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?
JACK CONWAY (D), KENTUCKY ATTORNEY GENERAL, SENATE CANDIDATE: I‘d
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
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you have voted for the Civil Rights Act
RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: I like the Civil Rights
Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and
I‘m all in favor of that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But?
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
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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?
ERROL LOUIS, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS,” RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well,
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.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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 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
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
MATTHEWS: It sure is.
Thank you, Congressman Markey, heading up the Energy Committee,
Sylvia Earle is an oceanographer and explorer in residence with
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
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?
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “YOUR WORLD WITH NEIL CAVUTO”)
MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: The
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.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST, “YOUR WORLD WITH NEIL CAVUTO”: Michael, the Tea
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your
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
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAT TOOMEY ®, PENNSYLVANIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I have one
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
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
REP. JOE SESTAK (D-PA), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I couldn‘t hear it,
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
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, PAT TOOMEY CAMPAIGN AD)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well that‘s interesting.
You didn‘t know that—that Toomey was a congressman back in 2008,
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?
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,
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The Democrat party, the
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?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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,
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
HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
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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