Guests: John Hofmeister, John Heilemann, David Corn, Ernest Istook, Jim
Webb, Maria Teresa Kumar, Pat Buchanan
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The enemy below.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off
tonight: The slick stops here. The latest casualty of the gulf oil
spill could wind up being President Obama. The president will hold a
news conference in—on this tomorrow, and he heads to the gulf on
Friday. But a lot of people are screaming—yes, screaming—that he
needs to take charge and do it now.
One thing to bet on, he‘ll get no help from Republicans. His
meeting yesterday was with Senate Republicans went about as badly as
could be expected. We‘ll ask again. Do Republicans have any interest
in a successful U.S. government?
Also, trouble in north Asia. North Korea has severed its ties with
South Korea, and that has some people worried, including me, that we‘re
looking at the makings of another Korean war. Senator Jim Webb of
Virginia is heading to the region. He joins us tonight live.
And John McCain says President Obama still hasn‘t—isn‘t doing
enough to stop illegal immigrants from entering the country. The
country supports tougher immigration laws and seems to be on the GOP‘s
side on this, but Republicans are losing politically, Latino support,
perhaps for generations.
“Let Me Finish” tonight by making the case for honest, open service
in the U.S. military. That vote, by the way, in the Senate Armed
Services Committee is tomorrow.
We start with the politics of the oil spill. John Hofmeister was
president and CEO of U.S. operations for the Shell Oil Company. And we
should mention as we get started here that Operation Top Kill, BP‘s
latest and most elaborate attempt to stop this spill, is under way right
now. You‘re looking at a live picture from one mile below the gulf‘s
surface, at that reality down there.
John, let me ask you, what are your bets on how this looks so far?
It started at 2:00 o‘clock Eastern today, this attempt to cap this
JOHN HOFMEISTER, FORMER SHELL OIL PRESIDENT: Well, I think the
conventional wisdom is that it‘s better than 50 percent probability of
success. It‘s a technique that has to be tried. There‘s just no
alternative but to do this, and if this doesn‘t work, to do something
else, and then something else until we finally get that flow stopped.
The problem is, obviously, the intense pressure that it will take
to push that mud down into the well, holding tight the fixtures and the
threads and everything hanging together as a system in a BOP that you
don‘t even—a blowout protector you don‘t even know, how is the
integrity of the blowout protector? It didn‘t work before.
MATTHEWS: Does it have the strength to contain that kind of
pressure coming up through the well?
HOFMEISTER: It‘s one of the reasons it probably took so long to
execute is that the engineering calculations have got to be precise.
The threading of the pipe to hold it together has got to be
manufactured. Everything has to be calculated, designed, tested, and
then tested again before you start this operation.
MATTHEWS: How wide is the hole that it‘s coming out of?
HOFMEISTER: Well, the pipe that goes into the well reservoir, I
understand, is about a six-inch pipe in diameter. So it‘s not a...
MATTHEWS: But we‘re looking something that looks a lot—maybe
it‘s a distortion, but we‘re look at something that looks about two feet
in diameter. What is that we‘re looking at, or is that just a...
HOFMEISTER: That would be...
MATTHEWS: ... an oversized (INAUDIBLE)
HOFMEISTER: No, that would be the riser that really encompasses
all of the operations that went on before, where you‘re sending down
various and sundry apparatus in order to get to that drill hole, which
is what I‘m referring to as about six inches wide.
MATTHEWS: Right. OK, it seems to me—and I am a civilian in
this regard, obviously, a non-technician—that you‘re trying to put
toothpaste back into the tube. Had they done this, had they put the
drill mud in the pipeline as they were drilling, we wouldn‘t have this
HOFMEISTER: It sounds like that‘s one the reasons we had the
blowout is that the drilling mud was being removed well too soon. The
cement had not perhaps hardened.
MATTHEWS: What experience do we have in jamming, blowing,
focusing, whatever, thrusting drill mud into an open hole like that,
when you‘re up against that kind of pressure coming from below ground?
HOFMEISTER: Well, if you remember the first Kuwait war, with all
of those—the fires and all of those wells in Iraq?
HOFMEISTER: This was a technique used successfully, but that was
above ground. That was where you had operators who could actually touch
and feel things and watch things. This is 5,000 feet below the surface.
This is the first time it‘s been tried in deep water. The technique
works. Whether it works in deep water, we‘ll find out.
MATTHEWS: Why would it be more hazardous? Just because you‘re
dealing with robots or what would—or is there something about the
pressure down there, the heat down there?
HOFMEISTER: Well, the current—the pressure of the water, it‘s
freezing cold, it‘s just above freezing, as you can imagine. And so
you‘ve got the temperature issue. You‘ve got the pressure issue.
MATTHEWS: We‘ve got the heat coming out of the pipe is what is
real hot, right?
HOFMEISTER: It‘s probably cold by the time it‘s—well, it‘s hot
when it first gets to the water, yes, that‘s correct.
MATTHEWS: So that‘s coming into the face of the robot (ph). What
a situation. You‘re—what‘s left if this doesn‘t work? What‘s the
next step on this—do we have to wait in a couple of months for
another well opening to be dug?
HOFMEISTER: Well, of course, the relief well is ongoing. That‘s
24/7 they keep drilling, not one but two relief wells. That‘s still
weeks away, from what I understand. What‘s next if this doesn‘t work is
something called the “junk shot,” where you just—you shoot a lot of
debris into that blowout protector in the hopes that you could stuff it
shut. And—and that will be tried. Another option which could be
following on that is to set another blowout protector on top of the
existing blowout protector. There are teams working these projects in
MATTHEWS: OK. I‘m glad to hear all this. This does make me
happy. Let me ask you about a much more serious problem already, which
is collecting the oil that‘s in the gulf right now. We don‘t know
whether it‘s 70 million gallons or whatever. We don‘t have any idea
about the dimension here, most people. I don‘t know. The president
doesn‘t know, apparently. I don‘t know if BP does.
But what is this technology that you and I have talked about today
about a tanker or a series of tankers going into the gulf and basically
sucking that oil, that petroleum out of the gulf, taking it away so it
doesn‘t destroy our North America reality here that God gave us? Is
this feasible that this could be done, suck up the oil that‘s in the
HOFMEISTER: I was approached by engineers, Chris, who had been
involved in a massive, massive Arabian Gulf oil spill in the early
1990s. Because of the quantity of oil on the surface of the sea, they
came up with the idea of using a flotilla of supertankers which have the
capacity to suck in through pipes in the sea the oil and seawater. And
those supertankers hold a million barrels, and so they could cruise
through, sucking up all of this oil and water, take it to a port, dump
it into tanks, separate the water, clean the water, go back out, get
another load. And over a period of weeks, if not months, you could suck
up millions and millions.
MATTHEWS: Why do you believe—why isn‘t the president doing
HOFMEISTER: I don‘t know. And I think that question should be put
to him. The idea has been put forward to the Coast Guard, to BP, and to
the states along the gulf to try to get some attention to the subject.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much. It‘s great to have you on.
This is a terrible time, but thank you. And it‘s great to have an
expert. John Hofmeister, thank you, sir.
John Heilemann‘s a political guy with the national—he‘s with
“New York” magazine, of course, “New York” magazine‘s political
columnist, a great writer who wrote “Game Change.” You know, the game
change here we‘re all looking for is the president to take charge right
now, John. He doesn‘t seem to be in charge. BP is in charge.
JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK” MAGAZINE: Well, you know, Chris, that‘s
the way they wanted it to be for a long time at the White House, that
they wanted to put the onus of responsibility on the company both
because they felt that that was substantially the correct thing to do,
it was their fault, and also because they thought that was the best
place to be politically.
But at this point—and this is a point you‘ve been making for the
last few nights on television—I think it‘s true. People in the
country no longer think of this as a—as a problem—they‘re starting
to think of this not as a problem of corporate malfeasance or of
corporate irresponsibility, which it may very well be, but not just
that. It‘s a national problem. This is a—now not just an accident,
but looking like a natural disaster on some level. And for a lot of
people in the country, what they want to see is they want to see the
president taking charge. They want to see the president doing more than
he‘s been doing, taking a much more hands-on approach.
MATTHEWS: You know, Harry Truman had to deal with a crisis—not
like this. It was a union. The coal miners were on strike. John L.
Lewis and those guys were on strike. And he basically drafted them all
and said, Damn it, we‘re going to get the coal in this country. We‘re
not going to stop the energy engines of this country.
Sometimes in history—I know that the president‘s taken a lot of
flak from the right for nationalizing industries, but doesn‘t there come
a time when he has to simply draft all the supertankers into the service
of our country, bring them here, empty them out somewhere, sell whatever
they‘ve got aboard, come to the Gulf of Mexico and suck up all that oil,
or they can‘t do business on this continent again? Sometimes presidents
have to do extreme measure, take the—even if it means they don‘t get
a second term. I think saving the Gulf of Mexico is more important than
anybody‘s second term. Your thoughts?
HEILEMANN: Well, I think there‘s—look, I don‘t think there‘s
any question that President Obama takes this very seriously. And I
don‘t know what the right solution is. These are very technical
problems that are being confronted here. But I think they are in a very
dangerous place politically now because the narrative is starting to
kind of get away from them. There‘s a sense, I think, in the country—
and you‘re hearing this all over the place—that there‘s this feeling
of impotence that‘s rising...
HEILEMANN: ... that somehow, no one‘s able to do anything about
this. It‘s going on for so long. And the problem is that there‘s a
very thin line between impotence and incompetence. And you know, at the
beginning of this crisis, Chris, there were a lot of people in
conservative quarters who said, Oh, is this Obama‘s Katrina? And that
was sort of laughable in the first week or so. But I think that, fairly
or not, that narrative is going to start to take hold if this goes on
for days and weeks and conceivably months longer. People are going to
start to, again, fairly or not, say this look like governmental
incompetence as much as it does—it relates to this notion that we are
somehow powerless to stop this.
MATTHEWS: You know, during the Iranian hostage crisis, I was a
speechwriter for President Carter, and for several months there in the
battle against Ted Kennedy for the nomination, it was useful to the
White House to be seen as under siege. But some time in that spring,
maybe before Desert One or after it, it became clear that this was a
sign of impotence on the side of the president, and the American people
got rid of Jimmy Carter basically for that reason. I liked Jimmy
Carter. He had great values. But the American people believed he
couldn‘t govern because he couldn‘t make the tough decisions. He
couldn‘t defend our people overseas in Tehran.
It seems to me we‘re going to reach a point, if we haven‘t reached
it already, where what‘s seen as a president under siege is going to
look like a president who can‘t do the job. I hope that day doesn‘t
come. Do you think there‘s a sense in the White House—well, you
cover it pretty well. Do they have any levers to pull? Is there
anything they can do besides just begin to pee on BP, I mean, to put it
bluntly? Is there anything more they can do?
HEILEMANN: Well, they‘ve been very tough, I mean, I thought at
various times, sporadically tough on BP, and that‘s where they‘ve
trained their fire. You remember the comment about keeping the boot on
HEILEMANN: ... that press secretary Robert Gibbs made a couple
weeks ago. But I think, you know, some of these messages—and again,
you know, you want the president to be continuing to take care of the
nation‘s business, but the sight of the president going out to
California yesterday for a fund-raiser was not a good—not a good
image to be seen at this moment.
HEILEMANN: And I think—you know, look, they see that they need
to be more activist. I mean, you‘re seeing that not just in his trip to
the gulf but also in this press conference. As you know, President
Obama hasn‘t done a press conference for 10 months. The fact that he
feels compelled to start answering questions on this tells you that
they‘re starting to recognize the political peril that they‘re in if
they don‘t seem like they‘re trying to get their arms around this in a
more active way.
MATTHEWS: You know, the treasures of North America—the Grand
Canyon, Niagara Falls, Yosemite, you know, Yellowstone—we have these
treasures we inherited from the North American Indians, basically, we‘ve
had them all these years, and they don‘t—they don‘t come free, and
most parts of the world don‘t have them, and we have them. And the Gulf
of Mexico—it‘s beautiful and it‘s ours, really, to take
responsibility for it. And I have a sense that this stewardship of the
president and the American people is being exhausted here and turned
over to the private sector.
And I think, again, it‘s not a BP business challenge. It‘s not
about how much litigation they‘re going to face. It‘s about something
we were given by God and we‘re not going to have. It‘s horrible.
Anyway, thank you, John Heilemann.
HEILEMANN: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: It‘s great to have you on. I hope we can get past the
politics of this thing and get to some action. I hope that that top
kill works. Who doesn‘t?
HEILEMANN: Me, too.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: Is there any reason to believe President
Obama will get help from across the aisle from the Republican? Well,
they‘re sitting over there taking shots at him, just looking to tear him
down again and again and again.
You‘re watching HARDBALL here, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Republican Dino Rossi hopes the third time is the charm
in Washington state. He‘s run statewide twice before, and today Rossi
announced today he‘ll run against Democratic incumbent senator Patty
Murray. A new poll shows Rossi within a couple of points of Senator
Murray right now. Republicans need to pick up 10 Senate seats to take
control of the United States Senate, and Rossi gives them a chance to be
competitive in an 11th state.
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (INAUDIBLE) good to
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What‘s your message (INAUDIBLE)
OBAMA: We want to see if we can get some more work done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, welcome back to HARDBALL. That was
President Obama Tuesday, just yesterday, on his way into a lunch with
Senate Republicans behind closed doors. The president sounded
optimistic going in, but what happened inside? “The New York Times”
reports that Senator McCain, who he beat in the campaign, quote, “lashed
out at the administration in that room for its portrayal of the new
immigration law in Arizona,” and that Tennessee‘s Bob Corker, quote,
“suggested that the administration had been less than sincere in trying
to seeking a bipartisan deal on financial regulation.”
Texas John Cornyn told “Roll Call,” the newspaper of Capitol Hill,
that the president appeared to be somewhat insulated from what actually
is going on in the country. And Kansas senator Pat Roberts told the
Associated Press that the president, quote, “needs to take a Valium
before he comes in and talks to Republicans. He‘s pretty thin-skinned,”
the senator said. As for the president himself, on his way out, he
said, “We had a good, frank discussion on a whole range of issues.”
Really? Is that what it sounds like to you? What does the
president get out of these get-togethers with Republicans? David Corn‘s
a Washington bureau chief—the Washington bureau chief for “Mother
Jones” and a columnist for Politicsdaily.com. And Ernest Istook is
former Republican congressman from Oklahoma.
I want to start with David Corn, who‘s sitting with me. David, it
seems to me he goes in there—the shot against the president is that
he uses Republicans as props, that he‘s really not in there to deal.
And I have to ask the question, why is it impossible—is this an
unstoppable force, meaning an movable object, which is really not
unstoppable because the object is movable...
MATTHEWS: ... or is it that they‘re not really good negotiators,
they don‘t try to figure out ahead of time what the other side might
DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”: Well, it depends. Which side are you
talking about? I...
MATTHEWS: I‘m asking about both.
CORN: OK. Yes.
MATTHEWS: I‘m trying to be even-handed because we do need some
deal making to get some stuff done, like immigration reform, regulatory
reform. We do need both sides.
CORN: Well, the meeting showed me that there‘s not much social
evolution beyond high school. I mean, these senators come out and they
whine and complain that the president‘s testy, he uses the word “I” too
much, he‘s duplicitous. I mean, from the president‘s perspective, he‘s
accomplishing things—health care reform, financial reform. He got
three Republicans, the two Maine Republican and Senator Brown from
Massachusetts, to sign on, so that makes the bill somewhat bipartisan.
I mean, I guess the question is, is expectations. This is the
argument the White House makes. We‘re happy to work with you, but you
have to understand—they say this to the Republicans—that we‘re in
the driver‘s seat. We‘re the majority. We get most of what we want.
We‘re happy to talk to you about some the things you want, but we‘re not
going to change our overall approach on things.
MATTHEWS: OK (INAUDIBLE) let me go to Congressman Istook.
Congressman Istook, it looks like they‘re both fighting over what menu
to use. President Obama goes in there, he wants sushi or something a
little hipper. The Republicans want meat and potatoes. They want
meatloaf or something. Because I look a this set of issues—he wants
to talk about immigration reform, regulatory reform, things like that,
climate change. The Republicans want to talk about jobs, the deficit,
debt, things like that. They have a different menu they want to fight
over, each side.
ERNEST ISTOOK ®, FORMER OKLAHOMA CONGRESSMAN: Well, they‘re
certainly—Chris, you‘re right, there certainly is a difference in the
menus. There‘s also a difference in the perception. I think if the
president had had a better understanding of what‘s really going on, he
probably would not have walked into that room without a teleprompter.
Those meetings, you know, they‘re off the record. They‘re behind closed
doors. And typically, you can go out and you can—you can say what
you said in the meeting. You‘re not normally going to breach protocol
and talk about what someone else said.
But they‘re talking about how the president behaved in that. The
problem is, to get the rest the agenda through that he wants to, he
needs Democrat votes even from his own party. They‘re—they‘re
skittish. They read the polls. They have seen some Democrats like Alan
Mollohan, for example, that have gone down, and Arlen Specter that have
gone down in elections.
The president realizes that, to push some things through, he‘s got
to get some help from the other side, but he doesn‘t understand just how
badly he has alienated, not only a lot of these Republican senators, but
so many people all across all the country that used to be on his side.
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m not sure that‘s entirely true, but your
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “MOTHER JONES”: Can we be
I mean, the president has had to deal with a Republican Party,
particularly on the House side, that has called him a socialist, that in
the campaign said he wanted to powwow with terrorist, that makes common
cause with the most extreme Tea Party activists who compare him to
Hitler and the Nazis.
ISTOOK: This is not about hurt feelings.
CORN: I mean, no, wait, wait, wait...
MATTHEWS: No, but the comments are suggestive. Why would you deal
with a guy you consider a Nazi, if that‘s your starting point?
CORN: John Boehner gets up there and says health care will lead to
the apocalypse, and then he says the president doesn‘t deal with me.
I mean, which way is it? If the Republicans want to sit down and
act like mature partners, they‘re free to do that, Congressman.
MATTHEWS: Let—Congressman, isn‘t a problem with your party...
ISTOOK: But, David, a majority of Americans want to repeal that
health care bill, according to polls.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t there a general perception, Congressman, in your
party, the Republican Party, that, if you deal with Barack Obama, you
lose the next primary, if you have any dealings with him? Look what
happened to Bennett on—talking about health care.
Any conversation on any issue, any meeting of minds on anything is
grounds for removal from the party in today‘s Republican Party, isn‘t
ISTOOK: Well, there is a certain perception that tracks that, but
it‘s not based upon personalities. It‘s based upon the issues. It‘s
based upon trillions of dollars worth of deficit spending that we‘re
seeing. It‘s based upon a government mandate telling you, you must buy
health care coverage, or else. It‘s based upon the issues, not upon
MATTHEWS: Bob Bennett didn‘t do any of those things. All Bob
Bennett did was to buy into Bush‘s TARP and discuss with Ron Wyden an
alternative on health care to the president‘s plan. And he lost the
primary for talking to a Democrat.
CORN: Then let‘s call it clearly. If that‘s what the congressman
believes, then let‘s give up his—you know, this ghost of
bipartisanship. The Democrats have majority power. Let them pass these
bills and see what the voters say in November. It‘s quite simple.
ISTOOK: The voters say repeal the health care bill.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s take a look at something. Let‘s talk
politics for a second, and not philosophy. We‘re arguing over
MATTHEWS: Here‘s President Obama at a fund-raiser for Barbara
Boxer last night. Let‘s listen to what the president said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I also, by the
way, am sympathetic to the fact that it‘s hard for Republicans to work
with me right now because there are members of their base who, if
somebody even smiles at me, they think, you‘re a traitor.
OBAMA: You smiled at Obama. You‘re nice to him. You were polite.
And if you‘re rude to Obama, we can raise money.
OBAMA: So the incentive structure right now for cooperation within
the Republican Party is not real strong. So I‘m sympathetic to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The governor of Florida hugged the president. For that,
he was thrown out of the party.
Congressman, is that grounds for removal these days?
ISTOOK: No, it‘s not how you...
ISTOOK: ... see him on a personal basis. Senator Tom Coburn from
Oklahoma remains good friends with Barack Obama. He talks about their
personal friendship. He‘s not in any difficulty back home.
Why? Because he stands up against the president‘s big government
and big spending agenda. It‘s about the economy, stupid. It really is.
It‘s not about personalities.
CORN: Well, I think we will see that come November. I mean, the
president has succeeded in passing his stimulus plan, the health care
plan. Financial reform‘s probably going to pass in the next couple of
And he will have a record of accomplishments. The Republicans have
opted out, basically, and not participated. Most of these bills are
going through with very few Republican votes. I think it‘s good for
voters. There will be a clear choice...
ISTOOK: There will be a clear choice. I agree.
MATTHEWS: You know what the danger is to the Democrats? The
Republican carry the House by one vote, they get the subpoena power.
CORN: That‘s true.
MATTHEWS: And people like Darrell Issa will do nothing but
subpoena this administration for two years until they get the White
CORN: And then they will probably lose the Congress for that.
MATTHEWS: That‘s what they want to do. That‘s what they want to
Thank you, David Cameron, sir.
Thank you, Congressman Istook. Thanks for coming on again...
ISTOOK: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... and doing the job.
ISTOOK: You bet.
MATTHEWS: Remember, we have an open invitation to any Republican
officeholder on the planet, especially in this country, to come on
HARDBALL and simply say, “I‘m right, Rush is wrong,” on an issue of any
significance to you personally, any issue. Just find an issue where you
disagree with this guy on, OK? “Rushbo is wrong. I‘m right.” You get
a free ticket to sit in that chair.
Anyway, we have tried this for 15 days. No takers.
Up next: Vice President Joe Biden, the guy who says that he thinks
well, what he thinks—takes a swipe at a fellow Democrat, Dick
Blumenthal, the Senate candidate who lied about serving in Vietnam, but
along the way committed a personal faux pas. That‘s next in the
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to the HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
His heart‘s in San Francisco. Last night, at a Barbara Boxer fund-
raiser, President Obama was heckled on the issue of don‘t ask, don‘t
tell. It‘s the second time in as many months he‘s been heckled by a gay
rights activist. Watch him try to charm the guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And we said are going to make sure that we don‘t slip into
a great depression. And we are...
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Move faster on don‘t ask, don‘t tell!
OBAMA: I have to say—you know, I saw this guy down in L.A...
OBAMA: ... at a Barbara Boxer event about a month and a half ago.
If he wants to demonstrate, buy a ticket to a guy who doesn‘t
support his point of view.
Maybe he didn‘t read the newspapers.
OBAMA: Because we are working with Congress as we speak to roll
back don‘t ask, don‘t tell.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: He said do it faster. It‘s like, come on, man. I‘m
dealing with Congress here.
OBAMA: It takes a little bit of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: This president plays hecklers like a ukulele. Anyway,
it does take time to change things, like don‘t ask, don‘t tell, but time
is definitely on change‘s sides on this issue.
Next: Joe Biden unfiltered. Yesterday, the vice president was at a
wounded veterans event, when he snuck in a shot at Democrat Senate
candidate Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
Blumenthal, remember, was caught numerous times saying he had
fought in the Vietnam War, which he didn‘t. Here is Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have made a
commitment, as—as a people, as an administration, that we‘re never
going to be what our generation, the Vietnam generation, came home,
arguing over whether or not we really were—I was not in Vietnam. I
don‘t want to make a Blumenthal mistake here.
BIDEN: But God love him, as my mom would say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the vice president once had his own excursion into
the unreal, having borrowed from a campaign speech from a British
Now for the “Number.”
The Congressional Budget Office just came out with an estimate of
how many people were employed in the first quarter of this year through
the stimulus bill. How many Americans were put to work? Answer, up to
2.8 million. That‘s up to 2.8 million people put to work because of the
stimulus bill—tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Up next: How close are North and South Korea to military
confrontation? And what should the Obama administration do about it?
This is serious business, I think.
Senator Jim Webb of Virginia‘s heading to the region. He joins us
here live next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Hampton Pearson with your
CNBC “Market Wrap.”
An early bargain hunting rally collapsing late in the day, the Dow
Jones industrials finishing 69 points lower, the S&P 500 slipping six
points, and the Nasdaq falling 15 points.
Texan financials leading the late-day sell-off. Microsoft‘s down
almost 4 percent, after saying China‘s weak copyright laws are forcing
the company to for markets to look elsewhere in Asia, this on coronation
day for the new king of tech. Apple shot past Microsoft today as the
world‘s biggest tech company, measured by market value.
And Disney shares seeing a solid 2.5 percent bump after a deal to
sell Miramax back to the Weinstein brothers. That fell through. Better
bids from rivals could be on the horizon.
Meanwhile, authorities say a Disney employee did it for the shoes.
An assistant to the head of corporate communications and her boyfriend
were arrested for allegedly hatching clumsy insider trading schemes.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are very
concerned about the sinking of the South Korean vessel. The 400-page
independent report determined that North Korea did it. Don‘t ask me
why. I don‘t understand why they would do that, but that—that is the
conclusion of the independent investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Good question. Why do they do what they do?
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commenting on the
serious situation if Asia right now.
Virginia Senator Jim Webb is headed to the region next week. He
joins us now.
Senator Webb, no American wants another Korean War. That said, we
have got 28,000 troops on the DMZ at the 48th parallel over there.
What‘s our predicament right now, as you see it?
SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: It‘s 38th parallel. But...
MATTHEWS: Thirty-eighth. Well, I know. OK. You had to do that,
didn‘t you? Go ahead.
WEBB: We have—we have a situation here where I think that South
Korea has been very strong, but very measured. They have accumulated
the right kind of evidence, and they have presented this in the right
way. They‘re not trying to stir the pot.
But I think what we need to do is, first, take a step back and look
at all of Asia, of Southeast Asia, what—the turmoil that‘s going on
in Southeast Asia right now, for two reasons. One is that the United
States has not been connecting sufficiently in this region, other than
And the other is that China, itself, has not been very cooperative
as they have been an emerging power. You have a situation in Japan
where we have seen a lot of political turmoil. It‘s also affected our
basing system there. You have got China in the South China Sea becoming
much more aggressive, staking out sovereignty issues in the Shikoku
Islands, the Paracels, down in the Spratlys.
We have seen turmoil in Thailand, a place and a people that I
dearly love, of a scale that we have never seen before, and over in
Burma. I‘m also going to Burma. We see a transition that the United
States should be engaged in, rather than turning our back to and saying
we‘re not going to talk to people simply because they politically don‘t
agree with us.
And the connecting fabric in many of these situations is China not
stepping up in a cooperative way, in a way that equals its emerging
power in the region. Korea‘s a good example of that, because China
could be a major force in terms of calming things down on the Korean
Peninsula. They have not yet done it. They did not do it with these
meetings that Hillary Clinton had there.
And China sort of views North Korea as a buffer state. They have a
self-interest in not seeing a unification of Korea. And so we need to
have them step up.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that the leader of North Korea, as sane as
he might be or not sane or whatever, as demented as he might be,
believes that China‘s on his side strategically, that if he does make a
move on the South, if he crosses the DMZ, again, like his father did,
that China would back him, as it did effectively in the Korean War?
WEBB: Well, I think what you see is that North Korean and Kim Jong
Il particularly view China as their patron. He was recently in China.
And he got a big hug there.
And even in terms of the findings on the sinking of this ship, as
Secretary Clinton was just quoted on your show, the Chinese have not
come forward and affirmatively condemned North Korea for what they did.
So, I think that North Korea sees that China is their protector. China
sees North Korea, number one, as a buffer state, and, number two, they -
they have this relationship where, if things went wrong in North
Korea, they also were going to get a spillover of refugees and this sort
So—but China has to step up, whether it‘s North Korea, Iran, or
Burma, and they have to be much more responsible in this entire region
that we haven‘t been paying attention to.
Here‘s another piece on that, Mekong River. The Mekong River is
drying up. It‘s affecting 70 million people downstream, because China‘s
building hydroelectric—hydroelectric dams upstream, and they do not
recognize riparian water rights downstream. That‘s not something that‘s
very exciting to talk about on a daily way on these political shows.
WEBB: But it‘s a very serious issue over there, and the United
States needs to call out China. We haven‘t been doing it. And our
administration didn‘t do it over the past three days.
MATTHEWS: I‘m sitting here thinking about American soldiers, as
you were one, at the 17th parallel in Vietnam. And you fought in that
Let me ask you. You have got 28,500 American soldiers at the 38th
parallel defending that country. My concern, for the first time—
having watched Korea, South Korea, all these decades in my life being
very careful in the way that it addresses the threat from the North,
seeming now to be very rambunctious, very confident, maybe to the point
of scaring—of spooking the North, because it‘s acting so confidently
that—that the Northern leader may just decide I can‘t stand this; I
can‘t stand this equality of military confidence. I‘m going to attack.
Do you feel that?
WEBB: Well, no. I don‘t see South Korea as doing that right now.
It‘s very important for them to be firm. What you do see though is,
remember, how the Korean War started in 1950, and that was when Dean
Atchison made this famous speech, I think it was the National Press
Club, and forgot to mention Korea as within the sphere of American
security interest. And then on June 26th, the North Korea—in 1950,
North Korea invaded.
So we need to be very careful in terms of assuring South Korea and
North Korea that we are committed to their defense. But then the other
piece of it is, you need to look at the succession struggle that‘s going
on. Kim Jong-il is not a well man, and whether there would be other
provocations here that would strengthen people who want to succeed him
in North Korea. So we have to be very careful of what we‘re doing. I
really don‘t see this as South Korea provoking North Korea at all.
MATTHEWS: Are we—are we completely together with South Korea?
Would we fight and defend if they were attacked?
WEBB: Well, I think we‘re—we‘re committed to doing that. And
the best thing that we can do in order not to reach any sort of a
temptation by North Korea is to call out China. China has enormous sway
in North Korea, and just as in Burma and Iran, they‘re not using that
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question.
WEBB: And we‘re not asking them to.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a tricky question. You can take a bye on
this. The Democratic candidate for Senate up in Connecticut, looks like
he is going to be the candidate—he‘s the attorney general of that
state, Dick Blumenthal. He, on a number of occasions, has said that he
fought Vietnam. Does that concern you as a Vietnam veteran? The
character issue there?
WEBB: I think here‘s—I think you need to understand the
emotions of the Marines who did go to Vietnam. We sent 400,000 Marines
to Vietnam; 103,000 of them were killed or wounded. It was a
horrendously difficult war on the ground, the conditions under which we
So I think people can understand how emotionally the people who
were in Vietnam reacted to this incident. But it‘s for Mr. Blumenthal
to move forward and prove himself on.
MATTHEWS: Would you like to see him apologize for lying?
WEBB: My impression is that he has done that. And again, I think
people in this country have—will never understand how difficult the
Vietnam War was for the United States Marines. We took more total
casualties in Vietnam than World War II. We took three times as many
dead as in Korea. We took five times as many dead as in World War I.
And the country never really digested that. So that‘s you get these
emotional explosions with something like Mr. Blumenthal‘s statement.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, thank you for your service. Thank you very
much, Senator Jim Webb, good luck over there in North Asia.
Up next, President Obama‘s sending 1,200 troops to the border, the
U.S. border with Mexico. But is it really enough to slowdown in any way
illegal immigration, or is this just a face saver? What is going to be
enough, by the way, to really deal with that issue over there? This is
HARDBALL, on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Is Rand Paul enough of the Libertarian for the
Libertarian Party? Maybe not. The Libertarian Party of Kentucky is
considering running a candidate in the Senate race this year against
him, saying Rand Paul‘s has betrayed the party‘s core values. A top
party official knocked Paul for his criticism of the ‘64 Civil Rights
Act and says Paul and his Democratic opponent Jack Conway are, quote,
faces of the same bad coin.
HARDBALL will be right back.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. President Obama‘s sending 1,200 National
Guard troops down to the border with Mexico. But his former rival, and
I think still his rival, John McCain, says it‘s simply not enough to
stop the flow of illegal immigrants into this country. Politically, are
Republicans playing for a short-term win at the risk of losing Latino
support for decades?
Maria Teresa Kumar is executive director of Voto Latino. And she‘s
an MSNBC contributor, as you know. And Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC
contributor as well.
Maria Teresa, what do you think of the border issue? Do you think
the way to stop illegal immigration is a stronger border police? What
would stop illegal immigration? Would it be stop illegal hiring, stop
people at the border? What would actually deal with the problem in
terms of enforcement.
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, VOTO LATINO: Right it‘s a combination. First
of all, I think if you were to ask any American, everyone agrees that we
need to stop the porous borders that we have right now. We do a couple
of things. We need to find the employers, number one. We have to have
severe penalties for the folks who are behind the smuggling. If we go
after just simply the person that is crossing the border, and not the
person that‘s part of the ring, then we have a problem on our hands,
because there‘s no disincentive for them to stop.
Finally, we have to start making sure that people come out of the
shadows. I want to know who‘s living in my country. And the best way
to do that is to give them an opportunity to come out, be forth, and
say, you know, I‘m present here. And that‘s part of it with
comprehensive immigration reform. But it has to be done not one or the
other. But first we have to secure our borders.
MATTHEWS: The three points you made; you are have to go after the
border, you got to go after illegal hiring, and you got to bring people
out who are hiding to the country. Pat, what‘s your solution? What
would stop the big flow of illegal immigration, if that‘s what most
Americans clearly want in all of the polls?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: One of the things that
slowed it down already, and sent some folks back, is the recession.
There‘s only two steps you need, Chris. You need to secure the border
with a border fence all the way across, all the main crossing points.
MATTHEWS: And that‘s actually feasible.
BUCHANAN: Oh, for heaven‘s sakes, it‘s simple for the United
States, who is spending 700 billion on Iraq. For heaven‘s sakes. And
the second thing you do is you go after the employers with this: you
take one of the big employers, or ten of these guys, first time you fine
them, you have a second time you put them on community service, third
time you put them in jail. And people will stop hiring.
Then you need the security card, the I.D. card, Social Security,
call in the number to the Social Security Administration automatically,
just like you do a Visa card. It comes back. And if it doesn‘t fit,
the guy‘s not hired.
MATTHEWS: Maria, on that point, is there a way to enforce the laws
against illegal hiring of illegal people in the country? Is there a way
to enforce that law? People keep saying, I can‘t tell; the paperwork is
all BS; nobody believes that people have phony I.D.s, phony this, phony
driver‘s licenses. I hear you can hire anybody and you don‘t really get
blamed, because nobody can really prove the person‘s here illegally.
KUMAR: I think we do have a make sure we create some sort of
mandated I.D. for all employers and for everyone, so that we can
actually say who is here illegally.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at the president. We agree on that.
A lot of agreement here. I‘m surprised actually. I thought there‘d be
a kerfuffle here. Here‘s President Obama at a California fund-raiser
last night. A lot of people think, by the way, he shouldn‘t have gone
out to a fund raiser in the middle of this hell in the Gulf of Mexico.
Here he is speaking about the tense conversation he had with Senate
Republicans about border security and immigration reform the other day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So what I told my
Republican colleagues is, look, I‘ll be there with you in terms of
securing the border. That‘s part of my responsibility as commander in
chief and as president. But you‘ve got to meet me on solving the
problem long term. It‘s not enough to just talk about National Guard
down at the border.
California, last thing I said to my Republican colleagues was, you
don‘t even have to meet me half way. I‘ll bring most Democrats on these
issues. I‘m just looking for eight or ten of you. You know? I mean,
the day has passed when I expected this to be a full partnership.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, he‘s chuckling there. But your side, conservative
side of this country does not trust the Democratic party on enforcement,
BUCHANAN: Listen, Chris—
MATTHEWS: Do you?
BUCHANAN: That‘s an outrage. He‘s saying I want to deal with the
Republican party before I do my duty of enforcing the border, before I
do my constitutional duty to defend the country against foreign
invasion? There are half a million illegal aliens in Arizona, alone.
He‘s got a duty to control that border regardless of how people vote on
MATTHEWS: This is it. Maria Teresa, this is the Alfonce and
Gaston (ph) Act you‘re watching. You first. This is what the right
says. You first on enforcement. The left says you first on amnesty.
And therefore nothing gets done and—
KUMAR: He immediately—the president immediately left the
closed-door session with the Republican leadership and said, I‘m
listening to you. I‘m going to go send 1,200 troops to the border and
I‘m going to ask Congress for 500 million dollars extra to secure that
border. He basically—he called their bluff. Now the Republicans
have to, first of all, release the first, and ensure that he gets the
500 million, and also work with him and say, OK, now we need 6,000 more;
OK, let‘s talk about it.
At least he‘s starting that conversation. He‘s engaging them based
on the conversation he had. And now the Republicans have to say, look,
we do need comprehensive immigration reform. The fact that 66 percent
of Americans agree with Arizona, that has more to do with the fact—
BUCHANAN: Am I missing sting here? The country got up and said to
Bush, no to Bush, McCain, Clinton, and Obama. We don‘t want path to
citizenship. We don‘t want amnesty. That does not absolve Barack Obama
from enforcing the laws of the United States, which he took an oath to
KUMAR: That‘s exactly what he‘s doing. That‘s one of the reasons
why he deployed 1,200 folks, within less than 48 hours after he had that
conversation. He listened to the GOP. He‘s going for engagement.
BUCHANAN: Engagement? What are you talking about doing a deal
before I enforce the law or as I enforce the law? Suppose if the
Republicans say, no, we don‘t want amnesty or a path to citizenship, we
want you to enforce the law. He‘s got to enforce the law, not try to do
KUMAR: Pat, I think what he‘s saying is this is a slippery slope.
We would bankrupt Homeland Security if we were to round up the 12
million undocumenteds that are here.
MATTHEWS: I think the American people see the conversation of
America right now, right in front of us. Thank you, Maria Teresa Kumar,
and Pat Buchanan.
When we return, I‘m going to have some thoughts about why it‘s time
for the military to deal with this Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell problem right
away, quickly. Senate Armed Services Committee votes tomorrow. They
should vote the right way and pass this thing and end this thing.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight not with something from me, but
from a letter from a soldier now fighting in Afghanistan. Quote, “I
found out this soldier under my command was gay. I learned about it
after he died, when his longtime partner wrote to me not knowing my
orientation, to tell me how much this staff sergeant had loved the Army,
how we were the only family he‘d ever known. In my own life, my partner
has none of the privileges of a spouse. We have weathered three long
deployments like any other couple might. My partner and I have happily
accepted my various assignments because we‘re truly committed to the
Army, its soldiers and their families.
“But after our ten years together, my partner has earned the right
to be told first about my death. He has earned the right to be
recognized for his sacrifices just as any other spouse. I deeply
believe that America‘s fighting the right fight in Afghanistan. I
believe in this battle against our enemies. I believe that the U.S.
Army is the single greatest force for good the world has ever known.
“I want to tell the guys I eat lunch with every day about my
partner. After all, these are the guys I risk my life with, the guys
who think they know me. I can tell you every detail of how each of them
met their wives, how one of them still feels guilty about an affair he
never had but thought about. One of them cried so hard the day his son
was born. Yet, they don‘t know much about my life over the years. I‘ve
become good at evading and changing subjects artfully, to slip up, using
the wrong pronoun when describing whom I was with during R&R, or
mentioning who I talked to on Skype last night, is no longer something I
worry about. I‘ve become so good at this lying game.
“It eats at my soul. A week ago, two of my friends were killed in
a bombing. The days since then have bled into each other. It‘s usually
not even until the evening that I allow myself to think about these
things. I will risk my life. I‘ve asked to be treated simply like
everyone else in the service. Nothing more and nothing less.”
That‘s from a serviceman fighting for his country right now in
Afghanistan. I‘m like to tell his name, so you can send him a note of
support—you can‘t, of course. but you might want to call, instead, a
member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which votes tomorrow on
Don‘t Ask Don‘t Tell. Here‘s the phone number of the U.S. Senate, 202-
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW”
with Ed Schultz.
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