Guest: Steve McMahon, Todd Harris, Al Snyder, Sally Quinn
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The mouse on the Republican floor.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington on this Holy Thursday.
Leading off tonight: The elephant in the room. Sometimes a mouse is enough
to scare an elephant. Today, the mouse on the floor is the sex club
scandal, that little rodent of a story that‘s causing such a big scare in
the Republican Party. It‘s got them running for the trees. Tony Perkins‘s
Family Research Council, and of course, Sarah Palin are both running from
the Republican National Committee. And now a group of big-name Republicans
are starting their own group to compete with the RNC, a group that could
starve Michael Steele‘s RNC of money. How bad will this get for the Grand
Old Party? That‘s our top story tonight.
Plus, all this embarrassment, confusion and running away comes at an
odd time for the Republicans. Polls have them moving past the Democrats
now, who just got the lowest ratings ever recorded in a CNN Gallup poll.
Is there anything the Democrats can do to keep 2010 from looking like 1994,
the year they lost both houses of Congress to the Republicans?
Also, remember that anti-gay church group that believes American war
deaths are God‘s punishment for the tolerance of gays here at home? Well,
the father of a fallen Marine who‘s suing that group for protesting at his
son‘s funeral has been ordered by a federal appellate court to pay the
group‘s legal fees. Talk about blind justice. The father will be here
And the GOP sex scandal gets a little sexier. Check this out. An RNC
fund-raising letter just went out directing people to a phone number of the
kind that young single men are sometimes known to be drawn to—you know,
that kind of phone number, the interactive kind. You hear that on the
other end of the line—well, that‘s in the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight.
And “Let Me Finish” tonight with a question. How much is too much?
The top 25 hedge fund managers made $25 billion last year. What kind of
society gives that kind of to money who create nothing?
We start with the trouble with the RNC, the Republican National
Committee. “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman joins us. He‘s an MSNBC political
analyst and a big wheel at “Newsweek” magazine. And Clarence Page, as
always, writes for “The Chicago Tribune.” Some things never change.
You‘re one of the great old trees in the forest...
MATTHEWS: In the world of media and interactive and online, you are
with a newspaper.
CLARENCE PAGE, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: I was synergy before synergy was
cool, I want to tell you.
MATTHEWS: From the Second City.
PAGE: There you go.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s talk about this thing. Little things cause big
problems. but little things that are iconic, like spending a couple K on a
sex club—what‘s it, a lesbian bondage club? I‘m not even sure what kind
of place—it‘s called the Voyeur. The $2,000 check was approved by the
RNC, paid for by donors, until they got caught.
MATTHEWS: Big problem...
MATTHEWS: Now Tony Perkins...
PAGE: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: Remember the guy that knifed the girl in the shower?
PAGE: Not that Tony Perkins.
MATTHEWS: No, this is the other Tony Perkins. I don‘t know why the
(INAUDIBLE) Let‘s call the kid Tony. His name‘s Perkins. What‘s going on
here? He‘s running away from this. Sarah Palin, in her pristine
greatness, she‘s running away from the RNC. They‘re all saying, Don‘t give
a nickel to the RNC anymore. How long is this going to go on?
PAGE: That‘s the question. I mean, I would not be surprised if we
see a Michael Steele Friday evening resignation. But I don‘t know that
that‘s a fact. The pressure on him has to be tremendous right now. I
mean, he‘s already—if it was just this case of the strip club, it would
be a small story. But this has been building over time because he‘s been
spending more money than he‘s taking in.
MATTHEWS: Burning it.
PAGE: Burning it at a faster rate...
MATTHEWS: That is always the issue in politics. You‘re supposed to
bring in more than you‘re spending.
PAGE: That‘s his job.
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s what Family Research Council—the Tony
Perkins, not the one in “Psycho,” told MSNBC‘s David Shuster about the RNC.
Let‘s listen to Tony Perkins.
TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: There‘s just been a string of
incidents that has made clear to me that the RNC is indifferent in, at
best, to the concerns of many social conservatives.
The RNC does not reflect the values of the folks that we represent
across the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. How big is this?
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think
it‘s big. The Family Research Council is not the entire conservative base,
by any means, but Tony Perkins is a pretty sophisticated player. Behind
the scenes, he says—because I talked to him about an hour ago. He said,
Look, I‘ve been trying to help Michael Steele out for the last year, help
him survive, because Michael Steele only won narrowly to become chairman to
FINEMAN: But then, two weeks ago, Michael Steele hired to represent
the RNC in a campaign finance case Ted Olson, who‘s a very well-
credentialed conservative lawyer.
MATTHEWS: And his crime is...
FINEMAN: But his crime is trying to overturn Prop 8 in California and
trying to end bans on gay marriage around the country. Huge no-no for
Perkins and his crowd. And then this thing happened today. Now, I just
spoke to Perkins. He said, I haven‘t heard from Steele. I had the shot
across the bow to Steele this morning, and I still haven‘t heard from him.
What does that mean? To me it means that Steele is kind of hiding under
his desk here, trying to figure out what to do.
MATTHEWS: And Sarah Palin, who gets—only takes about an hour off
from the news cycle...
MATTHEWS: I‘m serious. She‘s always in the news. She said she‘s not
going to go to this big New Orleans fundraiser. So she‘s...
PAGE: Even though she‘s going to be in town. Even though she‘ll be
in town at another event, but she‘s not going to go to this raiser and
doesn‘t want to have her name associated with it.
MATTHEWS: Well, the interesting thing is—we‘re going to come up
with this in the next segment, which is the who question of the Democrats
are in big trouble right now in terms of the polling, the macro situation.
But this situation, just at the time that the Republicans have a chance to
exploit the difficult problem the Democrats have in selling health care and
the economy, the Republicans are not institutionally capable of exploiting
FINEMAN: No, they‘re not, and...
MATTHEWS: They‘ve got a leader they don‘t like.
FINEMAN: Also, the RNC as an institution is a complete mess. And you
have to remember, over the last generation, the Republican National
Committee has been the place that‘s the point of the lance for Republican
grass roots activity. That‘s not the case anymore. And even though you
can say that there are all these independent groups out there, which there
are, and the other committees are raising things, traditionally in the
Republican Party, the RNC has been the hub of the wheel. That‘s not the
case anymore. It‘s going to hurt them.
The other thing is Tony Perkins‘s people, the social conservatives,
are the bedrock of the Republican Party. If Michael Steele stays in office
from now through November, I can see every parking lot in every mega-church
having a flyer on the windshield about the Voyeur Club.
FINEMAN: Well, why not? Why not? Why not? If he‘s still there. If
he‘s still there.
PAGE: Look, he‘s violating the first rule of politics, which is don‘t
divide your base. And that is the Republican base, between Christian
conservatives, the evangelicals, Perkins‘s faction, the country club
conservatives and the blue collar Reagan Democrats. That‘s the old
MATTHEWS: Well, what does he have to do, get this staffer that he
fired back and flog this person? I mean, what—at this point, is there
anything he can do?
FINEMAN: Well, it takes a two thirds vote of the Republican National
Committee to remove a chairman. And as one member told me, he said, you
know, it‘s easier to get rid of the British prime minister than the head of
the RNC. So it‘s unlikely that he can be forced out by a vote.
MATTHEWS: What about Clarence‘s idea that he could walk under the
pressure? But this guy is...
FINEMAN: He‘s not known for self-awareness, either, I don‘t think.
PAGE: They‘ve got to offer him something. They‘ve got offer him
because he‘s already been under pressure to resign.
MATTHEWS: What do you offer a fellow of his eminence...
PAGE: And he himself has said...
MATTHEWS: ... when you have no power? What are they going to give
him, a clerk‘s job on Capitol Hill?
PAGE: I know Republicans are a party of poverty, but maybe they can
scratch something together.
FINEMAN: They‘re not going to do that. They‘re not going to do that.
They‘re going to work around him. That‘s why Ed Gillespie, who‘s really a
power in town in the Republican Party, is spearheading this independent...
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s this group. It‘s going to be run by Mike
Duncan, the previous RNC chair.
MATTHEWS: It‘s got the backing of Karl Rove and Gillespie.
FINEMAN: Those are the key figures.
MATTHEWS: It‘s going to go out and raise $52 million from wealthy
Republicans, and of course, corporations, their new base under this new
Supreme Court ruling.
FINEMAN: They‘re going to claim they‘re going to raise that much.
Maybe they‘ll raise some. Also, the Chamber of Commerce is going to spend
$50 million, and they don‘t have to go out and beg for it, they can take it
out of their dues and their treasury under the new Supreme Court statute.
So the Republicans are going to work around the Republican National
Committee if Steele doesn‘t leave.
MATTHEWS: We had Ken Blackwell on the other night. He‘s been on the
show over the years. He‘s a good guy. He was secretary of state out in
Ohio. He lost the governor‘s race.
PAGE: He also lost the chairman‘s race. He ran...
MATTHEWS: Well, I had a sense—and I said so to him, so I won‘t
speak behind his back. I had a sense that Ken is running for this job.
PAGE: Well, he ran for it before...
MATTHEWS: And he‘s still running for it.
PAGE: ... and Michael Steele edged him out.
MATTHEWS: He is—he‘s speaking very politely in a way of applying
for a job, basically, of how he would be running it, he‘s saying...
PAGE: Well, the mouse under the table we haven‘t talked about is the
fact that one reason why Steele stayed in that job, according to insiders,
is that there‘s not a polite, easy way to fire the first African-American
MATTHEWS: First ever.
PAGE: ... in the age of Obama. Yes. And you know, I‘m sure Ken
Blackwell is probably saying, And by the way...
MATTHEWS: I could qualify for that! I could ease this guy out by
easing myself in.
PAGE: Right. But like Howard said, it takes 16 states to call a
meeting, it takes two thirds votes to kick him out...
MATTHEWS: Is there a big—is there a big deal in the Republican
Party, a male or female boss from the old school, a Bob Strauss, for
example, from the Democratic Party, who could come forward and say, I want
to have dinner with you tonight, young fellow, and we‘re going to talk
about this, and then bring in somebody else? Is there any higher authority
in the party than Michael Steele?
FINEMAN: I don‘t think so. The Bush family, father and son, have
chosen not to try to play that role. They walked away from it. And so no.
I think the answer is no. I used to think Haley Barbour might be one, but
Haley‘s running for president, so that sort of takes him out...
MATTHEWS: Who‘s that guy, the wealthy Republican...
FINEMAN: ... takes him...
MATTHEWS: ... Fischer (ph) or whatever his name is, used to be a big
a big contributor...
FINEMAN: Max Fischer from Detroit.
MATTHEWS: Max Fischer. (INAUDIBLE) used to be somebody like that.
FINEMAN: There‘s no one Max—there‘s no guy like that.
FINEMAN: There just isn‘t. There are to many—actually, it‘s
interesting. There are too many bundlers around.
FINEMAN: If you‘re talking about all the hedge fund guys, there are
too many bundlers around, too much money. There‘s no one person...
MATTHEWS: ... interested in the hedge fund guys, I‘ll be getting to
MATTHEWS: We‘re going to talk about those...
MATTHEWS: ... billionaires that I can‘t figure out what they do for a
living. Anyway, thank you, Howard—I know what you guys do for a living.
MATTHEWS: It‘s what I do. Howard Fineman—and it‘s a very
important thing to be doing, ladies and gentlemen! Anyway, thank you,
Clarence, and thank you, Howard.
Coming up: How can the Democrats avoid repeating the election disaster
of ‘94 when they lost both houses? The strategists are warming up right
now to talk about it. The big question is not 2012, 2010, right this year,
the Democrats are on the precipice of losing perhaps the ballgame,
everything but the White House.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. There‘s a lot of political
energy out there in the country right now. It‘s up to each party to grab
some of it. Commenting on the current political environment, Democratic
pollster Stan Greenberg said, “If the election were now, we‘d have a change
election. We‘d have a 1994,” and that‘s bad news for Democrats. And
Stanley is a Democrat.
Joining me right now are the strategists, Democratic strategist Steve
McMahon and Republican strategist Todd Harris. I want you to look at these
bunch of numbers. The first set of numbers are very dangerous for
Democrats. A new Gallup poll shows 47 percent of the country prefer the
Republicans in November in a congressional race. That‘s just general
question, Who do you want to win, Republican or Democrat? That‘s 47 for a
Republican, 44 the Democratic candidate.
This is, by the way, a big switch. You can see the lines crossing
there, with the Democratic line going down, the Republican red line going
above it. And the approval for the Democratic Party—and here‘s another
bit of bad news—is down to 41 percent, which is the lowest ever seen by
the Gallup poll for the Democratic Party, and they‘ve been taking these
polls since 1992. So that‘s, you know, 18 years of polling, and it‘s the
lowest number ever for the Democrats.
I‘m going to take the defensive fellow, my friend Steve, before I go
to my friend Todd. How do you defend when it looks like your number, the
generic, “Are you likely to vote Democrat or Republican,” has dropped now
below the other party‘s?
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, that
number‘s been fairly close together for a long time, so the fact that
Democrats are behind right now is troubling, but it certainly is not
something that is surprising, given the fact that a very partisan bill just
passed. I mean, the public was pretty deeply divided on this, largely
because the Republicans were able to demonize it and make it into something
The president now has to go back and make the case to the country that
this is a good bill not just for the people who didn‘t have insurance, but
for the people who do because it will give them stability and it‘ll bring
down costs over the long term. But there‘s no question that Democrats have
a challenge right now.
TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, there...
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that if you had an election today, you‘d
MCMAHON: I think if we had an election today...
MATTHEWS: You‘d lose the House.
MCMAHON: ... it would be a change election. There‘s more Democrats,
so more Democrats...
MATTHEWS: Would you lose the Senate, too?
MCMAHON: I didn‘t say we‘d lose the House, I said that a lot of
Democrats would be defeated. But you know, 23 defeats in a normal off-year
is what‘s to be expected. It could be a little north of that. But you
know, 40 seats is a lot.
MATTHEWS: Well, I remember Reagan was in trouble in ‘82. I don‘t
deny that parties often get in trouble their second year, especially during
a depression, or almost a depression. We have a 10 percent unemployment
HARRIS: There have been three times in the last 60 years when Gallup
has asked which party—What is your congressional preference on political
party? There have been three times that Republicans have polled higher
than Democrats -- 1950, 1994 and 2002. This is the fourth time. Now, this
election, between the health care bill...
MATTHEWS: You mean party ID is higher now.
HARRIS: It‘s not party ID, it‘s congressional preference, which—
you know, Republican or Democrat, generic ballot. Between the stimulus,
between this health care bill, between all this talk of cap-and-trade and
just the daily drumbeat out of Washington about the expansion of
government, this is causing big problems for Democrats.
MATTHEWS: Well, you don‘t say “between” when you have more than two.
It‘s between one or the other and “among” all the others. You misused your
English language there.
HARRIS: We‘re going to lose!
MATTHEWS: ... correct English here! Let‘s go to the Gallup poll. It
says 50 percent of Republicans are very—this is the one I like—are
very enthusiastic about going to the polls this coming November.
Democrats, only 35 percent enthusiastic.
You know, Steve—and I know I‘m putting you basically in a barrel
here. These are the worst situations to be in, but you‘ve got to face the
fact that people aren‘t so thrilled to go vote now who are Ds.
MATTHEWS: And Republicans can‘t wait to get in there for bad news.
They want to go in there and vote no, right?
HARRIS: I wish it were tomorrow!
MATTHEWS: You guys want to go in and just tear down the house, right?
HARRIS: Well, look...
MATTHEWS: You do. You‘re angry voters.
MATTHEWS: You guys aren‘t happy people.
MCMAHON: Todd‘s an angry white man. I mean, look at him.
HARRIS: ... and we‘re very happy about what‘s happening...
MATTHEWS: I can read you. You are amazing. You come in here, I can
MATTHEWS: You are a poll indicator.
MCMAHON: He was so happy in the Green Room—Oh, we‘re going to talk
about the Gallup numbers! This is going to be a great evening!
HARRIS: The dirty secret in politics that—every political
campaign, I don‘t care whether you‘re a Republican or a Democrat, you don‘t
care what all Americans think, you don‘t even care what all voters think.
The only people whose opinions campaigns really care about are likely
voters who are going to show up on election day. And the way that you
gauge that is by enthusiasm, how enthused is your base versus how
MATTHEWS: These early polls, as early as eight months out, tell you
who‘s going to vote?
HARRIS: Well, it certainly gives you a trend. And as of right now—
obviously, a lot can change between now and November. But as of right now,
our base is motivated and (INAUDIBLE)
MCMAHON: Chris, there‘s something going on in the “Which party do you
favor.” Largely, it‘s independent voters who are making that a Republican
choice right now, rather than a Democratic choice, and independent voters
have been a challenge for Democrats now for a little bit. The enthusiasm
among both parties is up. It‘s up about 40 percent among Democrats from
where it was a week-and-a-half ago, so President Obama being out there,
making the case, explaining to people...
MCMAHON: ... the health care reform that they heard about from
Republicans isn‘t the health care reform that passed and letting people
know what‘s in that bill...
MATTHEWS: ... take a look at this new poll. This is more disturbing.
A new “USA Today”/Gallup poll has the president with 50 percent of the
people saying he should not be reelected. That‘s the highest it‘s been, I
HARRIS: Well, you know, I don‘t think the president has much to worry
about right now because he‘s not on the ballot this year, but...
MATTHEWS: His name‘s not on, but he is.
HARRIS: Correct, and his policies. It‘s going to be a referendum,
but it‘s going to be all...
MATTHEWS: Here he is up in Maine tonight. Today he‘s up there.
HARRIS: It‘s going to be all of those vulnerable Democrats who are
going to be paying the price for the mistakes that the White House has
MCMAHON: Well, hold on a second, Todd...
MATTHEWS: Here‘s my question, Steve. I don‘t understand this. The
president‘s out there campaigning like he‘s running for president again.
He‘s been doing—he looks good (INAUDIBLE). He‘s got the shirt on. He‘s
got the style. He‘s gung-ho. He‘s alone. I mean, the Democratic Party
has a lot of members. You dominate the House and the Senate. You‘ve got
governors all over the place. Where are the surrogates? Where are the
Democrats out there campaigning with him, showing the—where‘s the Obama
faction? Is there an Obama faction, or is it just him and his wife?
MCMAHON: No, no. He‘s out there, and all the Democratic candidates
and elected officials are present.
MATTHEWS: They are?
MCMAHON: They‘re just not necessarily on the stage with him. This is
something the White House advance team determines...
MATTHEWS: No, but why aren‘t they out there on their own, talking to
TV, talking to talk shows?
MCMAHON: Well, you know what? They‘re out there having town meetings
this week. They‘re all home and they‘re having town meetings.
And the town meetings this time are a lot different than they were in
August, because people are coming, and it‘s—it‘s a very partisan
MCMAHON: ... conversation.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s the president now. I‘m not sure he‘s getting enough
help out there.
I think he needs a whole bunch of people out there saying what he‘s
saying. Here he is up at Portland today in Maine. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What this reform does
is it builds on the system of private health insurance that we‘ve already
got, so that if you have insurance, this reform will make it more secure
and more affordable. If you can‘t afford insurance or if you‘ve been
denied coverage, you‘re finally going to be able to get it, and over time
costs will come down for families, businesses and the federal government,
reducing our deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next two decades.
That‘s what this reform will do.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there‘s the president up before a very New England
crowd up there. It looks like college kids.
HARRIS: I think it‘s very telling that the one guy who‘s out there
during the spring recess talking about health care is the one guy whose
name is not on the ballot in 2010.
Reuters just had a story out today. All members of Congress have gone
home. Harry Reid, not a single health care event planned back home in
Nevada for this whole...
MATTHEWS: What does that tell you?
HARRIS: ... for this whole recess.
It—it means the Democrats don‘t want to be talking about it. You
have got John McCain campaigning up and down Arizona on health care,
Republican members of Congress campaigning all across the country, talking
about health care.
Democrats, who just passed this bill with some fanfare, none of them
are talking about it.
MCMAHON: Democrats—Democrats have to talk about it.
HARRIS: The fact that Harry Reid is not talking about it is telling.
MATTHEWS: What you guys have to talk about positively? What do you
guys got in your barrel? Have you got anything to sell? Or are you just
running against this guy, just peel over Obama every day. Have you got
anything to sell, and positively? What?
HARRIS: Well, of course. Of course.
MATTHEWS: What are your bills?
HARRIS: I mean, we have talked—we have talked—we have talked
before on this show about Republican proposals for health care reform that
we think would lower the costs of care and not do it in a way that blows up
the budget and costs jobs.
But, look, we‘re the party out of power. So, this is a referendum on
Barack Obama and what the Democrats have done. You are absolutely right
that we have to have some kind of positive message, but...
MATTHEWS: No, you have just been around since the 1860s, and I have
never heard of a Republican health bill.
MCMAHON: No, and there never will be one.
MATTHEWS: The 1860s, and you never do Medicare or Medicaid. The
Democrats do all this stuff.
MATTHEWS: They do Social Security. You guys don‘t do this stuff.
HARRIS: I said...
MATTHEWS: You do wars.
HARRIS: I said on the show—I said on this show last week that I
thought, when we controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress,
we probably—we should have passed a health care bill.
MATTHEWS: You agree?
MCMAHON: Should have passed something. But...
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go on to a couple points here.
This—this is the oil thing the other night, because I‘m always
fascinated by somebody who does something interesting. Barack Obama has
doubled down in Afghanistan. I think that‘s an American fight. I don‘t
think it‘s a partisan fight. And I don‘t think it‘s ever been a partisan
issue, Afghanistan. Iraq was.
Oil drilling offshore has often been a Texas, you know, oil patch kind
of thing. Let‘s go drill, drill, drill, very Republican. Here‘s the
president saying, as part of his mix, let‘s do some drilling off of
Virginia, off of Florida, off of Alaska.
MATTHEWS: What does that mean politically? Why is he out there
saying, let‘s drill, drill?
MCMAHON: Because Democrats have been losing independent voters by 60
to 40 percent in the last two or three elections that we have—that we
have done exit polling in.
And the president understands that 63 percent of Americans -- 63
percent—think that we need to do more to explore offshore reserves.
It‘s not just oil that‘s going to be drilled for. It‘s natural gas. And,
MATTHEWS: Which is clean.
MCMAHON: Which is clean. And there—there‘s nobody in America who
thinks that fossil fuels are going to go away, even as we try to become...
MATTHEWS: So, this is a smart down-the-middle thing?
MCMAHON: It‘s a great down-the-middle thing.
MATTHEWS: Do you agree?
HARRIS: Yes, absolutely. This is a smart move politically, not only
for the reason that Steve laid out, but he needs to do this now if he has
any hope of picking up moderate Republicans to support his cap-and-trade
HARRIS: And, also, as we head into summer, gas prices spike. If he
wasn‘t doing something to show that he was alleviating the supply-and-
demand problem that causes the fluctuation, he would have a huge political
target around his...
MATTHEWS: And we all know these things don‘t go online for three or
four years. No matter—when you start drilling now, you get the gas—
you get the gas in...
HARRIS: Right. But he has the talking point.
MATTHEWS: But, no, also—just be fair—someday, we may be a
society where our cars are driven by wind and solar and all that stuff.
But there‘s going to be a midpoint between now and then where we‘re going
to run out of gas, right, and we‘re going to want to have this offshore
HARRIS: Yes, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: So, I think it‘s an American thing...
HARRIS: I mean, I think most people want all energy solutions put on
MATTHEWS: I think he‘s been the Democratic leader as of last week. I
think he‘s clearly the leader of the Democratic Party, thanks to health
care. He‘s got to be leader of the country now.
MCMAHON: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: I think he‘s got to do things like Afghanistan and this and
debt relief and debt reduction, thinks that you like.
HARRIS: I would love it.
MATTHEWS: And I‘m with him, too.
Thank you—although Afghanistan, I don‘t know.
Anyway, thank you, Steve.
If you like it, I‘m getting nervous.
Thank you, Steve McMahon.
MATTHEWS: And, thank you, Todd Harris.
Up next: the top 2009 hedge fund incomes. Guess how many zeros you
can fit into a paycheck? By the way, would somebody tell me what these
guys do? That‘s in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL—get ready for the billionaires—only on
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL, and time for the “Sideshow.”
First: Those hits keep coming.
The Republican National Committee is already facing criticism over
expensing a late-evening visit to a sex-themed nightclub. So, screwups
like this next one don‘t help matters much.
Here‘s an RNC fund-raising mailer that was sent out last month in
Minnesota. The thing is, when you dial the number that‘s listed at the end
of the form, it doesn‘t lead to the RNC. Check out where that 1-800
actually directs you to, almost too ironic to be true. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey there, sexy guy. Welcome to an exciting new
way to go live, one-on-one, with hot, horny girls waiting right now to talk
to you. Lie back, baby. Relax.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That‘s right, a phone sex line, no kidding. A spokesman
for the RNC told Politico that the number was a typographical error.
Now, the problem is, guys at the RNC—I‘m talking to you—that you
have to tell us it‘s a typographical error at this point.
MATTHEWS: Next, we have got priceless video of Georgia Congressman
Hank Wilson (sic) at a House Armed Services hearing last week. He‘s here
questioning U.S. Admiral Robert Willard about plans to station 8,000
Marines and their families on the Western Pacific island of Guam.
Now, here‘s the congressman‘s concern. The influx could cause the
island of Guam to capsize.
Listen to this member of Congress talk now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. HANK JOHNSON (D), GEORGIA: Well, this is an island that, at its
widest level, is what, 12 miles from shore to shore?
ADMIRAL ROBERT WILLARD, PACIFIC FLEET COMMANDER, U.S. NAVY: I don‘t
have the exact dimensions. But, to your point, sir, I think Guam is a
JOHNSON: Yes, my—my fear is that the whole island will become so
overly populated that it will tip over and capsize.
WILLARD: We don‘t anticipate that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So, what does a person make of that exchange? The
congressman went on by the way, quite a while, asking about the size of the
island, before making that incredible statement. He could have looked up
But then he says he‘s worried, the congressman is worried that the
island might turn over, like it‘s a raft or something. And this guy‘s
representing people in Congress. I don‘t know what to make of this one.
Time now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”
You know business is back for Wall Street‘s big banks, but what about
these hedge funds, those exclusive risk-prone investment pools known for
reaping huge profits? Well, “The New York Times” today highlights the top
2009 hedge fund incomes.
Catch these. You will get sick. At number four, a guy named John
Paulson made $2.3 billion this past year. He‘s best known for betting
against supreme—or subprime mortgages well before people realized they
were ticking time bombs.
At number three, James Simons, a mathematician. This guy got a Ph.D.
from U.C. Berkeley at age 23. He‘s been called the world‘s smartest
billionaire. He made it by mathematics, I guess. The runner-up spot, a
familiar game, Mr. George Soros. He‘s better known for his forays into
Democratic politics. He‘s still got $3.3 billion in hedge fund income last
year. That‘s $3 -- get these numbers right—billion.
So, who has earned the top money? A guy named David Tepper with $4
billion last year. Yes, that‘s $4 billion with nine zeros. He bet big in
fall 2008 that the government would prop up Wall Street with taxpayer
money. That was his bet, David Tepper, the top hedge fund earner with $4
billion in income last year. I‘m not sure it‘s earned, but he‘s got it.
It‘s unreal, but it‘s big.
I‘m going to have to something to say, by the way, about this kind of
money in our so-called free enterprise system, which we nicely call free
Up next: Get ready to be outraged. The father of a fallen Marine who
sued a vulgar anti-gay church group that protested at his son‘s funeral,
he‘s been ordered to pay the church group‘s legal fees by an appellate
court. I don‘t know how this kind of stuff happened. We are going to talk
to the father who has been hit with this bill. He‘s got to pay the bill
for these screamers that went out and distracted from his son‘s funeral,
having given his life for his country.
You don‘t really know what to do in these situations.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC
Stocks accelerating towards the close, after tapping the brakes around
midday, the Dow Jones industrials finishing more than 70 points higher, the
S&P 500 adding eight, and the Nasdaq rebounding four points, after showing
some significant weakness this afternoon.
The markets started off strong on some positive economic reports,
manufacturing activity showing stronger-than-expected improvement in March.
Analysts say steady gains in that sector are the clearest sign the recovery
And a slight drop in the weekly jobless claims fueling enthusiasm
about tomorrow‘s monthly report from the Labor Department. In stocks,
financials looking strong throughout the day, with Bank of America,
American Express, and J.P. Morgan finishing towards the top of the Dow.
But Kindle creator Amazon taking a big hit today after cutting new
pricing deals with two major publishers. Amazon agreed to begin charging
more for the publishers‘ e-book bestsellers.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
Almost two weeks ago, Albert Snyder appeared on this show, when my
friend Michael Smerconish was hosting for me. And he told the heart-
wrenching story of losing his son who served in the military in Iraq, and
the further anguish when a group of demonstrators showed up near the church
where the funeral service was being held for his son.
And they were holding signs, as you can see them right now, that
things like “Thank God for dead soldiers,” horrible things like that. The
group demonstrating at the funeral claims that the death—I don‘t even
like the word claims—says that the death of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and
Afghanistan is God‘s judgment for America‘s intolerance—or tolerance of
homosexuality here at home.
Mr. Snyder took the protesters to court and won at the district level.
Then, at the appeals level, it was overturned. Now the Supreme Court will
hear the case this fall. But, on Friday, the appeals court—that‘s the
second level of justice—ordered Snyder to pay the legal fees of this
church group, $16,000, the group that demonstrated at his son‘s funeral.
Albert Snyder joins me right now.
Also—he‘s in Baltimore—also, radio talk show host, our friend
Thank you, Michael for being back. You were part of this first
Mr. Snyder, thank you for your family‘s sacrifice. And I don‘t even
know what to say further.
AL SNYDER, FATHER OF KILLED U.S. SOLDIER: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: But I don‘t know what it means to lose a son. I have a
couple, and I don‘t know what it would be like. And I don‘t—I just can
only—just, as a father, I just don‘t know what to say.
To his credit, my colleague on that other network, FOX, Bill O‘Reilly,
is helping you out.
What was your reaction when you were told by the court that you had to
pay the costs of going to court against this foul group?
SNYDER: Well, Chris, I think this decision, Chris, hit me harder than
any of them. It was bad enough that they overturned the verdict, but then
to come out and tell me that I have to give them $16,000 more for them to
go do this to other soldiers, it—I—it‘s—it really hurts.
MATTHEWS: So, now they can do it for free. They don‘t have to pay
anything. They just go around and—and—have you ever figured out what
in their heads led them to go to somebody whose—whose life is
impeccable, has nothing to do with the lifestyle or the orientation they
don‘t like, or it has nothing to do with that? It‘s just a soldier who
died for his country.
Why—how do they justify going and—and distracting from this
religious experience and—and national service recognition? How do they
justify it? Do you know? What are they—who are these people?
SNYDER: Chris, I don‘t know how they—well, they‘re a bunch of—
they‘re not even religious people, in my opinion, Chris. In my—in my
opinion, Fred Phelps is nothing but a con artist.
Unfortunately, I think his children and his family believe what he
says. But this is a way he makes money.
MATTHEWS: Yes. My hunch is, he just goes to where really good people
are meeting because he knows it‘s such an awful thing to be doing, that the
press can‘t avoid covering it, it‘s so awful. Isn‘t that sick of the way
we live? I guess we have to cover the most—sickest people.
What do you think? Should we just not cover these events?
SNYDER: Well—well, he makes—well, he makes sure that they‘re
covered by—by the announcements that he sends out to the media and to—
and to law enforcement.
I mean, the—the announcement that he sent out on my son, it had
Matt‘s picture on it. Underneath of it, it had a military coffin, and
underneath that, it said “burial of an ass.” And then it went on to
proceed that they would be protesting St. John‘s Catholic Dog Kennel.
So, you know, they invite the media.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I guess it‘s the smell of these people that arouses
us. I don‘t know what to say. Let‘s go right now to Smerconish. Michael,
you‘re an attorney. What is it about the blindness of our appellate court
system that they would not exercise some discretion here and say, this was
not a frivolous suit. It got past the district court, and therefore it‘s
not frivolous, prima faci. It‘s gotten to the appellate level. It‘s going
to the Supreme Court.
There‘s nothing frivolous about this. This was an legitimate and, I
would say, honorable lawsuit brought by Mr. Snyder against this group. Why
would he get hit with this boomerang of court costs of 16,000? Why would
the court do this?
SMERCONISH: I‘m optimistic that Mr. Snyder is going to prevail in
front of the United States Supreme Court when they hear the case in
October. There are other instances where the First Amendment has been
ruled to be something that can be regulated. Look at defamation, look at
obscenity, look at fighting rules. And if he‘s successful in the Supreme
Court, this will get wiped out.
I would never defend this. I think it‘s outrageous. But the federal
rules of civil procedure—it‘s Rule 39 -- do permit some form of loser
pays in this country. And I‘ve read the bill of costs. It‘s printing
costs and it‘s a filing fee that total the 16,500 dollars.
I think we‘d be mistaken if we looked at it and we said that the
Fourth Circuit was deliberately slapping the father of a fallen marine.
It‘s part and parcel of our federal rules. And they were exercising
something that, unfortunately, is available to a successful party. We hope
it gets wiped out. I‘ve done my party. My listeners have done their part
to write a lot of checks to make sure that he has a lot, in terms of money
to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court.
MATTHEWS: Maybe we can do our small part here. If you‘d like to help
Mr. Snyder‘s cause, and that‘s to pay the court costs of going to the
Supreme Court, and actually helping the effort that Bill O‘Reilly is
already helping here, go to MatthewSnyder.org. MatthewSnyder.org.
We‘ve never done this before on this show. But it‘s certainly a
worthy cause. Mr. Snyder, let me ask you about your son. What was he
like? Let‘s talk about a good guy now, your son and what he did for his
SNYDER: He was a very good kid. But, Chris, before I do that, can I
just thank Michael. Michael has there for me the whole time. Michael was
the one that I really leaned on when this all came down. And Michael,
thank you, very, very much.
As far as Matt goes, Matt was a good kid. Matt was a really good kid.
I think the one thing a lot of people remember most about Matt was his
ears. He had really big ears and they stuck out. But had the type of
personality and he truly lived by the phrase: if you don‘t have something
nice to say about somebody, then just don‘t say anything at all.
He loved soccer. He was—he was very good at soccer. He liked
baseball. And he was a very loyal brother and a very loyal friend and a
very loyal son.
MATTHEWS: What were his feelings about serving his country? What
SNYDER: He loved it.
MATTHEWS: As a father, he must have told you, what were his feelings
about going off and facing the horrors and dangers of war in Iraq?
SNYDER: We talked about—he came home the Christmas before he went
over there. And we talked about it. And you know I was very concerned.
And he said, dad, I have a job to do and I‘ll get it done. And he loved
being a Marine. He wanted to be a Marine probably since the time he was
ten or 11 years old.
MATTHEWS: Wow. Wow. Thank you for your service and your family‘s
sacrifice, and thank you for his sacrifice, and I‘ll do it to you. Thank
you, dad, for doing this. Thank you very much. My friend, Michael
Smerconish, once again, you have covered yourself with honor.
Up next, earlier today in Rome, Pope Benedict celebrated Holy Thursday
Mass. He did not address the current sexual abuse reports in the church.
But a top Vatican official, on behalf of the Pope, criticized “the New York
Times” for its coverage, calling it deficient by any reasonable standards
of fairness. Well, that‘s coming up next on HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. The Vatican is pushing back hard against “the
New York Times‘” coverage of sexual abuse incidents in the Catholic Church,
and what role the Pope may have had in handling some cases in the past.
Here‘s part of what Cardinal William Levada, an American—he‘s from San
Francisco—who leads the Vatican‘s Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith. He said, quote, “I am not proud of America‘s newspaper of record,
‘the New York Times.‘ As a paragon of fairness, I ask the ‘Times‘ to
reconsider the attack mode about Pope Benedict XVI.”
For the latest, let‘s go now to NBC‘s Anne Thompson, who is over in
Rome. It‘s late night over there. Anne, Let me ask you about this—this
is really a big-picture question. Does the Vatican know how deep the
trouble it‘s in? We‘ve got a new poll out that shows the Pope—you don‘t
usually poll the Pope. But he‘s down 20 points among everybody. Your
thoughts? Their thoughts?
ANNE THOMPSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and it‘s not—it‘s not
just in the United States. They‘re seeing similar declines in Germany.
Yes, does the Vatican understand that this is a big serious issue?
Absolutely. Does it respond in the way that we are used to having
political organizations respond, or multinational corporations respond to a
crisis? The answer is, absolutely not.
You‘ve got to remember that this is a big bureaucracy, an Italian-
dominated bureaucracy, and it moves extraordinarily slowly. But I will
tell you, Chris, that if the Vatican were to put out talking points, the
first one would be this—because I have heard this from everyone I have
talked to here in Vatican City since I arrived over the weekend. And that
is that Pope Benedict XVI is the right man to handle this crisis.
Why, you ask? Because they say as the head of the Congregation of the
Doctrine of Faith under Pope John Paul II, starting in 2001, he read every
one of those files on abusive priests, and he gets it and he understands
The second talking point would be to point to the 2008 U.S. visit that
Pope Benedict made, and when he was in the United States, when he met
privately with those abuse victims from the Archdiocese in Boston. It was
in a very pastoral manner. He listened to those abuse victim. He prayed
with those abuse victims. And it‘s against something else that officials
point to as evidence that the Pope does get this.
MATTHEWS: One thing the Cardinal Levada seems to be missing is the
reality here. In his letter, his comments to the “New York Times,” that
interview, he says “I think the evidence is clear from the documents that
Father Murphy”—he was the abusing priest—“was a serial abuser of
children, helpless children oftentimes.”
Aren‘t they always helpless? What is this careful oftentimes? Is
there any time a children are not? I‘m not picking a point here. He‘s
supposed to be the communications guy here. He‘s saying oftentimes—
well, oftentimes helpless—kids in the sacristy—I‘ve been there—are
helpless. The priest is the boss. He‘s God‘s representative. You‘re
THOMPSON: I think—further on, Cardinal Levada makes no excuses for
Father Murphy. In that posting on the Vatican website, I believe he calls
what Father Murphy did egregious acts. He‘s not trying to, in any way,
excuse Father Murphy. But the point he makes is that the inference is that
then Cardinal Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict the XVI, somehow looked
the other way in this case. Father Murphy wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger,
asked that he be allowed to die as a priest, that he not be defrocked.
There is some implication that perhaps Cardinal Ratzinger tried to
stop that defrocking process. And Levada say there‘s no evidence to that
fact. And this is what he‘s trying to do in saying, look, you‘re making
supposition here, but there‘s no proof.
MATTHEWS: Well said. Thanks for that great report. Thanks for
staying up late over there. Anne Thompson in beautiful Rome this time of
night. I‘ve been there late myself.
Anyway, with me now is the “Washington Post‘s” Sally Quinn, who is the
co-moderator of their online religious forum called “On Faith.” Sally,
thanks for coming in tonight.
You‘re not a Catholic. So let‘s look at the perspective you have on
this as a journalist. What is the Pope‘s problem? Can he deal with it?
SALLY QUINN, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Well, it does remind me a lot
about Watergate, with the Catholic Church attacking the “New York Times,”
because that‘s exactly what happened when the White House started attacking
the “Washington Post.” I think that one of the big problems is perception.
I don‘t think that they understand how devastating the cover-up is. I
think one of the whole situations that is most appalling is the idea
Cardinal Law, who was in Boston and who knew about all the cover-ups, is
now in an exalted position in Rome, right next to the Pope, as if nothing
had ever happened.
When the Pope came here and apologized, it‘s what I would call—I
think in the religious world you call it a non-apology apology. He said he
was sorry for those people who were hurt. I think what you need is you
need people to say, this horrible thing happened you to; we apologize; we
ask for forgiveness; and then we do something to make it possible for
reconciliation, ie we open the doors, we root out all the evil-doers, and
we do something to make sure these people get punished and dealt with.
They‘re not being open. They‘re not being honest.
MATTHEWS: Sally, I agree with you on Cardinal Law. He shouldn‘t be
in that exalted position. He‘s a symbol of cover-up. Thank you very much,
Sally Quinn. When we return, I‘m going to have some thoughts about free
enterprise, you know, the sunny name we give to capitalism. You‘re
watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a scary thought, especially for
those who believe in free enterprise, you know the sunny name for
capitalism. What happens when we have huge numbers of people out of work,
and even more only in part-time jobs, or have given up looking for work,
like now? What happens if we have more millions who work full time, get up
early, catch the bus, work all day, come home tired, and still can‘t pay
the bills, like now, the working poor?
What happens if we have even more millions of what you call the
struggling class, people who struggle basically live paycheck to paycheck,
and never seem to climb any higher, never seems to build up much wealth,
What happens if all these people, these millions of people, the
unemployed, the under-employed, the working poor, the big struggling class
out there get up in the morning and read headlines that show a few people
making billions of dollars a year, people up in Wall Street, hedge fund
guys. One made four billion this year. Get up today and read the paper.
And what happens when all this money is being made by people who don‘t
seem to actually make anything, not steel, not cars, not computers, not
even movies. They don‘t even tell us jokes, like Leno or Letterman or
Stewart or Colbert. They just make money, billions of it, in a financial
system that‘s backed up by billions of dollars from us. Billion dollar
socialism, whatever you want to call it.
It all rides atop the sweat of the worker bees, and of course the
poor. Didn‘t you read the paper this morning? I wonder what‘s more scary,
that these people rise up some day, that people rise up some day, and
really raise hell about this and really cause some trouble for this deal,
or they don‘t bother and it gets worse, more billions at the top, more
millions of the unemployed at the bottom, more millions still crunched in
the middle, people work at making things watching people who don‘t make
anything at all except money.
Anyway, there‘s a bill coming to the floor of the U.S. Congress that
may do something about this. It‘s called Financial Reg, a boring name, but
let‘s hope it does it.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. Catch us again
tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern. Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED
SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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