Guests: Howard Fineman, Sue Herera, Joe Kernen, Chris Cillizza, Pat Buchanan, Susan Milligan, Tom DeFrank, Ben Smith, Jared Bernstein
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Republican romper room.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews down in Washington.
Leading off tonight, civil war on the right. Not since the election of Abraham Lincoln has a Republican caused such a war. Everybody attacked Mitt Romney today, the very day he declared for president.
Sarah Palin went right to New Hampshire, serving as a human grenade blowing up his announcement by saying Romney‘s health care is a total violation of Tea Party beliefs. Then Rudy Giuliani, also in New Hampshire today, declared that “Romney care”—and that‘s the word he used—is just as bad as “Obama care.” Then George Pataki attacked. But it was Palin who blew apart any notion Romney can get the backing of the Tea Party.
And big, bad unemployment. The one thing the president fears most is not a candidate running against him but a number, the number 9, the unemployment rate. Today‘s “New York Times” summed it up best. “No American president since Franklin Roosevelt won a second term in office when the unemployment rate on election day topped 7.2 percent.” The one thing President Obama has going for him, of course, his track record of defying expectations.
Plus, Weiner shvitzing! The New York newspapers are going for the kill with Congressman Anthony Weiner. Why doesn‘t he act like he has done nothing wrong in this mess? If someone framed him with sending out a lewd picture of him, why isn‘t he angry at that person? Why isn‘t he siccing the press on the real culprit? Why is he acting like he‘s a guest on Oprah Winfrey instead of saying, Go get the guy who did this, or just say, Those aren‘t my pants”?
Also tonight, how hot is it being a Republican running for president?
Just look for at ones who‘ve already fizzled—Barbour, Trump, Daniels.
And look at Newt melting like a snow cone in June.
And “Let Me Finish” with what Sarah Palin‘s really up to in New Hampshire. She‘s riding her dogsled right over Mitt Romney‘s face.
Let‘s start with Mitt Romney‘s announcement today, such as it was. Howard Fineman is the Huffington Post‘s—Huffington Post Media Group‘s editorial director and an MSNBC political analyst. And Susan Milligan writes for “U.S. News & World Report.” She was previously a big shot with “The Boston Globe.” She covered Romney up there.
Howard, you‘re quite sporting up there. I think you‘re more sporting than Romney today.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s listen to Palin sticking—sticking! -- it right at Romney today. The very day that was supposed to be his happy day, look what Palin did to him. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VP NOMINEE: -- health care plan. In my opinion, any mandate coming from government is not a good thing. So obviously, and I‘m not the only one to say so, but that there will be more the explanation coming from former governor Romney on his support for government mandates.
Well, he makes the good argument there that it does—states rights and authority and responsibility allowed in our states makes more sense than big centralized government telling us what to do. However, even on a state and a local, mandates coming from a government body—it‘s tough for a lot of us independent Americans to accept because we have great faith in the private sector and in our own families and our own business men and women making decisions for ourselves, not any level of government telling us what to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that knife had a lot of sugar on it, Howard, but that was a knife right in his gut. She‘s saying he is another one of those big government people telling people what to do with mandates. He better have some more explaining to do, but she doesn‘t like what she‘s heard so far about him defending what Giuliani called “Romney care.”
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Chris, it was quite a scene at the Scamman farm, which is where I am, where Republicans often declare their candidacies and do big events. The Bush fathers and sons did it here. Romney was here.
But most of the press corps was spending the time behind the riser trying to figure out where Sarah Palin was going and what she was saying. And I must say, Romney‘s speech here, announcing—formally announcing his candidacy, was so bland and so straining to be inoffensive that he lays himself open for these kinds of attacks by Sarah Palin.
Romney had a sentence or two about health care in his speech. He glossed over the topic. He said it was a state answer for a state problem, et cetera, et cetera, you know, the formula he‘s come up with. But it just begged so many questions that Sarah Palin and others are going to attack.
He seems to think that if he has the staff—and he‘s got a good one
and he has the money—and he has a lot of it—and has all these official Republican conservatives showing up at this farm to eat the chili and listen to him talk, that that‘s going to amount to a winning frontrunner candidacy. He doesn‘t want to fight. He doesn‘t want to fight with anybody.
But you know, the Republicans want somebody who wants to fight because they want to take the battle to Barack Obama. And I don‘t know how stylistically and substantively—
FINEMAN: -- Romney kind of tries to ease his way to the nomination and then turn into this vicious fighter who‘s going to attack Obama. It doesn‘t make any sense.
MATTHEWS: You know, I don‘t know why you start a fight, Susan Milligan, and why you start a campaign at a farm known as the “Scam man‘s farm”?
MATTHEWS: I mean, talk about Dickensian name. He‘s been accused of remaking himself. Now he calls—he goes to the farm called the “Scam man‘s” farm. Let me ask you this. How can a guy who was—whose only claim to public experience is what he did in Massachusetts—health care, just like “Obama care,” who was pro-choice in Massachusetts—and then says, The only reason I‘m running for president (INAUDIBLE) has a right to run is I was a governor, but then deny all that—or what is he doing up in New Hampshire?
SUSAN MILLIGAN, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT”: Well, look, he‘s got to
win New Hampshire. He‘s not even really campaigning in Iowa. And it‘s his
he was smart enough this time to actually announce in New Hampshire instead of in Michigan, the way he did last time. And we saw how well that worked out for him.
But you know, he‘s got to try to appeal to this wing of the party, but his advantage in New Hampshire is that there really isn‘t a Tea Party element in New Hampshire the way there is in other states.
MILLIGAN: They‘re Libertarian, they‘re independent, but they‘re more sort of, you know, Northeastern Republicans than they are that sort of Sarah Palin element of the party.
MATTHEWS: Well, look how he behaves, that pointing at the crowd, that phony thing politicians do, the perfect shirt. By the way, he unbuttons the top of the collar, but for some reason, the collar doesn‘t open.
MATTHEWS: It‘s the only guy now that does that. How does it stay closed? Has he got—what does he got in there, Howard? Has he got something keeping that—sticky glue or something keeping that shirt together at the top?
FINEMAN: Well, listen, one step at a time for him, Chris. Give him some credit.
FINEMAN: He wasn‘t wearing a tie—he wasn‘t wearing a coat and tie.
That‘s as casual as I‘ve ever seen Mitt Romney.
MATTHEWS: OK. I don‘t think it works, though.
FINEMAN: I‘m not sure—
MATTHEWS: Let me take—let‘s give him his moment (INAUDIBLE) here he is talking about health care, which you (ph) wouldn‘t want to do that. But here he is. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- state was giving over a billion dollars away in free health care, much of it to people who could have paid something who were just gaming the system. You won‘t be surprised that a lot of Democrats thought we should give them even more. I took on this problem and hammered out a solution that took a bad solution and made it better, not perfect, but it was a state solution to our state‘s problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Politico reported today that Palin said that—
Governor Palin said that appealing to the Tea Party will be a big challenge for Romney. I‘d say! Quote, “Tea Party activists are pretty strident in a good way,” Palin said, explaining that they will want to, quote, “make sure that we‘re not going to have any excuses or perceived political reasons to grow government because we can‘t afford it.”
Howard, she is drawing a line in the sand, or in the granite up there.
This guy is on the wrong side of history. He‘s for government solutions.
FINEMAN: Yes. Well, I agree with Susan about the fact that the Tea Party is not a big independent force here. On the other hand, the natural Republican of New Hampshire was already sort of a Tea Party person, more Libertarian in style, smaller government, et cetera. The head of the party here, the guy—Jack Kimble (ph), who won in a surprise victory and who I spoke with earlier today, comes out of the Tea Party movement.
FINEMAN: And—you know, so he—I think that that‘s going to be Romney‘s problem. Now, he‘s familiar here. He has a home here. You know, people know him. He‘s trying to be inoffensive and all things to all people. And there were some conservative Tea Party types here eating the chili and listening to him today. There just wasn‘t any enthusiasm.
What I hear from these people is, OK, maybe Romney, you know, won‘t make any enemies, and somehow, he‘ll have the money and the organization and he can beat—he can beat Obama. But if they find anybody who excites them at all, who gives them any hope of some real juice, they‘re going to go to that person in a heartbeat.
I just didn‘t sense it—I know this is just—look, these announcements now are empty pageants, OK? History‘s kind of passed this kind of pageantry by. But even by the standards of that, this was a non-event event here today. And Palin—you know, the reports of where Sarah Palin was heading in her bus were of more interest to most of the press corps and maybe even a lot of the people here than what Romney was saying.
MATTHEWS: OK. She was out in force. The AP reports, by the way, Giuliani was also sticking the knife in from the other side. He was also in New Hampshire today, saying—this is about Romney. Quote, “The reality is that ‘Obama care‘ and ‘Romney care‘”—I love the way these phrases—“are almost exactly the same thing. It‘s not very helpful trying to distinguish them. I would think the best way to handle it is to say, It was a terrible mistake, and if I could do it over, I wouldn‘t do it.”
Now, there he is, Giuliani. I thought he was cooked. He‘s back in this. Left and right hitting this guy. Is New Hampshire still the old Yankee state that it was, or is it now a state of ticked-off ex-Massachusetts guys, Irish and Italians? By the way, all I saw there were people of northern European heritage in that group picture today. That was like the old “Saturday Night Live” joke about Dukakis.
MILLIGAN: Well, that‘s—that‘s typical of New Hampshire anyway. It is true. I mean, the demographics of New Hampshire have changed. It‘s—but it‘s always had a very strong independent streak.
MILLIGAN: And Howard‘s right. They‘re Libertarian, but it still isn‘t that same strain of the Tea Party that‘s sort of like Sarah Palin—
MATTHEWS: Are they going to like “Obama care” or are they going to like “Romney care,” both of them?
MILLIGAN: I don‘t think that they will. But on the other hand, I mean, what you—what Howard is saying is Romney‘s strongest selling point, or you were saying, is that he‘s a sort of relatively inoffensive guy who can maybe pull—well, look, Look what happened in 2008. They picked Sarah Palin to appeal to that wing of the party. It didn‘t work out so well for them. And Palin—
MATTHEWS: In the general. It probably works in the primaries.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Sarah Palin. Why do you think she‘s up there today? You think it‘s an accident that—
MILLIGAN: No, it‘s not an accident at all, and it has nothing do with Mitt Romney. It has everything to do with Sarah Palin wanting to be a force in the party, not necessarily wanting to get in. I still don‘t think she‘s going to run, but she wants to be the one that everybody runs to and asks for her approval. And if I were Romney or anyone or anyone else, I‘d say, you know, You got a problem with me, why don‘t you run, and we‘ll see how you do.
MATTHEWS: You know, Howard, you watch an NBA game—there‘s one on tonight—the fans love to get behind the foul line or behind the goalpost, and they love to just make noise and wave their hands and wave the white stuff and everything they can so—
FINEMAN: Waving their noodles. Wave the noodles.
MATTHEWS: The noodles, yes—so the poor guy at the foul line is going to blow one of these foul shots.
MATTHEWS: It seems like Sarah Palin was one of those people waving the noodle, if you will, today.
FINEMAN: Yes. It‘s true. And you know, Mitt Romney is not the world‘s greatest free throw shooter.
FINEMAN: The thing is that—you know, maybe some way, Mitt Romney will put one foot in front of the other. And with the money and the staff and being inoffensive, sort of—
MATTHEWS: Oh, Howard, you‘re killing me.
FINEMAN: -- he will win the nomination—
MATTHEWS: Howard, this is what we do for a living! You can‘t do this to me, Howard!
FINEMAN: Let me put—now, wait a minute. But let me give you the “but.” I have been covering stuff like this for a long time. I‘ve never seen a sort of weaker kickoff by a supposed frontrunner in any campaign in either party in 25 years. I just haven‘t seen it. Maybe these ceremonies don‘t matter anymore, but there was just no juice here. There was nothing. There was nothing.
FINEMAN: And he didn‘t say anything.
MATTHEWS: Yes, my thought is this. The Tea Party‘s a party of angry people.
MATTHEWS: How can a guy who so perfectly had it made in America—the right father, the right look, the right training, St. Paul‘s, Ivy League, beautiful wife—everything is—he‘s got, like, six kids that are all sort of duplicates out of the Xerox machine. Everybody looks the same and everybody‘s gorgeous. How could a guy like that be as angry as the average Tea Party guy? I don‘t think he connects to the anger.
MILLIGAN: He can‘t connect to the anger, which is what‘s going to
give him such a problem in the primaries. But it‘s also his strongest case
MATTHEWS: Look at that smile!
MILLIGAN: -- in the general election—
MATTHEWS: He says, I‘ve got it made!
MATTHEWS: Anyway, just kidding. Susan, you‘re the best. I‘m a big Susan Milligan fan. Thank you, Howard Fineman, and I‘m a big Howard—I love the hat, Howard! You‘re fitting in up there in the hub of the universe!
MATTHEWS: Coming up, the New York tabs are having a lot of fun with the strange saga—can we do this story one more night? Yes (ph) Congressman Anthony Weiner—what a weird story that gets weirder every day. He says didn‘t send that lewd photograph to a college student, but he won‘t disown the underwear picture that was sent! I don‘t get it. Just say, I had nothing to do with this thing! I‘m talking like a New Yorker.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, Democrats think they can use Medicare, of course, as an issue to beat Republicans next year. The polls show they may be right. A new poll from CNN and Opinion Research shows nearly 6 in 10 are opposed to the Republican Medicare-killing budget plan. When asked whether if they favor or oppose the Republicans‘ plan to change Medicare, 58 percent say they‘re against it, versus just 35 percent who say they‘re for it. That‘s why Republicans everywhere are running away from their own budget plan.
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Made it very clear I did not send that picture, that my Twitter account has been hacked and (INAUDIBLE) apparently (INAUDIBLE) successful. But after hours, almost 11 hours of answering questions, any that anyone wanted to put, today I‘m going to have to get back to work doing the job that I‘m paid to do. So I appreciate your patience and understanding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was, of course, New York congressman Anthony Weiner, hoping, I guess, to have the last word about a lewd photo that he denies sending from his Twitter account. But the New York tabloids had a field day again today. “The New York Daily News” front page calls it “Weiner‘s pickle.” And “The New York Post” blares “Weiner exposed.”
So what are the politics here for Congressman Weiner and for both parties? I think it is politics here. Tom DeFrank‘s the Washington bureau chief for “The New York Daily News” and Ben Smith is senior political writer for Politico.
Gentlemen, thank you for this. Tom, this is strange because it seems like this would be a case where you say, I had nothing to do with this thing. This is a stupid story. Somebody did something weird on line. I don‘t even know what these underpants are about, or this bulge is about or any of this stuff‘s about. I got nothing to do with it. Go find the person who did it. The Capitol Police can help you. Good-bye.
Why didn‘t he do that?
TOM DEFRANK, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”: Well, my suspicion is it all goes back to the Watergate situation you and I covered.
DEFRANK: (INAUDIBLE) damage control 101 that we learned from Watergate, if you don‘t have anything to hide, don‘t behave like you do. Weiner is behaving like he‘s got something to hide, and I think if he—that‘s the only logical explanation—
DEFRANK: -- because otherwise, you‘re quite right, he‘d just come out and say, This is baloney. I demand a full investigation.
MATTHEWS: My theory, to give it a bit of codification, is that if it looks better than it looks—if it is better than it looks, they‘ll tell you more.
MATTHEWS: If it‘s as bad as it looks, they don‘t talk.
DEFRANK: And Weiner, who, like his former boss, Chuck Schumer, is known to be loquacious—
DEFRANK: -- is suddenly extremely reticent.
MATTHEWS: Ben Smith, the Politico‘s done a hell of a job covering politics lately here, and I‘m looking here—here‘s House leader Eric Cantor on Weiner. Let‘s listen to him because he‘s another pol, a smart one, on the other side of the aisle. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to ask you as another member of Congress, what is going on with this story?
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: You know, it‘s just—I think the American people are sick of seeing their elected officials tied up in the scandals like this! I really think it‘s sad. And obviously, there‘s not a lot of clarity surrounding the reports.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would your advice be to Congressman Weiner?
CANTOR: Advice would be to come clean and clear it up. I mean, again, perhaps he‘s trying, but I know there‘s a lot of explaining going on without a lot of clarity. And again, the American people are right in saying that they don‘t have tolerance for this repeated kind of activity going on surrounding their elected leaders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there you have Fox News raising the—raising the bar there, calling it a “scandal,” raising it to Watergate levels.
What do you think, Ben Smith, here, because it seems to me that, while this may have seemed trivial when it first came out, the behavior of the congressman has done something to make this bigger every day. I don‘t know. You describe it.
BEN SMITH, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, POLITICO.COM: Well, I think, to
return to Watergate, it‘s what they called a limited modified hangout,
right, the P.R. tactic of trying to show a little and let that go. That‘s
MATTHEWS: What do you make of these unilaterals? All afternoon, he did Luke Russert, he did Wolf Blitzer, he did everybody, one after another. He did Rachel last night.
Was that a way of appearing to be exhaustive in answering questions, when in fact you just decided to give it one day so could say you did it for 11 hours, just so you could make the case of—like the old Washington trick of output—or input equals output, and although there was no output?
SMITH: I think he was kind of trying to bore the press to death.
But, as you said, I don‘t “The Post” and my old colleague Tom DeFrank‘s “Daily News” are going to get tired of a story about a congressman‘s crotch.
I mean, the American people may be tired of that, as Congressman Cantor said, but I think New York tabloid readers love it. So, I think it will go on for a while, and until—honestly, until there is something approaching a clear explanation of what happened.
TOM DEFRANK, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”: Yes, that is the key, Chris, and Ben is right about that.
He tried to exhaust us, Weiner, yesterday, but he didn‘t answer the questions, or he didn‘t answer them sufficiently. He ought to know whether those are his underpants. And there are just too many unanswered questions left to be resolved. So it doesn‘t matter how much time he spent yesterday on this. He‘s not ahead of the game.
MATTHEWS: He had—I was listening to a lot of those unilateral interviews. And I never heard him deny that he had never sent this out to anybody.
DEFRANK: He said, I didn‘t send it to the woman.
DEFRANK: Right. But he didn‘t say he never send it out.
MATTHEWS: Right. And he also said, at the end of the day, I don‘t know who has access to my account, which is different than saying it was hacked. .
DEFRANK: And he also was asked, do you take pictures of yourself like this? And he ducked.
DEFRANK: That is not one you want to duck on.
SMITH: And particularly right now in his political career. He‘s a guy who is looking to become the next mayor of New York, and for whom the question has been, is he still the kind of glib kid Anthony Weiner, or has he grown up? Is he ready for that job?
And if what he is saying is that he was sexting with someone else, it all does feel like high school.
MATTHEWS: That‘s exactly—I think there‘s a lot of juvenilization going on today in American culture. You go out in Hollywood, you hang out in Beverly Hills, everybody who is 75 years old is dressing like they‘re 8 years old.
People on these Twitter accounts talk like high school kids. Did you read his latest from Weiner? “Howz about I go back to my job,” howz spelled H-O-W-Z? Like some kid in a comic book strip.
What is this attempt to act like you‘re 8 years old? Is this—it‘s the new cute. And I think he got caught up in the new cute.
Here is Democratic Congressman Bobby Rush, who is not cute, from Illinois saying: “He is feeding on all you. He is feeding on you all, and you are feeding on him, too.”
And an anonymous Democratic staffer said: “How much schadenfreude is happening because of this? A lot.”
Well, here‘s the question. Nobody is coming to this guy‘s aid, Tom DeFrank, nobody.
DEFRANK: Well, that‘s right. They‘re not happy. Democrats aren‘t happy for a lot of reasons, one being the obvious one. It doesn‘t look good.
But more to the point, the Democrats would love to be crowing about picking off this seat in New York 26.
MATTHEWS: Which they did, Chris Lee.
DEFRANK: Which they did. In a very safe Republican district, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, got it.
DEFRANK: And nobody is paying any attention to that this week and the Democratic colleagues are not pleased.
I have watched politics, Ben, for about 40 years. I have noticed that there is a thing. It is not a nice streak of the Republican Party, but they are very effective at it. They usually get somebody ethnic from one of the coasts and make them into the enemy, Ted Kennedy, Tip O‘Neill, Nancy Pelosi, Bella Abzug. They love this kind of bad guy, somebody from one of the coasts, the left coast out in California, the East Coast, and make them into their star witness of what is wrong with the other party.
I think what they are afraid of—and Steve Israel and a lot of these people must be afraid of this now—that Weiner will be the reason they don‘t take back the House the next couple cycles because he will become the example, the poster child of the juvenile behavior of the Democratic Congress.
Your thoughts. I think this is serious business. They could lose 10 or so seats on this, just making him into the joke. Your thoughts?
SMITH: I do think Weiner was kind of auditioning for the role of the Democrat Republicans love to hate. He will go—he will show up wherever there is a TV camera. He will really mix it up. He will insult people personally.
And he doesn‘t seem now to be shrinking away from the camera. So, I don‘t know if this is going to cost them seats.
MATTHEWS: You‘re laughing. You‘re laughing, Ben. You‘re younger than me. Do you think this is something that anybody normal would enjoy being, what he is now? This is—
MATTHEWS: -- vanities, this thing.
SMITH: Oh, no. He‘s—I don‘t think—he‘s got to not be having fun.
His wife is a very private person, a kind of keeper of Clinton secrets. This is—see, I don‘t—I think that‘s the other pole of this. He is a very public person, but he is also connected to Clinton land, where this sort of thing is not welcomed.
MATTHEWS: Tom, any connection to Clinton here on this? Is this going to be—make it bigger?
DEFRANK: No, I don‘t think so.
MATTHEWS: I think people are leaving her alone.
DEFRANK: They will leave her alone, yes. I think that‘s right.
MATTHEWS: I think they sympathize with --
DEFRANK: Yes. I mean, she‘s going to have a real sympathetic backlash for sure.
MATTHEWS: I think --
DEFRANK: He‘s got enough problems.
Tom, you and I are grownups, but this is one of the—release for the summer. There‘s too many complicated discussions about debt and debt ceilings.
Anyway, thank you, Tom DeFrank, as always, buddy.
And thank you, Ben Smith. Good reporting.
Up next: Watch as a Republican candidate for Senate refuses to answer a simple question in the election. And the simplest question, what, is argue for the Ryan plan. This guy, I love this guy down in Florida. He kept asking the guy. And he gave the perfect answer for a Republican: no answer.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
First tonight: pizza on my mind. Last night, Jon Stewart played the New York Italian who was pizza-offed at the dining habits of Donald Trump and Sarah Palin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)
JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”: Are you eating it with a fork?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
STEWART: A (EXPLETIVE DELETED) fork? Oh, no, no!
You can build your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) glass and gold-painted buildings—
STEWART: -- with the sky—blocking out the Central Park sun. It‘s fine. It‘s fine.
STEWART: But you invite an important visitor to our house, to our town, and eat your pizza with a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) fork right in front of her?
STEWART: Who the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) do you think you‘re?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
STEWART: You know what? Hey—
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
STEWART: -- why don‘t you take a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Fiorello LaGuardia‘s hat and feed to Joe DiMaggio‘s crying ghost on Liberty Island, you son of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
STEWART: Watch and learn, for God‘s sake. Watch and (EXPLETIVE DELETED) learn.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
STEWART: You fold it and you eat it.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He‘s amazing. He‘s got that guy. I can hear that guy yelling this.
Anyway, next up: double vision. This morning in Boston, Sarah Palin ran into a very familiar face in her New York—or her Boston bus tour. Let‘s check it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you Italian?
SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: No, I‘m not, but I love Italian food.
PALIN: So do I. We have got that in common, too. Here‘s the Constitution.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much. We need to talk. I have so much to tell you, amazing things.
PALIN: Well, you can get a hold of one of our guys.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m going to give her a call.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, that impersonator, did you see? She even did the on-the-phone thing there for her.
Now for tonight‘s “Number.”
What‘s the latest gotcha question of the 2012 campaign? Will you vote for the Republican budget plan?
Just watch what happened to Republican Senate candidate Mike Haridopolos down in Florida in a radio interview this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you vote yes or no on the Ryan plan?
MIKE HARIDOPOLOS ®, REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I don‘t think the Ryan plan is going to be the one at the end the day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are a senator today. The Ryan plan comes across your desk. Are you voting yes or no?
HARIDOPOLOS: All right, Ray Junior, I‘m not going to get into that today because it‘s not the vote I‘m dealing with.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell me, you voting for the Ryan plan, yes or no?
HARIDOPOLOS: Again, I don‘t have all the information on which make that decision yet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you possibly not have all that information?
You are running for Senate?
HARIDOPOLOS: Hey, I thought you wanted to talk about what we have accomplished, not about a hypothetical.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. All in all, how many times did Haridopolos dodge that simple question? Ten times, 10 non-answers on whether he would vote for the Republican-passed budget plan—he is a Republican—that takes apart Medicare, tonight‘s very telling “Big Number.”
By the way, I love Ray Junior already.
Up next: No president since FDR has ever been reelected with unemployment over 7.2 percent. It‘s over 9 percent right now. Actually, it‘s at 9. So, what can President Obama do it bring it down?
You‘re watching HARDBALL—and this is the big one coming up—only on MSNBC.
SUE HERERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Sue Herera with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
A rocky session leaves stocks mixed at the close, Dow Jones industrials falling 41 points, the S&P 500 down a point-and-a-half, and the Nasdaq, well, it held on to a four-point gain. The market was trying to find its footing today after Wednesday‘s steep sell-off.
The dollar slipped against the euro after Moody‘s warned the U.S. debt rating could be placed under review in July if Washington doesn‘t make some real progress on budget issues.
And new jobless claims fell less than expected last week, lowering expectations for tomorrow‘s monthly report from the Labor Department.
Most retailers moved lower on a mixed bag of same-store sales results in May. But the for-profit education stocks spiked after the government softened rules that would have cut off tuition aid.
And deal-of-the-day site Groupon is going public, filing today for a $750 million IPO.
And that‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—and now back to Chris and HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Barack Obama has failed America.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ROMNEY: When he took office, the economy was in recession, and he made it worse, and he made it last longer. Three years later, over 16 million Americans are out of work or just quit looking for jobs. Millions more are unemployed.
Three years later, unemployment is still above 8 percent, and that was the figure he said his stimulus would keep from happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I don‘t see that.
Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Mitt Romney today up in New Hampshire opening up his campaign for president.
The unemployment rate, by the way, might be Barack Obama‘s toughest opponent for reelection, no matter who runs against him.
Today‘s “New York Times” sizes it up on the front page. Hear what it says about data and how it holds the key to the thing. The story basically gives us some important history—quote—“Ten presidents have stood for reelection since Franklin Roosevelt. In four instances, the unemployment rate stood above 6 percent on Election Day. Three presidents of those four lost: Jerry Ford, Jimmy Carter, George Herbert Walker Bush,” the first President Bush. “But Ronald Reagan managed to win with a 7.2 percent unemployment rate in November in ‘84 because the rate was clearly coming down from where it was at double digits. He seemed to be fixing the problem.”
Can President Obama get reelected if the unemployment rate still hovers around 9 percent?
This is my question. Joe Kernen is a friend of mine. He writes—he works over at—he hosts CNBC‘s “Squawk Box” and he‘s co-author, with his daughter, of a great new book called “Your Teacher Said What?!” And economist Jared Bernstein was the former top economic adviser to the vice president, Joe Biden.
By the way, Mark Haines, a great guy.
JOE KERNEN, CO-ANCHOR, CNBC‘S “SQUAWK BOX”: Yes. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I watched him all the time. I didn‘t know him like you knew him. I felt something very personal there.
KERNEN: He is missed. Thank you. He is missed.
MATTHEWS: You guys were unbelievable, the way you remembered him.
Let‘s talk about something really hot. I want Jared to play defense.
And you can—you can come at him.
How do you defend a 9 percent unemployment four years in?
Well, first of all..
MATTHEWS: If it‘s 9 percent next year, can he get reelected?
JARED BERNSTEIN, FORMER CHIEF ECONOMIST TO VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN:
Very unlikely it will be 9 percent next year.
And what you said in the introduction is really true. Remember, November 1982, the unemployment 10.8 percent, down to 7.2. What really matters here more than the level is the direction. It‘s how people feel.
MATTHEWS: Suppose it was 9.9 a while ago and it is 9.0 on November next year? Is that coming down enough?
BERNSTEIN: It‘s going to be tough. Look, nobody wants to run for president with such an elevated unemployment rate. But, more realistically, if it is in the range of 8 percent, and it‘s coming down off 9, where it is now, I think the president is going to be OK.
MATTHEWS: OK. What‘s your marker for a safety number?
BERNSTEIN: I think the 8 percent range is --
MATTHEWS: Eight-point-zero -- 8.0 or 8.8?
BERNSTEIN: Oh, no, no, not 8.8 -- 8.8, by the way, is where we were a couple months ago, so very unlikely --
MATTHEWS: OK. You‘re—just—before we get into the values—and I know you are a conservative, Joe—what do you think the number, the reelect number‘s got to get down to for him to be in a pretty good position to get reelected?
Given what—we talked about this earlier. The Obama narrative is so powerful that I think anything sub-8 percent, I think would be—probably be—
MATTHEWS: So, 8 percent. We‘re looking at 8 percent.
OK. What are the economic chance of it getting to 8 percent right now based upon—it looks to be no monetary policy seems to be available. They can‘t print any more money. There is no more fiscal stimulus left, is there, from the government policy?
BERNSTEIN: No, there is still some --
MATTHEWS: So, doesn‘t it all depend on the market now?
BERNSTEIN: There‘s—no, no, there is still some fiscal stimulus out there. It‘s going to be unwinding throughout the course of this year.
And by the way, there‘s every chance that the president and the Congress go back to the well. For example, another payroll tax holiday is possibly in the offing. I wouldn‘t put that pass—put that pass the group at all.
Here, remember, we can get hung up on the level and I think the level is important. But it‘s really the change. It‘s really the direction. You get that unemployment rate headed down and based on where the economy—
MATTHEWS: But it stopped going down. That‘s the problem, Joe, it stopped going down.
KERNEN: Nobody, we‘re not really—the housing is double-dipping. But probably the economy is not going to double dip. There are some transitory factors going on there. There‘s Japan. There‘s oil prices that got to $115, because partly of Q.E.2, but also because of Libya and the Mideast.
KERNEN: So even when the ISM number came out, you saw the biggest drop in 13 years—
KERNEN: -- but it wasn‘t because demand was down. It was because costs were up.
I don‘t want to agree with him on everything. I‘m not saying—I‘m
saying the president is likeable, a great orator. The narrative of Barack
Obama leading the most powerful country in the world is so powerful I think
and he doesn‘t deserve to given his performance on jobs, squandering two years on Obamacare, the activist EPA, activist NLRB. Not letting Boeing --
MATTHEWS: Let me hear the argument. Joe, I want to hear the best argument. If you were to advise Romney and one of these other guys that‘s a little more exciting, what would be their biggest indictment of Obama next year? What‘s it going to sound like?
KERNEN: I would say $800 billion—do you remember what we did to cut $40 billion? Eight hundred billion and we are at 9 percent. We‘re trying to cut $4 trillion in 10 years, Simpson-Bowles. It would be $3 trillion if we weren‘t fixing potholes with $800 billion and still at 9 percent.
MATTHEWS: I grew up studying economics in grad school in North Carolina. I believe in Keynesianism.
MATTHEWS: Maybe not now. The idea that the government wants to stimulate the economy, it runs a bigger deficit, it spends more, taxes less. Why hasn‘t that worked effectively?
BERNSTEIN: It has worked. And your belief in Keynesian as well (INAUDIBLE). And by the way, there is no way the president—there‘s no way the president is going to run on any “things could have been worse” kind of agenda.
But he will point out and that is a fact that when he took in office in January of 2009, we lost over 700,000 jobs. And he will point out that even though the unemployment rate is too high, it is coming down and we are adding on average a couple hundred thousand jobs per month. That‘s a huge turn around and this president‘s policies, including the Recovery Act, helped us get --
MATTHEWS: How can you make the case we should go back to Bush
KERNEN: I already said that.
MATTHEWS: How are you going to be different than Bush?
KERNEN: Why are we even talking about—
KERNEN: He still has no ownership of this—
MATTHEWS: How are you going to be different from George W. Bush if Republicans are getting into power? How are they going to be different --
KERNEN: In terms of
MATTHEWS: Big tax cuts.
KERNEN: I don‘t necessarily—I‘m not tying all of this structural
problems we have in the economy to George Bush‘s policies. Are you saying
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m asking you—
KERNEN: Are you saying that tax cuts—
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m asking—how does the Republican promise that beyond Obama are going to be different than the Bush --
BERNSTEIN: What‘s the Republican are going to run on
KERNEN: I don‘t think it‘ll be different. No, no, Bush attempted to rein in Fannie and Freddie --
KERNEN: Wait a second. You got a zero interest rate policy for how long—you got 10-year housing bubble orchestrated by Fannie, Freddie and Barney—and Barney, along with zero interest rate policy from the Fed. And it‘s benefited everyone, the housing bubble. It was longer—the housing bubble is longer than the commodity bubble.
BERNSTEIN: This is not what the debate is going to be about. We‘re not going to leave Bush behind.
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m asking if you‘re going to do it.
BERNSTEIN: We don‘t need to revisit—we don‘t need to revisit everything --
MATTHEWS: Let me give 30 seconds to this guy‘s kid. Now, you wrote a book with your daughter. I have a daughter, too, and I‘m very proud of my daughter. I know you are of your daughter too.
What‘s the case of what are teachers saying wrong?
KERNEN: I guess that capitalism is not the solution but the problem with where we—
MATTHEWS: Teachers are too left.
KERNEN: Oh, yes. Do you disagree with that? Do you disagree with that?
MATTHEWS: Well, it depends on the teacher. Paul Krueger may be it a little too left.
KERNEN: How about colleges and universities?
MATTHEWS: You know, I had pretty good teachers.
KERNEN: I know capitalism has given us this great quality of life.
MATTHEWS: Until we figure out the economy, any argument is fair. But you‘re right.
MATTHEWS: Joe KERNEN, thank you. Again, in memory of Mark Haines and of the good guys that work at CNBC, be including you. “Your Teacher Said What?!”
KERNEN: Read the rest.
MATTHEWS: Up next, Joe KERNEN, thank you.
Up next: Trump is out, so is Barbour, and Daniels, too. These guys last about a half—about hour before they‘re out of these races. And there is melting snow right now. What happens to the Republicans?
No wonder nobody is running. The moment they announce they get creamed. Look what happened to Romney today. He was surrounded by circular firing squad.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband are reunited. Mark Kelly returned to Earth after 16 days in space and is back in Houston with his—tonight. While Kelly was away, Congresswoman Giffords made what doctors say is another important step in her recovery from January‘s assassination attempt. She had surgery to have a plastic implant replaced in her skull, wow, where she was shot.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back.
Boy, is it hot out there for Republican presidential candidates? Just look at who is already gone.
Haley Barbour, gone. He was an early dropout after canvassing Ohio, New Hampshire and South Carolina multiple times.
Donald Trump was trumped when the president released his long-form birth certificate.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels quietly pulled himself out rather quickly.
And I already give Newt Gingrich a technical knockout right now after his Paul Ryan Medicare debacle among other things.
Let‘s turn now to “The Washington Post‘s” Chris Cillizza and Pat Buchanan, who are both MSNBC political analyst.
Chris, I want you to start. I know this would—you‘re really good at and I‘m watching you and I‘m very impressed lately in the way you think about these things.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And I‘m thinking, what is it about this year when they seem to get like—they come out, they climb out on to the deck. They let everybody get a good look at them and then they climb back off the deck.
I mean, Haley Barbour is a smart guy. But he came out and felt something he didn‘t know until he got out there. And then he thought, he said, I‘m getting out of here.
Let‘s take Barbour‘s example and then we‘ll get to the lesser and present guys.
CILLIZZA: Sure. You know, I think Barbour is good example, Chris, because this is somebody who has been around politics for a long time, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Governor of Mississippi. He knows his way around political campaign.
I would say, I think it‘s two things working in tandem. One is, they look at the structural advantages Barack Obama has. Now, I think 2012 is going to be a lot closer than 2008. But Barack Obama is going to raise somewhere between $750 million and $1 billion. He won with 365 electoral votes in 2008. Those are big structural advantages. It doesn‘t—
MATTHEWS: What do you with money to tell people they already know? He won after three or four years of Obama, people are going to make a judgment about him. What good is spending all this money? Do a TV ad to say you missed something? What‘s all this money for?
CILLIZZA: No, well—
MATTHEWS: Is it to buy party chairman? You buy local county guys or what? What do you do with the money?
CILLIZZA: I think is you raise as much as you possibly can and you spend as much as you possibly can. I think you‘re right at some level you get to a point of diminishing returns.
Let me just say, the other thing that I do think is happening definitely with Daniels, definitely with Barbour, I think these guys get out there, they see what it‘s like, they see the crush of media. In fact, they see Twitter, they see Facebook, they see how they‘re covered 24 hours a day.
CILLIZZA: Every second, every minute. And they don‘t want it that bad. You know, we created a process that you have to want it more than anything else in the world.
MATTHEWS: Pat, you—actually you—let‘s go to Pat because Pat has been there. You‘re zenith when you were really up there. You won the New Hampshire primary, you almost won it. Both upsets in the way you did them. You were almost going to make it at one point with Arizona.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
MATTHEWS: They call them absentee ballots may have screwed you.
But what is it about this year? It seems like all these guys. I mean, Mitch gets there and pulls out early. Trump is out. And I thought Trump was really taking a look at it there for a couple of weeks.
MATTHEWS: If that birth certificate thing had gone the wrong way, I think he would have gone in. What‘s hot out there, hotter than ever?
BUCHANAN: I think the—look, I think both Daniels—Mitch Daniels
I work with Haley and Mitch. They‘re both terrific guys, good governors, fine Republicans. I think they look at it. You got to look at something, Chris.
They don‘t look to me like national candidates. Somebody has got to be a political athlete. And I think what they look—you know what you‘ve got to do, you‘ve got to beat Pawlenty in Iowa and you got to beat Romney in Michigan.
Now, I think they look at that at Iowa, Haley Barbour, he‘s Southerner, he‘s coming from Mississippi and everything, how does he organize Iowa to beat Pawlenty and beat those guys, and then he‘s going to win New Hampshire some. I think they looked at it—I don‘t think it‘s Obama that‘s keeping them out, I think it‘s the Republican field. They just don‘t feel they can see that path through to the nomination.
I think with Mitch—I think obviously he mentioned his family in a statement where he said I‘m not going. There‘s probably some problem he just didn‘t want to go through it.
MATTHEWS: Yes, too personal.
Let me ask you this, Chris. What‘s wrong with coming in—I know if you come in like Milton Shaft (ph) or Alan Cranston, you‘re coming eight or something—but there‘s been any embarrassment coming in as second or third, like in the horserace when placer shows it‘s pretty damn good, you notice the guy that came in second or third.
Why not risk a second or third place finish? What‘s wrong with that?
CILLIZZA: You know, I agree with you, Chris. I think you‘re right. I think the problem that you‘re seeing is—and I think Pat is right—is these guys are picking and choosing more. John McCain, I think, set the example. This is a guy who didn‘t compete in Iowa or New Hampshire—excuse me, in Iowa in 2000 or 2008. Focused his time in New Hampshire, won New Hampshire, almost won the nomination in 2000 against George W. Bush, the favorite, did win in 2008.
So I think he‘s shown a path that at least Republican strategists believe suggest you don‘t have to. It doesn‘t matter. Why risk coming in second or third when it doesn‘t ultimately matter.
The one other thing, Chris, I‘d add
CILLIZZA: I think Rudy Giuliani hangs over all of this field. He had
we‘re going to skip Iowa and New Hampshire, and then, oh, we‘re going to skip New Hampshire, but Florida is where it‘s going to matter. By the time it got to Florida, the race was over.
MATTHEWS: How about Newt, is he staying in this race, do you think just for the debates?
BUCHANAN: I think you‘re exactly right. He‘s got to really do well in the debates. But I think he‘s broken his pick. But let me say it‘s like—Newt has got the same problem as Haley and Mitch. Where is that core constituency?
MATTHEWS: Where‘s the voters? I don‘t know any Newt voters.
BUCHANAN: Look, I was in Iowa. I got pro-life. You got this populist thing, fighting for jobs.
MATTHEWS: You had a national fight (ph).
MATTHEWS: You were a protectionist, you were for trade, and you had the pro-life thing going.
BUCHANAN: This is what you need to beat Romney and Pawlenty in Iowa and New Hampshire. You‘ve got to have core, decisive, dramatic issues and a fiery candidate and then clear the field.
MATTHEWS: How does Romney win, then?
BUCHANAN: Well, Romney is the other guy. You‘ve got to beat Romney.
MATTHEWS: He‘s got the money and the looks and everything.
CILLIZZA: To Pat‘s point, keep an eye on Michele Bachmann.
Everything Pat described about Iowa fits Michele Bachmann.
MATTHEWS: Strangest reasons, a full believer in that person we‘re looking at. I think she‘s got the spark of something.
BUCHANAN: She‘s got fire belief and a following.
MATTHEWS: She has got a Joan of Arc quality.
Thank you, Chris Cillizza.
CILLIZZA: Thank you.
BUCHANAN: I don‘t think she‘s Catholic but I think she‘s got the Joan of Arc thing. Pat Buchanan.
When we return, “Let Me Finish” with this jamboree today up in New Hampshire with Mitt and Sarah. How many people were up there is like Jimmy (INAUDIBLE), is everybody going to get in the act?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: “Let Me Finish” tonight with this jamboree up there in the “Live Free or Die” state.
I don‘t know what‘s going on in the Republican and Tea Party these days. What‘s with Romney having his big announcement day with Palin popping in just to hog the stage from him? What‘s with the governors? Both of them trying to squeeze themselves into the same place at the same time. Could this be a loud statement by Palin that she‘s not happy one bit with Mr. Front Runner, that she will do what‘s necessary to ensure that he doesn‘t end up as the Republican‘s only hope to beat Obama?
So, this is what the American right looks like right now. What it‘s looked like since last year, what it certainly seems headed toward looking like next year—a big, loud, undeniable, unhidable civil war between what we thought of as Republicans the last half century and what Tea Partiers are all about.
I contend there‘s a bigger difference between Romney and Palin than there is between Romney and Obama. Romney and Obama believe that people should have to have health insurance. Palin doesn‘t. Obama and Romney believe in government and what it can accomplish. Palin believes in hanging around with bikers and saying inane things about the French.
Anyway, this is the problem on the right. They‘re headed towards a fool‘s errand. They‘re out to prove that the genuine Republicans who believe in government and regular political negotiation and compromise can agree with those who believe government and politics are simply bad.
Palin will disrupt every effort by the regular Republicans to win the nomination next year. She will gin up trouble and create distractions and disruptions all the way to Tampa, for the simple reason that she either wants the Republican nomination herself or wants it to go to a Tea Partier loyal to her and all she espouses.
So, watch the unemployment number between now and the next summer, but also keep your eye on the schism on the right and the desire of the Tea Party people to keep the nomination under their control to insure that the person who stands against Obama is pure Tea Party than he or she personifies the movement. For them, it‘s either live tea or die.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.
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