Guests: Howard Fineman, Jonathan Martin, Kayla Tausche, Richard Wolffe, Jonathan Martin, Cynthia Tucker, Deroy Murdock, Major Garret, Christine Owens, Steve Moore
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Dumping the Trump card.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews down in Washington.
Leading off tonight: Trumping Trump. The man who beat the drum on President Obama‘s legitimacy, who claimed he‘s launched his own investigation into the president‘s birth and who said his investigators are finding amazing things—well, that man, Donald Trump, has now decided to take a step or two back from the lunatic fringe. Yes, after Donald Trump‘s whirlwind birther tour, he now says he wants to focus on other issues. Nice try. But how do you say “Never mind” once the toothpaste is out of the tube?
Plus, one reason Trump is getting so much publicity is that history‘s repeating itself. Back in 1988, the Democratic presidential candidates were considered so insignificant, they were known as the “seven dwarfs.” Well, today, two polls came out showing a clear majority of Republican voters, 56 percent, are enthusiastic about just one candidate, the one named “no one.” What does that say about the Republican field and President Obama‘s chances? It also explains Trump.
Plus, Obama versus Ryan. Each side is using the budget battle to frame the debate for 2012. Republicans want to demolish Medicare, as everybody knows, to squeeze the deficit. The president wants to keep those checks going out to people who need the money, who need the health care. Who do you think‘s going to win that argument?
And Republicans have opened up an incredible new battleground on the labor front. You won‘t believe this one. Charles Dickens is back. They want to get rid of child labor laws as we know them, bring back Oliver Twist.
Finally, “Let Me Finish” with a “New York Times” poll that shows that the Republican Party has truly become the birther party. What until you see the stats in “The New York Times.” This isn‘t a robo-poll, this is a “New York Times” poll, and it‘s all about Trump.
Well, MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman joins us tonight—he‘s editorial director of the Huffington Post now—and Jonathan Martin is a senior political reporter for Politico.
Gentlemen, it‘s great to have you on. Donald Trump, not that he needs more space, but he got some space in “USA Today.” He wrote an op-ed piece. Quote—this is Donald Trump in his own words—“Sadly, the press has en masse chosen to glom onto but one of the myriad issues I‘ve discussed and would tackle as president. Allow me to repeat here what I have said on numerous occasions. I have spoken my piece on this issue, and many people have the same doubts as I have. My concern lies with people like the single mom who recently wrote to me that she now works a third job to pay for the gas to get to the other.”
Well, that is tough and well written, I must say, Howard. The question is, how do you get the toothpaste back in the tube? Wait until you see the numbers tonight—we‘re going to present them in the next segment—the numbers on birtherism. It is the new religion of the Republican Party.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Let me give you a slightly analogy from toothpaste. His saying that he‘s upset that people in the press glommed onto this issue is like saying, I put a piece of sirloin on the table and I‘m really upset that all the dogs are jumping to eat it.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t like the dog (INAUDIBLE) Go ahead.
FINEMAN: OK. But he knows exactly what he‘s doing.
JONATHAN MARTIN, POLITICO: Right.
FINEMAN: He knew exactly what he was doing. This is what brought people into the tent and it‘s only thing, frankly, that‘s going to keep them there.
MARTIN: It wasn‘t the tofu he put out there.
MATTHEWS: Well, also, once it‘s on people‘s minds—these polls are unbelievable, that a vast majority of Republicans—we‘ll give you all the details later. Three quarters now believe either he‘s definitely born in some other country—
MARTIN: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: -- definitely—
MATTHEWS: -- or he probably was. They don‘t know. I mean, these numbers are amazing.
MARTIN: The birtherism, to use a different metaphor, was sort of his rocket fuel. That‘s what put him into orbit. But I think a funny thing has happened here. He realized, Hey, I actually am resonating with some of these folks, in least in early polls.
MARTIN: Maybe—maybe this thing is actually real and maybe I should try to reel back the birtherism some—
MATTHEWS: Because this may matter.
MARTIN: -- because maybe I can actually get in here and then talk about China—
MATTHEWS: You know where he gets that idea—if it‘s true, and it may well be true—he‘s worth $7 billion. He may have a sense you‘ve (ph) got a hot hand in life.
FINEMAN: Well, also—
MATTHEWS: That you‘ve been pretty good at this gamble.
FINEMAN: Also, Chris—yes, I think that might be right. But I also think, with the amount of that money he has—and there‘s been a lot of writing recently about how this was going to be the social media campaign and the digital campaign and the Web-based campaign. And both of us would love it to be the Web-based campaign.
FINEMAN: OK, but the fact is, he‘s got enough money to buy every TV ad in America.
MATTHEWS: He may not have to buy them.
FINEMAN: And he already has 100 percent—practically 100 percent name recognition—
MATTHEWS: He is now where Pawlenty will be, if he gets the nomination.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go right now—here‘s a little fight he had. He‘s still having some skirmishes on the Trump front, or rather, the birther front. I don‘t think he‘s out of the weeds on this one. Here‘s Donald Rumsfeld lashing out at two CNN reporters, anchors, this morning, today, when they tried to ask about his ongoing investigation he‘s described into the president‘s birth certificate out in Hawaii. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALI VELSHI, CNN “AMERICAN MORNING”: We‘ll stop asking you the questions when you stop saying that President Obama can‘t prove that he‘s born in the United States. Deal? Is that a deal?
DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION (via telephone): That‘s fine with me.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN “AMERICAN MORNING”: All right, one other quick question before we go. Do you know when this investigation in Hawaii is going to wrap up? When can you give a definitive answer yes or no—
TRUMP: Why don‘t you ask me about OPEC? Why don‘t you ask me—here we go again!
VELSHI: You‘re not investigating OPEC.
TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) you people stop talking about this—
VELSHI: If you investigate OPEC, we‘ll ask you about OPEC. How‘s that?
TRUMP: -- I think a lot of people would be very happy. My strength is OPEC. My strength is jobs and China. Why don‘t you focus on that?
CHETRY: Well, it‘s because what—
TRUMP: Here we go again. I can‘t believe you just asked another question on the birther.
CHETRY: Well, I just—I don‘t understand how you think you‘re going to get out of—
TRUMP: That‘s OK. Don‘t be embarrassed.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. There‘s a great movie, “Anatomy of a Murder” with Jimmy Stewart, years ago. And there‘s a great line where the DA—or actually, the defense attorney catches the prosecutor screwing, basically, the defendant by raising an idea they can‘t get out of the jury‘s mind. He said, It‘s like saying to a member of the jury, Don‘t you think of a blue cow. Don‘t think of a blue cow. Your mind immediately conjures up the notion of a blue cow and it won‘t get out of there.
What he has done—now, let‘s show you “The New York Times.” Here‘s the blue cow that he has created in the minds of the Republican voters. Here‘s the new “New York Times”/CBS poll.
MATTHEWS: Please hold it up there for a while to fully appreciate this. Definitely born in another country, 47 percent.
MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE) Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Maybe or don‘t know, 22.
MATTHEWS: And only 32, slightly less than a third—
MATTHEWS: -- believe that their own president‘s—
MATTHEWS: -- legitimate.
MATTHEWS: I mean, forget party, ideology, Jonathan. Do you really believe people are BSing themselves? Have they bought the blather? Do they honestly believe—would they put one dollar on the table to bet he wasn‘t born in America? Would they bet a dollar, these people that say this?
MARTIN: You know, I‘m not sure how much of that‘s literal. I kind of liken it to the view that he‘s a Muslim, in the sense that it‘s their way of saying—
MATTHEWS: Screw him.
MARTIN: -- he‘s illegitimate. They don‘t—
MATTHEWS: What does that mean, though, he‘s illegitimate?
MARTIN: That they reject him, that they don‘t accept him as one of theirs. And—
MATTHEWS: What‘s that mean?
MATTHEWS: He‘s black?
MARTIN: Well, that‘s certainly part of it. But it‘s not necessarily that he actually wasn‘t born in America or that he actually—
MATTHEWS: Is Hawaii part of America?
MARTIN: -- that he actually—
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m going to ask you a stupid question—
MARTIN: Of course!
MATTHEWS: -- because I think some of these people are stupid.
MARTIN: I‘m trying to explain it, though!
MATTHEWS: Do they believe that Hawaii is part of the United States?
MARTIN: Really? You‘re giving them (ph) that much credit. It‘s a stand-in for a view that the president is not legitimate. On the Trump thing, can I just say real fast, the most important part of that Trump interview was not what he said, it was the fact it was a phone interview. TV news stations don‘t like to do telephone interviews. The fact that he‘s allowed to do this stuff on the phone—
FINEMAN: They‘ll take Donald Trump by carrier pigeon.
MARTIN: Exactly! It illustrates that we‘re part of it! We have to -
MATTHEWS: Well, do you buy this theory that it‘s only—it‘s only metaphorical?
FINEMAN: No, I don‘t, totally. I think it‘s—it‘s—
FINEMAN: It‘s sort of like the point of the lance here. I think—this began a number of years when American people started deciding that the president of the other party was not legitimate—was not legitimate. A lot of people thought that Bill Clinton—you‘ll remember—
MARTIN: Clinton (INAUDIBLE)
FINEMAN: -- Bill Clinton wasn‘t elected.
FINEMAN: Then a lot of people thought George W. wasn‘t legitimate, wasn‘t—wasn‘t—wasn‘t—
MATTHEWS: Who was Jane Fonda‘s husband, the radical?
MARTIN: Tom Hayden.
MATTHEWS: Tom Hayden. He accused his Democratic opponent, John Cuddy (ph), of, quote, “dating teenagers.” And when they said, Name one, he said, I said, Oh, I meant it metaphorically.
FINEMAN: Well, no, but I also think—
MATTHEWS: I mean, what did that mean?
FINEMAN: I also think—
FINEMAN: I also think, having talked to a lot of Tea Party people and a lot of other Republicans at the grass roots, a lot of—and conservatives at the grass roots, they literally do believe—
MATTHEWS: That‘s what I think.
FINEMAN: -- that he‘s not—that he wasn‘t born in the United States.
MATTHEWS: And how do they figure it happened?
MATTHEWS: How do they figure it happened?
FINEMAN: Excuse me?
MATTHEWS: How do they figure—how did he do it before he was born?
How‘d he pull this trick?
FINEMAN: Well, they look at the scraps of information about the ads in newspapers, about the fact that it‘s a certificate of live birth—
MARTIN: They want to believe that, Howard! It‘s what they want to believe!
FINEMAN: It‘s what they want to believe because on policy level, they also don‘t think he‘s legitimate.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, OK, that‘s an argument we can argue about
(INAUDIBLE) here it is. A Seinfeld spokesman told “The New York Post”
today that, quote, “Jerry,” quote, “feels this kind of demagoguery has no
place in public discourse. He has respectfully”—that‘s Jerry Seinfeld
“respectfully withdrawn from an event and he‘s making a contribution both to the Eric Trump Foundation and to St. Jude‘s.”
Now, here‘s a case where Jerry Seinfeld, who‘s very popular, has pulled out of an event that was going to be—was going to be involved with Donald Trump‘s son, who‘s a good guy—
MATTHEWS: -- involved with helping kids with real health problems. St. Jude‘s is a wonderful organization. I carry the St. Jude‘s card in my wallet all the time.
Here‘s Trump lashed back at Seinfeld in a letter that said, in part, “We don‘t care that you broke your commitment, even though the children at St. Jude are very disappointed. What I do feel badly about is that I agreed to do and did your failed show, ‘The Marriage Rap,‘ even though I thought it was absolutely terrible. Despite its poor ratings, I didn‘t cancel”—on the—“like you canceled on my son and St. Jude. I only wish I did. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Here—the thing about—
MARTIN: It‘s great schtick!
MATTHEWS: -- Donald Trump is, Don‘t get into a match with him—
MATTHEWS: -- wearing a really good cup—
MATTHEWS: -- OK? Because this guy is tough, all right?
MARTIN: Well, it‘s great schtick. It plays well in the—the New York tabloids. This is what he does, though. You know, he wants this back and forth because it just gives him more opportunities to appear on TV. And frankly, we‘re partially to blame because we‘re—
MATTHEWS: You speak for yourself on that. I‘m not one of these “We‘re all guilty” stuff. This guy‘s leading the pack.
FINEMAN: By the way, if he wants us—
MARTIN: He was on TV 25 times the past two months!
FINEMAN: By the way, if he wants us to take his views on OPEC seriously, send a bunch of investigators—
FINEMAN: -- to the gulf.
MATTHEWS: That‘s what the anchorwoman said on CNN this morning.
MATTHEWS: The reason she said she asked the question about the investigators, whether or not they‘re there or not in Honolulu, is because you sent them there, you (ph) said. Nobody‘s ever thought that you‘re investigating OPEC. But is he an expert on OPEC?
FINEMAN: I did that innocently. I didn‘t see—
MATTHEWS: -- obviously, you just think as you‘re as intelligent as a morning anchor on television!
MARTIN: Chris, can I just say real fast, I think part of it is the enablement that we‘ve done in the media. But I think there‘s also something else, too. I think he represents something of a flashing neon stand-in for a candidate who will really take it to President Obama that doesn‘t exist right now. So if you‘re a Republican watching at home every day, here‘s somebody—
FINEMAN: It‘s not that they don‘t—it‘s not that they don‘t exist substantively, it‘s that they‘re all sending out tweets—
MARTIN: They aren‘t breaking through.
FINEMAN: Donald Trump is a megawatt—
FINEMAN: -- you know, blast horn—
MATTHEWS: You‘re a Penguins fan, right?
FINEMAN: Huge Penguins fan.
MATTHEWS: OK. Is it true that hockey fans don‘t mind it when a fight breaks out?
MARTIN: Don‘t mind it?
FINEMAN: Of course. Most of them love it.
MATTHEWS: Right. So isn‘t this what we‘re watching, a fight at a hockey game?
FINEMAN: Yes, and he‘s a brawler. Donald Trump is a brawler.
FINEMAN: The word in hockey is goon. But he‘s a brawler.
MATTHEWS: I think—I think this is (INAUDIBLE) the fight, the game was boring. The fight‘s broken out. It‘s better than the game. Remember the joke about I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out?
FINEMAN: No, but Jonathan‘s right because—
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Howard Fineman, thank you—
FINEMAN: -- Republicans want a serious discussion.
MATTHEWS: I‘m looking at the numbers.
MATTHEWS: They‘re going up. This guy has stopped the game because he‘s winning the game. Anyway, thank you, Jonathan Martin.
Coming up: When asked which presidential candidate they‘re most enthusiastic about, a majority of Republicans now say no one. You got it? No mas. Why don‘t Republican voters have a lot of enthusiasm for their presidential candidates, the ones who‘ve been running for years? Pawlenty, Romney, nothing. Nothing! That‘s why Trump‘s on top of this pile.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, apparently, the more Americans see of House Speak John Boehner, the more they don‘t like him. According to the new “Washington Post” poll, 40 percent say disapprove of Boehner‘s job performance. That‘s 40 percent don‘t like him. That‘s disapproval numbers up 13 points since he took over the speakership, while his approval number has stayed relatively constant.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Nine months before the Iowa caucuses, the latest national poll numbers might make you feel sorry for the Republicans running for president, or even thinking about it. Today‘s “New York Times”/CBS News poll finds a whopping 56 percent of Republicans say they‘re enthusiastic about—see it up there, the name? -- no one. No one, 56 percent. Love that guy, no one. Mitt Romney leads the actual human beings with just 9 percent. And look at the rest of them. They‘re all below him in single digits.
Hardly anyone has declared by the way. Debates are getting postponed, and Republicans don‘t even know who half these people are. What‘s going on with the Republicans? They had a good opportunity to run against the president. Why aren‘t they doing it?
Cynthia Tucker is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution” and Deroy Murdock is a contributor for “The National Review.” Deroy, thank you coming on. You‘re with “The National Review.” I love the newspaper—I mean, the magazine.
DEROY MURDOCK, “NATIONAL REVIEW”: Thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: I‘ve read it for years. But let me ask you this. Just without any precondition, what is going on in the conservative of the two political parties, the Republican Party right now?
MURDOCK: I think there‘s the ultimate limited government, nobody for president. I think it‘s extraordinary that you‘ve got 56 percent saying that they are not enthused by anyone. That‘s six times the number of people who are behind the so-called front-runner, Mitt Romney.
You pointed to one of the reasons for this, I think, which is that there really is no race so far. You have—I think Romney had a big announcement couple weeks ago that he was putting together an exploratory committee. So you have a lot of people who are exploring running, thinking about running, going through some of the motions of filling out the paperwork. But nobody seems to be out there really hammering the Obama administration, taking on the president directly, and really jumping into the—
MATTHEWS: Well, Trump is. Trump is.
MURDOCK: Trump is, but even he is sort of thinking about it. He hasn‘t declared. Obama, for better or for worse, has announced that he is running. He has announced his reelection campaign. These other people are sort of thinking about it.
And used to be in the old days—I remember when Ronald Reagan announced, it wasn‘t until November of ‘79, about a year before the election. And now people expect you to start running two and even three years before the election. But even now, you don‘t have anyone who really has jumped in foursquare.
MATTHEWS: Well, I don‘t know if I buy that because I think people all know who Romney is. Pawlenty‘s been tooling around in this neighborhood for a long time he wants to run. Everybody knows for better or worse, usually worse, Newt Gingrich. We know who these people are. Pawlenty‘s (INAUDIBLE) Palin‘s everywhere. And yet—everybody knows who Palin is, but I don‘t see any numbers for her, except TV shows that people like the ones—look at this number here. They like the people, maybe making your point, Deroy, that Huckabee, Palin and Gingrich, who had these big jobs on Fox, have the highest favorabilities just because they‘re working at it.
CYNTHIA TUCKER, “ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION”: Absolutely. They‘re the people with name recognition. They‘re the people who conservative—a core constituency of conservative voters listens to those people all the time. They know who they are.
Deroy is right when he says one of the reasons these folks have engendered so little enthusiasm is because they aren‘t really running. People aren‘t paying attention yet. But the simple of the matter is, even among the GOP establishment, these folks haven‘t engendered a lot of enthusiasm. Even people who know who they are still aren‘t enthusiastic.
MATTHEWS: Deroy, not to be too sarcastic—a little bit sarcastic, buddy, but when is show time for Mitt Romney? When does he light up like a lightning bug? When does he go from caterpillar to butterfly?
MATTHEWS: Is there a secret, exciting Mitt Romney that he‘s been holding back until he‘s an official nominee?
MURDOCK: Well, I think he—
MATTHEWS: Tell me about that guy. I want to meet him. Who is this guy?
MURDOCK: Yes, I think the trajectory is more from larva to moth.
MURDOCK: I think that—look, I think there‘s—
MATTHEWS: My point.
MURDOCK: I think there are a lot of people who are not satisfied with Mitt Romney. We‘ve seen this guy before. He certainly did—I guess came in more or less second or third place last time around. But the real problem with Mitt Romney—he has two big problems. One is that on almost any issue, he‘s on two or three or four sides. This man has more flip-flops than a cook at IHop.
The other problem is that Romneycare in Massachusetts has been described by “The Wall Street Journal” as the dress rehearsal for Obamacare. And I think one of the biggest—
MURDOCK: -- campaign issues next—next year is going to be Obamacare. And Romney can‘t run away from it. I think Obama will say, gee, Mitt, thanks so much for giving us the model for Obamacare. And if he says that in a debate, Romney is going to shrink on to the floor.
MATTHEWS: You know, I think a lot of politics is looking for the guy‘s sins and knowing he has some imperfections.
I mean, most politicians have a background, a backstory that sort of says, I have never been this perfect and I never will be. When I look at Romney, the hair doesn‘t move.
MATTHEWS: The suits are right out of a catalogue, I mean, J.C.
Penney. Everything is perfect.
MURDOCK: Look at that guy. Amazing.
MATTHEWS: Or Brooks Brothers. I mean, everything is—he‘s never—not that you should, never had a hangover, never did anything really wrong in his life.
TUCKER: Mitt Romney‘s problem is—
MATTHEWS: And it‘s—and it‘s manifest, that perfection.
TUCKER: He is a very smart guy. He‘s a very accomplished guy.
But he comes across to voters as inauthentic. And what—
MATTHEWS: Max Headroom.
TUCKER: -- what Deroy has been talking about just accentuates that with voters.
You know, the problem for Republicans is that they‘re all sitting there hoping for a new Ronald Reagan. There is no Ronald Reagan. There are some serious candidates in the field, like Tim Pawlenty.
TUCKER: But he lacks charisma. The most charismatic, the person with the most character who may be running is Donald Trump. And it‘s hard to take him seriously.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But, in all fairness to Reagan, he got beat up a lot in his early clear for being too far right. He had a lot of career challenges going up in—the movie career faded. The TV career promptly faded. He had a fight—he had a bad marriage, terrible first marriage, a bad person. I don‘t think it worked—it worked out too well for him. Let‘s put it that way, without judging anybody.
And it isn‘t so easy—it wasn‘t so easy with Ronald Reagan, whereas these other guys look like they have just coasted to where they are.
Let‘s take a look at this new Pew poll. It finds Trump trumping the rest of the field right there. People were asked, who is the Republican candidate you have heard the most about? Trump is at 26 percent. Everyone else is in singles.
Again, Deroy, are you going to put him on the cover?
MURDOCK: Well, he is the kind of guy who gets cameras out, not matter what he does. He is very telegenic. He has his own well-rated national TV program. And he‘s just—he‘s very good at being able to stir controversy.
MATTHEWS: I think you got an interview with him just now.
MURDOCK: What was that?
MATTHEWS: I think, Deroy, you just got an interview with him right there.
MURDOCK: Maybe I did. Maybe I did.
MATTHEWS: I think telegenic was a very, very good move. I would say that about his wife, but I would have to hold back a little on him.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, more Trump. Back the “Times”‘ new poll. Here he is. Is he a serious candidate? A great question. Is he serious?
Now, this is all attitude here by voters, obviously -- 38 percent of Tea Partiers say he is -- 37 percent of Republicans say, yes, he is for real. That‘s about four out of 10 -- 27 percent of independents say it‘s real, 23 percent overall, which is not a lot.
Look at this, 8 percent. I would say that‘s attitude. I don‘t think Democrats have any more idea whether he‘s running than Republicans or independents. They just don‘t want him—they don‘t want him to run. They may be a little afraid of him. They may look down on him.
What‘s the story? Why don‘t Democrats think he‘s going to run?
TUCKER: Well, actually, I think Democrats would—
MATTHEWS: I think he is going to run.
TUCKER: -- be delighted if Donald Trump ran, because it‘s hard to take
MATTHEWS: They don‘t sound it.
TUCKER: -- it‘s hard to take him seriously. And he sucks up the oxygen for more serious candidates.
MATTHEWS: Do you think Obama would like to stand on a stage seven or eight from him on three or four national debates for 90 minutes each?
Would he really like to risk trash talk? Because this guy has no superego. He has just got an ego.
MATTHEWS: He says what he thinks. He doesn‘t sit and worry about it. Maybe that‘s why he has got $7 billion. He doesn‘t go, well, maybe somebody won‘t like me.
He doesn‘t care.
MURDOCK: Well, he‘s got a lot of—
TUCKER: Well, that‘s the point. He says thing that is are ridiculous, over the top, completely irrational. He says—
MATTHEWS: Well, why‘s he a billionaire?
TUCKER: He says—well, not because of anything he said.
MATTHEWS: Well, why is he a billionaire?
MURDOCK: He‘s got—he‘s got—he‘s got ego—he‘s got ego and a -
MATTHEWS: OK. Why is he a billionaire?
MATTHEWS: -- success in this country as a measure of intelligence.
Why is he so rich?
MURDOCK: He has got ego and a whole lot of id. Don‘t forget that.
MATTHEWS: I know. Id was what I started with, yes.
MURDOCK: -- some of the serious free marketeers have raised questions about Trump, for example, that he used eminent domain to get somebody on one of his properties basically out of her house, so that he could expand I believe a parking lot for limousines.
MURDOCK: So, among the serious free market crowd, the Club for Growth has been raising objections to Trump. And I think that‘s something—
MATTHEWS: Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand, eh?
MURDOCK: Ayn Rand, I guess, might not be for Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Are you an objectivist? Are you an objectivist?
MURDOCK: I‘m not an objectivist, no.
MATTHEWS: OK. Good.
MURDOCK: I‘m a libertarian free marketeer and a Reaganite.
MATTHEWS: OK. Great. OK. Great. And I think that‘s a nice thing to be for you.
MURDOCK: For me, yes.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Cynthia Tucker.
See how dismissive I am? Just kidding.
MATTHEWS: Thank you for coming on. Please come back. Great magazine, “Natural Review.”
MURDOCK: Thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: “National Review.”
See, you‘re a Pulitzer Prize winner. I don‘t have to ladle it on you as hard.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, up next: Mike Huckabee writes back—fights back after FOX News colleague Glenn Beck calls him a bad word, at least in conservative circles.
Glenn Beck, a little strange on his way out the door here, getting stranger, I think. Well, that‘s not hard to do. I don‘t like what he says.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
First up: fire on the right. This week, Glenn Beck used perhaps the dirtiest word among conservatives to describe FOX News colleague Mike Huckabee. That‘s right. Beck called him a progressive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE GLENN BECK PROGRAM”)
GLENN BECK, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, “THE GLENN BECK PROGRAM”: I think Mike Huckabee is a guy who‘s had Michelle Obama on and said, you know what? Your fat kid programs, they are great.
BECK: They are great. He is a progressive. He—look at his record. He‘s a progressive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I like the guy who chuckles for him there.
Huckabee, by the way, hit back on his Web site today—quote—
“Glenn Beck taken to his radio show to attack me as a progressive, which he‘s said is the same as cancer or a Nazi. I‘m no fan of her husband‘s policies, for sure, but I have appreciated the first lady‘s efforts that Beck misrepresented, either out of ignorance or out of a deliberate attempt to distort them to create yet another boogeyman hiding in the closet that he and only he can see.”
Mike Huckabee understands what he is talking about, ladies and gentlemen. Beck, as usual, as always, doesn‘t.
Next up: Michele Bachmann makes the cut. The congresswoman from Minnesota has just been named to the “TIME” magazine‘s most influential list. Rush Limbaugh was picked to pen the tribute to her.
Quote—here what he‘s wrote—“Because she‘s smart, talented and accomplished and a natural leader, not to mention attractive, the left brands her as a flame-throwing lightweight. They underestimate her at their own risk.”
Well, Rush Limbaugh and Michele Bachmann, together in paradise.
Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Back in November, Sarah Palin‘s share of coverage among the Republican 2012 field was 51 percent. Where is it this month? Well, according to Nate Silver of “The New York Times,” 11 percent, about a fifth down from what it was before, about a fifth of what it was before. It explains her latest dip into birtherism. She‘s trying to win her way back. Palin drops from 51 percent to 11 percent in media coverage, down to a fifth of where she was. She‘s “Trumped” in the snow—tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Up next: President Obama and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan are both out on the road right now selling their competing visions for how to rein in the debt. Ryan wants to abolish Medicare. The president wants to keep those checks coming. Guess who has got the upper hand in that fight?
Plus, HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Kayla Tausche with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks closed at session highs on another batch of strong corporate earnings. The Dow added 52 points. The S&P 500 gained seven and the Nasdaq rose 17.
An avalanche of earnings to wrap up a shortened holiday week, Apple helping extend a tech rally on those blockbuster results delivered last night. Travelers posted a 30 percent jump in profits on gains in investment income under that big umbrella, and chemical maker DuPont reporting big profits as well on double-digit sales growth.
Oil services provider Schlumberger with strong profits and a rosy outlook. But on the other side of the ledger, drug giant Pfizer took a hit after four patients died in clinical trials of an experimental arthritis drug. Verizon delivered solid profits, but didn‘t add as many iPhone subscribers as expected. And McDonald‘s slid on plans to hike prices to covered increased food cost at the Golden Arches.
GE, part partner in NBC Universal, fell despite an 80 percent jump in first-quarter earnings.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And then what we have said is, let‘s take another trillion of that, that we raise through reforms in the tax system that allows people like me and, frankly, you, Mark, for paying a little more in taxes.
MARK ZUCKERBERG, FOUNDER, FACEBOOK: I‘m cool with that.
OBAMA: I know you‘re OK with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was, of course, President Obama in that case with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. That was on Wednesday, yesterday. The president used the Facebook forum there—you saw it—to keep pounding on Paul Ryan‘s budget plan. Let‘s listen to the president.
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OBAMA: The Republican budget that was put forward, I would say, is fairly radical. I wouldn‘t call it particularly courageous.
I do think Mr. Ryan is sincere. I think he‘s a patriot. I think he wants to solve a real problem, which is our long-term deficit. But I think that what he and the other Republicans in the House of Representatives also want to do is change our social compact in a pretty fundamental way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, have Republicans given President Obama a big gift for the next campaign?
With 235 Republicans having voted in the House for the Ryan plan, with the budget cuts in there, and especially Medicare, can the president make Paul Ryan‘s plan the name for people‘s pain?
Well, Richard Wolffe is an MSNBC political analyst. And Major Garrett covers Congress for “National Journal.” And he has a big piece in tomorrow‘s issue of “National Journal,” there it is, about the budget battle.
Let me start with Major Garrett on this question.
It seems to me there‘s an open question here. I want to see how you analyze it. Is the issue of Medicare, where people over 65 get health care paid for by the program they have been paying into in payroll taxes since they started working, if that is perceived to be on the way out, phased out, demolished, replaced by some kind of subsidy plan—
MAJOR GARRETT, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”: Right.
MATTHEWS: -- is that a positive or negative for the Republican Party, including Ryan and all the House members?
GARRETT: Well, the Democrats and the White House clearly believe it‘s a negative, and Republicans are afraid it could be a negative.
And I wrote at NationalJournal.com last week about how much so much of this, Chris, reminds me of what we went through in 1995. Back then, Republicans wanted to cut Medicare or reduce the rate of growth by $270 million over seven years. Bill Clinton said, you also want to cut taxes by $245 billion. I won‘t let you do both at the same time.
We have almost exactly, precisely the same argument now, a Democratic president saying, I will not let you reduce the rate of growth of Medicare or change it fundamentally, turning it from fee for service into a premium support or voucher program, and also reduce tax rates for the wealthy.
Paul Ryan would say, I‘m not doing a net tax decrease. My revenue package is neutral. I do cut some taxes, but I raise some others on the other side through tax expenditures.
But in the main, we have the same argument as before. We all remember what happened in 1995. Bill Clinton won that argument on the political points. Republicans did achieve some narrow policy gains, but on the politics, Bill Clinton won.
GARRETT: Democrats won. Republicans lost.
MATTHEWS: Richard Wolffe, it seems to me that this reminds us all of various elections over the years, because there‘s very issues that can defeat a member of Congress and one vote, for example. One vote does not usually kill a career.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
MATTHEWS: It did with Marjorie Margolies when she voted to raise taxes somewhat back in ‘93.
But, generally, only Social Security or perhaps Medicare is a career ender. I think of all those senators that went down in ‘86. A whole slew of Republican senators went down when Don Regan pulled the rug out from under them at the White House. They were all sticking their necks out with cuts in Social Security and cut in the payroll, or the COLA, those years.
Is this an issue? If you go into a congressional district where it‘s a 50-50 district, or a 45/55 district even, and the incumbent has voted to cut Medicare, which all the Republicans have done, demolish it basically for people below the age of 55, and will have to fight for some kind of subsidy, is it a killer? Can it be used as such?
WOLFFE: Sure, it‘s a killer. And actually this is a dilemma for folks in the White House that I talk to. They say, how much do we want to solve these longer-term problems and open up this debate, and how much do we want to go for the kill here on the politics?
Because the conventional wisdom would say, Democrats never win an election by saying we want to raise taxes or we‘re going to debate about how to cut spending. But, in this case, the Democratic position on taxes for those earning more than $250,000 and on protecting Medicare, it‘s overwhelmingly popular. Even among Republican voters, there‘s majority support for raising taxes on the super-wealthy.
So, you know, that‘s why you‘re hearing Republicans say, no, no, this is not about reforming Medicare. It‘s about saving Medicare. They‘re trying to use the language of Democrats.
WOLFFE: This is—they‘re in deep peril here. They know it.
MATTHEWS: If this is an objective election about objective facts, Major, and people over 65 vote on their self-interest, this could be bad for the Republicans, right?
And let‘s talk about a couple of objective facts, Chris. I went back and looked at the data. And, first of all, if Paul Ryan were here, he would say, look, his plan, his budget resolution doesn‘t affect those on Medicare now or those in the pipeline for the next 10 years.
However, it would affect those who are getting protection from the doughnut hole, meaning paying higher prescription drug costs, in the immediate future. Democrats talk about that.
But let‘s talk about some objective facts. Let‘s go back to 1995 again. What Republicans asked for from Bill Clinton then was, total, $382 billion in cuts from Medicare and Medicaid over seven years. That goes out to $64 billion per year, if you annualize it and average it out.
GARRETT: President Obama in his framework—President Obama in this framework has already said he‘s in favor over 12 years of cutting Medicare and Medicaid by $780 billion. You know what that comes down to every year, Chris? Sixty-five billion dollars a year.
So, Republicans in ‘95 had $64 billion. That was radical, draconian. President Obama says $65 billion in Medicare and Medicaid over the next 12 years. Is that draconian? Is that—
MATTHEWS: Yes. I don‘t know—I don‘t know the numbers are—I don‘t know those are bumper stickers as much as the Republicans are killing Medicare.
Here‘s a Marist poll we showed yesterday. Let‘s take a look at it.
Nobody wants to cut Medicare or Medicaid.
Now, look at these numbers. I find it fascinating. Hold that first number up there.
If you are the president of the United States and you are a Democrat, you are protecting Democrats here. Look, 5 percent say no Medicaid deal on the deficit. None at all, though. You go to the Republican side, they don‘t want it.
And then you got—to me, Richard Wolffe, I don‘t see the numbers for any kind of a Democratic cuts in these programs. People love Medicare.
MATTHEWS: The only one the Tea Party people want it cut is Medicaid because it‘s for poor people, minorities. That‘s how they see it, at least.
WOLFFE: You don‘t have to be a high-paid strategist to figure out where a politician running for election needs to be on this issue and that does raise sort of questions about how serious people are when they say they want to cut spending.
But the bigger issue, the sort of meta issue here is: are the voters ready for another big change to the system? After two wars, after an economic collapse, after health care—are they ready for this debate about the social safety net and Medicare?
Obviously, Paul Ryan is banking big time that they are. But all the evidence is people want things to calm down. That‘s why they voted for divided government. A big plan like this really opens you up to a big threat.
MATTHEWS: It sounds radical.
Here‘s Paul Ryan by the way getting booed at a town hall in his district this week. Let‘s watch in action what you‘re suggesting. Here it is. Let‘s see if they‘re reacting to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONSTITUENT: The top 1 percent was taking about 10 percent of the total annual income, but yet today, we are fighting to not let the tax breaks for the wealthiest expire? And we‘re fighting to not raise the Social Security cap from $87,000? I think we‘re wrong. I think we‘re wrong.
REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN: A couple of things, on the cap—
CONSTITUENT: We have to lower spending. But it‘s a matter of there‘s nothing wrong with taxing the top because it does not trickle down.
RYAN: We do tax the top.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Major Garrett, it looks like it‘s a hard sell. Those—you know, looking out for the rich. It is self interest. Most people don‘t make $250,000 a year. Most people are on Medicare. You look at the simple self-interest little voter, if I‘m on Medicare and I‘m not making $250,000 a year, I don‘t like this Republican plan.
GARRETT: Sounded to me like the revenge of the town hall, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, it is. They‘re paying attention to numbers now.
GARRETT: Exactly. It worked well for Republicans in 2010. It may not work as well in 2012, in this election cycle.
Look, the operative fact is Republicans are betting and they‘re betting a tremendous amount on the belief that the voters are ready for something—to pick up Richard‘s point—bigger than you expect.
GARRETT: That normally, politics won‘t work, that people look at the issue of the debt, $14.3 trillion. They expect it to be raised, the debt ceiling, but they want something else done in concert with that.
Republicans aren‘t betting the farm but they‘re betting more than half the farm that this approach to entrenched entitlements can work for them politically because it‘s courageous. And I think it‘s interesting when the president said he didn‘t think Paul Ryan was being courageous. Well, what‘s the opposite of courageous? Cowardly.
I think the president picked that word out entirely to put the Republicans on the defensive, fearing that some voters might think this is more courageous than he would like them to think it is.
MATTHEWS: Well, remember the old argument, don‘t get so far ahead of the parade you can‘t hear the music. You got to wonder whether these people—the Republican Party and the budget committee, like Paul Ryan, are so far ahead of people they can‘t hear the people talking.
Anyway, thank you, Richard Wolffe. And thank you, Major Garrett, for coming on tonight to talk about this.
MATTHEWS: Up next, why are Republicans around the country—at least some of them up in Maine—especially talking about rolling back child labor laws? Is this part of this whole anti-labor push and is it going to the point where they‘re going to make kids work numerous hours all through the night? Is there an attempt to get cheap labor to replace adult labor? Is that what it‘s about?
We‘ll find out. What‘s going on with this fight against labor?
This is HARDBALL, coming up on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich made his first appearance in the second corruption trial today. The judge ordered Blagojevich to show up for juror questioning. B-Rod‘s trial, by the way, got under way yesterday. Prosecutors simplified their case this time around after jurors last year deadlocked on all but one count—complaining then, the jurors, the evidence was too difficult to follow.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
Republicans have opened up, as I said, a new front in the labor battle. They‘re going right after child labor laws. You know, those things we don‘t pay much attention to because think they‘ve always been there.
Well, state lawmakers in Maine now—the state of Maine—are pushing to lower the minimum wage for those under age 20, from $7.50 down to $5.25 for the first 180 days of a job -- 180 days during a year.
They‘re also looking to eliminate the maximum hours of a minor over 16 years old can work on a school day. They want to take it from 20 to 24 a week and they want to take it from 10:00 at night to 11:00 at night on a school night.
Opponents of the legislation have launched an ad against Maine Governor Paul LePage. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Governor Paul LePage wants to roll back child labor laws. He supports legislation to have kids work longer hours, later at night and for less than minimum wage. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
Tell Governor LePage: protect our children. Don‘t roll back child labor laws.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So, is this the start of a rollback of child labor protections as the ad says?
Christine Owens is executive director of the National Employment Law Project, one of the groups behind that ad. And Steve Moore is the senior economics writer for the great “Wall Street Journal.” He also serves as the paper‘s editor—well, he serves on it so he writes unsigned editorials.
Let me ask you, Christine. Thanks for coming on, Chris. And here‘s the question: is it that bad? Is this Oliver Twist? Are the Republicans really trying to get the kids to work again, 40, 50 hours a week? Is that the goal, to replace adults?
CHRISTINE OWENS, NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT LAW PROJECT: You know, it‘s part of a pattern of rolling back labor protections across the country. There had been attacks on minimum wage. There‘d been many attacks on collective bargaining. There‘d been attacks on overtime. And now, there‘s attack on child labor.
Maine has one of the oldest child labor laws in the nation and it has something to be proud of.
MATTHEWS: Talk about the changes that are under way.
OWENS: So, what this governor is proposing is legislation—or supporting legislation that would increase the number of hours that employers could make children work, children over 16, work, in a week. Have kids work later at night.
MATTHEWS: Why do they want to do that? Why do you think business wants to do that?
OWENS: Well, I think they can squeeze more out of their workers because the companion is to lowering the wage at which children will be forced to work. And so, working later at night --
STEVE MOORE, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Who‘s forcing anybody to work?
OWENS: Well, the employer usually controls scheduling for—
MOORE: They can‘t force kids --
OWENS: Sure, they can. Employers can fire you if you don‘t work the hours that they assign you to work. Employers have a right to do that.
MOORE: It‘s silly.
OWENS: It‘s not silly. It‘s absolutely true.
MOORE: You know, Chris, the most important—the most important job that I had in my life, or one of them, was actually the first job I had. I actually think it‘s a great thing if we can get more teenagers in the labor force.
Right now, we have about a 40 percent black teenage unemployment rate in this country. What we did when we raised the minimum wage, which I think was a big mistake when we raised the minimum wage during this recession, is we‘ve priced young people out of the --
OWENS: That‘s actually not true.
MOORE: It‘s certainly have. How do you account for 40 percent—
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s slow it down. The federal minimum wage, when I was a kid, wherever I worked out at restaurants, the shore and things like that, it didn‘t cover. Federal minimum wage had nothing to do with most jobs.
What does the federal minimum wage of $7.50 actually cover? Does it cover jobs busboys and waitresses --
OWENS: Yes, it covers—
MATTHEWS: It does?
MATTHEWS: You mean, the federal wage applies to all work in this country?
MOORE: And that‘s what I totally object to. We should—it‘s a no-brainer. We should have a starter wage --
MATTHEWS: If you want to have a lower wage for people at a certain age, what do you make it only 180 days a year? So, what‘s the hedge here?
MOORE: The idea is, I would—I would—
MATTHEWS: No. But why is—what‘s the game being played here when it says it‘s only for people who work 180 days a year? What‘s that about?
MOORE: So that they‘re not full-time workers.
MATTHEWS: Oh, so what‘s the hedge here?
OWENS: They can be full-time for 180 days.
MOORE: No. But you‘re talking about high school kids and things like that. They can‘t work—
OWENS: Well, you‘re talking about anybody younger than 20 years old.
That‘s 19 and 20 years old.
MATTHEWS: Explain, Chris, why the 180 --
MOORE: It‘s for the first 180 days.
OWENS: I have no idea why it‘s 180. It‘s six months. It‘s not a summer job, it‘s a six-month job, and if somebody leaves after six months and started a new job, it could apply for the—
MATTHEWS: It‘s not a summer job.
MOORE: Because when a person starts a new job, a 17-year-old, they don‘t know what—you know, they have to—it‘s a trainer wage --
MATTHEWS: Are you for minimum wages or against them?
MOORE: Totally against it.
MATTHEWS: As principle? Any minimum wage?
MOORE: I think we should abolish—
MATTHEWS: Are you against child labor la laws?
MOORE: I‘m not—look --
MATTHEWS: I‘m asking you, is it wrong—is it wrong to limit the
number of hours a high school kid who‘s supposed to be studying in school -
MOORE: No, I don‘t have a problem with that. But I do think—
MATTHEWS: That‘s what we‘re talking about.
MOORE: But what I‘m talking about, what I really applaud, I think you would, too, Chris, is I think it would be a good thing in this country if we had more 16, 17, and 18-year-olds and—
MATTHEWS: OK. Here‘s the question.
MATTHEWS: Slow down a little bit. I used to talk like you.
MOORE: You still do.
MATTHEWS: No, I slowed down. So people can think while I‘m talking.
Why do you think business wanted to increase the number of hours that kids can work in high school when school nights, first of all, until 11:00 at night rather than 10:00, and why did they increase it for 20 for 24 hours a week? Isn‘t 20 hours enough to work during the week for kids?
OWENS: It is enough. In fact, all the research shows that 20 hours a week is the cutoff point at which high school drop-off rates increase after 20 hours --
MATTHEWS: You can‘t study after that?
OWENS: You can‘t study. Grades go down after a 20 hours a week.
MATTHEWS: What‘s wrong with the 20-hour limit?
MOORE: Actually, I don‘t have a problem with that. I agree with you.
You know what? It‘s also true—
MATTHEWS: What about the 11:00 at night rule?
MOORE: I think that‘s—I think that‘s too late for kids.
MATTHEWS: So, you‘re for 10:00 at night and --
OWENS: Twenty hours a week.
MOORE: Let me say one thing. This is important.
MATTHEWS: You are for some government role here?
MOORE: Of course, I don‘t want child labor laws.
MATTHEWS: Because you said a minute ago --
MOORE: I said I didn‘t like the minimum wage. That‘s a different thing. But you know what? The evidence is very clear, that people who work when they‘re teenagers, have a job, they do much better in life in terms of their careers --
OWENS: So they can do that under the current laws.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this: are you against a lower minimum wage for just summer seashore kind of jobs that wouldn‘t exist otherwise?
OWENS: I‘m against a lower minimum wage, because I think it displaces older workers.
MATTHEWS: Even for summer jobs?
OWENS: Even for summer jobs.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Rather have a couple kids working rather than one.
MOORE: Mine are working and nobody would pay my kids $7.50 an hour.
MATTHEWS: You‘re getting very aggressive, Steve. I‘m going to have a special cage for you next time.
When we return, “Let Me Finish” with the proof that the Republican Party is becoming statistically the birther party. This guy, Trump, has helped do it.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: “Let Me Finish” tonight with reality.
Here‘s the reality: the Republican Party has become the birther party. That‘s right. This is not an alternative reality, it‘s the humdrum, get up in the morning, brush your teeth, take a shower, go to work reality of today‘s heirs to the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and yes, Ronald Reagan.
In their world, the man in the White House, the elected president of the United States, is a usurper, an imposter, an alien from another land who has hijacked Air Force One and owes loyalty to God-knows-who? Forty-seven percent say they know he was born in another country. Another 22 percent say they don‘t know what country he was born in.
Grand total, 69 percent—seven in 10 Republicans today lack the simple most basic confidence that the president of the United States is a valid, legitimate, true holder of that office.
They believe the hospital lied, the state of Hawaii lies, his parents lied, he lied, the local newspapers lied, and everyone who grew up with him or said they did lied. They believe every document is at bottom a forgery, and that he, in saying who he is, is an existential fraud. He is the victim of the greatest identity theft in human history.
All this, they say, is possible in this 21st century country, where people know just about everything about each other—we just don‘t know who this guy really is. So, this suggestion about birtherism being a distraction from the central issues of our time has not really caught up with reality.
No wonder Trump has said he doesn‘t want to talk anymore about birtherism. He‘s made his case. He‘s helped convert the Republican Party into a birther party.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.
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