Guests: Todd Harris, Joan Walsh, Xavier Becerra, Brian Bilbray.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Border war.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews up in New York. Leading off tonight, the politics of illegal immigration. What is the Obama administration thinking? Why bring a lawsuit challenging Arizona‘s illegal immigration law when more than 60 percent of Americans say they support it? And even if this turns out to be good long-term politics for Democrats, is there any way this helps President Obama?
Plus, MSNBC‘s Rachel Maddow is in Afghanistan. My question to her, Do we have a good chance of building an Afghanistan that will repel al Qaeda?
Also, is President Obama acting like a one-term president, ignoring what‘s best for him in order to do what he thinks is best for the country long-term? If so, will that strategy cost him the White House in 2012?
Plus, a candidate for governor says you can‘t expect people to take his state seriously when its legislature is passing bills about government microchips in people‘s brains and seceding from the union. That‘s in the “Sideshow.”
“Let Me Finish” tonight with why some people who consider themselves patriotic find themselves rooting against President Obama and the country.
Let‘s start with immigration and the Justice Department‘s lawsuit against the state of Arizona. We‘re joined right now by two California congressmen. Democrat Xavier Becerra‘s the vice chair of the House Democratic caucus and Republican Brian Bilbray is chairman of the House immigration reform caucus.
Gentlemen, let‘s hear President Obama last week at American University. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Laws like Arizona‘s put huge pressures on local law enforcement to enforce rules that ultimately are unenforcable. It puts pressure on already hard-strapped state and local budgets. It makes it difficult for people here illegally to report crimes, driving a wedge between communities and law enforcement, making our streets more dangerous and the jobs of our police officers more difficult.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Congressman Becerra, what do you think the Republican policy is on illegal immigration and how to fix the problem? What is—when you look across the fence to the other side politically in this country, what do you think they‘re up to politically on immigration?
REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: Chris, I know a few of the Republicans are trying to help us get something done, but they‘re not willing to come forward. For the most part, their policy seems to be just say no, which, essentially, becomes de facto amnesty for he millions of people who continue to stay in the country without documents and have to live in the shadows.
MATTHEWS: So your view is they‘re for status quo. The way things are helps them politically.
BECERRA: If they‘re not for status quo, they sure make it look like that because there is not one Republican in the Senate that‘s willing to come forward to help us pass a bipartisan bill for immigration reform.
MATTHEWS: OK, you say the other side‘s basically for the way things are because that‘s how it stacks up. Congressman Bilbray, what do you think the Democrats are up to on illegal immigration? How do they want to fix it the way you don‘t like it?
REP. BRIAN BILBRAY ®, CALIFORNIA: I think they‘re going to hold the country hostage and say we can‘t do things like employer enforcement, things like upgrading the Social Security card unless we‘re willing to provide illegalization—an amnesty in that package. They‘re holding us hostage for an amnesty posal (ph), rather than joining with us at cracking down on a source of illegal immigration. That‘s illegal employers.
I mean this, administration, if there was ever an administration should be willing to take on the big business people that are hiring the illegals and causing the problem that we‘re seeing the symptoms down in Arizona.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at the numbers here. Hispanic voters make up 9 percent of the total vote. In the last election, they voted for Barack Obama about 2-to-1, which raises the question, Congressman Becerra, why (ph) is the president risking to get better treatment, I suppose, from Hispanic voters? He‘s already doing great among Hispanic voters. He doesn‘t have much to gain. He‘s already in great shape with Hispanic voters. Why do you think he‘s out there risking the antipathy of older white voters who may be very conservative on this issue, who seem to even be willing to go with the Arizona law as an extreme measure?
BECERRA: First, Chris, I think the president is acknowledging the frustration that all voters, all Americans feel with regard to a broken immigration system and the inability, because Republicans in the Senate are holding hostage any reform that we could have. But quite honestly I don‘t think the president has much choice. Just the way the president couldn‘t allow 50 states to have different -- 50 different rules for having passports for Americans or for deciding what airlines can fly over your state‘s airspace, you have to have one set of rules, and that‘s the federal rules, whether it‘s for travel on airplanes, whether it‘s passports or whether it‘s immigration enforcement, and that‘s why the president had to file suit.
The other problem, of course, is many of us know, and would I say this as someone of Latino background, that profiling will occur because who‘s going to get asked for their papers more than anyone else?
MATTHEWS: OK, let me try something by both of you. I want to start with Congressman Bilbray. I respect both you gentlemen, and your positions are different, so I‘m trying to respect both. Let‘s start with this one. Mr. Bilbray, it seems to me we‘re not going to have any change from the status quo unless there‘s some kind of compromise across the board, something which includes real enforcement—I mean, real endorsement—
IDs for employers, you can‘t hire somebody and say you didn‘t know they were here illegally, no more games on that front, some kind of enforcement at the border, and some kind of recognition that people who‘ve been here a long time are basically, in effect, Americans and you might as well let them stay, if you‘re reasonable about it.
Does that sound like anything—is there some alternative way to get immigration reform than those three elements?
BILBRAY: Look, Chris, I...
MATTHEWS: Is there some other way to get a deal?
BILBRAY: Yes, there is, and...
MATTHEWS: What‘s the other way to get a deal that‘s going to pass?
BILBRAY: You don‘t talk about rewarding those who are illegally here!
What you do is...
MATTHEWS: OK, then there‘ll be no deal.
BILBRAY: ... you talk about—well, that‘s a problem. You‘re being held hostage to...
MATTHEWS: No, no. You‘re using words like “hostage.” I‘m going to ask you a political question.
MATTHEWS: This is a political show. Will there ever be a deal on immigration reform that doesn‘t include all three—something on the border, something on employer ID...
MATTHEWS: ... and something about people who have been here a long time?
BILBRAY: Absolutely, Chris, and all we‘ve got to do is get the Democrat White House willing to take on the source of the problem, and that‘s the employers who are exploiting the illegal labor. That a Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress should be able to do. Who are they protecting, the Chamber of Commerce?
BILBRAY: If the Democrats can‘t take on the Chamber of Commerce and their buddies, who is ever going to do it?
MATTHEWS: Well, I keep hearing from people like Dick Armey on the—on the—what you call libertarian right, who don‘t want to have any ID card. They want everybody walking around in this country, Anglo or Hispanic or whatever, incognito. They‘re living in the old West. They want everybody to have guns but nobody have an ID card. That‘s the country...
MATTHEWS: ... they want to live in, which I think sounds crazy.
BILBRAY: And the fact is...
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
BILBRAY: Dick wants open borders, Chris, and you know that. The fact is that we allowed the Bush administration to be able to hide this issue from their buddies. But if the Democrats aren‘t willing to take on the big employers...
BILBRAY: ... who are exploiting these people and impacting the poor across the country...
BILBRAY: ... disproportionately, who is ever going to take on the big employers...
MATTHEWS: OK, let...
BILBRAY: ... if the Dems aren‘t going to do it?
MATTHEWS: OK, let me try that by Congressman Becerra. Is it true that whatever deal you‘re finally going to get through, a majority of Americans, 60 percent in the Senate, a majority in the House, to get something done as opposed to what we have now, will have to include some kind of employee ID?
BECERRA: Yes. I agree.
MATTHEWS: OK, so...
MATTHEWS: ... you both agree on that principle. There has to be some way of knowing, like if you—just like when a bartender has to decide whether to serve somebody underage or not, you say, Where‘s your ABC card? Where‘s your driver‘s license? That way, the bartender‘s protected from breaking the law and the kid doesn‘t get the booze if they‘re under 21. It works. It‘s not profiling. You‘re just saying to the person, Look, I want to make sure you‘re somebody who‘s not going to get me in trouble. Let‘s see the ID.
OK, second thing. Do you think down the road, Congressman Bilbray, we‘re going to have to let people who are here stay here, or do you believe everybody who‘s here illegally‘s going to have to go home?
BILBRAY: I don‘t think we can even talk about...
MATTHEWS: Well, you have to talk about it.
BILBRAY: ... people who are already here illegally...
MATTHEWS: This is what the negotiation is.
BILBRAY: Not until you‘ve proven to the American people that you can be trusted. The big critical point here is a lack of trust by the American people of the federal system.
BILBRAY: And that‘s why you see Arizona doing (INAUDIBLE) We‘ve got to earn the right...
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you a question.
BILBRAY: ... to be trusted. And we won‘t do that, given amnesty.
MATTHEWS: Let me a question. Do you know that the president of the United States has supported the bill supported by Kerry and Graham and Schumer that does require a checkable, unfixable, cheatable ID card, that he supports that? Isn‘t that good enough for you?
BILBRAY: On the condition that we announce to the world we‘re going to reward the 12 to 20 million illegal here. Chris, if you do that, you will not be able to build a fence tall enough or build a security system strong enough, if you announce to the world that it is going to be the American policy every 10 or 20 years to reward those who are illegally here. How can you stop them from coming?
MATTHEWS: You‘re doing a—you‘re doing a—let me go—
Congressman—you know what, Congressman Becerra? You know, I‘m trying to be in the middle on this issue. I‘m not on the liberal side of this issue. Let me tell you, I am very tough about law. I do believe you don‘t pass a law unless you intend to enforce it. I do believe that any country, whether it‘s Switzerland or it‘s Swaziland or it‘s the United States has a perfect right to set immigration law.
(INAUDIBLE) some humanitarian issue, it‘s a national identity issue. You‘re allowed to say if people come in the country or not. That‘s a simple fact. This other guy, Bilbray, doesn‘t seem to want to negotiate anything if it includes legalizing people through some means who‘ve been here a while. That seems to be the problem.
BECERRA: And Chris, you see the reason we can‘t go anywhere. I respect Brian and his positions, but because there‘s an intransigency within the Republican Party, we can‘t get anywhere. Everyone agrees, as you just said, there are simple ways—the public—the public 2-to-1 agrees that there are simple ways that we can get there, not easy but simple. It‘s going to require a lot of those immigrants, because they‘ve got to prove that they haven‘t violated any laws, they‘re going to have to pay back taxes, they‘re going to have to pay heavy fines...
BECERRA: ... and then maybe they‘ll have a way to—have a—to earn a way to stay here...
BECERRA: ... not even citizenship, stay here, then maybe citizenship.
BECERRA: But we can‘t get there if we can‘t get the votes, and that‘s the reason why the broken system remains broken...
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you a question...
BECERRA: ... because you can‘t get Republicans to get off that position.
MATTHEWS: You‘re both from California. I want to ask you a position. Jerry Brown‘s running for governor out there. Barbara Boxer‘s running for reelection, two Democrats. Is this position the president‘s taking—supporting reform, going after Arizona—going to help those two candidates or hurt them? Congressman Becerra, you‘re a Democrat. You‘re first.
BECERRA: I don‘t know we have any choice...
MATTHEWS: Is this a good political position to be in?
BECERRA: ... but to do this. I don‘t think there‘s any choice. The law is the law. You got to enforce the law. It‘s the federal government that has the responsibility. He would be abdicating his responsibility to not do this. It‘s like saying, Should he do energy reform? Of course we know we have to get to energy reform. What‘s the right answer?
BECERRA: You‘ve got to do it. How will it affect politicians? If they‘ve got spine, if they‘re courageous and say what they should, the American public will reward them, whatever office they‘re running for...
BECERRA: ... and so therefore, it shouldn‘t affect either one, if they do the right thing and talk about what they need to do for the (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: OK, Congressman Bilbray, is this good politics for the president or bad politics in the state of California?
BILBRAY: He‘s playing politics with it. He didn‘t even read the law before he attacked it. And to attack...
MATTHEWS: Well, your candidate, Meg Whitman...
BILBRAY: ... Arizona when...
MATTHEWS: ... is against this law.
BILBRAY: That‘s—and that‘s fine. She can...
MATTHEWS: Did she read the law...
BILBRAY: She can answer that...
MATTHEWS: ... before she came out against it?
BILBRAY: She hadn‘t read the law, either. And the fact is, they are both wrong if they do that. The fact is, we have sanctuary cities all over this state that tells law enforcement you cannot cooperate with the federal government.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
BILBRAY: Nobody standed up and talked about, Hey, wait a minute...
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
BILBRAY: ... that you can‘t obstruct the federal system!
MATTHEWS: Do you support the Republican ticket for governor in California?
BILBRAY: Absolutely, I do.
MATTHEWS: Even though you disagree...
BILBRAY: And the fact is...
MATTHEWS: ... with her totally on this issue of immigration.
BILBRAY: And Meg knows—Meg knows that she‘s—she should have read the law. She knows that E-Verify and employer enforcement is a thing we have to do first to prove to the American people we can be trusted.
BILBRAY: In ‘86, we...
MATTHEWS: So you support a candidate you know doesn‘t even bother reading the laws they oppose.
BILBRAY: Same as the president and same as the attorney general and same as—as...
MATTHEWS: OK. You set the bar...
BILBRAY: ... as Jerry Brown.
MATTHEWS: ... pretty low, Congressman. You support wholeheartedly a candidate for governor in California who‘s taken a position based on absolutely no research.
BILBRAY: Chris, we‘ve got a present administration that did that! How can you be so selective at talking about a candidate when the president of the United States and the chief law enforcement officer...
BILBRAY: ... of the United States didn‘t even read the law and have the decency...
MATTHEWS: OK, well, that‘s your assertion.
BILBRAY: ... to read the law before they attacked it?
MATTHEWS: I believe you when you say Meg...
BILBRAY: No, they admitted to it!
MATTHEWS: ... Whitman didn‘t read the law, but I‘m amazed that you think the attorney general didn‘t read the law.
BILBRAY: The attorney general admitted before our committee that he did not read the law! The attorney general admitted that...
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, sir. Thank you.
BILBRAY: ... Chris! So that‘s a public statement.
MATTHEWS: I‘ve learned a lot tonight. The Republicans don‘t want anybody to stay here unless they come in here legally. Thank you, Congressmen Xavier Becerra, and thank you, Congressman Brian Bilbray.
Coming up when we return, MSNBC‘s Rachel Maddow is out there in Afghanistan. We want to know what she‘s learning. Only been there a while, but sometimes a good reporter can pick up a lot relatively quickly. We want to know what she‘s learned about the chances of our winning that war, meaning building a government that can withstand the evils of al Qaeda. We‘ll be right back.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Michelle Bachmann is that fringe right-wing Republican member of Congress from Minnesota Democrats would most love to defeat this year, and it shows in the amount of money raised by her opponent. Democrat Carole Clark (ph) has raised over $900,000 this quarter, bringing her total up to $2 million. That‘s a sizable war chest for a House challenger, and it shows how much national Democrats would love to send Bachmann packing.
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIG. GEN. BEN HODGES, U.S. ARMY: We have enough to do what we have got to do in Kandahar, assuming that the Afghans step up and do their part.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, “RACHEL MADDOW SHOW”: If they don‘t?
HODGES: Well, then we will have—we will have given them the best chance they‘ve ever had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What a great Q&A that was. Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Brigadier General Ben Hodges, head of the southern regional—rather, the regional southern command in Afghanistan, giving an honest answer, I think, to a very difficult question posed by MSNBC‘s Rachel Maddow, who‘s right there right now. Will they step up?
Rachel, thanks so much, joining us from over there. And well, here‘s her question. What‘s happening over there? What business is America in over in Afghanistan?
MADDOW: Hey, Chris, thanks very much for having me. I mean, it‘s pretty clear that what we‘re trying to do here is set up an Afghan state so that there‘s an Afghan government in charge here, instead of the Taliban. An Afghan state means police and army and basic services.
The competing things here are that there is an Afghan government here because of this huge U.S. military presence, because of all these Western resources, but as long as we‘re here, we‘re setting up sort of a hothouse flower, a government that as long as we‘re here is never going to be able to grow strong enough to stand on its own.
And here‘s the one thing that I‘ve really seen firsthand since I‘ve been here. Our presence here is sort of inherently corrupting. The longer we stay, the more war dollars essentially go to power brokers and—and warlords, and that corruption actually helps the Taliban‘s case against the government. So the longer we stay, in some ways, we‘re strengthening our opponent here. So there‘s got to be a deadline for us to go. But the basic idea is to set up an Afghan state.
MATTHEWS: Well, I guess, how can we know, if you are truly objective—there is such a person—is there any way you can tell whether a government will survive your departure?
MADDOW: No. There‘s no way to tell that until you go. And that‘s what you hear over and over and over again from the soldiers here and actually from the Afghans here that I‘ve talked to. I‘ve talked to a number of Afghan soldiers, Afghan policemen, as well as a lot of people in the U.S. military, and they all use different language, so it‘s not a talking point, but they all say the same thing. The Afghans say, Inshallah, we hope with God‘s help that we will be able to stand up, and the Americans say, We hope that the—that the Afghans will be able to stand up. But you really can‘t tell until you leave, but there is a cost of staying.
MATTHEWS: If we leave, and we will leave—as you know, politically, we have to leave at some point in the next year or whatever—will Karzai be a strong leader? Is he accepted, from what you can tell, as a leader?
MADDOW: It‘s really hard to tell. I mean, obviously in Kabul, where the NBC News bureau is, it‘s apparent that there is a real government, that there is a central government here. You go to Kandahar, and a lot of what you hear people talking about is setting up the subdistrict to the district and the district to the city and the city to the province. The idea of connecting the province of Kandahar to Kabul seems a little esoteric to me, I have to admit.
I mean, Kandahar and Kabul and there‘s the outlying areas—they‘ve always been somewhat connected. Afghanistan is a real country. It‘s not a figment of Western imagination. But the idea that he‘s going to have federal control over the entire country is something that would be historically unprecedented here. And I think if we‘re aiming for that as success, we‘re going to be probably left wanting.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you a moral question. This is a tough one. What right do we have as an outside force to decide which force in Afghanistan prevails? I mean, we may not like the Pashtun people, but they include a lot of Taliban. There‘s a lot of Taliban just decided to be Taliban, but they are Afghan. We‘re not. Why do the votes, if you will, of the people who are anti-Taliban count for more than those who are, in our judgment?
MADDOW: In our—we made that judgment after September 11, when transnational terrorists used the fact that there was a Taliban government here essentially as a pediment from which to launch those transnational attacks.
We made a decision that we were going to take an interest in who runs Afghanistan. And that‘s still nearly, 10 years later, the justification for what we‘re doing here. And you hear people hearken back to that. That‘s not something that‘s lost in the distance.
The problem is that—that there‘s an argument going on here for the Afghan people. There‘s an argument from the Taliban. There is something that they are offering. It‘s the same thing they were offering when they came to power in 1994: We are not corrupt, and we are of you.
The Afghan government, on the other hand, is offering: Yes, we‘re sort of corrupt, but wouldn‘t you rather have us than the Taliban because the Taliban are really brutal?
It‘s a pretty bad argument to be in the middle of, especially if you‘re out in the countryside and your only relationship with the Afghan government is a policeman. And, traditionally, policeman in this country for hundreds of years have essentially just been bribe-takers, just operating toll booths, where they take money and prey on the population.
So, there is this argument going on. And we are trying to weigh in on the side of the government forces. But it‘s up to Afghans who they choose. And we can‘t stay forever and make that decision for them. We can‘t occupy this country, not only financially and politically, because it wouldn‘t work. The longer we stay, the weaker the Afghan government is.
You‘re not from the “Rolling Stone,” but you are from MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: What has it been like, as you shuck and jive, hang out with the men over there, the women over there, in uniform risking their lives every day? How is the reaction to you, Rachel Maddow?
MADDOW: You know, Chris, it‘s not what I expected. I expected people to be, frankly, more cagey. I—I know—I both know Michael Hastings—he‘s been a friend of mine for a very long time—and I talked to a lot of people in the military between the time when Michael Hastings‘ article came out and I got over here.
And because of all that, I thought that people were going to be very cagey. Listen, I‘m definitely getting—I‘m getting a line from the military, particularly from senior people, about how they want to be represented over here. They are very media-savvy here. And I know, in some cases, I‘m being shown to the right people and made the right argument -- having the right arguments made to me in order to make their case.
But they are also letting me talk to whoever I want. I‘m allowed to choose the soldiers that I‘m talking to. I‘m allowed to sort of interact with people freely. And they are letting me talk to a lot of Afghans with Afghan translators. And so that, to me, is much more access than I expected.
I‘m a newbie here. I‘m totally relying on the awesome folks from NBC News, who are much more experienced, who are sort of showing me the ropes here. But I do feel like I have been able to ask the questions I want to ask.
MATTHEWS: Well, there‘s something wonderfully appropriate about you being over there. I see you. I will now ask you some personal questions.
What‘s the weather like? What‘s it like walking around with a khaki shirt on, sort of like Walter Cronkite back in World War II, you know, Ernie Pyle style? What‘s that all feel like?
MADDOW: You know, it‘s—it‘s—one of the things that‘s funny here is—is gender, right? When you‘re out on the streets of Kabul, you‘re out on the streets of Kandahar City, you see women in burqas, or at least covered up. In Kandahar City, it‘s definitely women in burqas.
And here‘s me, this giant American, 6 feet tall, with bad posture, and I sort of look like a guy anyway. And I‘m covered up, and I‘m in the middle here. And nobody—I—I definitely feel like I‘m trying to be respectful, and there‘s nothing I can do to not seem like a Martian.
MADDOW: So, there‘s a certain level of just personal embarrassment at sticking out like a sore thumb everywhere I go.
On the other hand, it is humbling, and it takes away some of my self-consciousness to just be allowed to be here. It‘s really expensive to send somebody from the states and a news crew over here to cover this. And it‘s a real honor to be able to see that—what our troops are doing up close.
They are working so hard in, you know, in 120-degree heat in Kandahar. It‘s—I can‘t understand how you do it if you‘re a Kandahari and you have grown up in it, and you wear traditional dress. But, if you‘re an American who hasn‘t grown up in it, and you‘re wearing a flak jacket and all of your gear and a helmet and carrying a machine gun, and you‘re out in it all day, and that‘s your job, it‘s humbling to even be allowed to be around these folks, let alone to ask them questions and have them spend time with me.
It‘s just—it‘s stripping away not only that embarrassment, but also any—any ego I ever brought with me.
Now to the hard, last, objective, tough question. It‘s July 2010.
MATTHEWS: President Barack Obama, we assume, will run for reelection, I do. You do, I think. He will run for reelection in 2012. It seems to me he will have to have shown progress over there, certainly in terms of his ability to take us out of there eventually.
Do you have a sense of the clock, of the calendar over there? Is it manifest around you that we‘re not staying indefinitely, there is a duration to this war, it probably has something to do with 2012? What‘s your sense of that, putting it all together, as you have been able to do?
MADDOW: You know, it‘s—the thing that seems much more clear over here than it did at home before I got here is the difference between the sort of nation-building, state-building training side of this and combat.
I think that what Americans are really upset about when we look at this war, the thing that I‘m upset about when I look at this war, especially from home, is the human cost and the length of our engagement here.
And if our combat mission is minimized or eliminated as of next year, if we start to draw down to a point where we‘re not fighting orchard to orchard, house to house, street to street, and, instead, we‘re involved in some sort of ongoing training mission to stand up the Afghan government, I think the political cost of this—just like the political cost of Iraq has drained away as our mission there has changed, I think the politics of this will change, too.
MATTHEWS: So, it won‘t be so high a price if we still have a substantial complement of troops there as the president faces reelection.
And I know you have a lot of supporters and viewers on the political or progressive side of things, the left. Do you think they will take that, if it‘s a different mode of role over here—over there?
MADDOW: I—I think that Americans left, right, and center don‘t want to see Americans getting killed for a cause that we don‘t understand.
I think the troops here, the military here, and the—actually, the civilian folks over here want America to understand what the role is here, what Americans are in danger for here. I think that‘s—that—that transcends all—all political boundaries.
I think, in—in political terms, honestly, if Americans aren‘t dying here, the presence of Americans here in order to try to stand up an Afghan government against the Taliban is not something that is going to hurt politically, or hurt morally, or hurt just emotionally as much as—as much as having our troops in combat does.
Thank you very much, my—well, I‘m proud to say, my colleague, Rachel Maddow.
Watch “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” tonight live from Afghanistan at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
Up next: A Democrat running for governor in his state says his state has become a laughing stock because his legislature is busy passing bills about—catch this—microchips in people‘s brains and seceding from the union. You can probably guess which set of states this might apply to. That‘s ahead in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL, and time for the “Sideshow.”
South Carolina‘s come-out-of-nowhere Senate candidate, Democrat Alvin Greene, has told the British newspaper “The Guardian” that he has a plan to create jobs for his state—quote—“Another thing we can do for jobs is make toys of me, especially for the holidays, little dolls, me, like maybe little action dolls, me in the Army uniform, Air Force uniform, and me in my suit. They can make toys of me and my vehicle, especially for the holidays and Christmas, for the kids. That‘s something that would create jobs.”
Well, this is apparently on the level. Mr. Greene actually said this to this newspaper.
Moving over to Georgia, Democratic candidate for governor Roy Barnes has a message for his state‘s Republican-led legislature. Stop with the crazy stuff. Check out his new ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ROY BARNES CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: A governor can create jobs by selling the advantages of Georgia to firms looking for a home, but it‘s hard for industry to take us seriously when the legislature attempts to outlaw stem cell research, passes bill about microchips in the brain, and talks about seceding from the union?
ROY BARNES (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: We can‘t bring jobs to Georgia with the rest of the country laughing at us. I will make Georgia work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s a novel approach. It sounds like Governor Roy Barnes is playing to the sane voter.
Scheduling note: I will be speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library out in California, Simi Valley, California, on Tuesday, July 20. That‘s about two weeks from now. For more information, go to the reaganlibrary.com. That‘s going to be an exciting night.
Up next: immigration politics—our strategists on how both parties will try to use the Arizona law and the issue of illegal immigration to win votes this November.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
JANE WELLS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Jane Wells with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks looking strong out of the gate and sprinting to the finish—the Dow Jones industrials rallying nearly 275 points, the S&P 500 jumping 32, and the Nasdaq soaring more than 65 points. We‘re really looking at a broad-based rally, all 30 Dow components finishing higher today, but analysts say this isn‘t about a big shift in thinking about the economy, more like big-time bargain-hunting in what some consider an oversold market.
Three items helping lift the financial sector today—first, a solid earnings outlook from State Street Bank, second, only a trickle of new information about those European bank stress tests, and the less we hear from Europe, the better, and, third, a report card showing bank card delinquencies falling to their lowest level in eight years.
Tech stocks getting a boost from chipmakers. Global sales are skyrocketing, smashing records with every monthly report, and retailers even clawing back a bit after taking a pounding on Tuesday, ahead of June sales numbers due out tomorrow.
And those are expected to be up about 3 percent. That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
If you had any doubt about it, politicians think the Arizona immigration issue has the power to move voters nationwide.
Just look at an excerpt from this ad for Nathan Deal. He‘s running to be Republican—he‘s a Republican candidate for Georgia governor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NATHAN DEAL CAMPAIGN AD)
NATHAN DEAL ®, GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Liberals won‘t like it when I empower local law enforcement to help deport illegal aliens, but it must be done, because the federal government has failed to secure our borders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And, in a written statement, he challenged the president, President Barack Obama—quote—“We‘re outraged that the Obama administration‘s answer is to sue a state”—that‘s Arizona—“that‘s trying to enforce the law. Well, I have a message for the president. When I‘m governor, you can sue us, too, because, in Georgia, we believe in the rule of law, and we believe in protecting taxpayers.”
So, how will Republicans and Democrats make this issue work for them?
That‘s a question for our strategists, and I mean strategists.
MATTHEWS: Karen Finney is a Democratic strategist, an MSNBC contributor. She has also worked for Democratic groups to help them get their immigration line down. And Ted Harris—Todd Harris...
MATTHEWS: ... is a Republican strategist.
I don‘t know why I mispronounce your name all—buddy, but let‘s go to the toughest question of your life.
MATTHEWS: I‘m going to start with Todd because it‘s easy.
MATTHEWS: How is your side—how do you recommend your side use the Arizona issue—there, you have this tough new law on immigration. The president is suing to kill it. How do you recommend that your candidates nationwide exploit the hell out of this issue to win election this year?
TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think it‘s already happening.
MATTHEWS: It‘s not hard. This is an easy one.
HARRIS: I think it‘s already happening.
HARRIS: I mean, the fact is that—that this lawsuit from the Obama administration, I mean, this is like pouring blood into shark-infested waters as far as the Republican base and—and even most independents are concerned.
The fact is, in poll after poll in state after state, most voters believe that the United States should not be the one country in the world that doesn‘t enforce its immigration laws. This—this lawsuit fits the perfect stereotype of what most swing voters believe about this—the Obama administration, which is that this is a massive expansion and overreach of the federal government where it doesn‘t belong.
And so, you know, I think that this is going to backfire big-time.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to Karen on the question for you, just you.
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, sir.
MATTHEWS: How do you tell one of your Democratic candidates running for governor of California, for example, Jerry Brown or Barbara Boxer...
MATTHEWS: ... fighting for reelection in what could be a tough race, how do you tell them to win on this issue of illegal immigration, which everybody knows is rampant, of the Arizona law which everybody knows is pretty darn rough, everybody knows that, and the president having sued them to try to kill that law?
MATTHEWS: All three facts are on the table. We have got a lot of illegal immigration. We have got a very tough Arizona law. And the president has sued to kill that law.
How do you use those three facts to the advantage of a Democrat?
I think there are a couple of different things. First, on the issue of the lawsuit, the president had to bring a lawsuit against Arizona. We cannot—we simply—if you believe in the rule of law, which even this Republican gubernatorial candidate in Georgia says he does, you can‘t then say that the federal government shouldn‘t be enforcing its laws.
Preeminence is real. We can‘t have 50 states with 50 different laws and a patchwork of laws. And once you let one state go, how are we going to then justify letting other states either decide what they are going to choose to enforce, not enforce, pass laws, not pass?
You can‘t have that. So, just basically on that fact, that was an important thing for the administration to do. On the issue of immigration, though, Democrats have said—and I think they should lean into this a lot harder than they have been—we agree. We know that the immigration system is broken. What the president wants to do is actually fix that system.
Under Republican rule, we had eight years—George Bush couldn‘t get it done. Republicans couldn‘t get it done. And, in fact, a couple of important points: Under George Bush, when we had the McCain/Kennedy legislation, you had a bipartisan piece of legislation where you actually had Republicans who supported that legislation. You‘ve now actually got proposals on the table --
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: I know.
FINNEY: -- that are tougher than McCain/Kennedy and make more concessions to Republicans. That‘s some of the same Republicans now say that they oppose. So, that says to me, that‘s more about political posturing than actually getting something done.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s what I‘m asking you down here. I‘m asking you to posture politically. You missed the question.
MATTHEWS: You‘re telling me you‘re a goo-goo. And I never thought of you as a goo-goo before. I thought you were a political strategist. Give me the political strategy, not who‘s right and wrong. How does a Democrat win in a big state where illegal immigration is a hot issue? Tell me how to do it.
FINNEY: You go—you go to your voters and you say, I agree. The laws are broken. We need to fix our immigration system.
If you‘re Barbara Boxer or you‘re Harry Reid, you can say, and you know what, I‘ve been ready to be a part of fixing this problem for years, and it‘s actually the Republicans who have stood in the way of progress in getting this done. That‘s what you say. And you talk about the facts that, yes, we can all agree that we have got to secure our borders. President Obama has put more troops on the borders—
FINNEY: -- than we‘ve ever had before.
And I think it‘s fair to talk about—again, as President Obama did last week in terms of the responsibility and the accountability frames—about the responsibility and accountability of people who hire illegal immigrants and needing to hold those people accountable.
MATTHEWS: OK. On that question—
FINNEY: And the reality, though, Chris, you‘ve got 12 million people here. There‘s a practical reality about what we‘re going to do with them.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me give you a practical question, one answer, yes or no. Should this compromise the Democrats‘ push for include a checkable I.D. card? Yes or no?
MATTHEWS: That is exactly the problem.
MATTHEWS: Todd, your witness. That is exactly why the Democrats are not going to win on this issue. No guts, no cojones, no reasonable—if you‘re not for enforcement, should bartenders be allowed to check a person‘s I.D. card to check if they are 21? I‘m just asking. Or are they profiling the kid?
B: I didn‘t think so.
MATTHEWS: I‘m just asking. Should a bartender be allowed to ask a kid if they are 21 and look for I.D.? I‘m just asking, Karen.
FINNEY: They should, and, look, seriously on the issue—
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m asking seriously. I thought we were serious, I‘m sorry.
FINNEY: No, on the issue of identification, I‘m not uncomfortable with that. Some people are.
MATTHEWS: You are so—OK, Todd, that is the Democrats‘ problem. They don‘t want enforcement. If they wanted enforcement they‘d say that minimally.
FINNEY: That‘s not true. Wait a second. How can you say Democrats aren‘t for enforcement—
MATTHEWS: You just said you weren‘t.
FINNEY: -- when we got a Democratic president who‘s actually put more troops on the border?
MATTHEWS: OK. Troops on the border, OK, Pat Buchanan, let me just say this—
FINNEY: Hey. That‘s what your boy is always advocating.
MATTHEWS: You know that the border is so wide and so porous and you can get here by a boat or plane or something else, and if you and I wanted to get here, we‘d be coming here through Canada. So, let‘s not kid ourselves. The border is a joke.
The issue was: why does a person come here? They come here because they wanted a job. As long as it‘s a legal job, fine. If it‘s an illegal job, somebody should do something about it, and you don‘t want to do anything about it.
FINNEY: But, you know, Chris, actually, I think—
MATTHEWS: See, blah, blah, blah, blah. You don‘t want to do anything about it.
Anyway, Todd, you‘re for an I.D. card here. I maybe honest here. I want to move on here.
Todd, you‘re for an I.D. card, aren‘t you, for employers?
TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, I personally have—I personally have no problem.
MATTHEWS: Personally have no problem.
FINNEY: That‘s exactly what I said.
MATTHEWS: Never mind, I think I‘m in romper room here.
Come on, let‘s go on to the second question. The California race is very close, Karen—really close, between businesswoman and very successful businesswoman Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown, who was governor back when he was like 13 years old, OK? That‘s a really tough race.
How‘s that—how do the Democrats win that race? What‘s Jerry Brown have to do?
FINNEY: You know, Jerry Brown actually was a very popular governor. I lived in California when he was governor, and so, he‘s actually got, you know—she‘s got a lot more money than him and she‘s only been able to pull even. So, I think that suggests for Jerry Brown: “A,” I would use that issue to raise money. The fact that she‘s got so much more money than him, use that to your advantage to actually raise some money and then, frankly, he‘s got to get out there and he‘s going to have to pick up a strong bit of support from the African-American community and the Hispanic community.
But the other polls show that actually he is leading her in this sort of the middle-of-the-road voters. So, he‘s got to keep that lead.
MATTHEWS: OK. I notice that had Meg Whitman has come out against the Arizona law, Todd?
HARRIS: Yes. She‘s been against it from the beginning, and she actually was also opposed to Proposition 187, which has opened her—opened up a lot of doors for her in terms of the California Hispanic community right now.
MATTHEWS: So she‘s smart to get out of the middle of this. Not to go right.
HARRIS: Hold on. Hold it.
MATTHEWS: OK. We‘ve got to go. Thank you.
Karen, we‘ve got to go. Karen Finney, I know where you stand on I.D. cards.
Todd, you, too.
You‘re both wimps.
And Jerry Brown will be our guest on HARDBALL this Friday.
Up next: Is President Obama acting like a one-term president?
There‘s a little bit of a premise we‘ve been working on and it is
interesting. He seems to be pushing for big issues that will not get him
re-elected, that will cost him re-election. So, what‘s he really up to?
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We got an update on Robert Byrd‘s Senate seat in West Virginia. Governor Joe Manchin said today he‘d prefer the state to hold a special election to fill Byrd‘s seat this November, adding that he‘d be highly interested in running for Byrd‘s seat if there is a special election. But Manchin once again ruled out appointing himself to the job as some labor and business groups have been pushing him to do.
I‘d say that‘s a smart refusal. Byrd‘s seat expires in 2012. Right now, the state attorney general is exploring whether a special election could legally be held.
HARDBALL—back in a minute.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The sky is the limit here.
I think 2010 is going to be a phenomenal year for the conservative cause.
And I think Barack Obama is a one-term president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We‘re back.
Boy, that‘s, of course, former Vice President Dick Cheney threatening back in February. Whether or not Cheney‘s hope comes true, is President Obama actually behaving like a president, more interested in getting certain big historic things done than getting himself re-elected, more like governing rather than re-electing himself.
“Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst. And Joan Walsh is editor-in-chief of Salon.com.
Let‘s watch the president himself speaking, perhaps he‘s more authoritative on this question. On this whole notion of being sort of a guy or president who‘s willing to take those chances that a guy who‘s not seeking reelection might take.
Here he is with Diane Sawyer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The one thing I‘m
clear about is that I‘d rather be a really good one-term president than a
mediocre two-term president and I—I believe that. There‘s a tendency in
Washington to think that our job description of elected officials is to get
re-elected. That‘s not our job description. Our job description is to
solve problems and to help people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I want to start with Joan on that.
Joan, I don‘t know whether that was him putting himself on too high a pedestal or what, but to say that you‘re willing to risk re-election in the interest of your agenda is certainly noble.
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: It‘s noble. I don‘t believe it for a minute, but it would be noble if it were true.
You know, Chris, I think the best sign that he is looking to be re-elected—and look, I would like to see him be re-elected. I‘m not tearing the president down here.
But I am concerned about one thing, there‘s one area where he‘s putting his own re-election, I believe, ahead of the country‘s best interests. And that‘s on the issue of economic recovery and the deficit. He has turned into something of a deficit—not a hawk—but a worrier. And, you know, David Axelrod, his political genius, said something very interesting to “The New York Times” last weekend. He said he‘s concerned about the deficit because his job is to check the political mood and the voters are concerned.
First of all, that‘s not true. The deficit ranks about number five in terms of voter concern. They‘re much more concerned about jobs.
And, secondly, I don‘t care about voter mood on a certain level. This economic recovery is very, very unstable. It—we could—we could seriously go backwards.
So the president focusing on the deficit? That‘s politics. That‘s not policy and it worries me. It bothers me.
MATTHEWS: Well, Howard, go ahead. Your thoughts initially.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, my thought, initially, is that in Barack Obama‘s mind, there‘s kind of a Zen to this.
The way to get re-elected is to behave like you don‘t care about getting
I think he cares about history. I think he and David Axelrod shaped the Obama candidacy in 2008 on the theme of making history. The day that we were—the change that we were waiting for that Obama himself embodied something historic which he clearly did. And I think in a lot of his decisions, he‘s been aiming for history with sweeping health care proposals, with sweeping financial regulatory proposals, still wanting to try immigration big-time, still wanting to try on energy, comprehensively.
These are the marks of a guy who I think wants in the summer of 2012 to say, we have made history and we need to go forward and make more.
Joan has a very good point though. These are affirmative things that Obama in a way has chosen to do. Presidents don‘t determine their own agenda. He‘s got an economy that continues to smack him in the face. And even while he has this grand idea about making history and wants to sell himself on that basis, he‘s going to be judged by the way is he handles much more prosaic things like the economy.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go through all three, the big ones coming up.
Joan, you first. And I want to run through these.
MATTHEWS: Tell me how you‘re going to read these to see whether he‘s serious about getting re-elected or serious about making history. If he lets the Bush tax cuts elapse, if he does that at the end of six months now—is that a sign to you that he‘s really a gutsy progressive and he doesn‘t care if he gets re-elected or not?
WALSH: I think he knows that‘s good politics and good policy.
MATTHEWS: Really? OK. So, that doesn‘t tell you either way.
Howard, if he lets those tax cuts elapse, would that tell you anywhere whether he‘s a serious re-election power or a serious history-maker.
FINEMAN: Well, if he lets them lapse all the way, of course, what he‘s going to do is something in between. But if he lets them lapse all the way, I think for sure, he‘s saying that we‘re going to rethink and reorder the way government works here. That‘s how I make history. That‘s how we move forward.
MATTHEWS: OK. If he goes was immigration and really sticks it and says we‘re going to let those people stay here and takes the progressive issue and fights for it, even if he fails—Joan, does that say he‘s heading for history or what‘s that tell you?
WALSH: Man, these are tough questions because there‘s such a great political upside to him saying that and that is the Latino vote, you know? And I saw Karen Finney, my friend, kind of squirm around on this. But, you know, again, he could be doing good politics and also believe he‘s doing good policy, and it adds up to the same thing. I don‘t mean to be wishy-washy here.
MATTHEWS: No, I know it‘s a tough one. That‘s why I‘m asking the heavyweights.
Number three, Howard, the big one, energy. If he includes something on climate change, does that show he‘s damn well serious about serious history-making and willing to make some enemies on the right? Climate—stick to the word climate, don‘t just say energy.
FINEMAN: In interviewing Lindsey Graham the other week, the Republican, he said, we‘ve got to get the climate change out and just talk about, you know, energy production. If Obama says, to heck with that, we‘re talking about a big global thing here, because that‘s the thing with Obama.
FINEMAN: Not just history—
MATTHEWS: That‘s it.
FINEMAN: -- but global.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
FINEMAN: Then you know.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. I went to the heavyweights for the toughest questions. We‘re going to keep asking: is this guy serious or not?
Thank you, Howard Fineman.
Thank you, Joan Walsh.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish with two types of people in this country right now: those who want things to improve and those who just want them to get bad so Obama goes down.
You‘re watching HARDBALL—only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with those classic two kinds of people.
There‘s two kinds of people in this country right now: the ones who want things to get better in this country. They want to plug the oil spill down at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. They want the American economy to take off and start producing jobs. They want Congress and the president to get it done on immigration—stop the illegal entry into the country, really stop it, while letting people who‘ve been here work their way to citizenship.
Then there are people who want it all to go bad. They may not be willing to admit it, even to themselves, but they like this destruction of the Gulf. They‘re not going to admit that. But they do like the horror of it, the chaos, the anger it‘s causing. They love the civil discord.
Same with unemployment—they may not admit they love the shame and sadness of hard-up families, but they love the anger, the grief. And going to the day‘s headlines, they love the failure of this government to get its act together and stop illegal immigration because it‘s driving up opposition to this administration and—let‘s face it—the government itself.
So, there it is and here we are. From now to November, one question: do you want things to go well in this country, perhaps in the process benefit the president‘s party, or are you willing to see mayhem in this land, the land we love, horror and certainly pain in order to have the opposition win another dozen seats in the House of Representatives?
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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