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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Monday, July 26th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Chellie Pingree, Jim McGovern, Paul Ryan, Joseph Crowley, David
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The Afghanistan papers.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight:
Why are we in Afghanistan?  The war was already losing public support, and Democratic votes in Congress were getting harder to come by.  And then along comes today‘s bombshell, the release of tens of thousands of classified, on-the-ground reports on the war.  The Afghanistan papers contain evidence that the Pakistani intelligence service and military encourage and support attacks on Afghan and American forces.  My question:
Will President Obama‘s Democratic base rebel against the war he has made his own?
Also, should affirmative action programs be ended?  Democratic senator Jim Webb basically says yes because they discriminate, he says, against poor whites.  We‘ll debate that one.
Plus, the tax debate.  It comes down to this.  Democrats will argue that Republicans want to protect the rich.  Republicans will argue Democrats just want to raise taxes.  We‘ll have that one out here.
And don‘t meet the press.  Remember this bit of video of Senate candidate Sharron Angle running away from reporters?  Well, she‘s not alone.  Why are so many Republicans, tea party people especially, running away from reporters?  They can run, they can hide.  Can they win?
And you have to love this.  Tea party favorite Ken Buck out in Colorado calls birthers “dumbasses.”  And it was recorded.  Wow.  That‘s in the “Sideshow.”
We start with the leak of documents about the war in Afghanistan.  Congressman Chellie Pingree is a Democrat from Maine who sits on the Armed Services Committee, and Congressman Jim McGovern is a Democrat from Massachusetts.
Congresswoman Pingree, let me ask you this.  Knowing what you‘ve learned today in the paper, this huge story by “The New York Times,” picked up by other papers, where do you stand on Afghanistan and our continued war there?
REP. CHELLIE PINGREE (D-ME), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:  Oh, I oppose the war in Afghanistan.  I opposed it before we got into there.  I oppose continued funding for it.  And the fact is, a lot of things we‘re reading about today many of us knew about before, we‘ve been hearing about.  But this only reinforces how badly things are going, how much information people need to have about this war, and frankly, for my constituents, how upset people are about $7 billion a month we continue to spend in what seems to be a continuing failed effort.
MATTHEWS:  Jim McGovern, Congressman, my question here—and this is a nasty question, but I think it‘s at the heart of this report today.  You know, we keep being told we‘re fighting for Afghanistan to save Pakistan.  Now we find out that Pakistan is fighting us and killing our guys in Afghanistan.  That‘s a revolting development.
REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Oh, lookit, the documents that were released paint a very grim picture.  And our men and women who are fighting this battle are doing an incredible job, but what is clear is that they have no reliable partners.  They can‘t trust the government of Afghanistan because Karzai‘s corrupt.  They can‘t trust the Afghan police or the Afghan military because they‘re corrupt.  And now we have, you know, news that the Pakistani intelligence are working to undercut the American men and women we‘re putting in harm‘s way.  This is an outrage.  And quite frankly, it should cause members of Congress to start asking some of the tough questions.
MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s go to “The Times” reporting.  According to “The New York Times,” the documents charge that Pakistan‘s intelligence service, the ISI, helped coordinate Taliban offensives against American forces in Afghanistan.
Quote, “On June 19, 2006, ISI operatives allegedly met with the Taliban leaders in Quetta.  At the meeting, according to the report, they pressed the Taliban to mount attacks on Maroof (ph), a district of Kandahar.  The planned offensive would be carried out primarily by Arabs and Pakistanis.  The foreigners agreed to this operation and have assembled 20 four-by-four trucks to carry the fighters into the areas in question, the report said.  While the specifics about the foreign fighters and the ISI are difficult to verify, the Taliban did indeed mount an offensive to seize control in Maroof in 2006.”
Congressman Pingree, this question.  We‘re there to defend Iraq—I mean Afghanistan, in order to prevent the overthrow of the Pakistani government.  Who do we trust in this environment, where the Pakistani intelligence services are seen here helping to kill Americans who are trying to save Pakistan?
PINGREE:  Well, you‘re right.  I mean, we‘ve had a lot of distrust of Pakistan all along, but many of these things that we‘re reading about today only confirm it.  Congressman McGovern mentioned, you know, we just continue to put our soldiers in harm‘s way.  There is no way they can trust many of the people around them and we‘re not having successes.
You know, I read in the paper, and I know from being in the Armed Services Committee, we spend a billion dollars a year in supporting Pakistan.  And I know that shouldn‘t seem like a lot, given that we‘re spending $7 billion a month on this whole effort.  But the fact is, we trust them.  We need them in this effort, and they‘re not necessarily on our side and it‘s costing us a lot of money.
I mean, frankly, I just don‘t understand why more members of Congress aren‘t voting to stop the funding for this war because when I‘m back home, I hear from my constituents they don‘t think we‘re winning.  They don‘t understand why we‘re continuing the effort, and they want to see some end to this conflict.
MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s go back to Congressman McGovern and then back to you for the political question.  It‘s not political, it‘s policy.  Should the Democratic Party, which is generally skeptical about overseas adventures, about overextension of the U.S., some might say neo-imperial designs on the world, on the left—is the Democratic Party in its heart for this war in Afghanistan, Congressman McGovern?
MCGOVERN:  I don‘t believe it is.
MATTHEWS:  On the Hill?
MCGOVERN:  I don‘t believe a majority of Democrats are.  We had 60 percent of the Democratic caucus vote with me on an amendment essentially calling for the formulation of an exit strategy in Afghanistan.  And the Speaker of the House, who traditionally doesn‘t vote, actually voted with us.  So the majority of the Democratic Party wants us to figure out a way to get out of this thing.
We‘ve been there for almost 10 years.  We have lost thousands of brave men and women.  We have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on supporting a corrupt government and nation-building over in Afghanistan when, quite frankly, we should be doing some more nation-building here in the United States.
MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at another document before we go back to Congresswoman Pingree.  One document from September 2007, three years ago, discloses how Afghan district officials made brutal assessments of the Afghan government to American civil affairs officers.
The report says, quote, “The people of Afghanistan keep losing their trust in the government because of the high amount of corrupted government officials.  The general view of the Afghans is that the current government over there is worse than the Taliban.  The oldest member of the Afghan group told the civil affairs team, quote, ‘The corrupted government officials are a new concept brought to Afghanistan by the Americans,‘” close quote.  I don‘t know if I believe that.  “And a civil affairs officer wrote the report warned, quote, “The people will support the anti-coalition forces, and the security condition will deteriorate.”
I guess that‘s the question.  But you know, it seems to me, Congresswoman, that we‘ve got a problem.  We went over there, according to the neocons, to extend democracy.  We‘re defending a defeated government in Iraq.  We‘re supporting a defeated government in Afghanistan.  I noticed the neocons have stopped saying that one of the reasons we‘re over there now is to extend democracy, since we‘re backing two people that lost elections and are both accused of being, well, in this case certainly, corrupt.
But do you buy the argument in this report that Americans corrupted Afghanistan, or they just have a history of it and we joined it?
MCGOVERN:  I‘m not sure I believe that we corrupted Afghanistan.  I think that you‘re right, this is a government that was corrupt.  We haven‘t been able to improve it, as you mention.  Many Afghanis feel that they‘re actually safer with the Taliban, which is a crazy notion when you‘ve given how much time and money that we‘ve spent there.
And I just have to continue to say if we don‘t have a democracy that we‘re working with, if we can‘t succeed with our efforts—Congressman McGovern mentioned the fact that we are democracy-building over there.  I mean, we‘re nation-building, as well as democracy-building.  We can‘t afford that level of investment there when we need it here.
I just don‘t see any signs that things are improving.  And so many of these documents showed how vulnerable our soldiers are.  You know, many of us in Congress, we make the phone calls, we go to the funerals for our soldiers who don‘t come back.  It‘s hard to keep telling families that this is an effort that they should be participating in.
The fact is—you mentioned it—we don‘t hear that much from the Republicans anymore about the importance of this effort.  I think they‘re backing down because they‘re hearing the same things.  Many of us wanted to give the president a chance.  You know, he took over a very tough situation, and we‘ve done our best to be there and be supportive.  But I haven‘t been able to vote for this, and I don‘t think I can in the future.
MATTHEWS:  What do you make of people who charge that this is a—well, it‘s what we call disloyal to our country to release this report by “The Times”?  Where are you on that?
PINGREE:  Well, you know...
MATTHEWS:  All this information about our problem over there.
PINGREE:  You know, this information was going to come out.  It‘s generally known.  Look, we read some of this stuff in “Rolling Stone.”  We hear it from our own military.  I think “The Times” was very careful in trying to protect those people who could be vulnerable in these situations.  But this is the information you have to have when you‘re making tough decisions.  This is exactly what Congress should be debating.
MATTHEWS:  Congressman McGovern, let me ask you the toughest question
in the world that I can think of.  It‘s bugging me, as a person watching
this.  If we get out of Afghanistan, and we may well do it under this
administration starting next July, according to this timetable—we might
what does that say about the chances of al Qaeda coming back in there?

MCGOVERN:  Well, nobody‘s saying we should take our eyes off al Qaeda.  I mean, in fact, to the contrary, what I‘m arguing is that us being bogged down in Afghanistan, doing nation-building there, is taking our resources and out eyes off of the enemy.  We want to go after those who were responsible for September 11 and hold them accountable, but they‘re no longer in Afghanistan.  We need to go wherever they are.
MCGOVERN:  And if they come back to Afghanistan, we go back.  But you know, I will say one thing, Chris.  There‘s nothing wrong with a little sunshine.  These documents have kind of exposed the truth, and Congress needs to deal with them.
MATTHEWS:  Are you afraid of the old tag, Who lost Afghanistan, from
the right?  If we pull out and Afghanistan goes back to the Taliban, which
it could well do, and could offer sanctuary to al Qaeda like it did before
Congresswoman, let me ask you first, and it‘s a tough one.  Are you willing to take the heat as a Democrat for having let that happen?

PINGREE:  Absolutely, at this point.  I mean, after the longest war we‘ve been in and no signs of success, I‘d be happy to (INAUDIBLE) soldiers, You can return home.  You can be safe.  We‘ll go back if we have to.  But we need to put our eye on a lot of other places right now that could be danger zones.  And I think this just is not succeeding, and this information only reinforces that more.  Look, we got to—we got to do those tough things in Congress.  That‘s why we‘re here.
MATTHEWS:  Congressman McGovern, same question to you.  Will you take the heat?  Will the president take the heat from the right?  And it will come.  You Democrats cost us Afghanistan by pulling the plug on this.
MCGOVERN:  The Taliban are awful, rotten people.  But there are a lot of awful, rotten people all over the world.  We can‘t occupy every country.  But here‘s my hope.  If we can set a timeline, if we can set an exit strategy, then that will put pressure on the Afghan government to either step up or not.  You know, the responsibility lies with the Afghan government.  We have been there for almost 10 years.  We have spent hundreds of billions of dollars.  We‘ve lost thousands of our soldiers.  Are we going to be there forever?  That‘s the question.  We can‘t afford to do so.  We‘re going bankrupt.
MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Congressman McGovern.  Thank you, Congresswoman Pingree of Maine.
Coming up: Should Affirmative Action programs be shut down—how‘s that for a question? -- shut down because they discriminate against whites?  That debate is coming up next because Senator Jim Webb of Virginia wants to do just that, and he‘s a Democrat.
HARDBALL, after this.
MATTHEWS:  Well, Democrats may have caught a break in Colorado.  Former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo announced today he will run for governor there as an independent.  That would likely split the conservative vote and hand the race to Denver mayor John Hickelenlooper, the Democratic nominee for governor.  Tancredo says he believes the two scandal-ridden Republicans running for governor are not strong enough to win in November.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  On Friday, Democratic senator Jim Webb of Virginia tackled Affirmative Action in “The Wall Street Journal.”  Senator Webb wrote, quote, “Those who came to this country in recent decades from Asia, Latin America and Africa do not suffer discrimination from our government, and in fact, have frequently been the beneficiaries of special government programs.  The same cannot be said of many hard-working white Americans, including those whose roots in America go back more than 200 years.  Beyond our continuing obligation to assist those African-Americans still in need, government-directed diversity programs should end.”
Is Senator Webb right?  MSNBC‘s analyst—political analyst Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Washington Post.”  And Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst, and very important figure in American life, I should say.
Pat, let me start with you and this question.  I‘m not even sure, since this subject has only been brought up today, over the weekend...
MATTHEWS:  ... how much is left of Affirmative Action in terms of—I know schools, private schools look for diversity because they think it helps all their students.  What‘s left that bothers you in terms of Affirmative Action, that you think...
MATTHEWS:  ... should be gotten rid of, along with, apparently, Jim Webb, who wants—the Virginia senator—wants to get rid of?  What‘s left as a remnant of Affirmative Action you want to see gone?
BUCHANAN:  Well, there‘s an enormous amount of it in the federal government and the federal workforce.  I‘ve been looking at that as part of a book.  But Chris, let me say this.  Jim Webb‘s point is important and courageous.  What he‘s saying is, Don‘t treat white America as a monolith.  The folks he came from Scots-Irish Southerners, mostly Appalachia—those folks never benefited from the WASP ascendancy in Boston and New York.  They were the victims of that form of discrimination.  And they are today the victims of the form of discrimination practice and Affirmative Action, quotas, set-asides and things like that.
And ask yourself, Chris, what is the morality?  What is the justice of discriminating against Appalachian white folks, whose father may have fought in Vietnam, whose grandfather fought in World War II, in favor of folks, say, from El Salvador or from Ethiopia or from Asia, India, something like that, discriminating against them, when those newcomers never suffered under slavery, never suffered under Jim Crow.  They simply happen to be people of color who are here.
What is the argument for discriminating in favor of a person from Puerto Rico and against a person from Portugal?
MATTHEWS:  So I‘ll mark you down as having no problem with Affirmative Action for those who suffered under slavery.
BUCHANAN:  I think the original Affirmative Action thing to rectify the injustices of slavery and Jim Crow had a real moral argument behind them.  I don‘t understand the moral argument for discriminating against working-class folks from the South or from Appalachia or Tennessee who never had a break.
MATTHEWS:  Gene Robinson?
EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, Pat and I actually agree on one thing on Affirmative Action, which is that there was a moral argument behind the original intent of Affirmative Action, to rectify slavery and Jim Crow and hundreds of years of oppression.  But...
MATTHEWS:  Well, hundreds of years of free labor in America.
ROBINSON:  Well, exactly.  Now—now, I think it would come as a surprise to native Americans, to many Latinos, in fact, that as Senator Webb says, they‘ve never been discriminated against in this country.  I mean...
MATTHEWS:  But under the law?  Were they ever discriminated under the law?
ROBINSON:  It is—different.
MATTHEWS:  Like blacks were.
ROBINSON:  It is—it is different.  And...
MATTHEWS:  Blacks were legally held as prisoners and forced free labor.
ROBINSON:  Absolutely.  And I do think that‘s a different category.  In fact, I would take it further now because I think what‘s needed now is a concentrated program of Affirmative Action aimed specifically at the black lower class, specifically at that 33 percent to 40 percent of African-American...
MATTHEWS:  Who are children and grandchildren of slaves.
ROBINSON:  ... yes, and who have not made it into the middle class and for whom the gap between those who did not and those who did seems...
MATTHEWS:  Pat, are you against—I‘ve never noticed this from you, but I‘m not—I‘m not going to be tough on this because I think we‘re all growing in this question about where we‘re headed as a country into this century.
MATTHEWS:  Do you think it makes sense in the 21st century to do something like Gene says, a limited notion of Affirmative Action, not for everybody of color, everybody who‘s not white, but for those people who remain, and they are descendants of slaves...
MATTHEWS:  ... who‘ve moved to the Northern cities, in many cases, or are still stuck in the—or down in the cotton South or tobacco South...
MATTHEWS:  ... and who have suffered?  They‘re on the other side of the digital divide.  They haven‘t gotten the good schooling.  They haven‘t gotten the break into the high-tech society.  Do they deserve Affirmative Action?
BUCHANAN:  Well...
MATTHEWS:  I‘m listening to you.
BUCHANAN:  All right.  Let‘s—well, I would drop the idea of doing it by race.  There are folks in the South, there are folks all over this country who have suffered various kinds of discrimination and impairments and who probably need help, but why separate it out from race? 
Chris, you and I know Frank Ricky (ph) and his friends, those firefighters, they are not beneficiaries of some great WASP affirmative action in the old days.  Those guys were discriminated.  Their proud fathers probably fought in our wars. 
What is the justification for saying, well, because since your ancestors came from Italy, we‘re going to discriminate against you, and some fellow who may have just arrived here in the last 40 years, never knew Jim Crow, we‘re going to be discriminating against—for him because he‘s colored?  What is the moral argument for that? 
ROBINSON:  Well, I think you could have means testing, for example, and say the cutoff really is income. 
However, I do think the nation has a special obligation to African-Americans.  I do.  I think that moral obligation has not been fulfilled.  And I think—and so I guess I would differ with Pat on that question. 
BUCHANAN:  No, but, Gene, let me ask you this.
ROBINSON:  But I do think—but I do think, Pat, that you could make an argument in this day and age for means testing of affirmative action, so that, for example, the son or daughter of African-Americans who have reached the middle class or the upper class or whatever, I think, is perfectly justifiable to ask, as President Obama asks, but he never quite completes the sentence, should his daughters get any sort of special treatment? 
He asks that question.  He never quite answers it.  
MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to the red-hot issues, the working-class—black against the working-class white.  This is where it gets really hot.
The firefighter, the white firefighter who may be Italian or whatever ethnic group he is who has been busting his butt, staying up all night, passing the exams—he passed the exam.  The African-American guy doesn‘t.  What do we do?  Do we do it by diversity or by who passed the test?  What do we do?  That‘s where the tire hit the road.
BUCHANAN:  Chris, we go by the Olympic model, if you will. 
Look, if the top 10 slots in sprinters are all African-American guys, the top 10 guys in high jump and all the rest of it, and the top 10 guys who happen to be on the swimming team or on the hockey team are all white guys, let‘s go with the best.  Whoever wins in fair and free and equal competition, that is what America is all about, the Olympic model. 
MATTHEWS:  By the way, I think a lot of NBA teams carry white players.  Do you think so, Pat, just so they have some white players on the team?  I think they do.
BUCHANAN:  I don‘t know.  But the NFL is... 
BUCHANAN:  The NFL is two-thirds African-American, Chris, and that‘s as competitive as you get.
ROBINSON:  Steve Nash was MVP three years in a row.  He‘s the best point guard in the lead. 
MATTHEWS:  I didn‘t say Steve Nash.
ROBINSON:  Dirk Nowitzki is not bad. 
ROBINSON:  OK.  So, let‘s not dis on white players in the NBA. 
BUCHANAN:  I think Larry Bird got where he was because he was the best. 
ROBINSON:  The white players, they at least have got to be able to shoot.  OK.
BUCHANAN:  They can‘t jump, Gene.
MATTHEWS:  I‘m trying to shoot down—I‘m trying to make Pat‘s point here, which is quality and performance should not be the only standard—or should be.
ROBINSON:  Let me make Pat‘s point. 
In the firefighter case, was, OK, you have an exam.  And the question was, does the exam—is the exam itself discriminatory against a certain group?  And so if the instrument isn‘t perfect, then the result isn‘t perfect. 
MATTHEWS:  They will argue that it was.
BUCHANAN:  If it‘s a biased exam, I agree. 
ROBINSON:  Well, that was a finding.  And then there was a contrary finding.
BUCHANAN:  If it‘s a biased exam, I agree.
But, Chris, you know what the Southern coach said when he was asked how many black players he plays?  He three at home, four on the road, and five in the playoffs.  I think that‘s what...
MATTHEWS:  You play the best players when you have got to win.  That‘s very American. 
ROBINSON:  Pat, you are such an American realist.  And I say that with a certain degree of rue.
MATTHEWS:  You know who integrated at the ACC, when Charlie Scott when he started winning for UNC.  All of a sudden, everybody wanted to get into the act. 
MATTHEWS:  Here‘s Senator Webb.  Let‘s get back to the world besides sports. 
“Policy-makers ignored such disparities within America‘s white cultures when in advancing minority diversity programs they treated whites as a fungible monolith.  Also lost on these policy-makers—or policies—were the differences in economic and educational attainment among nonwhite cultures.  Thus nonwhite groups received special consideration in a wide variety of areas, including business startups”—these are set-asides—
“academic admissions, job promotions, and lucrative government contracts.”
Now, there he is get getting to the point here.  If an African-American family is well-off, should they get any affirmative action, Gene? 
MATTHEWS:  If they‘re well-off?
ROBINSON:  In this day and age, I say no.  I say take that aid, take the value of that aid and redirect it toward low-income African-Americans who need... 
MATTHEWS:  OK, Pat, where do you think this is taking us? 
I think that Jim Webb, who is a Democrat from Virginia, which is a traditional Southern state in many ways, conservative state in many ways, how is this going to advance the conversation?  You have already advanced it by saying you acknowledge that there was a merit, even if you didn‘t share the agreement with it... 
BUCHANAN:  Well, sure there is a moral argument. 
MATTHEWS:  ... for redressing the evils of slavery and Jim Crow.  Where are we going now in terms of affirmative action from the conservative point of view? 
BUCHANAN:  Well, here‘s what happened. 
In three states, big states, Michigan, California, and Washington, affirmative action was abolished by voter referendum.  If it is not abolished by voter referendum, and if the Supreme Court doesn‘t overturn it, Chris, I think we‘re headed for real racial, ethnic conflict, because the only folks now you can discriminate against are white males, because all of women get preferential treatment, et cetera. 
And they‘re only one-third of the population.  And they‘re diminishing.  And you know and I know from all our arguments in the last year there‘s a rising racial consciousness here.  I think Jim Webb is on the cutting edge of a huge national issue. 
MATTHEWS:  Well, we will see. 
Thank you, Gene.
ROBINSON:  Well...
MATTHEWS:  Do you have a final thought? 
ROBINSON:  Yes, just a final thought.  There‘s another question here, which is, this nation, as Pat pointed out, is becoming more diverse.  The leadership class of the nation had better be diverse as well.  That‘s what we‘re going to do best.
MATTHEWS:  That was one of the things I began to realize in college...
MATTHEWS:  And I was...
MATTHEWS:  ... Holy Cross, particularly...
MATTHEWS:  ... African-American kid, for that reason. 
BUCHANAN:  Chris, take a look at the limited diversity you now find in the Ivy League.  Robert Nayeli (ph), the scholar at Princeton, said no poor whites need apply, that there‘s discrimination against people, of Future Farmers of America, Junior ROTC.  Read his article, 2,500 words.  It‘s very dramatic, just hit a week ago. 
MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s all be positive on this.  It is a tricky subject, Pat.  Let‘s be positive.  I agree with you.
Thank you, Eugene Robinson. 
Thank you, Pat Buchanan. 
Coming up: another embarrassing dumbass.  I love this word this guy used caught on tape.  That‘s his quote, by the way, “dumbass.”  Here‘s a conservative trying to get the Tea Party vote by calling all birthers dumbasses.  Well, at least he calls one of them that.  That‘s next on the “Sideshow.” 
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  
MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.” 
First: pulling back the curtain.  Ken Buck, front-runner in next month‘s Republican primary for senator from Colorado, is counting on the backing of Tea Party folk.  But listen to him on this secret tape recording from a June campaign event.  Buck was speaking with a Democratic Party operative when he offered this less-than-flattering remark about birthers, those people who challenge that Barack Obama was born in the U.S.
KEN BUCK ®, COLORADO SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  Would you tell those dumbasses at the Tea Party to stop asking questions about birth certificates while I‘m on the camera?
BUCK:  What am I supposed to do?
MATTHEWS:  Dumbasses.”
MATTHEWS:  Anyway, caught making fun of voters he needs next month, Buck, through a spokesman, tried damage control today, saying something about not using appropriate language or whatever.  He did not deny that he had dumped on the birthers.  And he did not retract what he thought of their open and relentless skepticism about Obama‘s Americanism?
Speaking of catering to the right wing, or not, what‘s with all this secession talk.  Tennessee‘s Zach Wamp, Republican candidate for governor, was the latest to join the chorus when he suggested last Friday that states could and would secede from the union over the new health care mandates—quote—“I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government.”
Well, things got a little too hot for Wamp.  He backtracked a just a after—a day later from the secessionist nonsense, saying—quote—
“When I‘m governor of Tennessee, of course we will not secede from the union, but we will also not have a governor who will cave into Barack Obama.  We are going to be a proud partner as a member of the United States, but there needs too be a conflict between the states and the federal government.”
What does that mean, that there needs to be conflict between the states and the federal government?  What is this all about this secessionist nonsense?
Finally, not everyone is a fan of MTV‘s reality show “Jersey Shore.”
Here‘s Governor Chris Christie yesterday on ABC‘s “This Week.” 
JAKE TAPPER, HOST:  MTV‘s “Jersey Shore,” positive for New Jersey or negative?
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY:  Negative for New Jersey, I mean, because it—what it does is it takes a bunch of New Yorkers, who are—most of the people on “Jersey Shore” are New Yorkers—takes a bunch of New Yorkers, drops them at the Jersey shore, and tries to make America feel like this is New Jersey.
I could tell people, they want to know what New Jersey really is?  I welcome them to come to New Jersey any time.  The Jersey shore is a beautiful place, and it‘s a place that everybody should come on vacation this summer.  We‘ve got another six weeks or so of summer left.  Come to New Jersey.
MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m with him.  I spent my summers growing on the Jersey Shore, Ocean City, to be precise, and loved it. 
Up next:  Should the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire at the end of this year?  Democrats say yes.  Republicans say no.  That‘s the hot one.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
An impressive late-day rally pushing the Dow back into positive territory for the year.  The Dow Jones industrials climbing 100 points.  The S&P 500 up 12 points, and Nasdaq finishing nearly 27 points higher.
Investors looking for glimmers of economic optimism and finding them as earnings season rolls on.  Federal Express raising its outlook today, citing higher-than-expected volume.  The economic bellwether is also raising its earnings forecast by an impressive 20 cents a share and reinstating 401(k) matching plans beginning in January, all signs of growing confidence in the recovery. 
In economic news, home sales rebounded strongly in June, up 23 percent from May‘s record low.  Homebuilders rallying sharply on that news, with Beazer and Hovnanian shares soaring more than 6 percent. 
But Apple shares finished flat, after losing a bit to make hacking an iPhone classified as a crime other than copyright infringement. 
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
TIMOTHY GEITHNER, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY:  The responsible thing for the country now is to make sure we leave in place and preserve tax cuts that go to more than 95 percent of working Americans and compliment those with a set of incentives for businesses to expand and hire.
To make that possible and to do that responsibly, I think it is fair and good policy to allow those tax cuts that only go to 2 to 3 percent of the higher earners in the country to expire as scheduled.  The country can withstand that.  The economy can withstand that.  And I think it‘s good policy.
MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, of course, on “Meet the Press.” 
Will President Obama do—or we will he get what he wants?  And if he does, can Republicans win back power in November by crying the Democrats raised taxes or enacted the biggest tax increase in history, as they‘re saying?
With us now, two members of the House of Representatives, both on the Ways and Means Committee, the committee that writes taxes, Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley of New York and Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who is also the top Republican on the Budget Committee.
Thank you, gentlemen. 
Let‘s start with Congressman Crowley. 
It seems to me the Democratic Party, that all the people I talk to want to see this tax cut for the wealthy ended.  They think it‘s been unfair.  They think it‘s the heart of Bush; that and going to Iraq are the two worst things Bush did. 
Will the Democrats end the tax cuts for people making over $250,000 a year? 
REP. JOSEPH CROWLEY (D), NEW YORK:  I think that what Mr. Geithner said over the weekend makes perfect sense. 
I think we wouldn‘t be in the mess we are in today had these tax cuts not gone through for the wealthiest 1 percent in this country.  I think the wealthiest 1 percent can afford a little bit more to live in the best country, the greatest country the world has ever known. 
And I think we can start to really address the issue of our national debt.  We wouldn‘t be here for but for these irresponsible tax cuts and I believe these two irresponsible wars now. 
MATTHEWS:  Congressman Ryan, is there any tax role for reducing our $1.4 trillion to $1.7 trillion debt this year—deficit this year?  Is there any role in tax increasing to help do that job?
REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  I don‘t think it‘s a good idea, especially when we‘re trying to come out of a jobless recovery in a slow-growth economy. 
Look, we have got unemployment at almost 10 percent.  The last thing we should be doing is raising taxes on the economy.  Look, the worst thing for deficit reduction is a slow economy.  You hit small businesses with these kinds of tax rate increases and you will slow down the economy further. 
Look, 75 percent of those who will get hit with these higher tax rates are successful small businesses.  Tens of millions of our jobs come from these small businesses.  Now, if you try to blame these tax cuts and the wars for all of our fiscal problems, the numbers just don‘t add up. 
At best, 14 percent of the evaporation of the surplus came from these tax cuts.  It all came from other circumstances: spending, economic growth declining, 9/11, all these other things. 
RYAN:  So, I think what Joe earlier said is right, which is these taxes will go up.  And I think that‘s a mistake.  And I think it‘s going to hurt the economy. 
MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you one question as a follow-up.
It seems to me every Republican that goes on “Meet the Press” lately is asked, where will you cut?  They say nothing.  They will not mention any cuts. 
RYAN:  Chris...
MATTHEWS:  No, I have had Congressman Pence on, who won‘t say any cuts.
MATTHEWS:  So, you won‘t cut—you won‘t raise taxes and you won‘t cut spending. 
RYAN:  Chris...
MATTHEWS:  So, in other words, all this bitching about the deficit doesn‘t mean squat, because you won‘t do either, raise taxes or reduce spending. 
RYAN:  Let me answer it, then.
MATTHEWS:  Neither one.
RYAN:  This year, Congress isn‘t even doing a budget, but, last year, when we did a budget, I brought a budget to the floor that specifically cut $4.8 trillion of spending out of the budget and paid for all of these tax cuts and debt reduction.  Two months ago, we put out $1.3 trillion in very specifically listed and enumerated spending cuts.  So, I can go on with you on cuts.  I can show you all the kinds of cuts.
MATTHEWS:  But that‘s one-three hundredth (ph) of the deficit. 
That‘s 0.3 of 1 percent you‘ve talked about.
RYAN:  Four-point-eight trillion dollars is not .3 of 1 percent of the deficit.
MATTHEWS:  OK, 4.8 trillion.  OK.
RYAN:  And 1.3 trillion is not peanuts.
RYAN:  It‘s nothing to sneeze at.
MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me go.
RYAN: Two things -- 
MATTHEWS:  I just don‘t see—I just don‘t see any program cuts.  You‘re talking in general terms, but let me tell you this: the major Republicans that come on television will not cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  They won‘t cut the military.  They can‘t cut debt servicing.  They won‘t—they won‘t get rid of a major cost of government.
They‘ll talk about, you know, let‘s freeze discretionary spending or discretionary and domestic in some sort of generalized way.  But they won‘t get rid of government.  They seem to like government.  In fact, they love to talk against it.
RYAN:  Go to and you will see a very comprehensive piece of legislation that the CBO has scored that‘s actually paying off the debt—
RYAN:  -- with specific reforms to the entitlements you mentioned.
MATTHEWS:  Name a major piece of the 1.4 trillion to 1.7 trillion. 
No, just take—
MATTHEWS:  -- just take a chunk out that 1.4 trillion by getting rid of a big program or good expenditure that people now watching can understand.
RYAN:  I would rescind the unspent stimulus funds.  I would rescind all the TARP funds that aren‘t spent.  I would do a federal hiring freeze and pay freeze for the rest of the year.  And I would go back and cut discretionary spending back to ‘08 levels and freeze that spending going forward.
Now, you and I can get into a debate about Keynesian economics, whether it worked or didn‘t.  I don‘t think it did.  We increased domestic discretionary last year by 84 percent.  I don‘t think we should continue to build that kind of a base.  Let‘s go back and cut discretionary spending back to ‘08 levels.
RYAN:  Rescind stimulus, rescind TARP and do a federal hiring and pay freeze.  Those are just a few ideas that add up to $1.3 trillion right there.
MATTHEWS:  OK.  Congressman Crowley, I still don‘t see any cuts in entitlements there.  But go ahead.
PAUL:  You asked me discretionary.
MATTHEWS:  Congressman Crowley, let me ask you.  What are the Democrats going to do about the deficit?  Anything?
REP. JOSEPH CROWLEY (D-NY), WAYS & MEANS CMTE.:  Well, I did notice there, though, Chris, was he didn‘t mention at all his plan to privatize Social Security.  Again, going back to the same old Bush agenda, the failed Bush agenda, the American people rejected in the election of Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in the House and the Senate.
(INAUDIBLE) as it may, I think Democrats have really taken steps to be more responsible.  We‘re working under a PAYGO system, pay as you go.  And albeit there are some items that are cut off from that portion of it, we are attempting to get back a system that was proven to get our budgets in order to really—under the Clinton administration—
CROWLEY:  -- really just—really bring back more fiscally responsible Congress, more responsible government.  It has worked in the past.  Chris, I think it will work in the future.  The president has said he wants to cut this deficit in half and I want to help him do that.
MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s get back to the bottom line.  Are you comfortable going to the voters, Congressman Crowley, with a proposal to eliminate the $250,000 and above tax cut?
CROWLEY:  I could tell you, Chris, in my district, there are very few people who make more than that money (INAUDIBLE) just a gross income of $250,000 or more.  And I think, to live in the greatest country, as I said before, the world has ever known, it‘s a small price to pay.
MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Congressman Ryan—you have no problems defending tax cuts for people who make over a quarter a million a year?
RYAN:  Small businesses—go to Wisconsin.
MATTHEWS:  No, no, individuals.  It‘s an individual tax cut.
RYAN:  No, no.  You have to understand, Chris, 75 percent of those people who pay that tax rate are small businesses who file as individuals, not corporations.  That‘s the problem with this economic argument, Chris, is when you think you‘re just taxing rich people like Bill Gates, what you‘re end up doing is you‘re hitting successful small businesses.  When we tax our employers more than our foreign competitors tax theirs, they get our jobs and we lose in global competition.
So, we ought to be keeping our eye in economic growth and job creation, what‘s necessary to do, and that means low tax rates on businesses and small businesses in certainty.  We have a whole new tax on certainty that‘s hurting economic growth.  We need to give taxpayers certainty that they‘re not going to have a huge wave of tax increases in 2011 and then another in 2013.
RYAN:  I would argue that‘s depressing economic growth and costing as jobs.
MATTHEWS:  So, when the debt commission comes back this fall, and as a two-to-one cut in spending and a $1 increase in taxes, you‘ll oppose it?
RYAN:  I‘m a member of the debt commission.  I‘m working, my colleagues—
MATTHEWS:  I know.
MATTHEWS:  If the proposal is for $2 in spending cuts, and $1 tax increase, you‘re going to oppose the majority position on that?
RYAN:  I don‘t think it‘s good form to do table talk, what‘s on the table or off the table in the debt commission.  I‘m hoping we could put a really good dent on the problem.
MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, I‘m with you with that.
Thank you, U.S. Congressman Joe Crowley of New York -- 
CROWLEY:  Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS:  -- and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Up next: House and Tea Party politicians are avoiding the media and by that, the public.  They just don‘t want to answer any questions from the mainstream.  Well, mainstream media, at lest—maybe the mainstream itself.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS:  Well, yes, he is coming to a Republican National Committee fundraising event up in Beverly Hills next month, Andrew Breitbart.  Yes, the same Andrew Breitbart who released that video about Shirley Sherrod that said she was somehow discriminating as a federal employee.  Well, he‘s also the guy who put out the pimp stuff on the ACORN group.  Anyway, the same Andrew Breitbart who staged the video ambush of North Carolina Democrat Bob Etheridge.  That‘s the Andrew Breitbart denounced by Democrats and Republicans last week who will speak at the RNC election countdown next month in Beverly Hills.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Lately, we‘ve seen politicians, particularly those associated with the Tea Party, dodging reporters.  Senate candidate Rand Paul dodged “Meet the Press” after committing to show up.
DAVID GREGORY, “MEET THE PRESS” HOST:  Super Tuesday 2010 unleashed a new power player within the Republican Party.  But by week‘s end, Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul, son of former presidential candidate Ron Paul, found the spotlight a little too hot, canceling his appearance on this program and raising doubts about his prospects for the fall.  Dr. Paul wondered publicly Friday where his honeymoon was, and later, citing exhaustion and unwillingness to answer any further questions about his stand on civil rights and the role of government, canceled his appearance here.
MATTHEWS:  And Sharron Angle, who‘s challenging Harry Reid out in Nevada, dodged reporters last week at an event that her own campaign billed as a press conference.  Keep an eye on her in the background.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  -- will make ourselves available for you as you have individual questions.
REPORTER:  Sharron, will you answer some questions really quickly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have to go, I‘m sorry.
REPORTER:  Sharron, you don‘t have any—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re running behind, I‘m sorry.
MATTHEWS:  Wow.  And in “Politics Daily,” David Corn writes of a recent Sarah Palin interview, quote, “She conceded a major point about herself: she does not possess a hardy enough Constitution to be president.  In that interview, ‘The Daily Caller‘ reports, Palin said the media became a key reason she decided not to finish out her term as governor.”
Well, David Corn is with “Mother Jones.”  He‘s the Washington bureau chief.
Let‘s talk about a couple of these.  This is on the right.  You‘re on the left.  Let‘s be—let‘s be straight about that context right up front.
MATTHEWS:  But this strategy of skipping out on reporters that might ask piercing questions, you know, this is what Nixon did in ‘68, he run a very tightly controlled campaign and narrowly beat Humphrey.  He didn‘t want to repeat what happened with him in Kennedy in ‘60.  He didn‘t want to, you know, expose himself.
CORN:  And that was an age when there was a lot less media than there is now.  You could freeze out three networks and a couple of major newspapers and get away with it for a couple of months, which he managed to do.
I don‘t think it‘s that easy these days.  I mean, Sharron Angle looks like she‘s imitating Lindsay Lohan in that video.  And—it obviously can work in these primary battles that they won, which you have very small pool of voters, Republicans and conservatives who deciding between them and a more establishment candidates.
MATTHEWS:  OK.  Suppose you‘re—let me try this—suppose, let‘s take some cases.  Suppose you‘re Rand Paul and you have made statements in the past about you questioned the Civil Rights Act of ‘64, you may question that become sort of settled in this country.  Do you really want someone like you running along beside them, saying, and just for argument sake, saying, hey, are you still on that civil rights issue you had before?
Or if you‘re Sharron Angle, you believe in Second Amendment remedies like gun play.
CORN:  Right.
MATTHEWS:  To deal with Congress if you don‘t like it, you don‘t want to answer questions like that.
CORN:  But you can—you can be guaranteed, at least in Sharron Angle‘s case, that Harry Reid will be spending $15 million making sure that every Nevadan voter knows about everything she said about BP being a slush fund, about privatizing Social Security, about how the unemployed are spoiled if they get unemployment insurance.  So, that‘s—
MATTHEWS:  Through the TV ads.
CORN:  TV ads.  So, that stuff is going to come out.  So, the only thing you—only thing she has to prove is whether she can take the heat, explain what she said, even if it‘s a—you know, not a great explanation, but come out.
If you want to take on these issues—
CORN:  -- like the deficit, Afghanistan, real hard issues, you‘re going to run away from local TV reporters and tell the public that you can go back to Washington and fight for them?  It doesn‘t make a lot of sense to me.
MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, let‘s get the points here.  What‘s your current betting on Harry Reid?  I think that race is still up in the air.  I think Sharron Angle, despite her weird behavior there, running away in her awful comments, I think, about use of guns in a political context—we have a Second Amendment, but it‘s not for politics.
CORN:  Right.
MATTHEWS:  Lee Harvey Oswald -- 
CORN:  HARDBALL is for politics.
MATTHEWS:  Sirhan (ph) used it for politics.
CORN:  Yes.
MATTHEWS:  This is not that we believe in.  Listen, can she—can she beat him because the climate is so bad if she shuts up?
CORN:  Of course.  Well, she can beat him.
MATTHEWS:  If she completely hides and just relies on the economy to get her elected?  Is that a smart move?
CORN:  I don‘t think she can completely hide.  I think the thing that has to be done is to get rid of the issues that are dogging her now—this is just pure politics—and get ‘em—get them dealt with earlier than later because, right now, she‘s looking like a fool.  I mean, this is what the TV—you know, local television stations are showing the Nevadan voters, that she can‘t take a punch.  She can‘t take a question.
And, you know, at the end of the day, people, I think, are going to look at that and say, she may not be ready for primetime.
MATTHEWS:  And there are a lot of Republicans -- (INAUDIBLE) and other Republicans out there—are out there backing Harry Reid.
CORN:  Right.
MATTHEWS:  Republicans for Reid now because of that, I think, her shenanigans.
CORN:  Listen, I mean, even if you don‘t like Harry Reid, if you don‘t like Democrats, you want someone who‘s up to the job.  So, I think particularly—
MATTHEWS:  You think Sarah Palin‘s up for the job of being president if she can‘t be governor of Alaska?
CORN:  She told us the other day that she‘s not up to the job, that she quit in part because of bad media attention.  You can‘t be president if you‘re worried about—
MATTHEWS:  -- in Washington.  Thank you, David.
CORN:  See if it does.
MATTHEWS:  I know.  Thank you.  I don‘t know that she‘d like you that much.
When we return, I have some thoughts about the Americans fighting for our country in Afghanistan based upon these new reports in “The Times.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with that “New York Times” story on the Afghanistan war.
What grabbed me was today‘s account of the Taliban attack on a small American outpost near the Pakistan border.  The attack on Combat Post Keating occurred last summer as the U.S. wee shifting from a strategy of defending outposts like Keating to one of concentrating forces in key areas.  Using the urgent messages that were sent by our forces under attack at Keating, “The Times” article shows what happens when frontline G.I.s get dangerously exposed because of a shift in U.S. strategy.
Quote, “in heavy contact,” came the first word from the outpost that was under attack from the Taliban.
Then the urgent call went out from Keating that close air support be brought directly to the troops under fire, quote, “We need it now.  We have mortars pinned down and fire coming from everywhere.”  “We‘re taking casualties.”  “Get something up!”
The outnumbered poorly situated outpost was under attack from higher ground.  Quote, “We are taking fire from inside the villages.  Our mortars are still pinned down, unable to fire.  Multiple enemies running through—and fires coming from the mosque.  The police station is shooting at us.”
The enemy was breeching the outpost defensive ring.  The post was at the risk of falling.  Quote, “Enemy in the wire at Keating.”
Now went the message to headquarters, “Enemy in the wire.  Enemy in the wire.  We need support.”
As the enemy entered the outpost, the American aircraft did arrive just in time, Helicopters and F-15s.  The outpost was saved.  The outpost was saved, but eight American fighters and several Afghans were dead, almost two dozen Americans wounded.
Thanks to “The New York Times,” a harrowing look at war amid a changing U.S. strategy—a look at Americans fighting for our country and against—and for their lives against a mobile enemy fighting on its home turf in the desolate mountains of Afghanistan.  What a story.
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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