Guests: Ernest Istook, John Harris, Chris Van Hollen, Steve Scalise, Dee
Dee Myers, Nia-Malika Henderson, Todd Purdum, Jonathan Martin
CHUCK TODD, GUEST HOST: When born in the USA isn‘t enough.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chuck Todd in Washington, filling in for Chris Matthews this week. Leading off tonight: Daily constitutional. The man who would be Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has become the latest Republican to say that Congress should at least look into changing the 14th Amendment, which would revoke birthright citizenship. Just how far are Republicans going to push this, especially since it could cost them massively on the demographic front when you see the Hispanic vote moving to the Democrats potentially for generations?
Plus, House members are interrupting their vacation and returning to Washington to vote on a $26 billion bill designed to prevent teacher layoffs. Democrats say they‘re saving jobs. Republicans say Nancy Pelosi is forcing them back to Washington to spend more money we don‘t have. Who‘s right?
And what‘s wrong with this picture? Michelle Obama is taking heat for her overseas vacation in Spain. Is this just an easy partisan hit? Was it a bad idea for the first lady to take a lavish overseas vacation instead of spending time and money, say, here in the United States?
Also, what‘s the Democrats‘ secret to avoiding a disaster in the fall? Close the enthusiasm gap and get more of their voters to their polls. Easy to say, but can they make it happen?
And what can Brown (ph) do for you? Well, if you‘re Mitt Romney, you turn yourself into a truck-driving, “just folks” candidate. We‘ve got that one in the “Sideshow.”
But let‘s start with what has been a conservative push to at least look at changing the 14th Amendment and to eliminate birthright citizenship. Ernest Istook is a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He served in Congress representing Oklahoma‘s 5th district. And he‘s on here to defend this idea of changing the 14th Amendment.
And Congressman, I have to say, when I first saw this talked about, I thought, Well, this is just Republicans pandering to the conservative base. Make the argument, make the policy, rational argument for why this is a legitimate idea.
ERNEST ISTOOK (R-OK), FMR. CONGRESSMAN, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: This does not necessarily mean changing the 14th Amendment. It‘s a matter of how you interpret that all-important clause, which says it‘s not just people who are born in the United States but who are subject to the jurisdiction thereof at the time of birth. Obviously, the children of foreign diplomats are not considered natural-born citizens of the United States.
ISTOOK: And the question is, if somebody is here illegally, if they are still holding allegiance to a foreign nation, are they subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and the sense of the Constitution? Because that clause has some meaning, and therefore, should this be a carve-out from the operation of 14th Amendment?
TODD: Well—all right...
ISTOOK: The Supreme Court precedented this which was in 1898, was the case...
ISTOOK: ... of Wong Kim Ark (ph).
TODD: Yes. I was about to bring that up.
ISTOOK: In that case, he was the child of parents who were here legally and lawfully. The Supreme Court has not ruled on the case of children who are born to parents who are here illegally.
TODD: But here‘s the issue you have. Let‘s—I mean, you know, to -
let me read you—and it‘s a very familiar phrase for a lot of folks, that greets people when they came to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. It says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
There was no mention of whether these folks had to be legal citizens. And we know a whole bunch of folks were not—that could not prove legal citizenship in the 19th century. And you know, we had a huge immigrant population. In fact, the foreign-born immigrant population of the late 19th century, early 20th century was greater per capita than where we are now. And...
ISTOOK: And the immigration laws were different.
TODD: ... we seemed to go—and this didn‘t seem to be a problem then.
ISTOOK: Well, my grandparents came through Ellis Island. My father‘s parents were immigrants from Hungary. So you know, I know the Emma Lazarus poem that you were quoting.
ISTOOK: But that‘s not the same as quoting the provisions of the Constitution, nor is it answering the question of whether people, by coming to the United States unlawfully, can establish their children as citizens of the United States, with all the privileges and the benefits that come with it.
It‘s a very different question. The immigration laws, the immigration issues were quite different a hundred years ago than they are today. And that‘s—that‘s the key thing here. We have a case, for example...
TODD: Well, wait a minute.
ISTOOK: ... in Texas...
TODD: Let me stop you there. How is...
ISTOOK: ... 60,000 (ph) a year...
TODD: How is the immigration law—I mean, it really is the same—a hundred years ago...
ISTOOK: The statutes are different.
TODD: ... people were coming from Eastern Europe—well, hang on—were coming from Eastern Europe and Asia, seeking a better way of life...
TODD: ... seeking freedom, seeking—a lot of folks coming from Mexico are coming here to find a job because they can‘t find work.
ISTOOK: I understand. And Mexico needs to fix its problems, rather than pushing its problems off on us. But the key question here, Chuck, is whether or not people are abiding by the laws of the United States of America.
ISTOOK: You can say somebody breaks the law. You can talk about their motive for doing so, whether it has to do with immigration, whether it has to do with saying, I need a car or I need a place to live or I just flat need money. People break the law for all sorts of reasons that you may find excusable in some ways.
But here we‘re talking about mass issues. Sixty thousand people in Texas each year, according to “The Dallas Morning News,” are born as children of illegal immigrants. That‘s one state. You take it over a 10-year period, that‘s 600,000 people in Texas alone.
ISTOOK: Go check out Arizona and New Mexico, California, other places, and you realize that this is a significant problem. And this is one of the motivations that people have to break the law and come to the United States illegally. I want people to come here, but I want them to respect our law when they do so.
TODD: I guess my question is, why go here, to the 14th Amendment, which, frankly, a lot of people politically—you sit there, you hear the words 14th Amendment being brought up and change the 14th Amendment—look, this was an amendment that was brought about after the slaves were freed.
TODD: Why go after this part? And you know, why not just say, Look, let‘s enforce the border. Let‘s get tougher immigration laws. Because if you do that, then this issue of birthright citizenship isn‘t going to play as big of a role.
ISTOOK: Well, why be selective?
TODD: I guess it just feels like it‘s a—it just feels as if you‘re politically poking Hispanics in the eye...
ISTOOK: Chuck, why be selective...
TODD: ... and think they‘re picking on you?
ISTOOK: Why be selective in the laws that you enforce? Why say, Let‘s enforce some laws, but let‘s give a pass to people...
TODD: Well, wait a minute.
ISTOOK: ... on other laws.
TODD: But the Supreme Court precedent here—hang on. The Supreme Court precedent...
ISTOOK: The Supreme Court precedent does not relate to people who are here illegally. It has to do with only people who came here legally. That‘s explicit in the Supreme Court decision that we‘re talking about, the 1898 decision. So they have not declared what happens if people come here illegally, and are their children natural-born citizens? That‘s why we‘re talking about the interpretation of the 14th Amendment, not repealing it.
But remember, this is an amendment that has been amended itself before. The 14th Amendment says that the only guaranteed right to vote belongs to 21-year-old males. We‘ve had a couple of constitutional amendments since then...
ISTOOK: ... to clarify that women are guaranteed suffrage, to change the voting age...
ISTOOK: ... back in the 1970s to 18. So the 14th Amendment has never been seen as perfect. And if you look at the record, the debate in Congress and even the debate within the Supreme Court on that, you‘ll find that it‘s an unaddressed issue. And we need to decide it, if people who are here illegally can have their children born here naturally become U.S. citizens.
TODD: I guess I go back to—you say it‘s an unaddressed issue. We didn‘t have the same levels of proof of citizenship a hundred years ago. They had to go with birthright citizenship because there was this fear at the time that somehow, you would have states that would—that would say that certain African-Americans, freed slaves, couldn‘t be citizens and that their children—so that‘s why they put this in...
ISTOOK: And that‘s why the 14th Amendment was adopted. That was the big reason. You‘re exactly right. And we needed it. It was done. Slavery was abolished in the 13th Amendment. The 14th Amendment made sure that states could not deny citizenship to the newly freed slaves. That was the big impetus. That was the main reason for the adoption of the 14th Amendment. I‘m glad it was done. It needed to be done.
But the question is, can you now extrapolate and say, in this day and age, when we have this immense problem, with, you know, 12, 15, whatever is the number, of illegal—million illegal immigrants that are in the U.S., do we say that automatically...
TODD: Yes. Are you politically...
ISTOOK: ... their children become American citizens, even though they don‘t have allegiance to America?
TODD: As a Republican, are you politically concerned that this looks like that the party is basically picking on Mexicans that are coming across the border?
ISTOOK: Well, actually, if you look, a lot of people are passing through Mexico from other places as they come in. When you say, is it a political hot button issue? Absolutely. But it‘s also a political hot button issue with the great many millions of Americans who are tired of seeing the law not being enforced. They don‘t want to pick and choose the laws, Chuck. They want to, Let‘s enforce all the laws when it relates to illegal immigration. And especially at a time of high unemployment...
ISTOOK: ... people don‘t want to say people who came here illegally are getting the advantage in employment over people who have been American citizens all their lives or who have...
TODD: All right...
ISTOOK: ... followed the right process and become citizens.
TODD: Congressman Ernest Istook...
TODD: ... former congressman from Oklahoma, thank you for coming on and sharing your views. I tell you, not a lot of your fellow Republicans have been interested in wanting to talk about this. So thank you for coming on.
ISTOOK: You bet. Thanks, Chuck.
TODD: All right. Let‘s go over to “The Politico.” John Harris is the editor-in-chief over there. And John, you talked about this over the weekend. I saw some of your comments. And this feels like cynical, base politics that some Republicans are playing. You heard Congressman Istook there give a very reasoned policy defense of this, which you don‘t hear a lot of these elected Republicans doing, right? He doesn‘t have to do that anymore. Is this a total cynical ploy?
JOHN HARRIS, POLITICO.COM: Well, it‘s a strange one, and even your conversation there, Chuck, which was a good one but was kind of an abstract one for three months out from an election, going back into the history and the intent of the 14th Amendment, you know, passed 140-some years ago.
I think it‘s—members in the most competitive districts are not going to want to get involved in an abstract debate, which is what the 14th Amendment is. Even if you think that illegal immigration is a huge problem, it doesn‘t do anything to address the problem in the here and now.
And really, the best argument that Republicans have had is that, Look, we‘ve had to act in Arizona...
HARRIS: ... because Washington hasn‘t. And so this really, to my mind anyway, undercuts that message by making it look like that they‘re engaged in an ideological argument or a base-charging argument or even a kind of abstract constitutional argument, rather than addressing tangible problems in the here and now.
TODD: Well, let‘s look at the political—potential political problem this creates for the Republicans. John McCain won just 31 percent of the Latino vote in 2008. George W. Bush won from 40 to 44. Some Hispanic groups still have some issues with the exit poll, but they agree that he got at least 40 percent. That‘s a dramatic drop in four years. We know that what happened in those four years, a very—very ugly immigration debate inside the Republican Party.
TODD: A debate about the 14th Amendment would take that 31 percent and make Republicans long for that number, would it not?
HARRIS: I mean, it could. And as you well know and has been often cited if you look at the example of Republicans in California in the 1990s, you know, Hispanic voters have felt that the argument‘s aimed at them, and they have long memories. That‘s why so many Republicans—you know, a number of Republicans who have been close to former president Bush very concerned about this because they feel like there‘s a sort of short-term payoff in terms of energizing the base, as you say, but one that has a potentially...
TODD: You know what?
HARRIS: ... enormous long-term penalty.
TODD: John, I‘m glad you brought this up. So Karl Rove today subbed for Rush Limbaugh. Not once brought up the 14th Amendment. Jeb Bush has not said a single thing about this issue. This has come from John McCain, active in a—his own Republican primary, Lindsey Graham concerned suddenly that his base inside South Carolina...
TODD: ... is ready to overthrow him. Does that tell you something?
HARRIS: I think it does. I‘m sure Karl Rove doesn‘t want to talk about this. I mean, one of his big projects, or one that he hoped for anyway...
HARRIS: ... during the Bush years, was to recruit Hispanics more vigorously to the Republican fold. You know, in large measure, that was an unsuccessful project. Jeb Bush has spoken out many times about the need for Republicans to be open to immigrants. Over the weekend, Mike Gerson, President Bush‘s former speech writer...
HARRIS: ... was very critical of Lindsey Graham, very critical of this idea. So I think people who are thinking about the long-term prospects of the Republican Party in general are very, very skeptical about this 14th Amendment talk.
TODD: All right. John Harris from “The Politico” newsroom, thanks. I‘ll tell you, I think you‘re scratching your head as much as I am on this issue as an oddity.
HARRIS: See you, Chuck. Yes, it is.
TODD: Coming up: the House is coming back to vote on a bill that Democrats say is going to save 300,000 state and local jobs. Republicans say the bill is just an expensive gift to the labor unions. So what‘s more important right now, looking like you‘re saving jobs or not spending money? We‘re going to hear from both sides next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
TODD: President Obama is in Texas today. He gave a speech on education and attended a couple of fund-raisers. When the president arrived in Austin, he was met on the tarmac by a very enthusiastic Republican governor, Rick Perry, The guy who raised the issue of succession last year. Perry‘s facing reelection, and his Democratic opponent, former Houston mayor Bill White (ph) -- well, he kept his distance from President Obama today. The president‘s not exactly popular deep in the heart of very red Texas still.
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Welcome and congratulations to the 2009 Super Bowl champions, the New Orleans Saints.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: We‘ve got a few very proud members of Congress with us. Senator Mary Landrieu and Representative Steve Scalise (ph) are in the house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was President Obama this morning with the reigning Super Bowl champs, the New Orleans Saints. And he gave a shout-out to Democratic senator Mary Landrieu and Republican congressman Steve Scalise, who was there in the audience. He‘ll be here in a few minutes to talk about tomorrow‘s House vote on a $26 billion bill to aid states and school districts. Democrats say it saves jobs. Republican says it‘s just spending more money and a gift to labor unions.
Let‘s first go to Maryland congressman Chris Van Hollen, who‘s the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. So Congressman, what do you say to these conservative Blue Dog Democrats, who are—I take it on some of—on this issue, they may still be undecided? What do you say? They‘re getting pressure. They‘re being told by their opponent, You‘re spending more money we don‘t have. And you‘re telling them, No, no, no, trust us, this is going to save the jobs of teachers that could get laid off in three months.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD), DCCC CHAIRMAN: Well, first, Chuck, let me say the Redskins are going to have a big year this year.
TODD: Yes, OK!
VAN HOLLEN: But when it comes to this bill...
TODD: I‘ll hold you to that one!
VAN HOLLEN: OK. When it comes to this bill, what‘s very important for everybody to understand is that it is entirely paid for...
VAN HOLLEN: ... and it‘s paid for in large part by shutting down a big loophole in the current law that creates a perverse incentive to ship American jobs—not products, not goods, but American jobs—overseas. And that‘s why the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office—not me, not the Republicans—have looked at this and they said it‘s entirely paid for.
So what is it paying for? It‘s paying to keep teachers in the classroom so that when all our kids go back to school later this month and early next month, there will be teachers there and they won‘t be swamped with large class sizes. And it will keep more cops on the beat. So it‘s pretty straightforward.
This bill helps preserve the jobs of teachers. We think it‘s better that they be in the classroom than on the unemployment line. And it is entirely paid for. It doesn‘t cost the American individual taxpayer a dime. It does shut down on these loopholes that big corporations have used, where they get subsidized...
VAN HOLLEN: ... for shipping American jobs overseas.
TODD: Now, what do you say to this criticism that, hey, you know what, you guys are only responding to two groups of government employees who have representation in labor unions, teachers unions—and you talked about cops on the beat and some of these other government unions.
What do you say to that, that...
VAN HOLLEN: Right.
TODD: ... is this going to create any jobs or save any jobs of non-union employees?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, as—and I heard the Republican leader, John Boehner, the other day refer to teachers and cops on the beat as the so-called special interests.
I think we all have a very special interest in making sure kids have a teacher in the classroom. I think we all have an interest in making sure that cops are there so that when we have a problem in the neighborhood, there is someone is there to respond.
VAN HOLLEN: So, I—this kind of game about disparaging cops and teachers, as if they‘re some kind of pawns in a game, rather than people who teach our kids and keep our neighborhoods safe, is, frankly, outrageous. But we will leave that question to the American people.
VAN HOLLEN: Again, this is to help make sure we have jobs here at home...
VAN HOLLEN: ... so teachers for our kids and cops on the beat, and pay for it by cutting down on these loopholes for shipping jobs overseas.
TODD: Very quickly, let‘s move ahead to September.
Are you guys going to introduce some sort of mini-second stimulus? I have heard some rumblings about this—one in four of the long-term unemployed are construction workers. Some sort of stimulus money for new infrastructure, roads, bridges, et cetera?
VAN HOLLEN: Look, you‘re talking about in the next month or two?
Because there have been various discussions, but there‘s no plan to do that.
TODD: No plan, OK.
VAN HOLLEN: The major piece of legislation—the major piece of legislation, Chuck, we‘re trying to get out of the Senate is the bill that would provide credit to small businesses...
VAN HOLLEN: ... so that people can get their loans. That‘s been held up by the Republicans in the Senate for a long time. That would be a great boost to small businesses. That‘s—that‘s a priority when we get back.
TODD: Very quickly, today, the House Ethics Committee released details of its charges that they‘re bringing in against Democratic Congresswoman from California Maxine Waters, pretty damning charges. This is pretty serious stuff, in many ways, more serious of a violation of the public trust than maybe what Charlie Rangel did, using her influence to go to the treasure secretary to try to save a bank that her husband had dealings with.
At this point, should she somehow—would you like to see her take this to trial or possibly simply resign, or what?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, Chuck, as you said, these are very serious allegations. And that‘s why we have to make sure the process works, to make sure that we protect the public interest. And that is what we‘re seeing right now.
The reason we‘re talking about these cases is because the Ethics Committee is doing its job. And, you know, you do have to go back not too long ago.
VAN HOLLEN: When Tom DeLay faced these kind of charges, our Republican colleagues actually weakened the ethics law in order to protect him. They said, if you get indicted, you can still be our Republican leader. We—we have made changes to hold members accountable.
VAN HOLLEN: And, you know, Maxine Waters and others will have to decide for themselves whether to face these charges or reach an agreement with the members of the Ethics Committee or—or however they want to move forward.
TODD: All right.
Congressman Chris Van Hollen from Maryland, guaranteeing, apparently, a winning season of the Redskins.
Good luck with that.
VAN HOLLEN: Thanks, Chuck.
TODD: Thanks very much.
All right, let‘s take a look at Sunday‘s “Meet the Press,” where David Gregory asked Republican Leader John Boehner about paying for tax cuts. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”)
DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”: How can you be for cutting the deficit and also cutting taxes as well when they‘re not paid for?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Listen, you can‘t raise taxes in the middle of a weak economy without risking the double-dip in this recession.
GREGORY: The tax cuts are not paid for; is that correct?
BOEHNER: I am not for raising taxes on the American people in a soft economy.
GREGORY: That‘s not the question.
GREGORY: The question is, are tax cuts paid for or not?
BOEHNER: Listen, what you‘re trying to do is get into this Washington game and their funny accounting over there.
GREGORY: And so do you believe tax cuts pay for themselves or not?
BOEHNER: I do believe that we‘ve got to get more money in the hands of small businesses and American families to get our economy going again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Well, we are joined now by Republican Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who we noted earlier was celebrating the Saints‘ visit to the White House.
But I want to give you a chance to answer the question that John Boehner did not answer with David Gregory, which is twofold. Number one, are tax cuts—do tax cuts pay for themselves? Do you believe that these, if they continue these tax rates, it will pay for itself, the $3.8 trillion that‘s needed, or do you believe that it does potentially add to the deficit?
REP. STEVE SCALISE ®, LOUISIANA: Well, first, Chuck, I want to say who dat out there to all the Saints fans across the nation.
TODD: Of course.
SCALISE: It was a great day today.
But when you talk about the tax cuts and the policies up here in Washington, I think one of the problem that we‘re seeing is that this tax-and-spend agenda by the liberals running Congress is failing us miserably. And it‘s leading us to a point where we nearly have 10 percent unemployment.
But if you look throughout the history of our country, when taxes have been cut, more money has actually come into the federal government. The problem has been that Congress has typically gone and spent even more money than the new—the new generated money that these tax cuts brought in. So, we need to cut taxes to get businesses going.
TODD: I understand it‘s been a bipartisan issue. As you know, the Republican Congress that was here running Washington back in the early part of this decade spent money without paying for it, the Medicare prescription drug.
So, should Congress be finding a way to pay for extending these Bush tax cuts? I had somebody else describe it to me, look, for 10 years, in 2001 and 2003, Washington said, look, we‘re going to—we‘re going to go on sale. And we‘re going to lower your tax rate. But we‘re only giving it to you for 10 years. And eventually it‘s going back to the regular price.
A lot of folks can see it that way. Hey, they see that sometimes something is on sale and sometimes it‘s not. Is it time to say, you know what, your tax cut is no longer on sale?
SCALISE: Well, I think one of the things that we‘re seeing with this soft economy is that there are a lot of businesses that are holding onto their cash. They‘re not investing back in their businesses. And they‘re not hiring American workers, because they‘re seeing these big tax increases that are going to be coming in 2011, in 2013.
And, of course, the Democrats still with this son of stimulus that they‘re trying to bring back tomorrow, $26 billion in spending, they have got $10 billion in new taxes in that bill that is going to be on the vote for the House floor tomorrow. That new tax—those new tax increases are only going to make matters worse.
So, what you‘re seeing is, businesses are being hit with these massive tax increases, and then impending tax increases next year and two years from now. And they‘re holding back because of that. What we should be doing is encouraging people to grow their businesses, to hire more American families that want jobs. They don‘t want to see government continuing to grow like they‘re seeing now. They want tax cuts that are going to help stimulate the economy and incentivize those people that are creating jobs.
TODD: I understand that. But, Congressman, obviously, the Republicans have put a lot of pressure on Democrats when they have had a program to find a way to pay for it. They believe they have paid for the program that you‘re talking about tomorrow.
Why shouldn‘t an extension of the Bush tax rates be paid for some in some form, in—whether—it‘s not just the top 2 percent—the entire bill?
SCALISE: Yes, and I don‘t think taxes should be raised on anybody. And, obviously, I disagree with Speaker Pelosi and her liberal lieutenants there.
But, if you look, the first place we could go is to cut all of the money that is still unspent from the failed stimulus bill. President Obama brought that bill a year-and-a-half ago. And he said, the stimulus bill is needed to stop unemployment from going over 8 percent. Well, now we‘re at almost 10 percent.
TODD: So, you believe...
SCALISE: So, cut that money, cut taxes, and you will see the economy take off. And that will generate more money coming into Washington. But we can spend it on paying off the debt, not on growing the size of government.
TODD: But you believe that tax cuts should—you have got to find a way to pay for them?
SCALISE: Well, I think the first thing is, you go and look and see what it‘s going to do. Those tax cuts will generate new income.
TODD: And if it doesn‘t?
SCALISE: The tax cuts will create more jobs and it will bring the money to the federal government.
But that‘s—that‘s been the case all throughout history. The problem has been that Congress...
TODD: All right.
SCALISE: ... has gone and spent more money. We have got to stop spending and cut taxes.
TODD: I‘m up against a break.
All right, Congressman Steve Scalise, congratulations on your Saints. They finally made it to the White House today, after a few months of delays.
TODD: And we will see you again. Thanks very much.
SCALISE: Thanks, Chuck. Great to be with you.
TODD: All righty.
Up next: Mitt Romney seems to be borrowing a page from Scott Brown‘s playbook.
TODD: Wait until you see this. He got himself a pickup truck. Mitt Romney in a pickup truck. Really?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
TODD: All right, back to HARDBALL now. Now time for a quick “Sideshow.”
First, an ad about as subtle as a sledgehammer. Chris Cox is a Republican congressional candidate out in New York‘s 1st District.
His primary opponent, George Demos, is looking to remind voters that Cox also is the grandson of one of America‘s most infamous politicians.
Here‘s Demos‘ new Web video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CAMPAIGN AD)
CHRIS NIXON COX ®, NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: As my grandfather, President Richard Nixon, said...
This is a Nixon operation.
My grandfather was President Nixon.
My grandfather was...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Well, the video had some opportune timing as well. Today, August 9, is 36 years to the day President Nixon resigned from office and Gerald Ford came on and told Americans that our national nightmare was over.
Finally: ripping a page from the winning playbook. Remember this slogan? It defined the year‘s biggest political upset.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SCOTT BROWN CAMPAIGN AD)
SEN. SCOTT BROWN ®, MASSACHUSETTS: I‘m Scott Brown.
BROWN: I‘m from Wrentham.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BROWN: And I drive a truck!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Republican Senator Scott Brown used that pickup truck to burnish his regular guy persona and win election in Massachusetts, the bluest of blue states.
Well, now a fellow Bay Stater, Republican Mitt Romney, getting on in the truck action himself. He‘s been spotted by Boston newspapers driving that black Chevy pickup to political events, including a fund-raiser in New Hampshire just last week.
Romney‘s spokesperson downplayed the comparison, saying Romney has owned that truck since 2002. Still, a guy from Bain Capital doesn‘t strike me as somebody who is a big pickup guy. We will see.
Anyway, up next: What‘s with the fuss over first lady Michelle Obama‘s vacation to Spain? Critics say she shouldn‘t have vacationed overseas, given the state of the American economy. But is this much ado about nothing? And how big a boost can the first lady give to Democratic candidates this fall? A bunch of them would rather have her than him.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks moving modestly higher in what one—one analyst called ridiculously light trading. The Dow Jones industrials climbing 45 points, the S&P 500 adding six, and the Nasdaq up 17 points.
Investors sitting on the sidelines today, ahead of tomorrow‘s meeting of the Federal Reserve. They want to see if the Fed is ready to walk the walk, after talking about an economy in need of extra support.
McDonald‘s reporting a 7 percent jump in global sales, boosted by strong demand for new smoothies and frappes.
Cisco shares surging 3 percent ahead of quarterly earnings due out on Wednesday. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion up 3.5 percent after reaching a deal with the Saudis on encrypted messages.
And shares of Verizon and Google are higher after agreeing on rules for maintaining so-called net neutrality.
Hewlett-Packard shares plunging 8 can‘t on the first day of trading since the resignation of CEO Mark Hurd.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE SESTAK (D-PA), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I said, how about Michelle? It is a woman‘s nation. More women are employed than men for the first time in the history of America. And she can help us also highlight those changes to the working family. So, that‘s why I also wanted Michelle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Well, welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Pennsylvania Senate candidate Joe Sestak on why he wants Michelle Obama to campaign for him. Can she be a secret weapon for Democrats this fall? Or will her lavish trip to Spain hurt her popularity with some voters?
Dee Dee Myers was White House press secretary in the Clinton administration. And Nia-Malika Henderson is a national political reporter for “The Washington Post.”
And, Nia, I want to start with you. And let‘s start with what Congressman Sestak requested, because we hear about this from a lot of members of Congress. What are the plans of the first lady this fall? Will she engage in a robust campaign schedule?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON
POST”: Well, that‘s what‘s being debated at the White House right now, what this campaign—or campaign swing will look like for Michelle Obama.
Of course, her first priority is her kids. And it will probably be a limited schedule, but we do know she will be out there. One of the things that this White House is saying that she would be good with women candidates in close races, whether they be races out in California or, for instance, Representative Mary Jo Kilroy in Ohio has requested her.
So, already, about a dozen or so candidates have requested her. And you saw Joe Sestak there actually choose her, and say...
HENDERSON: ... you know, that Michelle Obama is her number—is his number-one choice.
TODD: Dee Dee, are you surprised to hear that it‘s still being debated how to use her, where to use her, how much? What does that tell you? You‘ve dealt inside a White House where people have requested the help of a spouse—though, in the ‘94 midterms, Hillary Clinton was...
DEE DEE MYERS, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Not so much, yes.
TODD: ... not so much at that time because of the battle on health care.
But does that tell you that maybe they—maybe the spouse isn‘t ready to go on the campaign trail?
MYERS: Well, certainly, she‘s protected her time. She‘s made it clear, as Nia said, that her children are her first priority, as are the initiatives she‘s focused on, childhood obesity, fighting it, and military families.
But she wants to campaign. That‘s what the White House is saying. She wants to get out there and help Democratic candidates. She wants to do it in the way that she‘s campaigned—what she did in the 2008 campaign, which is to do positive, to highlight the administration‘s accomplishments and go to districts where she can be helpful.
But the fact that Joe Sestak, in a tight race in a purple state—
TODD: Yes. Sure.
MYERS: -- is requesting her suggests that she‘s a lot of power out there to help.
TODD: Nia, you, there are some cynical Democratic strategists not connected to the White House who say, the White House is hesitant to put the first lady out to campaign this year because they like the fact that she‘s stayed above politics, stayed out of the fray, and they continue to like to see her stay out of the fray until 2012.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right, that‘s certainly one of the arguments out there. That she would remain off the scene and keep the 66 percent approval ratings until then. I think what it suggests is how kind of polarizing Mrs. Obama has been in the past. I mean, everybody kind of remembers the bad old day in the East Wing.
HENDERSON: How bad things were for the campaign. And so, I think there‘s still a memory of that. You saw, you know, how this Spain trip was very much, you know, kind of in the spotlight and a lot of critics.
HENDERSON: And very much, you know, became a talking point for Republicans to paint her as kind of out of touch. So, I think, in some ways, there is a fear that it will be kind of a return to the bad old days of 2008.
TODD: Well, you brought up Spain. Here‘s DNC chairman, Tim Kaine, this morning on the “Today Show” responding to the criticism of the first lady‘s trip to Spain.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM KAINE, DNC CHAIRMAN: Matt, I think it‘s wrong to talk about the first lady‘s family vacation as a politician. She‘s a mom. And, you know, look, I‘ve been in elected office and political life for 17 years and I‘ve got a wife, and I‘ve got three kids. And when you‘re in office, you don‘t give up being a mom and a family member, too.
This was an opportunity for Michelle to join friends, and friends‘ daughters with a vacation with her kids and give them some exposure to a part of the world that they hadn‘t been before. And I don‘t think you talk about that, give it political analysis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Dee Dee, there‘s no doubt that you have folks in any West
Wing that sit there and say, always worried about optics particularly with
the first family. Tim Kaine introduced another factor here sometimes which
it doesn‘t matter what looks good. The principal has a spouse who maybe he doesn‘t want to tell her, “You can‘t do that.”
MYERS: I didn‘t experience that when I worked in the Clinton house.
TODD: Not at all?
TODD: Really? There was none of that between president and Mrs.
MYERS: Never. No, you know, look, I think both of things are true, that I think the first family ought to be able to vacation. They ought to have some zone of privacy. But the real world doesn‘t allow as much of that as either me as a citizen or certainly Obama—
TODD: Is it fair that they‘re a role model? That she‘s a role model? I think she doesn‘t like the fact that her vacation spot was being treated sort of as an example, were she? Is that a fair thing?
MYERS: Well, it comes with—I mean, you want to go out there and lead on issues whether childhood obesity or literacy or whatever, that visibility comes with a price. And so, you can go to Spain and go on what seems like an elegant vacation, but there‘s a political price to be paid. I think it‘s very short term. I don‘t think a month from now—
MYERS: -- people are going to be talking—or a week from now, people will be talking about this. They talked about it when she was there. That‘s just a reality of life at the White House, though. You know, there‘s going to be a certain price to pay for doing things that maybe other Americans can‘t do.
Laura Bush went in --
MYERS: -- to the national parks and hiked with her friends. That got less attention.
TODD: She stayed in the States.
TODD: And that was the difference there.
MYERS: Right. And she—that may not have been her first choice.
TODD: Quickly, Nia, and I got to go. I saw you wanted to—
HENDERSON: I mean, I think the White House is some way kind of countering this. I mean, this is a first lady that‘s been on like 11 magazine covers.
HENDERSON: She‘ll be out on “Ladies Home Journal” tomorrow.
HENDERSON: And I think that‘s what they want to do. They want to get her story out there and they think that will be enough to counter of this idea of her as Marie Antoinette.
MYERS: Which is ridiculous.
MYERS: And by the way, she was—she did go with some friends. And she did—it was a preplanned thing. And one of her friends had recently lost her father.
MYERS: Wanted the first lady to come. But it‘s a fact. It affects decisionmaking because she‘s a human being and a friend and a mother.
Dee Dee Myers and Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you both for that conversation.
All right. Up next: we hear a lot of talk about how Washington is broken. So, how bad is it? And what it‘s going to take to fix it? Or are we just bringing too much attention to it?
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
TODD: It‘s your 2012 politics now. A proxy war brewing in Georgia among Republican presidential contenders—Sarah Palin endorsed Georgia secretary of state and her own mama grizzly, Karen Handel, for the Republican nomination for governor. And Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich have thrown his support behind Handel‘s runoff opponent, Congressman Nathan Deal. This Palin versus Huckabee fight is just one front in this war.
By the way, Mitt Romney endorsed Handel a long time ago. Just like he did with Nikki Haley before Sarah Palin jumped in. And yet, she‘s getting all the credit. She was there with them today.
Anyway, the runoff election is tomorrow. Big primary day.
HARDBALL will be right back.
TODD: Well, we are back.
Is Washington broken and beyond repair?
“Vanity Fair‘s national editor, Todd Purdum, has a great big piece. One of those big think pieces in the latest issue of the magazine, which, of course, has Lady Gaga on the cover because you have to sell the magazine. But it‘s called “Washington, We Have a Problem.”
We‘re also joined by a Washingtonian from birth, “Politico‘s” senior political reporter, Jonathan Martin.
And, look, you‘ve gotten a little tide, you‘ve gotten a lot of attention for this piece, this idea that it‘s broken. I think Rahm Emanuel refers to Washington and cementing his own four-letter legacy as “F-nutsville.”
But one part of your piece has not gotten a lot of attention, and it was striking to me, and that was the fact that the media is the fourth estate. It‘s the industry of lobbying. I mean, this figure you used—you said, in 2009, expenditures for lobbying, $3.5 billion, with a “B,” or $1.3 million for each hour that Congress was in session, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
That‘s—that to me is the eye-opener of this piece, almost more than anything else.
TODD PURDUM, VANITY FAIR: It‘s pretty incredible. And a single
lobbying entity, the Chamber of Commerce, spent $144 million last year,
which is more than the combined payroll of all 535 members of Congress. So
I mean, the stakes are so wildly disproportionate in terms what have resources can be brought to bear. And the typical congressman or senator, you know, really doesn‘t need that much.
John Breaux, senator from Louisiana, once famously said, “My vote can‘t be bought, but it can occasionally be rented.”
TODD: You know, Jonathan, I was looking at this piece and I went into it with a little bit cynical. Washington is broken, you know what, we‘re all going to thumb suck.
You see a number like that, though, and you say, OK, maybe things have changed. This lobbying community—like I said, you‘ve grown up around here.
JONATHAN MARTIN, POLITICO: Right.
TODD: K Street is no longer just a street. It‘s a community.
MARTIN: Well, it‘s the entire culture now of Washington. And also, if you go over to the Hill, those bills are frequently (INAUDIBLE), those bills are actually written by lobbyists. I mean, the actual language itself, because the lobbyists are the only ones that actually are the experts on the issues. They‘re the ones feeding the committee staff the actual language for the bills. That‘s a fact.
But I was struck, Chuck, in this piece and also the “New Yorker” piece by George Packer about the U.S. Senate.
PURDUM: A wonderful piece.
MARTIN: Two things. Increasingly, the real campaigns are played out within the parties themselves, not against each other, ours versus these. But these folks are so scared of primaries nowadays that you‘ve got, now, Republicans, for example, talking about overturning the 14th Amendment.
Why are they doing that? Does Mitch McConnell suddenly care about this issue? I would doubt it seriously. They are scared of a radicalized GOP base that right now is demanding action on immigration and are talking about addressing this issue because they‘re scared of their own base and being primaried. That‘s what drives folks on the R side and this side now in facing its primaries.
TODD: Now, you rightly, I think, put a focus on this—the lobbying community as this hidden fourth estate that no one talks about. You hear it used as a punching bag but no one—but the media is playing a role here a little bit, too. And that is the fact that it‘s—it‘s not clear which came first, the polarized Washington or the polarized way that people get information about Washington. And then we‘ve shined a spotlight on it, but with our own lens and we focus it in its special way.
PURDUM: First of all, I mean, the media from the French Revolution on the media who thrives on conflict. And that‘s why we say “man bites dog” and not “dog bites the man.” So, that‘s a given. But it‘s the intensity—
TODD: Wait a minute. Breaking news, another plane has landed safely at National Airport. That is correct. And, right, we never break in for that.
PURDUM: You scared me for one second. What‘s going on here?
TODD: But that‘s my point. You don‘t break in for that.
PURDUM: And we don‘t say Washingtonians got up and had their coffee and went to school and—
PURDUM: But what has happened, the frequency and velocity is so increased that in 15 years ago when I covered the White House for “The New York Times,” we like to say we had a 24/7 media, we really did not. We had CNN which every 22 minutes had the world headlines. But it wasn‘t that some blogger sitting in a house someplace could cause a story that would make the White House react at midnight.
MARTIN: It‘s also—it‘s also the break down, and not just Washington media, but in regional newspapers.
Last August, a year ago, I was down in Florida, the panhandle, going to Allan Boyd town hall meetings. The folks had those town hall meetings, Chuck, they were not reading the “Pensacola News Journal.” They were not reading the “Tallahassee Democrat.”
They were listening to Rush Limbaugh, they were reading Drudge (ph), and they were watching—
TODD: Local news has gone national.
MARTIN: And they were FOX News. And that‘s where they got their information entirely.
TODD: Not from the “Tallahassee Democrat”—anyway, we‘re going to continue this discussion in a minute. We‘re going to be back, Todd Purdum and Jonathan Martin.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
TODD: All right. We are back with “Vanity Fair‘s” Todd Purdum and “Politico‘s” Jonathan Martin.
And with Todd, I just encourage everybody, you got to have to go buy the darn magazine. They‘re making you do it. Yes, you have to look at Lady Gaga, but you can quickly like fold the cover.
Todd, I‘m going to ask this in an odd way. There‘s an enthusiasm gap that we‘ve all heard about Republicans very enthusiastic. We‘ve done some of our crunching of the numbers. And that even if you include, you know, most intense voters, Republicans have kind of an 18-point lead in this generic ballot. If you include passive voters who say they‘re probably going to vote, then suddenly, their gap narrows down to about four points. But Republicans still lead and that would translate in the big games.
What was your sense being in the White House of how much they‘re following the campaign day-to-day? You were with Rahm and Ax and all of those guys. How much are they following the rhythm of the campaign?
PURDUM: Oh, I think they‘re following it plenty closely. I don‘t think they like to talk about how closely they‘re following it. And they, in some ways, like to pretend that, you know, they don‘t care that much about it. But I think there‘s a real one (ph), which they also—I don‘t want to say they don‘t care that much about it. But, you know, they certainly don‘t want Darrell Issa issuing subpoenas from the House—
TODD: Yes, that‘s how—
PURDUM: You know, or they don‘t want to have harder confirmations for judges in the Senate. But I think—you know, history has shown it wasn‘t the worst thing in the world for Bill Clinton when he had—
TODD: Did you get that feeling or are you just projecting that feeling?
PURDUM: No, I don‘t know, they don‘t say that.
PURDUM: No one has said anything like that to me at all. I think
what they say is a more Zen-like thing which is que sera, sera. If we do -
if we listen, we listen. We believe in what we‘re doing, we think we have a story to tell, a case to make, and eventually we‘ll get credit for it.
TODD: This enthusiasm gap, one reason we wanted to expand how we do it, we have seen these numbers of the most likely and we‘ve seen the Gallup. But the problem was, if you just had looked at those numbers, then Republicans would have won that special in Pennsylvania 12th, the John Murtha seat, and Democrats contend that in these polling models, you‘re missing some of—like Democratic voters who are not showing up in these polls.
What does that tell you when you see that it‘s 46-42? Is it still a dogfight?
MARTIN: I think it‘s still competitive. Anybody that tells you in August that the election in November is going to definitely turn what, you know, X or Y, I think is making stuff up. I think it‘s much more important to look at the jobs numbers coming on in September and October. Have a much better sense then.
TODD: All right. You just went to one of the great American traditions, fancy farm picnic in Kentucky where the candidates go there to yell at each other. (INAUDIBLE) I hate too, I think to do that. And Kentucky brings up Rand Paul, quirky story out of “GQ” about his days at Baylor University. You know, the story itself is just odd about what he did, big bong, trying to force somebody to smoke marijuana.
MARTIN: He was on the swim team there and they blindfolded one of his swim team colleagues, who was a woman, blindfolded her and forced to take bong hits, which I believe is a marijuana device, Chuck.
TODD: Right. Sort of what I‘ve heard. At what point does this—is there too many quirky stories about Rand Paul? Does it become useful or does it quickly—
MARTIN: They wouldn‘t play ball at “GQ,” and gave “GQ” a non-denial denial.
TODD: No flat denial.
MARTIN: I think they‘re going to have to talk about the issue at some point. Paul is going to be asked about it on the campaign trail in Kentucky. Unfortunately, it was fancy farm.
TODD: All right. Jonathan Martin, Todd Purdum, buy “Vanity Fair” now. Thank you both.
That‘s HARDBALL. Thanks for being with us.
Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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