asked the man, who was seated in front of Mrs. Romney, to return his seat to its upright position prior to takeoff.
The passenger was removed by the plane‘s crew. I would love to know more about what kind of condition that character was in, or does he normally swing at people for telling him to do what he‘s supposed to be doing?
Finally, a blast from the past. Remember special prosecutor Ken Starr? His dogged investigation of Whitewater and the Lewinsky scandal led to President Clinton‘s impeachment in 1998. Well, Starr—well, Starr just landed as a gig as president of Baylor University.
School officials cited Starr‘s—quote—“Christian ideals and profound commitment to public service.”
I wonder if Bill Clinton agrees with that commendation.
Time for the “Number” tonight.
The Democrats‘ doomsday scenario the November, they lose both the House and the Senate. Not long ago, the prospects of the Republicans winning the Senate seemed impossible. No longer. According to the oddsmakers at Intrade.com over in Dublin, what are the chances of the Senate switching—getting controlled by the Republicans? Twenty-nine percent.
Intrade puts the chance of Democratic disaster at 29 percent—tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Up next: Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele meets with leaders of the Tea Party movement. But are the Tea Partiers willing to join forces with Republicans? We have got one of the biggest figures of the Tea Party movement, Sheriff Richard Mack, next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Today, representatives of the Tea Party movement are meeting with the chairman of the Republican National Committee, our friend Michael Steele. Can the party establishment and the Tea Party collaborate or cooperate? Do they want to do it?
Richard Mack is sheriff of Graham County. He was, in fact, in Arizona. He speaks at Tea Party rallies. He‘s a very popular fellow out there in the movement. And he certainly supports it.
Sheriff, thank you for joining us. I—I really want to learn some things tonight. We only have about 10 minutes. You can teach me.
MATTHEWS: Is the Tea Party movement ready to join hands with the Republican Party and beat the Obama party this November? Is it possible?
RICHARD MACK, TEA PARTY ACTIVIST: Well, that‘s really not what the Tea Party is about.
I speak at Tea Party organizations all across the country. Just got back from Texas. We had a great crowd there. I‘m speaking in San Ramon, California, tonight.
This really isn‘t about going back to the Republicans being in control. This is about whether or not our politicians in Washington, D.C., will follow the Constitution. And can we get back to a—once again, a free society based on the principles of freedom that our country was originally founded upon?
This isn‘t about Sarah Palin. This isn‘t about Richard Mack. This is about whether or not we can have the Constitution restored as the supreme law of the land.
My—my take on all of this is that there‘s only one answer left.
MATTHEWS: OK. I have to...
MACK: There‘s only one answer left, and that‘s at the local level.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you, when was the last time you thought the United States government was led by elected officials you thought were honorable to the Constitution? Last time?
MACK: I think Ronald Reagan came close. But you‘re talking about a president.
MATTHEWS: Close, but did he honor the Constitution? Did he honor the Constitution, as head of the executive?
MACK: In some ways, he did, but, still, again, not always. And, so, we have tried the Republican thing.
MATTHEWS: When did he violate the Constitution?
MACK: Well, look—but look at all—well, you could say that about every president, quite honestly.
MATTHEWS: I‘m just asking you.
MACK: Do we have—but my answer is...
MATTHEWS: Who do you trust?
MACK: I trust the local sheriff. I trust the local county commissioners. And I trust the governors and state legislatures to stand against the incursions of the federal government.
I won a case at the United States Supreme Court on the side of the 10th Amendment.
MACK: The 10th Amendment is the only answer, I believe, that we have left.
We keep going back. The pendulum keeps swinging nationally in Washington, D.C., from one party to the next, because nobody has the answer. They have not provided peace, safety and security.
The Republicans have not followed the Constitution. Both parties have us at national debt and...
MATTHEWS: I agree with you.
MACK: ... and completely destroy our economy.
MACK: Both parties have us involved in the war in Iraq and other wars that we shouldn‘t be involved in. There‘s no end in sight in this ridiculous war.
Both parties have caused our borders to be infiltration places for terrorists. We pretend that we‘re having a war on terrorism, yet we allow terrorists to come through our borders. It‘s easy—it‘s easier for a terrorist to enter our country through Mexico than it is for you and me to get on an airplane at our airports.
MACK: And both parties have done this. And I don‘t see the Tea Parties jumping all over Steele or the Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: What happens—what happens when a person, man or woman, Republican, Democrat or independent, gets elected to the U.S. Senate? When do—what happens to them? Why are they all the bad guys? What happens to them, as you see it?
MACK: Well, so far, it...
MATTHEWS: What happened? When do they become the evil federal government? When does that happen, right after their election or when they get sworn in?
MACK: When they stay too long. When they stay too long.
MACK: Well, I‘m telling you, they stay too long. There‘s been a lot of good people there.
You look back at even John McCain. When he was first there, he was pretty decent. But he has stayed there too long.
MACK: And these politicians become Washington, D.C.-ized.
MACK: And we need to get these people out of there. And, right now, I would say the only answer in Washington, D.C., is, get all of the bums out.
MACK: They‘re are hypocrites and they are dishonest.
MATTHEWS: I think that‘s a popular sentiment. But I want to know about you, sir, and your ideology. Do you believe the following?
MATTHEWS: I want to ask you what your—you‘re backing this woman Debra Medina in Texas for governor. Fine.
MATTHEWS: She‘s something of a—she‘s something of a truther. Are you? Are you a truther?
MACK: No, no, no. No, no, no.
Glenn Beck tried to make her a 9/11 truther. I know Debra Medina. We have discussed 9/11 truth.
MATTHEWS: She just gave the speech the other day. She just gave the speech. I‘m sorry, sir. We have the tape. We will play it again tonight. She gave a speech the other day saying that she wants to know what happened on 9/11, whether the government was involved. She thinks that‘s a fair question.
MACK: I think...
MATTHEWS: Do you think the federal government could have blown up those buildings?
MACK: I think, just like everybody else in this country, that I—I want all the questions answered surrounding that and anything else going on.
MATTHEWS: Do you think there‘s a question about whether the federal government blew up those buildings? Is that an open question to you?
MACK: I think that the—that investigation that was conducted was not done with independent investigators that I know and trust.
MATTHEWS: You‘re talking like a politician, Sheriff.
MACK: That‘s all I‘m saying.
MATTHEWS: You are giving me a...
MATTHEWS: You‘re talking like a politician.
MACK: No, no, no.
MATTHEWS: You know what politicians do? They dodge an answer. I‘m asking you a yes-or-no question. Is there an open question whether the federal government had something to do with 9/11? Is that an open question to you?
MACK: I‘m just saying—I‘m just saying we don‘t know the truth.
And I want to know the truth. That‘s all.
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re talking like a politician.
MACK: I think that‘s an easy answer.
MATTHEWS: So, the truth is not—no, no, no. You‘re suggesting that there‘s something to...
MACK: But I didn‘t get on this show to talk about 9/11.
MACK: Nine-eleven is not anything—I tell...
MATTHEWS: All you have to do is say...
MACK: Let me tell you, Chris, let me tell you honestly, OK, I begin...
MACK: ... every one of my speeches saying, this is not—the Tea Party is not about or this movement for freedom...
MACK: ... is not about 9/11. It‘s not about chemtrails. It‘s not about the assassination of JFK.
This is about whether or not we‘re going to follow our Constitution.
This is—you know, Glenn Beck was really out of line.
MACK: And I think he owes Debra Medina an apology.
Here is a lady that‘s at 4 percent, goes to 25 percent in a matter of two weeks. And he wants to know what she feels about 9/11. That is not going to solve our problem. That is not what the tea parties are after.
MACK: They want to know if politicians who promise to uphold and defend the Constitution will actually follow that and keep their word.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
Let‘s get to your beliefs.
MATTHEWS: Should the government have any gun control?
MACK: No, absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: Any? None?
MACK: No, except for—except...
MATTHEWS: So, you can have any firearm, automatic weapon, whatever you want?
MACK: Except for felons.
Yes, and I don‘t need a permit, and I don‘t need to ask government‘s permission to be able to exercise a right guaranteed in the Constitution that those politicians already promised to uphold and defend.
MACK: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Do you think—if you drove a tank—if you drove a tank down the street or carried a bazooka, would the federal government have a right to take it out of your hands?
MACK: That‘s a—you can‘t keep and bear that. You can‘t keep and bear that. These are weapons that you can keep and bear.
OK, automatic—automatic weapons, can you have an automatic weapon without the government getting in your way? Should you be allowed to have an automatic weapon?
MACK: It‘s none of their business. It‘s none of their business what kind of gun I own.
MATTHEWS: OK. So, back in the 1930s, when they outlawed tommy guns, they were wrong?
MACK: Yes. Well, what—what did that hurt?
MACK: Did it—did it reduce crime?
MACK: Did it reduce crime?
MACK: No. All it did was embolden people that had them, like anybody that was the gangs in Chicago. It hasn‘t reduced crime.
Gun control has never reduced crime. Let‘s not—let‘s not pretend here.
MACK: It has never happened in world history, ever.
Let me ask you about your beliefs about—about the federal government.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the federal government is bad in itself, or just simply the people that happen to be running it? Do you think there‘s something—something that you don‘t like about Washington?
MATTHEWS: And tell me what that is.
MATTHEWS: The institutions of the government.
MACK: I don‘t like anything—I don‘t like anything in Washington, D.C., when it‘s destroying freedom and land, controlling farmers, controlling ranchers, controlling the air we breathe...
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, who is calling the shots?
MACK: ... controlling everything and every facet of our life.
They do not have the authority to do that.
MACK: It is not constitutionally granted.
MATTHEWS: Who is they? Because, you know, when I think of Washington, I think of the Congress.
MACK: The bureaucracies, Congress.
MATTHEWS: OK. So, who is the boss?
MACK: Congress—Congress right now has the lowest rating in the history of our nation.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you. Boy, they‘re blowing it. I‘m completely...
MACK: They are.
MATTHEWS: But are they particular people, like Nancy Pelosi, or is there somebody behind the scenes that‘s running Washington?
You say bureaucrats. Who are these people that are doing the thing you don‘t like?
MATTHEWS: I‘m just trying to figure that out.
MACK: OSHA, EPA. I mean, it goes on and on.
MATTHEWS: Well, they‘re all operating under the instructions of Congress.
MACK: Bureau of Land Management.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But they are—they were all created by Congress.
MACK: Well, yes. And the worst one—let me tell you the worst one.
Who has allowed that random audits by the IRS—we‘re always audited. Everybody in the United States is subject to a random audit, which is completely and entirely unconstitutional.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Right.
MACK: And, yet, they will not audit the Fed.
MACK: The Federal Reserve gets a free ride all the way through, because these politicians in Washington, D.C., will not take control and follow their own laws.
MATTHEWS: OK. What did OSHA—Occupational Safety and Health Administration...
MACK: Yes. We‘re tired of it.
MATTHEWS: ... what has they done that you consider as unconstitutional?
MACK: The who?
MATTHEWS: The OSHA. You just said OSHA is one of the bad guys.
That‘s one of the federal bureaucrats you blame for everything.
MACK: Oh, OSHA. All the time—oh, man.
MATTHEWS: What did they do?
MACK: They control—they control business. They cost jobs. They cost all sorts of monetary—they cause all sorts of monetary problems with businesses that have to always comply with these idiotic rules from OSHA.
OSHA doesn‘t—the states and the counties can run their own businesses they‘re in. We do not need Washington, D.C., micromanaging the country or businesses across this country. It is not constitutionally theirs. They have stolen these powers.
And the tea parties are saying, we‘re taking back our freedom and we‘re taking back our country.
MACK: That‘s what it‘s about.
MATTHEWS: It wouldn‘t concern you—it wouldn‘t concern you that, if some municipality or county said, look, we‘re going to have a little dangerous—we don‘t mind it being a little dangerous here, we want to bring in industry, so we‘re going to compete with other counties, and we‘re going to have less safety regulations? That wouldn‘t bother you?
And that‘s obviously why we have federal laws on safety regulations, so that the workers, the men and women who go to factories in the morning for eight hours a day, don‘t have to go where some company has had lower safety standards, so it‘s competed to go into some county that is willing to not have any safety standards.
If you leave it up to every county...
MATTHEWS: ... won‘t—won‘t big business go wherever there‘s no rules?
MACK: No, come on, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I‘m just asking.
MACK: You‘re—you‘re following the problem.
When I beat the case—when I—when I beat the federal government, I beat the Clinton administration at the United States Supreme Court in 1997.
MATTHEWS: Right. I know.
MACK: And this is the thing they pointed out. Oh, as long as you can weigh the burdens or benefits, as long as you can weigh the benefits, then we will say they‘re constitutional and they should be there.
MACK: No, I‘m saying put the Constitution first. If it‘s not constitutionally allowed...
MACK: ... they don‘t get to do it, whether you can have benefits to it or not.
MATTHEWS: Everybody likes that. But everybody believes in the Constitution.
Let me ask you this. You‘re not a birther. You‘re not a truther.
MACK: Oh, baloney. They don‘t either.
MATTHEWS: Who doesn‘t believe in the Constitution?
MACK: Oh, I would say every politician in Washington, D.C., except for Ron Paul.
MATTHEWS: They don‘t believe in the Constitution?
MACK: Well, they don‘t follow it. If they believe in it, maybe they would put it into practice.
But Congress shall make no law. Have they done that? Yes, all the time. But they don‘t get it. They have these strict rules to go by in the Bill of Rights. Do they get the Bill of Rights? No. They have replaced it with their observe political selfish agendas.
MACK: And that‘s what the Tea Party groups are really tired of.
MATTHEWS: So, you think the Supreme Court and the Democrats and the Republicans have sold out; they don‘t believe in the government of the United States founded by the founding fathers?
MACK: They have sold out. Exactly. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: And—and what is their motive?
MACK: That‘s why the tea parties are taking off the way they are.
Well, I agree they‘re taking off, because people don‘t like unemployment. They don‘t like high taxes.
MATTHEWS: They don‘t like—they don‘t like the fact that government isn‘t paying its way.
MATTHEWS: I would argue that‘s because the citizenry aren‘t demanding honest politicians, is the big problem, who...
MACK: Well, that is a problem.
MATTHEWS: ... honestly will pay for programs that they—because people promise free things to people all the time, and don‘t—don‘t want to pay for them.
I keep asking Republicans, Sheriff, on this show...
MATTHEWS: ... list the federal programs you want to get rid of, and stop giving me loose talk about the Constitution. List all the agencies you want to get rid of, if you want to balance the budget. Don‘t keep telling me how you are going to cut taxes. Get rid of programs.
Republicans won‘t do that anymore. They stopped doing it back in the ‘70s. They won‘t get rid of anything.
MACK: I agree. I agree. The Republicans haven‘t been Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Why did George Bush sign every spending bill? Every single spending bill, he signed, yes. Because you know what?
MACK: Well, that‘s why they call—well, you really—well, look at
look at what Obama‘s done since he‘s been in there. Really, what has he done? All he‘s done is increased spending, and he‘s increased the national debt.
There‘s only one time I ever agreed with anything Barack Obama did since he took over the White House. And that is that he—he—that Professor Gates should not have been arrested. And he shouldn‘t have been.
MATTHEWS: OK. But he was...
MACK: But, other than that, he has been just spending us into oblivion.
MATTHEWS: By the way, give him some fairness. He inherited a—he inherited a $1.5 trillion deficit from George W. Bush, Mr. Republican.
Let me ask you...
MACK: Yes. And Bush was wrong, too. I told you, the Republicans are part of the problem there.
MATTHEWS: OK, good.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you one last question.
MATTHEWS: Why did Sarah Palin get a big applause the other day when she spoke for Rick Perry, and she came out for—she mentioned the word secession.
MATTHEWS: Obviously, we know what secession was. It‘s the whole issue about the Civil War.
MACK: Well, you would have to ask—you would have to ask Sarah Palin that.
MATTHEWS: Why did they give—why did she get a big—why did she get a big applause, though? Because you‘re with the—you‘re with the people that applaud that kind of thing. Why does Rick Perry get a big applause when he says secession?
MACK: No, no, no. We‘re not—we‘re not after secession. We‘re not after secession, although the states have the right to do that, because the states form the federal government, not the other way around.
MATTHEWS: The states have the right to secede?
MACK: The federal government—the federal government is not our boss. Let‘s just make that very clear.
In my case, Mack vs. U.S...
MATTHEWS: OK. Now you have finally hit the—you‘ve hit the—the tire has hit the road, sir.
MACK: Well, the United States Supreme Court ruled that states...
MATTHEWS: The states in the Civil War—in other words, Lincoln was wrong.
MACK: ... are not—the states are not subject to federal direction.
MACK: And that‘s what a part of all this is.
MATTHEWS: No. No.
MACK: If you want to—yes, I mean, I would love to meet Sarah Palin and—and straighten her out on that.
No, I just want to get one thing. You just said it‘s OK for the states to secede from the union.
MACK: Well, they have the power, if they want. They—they‘re the ones that started this union. That‘s what I‘m saying.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Well, that was an issue resolved in 1861.
MACK: Rick Perry has talked about that.
MATTHEWS: All right. OK.
MACK: But I‘m not for—I have not preached that. And you‘ve never heard me preach that, ever.
MATTHEWS: Well, you just said you had the right to—I don‘t think they do.
But, anyway, thank you, Mr. Mack.
MACK: They do have the right.
MATTHEWS: You‘re an honest man.
You said it four times. We know it. You‘re on the record.
MATTHEWS: You now believe it‘s OK to secede from the union.
Anyway, thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Can President Obama save the Senate for the Democrats? Stick around for “The Politics Fix” next.”
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Family and friends paid their final respects today to the U.S. Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania.
Murtha‘s funeral was held today in Johnstown, and among the dignitaries in attendance, former President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Murtha died last week. He was much loved in Johnstown and in the House of Representatives.
He was 77.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back.
And it‘s time for “The Politics Fix” with “Newsweek”‘s Katie Connolly and Salon.com‘s Steve Kornacki.
Katie, I don‘t if you just saw that—I know you did—that incredible statement by Sheriff Mack, where one of the real heroes of the Tea Party movement basically said, among things, he‘s against any gun control, but what grabbed me is what he said at the end there, when he said secession from the union is fine with him. He said it four times. States don‘t have to be part of the United States anymore, if they don‘t want to be.
KATIE CONNOLLY, “NEWSWEEK”: Yes. It‘s quite an astonishing statement.
And it‘s something that you and I were talking about in the break, is that, you know, people think that the Tea Party is just about taxes and just about government spending, but it‘s actually a much broader movement than that, and it has a—it has a whole range of ideologies that people aren‘t necessarily making clear.
We don‘t really know exactly what the leadership of the Tea Party wants...
CONNOLLY: ... or if—or if there is exactly a leadership of the Tea Party.
That doesn‘t diminish its potency, though, as a political movement.
And I think we‘re going to hear a lot more from them over the next year.
MATTHEWS: Well, fringe groups, Steve, have historically been run by people who are true fringies, far over to the right, far over to the left. But a lot of the people that go to the meetings don‘t necessarily know what they‘re getting into. They buy the front argument, which is, let‘s get even with—let‘s be constitutional, let‘s kill too many taxes, all the good stuff.
And then you find out they have these incredible beliefs. Your thoughts on hearing what that guy just said; secession from the union is OK.
STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Yes.
KORNACKI: Well, I think some interesting things—things go on. I mean, one is that we look at this and we sort of say, well, the Tea Party movement sprung up after Obama became president, and one has to be a reaction to the other.
And I think what‘s really true is that sort of the core of the Tea Party, the type that you just spoke to on your show, has been around for a long time before Obama. And we saw them a little bit on the campaign trail in 2008.
Do you remember those—those McCain rallies, even the Obama rallies, where people would show up and start screaming socialism and Marxism, before Obama ever became president? And we sort of relegated them to the fringes in the 2008 campaign. They were also out there for Ron Paul. A lot of this is a Ron Paul thing.
KORNACKI: And, you know, Ron Paul got a lot of support and made a lot of noise, didn‘t really get that many delegates, didn‘t really get that many votes in the grand scheme of things in the 2008 primary.
So, I think we were content in 2008 to relegate this to the fringes. But what happened was, when Obama became president, you know, there‘s a tendency, we always look for, well, who is the opposition? And they‘re the loudest. They‘re the most vocal.
And then a lot of other people, who sort of had a reaction to Obama‘s presidency on the right, who maybe aren‘t quite as far out there sort of said, well, hey, they‘re against Obama, I‘m on their side, too, so, yes, I‘m with the Tea Party.
So, you have this really amorphous, tough-to-define, you know, thing.
KORNACKI: And there is no leadership. And I think you got—you have got a lot of kooks in there and you got a lot who maybe aren‘t. And it‘s tough to define.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know what? They don‘t want to define themselves anything short of far-right. When you ask a man like Sheriff Mack, who seems to be pretty straight, are you a birther, are you a truther, do you believe the federal government may have had something to do with 9/11, questions about the citizenship of Barack Obama, they never want to deny it, because they want to keep the far-out people in the fold, in the tent.
CONNOLLY: That‘s exactly right, because those far-out people are the people that will hit the pavement. Those are the people that will recruit others. They‘re the real activists in the movement.
And you want to keep them in the fold in order to grow a movement.
That‘s probably the strategy there.
MATTHEWS: And, after all is said and done, Steve, aren‘t they just going to vote Republican this November?
KORNACKI: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: I mean, after all this complicated talk about different beliefs and being independent, they‘re going to go in there and pull the ballot for the R‘s.
MATTHEWS: Bottom line.
KORNACKI: It‘s a very easy time to be—to be—to organize a group like that and to be a part of a group like that, because all you have to do is be against everything, everything that the government is doing.
MATTHEWS: Yes, it‘s a big no.
KORNACKI: The Democrats run the White House. They run the White House. All right, I‘m against it for this reason. You‘re against it for that reason. We‘re both against it.
KORNACKI: We‘re all on the same team.
MATTHEWS: The shortest platform in history, N-O.
We will be right back with Katie Connolly—there‘s something really interesting—and Steve Kornacki—fascinating. People like Barack Obama are now for nuclear energy. This used to be a no-no among Democrats. I will tell you, climate change has changed anything.
We will be right back with HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are announcing roughly $8 billion in loan guarantees to break ground on the first new nuclear plant in our country in three decades...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: ... the first new nuclear power plant in nearly three decades.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That was President Obama earlier today.
We‘re back with “Newsweek”‘s Katie Connolly and Salon—Salon‘s Steve Kornacki with more of “The Politics Fix.”
Steve, did you notice how his voice dropped just a little half-note there when he said nuclear? Democrats don‘t like that word, even when they‘re spending eight billion bucks of our money on it.
KORNACKI: Boy, I will tell you something. I can remember the first presidential campaign that I ever remember watching anything of was in 1992, when a guy named Paul Tsongas was sort of the it guy on the Democratic side for a week. He won the New Hampshire primary. He was going head-to-head with Bill Clinton.
They went out to Colorado, big environmental state. And Paul Tsongas supported nuclear power, and Bill Clinton just killed him with television ads, killed him in the debate.
KORNACKI: You‘re going to—he‘s going to put all these nuclear plants out there.
KORNACKI: And that ended the Tsongas campaign.
And it‘s amazing. Now, almost 20 years later, you have a Democratic president in there who is going to—who is going to—you know, not even Reagan could do it, not even Bush Sr., not even Bush Jr. could do it.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, Bill Clinton was doing a lot of that stuff against Tsongas. Every time Tsongas said something courageous that had to be said, he trounced him on it.
And that is the question. Here‘s Barack Obama, man of the center-left, coming out for something, Katie, that, for years, was the—there was a freeze movement. Everybody was anti-nuclear.
MATTHEWS: And now I guess the choices force you to something clean, even if it is potentially dangerous.
CONNOLLY: Well, that‘s right.
I mean, if Democrats want to reduce greenhouse gases, what they need is something that can take over from coal, for example, as a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week base load energy for this country. At the moment, the technology that we have for wind and solar power just can‘t do that. So, they need something to step into the equation. Nuclear...
MATTHEWS: We‘re talking electric power, basically.
CONNOLLY: Electric power, yes.
MATTHEWS: And, then, if we‘re going to have cars driven by electricity, does that mean we need more of this?
CONNOLLY: I think it does, because, right now, we just don‘t have the technology to put the renewables into the grid to the extend that they need to be. And the president knows that. And Democrats in Congress know that.
MATTHEWS: What renewables do we have, by the way, that could fire—fire up these generators, that could pay for the electric grid?
CONNOLLY: I mean, there‘s a limited amount of solar. There‘s a limited amount of wind.
CONNOLLY: But it‘s just not enough. And it‘s variable as well. The wind doesn‘t blow 24/7. The sun doesn‘t shine 24/7. There are problems in terms of predictability of the source.
Steve, last thoughts about this. Do you think that nuclear is going to be—are we going to be like the French, who rely heavily on nuclear? And everybody likes to knock the French, but the fact is, they are big believers in it...
KORNACKI: Well, I‘ll tell you...
MATTHEWS: ... clearly.
KORNACKI: ... I‘m not sure. But I can see—there‘s an element to this, I think, of calling the Republicans‘ bluff, because, if you look at energy, what do the Republicans always say? Well, the first thing is, he won‘t put nuclear on the table.
And it‘s like health care.
KORNACKI: They say, the first thing is, he won‘t put tort reform on the table.
KORNACKI: Well, he just put nuclear on the table. Let‘s see what their next move is.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I think that‘s the question. What is the next move?
The Republicans going to buy this?
CONNOLLY: But the problem is that the Republicans has just given the Republicans one of the signature issues that they want, and hasn‘t gotten anything in return for it.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s not the way the game is played these days.
Thank you, Katie Connolly from Australia, writes for “Newsweek,” Steve Kornacki, who writes for Salon.
Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.
“COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now.
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