Guests: Howard Dean, Michael Smerconish, Steve McMahon, John Feehery,
Cynthia Tucker, Steve Kornacki
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Let's have a straight up-or-down vote.
Let's play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Priming the pump. Has Barack Obama just shown the country how a government
can work? Last night, Senator Scott Brown, the new Republican lawmaker
from Massachusetts, the one that won Ted Kennedy's old seat, joined with
the majority of Democrats to overcome a filibuster and pass a $15 billion
Is this the start of something big? Is it a sign of how the Democrats
can pass health care? Or is it a stark timely notice that the only way to
get a bill through the U.S. Senate is either to get Republicans to break
their own party's filibuster or ram it through in a straight up-or-down
vote, whether the Republicans complain or not? We'll ask Governor Howard
Dean what the lesson is at the top of the show.
Plus: Is it a summit or a showdown? Both sides are gaming out
Thursday's health care gathering, and the HARDBALL strategists are here on
HARDBALL to tell us what Democrats and Republicans ought to do heading into
the big event.
And here's a big one for the HARDBALL home team. Drive time goes
independent. That's what radio talk show host Michael Smerconish says
about his new affiliation and what he thinks of his old one, being a
Also, "Don't ask, don't tell." Army chief of staff George Casey says
he's concerned about what might happen if it's dropped. Well, we'll see if
he gets on base.
And Newt Gingrich insists on calling President Obama a socialist.
Does Newt Gingrich even know what a socialist is? We'll check out the
dictionary and see if he ever did. Check out the "Sideshow" with us
We start with Scott Brown and the Republicans who helped Democrats
pass that jobs bill. NBC News political director Chuck Todd is our chief
White House correspondent. So what did you learn, as an analyst, watching
those five Republicans-Scott Brown, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of
Maine, George Voinovich and Kit Bond of Missouri-all joined the
Democratic team and passed that jobs bill last night? Is this a lesson?
And if so, what's the lesson?
CHUCK TODD, NBC CORRESPONDENT/POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, first of all,
it's deja vu all over again. You know, this was sort of the group of about
five of about nine Republican senators that voted, for instance, on
children's health care way back in the spring of 2009. This was always the
group that was going to be open to wooing by the White House. And of
course, when it came to Olympia Snowe, it sort of stopped sometime in
October on the issue of health care.
So I guess what I learned is two things from this vote. Number one,
Scott Brown would like to be a United States senator past 2012. And number
two, that is this idea of putting small pieces of legislation through is
probably going to be the story of 2010. This idea of trying to do big,
comprehensive packages is going to be very difficult, but if you do smaller
bites at the apple, which this jobs bill was a big-much smaller bite
than they originally talked about, you're going to have an easier time
getting it through the Senate...
MATTHEWS: You know what it...
TODD: ... if you go by this 60-vote-if you go by this 60-vote
MATTHEWS: OK. Yes, that's what I-you just hit on it. What it
told me is on every damn bill that goes before the United States Senate
now, they're going to pull the filibuster number. It's not just on the big
issues of Civil Rights or landmark legislation. They're going to jam it
and force the Democrats to come up with 60 votes, no matter what they want
And isn't this or couldn't this be an object lesson to the American
people, if you want American elections to count for president, if you want
your vote to count, why are you sitting around and letting the Republican
minority say every time an issue comes up you're going to take 60 votes to
get it done? I'm just asking. This, to me, teaches the lesson.
Let's go on to Thursday. What do you think Obama is up to? What can
you read in what his plan is, the president, for when he goes into Blair
House Thursday morning and how he comes out?
TODD: Right. Well, look, his new health care plan seemed more
focused on trying to get 218 Democrats to support it in the House, rather
than trying to find Republicans to get on board. I think Thursday is as
much a political event as it is a policy event. It's about the White House
trying to get political cover so that when they go the dual routes-and
remember, there's two tracks here.
They've already passed a health care bill in the United States Senate
and the House. In order for that health care bill to become law, the
easiest thing for them to do is to take that Senate bill, pass it in the
House. Well, some House folks want some, quote, unquote, "fixes." That's
what they're talking about doing under the reconciliation, or the 50-vote
budget process, using this idea of saying if it's connected to the budget,
it shouldn't be held under the filibuster rules. And it's those fixes that
they're talking about putting together.
My guess of what happens on Thursday is there will be a Republican
idea or two that the president grabs onto, could be medical malpractice
reform, could be something else, and he'll throw that in his package of
fixes that is what the bridge that they're going to pass in the Senate
under this 50-vote scenario.
TODD: And they'll try to get this thing done probably in the next
couple of weeks. I can't imagine that they really want this thing to go
through April and May and this or that.
MATTHEWS: Well, they're talking 60 days, though.
TODD: I hear the 60 days. But you would assume they could move this
stuff a little quicker than that if they just want to get it done.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me run this scenario by you because you're the
expert (INAUDIBLE) It seems to me they're going to have this meeting. The
president's going to preside. It's going to be a meeting. We'll know what
it's going to be, a kabuki kind of thing. We'll know the Republicans will
come up with some alternatives. The president'll say, But that won't meet
the needs of 30 million people who are uninsured right now. You don't have
a plan for that, so you don't have a plan.
He then goes back to the White House. He dumps the Republican
Congress people and senators over at Blair House. He goes back to the
White House at 5:00 o'clock Thursday afternoon, holds a press conference
where he has access to the press and they don't. He then declares he's
tried it with these bozos, as he'll suggest they are. They don't want to
play ball. And therefore, he's going to move ahead with an up-or-down vote
in the Senate following House action on the Senate bill. Is that the way
TODD: I-you know, look, we've all been trying to press them on
figuring out, like, Whoa, OK, what is your post-summit strategy, what are
you up to here, what's coming out of all this? And they are remarkably mum
about this. They won't even play these hypothetical games behind the
You know, I think you're right in this respect, Chris. I think
they've learned the lesson and that we will see him pretty quickly after
the summit so that he has as much chance to spin what happens in there as
the Republicans do.
MATTHEWS: Yes, he's not going to let the Republicans stand next to
him. He's going to do what Reagan did to Tip O'Neill in my day. He's
going to come around and say, Look, I had a nice time with you, boys and
girls, but I'm going back to the White House, where I'm president and I
have the White House press corps, and I'll be talking to Chuck and the
other guys over there on my terms after having presided at this meeting.
By the way, how does he get to preside at a meeting where there's a
negotiation, in effect? In (INAUDIBLE) he's SEIU and the other guys on the
other side of the bargaining table-how does he get to preside and also
be an advocate? How did he get away with that at Blair House?
TODD: Well, look, he's the president. I mean, you know, he's the one
that invited them to this summit. So this is-you know, this is what
they call the bully pulpit. I mean, you know...
TODD: ... he's the-he is the lone representative of American
government when it comes-that's what the presidency is, whether
everybody wants to acknowledge that or not. So I guess, why wouldn't he be
the person that would preside over the meeting?
TODD: Now, of course, Republicans say, Hey, we want to be able to
concoct a deal together here. Well, that is-and I think you're right.
I think he said, Well, cover 30 million people and then come talk to me.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think that's going to be his bar for-they have to
reach. Let me ask you this. Is it your sense, talking-listening to
Pfeiffer and those guys at the White House, the press people-who's job
it is to tell you what the president's thinking. Are you getting a pretty
clear signal he's going up for an up-or-down vote, after this summit, in
the Senate, he's going to try to get a vote which will be 50 votes plus Joe
Biden to get this through the Congress, the health care bill?
TODD: Yes. In fact, that phrase, Chris, they have used it now
publicly. Pfeiffer, Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director,
put it on a blog post, Robert Gibbs at that podium, up-or-down vote. That
is not an accident. And I think that some would argue-there's some
Obama supporters, sort of outside advisers, who would argue that, you know,
they didn't-they set the bar on the 60-vote thing too high from the get-
TODD: And they allowed that to be defined as nuclear option, when
they believe that the filibuster...
TODD: ... that the fact that they're filibustering this should be
viewed this as a version of the nuclear option, as well. And they feel
like that that's one of the...
TODD: ... among the many spin things that they've lost, that that's
one of them, as well.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes, I think they probably suffered for the fact they
ended up getting 60 votes with the help of Arlen Specter shifting, that
they were about to think about getting 60. And once they fell into that
TODD: Well, right. And...
MATTHEWS: ... they were saying they could do it. And by the way, no
party's ever going to get 60 without getting 70 because once you get up
into that area...
MATTHEWS: ... of trying to get 60, you know the history, you've got
to get a bunch of Republicans to go with those conservative Democrats...
TODD: But you know...
MATTHEWS: ... or they won't join you.
TODD: Right. The irony in this, on that phrase "nuclear option"-
remember who started using it first? It was Senate Democrats when they
were worried the Bush White House was going to use the, quote, unquote,
"nuclear option" to get...
TODD: ... their judges through, those conservative judges. So this
is a case where some words that they used are biting them back a little
MATTHEWS: Yes, it's like "voodoo economics," one of those terms they
use, and then it catches on. But I think you're right, they're going back
to up-or-down vote. No more ramming it through, none of that...
MATTHEWS: ... Latinate ridiculous word "reconciliation," which is
actually the opposite of reconciliation. It's fighting words. Anyway,
thank you, Chuck Todd.
TODD: You got it. All right, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, thanks. Let's bring in Democrat-former Democratic
national chairman and former Vermont governor, Dr. Howard Dean. He's now a
health care consultant for the law firm McKenna, Long and Aldridge (ph) --
I'm sure it's a white shoe firm-as well as a consultant for Democracy
for America and a contributor to CNBC.
So you've been sitting here, Governor-thank you for listening to
this-as I've been trying to figure out with Chuck, who's the expert, on
what the scenario is. It look like they're going to go to the summit with
the expectation that Republicans will not propose a plan that covers 30
million, 40 million more people. They'll be able to say they tried.
They'll go back to their Democratic liberals and try to get it through the
House with the 217 they need now. They have a couple vacancies. No
Stupak. They're going the hard way. They're going to the liberal side.
Do you think they'll get the liberals to go along with what they have now?
HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR: If they don't have Stupak
in there, I think they definitely will.
DEAN: I still think there's one huge flaw in this bill, and that is
the president is going to sign the bill, hopefully, and then it doesn't go
into effect until 2013. I still think in the House, in reconciliation-
they're going to have to use reconciliation one way or the other. They've
got to put an expansion of Medicare under 65 in there. That allows people
to start getting insurance as soon as the president signs it.
MATTHEWS: Bring it down to 60...
DEAN: Yes, and...
MATTHEWS: ... or 55?
DEAN: ... 55. Get real people insured. That's the end of story in
the election of 2010.
MATTHEWS: But don't you lose Lieberman on that and a few other guys?
DEAN: You don't need Lieberman.
MATTHEWS: You don't...
DEAN: Had we had Lieberman, we would have had that with 60 votes.
MATTHEWS: So that's all part of the strategy of going for majority
DEAN: That's what I would do.
MATTHEWS: So you'd sacrifice a couple votes to get-to get the
DEAN: You've got to have some kind of public choice. You've got to
have choice for these folks. Right now, you're forcing them all in with a
MATTHEWS: Who's with you on that in the Senate right now? Who's
willing to say, Put that in?
DEAN: The last I knew, we had 23 people, 22 sign on...
MATTHEWS: Who are for a public option, but how many are for this
particular thing of reducing Medicare eligibility to...
DEAN: Well, the Medicare eligibility is kind of a compromise.
DEAN: You'll get more people there. We almost had it before.
MATTHEWS: That's a smart...
DEAN: We had Joe Lieberman for a while, and then he backed away when
he figured out that this might actually...
MATTHEWS: Well, he's from Hartford.
DEAN: Yes, he's from Hartford, and he also...
MATTHEWS: Well, it's the insurance capital.
DEAN: ... doesn't like Democrats very much.
MATTHEWS: The other insurance capital is Nebraska, Omaha. It's no
surprise where these people are coming from, right?
DEAN: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: You know, let me ask you this. Do you have a sense that
the president has finally realized that he has to write the bill?
DEAN: Yes. I think that's what he did. And I think...
MATTHEWS: This week.
DEAN: Yes. It's-you know, there's-this bill is not an earth-
shaking bill, but it's a decent bill. And I think-I hope it passes.
It's going to be a problem...
MATTHEWS: That's why I wanted you here, to say that, whether you
would or not.
DEAN: Yes, I do. You know, the problem is, it's got some stuff in
there that's going to cause some trouble. Individual mandates, probably
not necessary. That's going to cause trouble. No public option, that's a
big problem because it means we're going to be battling insurance companies
for the next 30 years. But what you get...
MATTHEWS: How do you get the young and healthy to share the cost of
medical care if you don't have a mandate?
DEAN: You don't have to do that. They contribute so little to it.
Look, we did this stuff. The reason I know so much about this is 16 years
ago, when I was governor, we put in all this stuff. We don't have a
MATTHEWS: Well, how many 25-year-old insured people did you have,
DEAN: We have lots of uninsured 25-year-olds. We...
MATTHEWS: No, insured.
DEAN: I have no idea. I mean, what's the...
MATTHEWS: I mean, how do you get those people to buy insurance?
DEAN: We don't. If they don't want to buy it, they don't want to buy
it. Now, we have a great deal for people under 18.
DEAN: Almost everybody-I think it's 96 percent have insurance if
they're under 18. That works great.
MATTHEWS: Because their parents are paying for it.
DEAN: For 480 bucks a year.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Right.
DEAN: We do it through Medicaid expansion. But we discovered that
you could regulate the insurance companies, force the insurance companies
to give insurance to anybody who wanted it, no preexisting conditions bans.
No-you can only charge 20 percent above your base rate to any patient or
any client, and that that does not destroy the insurance market even if you
don't have an individual mandate.
MATTHEWS: So it looks like-Governor, it looks like the president's
going to push hard after he gets this summit through on Thursday to get a
health care bill through the Congress, get it through the House, get it
through the Senate, and now we get to the November elections, the outlook.
What is your outlook?
DEAN: Well, it's tough without...
MATTHEWS: Do they lose the House?
DEAN: They could without a public option. The reason...
MATTHEWS: No, you know the numbers. Could they lose 40 seats in the
DEAN: They could.
MATTHEWS: What will happen one way or the other to affect that? We
have 9.7 percent unemployment rate right now. Could they lose if that rate
hangs up there around 10 percent?
DEAN: They could. I happen to think the odds are against losing the
House. I think we're going to lose a bunch of seats, more than I'd like,
but I think we'll maintain our majority.
MATTHEWS: What's your bet, 30?
DEAN: I'm betting 25.
MATTHEWS: Twenty-five. How about...
DEAN: See, I think this gets better, Chris. Look, you've been in
Washington a long time. Here's the deal. Whenever-you know, Washington
automatically is compelled to be cyclical. We just hit the bottom.
MATTHEWS: I understand.
DEAN: The whole base is demoralized in the Democratic Party. No
place to go but up. Really important poll indicator, haven't heard anybody
talk about it at all, 70 percent of the arm people think better times are
ahead. Things are going to get better for Democrats.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think they're better ahead, but unfortunately,
they're ahead at the end of the year economically. And then later on, it's
going to take us a couple years to get back down to low unemployment, a
DEAN: That's true. But you don't have to get down to 4 percent.
MATTHEWS: Everybody watching the show...
DEAN: If you get down to 7 percent.
MATTHEWS: ... wants to know that that arrow is going from 10 down to
7 as fast as possible.
MATTHEWS: That means their job's secure.
DEAN: Let's see what it's going to be this month because it went down
under 10 last time, and that was pretty good.
MATTHEWS: Governor Howard Dean, thank you, sir.
DEAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Looks good. I think the White House will be glad to hear
what you just said, that you support the president on this bill right now.
Coming up: Radio talk show host Michael Smerconish does not support
the Republican Party. He's leaving it. He's left it. He's coming here to
talk about why he's decided to become an independent, which is a new thing
in a state like Pennsylvania, an old state where most people say they're Ds
or Rs. He's saying he's an I. He's going to tell us why.
You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. After endorsing Barack Obama in
the 2008 presidential election, my friend, Michael Smerconish, made it
official this week he's no longer a Republican. Here's part of what he
wrote in the great "Philadelphia Inquirer," the nation's oldest daily
newspaper. "The national GOP is a party of exclusion and litmus tests
dominated by social issues, by the religious right, with zero discernible
outreach by the national party to anyone who doesn't fit neatly within its
Welcome Michael Smerconish. So your drive time commuter in that huge
metropolitan area of Philadelphia, the fourth largest media market in the
country, and you're driving to work one of these days this week and you
discover that your compadre in the Republican Party, who you thought shared
the deepest values with, has flipped. What do you make of it?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I don't know that
there was really any surprise for people who have listened to me for a long
time. You know, Chris, this doesn't sit so well in certain quarters of
traditional conservative talk radio. But anyone who's listened to me
carefully has known that for a number of years, I've been dissatisfied with
the direction of the party. And you just read from the column that I
wrote, and I think that it summarizes how I see things.
We live in a world of media fiction, where in talk radio and your
business, everything gets presented in black, white, red state, blue state,
left, right terms. And I don't think that's the way the real world is.
It's not the way that I carry about my life. It's not exemplified by the
people that I meet on a day-to-day basis. It only exists in the world in
which you and I work. And I've had enough of it. And I frankly think that
stirring the pot at the ends of the political spectrum has been terrible
for the country, and I want no more of it.
MATTHEWS: Well, my problem-and I want to ask you about this-is
I think a lot of the problem with becoming a Republican or Democrat-I
think some of the tea party stuff is related to this in another way-
nobody wants to buy the blue plate special. You walk into a diner, you
want to pick out what vegetables you want. They tell you, you have got to
be pro-pro-life and you have to be against stem cell, and you got to be
for the war in Iraq, and you got to do-you have go to go through the
whole list of things to be a party loyalist these days.
And, on the Democratic side, you have got to be for card check.
You've got be for the trial lawyers. You've got to go through all the
things in order to be a good Democrat. Well, you may not agree with a lot
of those things. You're ordering off the menu. You're saying, I want to
be able to pick a la carte what you're saying, right?
SMERCONISH: It is what I'm saying.
And, you know, on certain of those issues where you have debated with
me, I mean, look, I'm a guy that you know to be tolerant of harsh
interrogation methods. I think that we ought to be in Pakistan, but out of
I'm for the death penalty. I sound pretty conservative. But I'm for
stem cell research. I thought it was appalling what the GOP did on behalf
of Terri Schiavo in trying to make that decision for her.
And I think most Americans to this day are unaware of the fact that
the Republican platform in 2008 didn't even have an exception for rape or
the health of the mother in a case of abortion. I can't live with that.
So, I'm an independent. What pains me is that I registered to vote in
the spring of 1980, and I have never missed an election in 30 years. And
that means dogcatcher to president.
SMERCONISH: And the idea that I'm going to get out of bed in the
spring and not have the franchise in a primary because we're a closed
primary state, that really stings. And that's what I had to think long and
MATTHEWS: It's so interesting, because Saul Alinsky, who I admire in
so many ways-I don't completely identify with his politics, but back in
the old days of Chicago organizing, he used to say to his young people the
opposite of what you just said.
He said, sure there's a lot of complexity and gray areas, and
sometimes the other side has got some good points, but don't recognize
them. Once you take sides, accept completely the right of your side and
pretend the other side has no argument going for it.
But you're saying, I'm not going to play by that rule anymore. I'm
not going to accept the fact that I have to say one side of the partisan
debate is always right. You're not going to live like that.
SMERCONISH: No, I'm not going to-no, I'm not going to live like
And it is the path of most resistance in my industry. You think about
the big names in my business.
MATTHEWS: Oh, I know.
SMERCONISH: It's Rush Limbaugh, it's Sean Hannity and it's Glenn
Beck. And I'm humored by those who call and antagonize me by saying, oh,
this is about your self-serving career, to which I respond and say, are you
blanking me? The way to get ahead in my business is to just play windup
talk radio to, very rote-like, read the GOP talking points.
That's not where I'm not coming from, and, frankly, it's not where I
have ever been coming from. So, I'm doing this, probably to my detriment.
SMERCONISH: But, you know, that's where I am.
MATTHEWS: Well, then let's toot your horn for a minute, because it
seems to me that the other side has a hard argument to make.
I get along with Sean when I see him. I like the guy. He's a likable
guy. And people like Hannity. And I get along with Limbaugh as well. I
don't know Beck at all. I have more problem with him because I think he is
But do you think they honestly believe what they say? What is the
connection between a guy or woman who says I don't want to hear about
global warming, I don't want to hear about climate change, I don't care
about the science, I'm against-I don't even believe in evolution, and,
by the way, I'm for a war in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, and all those others?
Why do you have to sign onto the whole right-wing constituency, the
whole right-wing agenda? Is it just something that comes natural to
certain people to always be right-wing on everything?
MATTHEWS: I don't see a connection between being against stem cell
research, for example, and-and being for the war in Iraq.
You want to protect human life in one-in a form that you find it in
stem cells, but you don't want to protect yourself against wars that may
not be the only way to go sometimes? You're all for killing and war as the
first solution to a problem. But, when it comes to science, you're against
anything that might tread on anyone's notion of human life.
I just wonder, why is it always on one side of the plate, when clearly
they're not consistent views, are they? People are for capital punishment,
but yet they're against abortion.
MATTHEWS: They're completely for capital punishment, but they're
against abortion, they're pro-life completely, against even rape and
incest, in any situation, against a woman's right to choose.
And yet they're for capital punishment. They're not pro-life, per se,
right? I'm making your case.
SMERCONISH: I think it-I think it-you're making my case and
you're making it better than I am. I think it defies credibility that you
are lining up entirely on the left or entirely on the right, and you are
with a straight face saying, this is how I view the world.
SMERCONISH: At a certain point, I'm surprised that more listeners and
viewers don't say, you know, it doesn't pass the smell test.
Global warming is a great example. How is it that so many individuals
lacking a scientific background have a microphone put in front of them and
become Ph.D.s? I haven't got a clue. I know we have been rocked with snow
in the Northeastern part of the country, so it seems counterintuitive that
global warming is the real deal.
And then I bring on the Ph.D.s and they say, no, it's entirely
consistent, because the atmosphere is holding more moisture and
consequently you get these major storms. And my head spins, Chris.
Now, that's not the popular thing to say in talk radio.
MATTHEWS: Well, just look at Vancouver. Let me help you with that.
Look at Vancouver.
SMERCONISH: What I guess I should be saying-I...
MATTHEWS: Look at Vancouver, where it's warmer than ever out there.
MATTHEWS: They couldn't get enough snow until recently.
SMERCONISH: I know. But here's-but here's my point. I'm supposed
to come on the air and I'm supposed to say, where's Al Gore, you know, in
his igloo? And laugh lines and so forth.
MATTHEWS: I got you.
SMERCONISH: But, me, I want the answer to it.
And I think it's-and here's the bottom line. I want to say this.
People in the middle need a voice. We're under-represented in the world of
talk radio and on cable stations because the bookers, they only look for
those that they can introduce as a liberal or a conservative...
MATTHEWS: I know.
SMERCONISH: ... a Republican or a Democrat. That's not the bulk of
America right now.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes.
SMERCONISH: What about the folks in the middle?
MATTHEWS: You know, one of the reasons people left for the suburbs,
where a lot of your viewers-or listeners-are from is to get away from
row house regimentation, where the committeemen told you how to vote. You
know what I'm saying?
They wanted to have an independent voice. And you have given them
Thank you, Michael Smerconish. Congratulations on your liberation. I
want to know how you're going to vote for governor and senator this year,
now that you've come out this far. I want you completely out there now.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, coming up: Newt Gingrich calls President Obama a
socialist. But what does it mean, that word socialist? We looked it up.
You can look it up in your dictionary. We did in ours. We looked at
Webster's. You can go to yours. Check out the "Sideshow" coming up next.
We want to check out Newt on HARDBALL-coming up.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
Now for the "Sideshow."
First up; Newt Gingrich puts it on the line. Here he is talking last
night to Bill O'Reilly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR")
BILL O'REILLY, HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": So, do you think
President Obama's a socialist?
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Sure. Of course he is.
O'REILLY: So, I'm wrong, and you and Rush Limbaugh are right?
GINGRICH: I don't think that President Obama has met a government
program he didn't love and didn't want to dramatically expand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Well, a socialist, according to Webster's Dictionary, not Newt
Gingrich, is someone who advocates the ownership and operation of the means
of production and distribution by society or the community, rather than by
private individuals, with all members of society or the community sharing
in the work and the product.
So, by that definition, Barack Obama wants the government to own and
run the American economy. If you believe that, you believe Newt Gingrich.
On a happier note, here's former President Bill Clinton talking about
being father of the bride.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RYAN SEACREST, ENTERTAINER: How are the plans coming together for
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, that's up
mostly to Chelsea and her mother.
CLINTON: I'm just supposed to walk her down the aisle and pay the
bills. But I'm...
SEACREST: Big or small?
CLINTON: They're having a-they're having a good time doing it.
And I must say, I'm-I'm very happy. I-my daughter's happy. I -
I like and admire my future son-in-law, so I couldn't be happier about
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was Ryan Seacrest asking the question. It looks
like a great marriage and a very happy father of the bride.
Now for the "Number" tonight.
During this Congress, according to House Democratic leaders, how many
bills have passed the House of Representatives, but are stalled in the U.S.
Senate? You will love this number-or hate it, really -- 292 bills. It
sounds like House Democrats are none too happy with their counterparts over
in the upper body, dare I call it? -- 290 body -- 290 bodies-actually,
290 bills waiting to be voted on up or down in the Senate, still waiting
over there-tonight's "Big Number."
Up next: What are both sides planning as they head into Thursday's
health care summit? Our strategists join us next to tell us what the smart
Democrats would do if they were smart, what the smart Republicans would do
if they want to accomplish something Thursday.
You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I'm Julia Boorstin with your CNBC
Stocks sinking today on a surprise drop in consumer confidence-the
Dow Jones industrials finishing about 100 points lower, the S&P 500 down 13
points, the Nasdaq off more than 28 points.
Investors rattled by that unexpected plunge in consumer confidence-
the main index falling 9.5 points to 46, its lowest level in 10 months.
It overshadowed some encouraging earnings reports-Home Depot shares
adding 1.5 percent on better-than-expected results and a strong forecast.
Target beating expectations as well, but investors were hoping for an even
bigger improvement-shares falling a little bit more than 1 percent.
Macy's returned to profitability in the fourth quarter, as cost-
cutting measures helped offset a decline in sales. Shares are up about 1
percent. And Toyota shares sliding nearly 2 percent as the company's top
North American executive testified before Congress today on their recent
That's it from CNBC, first in business worldwide-now back to
MATTHEWS: This is going to be wild. Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Obama's putting it all on the line this week at a bipartisan
summit on health care reform. What does each side have to do to score a
win, or a W in sports terms?
And, for that, we turn to the strategists, Steve McMahon, who is a
Democratic strategist who has-who has political and other clients with
an interest in health care reform-boy, are we honest here-and John
Feehery, who is a Republican strategist.
Up first, pre-gaming the-first, let's pre-game the health care
summit. It's called health care pre-game. And the question I have to ask,
as the countdown to Thursday ticks closer, how would you advise your side
to strategize as we go toward it? You're the president. What should he do
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, he ought to go in with a
back pocket full of things that he can accept if the Republicans are
willing to put them on the table. He ought to be pretty vigilant about
pressing them on what their solutions are and getting them to be specific
about what the solutions are.
And, then, once they offer them, he should ask the leaders of the
Republican Party if they will whip their members to vote for that solution
if he accepts it right now. I think he ought to be in a let's make a deal
mode. He's got proposals on the table. He ought to ask the Republicans
for theirs and he ought to start making some deals and get...
MATTHEWS: That is smart. So, he should go in there with the idea
that he's pre-assessed some of the Republican expected proposals...
MATTHEWS: ... like tort reform, interstate competition for health
care insurance, and be ready to snap it up.
I mean, imagine for a second if Mitch McConnell said, you know, Mr.
President, we could support that if you could do something on tort reform,
and the president said, OK, Mitch, what is it you would like us to do? And
he popped something out there and the president says, we will do that. are
you going to support this now?
What does Mitch McConnell do?
MATTHEWS: Well, Mitch McConnell said, I will support that provision,
but not the whole bill. Then what he's do?
MCMAHON: You know, that-you are going to have to make progress by
MATTHEWS: What's your idea? Skip what he just said. What would you
say coming in here should be the smart Republican move?
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think that is what the
president is going to do.
And I think what the Republicans should do is insist on a fair
process, no reconciliation. Take out all of the earmarks.
MATTHEWS: No up-or-down majority vote in the Senate?
FEEHERY: No up-or-down majority vote. Don't-no reconciliation.
Take that off the table. No earmarks, no special deals, no Cornhusker
kickback, no Gatorade deal.
MCMAHON: It's all gone.
FEEHERY: All that stuff, make sure it doesn't have any of it. Insist
on transparency and insist that Republicans get an even shot to have a
brand-new process. This process...
MATTHEWS: Can't the president just come back and say, how about a
deal from you guys, no filibustering, we actually have a vote?
So, what do you say on the Republican side to that?
FEEHERY: Well, if they had a fair process, where they each got a
chance to put their ideas on the table, where they had a chance to vote,
and they had a chance-complete transparency, I think Republicans should
go to that. But the problem is the president is not going to...
MATTHEWS: You think the Republicans should let the Senate vote up or
FEEHERY: Well, wait, wait, wait, wait. If there is a guarantee that
there's not going to be reconciliation, a guarantee that they have...
MATTHEWS: Well, that's what I mean.
MATTHEWS: I'm asking about a majority vote.
FEEHERY: Well, they shouldn't give up that tool.
MATTHEWS: He wants to reserve the right to filibuster.
FEEHERY: I want the reserve the right...
MATTHEWS: OK. Let's go to topic two, filibuster busted.
The other day, last night, just recent history here, the Senate was
able to break a filibuster with the help of five Republicans. They have
tried to filibuster everything. What does that tell you, the fact that
Scott Brown and Kit Bond and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and George
Voinovich all joined together with the Democrats, making up for the illness
of Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey Ben Nelson of Nebraska not being for it?
They got a bill passed.
MCMAHON: Yes. Do you know what it tells me? And I...
MATTHEWS: For jobs.
MCMAHON: And I hate to be not a Democratic partisan for a second.
MCMAHON: But it says to me that it's still possible to find a place
in the middle where some Republicans will come, which was good news.
Now, the bad news is, there were only five Republicans. Three of them
from New England and two of them were not running for reelection. So, it
wasn't as encouraging as you would hope, but it is progress for five
MATTHEWS: What's your takeaway from that, John, the fact that five
Republicans joined 57 Democratic senators and passed a bill for once?
FEEHERY: First, this is a-jobs is the number-one issue facing the
voters. When I go back home, that's the only thing people are talking
So, for a lot of senators, like Scott Brown, they have to be for it.
MATTHEWS: I love the way you're talking like a politician. "When I
go back home."
MCMAHON: "When I go home and talk to my people."
MATTHEWS: What a pol you are.
MATTHEWS: "When I go back home." I just love that.
FEEHERY: I was just back home for the weekend...
FEEHERY: ... my brother's 41st birthday.
MATTHEWS: So, Washington is not your home? So, Washington is not
FEEHERY: No, Washington is not my home.
FEEHERY: The fact that-Chicago's my home.
MATTHEWS: What a pol.
FEEHERY: The fact of the matter is that jobs-jobs is the number-
MATTHEWS: OK. So, jobs...
FEEHERY: That's why Republicans voted for it.
MATTHEWS: So, if Barack had led-had led with jobs, instead of
health care, he would have gotten a deal?
MATTHEWS: That wasn't a jobs bill. That was a giveaway. And it
wasn't a bipartisan process. The other thing about that bill was it was a
very small bill. There's really not much in there to be opposed to.
MATTHEWS: So your message was it was jobs and it was small.
FEEHERY: It was jobs and it was small. There's not much of a bill
to oppose. The fact of the matter is I think most Democrats and
MATTHEWS: Rahm Emanuel, is his job in peril?
MCMAHON: Absolutely not. Should not be. Let me tell you something,
Rahm Emanuel is a pragmatist first. He is the person inside the White
House who has the most Washington experience. And he's the person they
desperately need. I actually thought-I know he's taking flack for the
Dana Millbank column.
MATTHEWS: That was a column that positive of him and he was accused
of having leaked it.
MCMAHON: But the fact of the matter is Rahm Emanuel has been
proposing and advocating inside the White House progressive, centrist
MATTHEWS: Was he for the health care focus or not?
MCMAHON: Well, if what you read is true, he was not for the health
care focus. And if what you read is true, there are several others who
were not as well.
MATTHEWS: Should he be letting the word out that he didn't agree
with the president's prerogatives or the president's priorities? Was that
a smart move, if he did that?
MCMAHON: I don't think he did that. I think around town people
MATTHEWS: Grade the chief of staff. Is he on his way out? Is he a
good chief of staff? Is he in trouble?
FEEHERY: I don't think he's on his way out. I think Steve's right;
he tries to go towards the center more than the left wants him do.
MATTHEWS: What was he like on the Hill?
FEEHERY: He was a tough partisan. But he was a tough partisan in
the sense that he wanted the partisan thing, but he also wanted to elect
Democrats to make the majority. He understood-
MATTHEWS: Does he get along with Rs?
FEEHERY: We were very wary of him. He tried to get along with Rs.
He's a tricky guy. Smart guy, very tricky. He would get along with some
MATTHEWS: Did he have rough edges?
FEEHERY: Of course he had rough edges. Let me finish this. The one
thing the president needs to do, if he wants to keep Rahm there, he needs
to bring in a gray hair. He needs to bring in a Colin Powell, like Howard
Baker did with Ronald Reagan.
I would bring in someone like a Vernon Jordan or a Colin Powell. He
needs something. The other thing he needs is he needs to bring somebody in
who can actually deal with the Senate.
MATTHEWS: How about George Mitchell?
FEEHERY: No. It was a disaster for the president-
MATTHEWS: You would bump Rahm Emanuel, bring in a gray hair, as you
MCMAHON: Absolutely the wrong thing to do. That's absolutely the
wrong thing to do. Let me tell you something, Rahm Emanuel was the guy who
built the platform the Democrats ran on that took back the Congress. Rahm
Emanuel's the guy who understands that it's independents-
MCMAHON: Let me finish, please. It's independents who decide close
elections. When the independents were going 60/40 for the Democrats, which
they were in 2008 and 2006, when Rahm Emanuel was doing policy, Democrats
were winning. When independents turned against the Democrats, as they have
recently, Democrats have a problem.
Rahm Emanuel understands that the key to the future is for the
Democrats to get the independents back.
FEEHERY: What Rahm Emanuel is good at is winning elections. What
he's not good at is passing legislation. What have they done lately?
They've done nothing in the Senate.
MCMAHON: They have 9 or 10 or 11 or 12 bills early on.
MCMAHON: They saved the economy. They saved the banking system.
They saved general motors.
MATTHEWS: By the way, you've got to-you come up with a good
topic. I think the names you come up with are not better than Rahm. I can
imagine there would be somebody. Who is it?
FEEHERY: George Mitchell would be great.
MCMAHON: You think it's Ed Rendell. I know you think it's Ed
Rendell. It's Rahm Emanuel. They should listen to him.
MATTHEWS: I think Ed Rendell was a good deal-maker. I'm not sure he
knows the Hill. I don't think he has any evidence of knowing the Hill.
But he's a smart guy. And I do think they should bring in Ed Rendell for a
lot of political reasons.
It's time to make friends with the Clinton people. I've said that
all along. It's time to end that war and unite the party. Just a thought.
But I'm not supposed to-you know what, it ain't my job to figure that
stuff out. You're tough, but you're smart. Steve McMahon is a smart
fellow. John Feehery is getting there.
Up next, is the military divided over dumping Don't Ask, Don't Tell?
I can't believe the chief of staff of the army, George Casey, says he has
concerns. OK, take your orders, buddy. I think you ought to take your
orders. We'll see. The politics fix is next. This is HARDBALL, only on
MATTHEWS: We're back. Now for the politics fix, with Cynthia
Tucker, political columnist for the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," and
Steve Kornacki of "Salon."
I am amazed at this comment by George Casey the other day, that he
says he has concerns about how well they're going to implement-here he
is, George Casey, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee
today. Here's what he said about repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Let's
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. GEORGE CASEY, ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: I do have serious concerns
about the impact of the repeal of the law on a force that's fully engaged
in two wars, and has been at war for eight and a half years. We just don't
know the impacts on the readiness and military effectiveness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: "Readiness and military effectiveness." What do you think
he meant by that, Cynthia?
CYNTHIA TUCKER, "ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION": I think he meant
will this side track the troops, that they'll lose their focus. I think
the answer to that, however, is no. I think it's easy to over-state
Casey's objections. He's advocating a go-slow approach, the one that the
Pentagon clearly already has in place, that they will take a year, poll the
troops, talk to everybody, and take another year then to implement the
Quite frankly, I don't think it will take that long, because when I
think they do their polling, I think that they will find that most troops
are ready for it to be done already. I don't think it's that big a deal.
MATTHEWS: Steve, I always said-it's not having been in the
military. I was in the Peace Corps-that there's going to be an
interesting way we see how it develops, with gay people serving openly in
the military, as it occurs, where there will be certain unwritten ways of
behavior, certain codes of behavior that will develop over time. And
people will learn the way to deal with it.
That's my hunch. It won't all be written in the code. Things happen
on campus, the way they deal with each other socially. In office
situations, you learn certain ways to deal with people. It's how society
is society. It's how we civilize ourself.
STEVE KORNACKI, "SALON": Well, I haven't served in the military
either, I should say. We talk about a go slow approach. I think this kind
of feeds into what you're talking about. This is something that's been
building for decades. There have been gay people and their fellow troops
have known that they're gay who served in the military.
MATTHEWS: Of course. My dad talked about it in the Navy in World
War II. It was normal. It was totally acceptable and understood.
KORNACKI: A lot of what you're talking about has already happened.
We look at General Casey, he's behind the times a little bit in that way,
because it's already gone on. A lot of people who maybe weren't
comfortable with it maybe 10, 15, 20 years ago in the military are more
comfortable with it, because, at a certain level, it is open. There are
stories all over the place. There are people who have come out and talked
about their experiences in the military, about how everyone around them
knew. It wasn't a big deal.
The whole country seems to be moving on from this. To draw in the
CPAC conference over the weekend, if you can remember, one of the most
memorable things, to me, to come out of that was when one of the speakers
got up on stage, at a very conservative audience, and started basically
trashing gay rights. He got booed off the stage at CPAC. This is a
totally different country now.
MATTHEWS: I agree. I also think it's a different question not to
take a position-although I'm very supportive of gay rights generally,
and I'm supportive of gay relationships. It's the way we're made in some
cases. The simple question is can you serve your country openly, if you're
a patriotic person?
MATTHEWS: That's a different question from can you get married, can
you formally get a marriage license? Those issues are still in debate in
this country. I think people have move towards saying, if someone wants to
serve their country, don't make them lie as their first oath. Don't make
them lie that first day.
TUCKER: Absolutely. The polls show that, Chris. The polls show
that most Americans have already accepted this. I do think, though, it
will take leadership from the very top.
MATTHEWS: Aren't we getting it now?
MATTHEWS: Look at Mullen.
TUCKER: I think that's one of the things, one of the lessons they
learned from racial interrogation. There are parallels. They didn't-
just because Harry Truman signed a decree didn't mean that troops were
ready to be integrated. The lessons that we learned from Vietnam, when
there was a lot of contention between black troops and white ones, was that
the military has to exert leadership. And absolutely the top brass, I
think, is ready to do that.
MATTHEWS: What do you make, Steve, of the fact you've got General
Mullen-Admiral Mullen, rather, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs, of
course, from the Navy background, and you've got Odierno, who is the
American commander over there in the field all moving-of course, Colin
Powell already aboard. These are very prestigious people.
KORNACKI: Mullen was the huge one. That's my one concern from a
political sense, when you look at what Casey came out and said. You look
at Mullen, he really sort of changed the nature of the debate. You had all
these guys like John McCain, for instance, who had been resistant to gays
serving openly in the military. His line for years had always been, "well,
when the general tells me it's OK, then I'll change my mind on it."
You had the chairman of the Joint Chiefs saying, it's OK. You had
Colin Powell saying, it's OK. My concern now is that people like John
McCain, now they found their general, with Casey, who's come out and said,
well, maybe not. Now, they have a talking point to kind of latch on to.
MATTHEWS: Apparently. Did you watch John McCain today? Apparently
nodding his head in agreement, right?
KORNACKI: He found his general.
MATTHEWS: You know, John McCain's got a tough fight out there with
J.D. Hayworth. It's an Arizona Republican primary, a lot of retired
people, a lot of conservative people. It's going to be tough for him.
He's going to be taking a lot of these positions which don't sound familiar
to John McCain fans.
Anyway, we'll be back with Cynthia Tucker and Steve Kornacki for more
of the political fix. We're going to talk about this summit coming up and
what is actually going to happen. I think it looks like the door is open
now for a tough up or down vote on health care. It is going to be up to
the senators now to see how they stand. You're watching HARDBALL, only on
MATTHEWS: We're back with Cynthia Tucker and Steve Kornacki. It's
the wild, free form part of the show. Steve, here's your opportunity: what
is going to happen? Today's Tuesday, right?
MATTHEWS: Thursday afternoon, we'll know what happened at the
summit. Thursday by 5:00, I think we'll see a press conference from the
president to tell us what happened in his terms. And then I think we'll
see an up or down fight in the Senate on health care. I think it's going
to actually come to a head. What do you think?
KORNACKI: Yes, this kind of reminds me of the build up to a
presidential debate, where you sort of now what's going to happen. As soon
as it's over, everybody's going to rush into that spin room and they're
going to tell why their side won.
In this case, the very specific thing that is going to happen is, as
soon as it ends, everybody's going to go out and talk about how they're
sure this proved the other side doesn't want to cooperate. That's very
important, because from the Obama standpoint, from the White House
standpoint, that gives them the pretense to do what I think, as you said,
it's pretty clear they're going to do with this, which is, hey, look, we
gave the Republicans a chance on national TV. They could have put any idea
in the world they want out there. They didn't do anything that seriously
addresses the issue. So therefore we're left with no other choice but to
have the House pass the Senate bill and then do reconciliation, this big
dreaded thing in the Senate. I think this is where it is ending up.
MATTHEWS: Steve, you brilliantly outlined what is the consensus
among HARDBALL producers today. After having a long discussion about this,
everybody seems to believe, or at least the majority, that that's what the
president's up to. You're view? He's going to go after this, say I tried.
They won't-they will not provide health care for the 30 some million
people out there. They don't have a plan for that. We've get the only
plan in town. We're going to force an up or down vote in the Senate.
TUCKER: He's already said that. He's already signaled, once again,
that he's in favor of reconciliation, if Republicans won't come around.
MATTHEWS: Can you give up that word up for Lent? Because it's not -
it's called reconciliation, but it's really saying our way or the
highway. It really is.
TUCKER: Yes. It's a very bureaucratic term that people outside of
the Beltway don't understand. But it means it won't require an up and down
vote in the Senate.
MATTHEWS: It won't require 60 votes.
TUCKER: The president won't get that. What he will get is a
filibuster. Let's face it, I don't care what happens on Thursday, the
Republicans are not going to cooperate on this bill.
MATTHEWS: I predict there will be an afternoon or a night-time,
maybe about 9:00 at night, Steve and Cynthia, where Joe Biden, sitting in
the chair in the United States Senate, as presiding officer, as president
of the Senate, will cast that vote. It will be 50 votes, Democrats all,
Joe Biden breaking the tie. The president has a health care bill, thanks
to his number two, to Joe Biden. Your thoughts on that?
KORNACKI: Yes. I think that's going to remind us all of 1993, when
Al Gore cast the 51st vote for Bill Clinton's budget.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. You agree?
MATTHEWS: Great. Thank you, Cynthia Tucker. Thank you, Steve
Kornacki. Join us tomorrow night-we solve all issues here -- 5:00 and
7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL tomorrow night.
Right now, it's time for "THE ED SHOW" with Ed Schultz.
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