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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Thursday, May 20 2010

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Errol Louis, David Weigel, Edward Markey, Sylvia Earle, Joe

Sestak, Jonathan Alter

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The gospel according to Paul.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Los Angeles.  Leading off

tonight: Civil Rights and wrongs.  Exactly where does Rand Paul stand on

the 1964 Civil Rights Act?  He didn‘t say he‘d repeal it, but is he

truly for it, yes or no?  Two days after winning the Republican Senate

primary out in Kentucky, Paul just won‘t say whether he truly believes

in the act, and that is threatening what was supposed to be an inside

track to victory in the fall.  We‘ll get the latest on what could be the

hard sell of a tea party candidate.

One way for the Democrats to avoid a November meltdown would be to

steal that Kentucky Senate seat from Paul.  Another would be for Joe

Sestak to win in Pennsylvania.  The little engine that could will join

us tonight from Pennsylvania.

Plus, fire and ice, the heated rhetoric on the right versus

President Obama‘s cool.  I‘ve said it before, no one should ever compare

anyone to Hitler, but we still hear from Republicans that President

Obama is a bigger threat to the U.S. than the Nazis or the Soviet Union. 

Will someone please stop the madness?

Also, what in the world is going on with the gulf oil spill?  No

one can stop it, no one can explain it, and no one can even measure it. 

Are BP and the government doing all they can?  It‘s hard to think so.

And “Let Me Finish” tonight with the problem of squaring a

fundamentalist political philosophy with getting 51 percent of the vote.

We start with that topic, Rand Paul and the Civil Rights Act in

Kentucky.  Errol Louis is a columnist with “The New York Daily News” and

David Weigel is with “The Washington Post.

Gentlemen, let me set this up based on what happened here last

night.  Here‘s Rand Paul‘s Democratic opponent, Kentucky attorney

general Jack Conway, on HARDBALL last night.  Let‘s listen.


What‘s your best case that he‘s outside the mainstream, that he‘s

too flaky, too tea party, whatever?  What would you say?


say just look at the statements he‘s made here in the last few weeks,

Chris.  He has stated that he would like to repeal the Civil Rights Act

of 1964.


MATTHEWS:  Well, you heard Conway use the word “repeal” there. 

That‘s not true.  We haven‘t found any instance of Dr. Rand Paul, the

candidate, saying he‘d repeal that law from ‘64, and he put out a

statement today saying he unequivocally opposes any attempt to repeal

the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

But as far as disagreeing with the law, here‘s Rand Paul last month

with the editorial board of “The Louisville Courier-Journal.”  Let‘s



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Would you have voted for the Civil Rights Act

of 1964?


Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and

I‘m all in favor of that.



PAUL:  You had to ask me the “but.”  I don‘t like the idea of

telling private business owners—I abhor racism.  I think it‘s a bad

business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant.  But at

the same time, I do believe in private ownership.  But I think there

should be absolutely no discrimination in anything that gets public

funding, and that‘s most of what the Civil Rights Act was about, to my



MATTHEWS:  Well, there‘s the key issue for Rand Paul.  He doesn‘t

like the government telling private business owners what they can and

cannot do.  Here‘s Rand Paul last night with Rachel Maddow in a great

interview.  Let‘s listen.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, “RACHEL MADDOW”:  Lunch counters?  Walgreen‘s

lunch counters?  Are you in favor of that?

PAUL:  Well, what happens is, it gets...

MADDOW:  Forcibly because the government got involved?

PAUL:  Right.  Well, what it gets into is, is that then if you

decide that restaurants are publicly owned and not privately owned, then

do you say that you should have the right to bring your gun into a

restaurant, even though the owner of the restaurant says, Well, no, we

don‘t want to have guns in here?

MADDOW:  And should Woolworth lunch counter should have been

allowed to stay segregated?  Sir, just yes or no.

PAUL:  What I think would happen—what I‘m saying is, is that I

don‘t believe in any discrimination.  I don‘t believe that any private

property should discriminate, either.  And I wouldn‘t attend, wouldn‘t

support, wouldn‘t go to—but what you have to answer, when you answer

this point of view, which is an abstract, obscure conversation from 1964

that you want to bring up—but if you want to answer, you have to say

then that you decide the rules for all restaurants.  And then do you

decide that you want to allow them to carry weapons into restaurants?


MATTHEWS:  Well, there‘s a candidate who‘s got some problems. 

Let‘s go to Errol Louis in New York, and also I want to go to “The

Washington Post‘s” David Weigel right after him.

Errol, let me ask you about this problem.  I grew up during this. 

I know the debate over the Civil Rights Act in ‘64.  It was in some

sense a constitutional fight.  Did the federal government have the right

to use the interstate commerce clause to force businesses that were

racist, owned by racists, to serve black folk?

Gas stations—I drove through Georgia—you were obviously more

firsthand on this—drive through Georgia, you saw the “white only”

signs on the men‘s rooms, the ladies‘ rooms.  It was a fact of life.  I

saw laundromats with “white only” when I was in the Peace Corps training

still there in ‘68.  It‘s a fact of life that some people want to

discriminate.  The federal government said you can‘t do it in this

country.  Rand Paul seems to sympathize with the goal of desegregation,

but not with the law itself.  What‘s your view of this?


that‘s right, and he doesn‘t seem to understand the law or its

evolution.  I mean, the reality is, there are cases filed every year

under the Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  You see big public

ones pop up every now and then.  There was one involving Denny‘s

restaurant chain a few years ago.


LOUIS:  You know, it‘s not like it‘s a dead issue.  I‘m the same

age as Rand Paul, and you know, seeing what has happened since the

passage of that law as we grew up, as we saw this nation mature, you

know, it reflects such a fundamental misunderstanding.

And it‘s important to note also that this isn‘t the only case.  I

mean, has talked about actually repealing the Americans with

Disabilities Act.  You know, he‘s got to answer a lot more questions.


LOUIS:  When asked if you support the basic work for which Martin

Luther King fought and died, one way to answer it would just be to say

yes.  And he can‘t seem to make himself do that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me go to David.  It seems to me he‘s got a

constitutional position here.  He believes in Libertarianism.  He

believes in the right of property, the right of the individual against

the rights of the federal government to enforce what we all think is

good law.  We might all think it.

There‘s a real problem here for this guy because it doesn‘t look

like he wants to back down and say uncle, and say, OK, we had to have

the Civil Rights Act, it was the only way to get there, we couldn‘t do a

constitutional amendment to outlaw this discrimination, we had to use

the interstate commerce clause, I guess the end justifies the means. 

But he‘s not will to say that yet.

DAVID WEIGEL, “WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, no.  He‘s taking the

rhetoric and the beliefs of the tea parties and just taking them to an

extreme where they don‘t usually go.  I mean, it‘s one thing—as he

tried to change the conversation—it‘s one thing to talk about gun

rights.  It‘s one thing to talk about health care being forced on

states.  But the ultimate, you know, state—federal imposition on the

states was Civil Rights, and most Libertarians in public won‘t really

talk about this.  Most candidates won‘t go near it.

He‘s decided to stick by it, and he‘s been fighting.  I mean, he

was scrapping today with Jack Conway.  You pointed that out.  Conway, I

just talked to, said, you know, it‘s safe to—it‘s fair to say that

he‘s—he would repeal it because he functionally doesn‘t agree with

parts of it.  And it‘s an open question...


MATTHEWS:  No, no, no!  David, you and I disagree.


MATTHEWS:  He has never called for repeal.  Jack Conway was wrong

last night in saying he had.  That‘s a fact.

WEIGEL:  (INAUDIBLE) that‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a reportable fact.  He has never said he wants to

repeal it.  In fact, he‘s never categorically said he would have voted

against it had he been in the position to do so.

Let‘s take a look at another interview.  This is another useful way

to get at this.  He here he was asked by a skilled reporter, like Rachel

Maddow, Robert Siegel on NPR, on “All Things Considered,” a great show -

here he is, asked again, Where are you on Civil Rights?  Should we

have passed the law?  Here he is.  Let‘s listen.


PAUL:  I‘m in favor of everything with regards to ending

institutional racism, so I think there‘s a lot to be desired in the

Civil Rights.  And to tell you the truth, I haven‘t really read all

through it because it was passed 40 years ago and hasn‘t been a real

pressing issue in the campaign on...


PAUL:  ... for the Civil Rights Act.

ROBERT SIEGEL, “ALL THINGS CONSIDERED”:  But it‘s been one of the

major developments in American history in the course of your life.  I

mean, do you think the ‘64 Civil Rights Act, or the ADA, for that

matter, were just overreaches and that business shouldn‘t be bothered by

people with a basis in law to sue them for redress?

PAUL:  I think a lot of things could be handled locally.


MATTHEWS:  Well, that was good leading the witness there, Errol.  I

mean, he was saying, Do you think it was overreach?  He said, It could

have been handled locally, again going back to that—that provision in

the Constitution, the 10th Amendment.  The tea party people love the

10th Amendment.  They love the 2nd Amendment.  They always talk about

guns.  You could be talking about Santa Claus, they bring up guns.


MATTHEWS:  They bring it up in every regard.  It‘s got nothing to

do with this issue.

LOUIS:  Right.  Right.

MATTHEWS:  And here‘s what—Errol, I‘m trying to get you to agree

that this is a constitutional issue, not an issue of prejudice on the

part of the candidate.  Now, here‘s the question.  He keeps drawing the

parallel—you and I and David would probably agree we support the 1st

Amendment in its purity, that a person can say terrible things in this

country, but he has a right or she has a right to do it because we

believe that‘s the only way to protect everyone‘s right.  OK.

Paul takes that parallel position and says when it comes to private

property, like owning a lunch counter, we may not like the bigot who

doesn‘t let the black guy get a cup of coffee, but if he doesn‘t have

that right to say no, we‘re not free.  See what he‘s doing?

LOUIS:  Yes, but the...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s paralleling the 1st Amendment with the right to not

serve people...

LOUIS:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  ... property with free speech.

LOUIS:  But the guy‘s got to crack a history book.  I mean, it‘s

not like this is the first time these issues came up.  This was the

argument all throughout the Civil Rights movement.  People were saying,

It‘s my restaurant, it‘s my bus station, you can‘t tell me what to do,

you can‘t tell me what to do at our local university, on and on and on

and on.

And again, it‘s not a dead issue.  There‘s still litigation around

this on a regular basis...


LOUIS:  ... and people need access to the courts to relitigate this

because there are a lot of Rand Pauls out there who think that because

they own a lunch counter, they can just decide to rewrite Supreme Court

rulings.  That‘s another part of the Constitution that the tea party

folks don‘t like to acknowledge, that there have been rulings on this,

that the Constitution, you know, is determined by the Supreme Court, the

interpretations of it.

You know, there are a lot of folks out there who are doing all

kinds of stuff based on their personal interpretation of the

Constitution that‘s at odds with the Supreme Court, at odds with

American history, at odds with the wishes of most of the voters,

including in Kentucky.  He‘s got to get himself a little bit closer to

the mainstream if he wants to be taken seriously.

MATTHEWS:  David, it seems like every religion that we know of in

the mainstream, and other ones, as well, and every political party and

every ideology has its weird little pockets they don‘t like to talk

about.  It‘s there.  Every—certainly, every religion has it, the

little things you believe that nobody outside your religion is ever

going to believe.  It seems like we‘ve found one.  And you get to the

interstices of the tea party people at a private meeting somewhere,

white people probably, they can all agree, You know, it‘s better we

didn‘t have all these laws back in the ‘60s.

But you come out and run statewide in a state even like Kentucky,

which is a bit to right, and you try to explain that you don‘t think the

Civil Rights Act, which is probably the best thing that Congress has

done in 100 years, and say they shouldn‘t have done it or that you‘ve

got a problem with it—you are a problem, it seems to me.

WEIGEL:  Well, where Paul‘s coming from or a lot of Libertarians

come from is the fact that most Americans are basically good.  They‘re

not racist and they wouldn‘t put up with it nowadays if an organization

wanted to block African-Americans, block Hispanics, block (INAUDIBLE)

from an institution.  So I mean, this is—this is a comfortable thing

to say now, now that we‘ve had the act in place and now that racism is

totally unacceptable, people are good enough to behave this way without

being forced by the government.  That‘s what he‘s saying.

I don‘t think it comes from place of racism.  I think it comes from

a place of assuming that we can go back and talk about this because it

doesn‘t hurt anyone anymore.

And that‘s the political mistake he made.  He kind of got sucked

into a freshman dorm conversation, when he was actually a candidate for

the U.S. Senate.  And he‘s not—you know, they were not happy about

this interview with Rachel Maddow.  Rachel really nailed him.  He is

used to talking about these in really abstract terms, and even, you

know, talking about extreme things that—that most Americans think

it‘s OK the government does.  But he‘s not used to this.

LOUIS:  If he‘s going to serve in the Senate, he‘s got to go from

the abstract to the particular.  There are about 25,000 discrimination

suits filed every year—Republican years, Democratic years, in

recession, out of recession.  It‘s pretty consistent.  So unless 500

people a week are making up stuff, there are issues out there that

require the support of the law.  If he wants to be a lawmaker, he ought

to find out a little bit about it.

MATTHEWS:  You know, he also get in touch with the life in the

country over the last hundred years.  You know, a guy I once knew who

was Bobby Kennedy‘s aide said Bobby Kennedy didn‘t even get this issue

of Civil Rights until a guy said, Imagine being an American guy with

your wife, driving along a highway, and she had to go to the bathroom. 

And you had to stop at a gas station, and the gas station owner said,

I‘m sorry, she can‘t go in here, to this ladies‘ room or this men‘s room

restroom.  And you had to go and say, I‘m sorry, dear, we can‘t go in

there because we‘re black.  Imagine the humiliation and the anger you

would feel.

I think somebody should have that little sermon perhaps with Dr.

Paul and say, Imagine being like that in your own country!  You can‘t go

to the bathroom.  Got it?  It‘s not theoretical, and that‘s the way it

was before ‘64.

Errol, it‘s great to have you on, David Weigel.  Thank you,

gentlemen for coming on.

Coming up:   It is driving me crazy!  Now top scientists are

accusing the Obama administration of not doing enough.  Fair enough. 

I‘m wondering what they are doing.  We‘ll get to that next.

But in one minute, a dramatic fall politically for a candidate once

seen as a big favorite out in California.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Meg Whitman, the one-time front-runner for the

Republican nomination for governor out here in California, is in real

trouble.  Take a look at this new poll.  Whitman‘s once insurmountable

lead in the race against Steve Poizner, the other Republican, is now

down to just 9 points.  Two months ago, as you can see, she was ahead of

her rival by 50 points.  This despite Whitman spending—catch this—

$68 million of her own fortune on campaign TV ads.  The poll also finds

the former governor, Democrat Jerry Brown, would beat either Whitman or

Poizner in the general.  So Jerry‘s still got some juice!

We‘ll be right back.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Catch this.  BP has agreed to

release a live streamed video of that massive oil leak in the Gulf of

Mexico, only after Democratic congressman Ed Markey and other lawmakers

pressured the oil company to show the video.  And Congressman Markey

says the video shows that BP has been dead wrong—that‘s his phrase—

in its leak estimate of just 5,000 barrels a day.

Congressman Markey‘s chairman of the Select Committee on Energy

Independence and Global (INAUDIBLE) Congressman, how bad is the leak,

now that you‘ve got this stream—the video stream exposed?  How much

is coming out of that hole?

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Well, we know it‘s not 5,000

barrels a day, which is what BP has been saying for almost a month.  We

know, according to scientists who have looked at it, that it‘s—it‘s a

range of between 40,000 and 90,000 barrels a day...


MARKEY:  ... which would be almost 8 to 20 times larger than BP

said it was.  Right now, today, BP is saying that they‘re actually now

siphoning out now 5,000 barrels a day.  And if you look at the video,

then you can see that they have not made a dent in the amount of oil

going into the gulf.

MATTHEWS:  What is your sense—we only have a couple of minutes,

Congressman—did they not put drill mud down into the hole initially,

and then cap it off with the blow-out preventer?  Is that what they

didn‘t do they should have done and they could still do now?

MARKEY:  Well, you know, we know that there was a problem with the

cementing.  We know that there was a dispute that broke out on the deck,

according to the “60 Minutes” interview just a couple of nights ago,

between BP and Transocean.  There was a big debate going on in the hours

before this rig blew.

So there‘s a number of problems, including the fact that they were

using dead batteries on that system on the rig on that day.  So there

are many things that could have gone wrong, probably did go wrong, that

made this possible, including whether or not the sheers (ph) were strong

enough on the blow-out preventer to be able to cut off the flow when

there was an emergency.

MATTHEWS:  What do you see down the road?  Two weeks from now,

Congressman, you and I are talking about this, and it just keeps ruining

the environment in which we live—and it‘s all the way up to North

Carolina, destroying this water, destroying the water life, destroying

our beaches and wetlands and destroying the hemisphere, practically. 

When are we going to try something more urgent?  Is there something more

urgent?  Do you drop a million pounds of cement on it?  What is the

urgent, last-gasp effort here that people are thinking about?

MARKEY:  Well, number one, I think that BP should put this—this

flow of oil up on their Web site.  I think the whole world should be

looking at this.  It‘s on my Web site right now, but I think the whole

world should be able to see it because we need the smartest scientists

in the world to think through how to end this catastrophe as soon as

possible. They‘re going to keep—keep trying to make it up as they go



MARKEY:  It‘s clear they never—they never believed an accident

could happen.  They lowballed it for the first month with regard to the

flow of oil on a daily basis. 

They‘re now saying that they‘re going to take another couple of

steps to try to shut it down.  But we have no guarantees that the worst

environmental catastrophe in America‘s history isn‘t going to continue


MATTHEWS:  Do you have a sense, or can you say now on the record,

Congressman, that this oil company has covered up the magnitude of this


MARKEY:  I think that it‘s clear that, right from the beginning,

because they had access to this video right from the beginning, that

they knew that it was not 1,000 or 5,000 barrels a day.  They knew that

it was a multiple of that.  And, yet, they continued to lowball the

number, probably to protect themselves, the legal liability of BP. 

But, meanwhile, the livelihoods of people down in the Gulf were

being put at risk because the magnitude of the problem had yet to be

publicly announced.  And so, yes, BP has been holding themselves out as

experts.  The people do not trust the experts anymore at BP.  They want

outsiders to come in to be able to do the analysis to make sure this

thing gets shut down fast and that the devastation is not as

overwhelming as it could be, because this number of barrels of oil is

absolutely staggering. 

MATTHEWS:  It sure is. 

Thank you, Congressman Markey, heading up the Energy Committee,

from Massachusetts. 

Sylvia Earle is an oceanographer and explorer in residence with

“National Geographic.” 

Sylvia, I great respect for the “National Geographic.”  And my

simple question is this.  Who the hell is going to stop this?  I look at

the government.  It‘s sitting around like the Vatican advise—Vatican,

what do you call them, observers.  They‘re just watching it.  I have

watched the history of oil pipeline regulation going back to when I

first did an investigative piece on this in 1973. 

The federal government allows the industry to regulate itself. 

They don‘t have safety in terms of pipeline regulation.  It‘s not there. 

Do you have any confidence that this government is going to stop what

we‘re looking at, this horror of this oil going up the East Coast? 

SYLVIA EARLE, “NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC”:  Well, we can all hope that we

can use the technologies that are out there.  But we need better methods

for actually working underwater. 

Actually, the industry, the oil industry, has the best technology

presently in the world, except maybe certain navies, for actually

observing and working in the sea.  The scientific community, NOAA, the -

the Coast Guard, we‘re ill-prepared to deal with something of this

sort or even to evaluate the consequences to life in the sea. 

We don‘t have submersibles.  We don‘t have fleets of remotely-

operated systems of the sort that the oil industry does have at our

disposal.  I mean, we can hire from the industry such devices.  A few

institutions, such as Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, have

undersea vehicles, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in

California, of course, Scripps, and others.

But where‘s—where‘s the capability for fast response on part of

the Coast Guard or NOAA or any of the other federal agencies to be there

on the spot...


EARLE:  ... to be able to calculate the effects and what‘s the fate

of the oil itself, plus-, what do we need to do to bring it to closure?

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s what I‘m asking about.  Is the problem

getting a submarine to get—can we use our fleet of submarines to go

down there and get men, frogmen, down there with torches and begin to

close up that—that hole in that pipe? 

What is the problem, getting there?  Is it the transportation to

the bottom of the sea, a mile down, or is it the technology of closing

that hole? 

EARLE:  I think it‘s a combination.

We don‘t have submersibles that can go to 5,000 feet, except for

the Alvin, a few systems that exist in the whole world.  There are only

four submersibles that can go to half the ocean‘s depth.  And this

country doesn‘t have any of those.  It‘s Japan, China, France.  We‘re

not—and Russia—we‘re not in the game to go really deep with manned


MATTHEWS:  Well—well, how did we dig this hole? 

EARLE:  And...


MATTHEWS:  How did we drill—how did we drill this pipeline?  How

did we create this oil well down there, if we couldn‘t get down there? 

EARLE:  We have got the technology to actually accomplish that kind

of work in the deep sea, even essentially nearly twice as deep, and the

robots that are developed to be able to go down for maintenance,

inspection and repair. 

But that‘s under normal circumstances.  To deal with something of

this sort is a major challenge that I think nobody anticipated that we

would ever have to do this.  There are some unique problems with dealing

in deep water and dealing with the oil that comes out of such an area,

as compared to what is released at the surface. 

For one thing, of course, it‘s cold.  And then there‘s the

pressure.  These are factors that we‘re just not prepared to have to—

to deal with.  And we have to get up to speed fast.  The technologies

arguably do exist.  I mean, the capability is there. 


EARLE:  But we haven‘t made the investment to have a garage filled

with submarines, a garage filled with remotely-operated systems, and the

talent to be able to go down independently of industry and respond. 

MATTHEWS:  Well that was an exquisite description of a horror.

Thank you so much, Sylvia Earle of the “National Geographic.”

Terrible horror, nonetheless.

Up next:  If you think Democrats are in trouble this November,

consider this.  Some Republicans on Staten Island are pinning their

hopes on an ex-congressman to run this time whose arrest for drunk

driving revealed he had a secret second family living out in Virginia. 

He had a kid out there, a spouse of some sort out there, all living out

there as a separate life.

And now they‘re running him for election this November.  Check out

the “Sideshow.”  It‘s a true “Sideshow” tonight—coming up next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Now to the “Sideshow.” 

First: Steele man.  Yesterday, Neil Cavuto tried to pin Republican

Party Chairman Michael Steele on the divide between establishment

Republicans and those Tea Partiers, citing Senator Bob Bennett‘s big

primary loss out in Utah. 

Watch what happened. 



voters in that district, who aren‘t all Tea Partiers, by the way, voted

in that state voted their conscience and voted the way they wanted

to.  That‘s fine.


Partiers didn‘t like Senator Bennett.  Fairly or not, they didn‘t like

him.  The established Republican Party did.




CAVUTO:  I‘m just saying, for you to say that there is no—there

is no angst between the two, there clearly is. 

STEELE:  Neil, don‘t mix—please, stop...



STEELE:  Please do not mix the Republican Party establishment—I

don‘t even know who that is, by the way—with...

CAVUTO:  You, you, you, you, you, you, you.

STEELE:  ... activists.  Neil...


STEELE:  Neil, have you been reading my press lately?  I don‘t

think—the last thing you can say about me is that I‘m part of the

establishment here, I mean, because... 


CAVUTO:  Well, that‘s true, because they—everybody hates you. 


MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Cavuto said later he was just kidding about

everyone hating Michael Steele. 

Next:  Veni, vidi, Vito.  Remember Vito Fossella?  He‘s the family

values congressman from Brooklyn and Staten Island who abandoned his

2008 reelection bid after a drunk driving arrest revealed he, the

congressman, had a secret family living out in Virginia. 

So, is Fossella out of the game?  Apparently not.  Staten Island‘s

Republican Committee just passed—passed over two other candidates to

once again nominate Vito Fossella for his old congressional seat.  The

vote wasn‘t even close, 23-4.  No word on whether Fossella, who is, by

the way, still married to his New York family, will accept the


Finally, talk about out of touch.  When Democratic Senator Ben

Nelson of Nebraska was asked whether he supports legislation capping ATM

fees, he treated the whole matter like foreign territory—quote—“I

have never used an ATM, so I don‘t know what the fees are.”

Nelson says he gets all his cash from bank tellers, adding—quote

“I could learn how to do it.  I swipe to get my own gas.  I buy

groceries.  I know about the holograms.”

By holograms, Senator Nelson means those scanners at Safeway at the

checkout counter.  Senator Tom Harkin, who—who sponsored that bill on

ATM fees, limiting them to about 60 cents per, says he uses the machine

once every couple weeks.  What a regular guy he is. 

Time for tonight‘s “Big Number.”

Remember the story about how President George Washington back in

1789 took out the book “The Law of Nations” from the New York Public

Library and never returned it?  Well, he racked up $300,000 in late

fees, according to the calculations. 

Well, catch this.  Washington‘s Mount Vernon estate heard about the

missing book, and they just returned a replica of the book to the

library, making good on the debt.  How many years did it take to get the

book back, or a replica?  Two hundred and twenty-one years.  In a

gesture of good faith, the library in New York absolved the former

president of his late fees.

George Washington‘s library card—or library—library book

returned 221 years after the fact, tonight‘s better-late-than-never “Big


Up next: a big guest, a real political star these days.  Joe Sestak

has already beaten Arlen Specter, the Democratic establishment, and the

White House.  How is he going to beat the Republican, Pat Toomey, the

man from Club For Growth?  He‘s coming here to tell us, coming up in a


You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  



CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks logging their biggest drop of the year on a basketful of

economic concerns, the Dow Jones industrials plummeting 376 points to

finish at session lows, the S&P 500 tumbling 43 points, and the Nasdaq

taking the worst of it, down 94 points, or more than 4 percent. 

Take a look at just some of the reasons behind today‘s carnage, a

surprise spike in new jobless claims, an unexpected dip in regional

manufacturing activity, fears about the financial regulation bill in the

Senate, lingering concerns about European debt, and, after days of high

volatility, an overall move into less risky investments. 

Industrials were the hardest-hit.  All 30 Dow components finished

lower, led by Alcoa, Bank of America, and General Electric.  GE is the

parent company of CNBC and MSNBC. 

And a couple of earnings reports posting just after the closing

bell, Dell and Gap earnings both coming in better than expected. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to




suggestion for Joe:  Take a vacation.  You worked really hard.  You

deserve, oh, four or five months off.  As a matter of fact, I can have a

dozen volunteers come over to your place in the morning to help you



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That‘s of course, Pennsylvania‘s Republican senator nominee, Pat

Toomey, the Club For Growth guy, having some fun with his Democratic

adversary, who just won the big nomination, Joe Sestak.

Congressman Sestak joins us now. 

Congratulations.  You‘re the little engine that could. 


MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that little tease from your—your

coming-up opponent? 


Chris.  What exactly did he say? 

MATTHEWS:  He said, you should take four or five months off

vacation right now and take a break, and he‘s got volunteers who will

help you pack. 

SESTAK:  I guess he expects me to win without working.  I like to

work.  You know about me, Chris. 


MATTHEWS:  I do.  You‘re amazing.  You‘re gutsy.

Look, here‘s a serious ad from Toomey.  He‘s got it up already. 

It‘s against you.  Let‘s see how this campaign begins.  Here‘s Toomey

vs. Sestak. 


NARRATOR:  For Senate, Joe Sestak or Pat Toomey, two good men with

very different ideas.  Joe Sestak voted for the Wall Street bailout. 

Pat Toomey opposed it.  Sestak supports government-run health care. 

Toomey says no.  Sestak wants foreign terrorist leaders tried in

Pennsylvania courts.  Toomey wants terrorists tried in military courts. 

This year, Pennsylvanians have a good, clear choice. 

TOOMEY:  I‘m Pat Toomey, and I approve this message. 


MATTHEWS:  Well that‘s interesting. 

You didn‘t know that—that Toomey was a congressman back in 2008,

did you? 


MATTHEWS:  I didn‘t know he had a voting record.  I didn‘t know he

was a member of Congress, but there he is, saying he opposed the—the


SESTAK:  It‘s interesting.

Here‘s Congressman Toomey, who has more time in Washington, D.C.,

than I have, who actually tripled our national debt, as he threw out the

window, claiming he was a conservative, that we no longer had to balance

our books by pay as you go. 

Here‘s someone who actually worked on Wall Street and then voted to

deregulate Wall Street and let them gamble with the homes of our

seniors.  Look, if there‘s anything I know, Chris, I really believe that

what I learned in the Navy.  Accountability for one‘s actions has to

be brought back to Washington, D.C.

I think he‘s accountable for having had us—forced us to do an

economic stimulus bill.  Nobody wanted to do that.  But Pat, with his

vote, literally set our house on fire.  Boy, I got to tell you, when

somebody sits around and just says no, and 700 -- up to 700

Pennsylvanians are losing their health care every day, I don‘t think

that‘s the kind of person down here in Washington, D.C., they want

working for them. 

That‘s the difference.   I do agree with him, though.  We‘ve got

two different approaches and he‘s a good guy.   But I got to tell you,

we don‘t want to go back to the dark ages, the last eight years of the

Bush administration.   I think there‘s a forward progress we‘ve got to


MATTHEWS:  Well it sounds like it‘s going to be a clean campaign

between the two of you battling over issues.   Lets me ask you this, all

things considered, congressman, has Barack Obama been a good president? 

SESTAK:  Yes.  

MATTHEWS:  All things considered, has he done the right things in

terms of policy? 

SESTAK:  He should have been a bit—yes, overall.   Except

there‘s not a question in my mind that if he had instituted—been able

to bring about a couple other things he had mentioned in his campaign,

for example, business is not a bad word when small is in front of it,

and he had talked about that 15 percent tax credit for new payroll, that

every new payroll that a small business creates.   Small businesses

create 80 percent of all jobs.   Without that, we aren‘t able to

stimulate this economy as rapidly as we could.  

If we did that alone, we would soak up five million unemployed in

the next two, two and a half years.   So I thinks there need to be a bit

more focus on the business side, small business, not where Congressman

Toomey focused, which was in large corporations and/or Wall Street.  

That‘s the kind of more shift he has to have in his focus.  

Also, I honestly do believe we should have done better this year on

focusing upon the national debt, not just one-sixth of the budget.  We

needed to do more about trying to address it overall.   It‘s the big

albatross around our neck.   And Congressman Toomey, as you know, when

he voted for the Bush tax cuts that went to the very rich, and didn‘t

pay for them and others, what happened is 15 percent of our national

debt over the next ten years is for the interest that Pat Toomey used on

the national credit card without paying for what he did.   That‘s why I

want accountability back down here in Washington, D.C.  

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Toomey‘s a little flaky? 

SESTAK:  No, I think—

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘s got all of his marbles?  You think

he‘s got all of his marbles?  He‘s totally sane?  No seriously, he‘s got

no temperament problems?  He‘s OK mentally, just to the right of you,

that‘s all?  

SESTAK:  Without a question.   Look, Congressman Toomey and I had a

beer afterwards when I beat him at my first of two debates with him.  

We just philosophically truly disagree.   He still believes now in a

flat tax.   Imagine that, multi-millionaires getting a 200,000 dollar

break, but the 95 percent f us working Americans paying 3,000 dollars,

on average, to pay for it. 

He believes in this trickle-down economics.   It‘s a failed policy. 

It didn‘t work during the Bush administration, when zero jobs were

created.   And yet in the Clinton era, we created 23 million jobs. 

Which way do we want to go?  That‘s the real choice we have.  

MATTHEWS:  I want to ask you my favorite question, and it‘s about

what I really care about.  I care about—I grew up in North Philly, as

you know.  And I grew up in northeast Philly, like a lot of people moved

up to a nicer neighborhood.   But we always had the industrial jobs, at

the Bud plant, at Vertall, at Boeing.  You could get on that subway or

get on that bus and have your lunch bucket, maybe your pea coat and your

cap, and go to work.   Those kids living in those African-American

neighborhoods in North Philly, those terrible neighborhoods like Hunting

Park, where I grew up, don‘t have those jobs.  Their dads don‘t have

those jobs.  Their moms don‘t have them.  

How can you bring back the industrial possibilities for a high

school grad to work?  How do you do it? 

SESTAK:  I talk about this all the time during the primary race I

just finished.   My father worked at Vertall.  He also worked on a

Philadelphia Naval shipyard.  We‘re actually importing 180 welders today

from Louisiana, because we can‘t get the kids out of Philadelphia that

have the computer science skills to sit at the computer and design the

bead to do the welding.   We‘ve done that for three years.

And half of our kids aren‘t graduating from high school in

Philadelphia.   We‘ve lost 100,000 jobs in these last 30 years.   Chris,

it‘s all about small businesses.  Pennsylvania has had half the job

growth, half the small business creation as the rest of the nation.  

Therefore, we‘ve had half the job growth of the rest of the nation.  

And we‘ve become the second-oldest state because everybody, they‘ve gone

elsewhere to look for jobs.  

It‘s about tax credits for small businesses, community banks that

guarantee loans to small businesses, and Small Businesses Administration

start-ups.   I could go on this.   That‘s the focus I want to bring to

Washington, D.C.  

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll have you back.   I want to talk about big jobs.  I

want to talk about subways and train systems and fast rail, and big

jobs, lots of jobs for lots of people.  

SESTAK:  Small businesses create 80 percent of all jobs.  

MATTHEWS:  I like big industry better.  

Anyway, thank you Congressman Joe Sestak.   Congratulations, you

have a lot of guts.   I said it the other night.  You‘re a good man to

take on the machine and you beat it.   Actually, you beat Arlen Specter,

which is pretty good in itself.  

Up next, the right wing constantly goes to absurd extremes to

demean President Obama.   I mean absurd, they‘ll call him anything,

Nazi, Soviet.   They don‘t limit it.   What do we make of it?   Amid the

madness, the president just stays cool as a cucumber.   Is he too cool

for his nasty, heated enemy?  

In one minute, Senator Blanche Lincoln, by the way, calls on one

big name she hopes can save her down in Arkansas: Mr. Bill Clinton. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas is in line to be the

next incumbent to lose this year.   She‘s in a runoff against Bill

Halter down in Arkansas, and she‘s bringing in the big guy.  Former

President Bill Clinton will campaign for Lincoln in Little Rock on May

28th.  That‘s coming up.   The big question, in what looks like an anti-

establishment year, can Big Bill get Arkansas voters to stick with

Lincoln.   Is he the one establishment figure in the country who still

has sway with voters at the grassroots?  I think he might.   We‘ll see.  

HARDBALL will be right back.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The right wing has made it

their mission, it seems, to undercut President Obama, to smear him at

every chance.   Rush Limbaugh has been lab leading the charge.   Here‘s

some of Rush just today.  



American left, the president of the United States will destroy this

party and destroy this country, in order to maintain their power over

it.   This is the kind of stuff that starts civil wars, folks.  

You want to know what happened to prosperity?  It‘s called

liberalism.   There‘s a giant disconnect, liberalism from Americanism.  

What country does Barack Obama believe he is president of? 


MATTHEWS:  He‘s unbelievable.   Remember, by the way, we have an

open invitation to any Republican office holder, any respectable one, to

come on the show and say Rush is wrong, that Rush is not the leader of

the Republican party.   By the way, you can pick your target, any nuance

you disagree with him on, any small point, any peccadillo you find in

this guy‘s argument.   Come on and tell us you disagree with that.  

So far, nine days since we offered the challenge, no takers.  

Anyway, despite the noise, President Obama stays on an even keel. 

It‘s his cool, calm reality that‘s become his trademark.   Can he always

be this cool?  Jonathan Alter has just written a big book.  He examined

President Obama‘s first year in office with incredible behind the scenes

access.  His new book, what a great name, “The Promise.”

Jonathan, my man, who studied with great effect Franklin Roosevelt

and the big guys, does he still—we have a lot of very pro-Obama

viewers who watch this program, and some critics.  And the question for

the people with heart—and I‘m one of them—with heart for this guy

and I‘m a critic sometimes—if you have heart for Obama, is it

still possible that he can find greatness as president.   Do you see it? 

JONATHAN ALTER, AUTHOR, “THE PROMISE”:  Absolutely.   Look, he won

ugly on health care, Chris.  But this was the biggest domestic

achievement in close to half a century.  He is with only Franklin

Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson now in terms of domestic achievement.  It

can all go wrong if unemployment doesn‘t come down over four years.  It

can go wrong if it is disastrous in Afghanistan.

But has a reasonably good chance of getting into that first rung of

American presidents.  

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk his temperament and the way he presents

himself.   During the campaign, we were all impressed.  When I was

going, when is he going to take on Senator Clinton?  When he‘s going to

really challenge her?  And all the time he was plotting with David

Plouffe to get the delegates he needed in those little states out West.  

So he had plan.  

Does he have a plan now?  All we see is the cool.   What‘s his plan

to get unemployment rate down to seven?  What‘s his plan to restore his

connection with the blue collar worker out there, and the middle class

worker who is either out of work or worried about being thrown out of

work?   How does he connect again? 

            ALTER:  He needs to connect.  That was the big failure of the first

year.  He lost that connection to independents and a chunk of the middle

class.  He‘s still pretty popular.  His numbers are close to what he won

in the election.  Something has atrophied there in his connection with

people, and they‘re very conscious of it, and they‘re getting him out on

the road more to deal with this.  

But he doesn‘t want to throw a punch.   A lot of liberals want to

see him deck somebody.   He‘s not into gestures.  He‘s into winning and

putting points on the board, as they put it.   Sometimes he can be a

little too cool.   Paul Volcker told me, for instance, that he said

sometimes he wants to just shake the president, say, god damn it, get

excited about this.  

MATTHEWS:  I agree.  By the way, I have heard that from people

close to him.   Here‘s a “Boston Globe” piece that gets to the heart of

this.  This is about Martha Coakley, who had a tin ear, I think, a nice

person, probably professionally great, but had a tin ear politically.  

Here‘s what the “Globe” said about her when she lost, “Coakley bristles

at the suggestion that with so little time left, in an election with

such high stakes, she is being too passive.   ‘As opposed to standing

outside Fenway Park in the cold, shaking hands,‘ she fires back.”

It‘s like Obama is like that.  Here‘s Obama speaking at the White

House Correspondents Dinner the other night.  This didn‘t bother me at

the time.  We were all laughing.  But later I began to think, this is

the wrong tone.   Let‘s listen.  


OBAMA:  Unfortunately, John McCain count make it.   Recently, he

claimed he had never identified himself as a maverick.   We all know

what happens in Arizona when you don‘t have I.D.   Adios amigos.  


MATTHEWS:  Overwhelmingly, the American people are completely

frustrated by our failure to protect American citizenship and residents

on the border.  We‘re not doing it.  Every other country does it and we

don‘t do it.   He‘s joking about it.   He‘s laughing at Arizona.  Is

that connection with the middle class and independent voter? 

ALTER:  That probably was not very smart to joke about it.   But it

was nothing compared to what Coakley did with less than two weeks before

the election, to diss Fenway Park, which is a shrine in Boston.   So

when Obama heard, Axelrod told him this when he wandered into this is

office—and he grabbed Axelrod‘s shirt, and he said, tell me she

didn‘t say that, tell me that‘s not true.  

He knew immediately not only that Coakley was going to lose, but

that health care was in deep trouble.  So what I try to do in the book,

Chris --  

MATTHEWS:  Jon, we‘re out of time.   Jon, please come back again.  

Come back and talk about this.   This book is going to be a big one,

“The Promise,” by Jonathan Alter. 

When we return, I‘m going to have some thoughts about Rand Paul

when a principled stand becomes a big problem.  You‘re watching



MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with a tough one.   You know, we

want to have our politicians to have strong principles.   We can‘t stand

the crowd pleasers, the party switchers, the pander-bears out there who

say all the easy stuff, feed us the cotton candy, and leave us wondering

who is really going to solve the country‘s problems?  Who is really

going to take a stand, face the heat and give it to us straight, at

least the way they see it straight?  

Well, you want principle?  You have it in Rand Paul, who just won

the Republican nomination for the Senate for Kentucky.   Paul takes a

principled position against federal power. 

Here comes the rub.  Paul has said he doesn‘t like looking back the

way we passed the law in 1968 telling people who own restaurants and

hotels that if they‘re open for business, they can‘t turn away a

customer because of his or her race.  He has yet to say, under a lot of

questioning, including that from my colleague Rachel Maddow last night,

that he supports the federal power to tell business owners that if

they‘re open for business, they can‘t discriminate someone because of

how they were born.  

Just to be clear, candidate Paul did not, apparently, ever call of

the Civil Rights Act.  He never did say categorically, even, that he

would have voted against it.  But when you read his words on the

subject, it‘s clear he is torn between his deep philosophical belief in

the rights of the individual and the ideal of a non-discriminatory

America.   He doesn‘t like discrimination by private business owners,

but he treats it much like liberals don‘t like some horrible things

people say, but support their right to say them.  

This is where it stands with Mr. Paul.  It‘s a tough place to be,

trying to square your fundamental views with an electorate that may not

share them.  It‘s one reason why people of pure philosophy and

absolutist views stay out of electoral politics.  It‘s why people should

be interested in politics long before they run for office, so they can

settle these issues in their head and heart before they try to settle

them on editorial boards and on TV shows.  

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.  Catch me

tonight on “the Tonight Show” with Jay Leno.  Right now, it‘s time for

“THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.




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