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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Howard Fineman, Julia Boorstin, Jack Kingston, Anthony Weiner, Thea Lee, Stephen Moore, Mark McKinnon, Ryan Kiesel

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  No Christmas truce.  Not yet.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews, back in Washington.  Leading off tonight, shaping the political battlefield.  I woke up this morning thinking the Republicans and the Democrats, the president and his partisan rivals in town, had it figured out.  The president would limit the rich people‘s tax cuts to a temporary deal.  The middle class would get their tax cut made permanent.  The jobless people would get their full extended benefits.  And we wouldn‘t risk a second cold war by killing the deal with Moscow over nuclear weapons.

Well, let‘s put it this way.  The holiday spirit hasn‘t arrived as fast as the Christmas advertising.  The entire Republican caucus in the Senate signed a letter that says nothing, nothing happens until they get what they want, tax cuts for the wealthy.  They promise to filibuster repealing “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” filibuster immigration, filibuster extending unemployment benefits until they get that vote they want on tax cuts for the top 2 percent.

Well, the Democrats have joined the fight on their terms.  They now plan to hold a vote tomorrow in the House, which they still control for a few weeks, to embarrass Republicans as protectors of wealthy.

Congressman Anthony Weiner is a Democrat from New York and Congressman Jack Kingston a Republican from Georgia.  Congressman Kingston, let me ask you to start the ball rolling here.  It looks to me like the House Democratic leadership—and it still is the leadership—are going to have a vote tomorrow to basically force your party to decide whether you‘re for tax cuts for the middle class, even if they‘re the only ones who get it.

REP. JACK KINGSTON ®, GEORGIA:  You know, Chris, I think it‘s Nancy Pelosi‘s last hurrah on the way out the door, pushing policies that have already been soundly rejected by the American people.  The president, as you have pointed out, is starting to negotiate with Republican leaders and Democrat leaders in the Senate, some of the more responsible ones, and we‘re trying to figure out, Well, what can we do?  Where can we find a compromise?

But in the meantime, Speaker Pelosi on her own tear (ph) has decided, We‘re going to bring this bill up on the floor, we‘re going to get the Republicans one more time and play “I gotcha” politics, which is not what the American people want right now.

So it‘s very disappointing to us, but we‘re going to stand by principle.  We believe this is about jobs, not about tax cuts for the wealthy.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Weiner, is that right?

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  Well, if you‘re in favor for a tax cut for people less than $250,000 a year, you vote yes.  That‘s the way it is.  The problem is with my Republican friends, they don‘t know when to take yes for an answer.  You know, Jack Kingston, I think, supports the idea of giving middle class people a tax cut.  That‘s what we are going to put up to a vote.

Now, the only debate here is how you deal with tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires and people over $250,000.  Let‘s figure that out later, but for now, let‘s stand up for the middle class in this country and let‘s give them the one thing we all agree upon.

I don‘t know what the problem is with that.  The Republicans have gotten so used to saying no on every single thing, they‘re even saying no on things that they essentially agree with, which is providing tax relief for people who make less than $250,000 a year.

MATTHEWS:  You know, the people watching this might get the idea that this is for real, Congressman Kingston, but the fact is, we all know the Senate holds the veto card.  The Republicans in the Senate can say, You‘re not getting the vote, it‘s not going to happen until we get the full vote.  And I‘m going to get to that.  These senators—all the Republican senators have put out a statement last night, no vote on anything until you get a vote on a complete tax cut for everybody.  Is that your position as a party?

KINGSTON:  Yes.  And the reason why, Chris, is because—and number one, I want to point out very emphatically that the White House is working with the Republicans in the Senate on this.  And while they might not agree with everything, they do understand this is about jobs.  And 750,000 of those people in that category are small businesses.  These are sheet rock contractors and masonry people, people who sometimes work out of their house, sometimes work out of the back of a pickup truck.  They have three or four employees, sometimes 15 employees.  But we don‘t want to increase their taxes.  This is about jobs, and that‘s why we‘re making a line in the sand about it.

MATTHEWS:  How do you deal with that Senate veto?  I know you guys in the House have an attitude about the so-called upper house, as they see it, but how do you deal with that veto over there?  If they say you‘re not going to get a vote before the holidays, are you, Congressman Weiner, willing to have the House adjourn this year without getting the deal with these tax cuts?  In other words, letting people—everybody‘s taxes go up, if it comes to that.  Would you fight that game of chicken right to the end?

WEINER:  Well, you know, frankly, I‘m sick and tired of hearing people in the Senate say, I‘m going to hold my breath until I get what I want.  If they‘re going to filibuster, make them...

MATTHEWS:  How‘re you going to stop them?

WEINER:  Make them filibuster—to start with, make them filibuster every step of the way.  Look, I only have the ability to deal with one House at a time.  And what we‘re trying to do here—and I, frankly, agree with Jack.  I‘m OK to having a conversation about how you deal with people over $250,000.  But let‘s do the stuff we agree on first.

As far as the Senate, this is, frankly, a harbinger of what we have to come for the next two years, petulance on the side of Republicans who say, I want it my way or the highway.  It‘s—I‘m sick and tired of this!  The American people don‘t want what the Senate Republicans want, so I say hold them up and make sure that they actually have these filibusters.  I will wait here while they filibuster.  But this whole idea—I think we‘ve got to call their bluff once and for all.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you, Congressman Kingston, are you willing to go Christmas break or holiday break at the end of the year without having gotten a tax cut for everybody?  Would you be willing to face recess, just walk away and say, If we can‘t get the tax cuts for everybody, we‘re walking?  Are you willing to take that position?

KINGSTON:  Yes.  And I think we will come back on December 26th or whatever it takes to try to turn this economy around.  You know, Chris, the reason why we‘re here is because of the failed Obama/Pelosi economic plans, a stimulus bill of $800 billion that left us with 15 million people unemployed.  You know, to paraphrase the name of a very popular TV show, this is the town of hardball.


KINGSTON:  And the reason why—and I think Anthony and I together could probably cut a deal...


KINGSTON:  ... but the reality is, in this town, if we say, Let‘s just do the middle class right now, we‘ll never get around to those small businesses that fall in that other category.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, let me ask you...


MATTHEWS:  What about the unemployment rate?  I got to go to the jobless.  We got two million people, I‘m told, are going to lose their jobless benefits, Congressman Weiner, by the end of the year.  I know you guys care about it, the Democrats‘ side, those jobless people.  If this happens, if you don‘t get a deal of some kind, the Republicans won‘t let you vote on it in the Senate—and you say you don‘t care what the Senate does.  They‘re screwing around over there.  Make them stay with the cots, come in and sleep there all night through Christmas.  Fine.  But if they hold this fight to the fire as long as they intend to, you could go to Christmas break with no unemployment benefits for two million people, with taxes going up for every single voter who pays taxes.  Is this a fight that you‘re willing to take that far?

Again, back to my question, if you want to win the game chicken, you have to be willing to drive your truck right down the center lane, don‘t you?

WEINER:  Yes, but here‘s the problem that we face.  We as Democrats know that come January, Mr. Kingston, who might be the chairman of the Appropriations Committee—they‘re going to be in charge.  We‘re trying to use whatever leverage we have.  We believe—we were elected for two full years.

But I would just say to your viewers, understand this unemployment insurance that people are getting is way less expensive than what states are going to have to pay for people who become poor and can‘t afford health care...


WEINER:  ... way, way less expensive than providing food stamps...


WEINER:  ... for people, for example.  The fact of the matter is, the Republican Party say they care about the unemployed, and then they say no unemployment insurance.  That‘s insane.

MATTHEWS:  Well, not every Republican‘s on board, but you just describe it in sort of cartoon terms of what Republicans are.  Here‘s moderate Republican senator Olympia Snowe today in a statement.  Quote, “In urging Senate leadership to take up legislation to prevent a tax increase, I also call upon leadership on both sides to ensure that the expiration of unemployment benefits is seamlessly addressed so that there are no gaps for those individuals looking for work but unable to find jobs.”

Congressman Kingston, isn‘t that what the Democrats have against you guys?  If you guys insist on a tax cut for the very wealthy people before you do anything else, aren‘t you holding hostage the unemployment benefits of people who‘ve been out of work for a long time?

KINGSTON:  Well, first of all, remember, we‘re not in the majority in either body at this time.  It‘s still a Democrat town.

MATTHEWS:  No, but you‘ve got the veto in the Senate.  You‘ve got the filibuster.

KINGSTON:  Well, OK, that being the case, I think we could come together on extension of unemployment if it is properly offset.  I would like to take the unused stimulus money, which is about $60 billion, and pay for it.  And we do not need to continuously keep digging the deficit deeper and deeper.  So there are ways we could get this thing done.

I think tying it into small business, not raising taxes on small businesses, which is what the Democrats want to do—I think that‘s proper because the small business machines are what creates...


KINGSTON:  ... most of the jobs in the economy.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s like—you know, Congressman, with all due respect—you‘re going to be chairman of Appropriations, as Congressman Weiner said—that sounds like a Democrat saying, All we need to do to reduce the deficit is to go back to the public option fight.  That‘s not on the table.  The public option is off the table right now.

Let me go back to Congressman Weiner because I (INAUDIBLE) where you‘re coming from.  The president of the United States seemed to be going last night, after all those meetings yesterday, the kumbaya meetings, with something like a temporary extension for the rich people, a permanent extension of the tax cuts for people under $250,000, a complete extension of unemployment benefits and get back on the track with new START with the Russians.  It looked like a deal was in the works there.  Were you happy, at least willing to put up with that kind of a deal?

WEINER:  Yes, I‘d be open to that kind of a deal.  But here‘s what President Obama doesn‘t understand, but I think the three of us in this conversation get.  The Republicans aren‘t going to say yes to anything.  Their singular objective is not letting President Obama and the Democratic Congress have any accomplishments.  They don‘t care who suffers.  As soon as President Obama understands that, I think we‘ll all be a lot better off.


MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think you‘re right because McCain is showing a little looseness here about new START.  You‘re beginning to hear people like Olympia Snowe getting nervous about unemployment benefits being denied people.  I don‘t know, I‘m not as absolutist as you are.  Are you absolutist over this, Mr. Kingston?  Do you really believe that the other party is absolutist, that there isn‘t going to be a deal before the recess, before Christmas?

KINGSTON:  I don‘t, either.  You know, this is my 18th year up here.  You two have been here many years.  Chris, you‘re here longer than either one of us.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

KINGSTON:  We all know that—but you still look younger!

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

KINGSTON:  The last two minutes of the basketball game is when the points are really added up and when the game is finalized.  It‘s the same thing in politics.  And I‘ve seen it under President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, Speaker Foley, Speaker Gingrich, Speaker Hastert...


KINGSTON:  When we‘re going home, that‘s when the deals come together. 

We‘re going to get this thing done.

MATTHEWS:  OK, what‘s the...

WEINER:  I just want to say...


MATTHEWS:  Mr. Weiner, you‘re the sharpest knife in the drawer, as far as I‘m concerned, Mr. Weiner, so let me ask you the question.  What‘s the best deal you, as a liberal Democrat, think you can get going out for the holidays on these four issues—tax cuts, unemployment benefits, new START, whatever else you have on the list?  What‘s the best deal a liberal can get this year, given what we‘re facing?

WEINER:  I don‘t know.  I‘ve come increasingly to the place that—you know, this is not a game.  And I know Jack didn‘t mean it like that.  These are real people‘s lives.  We had people like Jon Kyl right from the beginning on the START treaty.  Now he‘s a no.  We‘ve got people like McConnell saying their singular objective is to make sure Obama doesn‘t have a second term.

I think if we believe there‘s going to be cooperation on anything from the Republicans, lesson after lesson after lesson have told us that is just artifice, it ain‘t going to happen.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s December 1st...

KINGSTON:  Anthony, it will happen.

MATTHEWS:  December 1st—we got a few weeks of this hell to pay before—by the way, I notice the Christmas advertisements all up, but the Christmas mood hasn‘t quite arrived yet.  Anyway, thank you, guys.  Congressman Anthony Weiner, thank you, sir.  Happy Hanukkah, sir.  And thank you...

WEINER:  Happy Hanukkah.  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  And thank you, Mr. Jack Kingston, who‘s about to—I just heard it.  You‘ve just been dubbed chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

KINGSTON:  I‘ve got Anthony‘s vote.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well...

WEINER:  I don‘t think you want it.

MATTHEWS:  Then you‘ve got them all.


MATTHEWS:  Coming up: The leaders of the president‘s deficit commission released a report today, at least formally.  Problem: Nobody‘s voting for it yet, except the leaders, supposedly.  Let‘s see what‘s happening here, and let‘s talk about the taxes Republicans don‘t want to raise, the cuts the Democrats won‘t want to go along with.  How do you reduce the debt if you don‘t do either?  Anybody thought that one through?

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Well, take a look at the fight over which Republican congressman will be the new chairman of the House Science Committee.  In one corner, it‘s California‘s Dana Rohrabacher, who says global warning is a total fraud and says the committee should be used as a bully pulpit against those who believe that humans are causing global warming.  In the other corner, well, you‘ve got Ralph of Texas, who says people can‘t change nature.  Well, this is the chairmanship of the House Science Committee, and they‘re actually fighting over who‘s less of a believer in science.  What a party!  Anyway—the Luddite party‘s taking over.

You‘ll be right back—well, we‘ll be right back.  The Luddites!



ALAN SIMPSON (R-WY), DEBT COMMISSION CO-CHAIR:  Let me say this to my 12 legislative colleagues, a cautionary tale.  I have been where you are.  I feel your pain, in the words of a former president.  And the heat—the heat is on you.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was certainly true, and that was former Republican senator Alan Simpson—get that name, “former” -- today officially unveiling the recommendations of President Obama‘s fiscal reform commission.

The panel made suggestions, as we expected, in several areas, six altogether.  First, cut discretionary spending.  That‘s the spending that‘s controlled by appropriations each year, including the military.  Second, reform the tax code.  Get rid of a lot of exemptions, like your house.  Third, cut health care costs, including Medicare.  That‘s easy.  Fourth, reduce mandatory spending, such as farm subsidies.  Fifth, reform Social Security, including raising the age for benefits down the road.  And finally, reform the budget process itself.

Already today, two senators on the panel, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Kent Conrad, said they‘d back the plan.  But there‘s plenty of opposition remaining.  All 18 members of the panel will vote on the recommendations on Friday.  They need 14, including the two chairs.  That means 12 new votes.  Is there any room for compromise here?  That‘s on Friday, the big vote.

Thea Lee—is it “Tia”...


MATTHEWS:  Thea Lee is the deputy chief of staff of the AFL-CIO and Stephen Moore‘s an editorial board member for “The Wall Street Journal.”

Well, here‘s the problem, and everybody here who watches HARDBALL know it.  Republicans don‘t want to see a tax increase of any kind, including exposure of people who make over $100,000 a year or more to Social Security taxes.  They don‘t want to see these loopholes plugged.  They don‘t want to pay any more taxes.  They figure we‘re taxed enough.  Democrats, on the other hand, as a group really like the amount of government—the—they‘d like to see the government spend.  In fact, they‘d like to see the government spend more (INAUDIBLE) see these proposals over year.  Democrats have new proposals.  Everybody‘s got a new proposal to spend more money.

So you guys don‘t want to cut anything in spending.  You guys don‘t want to raise any taxes.


MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s get the—that‘s the cartoon view that I start with.  Correct me.  You first, Thea.  Where am I wrong in saying you‘re willing to cut spending?  You‘re not willing.  Are you willing?  Tell me where.

LEE:  We are willing to cut some spending, but I think...

MATTHEWS:  Where?  Some spending—the federal budget deficit now is $1.4 trillion.  That‘s our deficit.  Where are you going to cut in any way that‘s going to deal with that deficit?

LEE:  Well, there‘s two issues.  One is that the immediate problem we have is a jobs problem, not a deficit problem.  The deficit problem is a medium to long-term problem down the road, which we can address—we should address the deficit problem mainly with revenues, with tax increases, and the people who should pay those tax increases are the people who have...

MATTHEWS:  How—what percentage...

LEE:  ... given themselves a party.

MATTHEWS:  ... of the American economy are people willing to pay in taxes?  I‘m looking at a chart here from a liberal here, Robert Samuelson, basically saying that by the year 2035, if we don‘t change our ways—this is, by the way, like Dickens in “A Christmas Carol,” the ghost of Christmas future is coming—and it tells us that it‘ll be up to 30 percent, roughly, of all the economy will go to the federal government in spending if we don‘t do something about it.

Will the American people pay 30 percent of the economy in taxes?  Because you say the answer is revenues.  Are we willing to spend that much money in taxes to pay for a federal government that spends 30 percent of the economy?

LEE:  I‘ll tell you how we have to get spending under control, which is health care costs.  That is what‘s driving...

MATTHEWS:  How do you do that?

LEE:  ... the deficit—we could do that with a public option, for one thing.  We could do that...

MATTHEWS:  OK, we‘re wasting time.

LEE:  ... with a whole bunch of other things.  We‘re not...

MATTHEWS:  We‘re wasting time because that‘s not...

LEE:  It‘s a perfectly...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s already been considered and been rejected.  So what are we talking about?

LEE:  Well, we are talking about...

MATTHEWS:  Tell me how—I know this is the liberal argument...

MOORE:  How is a public option going lower costs?  You‘re going to put more people onto the government system?  That‘s going to lower costs?


MOORE:  I mean, if you‘re going to talk about lowering the deficit...

MATTHEWS:  Everybody in this business has a way to hide.

MOORE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s your hole.

MOORE:  Look...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s your hole?


MOORE:  Look, I agree with you.  We‘ve got...

MATTHEWS:  ... because you guys really don‘t want to...

MOORE:  ... to bring spending...

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t want to deal with the tax (INAUDIBLE)

MOORE:  No, actually, I do.  What I think we ought to do is we have—we should have a much more sane tax system that lowers rates, broadens the base.  We did this in 1986.

MATTHEWS:  Is Tom Donohue fighting for that?  Are the business communities fighting for lower rates...


MOORE:  Yes, I think there would be a bipartisan consensus.

You know, I think one thing we probably agree on, the best way to increase revenues is to grow this economy.  We have got to get more jobs. 


MOORE:  But this is really important.

MATTHEWS:  As big as the economy gets...


MOORE:  We have got to get the economy growing, or we‘re never going to make any progress on this. 


MOORE:  I‘m sorry, but taxing the rich isn‘t going to do it. 


MOORE:  Even if you took—let me just say this.  Even if you took every single penny of every rich person in America, 100 percent, you couldn‘t even still balance the budget.  We still couldn‘t balance the budget. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s find something you care about.  I want to be nice to you.  I was too tough here.

Let me tell you something we all like.  I‘m a liberal on this completely.  I think Social Security was a brilliant idea of Franklin Roosevelt.  And the brilliance of it was, it wasn‘t means-tested.  So, it wasn‘t a welfare program.  When you got your Social Security check, you were proud to get it, because you paid into it your whole working life.  And everybody right now getting it has a full right to it.  That was the genius of it. 

It didn‘t look like socialism.  It wasn‘t socialism, because it was paid for, not with general taxes, but by a dedicated payroll tax that you paid into, and, when you were 65, you got it, OK?

There‘s a problem today.  Back in 1930-something, when we passed the law, the Democrats did, people didn‘t live much past 65.  So, when you insured a person not to live past 65, this was a pretty good bet.  Today, people are living into their 80s.  Thank God, they have got good health care.  That‘s another issue we can get to.

How do you deal with that simple fact?  There are going to be more retirees per worker.  And that‘s a problem that has nothing to do with right wing, left wing.  How are we going to keep Social Security sustainable? 

What‘s the labor issue.  You‘re with the AFL-CIO. 


LEE:  I‘m with the AFL-CIO. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the labor proposal?

LEE:  I think if we raise the cap on income that is subject to the Social Security tax, you get about three-quarters of the income shortfall that you need. 

And there are a couple of other little changes you can make.  There are tweaks that you can make in the Social Security system.

MATTHEWS:  But those people will never get that money back. 

LEE:  No, that isn‘t right.  That isn‘t right.  Well, I mean...

MOORE:  Do you increase their benefits, or...

LEE:  ... it is a somewhat progressive system, Social Security.

MATTHEWS:  No, you‘re basically taxing people in a way that they will they never get it back in benefits.  Therefore, it‘s becoming more like welfare. 


MOORE:  Social Security is going to turn into welfare.

LEE:  But we have understood for a long time the Social Security system is a pay-as-you-go system and that we have a huge baby boom that‘s going to retire at the same time.

MATTHEWS:  But is it a “rich people pay so middles-class people can benefit” program?  Because that‘s what you‘re proposing. 

LEE:  There‘s always been some element of progressivity to Social Security.


MATTHEWS:  What‘s your response to her proposal?


MATTHEWS:  She says, basically...


MATTHEWS:  This is the proposal on the table.

MOORE:  We need more jobs, not less jobs.  How are you getting more jobs by raising the payroll tax?


MATTHEWS:  How are you going to deal with Social Security problem, with people living longer and fewer workers? 


MOORE:  Well, I think we have to eventually, through a voluntary system, move this towards a personal account system, number one, for people who want to do it. 


MATTHEWS:  What does that mean? 

MOORE:  Allow people to put it into a 401(k), so they actually get a good return on the money. 


MATTHEWS:  But how does the money build up to pay...


MOORE:  Look, I have an 18- and 17-year-old.  The worst investment they will make in their lifetime is Social Security.  They are going to get a lousy return on it. 


MATTHEWS:  That doesn‘t solve the problem of more people being old. 


MOORE:  Yes, it does, because you what do is, then they‘re not going to collect benefits.  They will get the money...


MATTHEWS:  Oh, they don‘t want benefits.


MATTHEWS:  So, your son will forego benefits? 


MOORE:  You get your benefit from your individual account, which I think most people...


MOORE:  But here‘s the thing.  I will agree with you on...


MATTHEWS:  By the way, there‘s a problem with that thing.  And I will tell you where the problem—because I used to argue this with my dad growing up.  And I took the very libertarian view as a kid.  I don‘t want any government around me.  I don‘t want them telling me what to do.  If I want to save money, I will save it. 

He says this.  And I—my dad is gone now.  But here‘s the thing he said.  A lot of people aren‘t responsible.  They don‘t save money.  They‘re strapped economically.  They don‘t save money.  So, at 65, they will be on welfare. 


MOORE:  No, no.


MOORE:  ... saving plan.

But here—but let‘s get to the other two issues that are so important, first of all, raising the retirement age.  Of course we have to.  This is a no-brainer. 


MATTHEWS:  Where are you on that?


MATTHEWS:  I‘m not worried about this one, OK?  I was just whacked for getting older.  OK, fine.  2075, I‘m not worried about.  Maybe you folks are.

MOORE:  Most people aren‘t even born yet who are going to be affected

by that.


MATTHEWS:  It will go to 69.  Now, I think the problem is you‘re driving a big semi out there.  There are certain jobs you‘re doing the thing out in the road.

MOORE:  OK.  I will live with that.  I will live with that. 

MATTHEWS:  There are certain jobs that you cannot do late in your 60s. 

Now, you can hang around the law firm until you‘re 90. 


MOORE:  Right.  But you know what?  If we had indexed the benefit age to the increase in life expectancy, people would be...


MATTHEWS:  Because a lot of people watching right now are over 65, and they are saying, wait a minute.  You raise it to 69 by 2075, well, I can live with that, because I‘m not going to... 


MATTHEWS:  I‘m not going to be here.

MOORE:  Exactly.  Right. 


LEE:  But the real problem...

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘ve got a problem with that.

LEE:  With raising the retirement age?

MOORE:  Why?

LEE:  Well, because part of what happens is that people who have tougher jobs, manual jobs, work harder at the lower incomes, don‘t live as long. 

MOORE:  OK.  Well, we can adjust for that. 


MOORE:  People are healthier at every single age. 


MOORE:  And the other thing is, the most amazing thing is, the other thing this commission proposes is a progressive indexing, so that wealthier people over time get a lesser benefit.  Why are liberals...


MOORE:  I‘m in favor of that benefit.  But are you in favor of that? 


MATTHEWS:  I had a plan that was given—real quickly, should we cut military spending, yes or no?

MOORE:  Yes. 

LEE:  Yes. 

MOORE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Should we cut the federal work force by 10 percent? 

LEE:  No. 

MOORE:  Twenty. 


MOORE:  And we should cut their benefits, too.


Should we add a 15 percent tax—or 15 cent tax to the federal gas tax, gasoline tax? 

MOORE:  No. 

LEE:  Yes, as long as we dedicate those funds to improving our transportation infrastructure that we desperate need.


MATTHEWS:  Medicare premiums higher, cost more? 

MOORE:  No. 

LEE:  Absolutely not. 


LEE:  That‘s putting the burden of adjustment on the people who can least afford to pay it. 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  So, and you disagree on the retirement age.

So, you agree on the gas tax, as long as it goes...


MOORE:  I‘m not in favor of that. 


MATTHEWS:  So, you don‘t agree on anything?


MOORE:  I‘m not in favor of any tax increase, unless it‘s a lowering...

MATTHEWS:  How about the military? 

Back to you.

MOORE:  Yes.  I mean, look, I think there‘s waste in every agency of government. 


MATTHEWS:  No, but cutting down commitments.  This isn‘t a saving—this waste and abuse stuff is so B.S.


MATTHEWS:  Are you going to cut down the amount of programs—the amount of countries we‘re going to occupy?  We‘re in Korea now.  We‘re in Germany.  At some point, you have got to pull back the commitments, if you‘re going to cut the spending.  You can‘t just say...

MOORE:  All right.  Look, I‘m not a military expert, but I will say this.


MATTHEWS:  Well, common sense tells that.

MOORE:  I think the Pentagon can take a hit, just like every other agency.

MATTHEWS:  Are you willing to reduce our military role in the world? 

MOORE:  In some places, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you?  Reduce our military role in the world, because you can‘t have the same amount of military power for less money. 

LEE:  I think we need to be strategic about how we do it, but I think there are ways that we could do it. 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, we‘re getting somewhere here. 


MOORE:  Yes.  See?

MATTHEWS:  We are getting somewhere, because I like your exemption.  If you have a real job that has real work, and you sweat while you do it, maybe you let the guy retire at 65. 

MOORE:  OK.  I can live with that, but, look, we can‘t have people...


MATTHEWS:  If you‘re unionized, you can get out early, right? 

Separate deal.


MOORE:  In the year 2075, people are going to live to 100. 


MATTHEWS:  Thea Lee, it‘s nice to meet you.  Thank you. 

Thank you. 

I do think the public option has been thoroughly debated on this network.  It will debated again.  It‘s not part of the deal right now.

Up next:  What is Senator James Inhofe demanding before he agrees to attend a holiday parade in Tulsa?  This is—this is what happens every Christmas.  It‘s about this stuff.  Anyway, you are going to be—very familiar fight coming up here.  Stick around for that.  It‘s in the “Sideshow.” 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.” 

First: taking the X out of Christmas?  Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe is threatening to boycott Tulsa‘s annual Holiday Parade of Lights unless the organizers put Christmas back in the title—quote—here‘s his words—

“Last year, the forces of political correctness removed the word Christmas and replaced it with holiday instead.  Until the parade is again named the Christmas Parade of Lights, I will not participate.”

The parade, by the way, set for December 11, underwent the name change so that could be more inclusive. 

Next:  Iowa voters don‘t want a flirtation.  They want commitment.  The influential “Des Moines Register” offered some blunt advice to Sarah Palin, writing—quote—“The caucuses are no casual romance.  Palin would have to give up some of her image control and privacy.  But what would she get?  What she would get in return are genuine and unscripted encounters with voters, who will challenge her.” 

Well, that‘s exactly what she has avoided since arriving on the national scene.  She only does interviews with FOX.  I‘m looking forward to this back and forth out in Iowa at least. 

Moving over to Wall Street, the revolving door keeps turning at the White House.  Ex-White House Budget Chief Peter Orszag is now in advanced talks to join Citigroup‘s investment banking division.  Citigroup took a $45 billion loan as part of TARP and is still 11 percent owned by the federal government. 

The White House, already sensitive to charges it‘s cozy with Wall Street, can‘t be happy with this latest move. 

Are you happy with it? 

Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Given the debate today over taxes, it‘s important to remember that some tax rates used to be much higher.  Right now, the top rate is just under 40 percent, as we know, about 39-something.  What was it back in 1955?  Wow.  According to “The New York Times,” 81 percent back then.  The richest paid four out of every five dollars to the federal government at the margin -- 81 percent tax rate at the margin, tonight‘s “blast from the past” “Big Number.” 

Up next:  The right calls him a socialist.  The left says he‘s trying to—trying too hard to find compromise that doesn‘t exist.  Is it time President Obama has to take sides?  Is he a moderate?  Is he a progressive?  Where is he?  A deal-maker or a guy whose is principled enough not to make a deal? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks riding high on a flurry of upbeat economic reports.  The Dow soaring 249 points, the S&P up 25, the Nasdaq surging 51 points.  Investors excited by encouraging economic reports at home and abroad, coupled with a surge in private hiring. 

Private employers added 93,000 jobs in November.  That is a huge turnaround, much larger than expected and the biggest jump in hiring in three years.  Meanwhile, the Fed‘s latest Beige Book report shows slow but steady economic growth in most regions.  Pockets of strength in manufacturing are offsetting a still dismal housing market.

And China‘s factories continue to rev up production, surging orders and output pushing raw material purchases to a seven-month high.  The auto sector looking especially strong today, after Ford, GM and Nissan posted higher sales for November.  And online retailers moving higher on a report showing Americans spent a billion dollars on Cyber Monday.  That‘s the most ever spent online in one day. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to



A month after the midterm, President Obama and Congress have a big list of things to get done, and there‘s little evidence that any of it will get done any time soon. 

Here‘s President Obama on Tuesday—actually, after yesterday‘s meeting with Republican leaders, followed by Republican Mike Pence today on “MORNING JOE.”  Wait until you catch this clash of wills here.  Here it comes. 


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It‘s no secret that we have had differences that have led us to part ways on many issues in the past.  But we are Americans first, and we share a responsibility for the stewardship of our nation.

The American people did not vote for gridlock.  They didn‘t vote for unyielding partisanship. 



REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA:  I saw this morning an article, Joe, that the president said something like the American people didn‘t vote for gridlock. 

Well, you know, they kind of did. 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC:  They kind of did.

PENCE:  Congress and the White House were working together pretty well the last couple of years, and the American people stood astride history here and yelled, stop. 



MATTHEWS:  Have you noticed how well the Congress and the president have worked together the last year, guys?  I‘m telling you, completely fictional, what I just heard there. 

Daily Beast contributor Mark McKinnon here is a vice chairman of public strategies and a former adviser to W., and John McCain also.  And MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman is a Huffington Post senior editor - - in fact, he is the senior political editor.

Howard, that was complete mouthwash.  There has been no deal-making the last two years.  The Republicans have said, no, no, no, no.  There were just more Democrats.  And now he‘s saying we have been getting along.  There‘s a guy who refuses to be in the Republican leadership, Mike Pence.  And I like him because he comes on this show.  But his whole strategy is to be an outlier, to be a maverick, no deal, so he can run for president, apparently. 

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, that‘s exactly right.  And you have that tension within, as I see it...

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t want to deal. 

FINEMAN:  No, no.  He doesn‘t want to deal.  And people like Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, are taking the posture right now that they want no deal, I think, except on taxes.  He wants nothing but that.  I don‘t know if he will be able to maintain that to the end, but that‘s what he‘s going to try to do.

MATTHEWS:  Is this all a reaction to the fact that Charlie Crist hugged the president last night and was never able to shake him?  But if you have any—if you‘re a Republican—let‘s take it from the right side.  If you have anything to do with a Democrat, like touch him, anything more than a fist bump, you‘re the problem. 


think it‘s a huge overreaction and a misreading of the election.  And I think the Republicans...


MATTHEWS:  And you‘re sort of center-right, right?


MCKINNON:  I‘m a radical centrist, but I‘m a proud Republican. 

But I worry when I see us going back to the days of shutting down government.  I remember what happened the last time we did that.  I think Republicans are wrong.  And I was glad to see Marco Rubio and others... 


MATTHEWS:  Who wins when the—if we have another sort of crazy Newt Gingrich shutdown? 

MCKINNON:  I think the Republicans lose.  I really do.

I think the American people do want us to work together.  They do want to see progress and they want to see bipartisanship.  And I think that it‘s a short-term strategy that has got long-term consequences.

MATTHEWS:  What was Pence talking about there?  He says that gridlock is popular.  Is it? 

FINEMAN:  Well, gridlock is popular with his people, the people he is going to appeal to when he runs for president.

MATTHEWS:  So, they don‘t want a deal on taxes?  Therefore, the taxes will go up.



FINEMAN:  They—the Republicans that I talk to on the Hill—and I spend a lot of time talking to them up there—they believe that they can get a several-year extension of all the tax cuts.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  That‘s not the same as gridlock.  That‘s hardball. 

FINEMAN:  No, that‘s hardball.  That‘s what they want.  That‘s what Pence wants, at a minimum.  Beyond that, they don‘t want anything. 

MATTHEWS:  So, this isn‘t gridlock they want.  You‘re saying the Republicans think they can tough it out and get what they want by Christmas, and then they will be the big winners.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Yes.  They want no lock, or some other word but gridlock.  They...


MATTHEWS:  Gridlock means nothing, then, because...



MATTHEWS:  ... they don‘t really want to get blamed for unemployment benefits being cut off. 

FINEMAN:  From their point of view—from their point of view, the absence of anything passing but a continuation of the tax cuts is not gridlock.  It‘s victory. 

MCKINNON:  Republicans want change.  They want change from the status quo. 

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about this, because, in the end, the Constitution is written, as everybody watching knows, is written delicately to require some kind of balance in the end.  We‘ve got an incoming Republican House, but we still have a Democratic House.  We‘ve got a Republican minority strong enough to stop anything from happening in the Senate.  So, both sides have to cooperate to get anything done, that‘s bottom line.

So, if there‘s going to be a tax cut continuing through next year, there has to be a bill signing.  There has to be a bill that‘s exactly the same.  The president has to sign both.  He has to sign a bill that comes out in the House and Senate.

So, all this talk, I like the first session where we had Weiner on and we had Kingston.  They basically admitted that all of this is going to on for three weeks and then there‘s going to be an agreement.

FINEMAN:  Well, Weiner didn‘t exactly admit it, but you know what‘s what he was thinking.  And I think Kingston is right.  I think—

MATTHEWS:  So, who‘s—no vote between now—who‘s going to vote between now and December 17th or 18th?  There‘s no election.


FINEMAN:  One way you know that that‘s what they‘re all thinking is if they just temporarily extended the continual resolution to fund the government I think until the 17th.  OK.  So, that‘s when they‘re thinking the real game will begin.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s just talk about the president of the United States.  President Obama, as we all know, was elected with 53 percent of the electorate -- 53 percent.  Of that, 20 to 25 are probably self-described progressives, right?  About half, at the most.

He needs moderates and progressives to govern and to continue governing if he wants a second term.  We assumed he does, right?  So, he has to balance between the progressives who make a lot of noise and the moderates who just sort of sit there quietly and sort of decide then vote, right?

How does he do it?  Where does he go?  Does he lean over to the left?  Does he stick to the center and make the best of it he can, or does he play Harry Truman, scream a lot and not deal with them at all?

FINEMAN:  Well, first of all, screaming a lot and playing Harry Truman doesn‘t seem to be Barack Obama‘s style.  He set up this working group in part so he could play the judicious one in the end.

MATTHEWS:  With taxes.  Yes.

FINEMAN:  With taxes.  So, he could be the judicious one.  I think he understands—

MATTHEWS:  He set it up with four out of six Democrats.

FINEMAN:  Right.  But he understands the hard bargaining is coming in the end.  And I think he‘s going to continue to try it play it down the middle.  I don‘t think he‘s doing enough, frankly, at least in the music of it, for the left wing of his own party.  I don‘t hear the White House, for example, saying very much about unemployment insurance and the fact that—

MATTHEWS:  Why doesn‘t he go to Detroit or someplace else, a lot of unemployed people, and at least have sandwich with them?


FINEMAN:  I don‘t know.  It seems kind of aloof.  I just don‘t understand it.  You have Democrats on the Hill complaining about it.  But where is Barack Obama pounding the table and saying, look, guys, whatever else you‘re going to do on the Hill, let‘s—


MATTHEWS:  Let me say something a lot of liberals won‘t say.  Most Republicans—and those watching will agree with me—are not rich.  They have a portion of the party that‘s very well off, as the Democrats have some rich people, too, obviously.  So, portraying them as the party of the rich is stupid.

So, why would the Republican Party fight like hell for the tax rate for the top 2 percent?  Why is this smart politics with the republican side?  Let‘s go their side—to fight for the rich.

MCKINNON:  Because I think that a lot of them are convinced that even that 2 percent are job creators and it‘s all about jobs, and they‘re keeping their focus there.

But let me just say, I was happy to see about the president today that—in a story that reveal that he says privately that he‘s a blue dog Democrat.  And I think that‘s where most of America is.  They‘re either blue dog Democrats or they‘re soft progressive Republicans.  That‘s where the vast America—they‘re not hyper-partisan.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we‘re center-left or center-right as a country?  That‘s the bottom line.  The president has to decide.

MCKINNON:  I think we‘re center-right, but I think it‘s vast—

MATTHEWS:  So, if he wants to get reelected—


FINEMAN:  My only point is, especially at a time when it looks like they‘ve already given up on allowing a two or three-year extension of all the tax cuts, including for the rich.  What downside would there be, politically, for the president to get out there and say some stuff about unemployment—


MATTHEWS:  So, what you‘re saying is a lot of it is body language.


MATTHEWS:  Even if he ends up cutting a deal before Christmas, he has to cut a deal to get the tax cuts—

FINEMAN:  It seems to me there‘s no cost body language as well.

MATTHEWS:  Why doesn‘t he do it?  Why does he going to have to explain?

FINEMAN:  I don‘t know.  I can‘t—I can‘t give you an answer to that because—

MATTHEWS:  Is it because—there‘s some logic here—


MATTHEWS:  -- I don‘t want to be identified as long term unemployment and joblessness and hopelessness, I don‘t want to be a bad news president?

MCKINNON:  I think that‘s right.

FINEMAN:  I think that‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  Is that it?

MCKINNON:  A lot of what President Bush used to say is nobody wants to you say, you know, things have gone to hell, follow me.

FINEMAN:  That‘s true.  And you‘re right.  And I think it‘s also true if you look at the few trips that the president has made into the country in the last few weeks.  He‘s gone to places where there are new jobs, where there‘s advanced technology.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  I‘m with you on that.  Either way, I‘m with you.

I think he‘s got to do both.  (INAUDIBLE) in the streets and hang around the Rust Belt.  This thing I‘ve been talking about from Scranton to Oshkosh, that part of the country is gone for the Democrats right now.  Ohio is almost unreachable at this point next time.  They‘ve got to get in there and show they care.  That‘s what I think.



MATTHEWS:  And as always like to remind myself, I may be dead wrong. 

But not this one.

You‘re right.  You‘ve gotten into the truth here, he‘s got to show some heart about people out of work.

Mark McKinnon, smart guy, center-right.  Howard Fineman, can‘t tell.

Up next, another victory for the politics of fear.  Conservatives push a constitutional amendment—boy, I‘m so glad this passed in Oklahoma -- banning state courts from using Islamic Shariah law.  I‘m sure they were doing a lot of it down there.

Anyway, why are they happy—why are they passing these (INAUDIBLE) laws?  It‘s a phony scandal picked up by phony people.  And at least a federal judge has a good sense to stop this stuff.  Why don‘t we outlaw all religions we don‘t like?

Anyway, this is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  On Monday night‘s edition of HARDBALL, we had a debate, of course, between the Southern Poverty Law Center‘s Mark Potok and the Family Research Council‘s Tony Perkins.  The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled the Family Research Council a hate group over its position on homosexuality.  Well, during the debate Monday night, Perkins made this claim about what he says is the risk posed by homosexuality to children.


TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL:  If you look at the American College of Pediatricians, they say the research is overwhelming that homosexuality posed as a risk to children.  So, Mark is wrong.  He needs to go back and do his own research because this evidence is out there.


MATTHEWS:  Well, we need to know right now that the group Perkins sourced, the American College of Pediatricians, is not the same group as the American Academy of Pediatrics, but a group of about 100 conservative-minded doctors that formed in 2002 in response to the academy‘s support of gay parental rights.  We like to straighten these things out.

HARDBALL will be right back.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.

Shariah law never threatened the legal system in Oklahoma, but that didn‘t stop some conservative state lawmakers from pushing through a constitutional amendment banning Islamic law in the courts down there.  Voters overwhelmingly passed that amendment on Election Day.

Now, a federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction against the measure, casting doubt on its constitutionality.

Democrat Ryan Kiesel, was the state representative in Oklahoma, and has been opposed the amendment since its inception.

Ryan, wouldn‘t you explain why busy legislators would pass some measure to prevent the state of Oklahoma from Shariah law when it really wasn‘t at all a threat to that state?

RYAN KIESEL (D), FMR. OK STATE REPRESENTATIVE:  You know, I wish I had a good explanation for you.  I think that when you talk about the politics of fear, it runs both ways.  I think that there‘s fear in the electorate, but there‘s also fear among elected officials for voting against a measure like this, that they‘re going to be demonized in the re-election campaign.

So, while it overwhelmingly passed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, I think that are there 10 “no” votes passed in the Oklahoma State Senate where two “no” votes.  You know the overwhelming majority, I don‘t think, or at least I hope, I‘ve got to believe in my heart of hearts that they weren‘t out trying to target Oklahoma‘s Muslim community.  I think that they were acting out of fear.

Now, there are a handful of individuals that realize that putting this on the ballot would be advantageous to their re-election prospects and to their prospects in future campaigns.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, there‘s the cartoon response I have to this is like Henry Hill in “The Music Man.”  You‘ve got troubled in River City, let‘s circle the wagons, we‘ve got the evils of poor coming and horseracing and all of the other bad things.  And yet, the fact that people all operate as rational politicians and choose to vote, the fear factor I think you‘ve really gotten into something here.

If a politician down in Oklahoma were to say, this is really irresponsible, there is no threat from Shariah law being accepted by any of the courts, it‘s not going to be recognized.  We‘re not going to let husbands beat up their wives or anything like that, or not have sex wit them against their consent.  It‘s never going to happen in this country.  It‘s never happened.  We don‘t recognize foreign law.

If you don‘t vote that way, then you are subject—do you believe a member of the legislature in Oklahoma could possibly lose their seat if they had voted no against what they thought was a frivolous resolution?

KIESEL:  You know, it‘s—you know as well as I do, it‘s impossible to pin down in most campaigns why a particular member lost.  But I would say that there were probably campaigns that were either closer or members that lost, and this was part of the negative campaign against them.  I know statewide elected officials and I know members of the legislature that either opposed this or voted against it saw this as an issue in their campaign.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s Oklahoma like in this regard?  Does it have a particular, without knocking your state, the Sooner State, is there something about the culture, very evangelical, very tradition?  Is it worried?  Is it particularly a worried state about cultural change?

KIESEL:  Yes.  You know, this—I think that a lot of folks, especially around the nation, from the outside looking into Oklahoma see that 70 percent of Oklahomans voted for this, and they draw conclusions about Oklahomans.  I would encourage them not to do that.  I don‘t think that the overwhelming majority of that 70 percent that went to the ballot box on Election Day and voted for this state question, went into the ballot box, thinking, I want to target and discriminate against Oklahoma‘s Muslim community.

I think that they went in and saw that state question, which was among 11 other state questions, many of which were extraordinarily frivolous.


KIESEL:  And were politically motivated and saw that state question and thought—well, our elected officials wouldn‘t have put this on there if there weren‘t some danger, if there weren‘t some peril trying to prevent.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I was thinking if I were a regular vote.  How would—how do you, by the way, Ryan?

KIESEL:  I voted against the state question, and voted against even sending it to the ballot.  It wasn‘t a problem—

MATTHEWS:  You know, I probably, if I were the average casual voter, I think that I‘d see that and say, of course, I don‘t want Shariah law recognized in the state.  I‘d say there must have been some reason why it‘s on the ballot.  They‘re thoughtful people who put there and I don‘t believe that having Islamic law, or any law, Christian or anything else, get involved with actual—

KIESEL:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  -- the Constitution of our country, which is sacred to me, and a lot of people believe it‘s divinely inspired in fact, not to mess with it.

But, you know, it‘s great to have you on.  Thank you, Ryan Kiesel. 

Thanks for joining us tonight.

KIESEL:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  And I hope we don‘t have more of these stories, but I‘m afraid we will.

When we return, how America did the right thing to fight AIDS in Africa.  And, by the way, George W. Bush deserves a lot of credit, if not all the credit for this really good deed.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight by recognizing World AIDS Day. 

Last year, more than 33 million people worldwide were living with HIV. 

That‘s up from 26 million a decade ago.

But, according to a report in the “Christian Science Monitor,” UNAIDS and other AIDS organizations are making progress in their efforts to control an eventually eradicate HIV/AIDS.

World AIDS Day is a chance to take stock of how well these organizations are doing and where the world stands today.  So, according to a 2010 report from UNAIDS, that‘s the United Nations HIV/AIDS program, the new HIV infection rate has declined almost 20 percent in 10 years, from 3.1 million new cases in 1999 to 2.6 million in 2009.  And while that‘s hardly news for joy, that decrease falls decades of explosive growth in the number of HIV infection.

And much of that decline can be attributed to funding from donor nations such as President Bush‘s emergency plan for AIDS relief known as PEPFAR.  Much of that program involves education and prevention efforts such as teaching people about safe sex and making condoms more available.

I give President Bush solid credit for this.  Here‘s what he wrote, the president, the former president, in an article that appeared in today‘s “Washington Post.”  Quote, “Early in my first term, it became clear that much of sub-Saharan Africa was on the verge of catastrophe.  The disease was prevalent among teachers, nurses, factory workers, farmers, civil servants, the very people who make a society run.  Drugs to treat the disease existed and were falling in price, but they could hardly be found in Africa.  World countries were living in the shadow of death.”

Well, the results eight years ago, there were roughly 50,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa on AIDS treatment.  Today, thanks to America, other donations and the work of Africans themselves, nearly 4 million people are being treated.  President Bush argues that this fighting AIDS in Africa demonstrates American character that we are dedicated to the inherent and equal dignity of human beings.

As the former president puts it, we had chance to do the right thing and we did it.  Well, good for him.  Good for us.  And good for Africa.

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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