Guests: Charlie Melancon, Ed Overton, Philippe Cousteau
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Halter halted. Let's play "HARDBALL."
Good evening, I'm Chris Matthews. Leading off tonight, the results
are in and the women are the big winners tonight. Voters went to the polls
in 12 states today, and here's what we know at this hour.
The big surprise of the night was in Arkansas in the democratic Senate
runoff where Senator Blanche Lincoln has won her race against Lieutenant
Governor Bill Halter.
This is a crushing blow to progressives, the net roots and unions all
who backed Halter because of Senator Lincoln's failure to support some of
their causes like the public option in health care. This was a punitive
raid, and it failed.
Halter was the strong favorite in this one, but it looks like his
supporters did not turn out in sufficient numbers. Lincoln is likely to be
the underdog in the general election this fall. But it's a happy night for
In Nevada, Tea Party favorite Sharon Angle is in the lead right now
over former State Senator Sue Lowden in the race for the republican Senate
nomination. Angle has taken a lot of extreme right wing positions so far,
and if she wins she would face Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reid was
easily renominated tonight, and he's keeping his fingers crossed tonight
hoping for an Angle win.
In California, the Associated Press projects that former eBay CEO Meg
Whitman has won the race for the republican gubernatorial nomination over
California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. She'll take on Jerry
Brown who easily won the democratic nomination tonight. Brown would have
the distinction of becoming the youngest, which he already was, and now the
oldest governor in California history.
Still in California, Carly Fiorina has taken a big lead in the
republican Senate primary race over Tom Campbell. The winner of this race
will face Senator Barbara Boxer, the three-term incumbent in the fall. And
in South Carolina, republican Nikki Haley got the most votes in the
gubernatorial primary, falling just short of the 50 percent needed to avoid
a runoff. She'll face Congressman Gresham Barrett in two weeks. We'll get
to all these races in just a minute.
The other big news tonight comes from the Gulf of Mexico. President
Obama showed his anger over the oil spill. Here's what he said on "The
Today Show" when Matt Lauer said people believe it's time for this
president to kick some butt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I don't sit around
talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these
folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know who's ass
MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, here's why the president is so frustrated. We
still have no idea how much oil is leaking and underwater plumes are
spreading for miles. Late today the White House announced that President
Obama will head to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida on Monday and Tuesday
of next week.
But let's start tonight with politics. Joining us tonight is NBC News
political director Chuck Todd. He's also our White House reporter.
"Newsweek's" Howard Fineman, he's also here. He's our MSNBC political
analyst and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, one of my favorite
analysts is joining us tonight from the coast.
And John Ralston of the "Las Vegas Sun." Gentlemen, we have a lot to
cover tonight. This has been called a super-duper Tuesday night. Here it
is. First of all, let's take a look at Nikki Haley who took a lot of heat
for a lot of bad form. There's not a lot of gentlemen in South Carolina
the last couple of weeks, at least not the ones that have been talking.
Here she is accepting victory tonight in the initial vote. She still faces
a runoff. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY ®, SOUTH CAROLINA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: We said no
to a lot of things. We said we are not going to have an arrogant,
unaccountable government. We said no to spending. We said no to bailouts
in Washington. We said no to inside deal making and backroom politics.
And this last two or three weeks we said no to the dark side of politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow, and that's the key line, "we said no to the dark side
of politics." I've never seen so much bad form as we used to say from
gentlemen down there. Men saying they had affairs with her, and then they
took lie detector tests. What a shebang it's been down there.
CHUCK TODD, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, NBC NEWS: And I'll say this, and the
two guys who seem to have the oldest organizations in South Carolina, hint-
hint, part of the teams that were probably involved in leaking some of
TODD: They finished third and fourth in this thing, OK?
MATTHEWS: Was this a rebuke of bad form?
TODD: This is a rebuke of, I think, in many ways of this South
Carolina republican establishment, whatever it is that you want to call it.
MATTHEWS: Is this the same sleaze bag team that made-
TODD: It's multiple teams.
MATTHEWS: No, no-
TODD: It's multiple teams.
MATTHEWS: -- that put out the word that John McCain in the primary,
back in those days in 2000 --
TODD: It's multiple teams, yes.
MATTHEWS: -- had an illegitimate child?
MATTHEWS: That is wife had a drug problem?
TODD: This is the same-
MATTHEWS: That sort of thing.
TODD: This is the same group of people. They went after Nikki Haley
like this. I'll say this. There's one other part of this primary that
people are not seeing, and it actually connects to the Blanche Lincoln a
Gresham Barrett, who's the congressman who sneaked in and got into
this runoff, republicans were trying to push him out, trying to avoid three
more weeks of nastiness frankly with Nikki Haley, but you know how he snuck
He ran in a no apology TV ad on the Wall Street bailout. He was
getting hammered on the bailout votes just like Blanche Lincoln was and he
went ahead and ran a you know what? I did it and here's why I did it,
because I thought people's ATM card wasn't going to work.
And you know what? It pushed back an attack that was hurting him, and
he ends up beating the other two guys, the one-particularly Henry
McMaster who was running a campaign against Barrett on the bailout, and he
got into the primary.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It was a-her almost 50
percent majority here is a rebuke for the way business had been done by the
republican party in South Carolina for years, going back to Lee Atwater, to
the late lee Atwater.
TODD: They're Lee Atwater wannabes, frankly.
FINEMAN: Yes, they're not as clever-
MATTHEWS: The knee-cap.
FINEMAN: They're not as clever as Lee Atwater.
FINEMAN: And they don't know how to do it through cutouts, and they
just didn't know how to do it, and it was nasty and vicious and people
said, enough of it. It's also interesting that it was a woman who was
subjected to this, and a woman who fought back.
There are a lot of republican conservative women out there who are
rising, and they're related to each other. Sarah-Palin-endorsed-
FINEMAN: You know, that's an interesting trend, because they can't go
in other directions demographically, but the republican conservatives can
go to gender and you're seeing it in a lot of places. This was a victory
in a way for that network which is emerging and I think is very
MATTHEWS: Well, they're very strong candidates, attractive
candidates. The whole thing is so professional now. We're going to go
through it tonight. It's a big night for women. I just want to say that
another one of the women candidates-I want to go right now just to check
in with Mayor Brown out in California.
Big news tonight, both Meg Whitman and now, just a moment ago, I just
heard it in my ear, Carly Fiorino for the Senate, so you have two strong
republican woman. Has the republican party finally caught up to the
democratic party in California, Mayor, and they're going with women? It
seems like it.
WILLIE BROWN, FORMER SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: Well, I think that in terms
of their choice of candidates, it is clear they are moving in the direction
of trying to become more competitive. They haven't been competitive for a
few years in California. After all, we elected two female U.S. Senators in
1992 -- Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. We've been very successful
with that. Nancy Pelosi comes from this state.
And so the republicans I think are taking a page from our playbook,
they're trying. But believe me, Jerry Brown is not exactly going to roll
over for them to be able to win that and Barbara Boxer, three terms as a
U.S. Senator will again prevail in my opinion.
MATTHEWS: OK, I want to talk to you about the woman who may win the
Secretary of State job tonight. Not normally an important post, but if
you've got Orly Tate, the number one birther in the country who has an
almost tribalist dislike of the president, which his frightening.
It is so earthy the way she goes after the guy claiming her opponent
is not an American. He's an illegal immigrant. This crazed campaign she's
been running, and she comes off as a bit nuts. But I'm wondering how the
republican candidates like Meg Whitman who is not nuts and Carly Fiorina
who is not nuts are going to include her in their team. Do you have any
idea how they're going to deal with this malignancy on their ticket-
BROWN: They will not run as a team. In the state of California, the
political parties are de-emphasized by the incredible number of
independents that happen to be here. You can't run just a straight party
MATTHEWS: Can you run away?
BROWN: You run away-
MATTHEWS: If the democrats decide to tie them all together in one
little bundle and say, vote against this crazy ticket of Tate's and Whitman
and Fiorina. Can the democrats-can Jerry Brown destroy Meg Whitman by
tying her to Orly Tate the birther, the nut?
BROWN: If the opportunity presents itself, but Jerry Brown has to be
careful, because after all, Jerry Brown doesn't want to be burdened in his
opinion with all the democrats that are on the ticket.
After all, Newsom is going to be the Lieutenant Governor nominee on
the democratic side of the aisle. Harris is going to be the attorney
general nominee, and believe me, Jerry Brown being the guy that got elected
governor by running against the legislature more than 30 years ago is going
to repeat that process in my opinion.
So you may not get the kind of coordinated attack based on association
that you would normally get if there was strong political parties.
MATTHEWS: Just to touch all the bases quickly tonight before we
really go in-depth of what happened in Arkansas, the big barn-burner
tonight with the defeat of Bill Halter. Let's go right now to Jon Ralston,
our special guest from Nevada, from Las Vegas.
Sir, John, tell me, what's it look like right now, could Sue Lowden
still win this thing? Or does it look like it's been won already by Sharon
Angle, the winger?
JOHN RALSTON, NBC AFFILIATE: I think it's over, Chris. I think
Sharon Angle is going to win this race. She may actually end up winning
this race by double-digits the way it's looking now. Sue Lowden need a big
showing in the early and absentee votes here, which probably make up 55
percent of the vote.
She was only up by 3 percent in Clark County, which is Las Vegas.
She's been losing ground ever since the results are pouring in. Sharon
Angle is going to be the republican nominee for the U.S. Senate.
MATTHEWS: OK, now, let's go to the barn burners, I call the big
surprise. We're all experts in this business. It looked like Bill Halter
with all the money from the SCIU, from Andy Stern, from all the activity
from one of our colleagues, Ed Schultz, a lot of excitement down there
tonight everywhere all over cable, over this network, over the net roots.
All the progressives said we're going to go in there and we're going
to have a punitive raid and teach this woman a lesson. You don't break
with the left-
MATTHEWS: -- if you want to be a democrat. What's the real message
tonight with the defeat of Halter and success of Blanche Lincoln?
TODD: Well, the one question a lot people had about this labor push
when they went into this thing was-
MATTHEWS: It was a push, it wasn't a push?
TODD: Well, Arkansas is not a big labor state.
MATTHEWS: Right, it's-
TODD: This the home of Wal-Mart-
MATTHEWS: It's a right-to-work state which means you-
TODD: It's the home of Wal-Mart, who has been public enemy number
MATTHEWS: So why would someone go in there and make that an object
lesson for liberals to defeat centrists?
TODD: That's what always made this a head scratcher at the end of the
day on that front. But you have to got to give Blanche Lincoln credit here
on a number of fronts. One is-
MATTHEWS: Well you're not fighting with anybody. Of course we're
giving her credit.
TODD: Yes, no, she-
MATTHEWS: She's beating everybody here.
TODD: -- gets a lot of credit.
TODD: Because in a runoff situation, I mean she did defy every sort
of working trend that-that's why everyone is pointing to her victory.
She defied a trend.
FINEMAN: I don't think she defied the trend, actually. She became
the grassroots person. What the union-
MATTHEWS: The homer.
FINEMAN: Yes, what the union-
TODD: What the unions stand for, yes.
FINEMAN: -- Now wait a minute, what the unions did with this by being
the outside force with the big money turned her in an anti-big year into
the small local person fighting against the establishment. That's what
did it more than anything.
MATTHEWS: Well it sounds like-
TODD: But remember, Bill Clinton-
MATTHEWS: People root for the underdog.
TODD: Bill Clinton helped.
MATTHEWS: Bill Clinton is loved down there. Let's take a look at
Blanche Lincoln who has survived as the nominee of the democratic party in
this runoff tonight. Here she is in Arkansas, in Little Rock, Blanche
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS: We're going to make sure that the
same message gets out. And the message is, Arkansas is strong. Our values
are strong. And let me tell you, not only can my vote not be bought, yours
can't be either and in November, we're going to win. Yes. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Big defeat for organized labor tonight, especially the
SCIU. I guess AFSCME was there as well. Chuck Todd-
TODD: AFL-CIO too.
MATTHEWS: AFL-CIO-Chuck Todd, Howard Fineman. We got the winners
tonight, Willie Brown and John Ralston from Nevada who are all staying with
us for the half hour at least. Our "HARDBALL" coverage continues when we
come back in a moment. You're watching it on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "HARDBALL." We're back with Chuck Todd,
Howard Fineman, Willie Brown, and John Ralston. Let's got to Mayor Brown
on this. Just as a generic question. It seems to me the outside agitators
if you will-that's what they're always called-sometimes totally
But in this case, you had a lot of money, about $10 million from SCIU
money coming in there. You had the progressives, the net roots, the
organized people. They went in there and basically said we're going to
teach this woman a lesson. A punitive raid in British style. It didn't
work, tonight, Bill Halter lost.
BROWN: No question about that, and believe me, it's a good lesson in
strategy. If you're going to do something like that, you really should not
advertise it. You should sneak up on the opposition. There's no reason to
brag until you've won.
Don't start the nonsense of creating a victim and that's what they
did. They made Blanche Lincoln into a victim. And when you become a
victim in the world of politics, there is a great benefit because everybody
who's lost their jobs, everybody who's lost their homes, everybody whose
kid can't find the right class-
BROWN: -- believes they are a victim and you are more identified with
them than you are with the other side.
MATTHEWS: Mayor, not just a victim, they made her into Norma Rae.
They made her into a rank-and-file-the union movement created a Norma
Rae on the other side of the line.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Jon Ralston. Your view of this from Vegas.
This was a bad bet tonight, betting on Blanche Lincoln. She came on
"Morning Joe" this morning and sometimes you can read it in the eyes of
people. I thought I was looking at someone who was looking at defeat this
morning, and she pulled it out-or somebody pulled it out.
RALSTON: Yes, it's shocking result there. Almost as shocking as the
one we're watching here in Nevada, Chris. Harry Reid is probably a happy
guy from both of those results, don't you think?
MATTHEWS: Why is he happy? Explain?
RALSTON: Well, I think Harry Reid is Mr. Establishment, and that's
why he's happy about Blanche Lincoln. But you know what's going on here in
Nevada, Chris. The republican establishment wanted Sue Lowden both in
Washington and here, because they thought she had the best profile to beat
Her campaign imploded and now Harry Reid, who was considered dead by
everyone just a few months ago is going to face a candidate who wants to
pull the U.S. out of the U.N., who wants to get rid of social security, who
maybe thought alcohol shouldn't be legal, who wanted to give prisoners
saunas because L. Ron Hubbard came up with that idea. This is the gift
Harry Reid's been presented with tonight.
MATTHEWS: Maybe she ought to go all the way, and get rid of the 17th
Amendment so she doesn't have to lose this election.
FINEMAN: Anybody who's going to get rid of drinking in Nevada is
probably going to lose.
TODD: But as somebody reminded me, one republican reminded me and
said, look, on November-the day before election day, John, both Harry
Reid and assuming at this point Sharon Angle are going to have upside down
favorable ratings, and guess where we saw that very recently?
In New Jersey. Corzine, Chris Christie, both were unpopular going
into election day and at the end of the day, those last undecided voters
said what? They voted for change. That's what republicans are counting
TODD: That's their path to victory with Sharon Angle. Look, they
know Harry Reid's going to destroy her, but they also believe that Harry
Reid's going to be as unpopular as he is today on election day.
MATTHEWS: So your arguing-Let's go around the table and start with
you, and get your point underlined here. The Tea Party, it still rules?
TODD: Well, it depends on the state-
MATTHEWS: Sarah Palin-
TODD: Small states.
MATTHEWS: Let me tell you, if I were Sarah Palin-
TODD: Small states they can have-
MATTHEWS: -- nobody heard of Nikki Haley until I went in that state
and said go for Nikki Haley.
TODD: Well - well, hang on a minute.
MATTHEWS: Nikki Haley-
TODD: The Nikki Haley thing though, you can't just explain it away on
this. You know who was behind her? All the Sanford people.
MATTHEWS: I said if I were Sarah Palin.
TODD: Oh, if you're Sarah Palin, sure.
TODD: But she-
MATTHEWS: So, the Tea Party people can claim a victory here?
TODD: In small states they can.
MATTHEWS: They can claim a victory in South Carolina?
MATTHEWS: They can claim a victory, it looks like, in Nevada tonight.
MATTHEWS: So it looks like they're still riding high.
FINEMAN: Yes, but Chuck has a very good point which is in a big
state, in a state like California-
TODD: Or even Virginia.
FINEMAN: -- or Virginia, it doesn't have-it's not as easy to do.
It's not as easy-
MATTHEWS: Hey, Orly Tate who is the biggest nut case in the entire
far right wing-
FINEMAN: Right, right.
MATTHEWS: The biggest birther in the world who thinks our president
should be taken out of the country, I think that's Exhibit A for nut-dom.
MATTHEWS: Is now a big victor perhaps tonight.
MATTHEWS: She's going to be Secretary of State of California, or
rather on the ticket.
TODD: The last time I saw some numbers she was losing three to one.
MATTHEWS: OK, we'll see. Well that could be good news for-
MATTHEWS: For Meg Whitman.
TODD: Let's be realistic.
MATTHEWS: For America.
TODD: It's not good to have this crazy person-I don't care what
side of the aisle you're on. The idea that this-
FINEMAN: But she, you know, she was totally, everybody in the
established republican party distanced themselves from her until a few days
ago. And Tate has been you know, at some recent events.
MATTHEWS: She showed up with Karl Rove the other day.
FINEMAN: She showed up with-you know, they'll figure-they're
probably assign Karl Rove the task of trying to domesticate her between now
MATTHEWS: There's a picture that sort of captures it all. We'll be
right back. By the way, we're going to do a round-up on all the latest
election results when we come back. Chuck Todd, Howard Fineman, Willie
Brown, and John Ralston. We'll do Nevada, South Carolina, Arkansas, and
California. Our coverage of tonight's primaries continues in just one
minute. You're watching "HARDBALL" only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and we're back with Chuck Todd, Howard
Fineman, Willie Brown the former mayor and former Assembly Leader in
California, and Jon Ralston.
When we look at all these results, Mayor Brown, I want to you go
through these-Blanche Lincoln has withstood a primary challenge by Bill
Halter, the lieutenant governor backed by all the unions and the
Nikki Haley has won despite a lot of smut being thrown around down in
South Carolina by the organization down there. Sharon Angle, the tea
partier has won in Nevada, it looks like right now.
Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina have won in California. Two big money
bags out there. Meg Whitman for governor and Carly Fiorina for United
States Senator to face Boxer. Your thoughts on what it adds up to-a
great night for women I must say. They all won.
BROWN: A fabulous night for women. But it says, Chris, very clearly,
that if you are a quality candidate and a quality person, you probably are
going to be competitive. And if you have enough money to advertise those
qualities you probably are going to beat your opponent.
That's pretty much what has occurred. Blanche Lincoln was obviously a
quality candidate, a current U.S. Senator, and made herself very quickly
into a victim. Not by her own efforts, but by the efforts of other persons
And in South Carolina, bringing Sarah Palin in was literally a stroke
of genius. I don't know who thought of that, but to take her into South
Carolina, that's where she should be and she was very effective and she had
this very attractive, handsome woman as her person she lobbed on to.
That scares me, because she could do that in other places in this
nation-abandoning all the concepts of philosophy by becoming a practical
endorser delivering. She's coming into California in the central valley
before the end of the month, my guess is, Fiorina and Whitman will be near
Palin, and that could be a problem for us.
In the state of Nevada, she's going to go in there and do the job that
needs to be done on behalf of that party. So democrats could be facing a
great challenge during the course of the fall campaign because of Sarah
MATTHEWS: Could this be like Richard Nixon in '66, he goes around the
country, wins a lot of elections thanks to him, and gets the nomination out
TODD: Yes, I'll say this-
MATTHEWS: He gets the nomination for president.
TODD: She's getting better about picking some winners. I think early
on she didn't-she's getting better advice on where to go. For instance,
she went with Terry Branstat in Iowa. You know, she didn't go with the
conservative - more conservative challenger.
By the way, poor old Mitt Romney, you know, he did endorse Nikki Haley
first, before Sarah Palin went there.
FINEMAN: He's not poor.
TODD: But he's not Sarah Palin, and he's not poor. But Mitt Romney
did go in there first.
FINEMAN: Oh, I-
MATTHEWS: Where is Mitt Romney?
TODD: One thing about labor. I want to say one thing about labor
tonight. One good victory for labor tonight.
TODD: The newest member of the Major League Players Association,
which is a member of the AFL-CIO is Steven Strasbourg. So you know, he's
MATTHEWS: He has 14 strikeouts tonight.
TODD: I had to get one Steven Strasbourg in-
MATTHEWS: In his first game-
TODD: Howard was at the game.
FINEMAN: If I admit I was at the game and not watching the results-
MATTHEWS: No his first - his first game in the major leagues and-
FINEMAN: I took my son as a high school graduation present to see
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
FINEMAN: Fourteen strikeouts in 7 innings, OK?
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you this. Is this Sarah Palin's night
because the women won on the night?
MATTHEWS: It looks like Sharon Angle is winning in Nevada. Hasn't
won it yet.
FINEMAN: Yes, I think Sarah Palin, if it wasn't clear before, is a
major, major player in the republican party of today. That's true, and
Chuck's absolutely right.
I was fascinated by that thing of endorsing Branstat who had had been
governor in Iowa-
FINEMAN: No, no, wait. He was old business. He was old news. Sarah
Palin comes in and tries to settle the dust on him to make him look new.
MATTHEWS: I'll tell you, that's where-Let's go to Jon Ralston
quickly. The victory of Sharon Angle, good news for Harry Reid?
RALSTON: Well, he wanted Sue Lowden to lose very badly. Sharon Angle
is his dream come true. Chris, listen, he still is hovering below 40
percent in his approval rating, and you mentioned Rory Reid too. Two Reids
on the ballot not good for the democratic party in November.
MATTHEWS: We have to wrap up. Please come back. Please come back to
the general, sir. Thank you very much, John Ralston. Thank you, Chuck
Todd. Thank you, Howard Fineman. Mr. Mayor, thank you, Sir, for joining
us from San Francisco.
Up next, President Obama's tough talk about the BP oil spill but after
50 days the BP spill is hurting. Louisiana congressmen and others are in
the administration. This president, are they doing what needs to be done
to stop this leak and clean up the Gulf? You're watching "HARDBALL" only
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Fifty days since the start of the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf.
And today we saw President Obama getting tougher with BP. And for good
reason; today we also learned that plumes of oil are spreading far and wide
below the surface, and that neither BP nor the government has any idea just
how much oil is leaking.
Now U.S. Congressman Charlie Melancon is a Louisiana Democrat. Sir,
let me watch this, let me ask you to watch with me, here's the President on
NBC's "Today" program. Matt Lauer interviewing the President-let's
catch the question and the answer for full context.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT LAUER, NBC ANCHOR: Here's a guy who likes to be known as cool,
calm and collected. And this isn't the time for cool, calm and collected.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right.
LAUER: But this is not the time to meet with experts and advisers.
This is a time to spend more time in the Gulf and-I've never thought I'd
say this to a President-but kick some butt. And I don't mean it to be
OBAMA: No I understand. And here is what I-I'm going to push back
hard on this because I think that this is a-just a-an idea that got
in folks heads, and the media has run with it.
I was down there a month ago before most of these talking heads were
even paying attention to the Gulf. A month ago I was meeting with
fishermen down there, standing in the rain and talking about what a
potential crisis this could be. And I don't sit around just talking to
experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because
they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Congressman Melancon, I can't tell whether the
President is madder at people like me, the talking heads-I guess I'm one
of them-or he's madder at the oil spill. But he's-he seems to be
reacting and that's what scares a lot of people. He seems to be reacting
to media attention, to Matt Lauer in that case, with the use of the
language which is a bit un-presidential.
What do you make of his performance so far, Congressman? You're down
there; you're one of the victims.
REP. CHARLIE MELANCON (D), LOUISIANA: Well, he started off as a
president should-calm, collected, trying to assist as best he could on
his third visit down. And I told him Friday when I-before he went to
Grand Isle-I had been there the day before.
These people feel like they've been kicked in the gut and then hit
behind the head with a baseball bat. They're mad, they're angry. This is
their high season. You've got BP that's nit-picking them on $5,000 per
shrimper or fishermen, that doesn't get them anywhere. That doesn't even
(INAUDIBLE) to them pay the house notes or put food on the table or do
So you've got the anger is building. The frustration is building.
The uncertainty is building. So what I think you see now is a president
who has been down there three times. The first time of course that
excitement right at the beginning.
The second time-people still not sure, but hopeful, we're pinning
hope on hope on each one of these procedures, the coffer dam, the top hat,
the junk shot. You know all of that. But they had some plans out there.
And then of course this last time, where everything seems to be
falling apart or at least not working. And getting to see and talk to the
people on the ground, at a point where they've had enough. I don't know
how much they can really take.
And this builds from Katrina five years ago; this is not something
that just started 40, 50 days ago. This is an accumulation of incidences -
MELANCON: -- and episodes.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, who are you looking to, to help and lead the
country? The President or Tony Hayward, head of BP? Who's the boss?
MELANCON: Well, I'm going to tell you, I think Tony Hayward needs to
go back to Great Britain. And I think maybe this morning I heard on the
news that Billy Nungesser feels like the guy that they just sent down there
is a guy that he feels they can trust.
I hope so. Because when Tony Hayward said I need to get a life, those
11 people that died on the rig, their families would like for them to have
a life. These people that are losing their businesses they'd like to have
a life, they'd like to know what their future is.
So right now BP needs to just stand up and instead of paying a $10
billion dividend, which is rumored they are, and a $50 million ad campaign
to protect their image, they need to start paying these small people down
there that are hurting-
MELANCON: -- that are frustrated, that don't know what the future
MATTHEWS: Let's take a look at the President today again on the
"Today Show," talking about BP's CEO, Tony Hayward who you mentioned wants
to get his life back. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAUER: Have you spoken directly to Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP?
OBAMA: I have not spoken to him directly and here's the reason.
Because my experience is when you talk to a guy like BP CEO he's going to
say all the right things to me. I'm not interested in words. I'm
interested in actions. And-and we are communicating to him every single
day exactly what we expect of him, and what we expect of that
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that? I mean, I think the public is
probably stunned to know that the President, our chief executive, hasn't
talked to the chief executive of the oil company.
MATTHEWS: I'm surprised, are you surprised, Congressman?
MELANCON: Well, you know, that's between the President and Tony-
MATTHEWS: No, it's not. You're a U.S. Congressman. And you're a-
no. You're a Democrat. He's your party leader.
MELANCON: I'm a legislator.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he should have talked to the head of BP? How
do you kick a guy's butt if you're not in the same room with him?
MELANCON: He is-he is the President-he is the President of the
United States and it's his prerogative whether he thinks he needs to speak
to him or not.
Thad Allen needs to be down there taking action on behalf of this
MATTHEWS: All right.
MELANCON: -- to make sure things are done correctly.
He is the general, he is the guy that's the commander in charge. I
look to Thad Allen every day. The President is coming back down again next
But in the meantime, you know, why do you talk to a Tony Hayward? Is
there anything that's been said by BP that we're supposed to believe? It
was 1,000 barrels and then it was 5,000 barrels and then it's now 15,000
barrels. It might be 30,000.
MATTHEWS: You can tell him he's paying for this. You can you tell
him he's paying for this. And forget that little word of his "legitimate"
he likes to throw in whenever there's talk of claims. You can tell him
that. Forget-you can get lawyered up all you want. Your company is
either not doing business in this country again or you're paying for all of
MELANCON: That's what I'm-
MATTHEWS: Anyway, let me ask you about the chain of command.
MATTHEWS: You're a U.S. Congressman. You're a legislator. But you
represent that area that's getting screwed down there. Here's your
question-do you have a strong sense of the chain of command? You
mentioned Admiral Allen. He seems like a fine guy to me, a public servant.
But he's a public servant, he's not a politician, he's not elected to
run this country. He's in charge with doing what he's told. Is there a
chain of command? And if so, tell me what it is.
MELANCON: Well, the best thing I can tell you the chain of command is
the President, Admiral Allen and then his assistant, Lapierre or LaPerry
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute, that's not what Allen told me --
MATTHEWS: Allen, told me he reports to Janet Napolitano over at
Homeland Security, one of the least-not exactly one of the top-rated
cabinet departments. He reports to her and she reports somehow to the
President. This is-where is Rahm Emanuel, the Chief of Staff to the
President in all this?
Do you have a sense that the White House is calling the shots? Or
Admiral Allen is doing it? Who's running this show?
MELANCON: I think that's the President.
MATTHEWS: It's not the President. Well, your answer?
MELANCON: I, well, I think that's the question you need to-I think
that's the question you need to ask the White House or Admiral Allen. As I
said, I've been down on the ground talking to the people, trying to find
out what their problems are, what their needs are and whether I can assist
them in any way. We've done it with health care-
MATTHEWS: Who do you complain to, sir, when you want to get help in
the White House, when you want to pull their chain? Do you call Admiral
Allen or one of his assistants or do you call Rahm Emanuel? Who do you
MELANCON: I've gone to the White House.
MATTHEWS: Who at the White House?
MELANCON: We've gone to Rahm Emanuel for one-and then we've gone
MATTHEWS: You talked to him, and you've talked to the Chief of Staff?
MELANCON: Yes, I have.
MATTHEWS: Are you satisfied that he's in the chain of command? Are
you satisfied there's a strict order of command here?
MELANCON: I don't know if he's in the chain of command. I went to
Rahm Emanuel because I have a relationship with him. I told him what my
MATTHEWS: All right.
MELANCON: I told him what I wanted to do, and he's helping me-
MELANCON: -- to set that up. I went to Kathleen Sebelius-
MATTHEWS: It sounds wobbly to me sir, it sounds wobbly, you've
admitted tonight you don't know who's calling the shots, you, the White
House or Admiral Allen.
MELANCON: It's better than FEMA.
MATTHEWS: Let's move on. Thank you, U.S. Congressman Charlie
MELANCON: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I know you felt the emotions; we've seen you cry over this.
We'd like to see something a little bit more like that from the White
House. Anyway thank you, sir, for coming on HARDBALL tonight.
MELANCON: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, why doesn't BP know how much oil is spilling
into the Gulf? Why don't they give us a ground, you know, a ballpark
estimate of what we're facing years to come from now in terms of this oil
down there? The federal government has no better idea. This is what's so
depressing, nobody knows nothing.
We'll try to find out what's going on. We've got an expert coming up.
Philippe Cousteau is coming here.
You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: A big victory for the Tea Party and possibly for Harry
Reid. The Associated Press projects Sharron Angle has won the Republican
nomination for Senate in Nevada. She beat one-time favorite Sue Lowden and
businessman Danny Tarkanian and will face-she's going to face Senator
Harry Reid in November. That's Sharron Angle, the winner out there-the
big winner tonight in Nevada.
HARDBALL returns after this.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
So why can't we get a straight answer on how much oil there is in that
BP leak? And how much is actually spewing out there in the Gulf of Mexico?
Philippe Cousteau is an explorer, an environmentalist and CEO of Earth Eco,
a non-profit environmental educational organization. Ed Overton is an
environmental science professor at LSU.
Professor, let me ask you the question. Do you, when you look at the
data that's been made available, have any idea of how many barrels are now
out there in the Gulf?
ED OVERTON, ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, LSU: Well, no, we don't
have any-any total cumulative. If we use the latest numbers that's
somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 barrels a day, if you multiply that by
the number of days you can get some idea. Remember, this oil as it goes
into the Gulf, about a third to 50 percent of it will be remediated.
So you've got to take whatever was put in there because of evaporation
and biodegradation and cut that in half. And then you can get some idea of
total amount of oil. But it's not a very precise number.
MATTHEWS: Ok, ten years from now, what percent of the oil that's
leaked and will leak will still be there?
OVERTON: Way, way less than one percent it'll be remediated pretty
quickly. A lot of it hopefully will be cleaned up before it gets on
shoreline. Only that that's buried down in the out-roving zone --
OVERTON: -- will last very long.
MATTHEWS: Well, you've given me the happiest word I've heard so far
in about two months now. What does remediated mean actually?
OVERTON: Well, remediated, means that it gets cleaned up off the
shoreline and removed.
MATTHEWS: What do you mean?
OVERTON: Well, there's a bunch of ways you can do it. You can-you
can add bio-remediating agents, you can skim it off the-off the surface
of the water. There's solidifiers; there's a whole variety of chemicals
that are used to kind of clean up the oil and not chemicals but chemicals
and physical methods to get it off the surface and recover it and recycle
I-I'm a big fan of recycling and I hope they skim as much as they
can, and send it to the refinery where it should have gone in the first
MATTHEWS: So you believe that they have, based on your professional
expertise, BP owns the capability to clean up most of the mess they've
created over time, if they put the money into it?
OVERTON: Well, I don't know about BP owning the technology.
Technology's out there. There's-there's a variety of ways to clean up
oil. And I'm concerned that we're not-
MATTHEWS: So in other words, your argument is that remediation means
manmade efforts to clean it up, it doesn't happen by nature?
OVERTON: Well, yes. Some of it-some of it is natural and some of
it is manmade. I don't think we're putting enough manmade assets into
cleaning this oil up, period. We need to do a lot more of skimming the oil
off the surface. Once it gets off the surface. We ought to have every
skimmer in the world. Why don't we have every skimmer? Ask Admiral Allen
We need every skimmer in the world and the infrastructure to support
those in the Gulf cleaning this oil up before it gets onshore where it is
difficult to remediate.
MATTHEWS: Well, that's my question for about several weeks now.
Philippe Cousteau, sir, the same question. Why doesn't the-if we
have manmade means of cleaning this up, remediation is the term of art
here, whether it's skimming or dispersing it, whatever we can force it to
be-cause it to be-evaporated or whatever, biodegraded, why is BP
counted on as the lone ranger out there? Why isn't every oil company in
the country being (INAUDIBLE) into this operation?
PHILIPPE COUSTEAU, ENVIRONMENTALIST: Well, you know-
MATTHEWS: Why are we doing it, as a government, saying, oh you all
got to get down there with all your equipment, and you all got to chip in
COUSTEAU: Well, I would agree we're not putting enough resources into
this. I've been down three times in the last month seeing this disaster
both under the water and on top of the water. Not only how it's affecting
the environment but the people who live in those communities. I'm going
back down on Friday.
And I don't think we're doing enough. There's a lot of frustration,
in people along-along those communities that are suffering so much from
this that we're not doing enough.
The bottom line, though, is not only that we're not doing enough, but
the technology hasn't advanced in decades. The reality is that only 20
percent of the oil on average can be collected by skimming or by burning.
And the rest of it is going to end up in either-in the water column,
which even though it's out of sight it shouldn't be out of mind.
MATTHEWS: So you're disagreeing now with the Professor Overton?
COUSTEAU: Well, I am a little bit. Because you know and I think he's
largely correct, but the problem is-
MATTHEWS: He says 99 percent will be gone by ten years from now.
COUSTEAU: I wouldn't agree with that. Because I know that Exxon
Valdez, 20 years after Exxon Valdez you could still dig into the sand, and
there's oil there, there's oil in the-in the rocks. I would-I'd love
it to be one percent and I hope it indeed is, but I think that might be a
The other problem that we didn't deal with for example in Exxon Valdez
is that when the oil gets into the mangroves and into the grasses and the
wetlands you can't clean it up.
MATTHEWS: And so your response to that point, professor?
COUSTEAU: From the beach you can but not on the-not on the grass.
MATTHEWS: You're response, he's skeptical about your ability to-
our ability, even if BP puts the money into this to collect 99 percent of
OVERTON: Well, I didn't say 99 percent-I said there wouldn't be
less than one percent left. And that is the case in Exxon Valdez.
Numerous studies, there's oil, Exxon Valdez oil but it's a tiny, tiny
fraction of what was originally spilled. And the same thing is going to
happen in the Gulf Coast.
Now, we do need better techniques, I totally agree that-that
skimming technology has not improved all that much, although it has
improved. My problem is that we're not even using the technologies that
we've got right now.
Let's put all of them in the Gulf and use what we can to keep the oil
off of the coastlines and out of the mangroves.
MATTHEWS: Let me-let me-I want you to respond to the latest
news from NOAA. That's the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.
MATTHEWS: The government says, water tests have confirmed underwater
oil plumes as far as 142 miles from the BP oil spill but the concentrations
are very low. The administration points out that they've reached-here
it is oil as far as 3,300 feet below the surface, 42 miles northeast of the
well site and also 142 miles southeast.
Professor, what does that tell you about the extent or the volume,
does it tell you anything about the volume or just how far it's spread?
OVERTON: Well, first off, that 142 miles was not determined to be
from this spill. So that's another source of hydrocarbon. So 42 mile
plume was-was pretty reasonable. And I think, of course, we're
dispersing the oil as it leaves the wellhead.
So oil has got to be down in the water column. And I think these
researchers and others, there's three or four ships out there we're part of
the team that's analyzing some of those samples. And these-these
findings are very consistent with what we are finding. Low part per
billion, part per billion levels of dispersed oil down at depth.
Remember, 3,300 feet is-is near the bottom. This is a 5,000-foot
bottom on this well. So this does not surprise me. There is oil down
there. There's got to be, if that dispersion is working.
MATTHEWS: What does this tell you, Philippe, about the impact of all
that volume and dispersion on the land? What's going to happen to that
very, gutsy hotel owner we just had on; talked to about how it's still ok
down, and now the coast is clear right now, but he says he only gets a 72-
hour notice of what's coming?
COUSTEAU: Well, you know, the communities are-are terrified. I
mean, I was down talking with captains and fishermen on Friday and Saturday
down in Grand Isle, Louisiana. They're seeing their whole way of life
I think what's scary, again, is that we have not had an oil spill.
Exxon Valdez is purely on the surface. This is coming a mile underneath
and mixing into the water column. And I agree completely that this is
unprecedented that these plumes are happening.
What we need to be afraid of is what we can't see. Not just what we
can see washing up on the coastline into the mangroves, 40 percent of all
the wetlands in these lower 48 states exist along the Coast of Louisiana.
That is the one of the most precious coastal habitat. That is a
What we have not seen and what we don't understand yet is what's
happening in the water column that's down-
MATTHEWS: What are you worried about underneath?
COUSTEAU: I'm worried about all the plankton, the fish, the larvae,
all the animals that exist in that water column. The problem is-
MATTHEWS: What's a water column? I'm sorry.
COUSTEAU: Water column is the vertical distance, the vertical area
between the surface and the bottom.
COUSTEAU: The actual vertical column of water.
MATTHEWS: All right.
COUSTEAU: And one-oil can exist in one part per billion in the
water and its deadly toxic to fish, larvae and eggs. So you don't have to
have that much oil to begin with.
MATTHEWS: How does that work? Why would only that small percentage
of the water that had the oil in it be dangerous or toxic to all the fish
in that entire area?
COUSTEAU: In the same way that I had to wear full hazmat diving gear
when I went diving in the spill. It's a toxic poison. And that the-the
eggs and fish larvae encounter that poison, it gloms on to them and they
absorb it, it kills them.
MATTHEWS: Last point, professor you've mentioned there was another
source of this oil that's been detected by NOAA. What is that, do you
OVERTON: Well, there's the plume down there at the bottom and of
course, the oil is on the surface. So those are the two sources of oil
that are floating in the environment. The plume is very low concentration
down to part per billion, part per billion range. A lot of the damage
occurs at the surface, of course in the (INAUDIBLE) layer which is that
floating layer where the eggs and larvae are.
And, of course, there's lots of oil on the surface, that's why we need
to get this oil, as much as possible off the surface, keep it from
spreading. Why isn't-
OVERTON: -- why aren't every skimmer in the world in the Gulf?
That's the question. Not how much oil is flowing, why aren't we doing more
at the surface?
MATTHEWS: And you say there's so much technology available, we
haven't deployed it yet here.
OVERTON: Absolutely. I did, call around to every port in the nation,
in the world and ask them if they've got any extra skimmers. Every-
MATTHEWS: Well, that was my seat of the pants notion about a month
ago. But thank you for being the expert on this. I thought there was a
lot more out there besides what BP has at hand and why aren't they all
being brought into this by a national effort?
These oil companies do well in this country. They ought to do well
for us for once.
Thank you, Philippe Cousteau, and thank you Ed Overton, a professor at
When we return, we're going to wrap up this night of primaries with a
look at some of the big moments of the night.
You're watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: A big night tonight with a surprise victory by Senator
Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas; big wins by Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina in
California; and in Nevada it'll be Tea Party favorite, Sharron Angle versus
Harry Reid this November.
Here's a look at the highlights of this primary night.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Associated Press is now reporting that Nikki
Haley has not been able to avoid a runoff.
NIKKI HALEY ®, SOUTH CAROLINA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: And this
last two or three weeks we said no to the dark side of politics.
REP. GRESHAM BARRETT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I
believe South Carolinians want a leader they can trust and be proud of.
And that's what we're going to give them for the next two weeks. We're
going to win this thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there's time for Halter to take this.
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST: I'm going to interrupt you, because it's
being called for Blanche Lincoln by Politico, at 51.7 to 48.3 with 80
percent of the precincts in yet.
SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D) ARKANSAS SENATE NOMINEE: I cannot begin to
thank each and every one of you for such a tremendous job in letting a
message out loud and clear. And that message was that the vote of this
senator is not for sale, and neither is the vote of the people of Arkansas.
LT. GOV. BILL HALTER (D), ARKANSAS: This has been a hard-fought race,
there's no question about that. I ask you to continue that fight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman wrapping up the
Republican nomination for governor.
STEVE POIZNER ®, LOST CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR PRIMARY: Running for
governor has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Together, we
can save California. You know it. I know it. Let's fight on. Thank you
all very much.
MEG WHITMAN ®, CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR NOMINEE: And I am deeply, deeply
committed to running a campaign that gives you hope for a better tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that's HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN" starts right now.
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