Guests: Eric Bates, Chris Cillizza, Steve Kornacki, David Corn, Steve
Scalise, Steve Scalise, Bart Stupak
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: No one‘s ever late for an execution.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews from Washington. Leading off tonight: Insubordinate. It may not amount to Truman versus MacArthur, but make no mistake, the loose-lipped criticism by General Stanley McChrystal and his staff of President Obama and senior members of his administration is a matter of major import. McChrystal has been ordered back home to Washington to explain the comments he made to “Rolling Stone” magazine.
As a somewhat different journal, “Stars and Stripes,” puts it, President Barack Obama faces two grim choices on Wednesday, fire General Stanley McChrystal and risk looking like he‘s lost control of the war in Afghanistan, or keep him and risk looking like he‘s lost control of his generals.
Here‘s another issue. Do the comments by McChrystal and his aides reflect the feeling on the ground in Afghanistan towards President Obama? Is anyone surprised over there by what the general and his aides got caught saying, or is that the general scuttlebutt? We‘ll ask NBC‘s Richard Engel.
Also, a federal judge in New Orleans today blocked the federal government‘s six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling. The judge said jobs were at stake. What‘s more important, jobs or conserving the continent? We‘ll take that one up.
Plus, those falling poll numbers. President Obama‘s approval ratings are in retreat. Btu one HARDBALL regular says not only isn‘t that a surprise—or that isn‘t a surprise, it was expected, and that it could all turn around if just one thing happens.
“Let Me Finish” tonight with the difference between being elected president and being truly and dramatically accepted as one.
First, “Rolling Stone” magazine executive editor Eric Bates. The article, “Runaway General,” is in the magazine‘s latest issue. Well, I have to say as a journalist, congratulations. This is an amazing scoop. And I have to ask you about the particulars. Here they are, as we‘ve been able to get them from your article. Tell us if this isn‘t the heart of your report.
A McChrystal aide in your article is described as saying—well, he describes the general‘s first one-on-one meeting with President Obama this way. Quote, “It was a 10-minute photo op. Obama clearly didn‘t know anything about him”—that‘s the general—“who he was. Here‘s the guy who‘s going to run this F-ing thing, F-ing war, but he didn‘t seem very engaged. The boss was pretty disappointed.” That‘s one quote.
Let‘s go on further. Let‘s look at other quotes. The article has
McChrystal and an aide joking about how they‘ll respond to any questions
about Vice President Biden following a speech he‘s about to give. It
reads, quote, “He and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice
president with a good one-liner. Are you asking about Vice President
Biden? McChrystal says with a laugh, ‘Who‘s that, Biden? Who‘s that,
Biden?‘ Suggests a top adviser also in the room, ‘Did you say, Bite me?‘”
Also in the article, a McChrystal aide calls national security adviser Jim Jones “a clown”—that‘s a direct quote—“who remains stuck in 1985.” That‘s another direct quote. Here‘s another quote. Here‘s part of the “Rolling Stone” article on McChrystal about how the general pushes the envelope. Quote, “McChrystal relied on the skills he had learned as a trouble-making kid at West Point, knowing precisely how far he could go in a rigid military hierarchy without getting tossed out.”
Well, there you‘ve laid it out, Eric. You‘ve laid out basically the conundrum President Obama faces tomorrow morning when he meets General McChrystal, who he‘s called back from Afghanistan. The guy has said things, he‘s allowed staff around him to say things which seem like insubordination to me, a civilian. What‘s your estimate of the importance of this piece?
ERIC BATES, “ROLLING STONE”: Well, I think it‘s very important that you see, as a fly on the wall, the general and his top team talking very openly and very frankly about how they view the White House, the White House‘s team, the diplomats, and the state of the war.
What‘s equally alarming in the story is one of McChrystal‘s team says to us that this isn‘t going to end with a win. What it ends with isn‘t going to look like a win or smell like a win or feel like a win. And then they also go on later to say they plan to ask for more troops next summer. So it‘s a very disturbing look inside the war room of the top commanders.
MATTHEWS: Why would a general of McChrystal‘s capability, apparent—well, obvious capability, and experience—and we have to presume street smarts—trust these thoughts and words to a magazine known for its counter-culture attitude?
BATES: Well, that‘s an excellent question. I mean, I think this is a general who—this isn‘t the first time he‘s been called out like this. This is the second or maybe third time where he‘s leaked something or said something that got him called on the carpet, and here he‘s done it again. And as you pointed out in that quote about West Point, he‘s really done it his whole career. And maybe this time, it‘s just one bridge or one flip comment too far.
MATTHEWS: Well, when he sort of is shooting the whatever with a bunch of staffers around him, having a few yuck-yucks, did he know that “Rolling Stone” was in the room? Did he know it?
BATES: Absolutely. Everything in the story, we were in the room. He was very clear that there was a “Rolling Stone” reporter in the room. Whenever an aide said something to us when he wasn‘t around, we made sure to check and make sure that that reflected his position and his feelings. So there‘s nothing in this article that we aren‘t confident fully reflects the general‘s take on the war and on the administration.
MATTHEWS: When your reporter came back with the first filing, was your impression, My God, this can‘t be true? What did you think when you heard that General McChrystal and his top people in his company were basically dumping on the leadership of this country?
BATES: Michael Hastings, an experienced war reporter, who did the story for us, called me from the road as he was getting some of these comments. And I should say that Biden comment, for example, came within the first 24 hours that he spent with the general. This wasn‘t a case where they‘d gotten so used to him being in the room that they forgot he was there. And he was calling me up and telling me some of what he was getting and we were both dumbfounded because it‘s clear to anyone who reads these comments how explosive they were going to be.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a couple of questions. First of all, as a journalist—these comments made were on the record, all of them that were in the magazine. Everything was on the record. You didn‘t break any ground rules.
BATES: Absolutely not. Everything was on the record that we used, or not for attribution, meaning we didn‘t name who said it, if that‘s something we agreed to in advance. But it was all clear, very straightforward journalistic practice. And it‘s not a case of one comment off the cuff. This was a case of over days and weeks of time this kind of barrage of this sort of comments that you quoted.
MATTHEWS: Is your report that the president (SIC) knew when he was on and when he was off? Did he explain and had explained to him a knowledge of the ground rules so that he—the general, so that he didn‘t get confused here about when he was on and when he was off?
MATTHEWS: He always knew it?
BATES: Absolutely. The understanding was, as it always is in this kind of case, that you‘re on the record at all times unless you make an explicit agreement otherwise in advance that both parties agree to. So there‘s no question, no confusion about that at all.
MATTHEWS: And just to nail it down for journalists and editors listening, the general made a point of saying some things were off the record. So he knew how to do it with this reporter.
BATES: Absolutely. And I think what‘s interesting is we‘ve been getting asked about this all day by journalists. The Pentagon and McChrystal‘s team has not raised this at all once, as far as I know. So there‘s no question that this story is an accurate and complete and fair picture that was done according to the rules.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take it as far as your article wrote. You were very good at backgrounding this article. You point out twice before, as you said, that last June, McChrystal got caught or he certainly was blamed for leaking a report that said he needed more troops. He then came out publicly at a press conference in Europe and basically dashed the idea the vice president had of a much leaner operation over there, aimed particularly at getting al Qaeda, but otherwise staying out of the country. He trashed that idea publicly. He was brought in—his top people were—the top Pentagon people were put on the carpet for that.
And also, you point out, this guy always pushes the envelope. He learned it at West Point. Push it as far as you can. It must be—somewhere in your editorial thinking, you must know where you‘ve taken this story in terms of his career.
BATES: Oh, absolutely. I mean, what‘s astounding about the opening scene you quoted with the Joe Biden “bite me” quote is that the time that McChrystal got in trouble before was for answering a question after his speech in London about the vice president, in which he sort of mocked the vice president‘s strategy. And here he is again in a room preparing for a speech in Paris, wondering what kinds of questions he might get about Biden and joking in front of a reporter about how he‘s going to laugh off the vice president. So that‘s—that was—that was one of the most astounding things to me.
MATTHEWS: There‘s an old trick of journalism. People don‘t like to hear it, but it goes on. Joe McGinnis, one of the best ever, used to do it years ago. He would hold an interview with somebody with the tape recorder on, taking notes or whatever. And at the end of the interview, the person he was interviewing would think, Well, that‘s over with. Let‘s just chat for a while. That‘s when the real interview begins.
Was this one of those cases where General McChrystal thought he was giving this reporter a whole interview with lots of facts and figures about the war, and it was only afterwards or during breaks in those interviews that this reporter got the real story?
MATTHEWS: In other words—OK, go ahead. Your reaction.
BATES: You read the story, and you see that this is a fly on the wall story. It‘s not a single interview in which somebody made a comment after the fact or forgot themselves. This is over days and days, the general and his top team telling us all sorts of things, I think very honestly, about how they feel and how they see the war effort and the White House and the president‘s team.
So it wasn‘t a case of one trick. As I said, they were making these comments within the first five hours of our reporter arriving.
MATTHEWS: Well, Eric Bates of “Rolling Stone,” you‘re in the history books. Thank you for coming on HARDBALL tonight.
BATES: Thanks for having me.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s bring in the Washingtonpost.com‘s Chris Cillizza.
Chris, thank you for joining us.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: Sure.
MATTHEWS: We want to now one thing. How‘s this look? I know you at “The Post” are going to write a late story at midnight tonight with the latest developments. What can you—I know you‘re chuckling because—just don‘t hold back. What have you got now?
CILLIZZA: Well, look, Chris, let‘s do the facts first because there‘s a lot of stuff flying around. There are going to be two meetings tomorrow. This much we know. One, 11:00 o‘clock in the morning. This is the planned monthly meeting of the Afghanistan team. This is the very high-level people. We‘re talking about President Obama, Vice President Biden, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, James Jones, who you mentioned earlier, CIA director Leon Panetta, Stanley E. McChrystal normally on a secure connection. He will be in person.
Now, what we don‘t know—there will be a second meeting. I‘ve got this confirmed through the White House. There will be a second meeting. It will be a one-on-one with President Obama and Stanley McChrystal. Is it before the Afghanistan monthly meeting? Is it after? We don‘t know, but there will be that meeting.
And Chris, I made a round of calls, sent out a round of e-mails before I came on to see if I could get anything from the White House about what do we expect going in. Basically, what they gave me was the line that Robert Gibbs said, all options are on the table. They‘re under strict orders not to say anything about what might happen until it does happen.
But certainly, if you read between the lines, or even if you don‘t really read between the lines of Robert Gibbs‘s press conference today, he said things like “All options are on the table” in response to, Does—what‘s the next step here for Stanley McChrystal? If you‘re Stanley McChrystal, you can‘t feel terribly good about that.
MATTHEWS: Hasn‘t he already—just on the background here, hasn‘t he already gotten his warnings? Isn‘t this the third strike?
CILLIZZA: Yes. Yes. And normally, at this level of politics, you only really get one strike. You know, we talk about three strikes in baseball, but really, if you miss it once, that‘s about it. And yes, clearly, last year, answering that question in London—you referenced this, where he took a shot at—well, a veiled shot, though not that veiled shot, at Joe Biden and the idea that we need less troops not more troops in Afghanistan. He was talked to on the president‘s flight to Copenhagen. So yes, a very stern warning.
I just—Chris, just to go back to what Eric was saying about—I am stunned as a journalist that this much came out on the record from someone who, though he has a little bit of a press aversion, apparently, has gotten to a high enough level in the military that he understands how reporting and journalism works. It‘s just astounding, is the only word that I can think of...
CILLIZZA: ... for that piece, when you read it.
MATTHEWS: I just have to believe there was some piece of this we‘re going to get in a couple days, like this was part of a military effort to reach out to young people, to hip people. You know how you and I go to the movies and there‘ll be an ad for the military, some way to reach that younger demo. And if you go to “Rolling Stone,” you‘re going to reach kids who normally don‘t hear about the military life and you might be able to advance recruitment a bit.
CILLIZZA: Well, Chris, you know...
MATTHEWS: Why else would he do the interview?
CILLIZZA: The sources I talked to—and these are folks who are kind of watching from the outside. These are not—I don‘t want to—don‘t want to pretend these are the deep Pentagon sources. But the thing that they said first and foremost was, Why would he—to your question, Why would he not only do the interview, but do such an in-depth—you know, the guy was with him for a month! Why would you do that, knowing kind of the tack that “Rolling Stone” typically takes to articles, a little bit snarkier, you know, a little kind of tongue in cheek? Why, if you are the head of the American effort in Afghanistan, would some press person say, You know what? I think this is a good idea. That to me is the one that I can‘t get over.
MATTHEWS: OK. I‘m thinking of the president‘s advisers. You know my favorite question to you guys is, Who‘s in the room when you make a decision? It‘s true of everybody. You go—there‘s certain people you call, your lifeline. The president‘s got Jim Jones in the room with him as he make this decision, the director of national security. This fellow, this general has been quoted as calling him—well, somebody on his team has been calling that guy a clown.
MATTHEWS: You can‘t do worse than that in the military than call a top general a clown.
CILLIZZA: And how about the—how about the Biden comment? I mean, after the history there, the Biden comment—granted, it came from a staffer, but you know, I just—it‘s to your point that you started the segment with, Chris. He‘s in a somewhat untenable position. Don‘t forget there‘s going to be an offensive in Kandahar coming up. And yet—and don‘t forget, of course, July 2011 is when we‘re going to allegedly be drawing down these troops. And yet How can you keep someone in a job who has taken direct shots—and we haven‘t even visited all the people he took direct shots at...
CILLIZZA: ... but somebody who‘s taking direct shots at the people who, with him and the president...
CILLIZZA: ... and the vice president, are in charge of putting this all together?
MATTHEWS: OK, last word from “The Washington Post.” You don‘t know what‘s going to happen.
CILLIZZA: I certainly don‘t.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank, Chris Cillizza. I take you at your word!
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much.
CILLIZZA: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I know. I do think we don‘t know yet. The president‘s keeping this very close.
Coming up: General McChrystal‘s comments bring up a bigger question, and I mean it. Is what he said and the men said around him a sign of a general contempt by uniformed people toward President Obama? Was he just the one that spoke out? We‘re going to get a realty check on that very sensitive question with the best guy we can bring on, NBC‘s Richard Engel, who‘s with the troops in the field over there.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: How toxic will that TARP bail-out vote be for Republicans? Two South Carolina Republicans who voted for the 2008 TARP bill are facing defeat tonight. Congressman Bob Inglis is the underdog in his runoff race. His opponent made the TARP vote a big issue during their campaign. And U.S. congressman Gresham Barrett made it a runoff—made it to the runoff in the governor‘s race, but Nikki Haley may be the prohibitive favorite. For Republicans, voting yes on TARP could be a career killer.
HARDBALL returns after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs, but only if we accelerate that transition, only if we seize the moment, and only if we rally together and act as one nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Back to HARDBALL. That was President Obama just last week calling upon Americans to seize the moment in that Oval Office address. The president‘s poll numbers, however, have been falling steadily since that oil rig blew up in the Gulf of Mexico two months ago. Is this just a blip on the screen for him, or has the president lost his political touch?
By the way, that‘s the line being pushed by “The New York Times,” that he has. Columnist Charles Blow wrote this weekend of the president, quote, “It is becoming increasingly apparent that the magic has drained away. Even among his most ardent supporters, there now exists a certain frustration and disillusionment not necessarily in the execution of his duties but in his inability to seize moments, chart a course and navigate the choppy waters of public opinion.”
Joining me now is Salon‘s Steve Kornacki, who wrote a rebuttal to Blow‘s column, and David Corn of “Mother Jones” magazine. Let me go to Steve. Do you think he still has the ability to seize the moment politically, just to challenge Charles Blow in “The New York Times”?
STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: Well, absolutely.
I mean, my problem with the column that Charles Blow wrote and my problem with the column that many others have written along the same lines is that it could have been written as soon as Obama was elected in November 2008.
I mean, this is what happens when a president walks into office with the expectations that Obama had, with the economy heading in the direction it was heading, and with his party in complete control of the House and the Senate. There‘s no one else to blame.
And public opinion being what it is, it sort of just always plods ahead. There‘s no collective memory. There‘s no collective foresight. So, when the economy—when the unemployment stagnates at or near 10 percent, they‘re going to blame the president, whose party controls Congress and who was elected to fix it.
And so the real question to me has always been not what happens a year, a year-and-a-half into his administration, it‘s what happens to the economy in years three or four. If the economy is back then, then all of his magic we talked about in 2008 will be back.
It‘s the same thing that happened with Ronald Reagan in his first term. He‘s the last president who dealt with double-digit unemployment. And at this very point in his presidency, Ronald Reagan‘s political obituary was being written. Democrats were dancing on his political grave. They thought the Reagan Revolution was a fluke.
The economy came back in 1983 and 1984. Ronald Reagan was reelected in a 49-state landslide. I don‘t know if Obama can do quite that. But it‘s far too early to be making all of these sweeping judgments that we‘re hearing.
MATTHEWS: Well, generally, I accept that Marxist view of history, meaning not that I agree with the Marxist ideology, nor do you, but that sense that economics drives politics.
Your theory, David Corn. Is economics driving this man‘s numbers down and all the good talk or leadership or swank wouldn‘t stop it?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “MOTHER JONES”: I think there‘s a large degree of truth to that.
Now, Obama ran as a transformative—transformative—transformative candidate in that he would change the way we did business in Washington and across the nation. Now, of course, that is a pretty high bar to clear. And then when you come to office and you have to deal with the terrible economy and you‘re doing bailouts and stimulus spending, which is very controversial, not always very fun, and then the tough slog of the legislative business with health care reform, the public doesn‘t see an inspiring character.
What they—what I—I think one mistake that they did make—I take all of Steve‘s points. One mistake I think they did do was when they came into office, they charted a very conventional course in politics. All the grassroots organizing, with Organizing for Obama, which turned into Organizing for America, sort of dropped dead.
And they didn‘t do anything to keep people, their people engaged. And so all these big factors that Steve referred to were allowed to do their—the work that you would expect them to do on the general body politic. And Obama‘s troops were sort of left to the side.
I also think the war in Afghanistan has truly demobilized a lot of liberals and a lot of the progressive parts of the base. So, a lot of energy has been lost due to that.
MATTHEWS: He didn‘t ask people to do anything.
Let‘s take a look at the president‘s poll numbers in the Pollster.com trend line. These are a combination of all the polls. They show his disapproval ratings well above his approval ratings.
Let me go to another question before we—we don‘t have much time
here tonight. Since you have raised this Kornacki defense of the president
I will call it the Kornacki defense.
MATTHEWS: There‘s a different question. You‘re going to poll numbers as some sort of test of worth. I don‘t buy that either. I don‘t like poll numbers as a test of worth, because Churchill was nothing in the ‘30s, and he was dead right.
Lincoln was—probably had terrible poll numbers and he was dead right. So, that‘s not it. It‘s a question of, do you think that Barack Obama has measured up to your own expectations of his ability to lead the country, forthrightly and courageously, on issues?
For example, I will ask, where is the immigration policy? Where is the bill? Everybody knows what it will involve. Why isn‘t he putting it forth. Energy, everybody knows what needs to be done to transit us into another form of energy over time. Why doesn‘t he have a bill, and why is he not pushing for it?
Those are my questions. Leadership issues, not popularity questions, aren‘t they different? We only have a little time, Steve.
KORNACKI: Well, has he measured up to my expectations? The answer is yes. But my expectations were probably not the same as the expectations of a lot of the people who were part of his base in 2008.
I expected he would be an incrementalist. I expected he would be very pragmatic in his approach. So, I‘m not surprised. A lot of people who voted for him and a lot of people who supported him in 2008 made the same mistake that is always made when a leader like Obama emerges on the scene. They expected too much.
KORNACKI: That is the exact same thing—I brought up the Reagan comparison. That‘s what Reagan supporters were saying in 1981 and ‘82.
CORN: But I do think a lot of those people took Obama at his word.
He did run as a candidate who would do bold things.
MATTHEWS: He wasn‘t going to be Clinton. He wasn‘t going to be incremental.
CORN: That‘s exactly right, Chris.
And you mentioned the energy bill. I think climate change is one area that he talked about talking bold action in. And there was a not—a not-bad bill passed the House. And I think Obama has not done what he needs to do to get it through the Senate, even during the whole oil spill crisis. So, that‘s one area where I think he‘s been kind of a bit cheap with whatever capital a president can rally in times of crisis.
So, I think, in a lot of ways, if you measure Obama against his own expectations that he gave people to believe in, that may be where he falls a little short.
MATTHEWS: You know, you really can‘t steer a boat with the engine off, Steve. And my question to you is, you suggest a drift is part of life. You just go with the unemployment number. As it goes up or down, so does your popularity.
MATTHEWS: Is that what you‘re saying?
KORNACKI: Well, no. And I think when you start looking at—when we start making these judgments about, well, his poll numbers wouldn‘t be here if he did, the people would be with him if he did that, I think that stuff is largely bunk.
That doesn‘t mean what he does as a matter of policy isn‘t consequential, doesn‘t matter to history.
KORNACKI: The example I always draw is, I think one of the most underrated modern presidents is George Bush Sr. If you look at the substance of what he actually did in his administration in terms of going after the budget deficit, in terms of his management of foreign policy, in terms of getting us through the banking crisis, if you look at the substance, I think that was a very sound presidency.
But he was measured in 1992, and, largely, he will be measured in history by the fact that the economy went into the tank and he was drummed out of office with a lower vote total than any president since William Howard Taft. It‘s unfair, but I think that‘s how those broad judgments get made.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s see how history looks at the decision to take us into the Gulf War. I‘m not sure it‘s going to look as good years from now, because it took us into the second Gulf War. It‘s led to the situation we‘re in now, to get us to replace the British as the neocolonial protectors of oil.
KORNACKI: Or did he set the course that his son ignored by not going into Baghdad?
MATTHEWS: Once we‘re going in, we‘re going to keep going in.
CORN: But, at some point, Barack Obama has to do something, just from a political perspective—you know this, Chris—to get people riled up on his side of the aisle.
CORN: And the question is, what does he have to do?
MATTHEWS: More coming. You guys are great. We have got to go.
Thank you, Steve Kornacki. Great. I like the way you defend the president against all matter of folk.
MATTHEWS: Up next—that‘s part of the British oath.
Anyway, up next: A pair of Republican Senate candidates is literally running away from the press, literally, like Joe Louis‘ old opponents, running. Will they hide?
MATTHEWS: You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
Some high-profile Republicans are on the run, on the run from us, that is. Number one on the press‘ most wanted list, Nevada Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle.
Angle is so media-shy, that our NBC affiliate out in Reno went on the air yesterday outright begging for an interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You, the viewers, had a number of questions for Sharron Angle. And she‘s not provided full and clear answers on several issues.
We have made numerous attempts to schedule an interview with her. Her office did not return many of our calls. And when they did, they never made the candidate available for an interview.
So, we would once again and publicly now ask Sharron Angle for an interview to discuss the issues she‘s running on and why she believes that she would make the best senator for Nevada, so that you, the voters, can make a more educated decision when you go to cast your vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s forthright.
Maybe she would prefer not to answer those questions right now. Ever think of that?
Another Republican on the media‘s most wanted list, Illinois‘s Mark Kirk, the guy who has gotten caught inflating his resume, everything from military record to his teaching history at a nursery school.
Here‘s how “Chicago Business” covered kirk‘s campaign yesterday—quote—“Mr. Kirk literally ran out the hotel door, rather than answer questions about a host of recent reports that he repeatedly has exaggerated his experience and credentials”—close quote.
Lesson to the candidates: You can run, but you can‘t hide, not from here all the way to November.
Moving out west to Arizona, a blast from the past for J.D. Hayworth. John McCain‘s campaign this week is circulating a 2007 infomercial in which his rival, Hayworth, touts free-money grants from the federal government and your opportunity to take advantage of them, you know, ways to grab some federal grant money for yourselves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hundreds of billions of dollars. Wow. Forgive me if I sound like a skeptic, because that‘s a lot of money. It sounds too good to be true.
Congressman, is it for real?
J.D. HAYWORTH ®, ARIZONA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: It is for real. The money is out there. The opportunities are out there.
And, by the way, it‘s not something where it‘s the government‘s money. It‘s really your money. You surrendered it in the form of taxation. Now is the time to take advantage of a situation where the government can invest in you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That‘s Meredith Baxter Birney and Victoria Jackson talking about perfumes.
Anyway, amazing. Not exactly in tune with today‘s worries about the deficit, is it? More in tune with the anything-goes-spending of the Bush era that Hayworth knew all about.
Time now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”
The White House has been saying for months that the Obama team was ready on day one to deal with the oil spill in the Gulf. So, is the American public buying that argument? Apparently not. How many say the president‘s response to the oil spill has been too slow? Well, in the new CBS poll, 61 percent, a solid majority, three in five, say President Obama personally was slow on the take in dealing with the crisis, 61 percent, a numerical fact the Obama command will have to deal with and tonight‘s very “Big Number.”
Up next: A federal judge blocks the federal Obama administration‘s moratorium on offshore deep drilling, saying jobs are at stake. What‘s more important here, protecting jobs or protecting the environment?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Things went south on Wall Street after some bad news on housing, the Dow Jones industrials losing about 149 points, to close at 10293. The S&P 500 slipped eight points to 1095, and the Nasdaq ended 27 points lower to about 2262.
Shares of homebuilders fell after the National Association of Realtors today reported an unexpected 2.2 percent decline last month in sales of existing homes. Many analysts expected increased sales as a result of the government‘s tax credit.
Apple shares rose almost $3 on news that it has sold three million iPads since they hit the market in April. And the White House is promising a quick appeal to a federal judge‘s ruling striking down the administration‘s six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Today, as we reported, a federal judge blocked President Obama‘s six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling.
Joining me right now is Congressman Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana.
Congressman, I have to ask you this. Here‘s Rush Limbaugh on the Joe Barton comment today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW”)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It was a shakedown, pure and simple. And somebody had the audacity to call it what it was, and now everybody is running for the hills.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was yesterday, actually, but it‘s been 42 days now since we have been asking Republican members of Congress to stand up and say Rush Limbaugh doesn‘t speak for the Republican Party.
Congressman Scalise, here‘s your chance. Is it Rush Limbaugh or your leadership that is right on Joe Barton?
REP. STEVE SCALISE ®, LOUISIANA: Well, first of all, Joe Barton has apologized. I spoke with him the other day. And I accept his apology.
What frustrates me is that you still don‘t see the sense of urgency from this administration. And they have got the legal responsibility to direct the efforts on the ground. And they‘re just not doing it. That is what angers people back home in South Louisiana, where I just came back from over just earlier today.
MATTHEWS: Well, my job is to ask these questions. Do you think that Rush Limbaugh is right, it was a shakedown? Is he and Barton right? Or is the leadership right in saying it was wrong to apologize on the part of the Republican Party to BP?
SCALISE: Well, unfortunately, I didn‘t get the opportunity to listen to his show. I like his show. I think he offers a lot of good, interesting commentary.
But the bottom line is, when you look at what‘s not happening on the ground—and our local leaders will tell you, just the other day, we had vacuum barges that were sent back to the docks by the Coast Guard, and they gave absolutely no reason why those barges, which would have been sucking up oil, that would have prevented oil from getting into our marsh, were sent back to the docks.
It—spent over a day where the Coast Guard gave absolutely no explanation. And the federal government, still to this day, won‘t tell us who is in charge when problems go on the ground like they‘re doing just two, three days ago. I mean, this is inexcusable. We cannot afford these kinds of delays.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about the big news that the federal government has asked BP to set aside a $20 billion escrow account? Some Republicans like Joe Barton have said that that‘s a shakedown, that that is wrong, it‘s a slush fund.
Rush Limbaugh agrees with that point of view. Your party leadership doesn‘t. Who speaks for you, your party leadership on that point or Rush Limbaugh on that point? Who is your leader?
SCALISE: Well, Chris, I speak for myself. And John Boehner is the Republican leader. But if you look at what‘s going on out there, we haven‘t been given any details on how this money is going to be spent. I sure hope it doesn‘t become some kind of a slush fund where Washington bureaucrats spend the money on things that aren‘t related to people on the ground.
My main concern is that the money gets into the hands of those people who are affected.
MATTHEWS: How is that, wait a minute. What is that—what is that attack you‘re making here? First of all, will you answer the question? Is Rush Limbaugh right here or wrong?
SCALISE: Well, again, I didn‘t listen to his comments earlier, Chris. But what I‘ve said is, I want real transparency and accountability with the money.
MATTHEWS: He called it a shakedown. Is it a shakedown?
SCALISE: I wasn‘t in the meetings, Chris. But, I mean, again, where is the money going to be spent?
MATTHEWS: Why are you guys—why is everybody in the Republican Party afraid of Limbaugh, a radio talk show host? When he says something totally contradictive to your party leadership, can‘t you say, “I‘m with the party leadership”?
SCALISE: Of course, I speak for myself. I told you who I speak for, and that‘s myself. Nobody else speaks for me. And ultimately, I‘m trying to solve problems on the ground and they‘re still not getting fixed.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Just to make it simple. Rush Limbaugh does not speak for you on the issue whether BP was shaken down or not?
SCALISE: No, he doesn‘t speak for me. I speak for myself.
SCALISE: But ultimately, I‘m going to continue fighting to try to make sure that the money gets into the hands of those people who are affected, and many of them still have not gotten help. But ultimately, that our leaders get the help they need on the ground, to get the oil out of our marsh. And they‘re not going a good enough job at that right now.
MATTHEWS: What don‘t you like about the decisions of an escrow account? You‘re accusing the administration of taking the money and putting it into some sort of political patronage fund. What makes you believe that the administration will decide where that money goes? Where did you get that idea?
SCALISE: Well, Chris, first, I‘ve never made that accusation. What I‘ve said is—
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re saying it.
SCALISE: I‘ve asked to find out where that money is going to go, how it‘s going to be spent. I think even the guy running the fund over the weekend wouldn‘t really tell anybody how it‘s going to be set up. So, ultimately, when you‘re talking about $20 billion that‘s supposed to go for people in the Gulf Coast who are affected by this oil spill, I think we all want to make sure that it‘s spent helping those people whose way of life right now is destroyed.
I don‘t think people want to see that wasted on government bureaucracy here in Washington. It needs to get to the hands of people on the ground.
MATTHEWS: Well, whose—who said 1 cent of it is going to a bureaucracy in Washington? Who says that? Where do you get that idea from that you‘re concerned about?
SCALISE: I‘ve never said—well, I never said I‘ve got the idea.
I said I want to make sure that doesn‘t happen because no one will tell us.
MATTHEWS: Well, what makes you think it would happen? Why are you going after a straw man—a red herring here?
SCALISE: -- because it‘s happened before.
MATTHEWS: Where has it happened before?
SCALISE: -- to Social Security trust fund—
MATTHEWS: Oh, here we go. This is—
SCALISE: -- everyday on things that have nothing to do with Social Security. I want to make sure that fund gets in the hands of people who deserve it. And no one told us what that money is going to be used for yet. I think we deserved that answer.
MATTHEWS: In other words, you are using—this is just—this is just pure, pure partisan politics, what you‘re doing here.
SCALISE: You know, Chris, I don‘t know why you‘re not concerned where the $20 billion is going to go.
MATTHEWS: Because you‘re attacking something that‘s never happened. It‘s never happened with this. You think BP is going to make some checks out, to what, welfare recipients, or are they going to make checks out to people who have legal claims against them?
SCALISE: Do you know? Because right now, we‘re not seeing the stuff getting down—
MATTHEWS: Because the only way they‘re going to spend a nickel is if their own fiduciary responsibility allows them to make payments which could only be the people with legal claims against them.
SCALISE: So, you‘re telling me that BP is going to run this fund?
Who‘s going to run the fund, Chris?
MATTHEWS: Apparently, it‘s going to be run—
SCALISE: I don‘t know if you know that. I sure don‘t. I‘d like to know. I think the people on the Gulf Coast have a right to know.
MATTHEWS: OK. So, you‘re accusation—
MATTHEWS: OK. Right. Well, that‘s fair enough. It‘s just—it‘s just pure politics. Thank you, Congressman Steve Scalise for joining us now.
Let‘s go—let‘s bring Bart Stupak.
I don‘t know where that charge came from right there. Nobody out there believes this is going to—and this thing about the Social Security fund is classic partisan nonsense. OK? Absolute nonsense.
The Social Security fund is challenged because there‘s more old people now than compared to the number of young people there are now in a pay-as-you-go system. And anybody understands that who pays any attention to Social Security.
Anyway, let‘s go to Bart Stupak.
There was a straw man, a classic way to get some right wing votes. Let‘s go now to Joe Barton. What do you make, Congressman Stupak, of Joe Barton and these people basically saying it‘s the federal government that‘s the bad guy here, they‘re the guys who are basically setting up themselves as bagmen or something here, when in fact everybody knows it was BP that did this thing?
REP. BART STUPAK (D), MICHIGAN: Well, Joe Barton on the energy and commerce committee is a leading Republican, and he‘s been very cooperative in the Deepwater Horizon investigation. I was quite surprised that Joe made the comments he did during our last hearing of the oversight investigation subcommittee, which I chair.
But then again, if you look at the Republican Party and their coziness with big oil, I guess I wasn‘t all that surprised because less than 24 hours before Joe Barton comments, the Republican Study Group was basically making the same accusations along with Michele Bachmann, Steve King and others. Joe just happened to say it verbally out, and caught all the attention, but they‘ve been saying this for the last 24 hours. It shows how cozy the Republican Party is with big oil.
MATTHEWS: What is your confidence level on us being able to find out: A, what happened with BP, the management decisions that led to this the catastrophe, et cetera? How good are we going to be able to get in digging in to what we‘re looking at right now and who did it?
STUPAK: Well, as you know, Chris, energy and commerce committee has held five hearings. Three of my oversight investigation subcommittee, and we‘ve really put out reports, one around May 25th, and another one on June 14th, in which even Tony Hayward when he did testify, he did admit last week that the five areas we focused in on how BP sacrificed our environment and the lives of 11 men by cutting corners, to save money, and they accepted the risk and the whole thing blew up. They were trying to save money by cutting corners and look at the disaster we have.
Tony Hayward admitted that the June 14th letter we sent him with those five points, he agreed with. They were legitimate concerns. Those were legitimate points we raised.
I think we‘ll get to the bottom of this sooner or later. And—
MATTHEWS: Are there—without saying whether anybody is guilty or not—are there applicable federal statutes here, criminal statutes in this area?
STUPAK: Yes, there is.
MATTHEWS: OK. So, potentially, somebody could be charged with something here as a crime—as a crime.
STUPAK: Yes, and I‘m glad to see the attorney general down there looking at it from not only a criminal point of view, but also from environmental restoration, because you can do more under criminal law for restoration for environment than you can under civil penalties. Civil penalties to big oil and other big companies is just a cost of doing business. It doesn‘t hurt them. You really have to dig in to this from the Department of Justice‘s point of view.
MATTHEWS: What do you—what do you make of the—what do you make of the decision by the fifth district court down there, Judge Feldman, Martin Feldman. He‘s a Reagan appointee. I don‘t know if that‘s relevant or not. But it seems like it is, basically saying he doesn‘t want this moratorium. He‘s just adjourned (ph) it.
So, what do you think of that? Is this something that is going to go on and is going to be litigated? We‘re going to actually have a chance to stop this deepwater drilling or not?
STUPAK: Well, I‘m sure the Obama administration will appeal it.
And I encourage them to do so.
Remember, the five big oil companies raised their hands last week, and what did they say? We had an oil spill like this, we can‘t prevent it. We can‘t contain it. We can‘t control it. But for the grace of God, there goes I. It‘s a BP this time, where tomorrow it might be Exxon Mobil.
Look, these guys with these blowout preventers—they can‘t even make sure the batteries are working before they put them down. What are the testing they‘re doing? Why don‘t we have redundancy? Why don‘t we have a backup acoustic blowout preventer like some countries require?
We can drill, but we have to do it safely. Until we get answers, there should be a moratorium. And it‘s not just jobs and the environment. It‘s those 11 people who also lost their lives on that rig.
It‘s more than just the environment and jobs. It‘s also safety for our workers who work very hard to bring energy for our country. You—they need some protection.
MATTHEWS: You‘re so out front on this issue and so passionate about it, Congressman Stupak. Do you wish you would stay—decided to stay in Congress rather than retiring?
STUPAK: No. I made the right decision. I look forward to finishing up this investigation and moving on.
MATTHEWS: OK. Are we going to get the bad guys? Is that your hunch in the end on this oil thing?
STUPAK: Yes, we will. I think. Yes.
MATTHEWS: And—OK. Second question which has been bothering me:
Do you believe—I know you‘re a Democrat—do you believe this Democratic administration has reached out and explored all the possibilities for dealing with stopping the spill we‘re looking at live right now? Or have they focused too much on the capabilities and the integrity of the BP Corporation?
STUPAK: No. I think the administration and the unified command has brought forth the best minds we can find in the university setting, our national labs, and via national labs, even all the best minds we can find. How do you stop this?
I predicted a long time ago the only way to stop this oil gushing is drill those relief wells. Unfortunately, that‘s all we have.
MATTHEWS: Rahm Emanuel came out this week and he doesn‘t do many TV appearances. But he showed this week on Sunday television and said that what we‘re seeing here in the country is a choice between points of view about regulation, that the Republican point of view is: basically deregulate, allow energy self-regulation, trust that basically. In fact, you‘re hearing that from people like Gordon (ph) and the rest of them. Is that a difference that the voter can rely on?
STUPAK: Yes. That is a difference. I mean, if you take a look at this, they want less regulation—Republicans want less regulation. It‘s this lack of regulation or lack of enforcement of regulation that led to this terrible tragedy in the Gulf Coast. And we have loss of human life and the environmental havoc being wrecked on the Gulf States.
Look, you got to have rules, and you got to enforce them. If you don‘t, people are going to cut corners, and we‘re going to have another blowup just like we had here.
STUPAK: Let‘s have rules of regulations and enforce them for once.
MATTHEWS: Thanks very much, U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak.
And a reminder to other Republican office holders out there, if you think Rush Limbaugh is wrong about Joe Barton or anything else, or if you think he‘s not the leader of the Republican Party, come on the show. We made the challenge 42 days ago. We want to hear from you.
This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: The first top level member of the Obama administration is stepping down. White House budget director, Peter Orszag, will be leaving the White House next month. Orszag, who‘s getting married in September never planned to stay more than two years on the job, despite President Obama‘s urging that he stay on. Orszag‘s departure leaves a major hole in Obama‘s economic team.
HARDBALL will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Tomorrow, President Obama will meet with General Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan who was critical of the president and his top advisors in a new profile in “Rolling Stone” magazine.
Here‘s President Obama late today talking about General McChrystal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, General McChrystal is on his way here, and I am going to meet with him. Secretary Gates will be meeting with him as well. I think it‘s clear that the article in which he and his team appeared showed a poor—showed poor judgment, and—but I also want to make sure that I talk to him directly before I make any final decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish with some thoughts about civilian control of the U.S. military.
You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this problem President Obama is having. It‘s not about the general, not entirely. It‘s not about insubordination, not entirely. It‘s about becoming president, not just by election or inauguration but in fact.
Jack Kennedy did it with the Bay of Pigs, not by agreeing to the operation but by accepting full personal blame for its failure. That‘s when the country knew it had a leader. His job approval shot through the roof.
Ronald Reagan became president when he came through that assassination attempt and, of course, the way he did it. “Honey, I forgot to duck.” It made us happy to see such good strong manners in our president. Too old to be a soldier, he was not too old to take a bullet, yet not once faltered in his command.
Now it‘s time for President Obama. I‘ve been critical for weeks about the failure to lay down a clear chain of command at the White House.
I want to know who we‘re dealing with when it comes to getting things done
not explaining the present, not spinning the latest problem, not back-and-forthing it with Republicans, not flacking it. I want to see the power of this country in action. I want to se the self-government of ours running the show.
Nobody reasonable thinks President Obama shouldn‘t go to baseball games with his daughter. That‘s partisan stuff from the Republican National Committee. He didn‘t cause this oil mess in the Gulf of Mexico. BP did. They are the bad guys in this piece.
But tomorrow morning, the president‘s got to show—well, he‘s got to do some business. If our general in Afghanistan has been insubordinate, he‘s got to can the guy, just as Harry Truman did to Douglas MacArthur. It might not be the most popular thing that Truman ever did, it may not be the best thing he did, I put the Marshall Plan up on that pedestal, but it sure was the most necessary things he ever did and it‘s one of the reasons we remember Harry Truman with such bipartisan reverence.
Whatever the thing is that makes you a great president, we knew Harry Truman had it.
That‘s HARDBALL for now.
Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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