Guests: John Harris, John Heilemann, Joan Walsh, John Hofmeister, Mike
Papantonio, Jonathan Capehart
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Lincoln logs a win.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Winners, losers, and what just happened? Guess who‘s feeling good tonight after yesterday‘s voting? Start with Blanche Lincoln, who beat back an attack from the left, Bill Clinton, who raced to her rescue, Harry Reid, who got tea party extremist Sharron Angle, the opponent he wanted, and Sarah Palin, who backed South Carolina‘s Nikki Haley.
Who‘s not feeling so good? The unions and progressives who targeted Lincoln for extinction and the Nevada GOP, who just may have given Harry Reid the easiest possible opponent. We‘ll take stock of last night‘s results at the top of the show.
The other big story was all the women who won last night—Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, Sharron Angle, Nikki Haley, plus Blanche Lincoln. The question is, can they all win in the fall? Going to be tough.
Also, BP says it‘s now capturing 15,000 barrels of oil a day, but a live shot of the leak shows a tremendous amount escaping. We still don‘t have any real idea of how much oil was actually leaking. Is it possible BP just doesn‘t want to know because it doesn‘t want us to know?
Plus, if President Obama does what many people want him to do and show some real anger about the gulf oil spill, does he risk being attacked as a, quote, “angry black man”?
And “Let Me Finish” tonight with the danger of pressure groups and personal money trumping democracy.
We begin with last night‘s winners and losers. We‘re joined by Politico‘s John Harris and “New York” magazine‘s John Heilemann. Gentleman, we have two great guys here to talk about this. By the way, it was a women‘s night last night, but we do have two guys here. Let me ask you about Arkansas. John Harris, your reading on this? First of all, let‘s take a look at Blanche Lincoln, the big actual underdog who won last night. Let‘s watch what she had to say last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS: We‘re going to remind ourselves every step of the way this election is not about special interests. This election is not about me. This election is about us. We are going to do this. As people of Arkansas, you and I are going do this together, and we‘re going to make a stand!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, John Harris, give me the post-mortem on that baby last night.
JOHN HARRIS, POLITICO.COM: Well, a couple big points. One, what she managed to do was successfully localize this race. We were all paying attention to this race because she looked like part of this national phenomenon of incumbents in trouble. And she would have been that were it not for a very impressive last couple weeks of campaigning, where she kind of reminded—reminded Arkansas voters that—of who she was and her history of the state and made her opponent, Halter, look like he was the tool of outside interests—you know, “outside agitators,” to used that loaded phrase from the 1960s, made him seem like a tool of union interests.
That helped bring voters home for her
Of course, the biggest factor—I think the biggest factor by far—
Bill Clinton came in and basically saved this race for her. He‘s still very popular as a favorite son in Arkansas.
HARRIS: And he said, Look, you‘ve got to—you‘ve got to vote for Blanche. Don‘t vote on anger. Vote—use your head, and made the—and she‘s the better case, he said. Democrats found it compelling. Particularly African-Americans found it compelling.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I was impressed. I mean, look at that. Let me ask John Heilemann the same thing. It looks to me like a case here of what everything John just said, John Harris just said, sounds like reality and appearance of the same here. What he just described as what it looked like is what happened. Outside people, the SEIU, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, other people went in—progressives went in there. Netroots went in there. People went in with a lot of excitement they‘re going to knock off and punish a moderate—or a conservative Democrat, and they failed.
JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK” MAGAZINE: I think that‘s right. I never like to contradict John Harris, especially when he‘s right, and he usually is. And in this case, Chris, you know, I think that it is part of a national story, though. And I think what Blanche Lincoln did very well in terms of how she fought back against Halter was to paint him in some ways as the Washington candidate. Now, of course, he‘s not from Washington, but through these associations with the unions who came down there, she was able to kind of do a jujitsu move and sort of say, you know, If you vote for him, you‘re voting for politics as usual.
I‘d also add on the Clinton thing, it‘s not just that Bill Clinton was down there campaigning for her. Listen to that speech she gave. The things that she said, those could had been written by Bill Clinton, the words, when she said, It‘s not about me, it‘s about us, it‘s about you.
And she sounded in a couple of days before the primary a lot like Hillary Clinton on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, basically saying to people, Don‘t let them take this away from you. This is up to you. You get to make this decision, not the outside forces, not the national media. This is about you—very much taken from the Clinton playbook in terms of her style, in addition to having them—as having Bill Clinton in as her surrogate.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think it proves once again what I believe is the strongest political phenomenon on the Democrat side, the left, center-left to this American political map, is the alliance between the Clintons and Barack Obama. As long as it holds, they can hold. If anything happens to that coalition between Secretary of State Clinton and Bill Clinton and the president, look out for disaster. It‘s working.
Here‘s, by the way, Politico‘s Ben Smith‘s report last night. Quote, “A senior White House official just called me with a very pointed message for the administration‘s sometime allies in organized labor, who invested heavily in beating Blanche Lincoln, Obama‘s candidate, in Arkansas.”
Quote, “‘Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members‘ money
down the toilet on a pointless exercise,‘ the official from the White House
said. ‘If even half that total had been well targeted and applied in key
House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in
Now, that‘s a hell of a quote. Somebody must have had their tape recorder on. Maybe it was Ben Smith. John Harris, you‘re a Politico colleague. What do you make of that? Was that a—can you report tonight that that was a directed call from the White House, they wanted that printed up and broadcast the way we‘re doing it?
HARRIS: I don‘t think it was an accidental quote.
HARRIS: (INAUDIBLE) into too much detail. I think there was definitely some real resentment and some real gloating that she came out—had. And the push back on it...
MATTHEWS: Do they want us to know...
HARRIS: ... continues...
MATTHEWS: ... that they‘re gloating? Do they—you‘re not giving me the full story, John. Do the White House—does the White House official who called with that message to your colleague want us to see them gloating, like it looks like they‘re doing right now? Do they want that message, too?
HARRIS: I don‘t know if the gloating part they‘d agree with, but they definitely wanted—I believe, there‘s some people high up in the Obama power structure who wanted that message out.
MATTHEWS: OK, here‘s a question to Heilemann. Let me ask you about Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton looks to be a potent force politically.
MATTHEWS: It seems to me that if you‘re Joe Sestak and you‘re trying to win in western Pennsylvania, for example, against Pat Toomey this November, no better friend that you can have than Bill Clinton coming into that culturally conservative area. Same with Arkansas. Same with these other places. Same with Paul Hodes up in New Hampshire, if he‘s going to pull an upset up for the Senate. They love him up there. Also Kentucky, maybe Ohio. I can think of about a five-state play that Bill Clinton could do that could change history this year by just winning in those states. Your thoughts?
HEILEMANN: Well, I think that‘s certainly right, Chris. You know, we saw it in 2008. Bill Clinton provided a number of headaches for his wife‘s campaign, but the one thing that he was very good at was going to states like that and rallying—rallying the faithful. It‘s not only that they love him, he loves them. He likes being out there. And I think there‘s every chance that come this October—he wants to be a relevant force in American politics. That‘s clear. There‘s some element where he‘s trying to gain some sense of redemption, I think, for some the...
HEILEMANN: ... problems he caused. He wants to help the president. He wants to help the party. I can easily imagine Bill Clinton renting a condominium in Pittsburgh or in Philadelphia and spending a large part of the fall working on behalf of Sestak, who he likes and knows extremely well, and on behalf of a bunch of these other candidates that you‘re talking about. He‘s going to be out there in force, I think, this fall.
MATTHEWS: That‘s pretty smart. I think it‘s what I just said, but I think it‘s brilliant.
MATTHEWS: I think it‘s brilliant. And it‘s not the just the triple-A towns he‘s good at. You‘re right, he‘s damn good in Philly and places like that.
MATTHEWS: They want to see him. He‘s a real celebrity on the Democratic‘s side.
By the way, here‘s Sharron Angle—she‘s the leader. She won the Republican nomination out in Illinois—out in Arizona (SIC) for the Senate out there to run against Harry Reid. Here are some of her positions, according to “The New York Times” and “The LA Times” running these stories this week. Quote, “She wants to end Social Security as we know it and privatize it. She wants to eliminate the Departments of Energy and Education. She wants to dismantle the federal income tax code, the IRS. And she wants to get the United States out of the U.N.” That‘s an old high school debating point on the right.
John Harris, this sounds like a high school conservative‘s position, the stuff—the kind of stuff that I grew up where you argued those kinds of things, these fundamental arguments. Will they sell in a purple state like Nevada?
HARRIS: I think her campaign is already questioning whether they will sell. We have a story on Politico, and probably it‘s been elsewhere, about how she‘s essentially sanitized her Web site overnight. Used to be that these positions were all there predominantly on her home page. They‘ve been taken off the home page and replaced with a big picture of Harry Reid. So they‘re trying to take the emphasis off her...
MATTHEWS: Can she hide?
HARRIS: ... and her positions and make this a referendum on Harry Reid. Harry Reid couldn‘t be happier that this is the opponent he‘s going to be facing.
MATTHEWS: Right. Well, let me go to Heilemann. She can‘t squirrel away this stuff about her past. We live in a viral universe. We live in a permanent viral universe. Everything you say, as well all in television know, remains.
MATTHEWS: How can she hide her past thoughts and ideologies which continue to be her, really?
HEILEMANN: I don‘t think she can and I don‘t think that the Reid campaign is going to let her. I was sitting with a very senior Republican strategist a couple days ago, just before this race took place, who was looking at these three candidates in Nevada. And this fellow was saying to me that for the last year, more than a year, he had had it in his back pocket that Harry Reid was going to lose, the Republicans were going to pick that seat up, and that he had started—he looked carefully at these three candidates, he decided that none of the three of them could actually beat Harry Reid and that she was the weakest of the three.
HEILEMANN: So in addition to the fact that Harry Reid is pretty happy, I think there are a lot of Republicans around the country who are already starting to wonder if they—if they failed in terms of their candidate recruitment, in terms of not getting someone out there who‘s a better candidate to take him on, given how vulnerable he was and is.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, people like Wayne Berman (ph), the Republican adviser, people like that saw this coming a few weeks back, to his credit. I think they knew that Harry Reid, by the way, is a—may be lucky, may be smarter than a lot of the people on the right have ever thought. Anyway—but some of them are smarter than you and I even, perhaps. Anyway, thank you, John Harris and thank you, John Heilemann. I‘m sorry. I didn‘t mean to say that, John. No one‘s smarter than you.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: Women, especially Republican women, won big races across the country last night. It was really, to use an old phrase, “Ladies night.” Are women finally taking their place in the big political jobs? I mean U.S. Senate, governor, major states. This is really breaking that glass ceiling on the way to the White House.
And later: Can we believe anything—well, there‘s an odd question—anything BP has to say about the oil spill? We‘re going to give you their worst lines so far.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Florida governor Charlie Crist is still leading in his race for U.S. Senate in Florida. Crist, who left the Republican Party to run as an independent, is getting 37 percent of the vote in a new Quinnipiac poll. He leads Republican Marco Rubio, who has 33 percent, and Democrat Kendrick Meek, who‘s just at 17. Crist has solid support from Democrats and independents, and he‘s shown some real leadership during the oil spill disaster in the gulf, which could give him an even bigger boost as this race wears on. He could be one the few winners in this whole catastrophe.
HARDBALL will return right after all this.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Tuesday‘s election was a big night for women. Blanche Lincoln, Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, Sharron Angle and Nikki Haley all triumphed. Is this the start of something big? I think that was a Steve Allen lyric.
Anyway, Joan Walsh is the editor-in-chief of Salon.com, and Michelle Bernard is an MSNBC political analyst and the president of Independent Women‘s Voice. I‘m never sure of your politics. Are you left, right or center? Where are you?
MICHELLE BERNARD, INDEPENDENT WOMEN‘S FORUM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
MATTHEWS: OK. That‘s safe, I guess. OK.
BERNARD: It‘s true.
MATTHEWS: OK, so how did the women do last night? If you go through these names—let‘s take a look at these numbers. These are the—well, first of all, just your first impression.
BERNARD: I think...
MATTHEWS: Going to bed last night.
BERNARD: I think it was great. Going to bed, I loved watching it. The thing that I loved the most about watching it was how different the political discourse last night was versus during the 2008 presidential campaign, where we were looking and listening to the comments that were made about Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, and what they said as candidates. The whole discussion about feminism, breaking the glass ceiling, men is (SIC) the enemy, it has virtually disappeared, and that‘s what I found the most exciting about watching last night.
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: I was excited. I mean, they‘re mainly Republican women, but as a feminist, I welcome women entering the corridors of power, whoever they are, wherever they are.
MATTHEWS: What about these new Republican women who are executives, who are women who work outside of the home. In the old days, the Republican Party women tended to be wealthier women who didn‘t have jobs outside the home, who were sort of club women, who would be very active in these kind of affairs. You know, politics is something you did on the side, an avocation. Today, they‘re professionals who are now professional politicians with no husband in the political world. They don‘t inherit positions like they used to, like Claire Booth Luce, but—I‘m thinking of the woman in Maine.
WALSH: Margaret Chase Smith.
MATTHEWS: Margaret Chase Smith—who sort of inherited their husbands‘...
WALSH: Right. Right. Now, it‘s...
MATTHEWS: ... careers.
WALSH: ... a really different—it‘s a very different paradigm, and it‘s interesting to see. It‘ll be interesting to see if they make it, though, because, you know, both of them have this kind of pitch that, We‘re going to run government like we run business, and I‘m not sure it‘s time for that pitch.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t like that at all!
MATTHEWS: When has it worked?
WALSH: BP or Goldman Sachs?
MATTHEWS: ... HARDBALL. It‘s over. We‘re over the funny part of the show...
MATTHEWS: The nice guy. Name a case where a business person went into politics with that attitude and succeeded as a public official.
BERNARD: Does it...
MATTHEWS: No, just any one—one example.
BERNARD: I don‘t have an example to give you.
BERNARD: But here—but Chris...
MATTHEWS: That‘s what we do here.
BERNARD: It doesn‘t—I get it, but does it really matter? The bottom line is every—the whole paradigm has completely changed. We‘re not talking about men as the enemy. We‘re not talking about...
MATTHEWS: ... name a case of a business person who has been able to use their business know-how and become a great public official.
BERNARD: Maybe it‘ll happen. Maybe it will happen in the fall.
MATTHEWS: Somebody just mentioned in my ear a name, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.
BERNARD: Ah! Yes, yes, yes!
MATTHEWS: ... throw you a lifeline! Right now, we have six women who
are governors of the United States, 17 women who are U.S. Senators and 17 -
76, rather, members of the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives has always been—there wasn‘t much of a glass ceiling over the years, except in the percentages, but a lot of women are Congresspeople. But what do you make of the fact—to me, it‘s the on deck circle, to use a baseball term, for a president. You‘re not going to get elected president unless you‘re a major state governor or senator, it seems to me, in these—or a general, right, Joan?
HEILEMANN: Right—a female general. We can see that down the road, too, Chris. No, I think that‘s true. I think that what you‘re doing is creating a leadership class that‘s just one step away from the White House, and that will in the next, you know, 6, 8, 16 years have a lot more credibility when they go to make that run. There was so much disappointment when Hillary Clinton lost. We may never see a woman in the White House that—we may see it sooner than we thought.
MATTHEWS: You know, what‘s stunning? Some of these women—and they‘re all different ages. Politicians tend to be, when they run for the big jobs, in their 50s generally. That‘s sort of when you go for the big jobs. (INAUDIBLE) Kennedy case like that where people run young. I noticed that Nikki Haley‘s—I mean, I‘m thinking about age. I‘m getting older. I keep thinking Nikki Haley‘s only 38, and that is—has young kids, and that‘s another new paradigm, right, Joan, to have young kids at home and still be going—there she is right now, with her very young children, with her husband.
Let‘s watch her now. Let‘s see what she has to say. This is I think one the stars coming out of last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY ®, SOUTH CAROLINA, NOMINEE FOR GOVERNOR: We didn‘t see anybody in the (INAUDIBLE) We said no to a lot of things. We said we are not going to have an arrogant, unaccountable government.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
HALEY: We said no to spending. We said no to bail-outs in Washington.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
HALEY: We said no to inside deal making and backroom politics.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
HALEY: And this last two or three weeks, we said no to the dark side of politics.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, I—now we‘ll get into a troublesome area, but please help me here.
WALSH: Uh-oh! Uh-oh!
MATTHEWS: Don‘t leave me out on a lifeboat. Men and women in politics both have different styles. Some people run as hicks, some run as rednecks. Some people run as big sophisticated big city people, right? Mike Bloomberg‘s not a hick. He‘s proud of being a big New Yorker. Well, once a Boston guy. Anyway, the question is, who‘s he rooting for in baseball? But I‘ve noticed—not being a fashion freak, but I‘ve noticed that Nikki Haley is very much cosmopolitan in her presentation. She wears very stylish clothes. Her outfits are very big city. Even down in South Carolina, that seems to work, whereas Sarah Palin is Western in her manner and presentation.
MATTHEWS: Well, tell me what you think.
WALSH: Sarah Palin like her—her fine clothes. I mean, Sarah—
MATTHEWS: As long as RNC is paying for it.
WALSH: I think she pays for some of it, too.
MATTHEWS: OK. Go ahead. Go ahead.
WALSH: She‘s still looking pretty stylish, so I wouldn‘t make—I wouldn‘t make that distinction.
I think the interesting thing is going to be, she‘s a—I think she‘s a great candidate for South Carolina. And she was running against a field that was pretty terrible, you know, mediocre men.
MATTHEWS: Bad form there, too.
WALSH: Right, and bad form, horrible, horrible situation.
I think that California is going to be tougher, because these women are anti-choice. And that doesn‘t fly with the...
MATTHEWS: They—are both of them?
WALSH: Both of them are anti-choice.
WALSH: That doesn‘t fly with the majority of women voters. And they‘re—they‘re also really getting tough or immigration, which I‘m sad to see, because they are—I believe, in their hearts, they‘re more moderate than the campaigns that they‘re running right now.
WALSH: But they feel the need to get tough on immigration.
And women voters are turned off by attacks on illegal immigrants. So I think their appeal to women in California...
MATTHEWS: From the middle, your view, from the middle.
BERNARD: My view is, one, I think it‘s great to see women being able to run as women, in the sense that they‘re not worried about dressing like women. They‘re—gone are the days where women felt that they had to wear ties and wear the pant suit. You can be a woman, look like a woman, be happy about it from a fashion sense.
BERNARD: From a political sense, I think that women candidates are
doing what men have always done. They either go far right or far left,
depending on what party they‘re in. If they get the nomination, they come
they run right back to the center and do what they need to do...
MATTHEWS: It‘s going to be hard for Fiorina, who has ran on being a pro-lifer out West.
BERNARD: Yes. It will be tough.
MATTHEWS: That‘s tough in that state. That‘s been a pro-choice state for 40 years.
BERNARD: It will be tough. But I think that the economy and jobs are going to be more important than her stance on abortion.
MATTHEWS: You got to go back to Deukmejian to find somebody out there who has won in that regard.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Joan Walsh. It‘s great to have you.
And I will be careful about outfit discussions.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Michelle Bernard, we will get—I do think I‘m right, though. Sharp dressing is something that distinguishes you in politic.
We‘re going to get to all the news about the oil spill in a few minutes.
But, up next: The mother of all birthers, Orly Taitz, crashed and burned in her bid to be California‘s secretary of state. I think they‘re the people in charge of birth certificates, the secretary of state.
MATTHEWS: We‘re going to replay some of her greatest hits, or lowest hits, next on the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
First, the California dreaming ends for Orly Taitz. The self-styled birther queen went down in defeat last night in her bid to become the Republican nominee for California secretary of state.
Don‘t remember who Taitz is? Here‘s a refresher.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ORLY TAITZ ®, CALIFORNIA SECRETARY OF STATE CANDIDATE: Mr. Obama is not eligible to be the president of the United States. He‘s illegitimate for president—presidency.
He never provided his original birth certificate. What he provided was a Photoshopped computer image.
He has allegiance to three other nations.
Even if he was born in the White House, in the Lincoln Bedroom, he still would not be qualified as a natural-born citizen.
We are going to have him out of office within 30 days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Well, Taitz lost her bid last night by 50 percentage points. The scary part? She got nearly 370,000 votes. I think those people should examine their conscience, either that or get a competency test.
Next: a show-stopper in the Show Me State. Missouri State Senator Chuck Purgason wants to prove he‘s serious about beating Congressman Roy Blunt for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. How? Well, he‘s gotten rid of his hairpiece. We‘re not kidding.
Purgason‘s actual press release reads—quote—“In the interest of transparency, I have removed my hair to assure the voters that nothing will be swept under the rug on my watch.”
You can see there Purgason‘s before-and-after pictures. Like him already.
Moving on: Which lawmakers have their nose to the grindstone? Well, the “Hill” newspaper polled members of Congress, aides, and officials to come up with their list of the hardest-working lawmakers in Washington.
Drumroll, please. Coming in at number three, the ever-outspoken Congressman from Massachusetts Mr. Barney Frank. In the runner-up spot, Max Baucus of Montana, the senator that helped push health care to passage. And the number one hardest-working lawmaker, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Catch this. Grassley‘s not missed a roll call vote since 1993.
As Woody Allen said, 80 percent of life is showing up -- 80 percent, he said.
Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman won big last night, but it didn‘t come cheap. She spent $80 million, most of it her own money, to win the Republican primary for governor, which means, all in all, Meg Whitman spent 80 bucks a vote. And you can bet she‘s going to dip into her deep pockets in the general election to beat Jerry Brown.
Meg Whitman‘s $80-per-vote primary campaign—maybe she should just mail us the money—tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Up next: the disaster in the Gulf. We have no idea how much oil is really leaking. Does BP even want to know? Do they want us to know? We will never know.
That‘s coming up. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Another day, another late reversal leaving stocks in negative territory, the Dow Jones industrials giving up 40 points, the S&P 500 slipping six points, and the Nasdaq falling more than 11 points.
The big story today, BP shares plunging nearly 16 percent on fresh concerns about the dividend, liability, and potential bankruptcy. With more than 6,000 lawsuits already filed, BP‘s market value has tumbled 50 point since late April.
Banks and homebuilders struggling today, as demand for mortgages slid for the fifth straight week, homebuyers still not back in the game after the expiration of that federal tax credit.
Stocks started the day surging higher on a solid Beige Book report from the Federal Reserve. The collection of regional economic reports showed slow but steady improvement nationwide.
Another report showed Chinese exports grew about 50 percent this year. That helps soothed concerns about a double-dip recession and refueled investors‘ appetite for risk.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something I have never seen in diving in my whole life out here, these big snot balls coming through.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we saw today was the absolute thickest and the stickiest. This stuff just stuck to your hand. It was like a mixture of clay and wax.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That‘s the reaction from divers who went into the oily Gulf water with an Associated Press television crew and shot the underwater video. You can see some of it. And the oil keeps gushing, as we know, at rates no one seems to be able to calculate.
BP‘s COO, Doug Suttles, said just yesterday that the oil—quote—
“should be down to a relative trickle by Monday or Tuesday of next week.”
Well, today, he had to backtrack off of that. Here he is with Meredith Vieira on the “Today” program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”)
MEREDITH VIEIRA, CO-HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW”: Scientists who have been assigned to try to figure out how much oil is gushing into the Gulf have said it‘s impossible to claim any success without knowing the total amount of oil coming out of that well.
And the fact is, you still don‘t know the total amount of oil coming out of that well.
DOUG SUTTLES, COO, GLOBAL EXPLORATION, BP: well, -- well that‘s right, Meredith. We don‘t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, John Hofmeister is former president and CEO of U.S. operations for the Shell Oil Company. He‘s author of “Why We Hate the Oil Companies.”
Thank you so much, Mr. Hofmeister.
John, you have been on the show before, and I have learned to really trust your—your independence on this regard. Why won‘t BP tell us how much is coming out? Can‘t they look at it, as engineers, skilled engineers, and, just with eye—eyesight, detect the—the volume of flow?
JOHN HOFMEISTER, AUTHOR, “WHY WE HATE THE OIL COMPANIES: STRAIGHT TALK
FROM AN ENERGY INSIDER”: I think they could if it was a priority for them, Chris, but I think I had it from very early on from BP that they are really leaving the decision to NOAA.
NOAA has the scientists, and they have the capability to measure this, and, really, that is a role of government. Ultimately, BP pays by the barrel. So, they would have the incentive to do it themselves if they wanted to lowball it. But they have basically left it to NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to make that determination, as I understand it.
MATTHEWS: And, therefore, they‘re hoping that—that NOAA, the part of Commerce Department, will come in lower than they would, and, therefore, they can always go with the lowest. And if they‘re not low enough, they will come in with a counterlow, right?
HOFMEISTER: But—but here‘s the issue.
MATTHEWS: It seems to me they‘re the playing odds here. They‘re saying, if NOAA comes in low, they will go with that number. If they think they can get it lower, they will come in later low. It‘s always in their interests to keep their cards down.
HOFMEISTER: Well, you could argue that.
I think what the problem is—we have got two problems going on simultaneously. One is, if the well was properly designed, and if the cement at—in the well held, then about the only oil that should come out of reservoir is a seven-inch-wide pipe.
HOFMEISTER: I frankly think that the oil has also burst through the cement and is coming up the casing, which is a much wider surface for the oil...
HOFMEISTER: ... at much greater volume.
And I think that‘s what is happening. The second thing is, we don‘t know what the velocity is, the pressure in the well, and I think that pressure in the well is—is really very strong, which drives a heck of a lot of oil out of that well.
MATTHEWS: How long could that continue, if it‘s not stopped? By nature, how long would it go?
HOFMEISTER: You know, nature is a strange thing.
And—and the—the highest volume of oil coming out of a reservoir is in the first instance. It‘s in the first days and weeks. Normally, the pressure of the earth begins to equalize, calm down, and there could be less oil coming out through natural pressure.
But this could be—I don‘t know how big this reservoir is. And I don‘t know what the original pressure was. But I think that we could count on this oil coming out until they close it down. And the sooner they close it down, as we know, the better.
MATTHEWS: What is it with BP? Why do they keep putting out what turn out to be not-true statements? They will say things—like Tony Hayward, the CEO, will say things like, “The oil‘s on the surface; there aren‘t any plumes underwater.”
He will say things like, “I don‘t hear anyone faulting us on our response.”
What do you mean? Everyone‘s faulting you.
“I think the environmental impact of this disaster‘s likely to have—to be very, very modest.”
What is it? This is idiot talk, and he‘s not an idiot. Why does he keep making these statements, like, it‘s a small problem, there‘s nothing below the surface, all countered—contradicted by expert opinion and expert surveying? Why does he keep doing this?
HOFMEISTER: I think—I think the best policy, Chris, is honesty from the beginning. Just lay it out there. How bad is it? Just say it, because we‘re going to find out how bad it is to begin with.
If there are plumes under the water, let‘s acknowledge there are plumes. I don‘t know that there is any value, unless they‘re getting advice from attorneys somewhere to try to position themselves for some future hearing, some future court date, where they can stand on some other statement. The reality is, truth is always the best policy.
MATTHEWS: But, you know, when you‘re a kid, your parents tell you, if you‘re in a traffic accident and a police officer‘s there or the other party is involved, you don‘t talk, because you don‘t want that used against you in court. I don‘t know if you were told that. I was.
Is that what they‘re obeying, that basic sense of, don‘t talk, whatever you say will be used against you in litigation, and they‘re afraid to give away that stuff?
HOFMEISTER: Well—well, exactly.
And I think, when you have the attorney general down there visibly launching a criminal investigation, you have just changed the temper of the conversation that‘s going to take place. So, you put the company into a position of having to say things that it may help defend itself later on, when, in fact, they have—they have—if they wanted to be honest, what they say will and can be held against them in a court of law.
MATTHEWS: A couple points. First of all, why hasn‘t the president of the United States called on all the oil companies? We had a professor on from LSU, Mr. Overton, Professor Overton, last night who said that you should have all the companies in the world, with all their facilities, all their resources, their—their tankers, get out there and start skimming whatever they can to try to get this—this oil out of the water, that they all—and now it‘s just a BP operation, it seems.
What do you think? What‘s going on?
MATTHEWS: Why isn‘t everybody involved in this?
MATTHEWS: If a fire alarm goes off, all the neighboring communities come in. And that‘s when you have a big five-alarm fire. All the other towns send their fire trucks. Why do we just have BP here, when—that‘s why I don‘t buy this theory, what is good for BP is good for America, here.
I think we have a bigger interest in this than in some company that‘s probably going to go broke some day.
HOFMEISTER: I have been faulting the government response. The government runs the ocean. This is the Coast Guard‘s responsibility. It‘s the government‘s responsibility to figure out how to manage our real estate, whether it‘s oceanic or onshore.
BP‘s basically being told what to do. For the last five weeks, there have been some of us who have been articulating just what you said: Get some big supertankers out there with their big pumps, their vast distances that they could cover.
Get a cooperative effort coming from multiple companies, whether it‘s shipping companies, whether it‘s other oil companies. Buy out the oil that‘s sitting in storage. But get those tankers on the water. Set up barges, lines of barges in front of—of precious marshes. And you could have put pumps on the marshes—on the barges to suck the oil out of the water.
The booms don‘t work. Everybody can see the booms don‘t work.
HOFMEISTER: But, yet, we‘re being told by the government that they‘re working.
I—you know, you have to be really, you know, believing, and—and not trusting your eyes, to see that it‘s not working. But the government and BP don‘t want to acknowledge that what is not working is not working.
HOFMEISTER: I think we need a paradigm change, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Right. I think he needs to think outside of the box, and the box is called BP. And I keep thinking my hero, Winston Churchill, the time of Dunkirk, with the British expeditionary force stuck on the continent, and he said, I‘m not relying on the British Navy anymore, as great it is. I‘m calling on everyone with a boat. Get out there and get some soldiers and bring the boys home. That‘s what saved the British army. The expeditionary force was saved because everybody chipped in.
And the president or the prime minister has to think bigger than BP, because Tony Hayward is not a big thinker. Anyway, thank you Mr. Hofmeister, for joining us so much tonight.
Joining me right now is Mike Papantonio, an attorney representing families who are suing BP. What do you make of this statement by the Justice Department tonight, sir? I know that you‘re right on top of this. A senior Justice Department official said on Wednesday the department is concerned that BP and Transocean have enough funds on hand to cover damage. And here‘s what they say, “we want to ensure that these companies have funds available to compensate the taxpayers, the individuals harmed throughout the Gulf, the families of the individuals who were killed or have been injured.” This is U.S. Associate Attorney General Thomas Perel (ph). Quote, “so we are looking very closely at this and we‘re planning to take action.”
What is the fear expressed here by the A.G. in his department?
MIKE PAPANTONIO, ATTORNEY: Well, already—already, Chris, as you know, this is a takeover target. BP‘s become a takeover target. They‘re are 115 million dollars company. Transocean, Halliburton doesn‘t have more money than that. Truthfully—truthfully a company like Shell—Shell has been looking at BP for a long time as a takeover target. If this number goes to the kind of numbers that I‘m hearing, 60 or 70 billion dollars, the Justice Department has every reason to be concerned about whether or not all of the defendants can pay for this.
The good thing is they can make this company post some money, put some money up as a bond. They have the right to do that. Just simply—it matters on how aggressive they want to get. So I think the Justice Department is completely right when they say, we might have a limited fund here, as unbelievable as that may be.
I can tell you what, BP alone has lost 40 percent value just in the last couple of weeks, down to about—value of about 115 billion dollar company. That sounds like a lot. In a catastrophe like this, it‘s not.
MATTHEWS: Can they stop BP from posting dividends?
PAPANTONIO: Yes, they can. They absolutely—look, they have—
Chris, they have the right to take extraordinary steps. This is the equivalent of a nuclear reactor melting down on U.S. soil. It‘s the equivalent of this nation being invaded. He has extraordinary power rights. He can do a lot of things. And I really think he will.
I listened to Hofmeister just now. He‘s right. It‘s been a lag. There‘s been too much time that‘s passed. But I really do believe—he‘s coming down to the coast next weekend—next week rather. And I think he‘s going to see what—exactly how big this catastrophe is. And he‘s going to ask the questions that Congress needs to ask this company.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to you. I want to go to you, sir. If you‘re of counsel right now to the Energy and Commerce Investigating Subcommittee, under the chairmanship of Bart Stupak, what questions would you have the chair address to the oil executives next week, when they come to testify?
PAPANTONIO: Here it is, Chris. I‘m going to make them perjure themselves. They either perjure themselves or plead the Fifth. You have two employees that have already pled the fifth. I want to dislodge whistle-blowers. So here‘s the questions to ask, why wasn‘t the rig inspected? Who said it didn‘t have to be inspected? Give me names. Give me titles. Give me where the conversation took place. Did you ever test the blowout preventer? Who told you you didn‘t have to test that blowout preventer?
I would jump to the bigger question. I would talk about the Dick Cheney meeting. What was discussed in the 100-day meeting behind closed doors with BP? When you came out of that meeting, what agreements were entered? Who were the names? Who were the people?
I would dislodge whistle-blowers. We did it in the tobacco litigation, it was very successful. The congressmen cannot ask them anything but tough questions, names, specifics, like you do on this show. When you have somebody on the ropes, Chris, what do you do? What do you mean? Give me specifics. Give me names. I want an answer. Don‘t dance around it. If the congressmen will do that, if they‘ll show the sense do that—
I want to know how many BP employees have gone to work for the Mineral Management and visa versa? Who made those hires? When were they made? I want to know specifics. Why did they phone up up a report, where they put a dead man, a dead scientist on the guy who was signing off on the report? Who told them to do that? Give me the names? Where did the meeting take place? If they‘ll be specific, just like do you on this program, they will get whistle-blowers coming forward, and they‘ll make this company either commit perjury or make them plead the Fifth Amendment.
We‘ve already seen two employees plead the Fifth, because this is an ugly story. It‘s a criminal story. This is a sociopath company. This is not a regular company. And if they put them under oath, we‘re going to see just how sociopathic they are.
MATTHEWS: I hope that the committee staffers on Energy and Commerce Investigating Subcommittee, under Bart Stupak of Michigan, have those questions at hand. I would add, too, who signed the permit that said that they could handle an oil spill of exponential size of the one we‘re looking at right now, lied basically? And who decided to replace the drilling mud that was supposed to go down to that 13,000 feet, down to the oil bed? Who replaced that with sea water, which is half as heavy, and therefore exposed them to this explosion and the death of those guys on the platform, those 11 guys? Those are two of my little favorites right now. But I don‘t get to ask the questions.
You‘ve given us some great stuff tonight, Mike Papantonio. Sir, thank you. As always, please come back.
Up next a lot of people have been calling on President Obama to show more anger over the spill in the Gulf. But don‘t look for it to happen. When we return, the “Washington Post” Jonathan Capehart on how racial politics could play a role in how we would view—most of us would view an angry President Obama. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. Critics have been pounding president Obama for not flashing some anger over the oil disaster. But can this president really display emotion and rage without being accused by some of being a, quote, “angry black man?”
Jonathan Capehart is editorial writer for the “Washington Post.” And your column grabbed me this morning. I got up and I was trying to read everything today. I read your column. I thought it was very interesting. Tell us your main points tonight.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Well, I have been listening to the arguments over the last two weeks about the president not showing enough rage, not showing enough emotion about this—the largest natural catastrophe to face this country in the country‘s history. I felt as though we were only talking about half—only having half the conversation. One-half is President Obama won‘t show any rage because he‘s just not wired that way. There‘s a reason why Maureen Dowd of “the New York Times” calls him President Spock.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Spock like in “Star Trek.”
CAPEHART: It‘s not in him. There‘s another—the other part of the conversation that drove me bananas was the one that wasn‘t being had. It‘s the fact President Obama can‘t go off as a Spike Lee—
MATTHEWS: What did Spike Lee say he should do?
CAPEHART: Spike Lee said come on, just once, go off.
MATTHEWS: Go off, meaning what?
CAPEHART: To African-Americans, that means to lose it, to throw things, curse, do all sorts of things.
MATTHEWS: Get apart from ethnicity or race for a second. Think of a
president in our history besides Nixon or something where we pushed Larry -
one of his press guys, Ron Ziegler once. But losing it like—losing your temper, I don‘t think anybody has ever—I‘m trying to think about who‘s done it in public.
CAPEHART: As I write in the piece, we expect our presidents to be cool, calm and collected in a crisis. That‘s what we want as a nation. That‘s what we want as a people. But President Obama comes to the job already having mastered that mannerism or that skill being cool, calm and collected because, as an African-American man, you learn either the hard way or early on that that‘s what you must do. That‘s how you must behave so that you don‘t raise the specter of being the angry black man, and all the negative connotations that come with that, from being menacing, threatening, unintelligent, or just not up to the job, not able to handle the job.
That‘s—it‘s a burden that we all carry. I, for one, was told very early on by my then-stepfather, you know, don‘t—be careful of your face. You show too much emotion on your face. Don‘t do that. And there‘s a reason for that.
MATTHEWS: It‘s so interesting what you‘re saying. I was thinking of, just in my head here, Morgan Freeman playing Mandela, the first black leader in South Africa, and the way he had to be so almost Zen like.
MATTHEWS: -- when he took over.
CAPEHART: Right. And it‘s because of that—as I write in my piece
because of that specter of the angry black man that we have this Zen-like tranquility that comes over us, even when rage is warranted.
MATTHEWS: Here we go. It always happens when we think we have figured out a paradigm here. We get whacked from the other side. Here‘s Pat Robertson, who is a moderate—I don‘t want to get him in trouble. He‘s not a far-right republican. He‘s from Kansas. He‘s sort of a regular conservative. He said that President Obama, after his meeting with Republicans last month—he said, quote, “he needs to take a valium before he comes in and talks to Republicans and just calm down. If you disagree with someone, it doesn‘t mean you‘re attacking their motives. He takes it that way, and tends then to lecture and then gets upset.”
So he showed a different face in that back room apparently, the president.
CAPEHART: I remember reading that quote, the president needs to take a valium, he needs to calm down. You get this image—
MATTHEWS: Is that ethnic?
CAPEHART: That‘s the way I took it. I‘m not speaking for the congressman. I‘ve not talked to the congressman about that quote. That‘s the way I took it.
MATTHEWS: He wouldn‘t say that about a Bill Clinton who came in huffy?
CAPEHART: I wouldn‘t think so. I mean, Bill Clinton had the reputation around town as being someone who behind the scenes was a volatile guy. And as I write in the piece, think about it, can you name the African-American version of, say—version of, say, Rahm Emanuel? Someone who has a reputation celebrated around town for dropping F-bombs and reputation for confrontation. You can‘t, can you?
MATTHEWS: Let me give it thought. That‘s the kind of question I like to go to bed with. Thank you very much, Jonathan Capehart, great column today in the “Washington Post.” You can get it online, right?
MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish with some thoughts about pressure groups, personal money and politics, and how people manage to manipulate sometimes democracy. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with my belief in American democracy. I‘m something a romantic on this subject; I believe in this country‘s fundamental good. I believe, too, in our ability to choose the best leaders. Even when we pick a president who doesn‘t deliver, I‘m never sure the man he beat would have been a better choice. FDR, Truman, Ike, JFK, for a while Lyndon Johnson—we had a pretty good run. Reagan has also gone down as one of the greats.
So I like the way we run our government. I don‘t believe in the Tea Party, Birther or militia government that government verges on being some kind of a foreign occupying force. To paraphrase Woody Guthrie, this government is our government.
What worries me are those who try to manipulate democracy, the pressure groups, the money people, who like all elections to come down who can buy the most advertising on television, most of it negative advertising. What gave me hope last night is that voters don‘t like to be pushed around any more than I do. A lot of labor money went into the Arkansas Senate primary. It produced a lot of drama, and a real hero, the kind of stand-alone, what side are you on woman celebrated in that pro-labor film Norma Rae?
The irony is that the heroine, the Norma Rae last night in Little Rock, was the Democratic senator labor tried to beat. Norma Rae‘s name in this picture is Blanche Lincoln.
I‘m still hoping about the failure of big money to win elections. Along the way, we‘ve had some great leaders who benefited from big personal wealth. Jack Kennedy for one. Nelson Rockefeller for another. You might throw in Mike Bloomberg, the mayor of New York. All of them are quality public figures, who have demonstrated public spirit, vision and political moxy.
We‘ll see if the two candidates who won California‘s Republican primaries last night possess quality and leadership, not just quantity and money. California voters have shown in the past they can discern the difference, rejecting big money state-wide candidates like Michael Huffington. It will be great if they can exercise the same judgment and proper skepticism again between now and November.
Gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman spent 80 million dollars winning a million votes yesterday. That‘s 80 bucks a vote. We‘ll now by general election whether her candidacy has been democracy at work or just another heavily-pushed item on eBay.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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