Guests: Bob Cavnar, Sherrod Brown, Claire McCaskill, Mac Thornberry, Arlen
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The battle for Afghanistan, the battle for America.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews down in Washington. Leading off tonight: Split-screen Tuesday. The eyes of the country were on two hearings today that could determine the future of the war in Afghanistan and the future of the Supreme Court here at home. The Afghanistan war was on trial when General David Petraeus testified on Capitol Hill today. Here the division in Congress is not simply left versus right. There are many veteran conservatives who wonder if Afghanistan makes sense. Can the most respected man in the U.S. military save a war that‘s losing ground and popularity?
Meanwhile, the American culture war is playing out in Elena Kagan‘s Supreme Court hearing. For a second day, Jeff Sessions of Alabama accused Kagan of being anti-military for her role in barring recruiters from Harvard Law School. Arlen Specter is on the committee, and he joins us here tonight.
Plus, it‘s been overshadowed by other news lately, but the oil keeps gushing out of that BP well at the rate of some 60,000 barrels a day. There it is live. And today we read in “The New York Times” that not everyone is so sure that even those relief wells will do the trick. And by the way, we want to hear tonight. Give us the worst.
And sit tight because perhaps the most important number of the year comes out on Friday, the June unemployment rate. Well, that number, it could be anything, but it will decide whether we‘re facing a second dip economically, and therefore, who‘s going to control Congress in the next election.
And “Let Me Finish” tonight by telling conservatives and squeamish liberals that this is exactly the time for the government to push for major domestic job-creating investments.
Let‘s start with General Petraeus‘s testimony today, and of course, our war strategy in Afghanistan. Democratic senator Claire McCaskill is a member of the Armed Services Committee. Senator McCaskill, I guess the hardest question in the world is the one you‘re asking—I think everyone‘s asking—as you review the case for General Petraeus to lead our forces over there. If we‘re going to leave Afghanistan next July, why not just leave now?
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, first
of all, we‘re going to begin the process of leaving next July, but it‘s
going to be conditions-based. And General Petraeus has said it over and
over again in two Senate hearings over the last several weeks, that this
will be a conditions-based decision. So it‘s not as if we‘re—it‘s not
like turning on a light switch or turning off a light switch. We will have
we‘ll have 50,000 troops still in Iraq (SIC) in the coming months.
So this is a process. When you fight—when you do a counterinsurgency, when you go after a Taliban and al Qaeda, this is a process. It‘s not just one battle.
MATTHEWS: Would you imagine supporting a removal of most U.S. forces, Senator, if we weren‘t sure that al Qaeda wouldn‘t come back into that country? Would you ever pull our troops out en mass, knowing the possibility that al Qaeda could come back in, even if it takes 5 or 10 years or 20?
MCCASKILL: Well, here‘s the thing. We—I think the president had a very tough decision on this strategy. I think he took a long time because it was a hard decision. He listened to the military and he listened to all of the advisers about the entire region.
I‘m not sure everybody understands what Pakistan means right now to the security of this nation, and we have now got them in the fight. Is it perfect? No. But they are much better today than they were before we went to Afghanistan in terms of helping us get al Qaeda out of the mountainous region in the northern border of Pakistan, on the border of Afghanistan.
One of the reasons they‘ve come to the fight is because we‘ve been willing to lay out a clear strategy in Afghanistan. I think that was essential, and that‘s why I think the president made the right decision. Now we have to listen to General Petraeus. We have the best in the world now on counterinsurgency leading this effort, and I think the president will be listening carefully to what he advises.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s hear what he had to say today. Here he is talking about that July 2011 drawdown date. Let‘s listen to General Petraeus today in testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: It is important to note the president‘s reminder in recent days that July 2011 will mark the beginning of a process, not the date when the U.S. heads for the exits and turns out the lights. As he explained this past Sunday, in fact, we‘ll need to provide assistance to Afghanistan for a long time to come. It is going to be a number of years before Afghan forces can truly handle the security tasks in Afghanistan on their home—on their own. The commitment to Afghanistan is necessarily, therefore, an enduring one, and neither the Taliban nor Afghan and Pakistani partners should doubt that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, Senator, if you look at the long history of decolonization, of European countries basically pulling back from third world countries, inevitably, it takes a year or two or five years or so (INAUDIBLE) those countries become the countries they want to be, in many cases, the countries pretty much like they were before. The influence of the outsider fades, the longer you‘re gone. What reason, based upon all of our knowledge of history, teaches us that al Qaeda won‘t go right back into Afghanistan, as they did before we went in there?
MCCASKILL: Well, first of all, we‘re going to have much better contacts and a much better alliance with Afghanistan.
MATTHEWS: With Karzai?
MCCASKILL: We are integrating into their military, Chris.
MCCASKILL: We are integrating into their police departments. We‘re mentoring them, shoulder to shoulder. They‘re becoming friends with and understanding the ethics and the culture of our military and our police officers. That will have an impact long-term on those communities, especially if we give it a little bit of time.
And this is something—we have a different enemy now. This isn‘t like it was in the days where you would bring up an army and you‘d fight a battle. This terrorist fight is worldwide and it is going to be ongoing. We‘ve got to be strategic with our resources. We‘ve got to be focused in our strategies. But we also have to realize this isn‘t something we can just check in and check out.
MCCASKILL: It‘s not going to be possible, not and keep us safe.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at this fight between Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Republican, and General Petraeus about what Vice President Biden said about that July 2011 deadline. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: The vice president of the United States has been quoted in a book widely published in the United States, which I am sure the enemy can have access to, that come July 2011, we‘re going to be leaving in large numbers, you can bet on it. Is he right?
PETRAEUS: Well, first let me just state something that he said that I could share with you and others. In the National Security Council meeting that followed the meeting that I had with the president in the Oval Office, at which the president laid out what the future was going to be and described his expectations, the vice president grabbed me and said, You should know that I am 100 percent supportive of this policy.
GRAHAM: He‘s saying one thing to one person, allegedly, and he‘s saying another thing to you, and they don‘t reconcile themselves. And that is exactly my point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s a pretty interesting point. What do you make of the difference between what Vice President Biden has been saying to Jonathan Alter in his book about how you‘ll see large numbers leaving next July, and the president saying, We‘re not switching off the lights?
MCCASKILL: Well, there‘s a difference between beginning to pull out and switching off the lights. And it is conditions-based. I think that Vice President Biden had a lot to contribute in the decision-making process as regards to Afghanistan, and I‘m sure the president listened carefully. But ultimately, the president, the commander-in-chief, made a decision, and I know the vice president supports that. And that‘s the policy that we‘re going to support and that‘s the policy the military is going to support and try to execute it.
You know, this isn‘t—you know, you can‘t—you can‘t say to Afghanistan, Step up and take responsibility, without giving them some date that they need to work toward. We tried to do that in Iraq, and it didn‘t work until we started sending the signal, We‘re not staying here forever. I think it‘s important we send the signal we not stay forever, but it‘s also important the decisions that we make be based on conditions on the ground.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Thanks for joining us.
MCCASKILL: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry of Texas. He‘s a member of the Armed Services Committee over in the House. Congressman, I want you to listen to something. This is an exchange between Petraeus, General Petraeus, who‘s up for field commander over there, with Birch—not Birch Bayh, Evan Bayh, the senator from Indiana. I think it‘s fascinating because he gets to the question I‘ve been getting to. Our real enemy in terms of 9/11 and avoiding a future 9/11 is al Qaeda. How do we keep them out of Afghanistan, if that‘s our policy? Here‘s the back and forth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D-IN), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Can you give us your assessment about the likelihood, if we were to withdraw from Afghanistan prematurely and the Afghans were not—did not have the capability of securing their territory, the likelihood that al Qaeda would reestablish itself in that place?
PETRAEUS: I think there‘s a high likelihood of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there you have it, Congressman. What do you make of that back and forth?
REP. MAC THORNBERRY (R-TX), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, I think that is part of the reason we‘re there. And of course, al Qaeda is our primary concern. But as time goes on, you get the Haqqani network, you get TTP, other terrorist organizations that also pose a danger to us, to Afghanistan, and ultimately to Pakistan. And so that‘s part of what‘s at stake here is allowing Afghanistan to develop enough that they can take care of their own security needs.
MATTHEWS: How do you ensure that? I mean, at some point, we leave. At some point, the critical mass of our authority is gone. We could say it takes a couple years, but eventually, we‘ll have so many—so few troops over there, we can‘t tell them what to do, if we ever can. Karzai or his successor will be calling the shots.
How do we stop them from cutting a deal with the Taliban? How do we stop them from creating some kind of a base for al Qaeda or other terrorist groups?
THORNBERRY: Well, there‘s no guarantees forever in the future. But on the other hand, al Qaeda and the Taliban want to replace the government in Afghanistan and basically become the governing body again. So it‘s in their best interest to prevent that from happening.
Look, it is a long-term commitment, working from the police to the military to the government, to reduce corruption, improve their ability to secure each other. There‘s no guarantees. It‘s not easy. But on the other hand, the alternative of just walking away and turning it back over to al Qaeda or some of these other groups that have sprung up I think increases the danger. And that seems to be the consensus from today.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about that gradual pullout beginning next July. I know it‘s conditions-based on the ground and all those arguments. We‘re going to have to nuance those with the leadership perhaps on the ground of General Petraeus, looks like him.
But I look at the Vietnam example, and I look at what the decision—
Kennedy tried to send a signal to Diem by saying, We‘re going to pull back some troops, so you better get your act together over there, you better start fighting the reds over there and stop being lackadaisical and fighting the Buddhists, so get your act together. Well, he read it another way, apparently, Diem, and he started cutting a deal through the French with the bad guys, with the communists, and maybe that‘s why we supported the coup against him, which led to his death, obviously.
The question is, will Karzai read this one way or the other? If he knows we‘re gradually pulling out next July, he may say, you know, I got to cut a deal with the guys coming in, not the ones leaving, Taliban. How do we know our signal to him in saying we‘re leaving won‘t strengthen him, it‘ll weaken him and get him cutting a separate peace?
THORNBERRY: Well, that‘s exactly my concern. It‘s a double-edged sword. I mean, I appreciate the point that you want Kabul to know that we‘re not going to be there forever. You‘re going to improve your police and security and take care of your own internal security. But it‘s not exactly Karzai I‘m worried about, it‘s those mid-level bureaucrats, the warlords and so forth that are trying to decide which side they come down on.
THORNBERRY: And if they know that we‘re going to start this process, however the weasel words they want to use, start the process, you know, conditions-based, all of that—they know that‘s starts in a year, I think they‘re going to hedge their bets. So I worry that this deadline makes it more difficult for Petraeus and the troops to do their mission over the next 12 months.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s our conundrum. We agree on that, sir. Thank you very much, Congressman Mac Thornberry of Texas, a member of the Armed Services Committee.
Coming up: Throw out the prepared statements and canned remarks. Elena Kagan faced some very blunt questions from Republicans today, a bit of a culture war, you might say, in the second day of her confirmation hearings on Supreme Court. We‘re going to get back and forth on that with Senator Arlen Specter, a member of the Judiciary Committee, a real veteran of the committee. I can‘t wait to hear what he says about Kagan.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Remember this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA: So welcome—let‘s give a welcome to macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, George Allen‘s campaign for the Senate was pretty much over after that. Now Democrats are looking for the next macaca moment, if you will. The Democratic National Committee is asking supporters to turn up at Republican campaign events with videocameras and smartphones. And they‘ve launched this Web site where they hope people will unload embarrassing and extreme moments from Republican candidates. I bet you the other side starts doing the exact same thing. What do you think?
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I‘m just a little taken aback by the tone of your remarks because it‘s unconnected to reality. I know what happened at Harvard. I know you were an outspoken leader against the military policy.
ELENA KAGAN, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I respect, indeed, I revere the military. My father was a veteran. And I always tried to make sure that I conveyed my honor for the military. And I always tried to make sure that the military had excellent access to our students. And in the short period of time, Senator Sessions, that the military had that access through the veterans organization, military recruiting actually went up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. That was, of course, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan facing some tough questioning today from Republican senator Jeff Sessions during day two of her confirmation hearings. Democratic senator Arlen Specter sits on the Judiciary Committee and voted against Kagan‘s confirmation as solicitor general when he was a Republican. How will he vote this time? A great question.
Senator Specter, it‘s an amazing thing because you‘re right in the middle of it, sort of in the middle. There‘s the culture war in America, these guys from Texas and Alabama and Arizona, you know, Kyl the other day saying she‘s a West Side Manhattan liberal, and this stuff about the military—is she just a voodoo doll for Obama? Is that what‘s going on here, that the conservative Republicans are using her to bash the president on cultural issues?
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D-PA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, there‘s an element of that. But the more fundamental question, Chris, is that the Supreme Court is an ideological battleground. They‘re fighting the cultural wars there.
And the concern that I have, and expressed in my questioning today, is that the Court has taken a lot of the power away from Congress. The Court is doing a lot of legislating. They are supposed to defer to Congress. We have a 100,000-page record, and they have set a hundred years of precedence by allowing corporations to make political contributions, so that the Court is taking over a lot of our legislative function in many, many cases.
And then when the executive, when the president asserts his authority, as he did with the warrantless wiretaps, the Court ducks the case, the terrorist surveillance program. And our Constitution is based on separation of powers, and this Court has allowed a concentration of powers and they‘ve taking it from Congress, means they‘re taking it from the people. And that‘s what I‘m concerned about.
MATTHEWS: Do you think—without getting too conspiratorial about it, do you think there‘s been a concerted effort by Republican and people on the ideological right, Heritage Foundation, whatever—I‘m not sure which institution—to groom these candidates, starting with Clarence Thomas, finding people that seem to have clean records and using them to become almost automatons because this Court seems to have so few surprises anymore on the right. They come in the way you expect them. They serve the way you expect them. And they operate in lockstep, almost like synchronized swimmers on the court, these five guys—or four, at least.
SPECTER: No, Chris, I don‘t think there are any conspiracies.
I used to be a district attorney. You know that. And I don‘t charge conspiracies unless—unless I can prove them. But you have a fellow like Chief Justice Roberts, who says that he‘s going to be deferential to Congress fact-finding, that that is the legislation function, and courts ought not to do that, that he says he‘s not going to jolt the system, that he‘s going to be modest, he comes in.
Now, listen, I don‘t challenge his good faith. And I know there‘s a difference between what he says in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and deciding a case in controversy in the court. But I don‘t think anybody has to go out and find a John Roberts. I think he‘s there.
And I think the president has a pick of a lot of people who are smart people. And they decide cases with a very heavy emphasis on people with powerful connections. That‘s the result.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s go to this the critique that she offered of the hearing. Years ago, or a while ago, the candidate, the nominee, are saying that these are vacuity, these are vacuous exercises.
And I do think, starting with, well, Clarence Thomas—I happen to know that he was schooled by people like Ken Duberstein in keeping certain parts of their thinking processes from you, because they were too philosophical and therefore perhaps dangerous on the court, that these Sherpas, like Anita Dunn and Ken Duberstein are skilled at teaching these nominees how to cloak themselves to keep their politics to themselves during these processes.
Are we really getting a good look at these nominees?
SPECTER: Well, the Senate lets them get away with it.
In her article, she quotes Biden and me as objecting to what‘s happened and quotes my statement that one day the Senate is going to stand up, as I put it, and she quoted me, on its hind legs and reject a nominee. And we did reject Bork. We rejected Bork because he was way out of the midstream.
But the Senate has to be a lot tougher in the questions. And when my turn came today, I cited her article, and I was looking for substantive answers. And I challenged her on some of the Supreme Court standards, which, as even as Scalia said, is a way of asserting judicial legislation.
So, we‘re still in midstream with her, but I will say this for her, Chris. She‘s been a lot more forthcoming than have been most. She was willing to pick up the cudgel on televising Supreme Court hearings.
And I think, if the Supreme Court was televised, and if the people understood what was going on, that they decide the cutting-edge issues of the day, that they would be a lot more responsible.
MATTHEWS: Are you going to vote for Kagan?
SPECTER: I‘m thinking about it. You don‘t expect me to make a declaration...
MATTHEWS: I know—I know you‘re not.
SPECTER: ... standing—standing—standing on...
SPECTER: ... on HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you an easier one.
SPECTER: Throw me a softball instead.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. I will throw you a softball.
Are you going to vote for Sestak?
SPECTER: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, maybe we made some news. You‘re a real Democrat now. You‘re a tried-and-true Democrat now.
SPECTER: Listen, Chris, I said on election night that I would support the winner. I don‘t make any bones about it. And I don‘t beat around the bush when it‘s the thing to do.
MATTHEWS: you know, I think Toomey is going to beat him right now.
What do you think?
SPECTER: Well, I think it‘s going to be...
MATTHEWS: Right now.
SPECTER: It‘s going to be—well, right now, there‘s no election. And there‘s a long time between now and then. But it‘s going to be a battle.
They are—they are polar opposites. My only comment would be, let‘s see what they have to say and who has the better approach. I believe that Toomey is so far to the right that he will defeat himself, ultimately, if the people understand where he‘s coming from, providing you don‘t have just a total attitude of throw all the rascals in, getting rid of incumbents.
SPECTER: And Sestak is an incumbent. And Sestak does represent part of the Congress.
So, the waters are very tricky. I have been around a while. And so have you, Chris. And neither of us have seen anything like what‘s going on now. The question was, what are people against? Washington, incumbency, the government, all three?
So, if you‘re a part of Washington, you have got a big burden to overcome, but Toomey being so far to the right, that that will determine it.
MATTHEWS: I think you‘re dead right. If people knew how far right he was, they wouldn‘t be voting for him in most cases. But it‘s right. I think the atmosphere is so toxic for anybody who looks like an incumbent.
Boy, I think I agree with you on everything you said.
Thank you, Arlen Specter, senator from Pennsylvania.
SPECTER: Great being with you, Chris. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: So, what does being a good shot have to do with being a good candidate for Congress? Look at this. She‘s got an automatic weapon there. We have seen some strange campaign ads this year, but this one from Arizona can‘t be missed. There she is with a tommy gun. I didn‘t know you could have them without a permit, and of course with a pistol, with a semiautomatic.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
First: an inconvenient truth. At Cal State, Stanislaus, this weekend, Sarah Palin gave a speech where she paid tribute to conservative hero Ronald Reagan. At least, that‘s what she thought she was doing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Special place in my heart is California, because this is Reagan country.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
PALIN: And perhaps it was destiny that the man who went to California‘s Eureka College would become so woven within and interlinked to the Golden State.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Well, the hitch here, Ronald Reagan went to Eureka College out in Illinois. There‘s no Eureka College in California. Anyone interested in politics, especially, you might say, conservative politics, would know Ronald Reagan started off his career broadcasting Chicago Cubs games on the radio. Reagan was a Midwesterner who went to California for his film career.
I guess that‘s another thing Sarah Palin didn‘t read.
Next: stranger than fiction. On “The Daily Show” last night, top Obama guy David Axelrod talked about the many crises they have faced.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)
JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”: What is the—what is the general tenor? Is it exhaustion? Is it hyper-focus? What is your—are you feeling the pressure?
DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Well, you know, you don‘t have time to worry about that. Things just come at you.
Last week—one of the things I‘m sure that we had no idea we were going to hear when we came to the White House is, sir, the robots bumped into the riser and knocked a top hat off the well.
AXELROD: Right. I mean, these are—these are things that you don‘t anticipate. And every day has something like that. The pirate has the captain. What do we do, sir?
STEWART: The pirate has the captain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And Kennedy had the communists ready to fire missiles from Cuba.
Look, as Harry Truman put it, if you don‘t like the heat, stay out of the kitchen.
Finally, talk about celebrating the Second Amendment. You won‘t believe this ad for Republican candidate Pamela Gorman out in Arizona. Wait until you see it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
NARRATOR: Meet Pamela Gorman, candidate for Congress in Arizona 3, conservative Christian, and a pretty fair shot.
The insiders in the state Senate wanted to have her hide when she fought against their plan for higher taxes. But Gorman, she can take care of herself.
Rated 100 percent by the NRA, conservative Pamela Gorman is always right on target.
PAMELA GORMAN ®, ARIZONA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I‘m Pamela Gorman, and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I think that‘s an automatic weapon she‘s firing away with there. I wonder if she‘s got a permit for that. I guess that‘s a small question these days.
Up next: Oil keeps gushing into the Gulf of Mexico with no end in sight. And now a tropical storm down there is threatening the cleanup efforts, such as they are. Isn‘t it time for President Obama to call Americans to service to help clean up this mess down there, this environmental catastrophe?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Amanda Drury with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks finishing back up off their lows after a massive sell-off this afternoon, the Dow Jones industrials giving up 268 points, after being down about 350 points midday, the S&P 500 shedding 33 points, and the Nasdaq plunging 85.
It wasn‘t one big concern, but a bunch of smaller ones piling on, today‘s euro worries stemming from more than $500 billion in emergency loans from the European Central Bank coming due on Thursday, and China revising its April leading indicators from 1.7 percent down to 0.3 percent, much lower than expected.
Well, back here at home, a surprise drop in consumer confidence balancing out a surprise jump in metropolitan home prices.
And chipmakers took a hit on slow sales and a disappointing outlook from Micron Technology.
One bright spot today, electric carmaker Tesla Motors shooting up more than 40 percent after last night‘s $17-a-share IPO.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now it‘s back to Chris and HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
Tropical Storm Alex churned up the Gulf of Mexico today, causing oil-skimming ships to be called back to shore. Hurricane season is also just another reason that this oil leak can‘t get plugged fast enough, perhaps. Progress on the relief well continues. But what if it doesn‘t work?
What is new here?
Bob Cavnar is a former oil industry executive. He joins me from Houston.
I guess there‘s been this almost Christmas is coming attitude about these relief wells, that they‘re going to work, that cutting into that pipe, into that well line down to the bottom into the oil deposit is going to save us. Is that your view?
BOB CAVNAR, FORMER OIL INDUSTRY EXECUTIVE: Well, you know, Chris, the relief well is really the only solution to this particular problem. As we watched here a few weeks ago, the top kill failed, and probably damaged the casing up—farther up the hole.
So, really, the only way to shut this in is to shut it in from the bottom. So, that‘s really the only choice we have.
MATTHEWS: And what happens when—just a technical point here. When those relief well lines reach the well itself, what happens then? Do they pump cement down there? What do they do to stop the flow?
CAVNAR: Right. That‘s exactly—well, they pump heavy mud first, Chris. They‘re very close to the wellbore now, about 20 feet laterally from the well. But they have to drill another 900 feet to intersect, like an on ramp to a freeway.
And once they communicate with that wellbore, they will immediately pump heavy mud to create heavy hydrostatic to kill the flow of the blowout well.
MATTHEWS: Are they carrying that drill mud with them all the way as they drill the hole?
CAVNAR: Yes. They—in fact, I was watching a video today of Kent Wells from BP. And he said they have something like 40,000 barrels of mud on the rig and on ships tied to the rig ready to go.
MATTHEWS: And, by the way, this is the way they were supposed to do it the first time, right?
CAVNAR: That is the way they were supposed to do it the first time.
MATTHEWS: All right. Thanks, just so we all know that the problems of man are manmade just oftentimes.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this. This is sort of a funny thing.
Bill Clinton has a very alive mind, as you know. And sometimes he‘s brilliant, obviously. Here‘s President Clinton. He also can be crazy, like the rest of us. Here he is on plugging the oil well. Let‘s listen. Here he is down in Cape Town the other day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unless we send the Nevada down deep to blow up the well and cover the leak with piles and piles and piles of debris, which may become necessary—you don‘t have to use nuclear weapon, by the way. I have seen all that stuff. Just blow it up. Unless we‘re going to do that, we are on dependent on the technical expertise of these people from BP.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s go that first, that subordinate clause, if you will, that unless we are.
Suppose we did something like that. I keep thinking, what would the Russians in the old days, the old Soviets, do? What would the real extremist governments, who don‘t have to worry about popular opinion if things go wrong, what would they have done?
Do you see that as something that could have been done in extremist—blowing up, just piling rocks on top of this thing through some sort of conventional weapon explosion?
CAVNAR: No, I really don‘t, Chris.
The—the technical—all do respect to the president, the total—the problem with this blowout well is that you can‘t just turn it off like a valve at the top, because, if you close it off, especially after the damage from the blowout and the top kill, the pipe below will just burst. And it will begin to flow into the—into the—into the formation.
MATTHEWS: I see.
CAVNAR: So, they have got to get it down below.
MATTHEWS: They have to go all the way to the bottom. Thank you so much for joining us, Bob Cavnar, who knows what he‘s talking about.
By the way, Bill Clinton and I sometimes think alike.
Anyway, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio is one of three senators calling on President Obama to mobilize the civilian service corps of young people to work on the Gulf oil spill.
Thank you, Senator, for coming on.
Again, I agree with the politician at hand here. I think—I keep
thinking, as you might have, the old CCC, the old idea of taking people out
of work or looking for work, get them doing something healthy and outdoors
and in this case, very much on point with the national interest of cleaning up the muck.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Yes. You had said a couple of weeks ago, Chris, you mentioned the term “spiritual factor” to this.
And you go—the reason Senator Whitehouse and Senator Casey and I sent this letter to the president today, that we‘ve actually sent to him today, is that there‘s an awful lot of Americans that we hear from, people in Mansfield, Ohio, and Toledo and Columbus, all over, saying they want to help. What can they do?
And we have something in this country called the Corporation for National and Community Service. And it‘s—they helped in Katrina. They helped in inner city programs and junior highs and reading programs and after school programs. They helped at food banks. They helped with transportation for senior citizens.
There‘s also kinds of things they can do. And they can help us mobilize volunteers in Florida and Louisiana and all points in the Gulf where there are problems. I mean, people—peoples‘ lives have been changed so dramatically and people need help. And there are a lot of Americans who want to give them help.
MATTHEWS: Do you have any advance indication of whether the White House is going to yes?
BROWN: Well, I don‘t know. I know the White House, though, has made a call for community service from time to time in the 18 months the president has been there. I know his record in Chicago and his record in the Senate—always very supportive of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
And I‘m thinking likely they will want to do something to bring more volunteers there and to energize with some real focus on this Corporation for National and Community Service in the Gulf because it makes so much sense with so many kids graduating from high school and college. Many of them are not finding jobs because of the economy.
This is a way to give young people something to do that‘s really useful, the spiritual factor. I like that term you use because it really is a real calling and this is a country that—this is what we do in the United States. We help our neighbor. Sometimes we don‘t know our neighbor and we still help our neighbor. And that‘s maybe what makes us different from countries all over the world.
MATTHEWS: And also I think we like presidents who ask us to do things, you know?
BROWN: I think that‘s right.
MATTHEWS: We don‘t want—we don‘t want a big daddy or big mother telling us what to do as much as we want somebody to say, come on, let‘s get our act together here.
I want you to look at something by Governor Jindal down in Louisiana. Here‘s something he said today. He‘s sort of pushing the administration hard. Here he is—I want to know what you think.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL ® LOUISIANA: The most important message is we want the federal government to have a greater sense of urgency in fighting this oil. They need to understand we‘re in a war to protect our coast, our way of life. They need to get in this war to win. We need the federal government to either lead or get out of the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s pretty tough. I thought he liked the way the president has handled this, but there‘s a shot. What do you think?
BROWN: Well, to lead or get out of the way, I‘m not sure what he means there. And here‘s the guy who doesn‘t want the federal government involved in anything, now he does. I understand that. But I think that there‘s clearly a federal role here like there‘s a federal role in Medicare and there‘s a federal role in feeding hungry kids at school—at school lunch programs.
And, of course, there‘s a federal role here. I think the government needs to be—I think the president can show that commitment in many ways. Part of it is the federal response overall to getting BP to do things right, to getting BP to pay for all this. Part of this is a national call to service that I think the president can do and I think the president likely will do.
MATTHEWS: Don‘t you just love these ideologues to kiss up to the Republican Party by saying they hate the federal government until they need it? And then they give it trouble for not acting fast enough? It‘s unbelievable, the absolute hypocrisy of some of these people.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you.
BROWN: It‘s that way on everything. You bet. Thanks.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
BROWN: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next: the number is—the economy is number one issue with voters obviously. Bad economic news is coming in perhaps this Friday, just four months before the election. Is the cake cooked? Is it already too late for the Democrats to hold the House if these unemployment numbers are already around 10 and staying there?
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, Illinois Senate candidate Mark Kirk has broken his silence. Kirk who last week ran away from reporters literally asking him about his exaggerations of his military and teaching careers said today he‘s sorry for being careless and making mistakes about his record. Kirk is battling Alex Giannoulias who has troubles of his own for the seat once held by President Obama. Do they ever get an easy candidate out there in Illinois for the Senate?
HARDBALL will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, today, the stock market tumbled. Consumer confidence is down by 10 points. The market is down a couple hundred points in the Dow. And this Friday, we get the new jobless numbers.
The stakes for President Obama and his party couldn‘t be higher. How will jobs affect the November elections? Well, we‘re going to know pretty soon.
Chuck Todd is NBC News political director and chief White House correspondent, of course. And Charlie Cook, an MSNBC or he‘s an NBC News analyst and editor of the “Cook Report.”
I want to start with Chuck down at the White House.
Chuck, we were talking earlier today. It looks to me like we‘re facing possibly really bad economic news this Friday. We‘re coming off a very bad May report which shows very slow real civilian job growth. If we get something about 10 percent this Friday, that‘s taking us into July. I don‘t know how—is it possible there could be good economic news at all between now and the election?
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, look, I think it‘s -
if you look back in previous election cycles, they‘ll tell you, the end of the second quarter, which is this six-month—the end of the first six months of an election year, what the economic—what the economic conditions are then are what voters think they will—they are going into election day in November. So, that‘s why this report and then the GDP, the growth report that we‘re going to get for the second quarter which comes later in July, we‘ll find out what that is.
Did we grow as an economy? Most people think we will have grown. But by how much? Will it be less growth than, say, we in the first quarter? That‘s more than likely since we had growth of 5 percent in that first quarter.
So, all that put together is going to paint what appears to be a very negative economic negative picture in the mind of most Americans, and the fact is, they usually carry that over into November. That said, the speed with which people get information now versus, say, before makes it possible that in September or October, if there‘s suddenly some sort of acceleration, that that would be put into the voters‘ mind.
But right now, you‘ve got to look at this picture and think, it‘s going to be pretty bleak the way people feel about the economy. We‘re seeing it in our own polling that they‘re going to—the numbers are going to back up a bleak picture.
I‘m just wondering, Charlie, the same question. I‘ll put it a little differently. Can you imagine the situation this fall where people as a majority say keep it up, three cheers, love the way you‘re doing this? Can you hear that coming out of the masses of the country? Working whites, people that didn‘t go to college—they are getting killed by this unemployment situation.
CHARLIE COOK, NBC NEWS ANALYST: Well, that‘s right, and the thing is we‘ve had four months, three months of 9.7, one month of 9.9. I don‘t know whether it‘s going to go up or down, but it‘s not likely to move more than a tenth of a point or two one way or the other.
Democrats need this thing to be heading down to the low 9s, and the administration‘s own economists were telling us months ago: don‘t expect it to get a lot better between now and election day because, you know, as the economy—even if people feel like the economy is getting better, it just means that people that are unemployed that had stopped looking for work, starts looking and that drags the number back down.
But what we badly need is we need more stimulus but, now, we don‘t have somebody (ph) to do it.
MATTHEWS: Can we use another word, please? Can we find another word?
COOK: Well, the thing is, we need to goose the economy.
MATTHEWS: Right. That‘s better than the stimulus.
COOK: And there‘s no—and there‘s no money left to goose.
MATTHEWS: At least people know what that means. It‘s a crude term obviously. But at least—the word “stimulus” has become so amorphous and almost a joke. It reminds me of bailout.
It reminds me, Chuck, of deficit. When I hear the word stimulus, I hear amorphous spending. Not—I don‘t smell a job construction site.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t see a job shack somewhere. I don‘t see cranes going up. I don‘t see guys with hard hats along the street. I don‘t even see a guy waving one of those flags to slow down. I don‘t see anything in my mind when I hear stimulus, you know why? Because we haven‘t seen anything like that. I‘d like to know visibly where these jobs have been where we can go look at them.
And I think—isn‘t that a problem, Chuck, that there hasn‘t been a tangibility, a visibility to these jobs he‘s created?
TODD: And that‘s right, and they were trying to—you were saying you wanted to see it. Remember, they even came up with a logo. And, in fact, if you drive around here, you see that logo every now and then.
But, you know, my colleague, Savannah Guthrie was talking to a local official on the city and county level about some of this, about what stimulus has meant for them, and they were telling stories like—well, you know, we had these orders that they had to be shovel-ready. Well, shovel-ready meant sometimes in some cases they just repaved roads, but if you had a new bridge you would like to have but it wasn‘t considered shovel-ready, you didn‘t have time to use the funds.
And now, look, you understand why the administration said shovel-ready. They didn‘t want people sitting on this money. They wanted to hurry up and get the money into the system. But on the infrastructure front, in particular, I think we‘re going to look back and wonder if this was the best use of infrastructure money.
COOK: Well, there was—Chris, there was a lot of concrete poured.
COOK: A good bit. I mean, you try to drive around the country. There was a good bit. There was a lot more in the stimulus package, though, that wasn‘t concrete. And maybe it was good laudable stuff. Medical research, I‘m all for medical research. But it doesn‘t stimulate the economy.
MATTHEWS: Wasn‘t a lot of it just job retention in little counties, mayors didn‘t have to fire some people in which they—
COOK: That‘s a big deal.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But the state employees aren‘t going to brag and say what a great guy President Carter—President Obama is, he saved my job for six months. That‘s not going to help you politically.
COOK: Well, you don‘t get as much bang for your buck, but it was important for the economy, just keeping somebody from getting thrown out of work. But the thing is, they needed—we need to do more goosing.
MATTHEWS: OK. Compared to Roosevelt, NWPA, NRA, CCC—lots of people going off to work in jobs.
TODD: Yes, but --
MATTHEWS: Look, half the city was built in the ‘30s. All these federal buildings, all the concrete, every one of the buildings along the federal triangle is all built during the ‘30s. The Jefferson Memorial was built then. This is good stuff.
Anyway, Chuck Todd and Charlie Cook—thank you, gentlemen.
When we return, let me finish by telling those on the right that they‘re wrong. Now is the time for the United States government to push for major job-creating investments.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the pathetic state of the economy and one big thing we can do about it.
Today, we learned the consumer confidence number fell nearly 10 points since last month. It‘s not hard to figure why. The unemployment number for May showed a dismal growth of just 41,000 in American civilian jobs, and people got the word.
All this—the bad June unemployment number expected Friday, the bad consumer confidence number, the drop in the Dow today, all working together, and we‘re looking at the plausibility of that second dip we‘ve been warned about.
I hear this all has the folks in the White House looking past a big defeat in November to what they can do going into 2012. It‘s a brutal conundrum. Countries in Europe just made clear at the G-20 that they are in no mood to boost spending to create markets for American goods. They are tightening their belts, trying their best not be accused of not doing what Greece did—living beyond their means.
But we‘ve got everybody in the world cutting back. And what‘s that got to do with the prospect of economic expansion here at home? Well, it kills it.
If you‘re looking for good news, I have one suggestion, stop listening to Europe. Stop listening to the conservatives. Do what has worked in the past.
What got us out of the Great Depression was production—massive industrial production to support the allied cause in World War II. We need production for this country now. We need to build rapid rail to catch up to those allies from World War II. France already has the TGV. China is building its rapid rail system. It‘s time we join the movement.
We need to go back to the future and become a country that builds things again. It will create jobs. It will catch us up to the rest of the world. It will cut our reliance on oil. It will give us hope we can believe in.
Look, Lincoln built the Continental Railroads even in the middle of the Civil War. Ike built the Interstate Highway System in a supposedly do-nothing ‘50s.
President Obama, just do it.
That‘s HARDBALL for now.
Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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