Guests: Alex Wagner, Mark Halperin, Chris Cillizza, Julia Boorstin, Joshua Marshall, Cynthia Tucker, Ron Christie, James Clyburn, Jonathan Martin
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Slicing the baloney.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews up in New York. Leading off tonight: Standoff. Anthony Weiner‘s MIA right now, supposedly seeking treatment at a secure undisclosed location. Once the Democratic leadership heard that Weiner was getting help instead of getting out, they blew the whistle on him. Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman Schultz want him gone. The new pictures that have emerged this weekend plus word that he had corresponded with a teenage girl tipped the balance. Where does this end, or does it?
Plus, the second GOP debate tonight has a lot of firsts—first since the Newt Gingrich staff mutinied, the first since the economic numbers went south and the first with Newt, Michele Bachmann and the acknowledged front-runner, Mitt Romney. The question tonight, who will the candidates gang up on, President Obama or Mitt?
Also, here‘s a question political reporters are asking. Is Newt Gingrich‘s campaign the worst-ever run? It‘s got some competition. We‘ll go to the way-back machine and see who is number one.
And while no one has been looking, Republican governors and
legislatures have been quietly studying voting patterns and are working
overtime to make it harder for certain groups to take part in early voting
African-Americans, Latinos, the poor. Guess who those groups usually vote for? By the way, I forgot to mention older people.
Finally, “Let Me Finish” tonight with who I think should decide Anthony Weiner‘s fate.
We start with the pressure on Congressman Weiner to resign, the big standoff. Congressman James Clyburn‘s a Democrat of South Carolina and the assistant Democratic leader.
Mr. Clyburn, with all respect, it looks like there‘s a battle royale now between the leadership of Democratic leader Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairman of the Democratic National Party—they want Weiner out. He‘s not leaving. When is this going to come to a head?
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC), ASST. MINORITY LEADER: Well, look, Chris -
thank you so much for having me today. I don‘t know when it comes to a head, but I do believe that there is going to be a meeting of the leadership later this evening, and I think there‘s a meeting of the caucus called for sometime tomorrow.
I would hope that something comprehensive can get done, something that will be acted on by the total caucus because I think all of this four, five members here, three or four members tomorrow, calling for resignations or what have you, whatever, is not good. It‘s not good for us here in the Congress. It‘s not good for the country.
I think we ought to get this behind us so we can get back to trying to do what is necessary to get our economic house in order so that we can build this country to what it ought to be.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe the Democratic caucus, or either party caucus, has it with its rights to ask this member to leave?
CLYBURN: No, I don‘t know that. What I do know...
MATTHEWS: But you said the other day it‘s up to the caucus.
CLYBURN: No, I said the caucus may have something to say about this because the last time, a few years ago, we had a similar issue—wasn‘t exactly this salacious, but it was a very serious issue—the caucus acted. There are certain things that a caucus can do.
Remember, every member of Congress has two sets of constituents. Getting elected from your congressional district is one thing, but you also have constituents who vote for you up here within the caucus, or if you are a Republican, within the conference. And these people have votes on your future, as well.
And so I think that his members—or his constituents in the district may be siding with him to the tune of the 57 percent, I heard. The fact of the matter is, he‘s got a set of constituents up here that‘s called the Democratic caucus, and they also can vote on his future, as well.
MATTHEWS: The great Adam Clayton Powell was, I believe, expelled from Congress. He was reelected by his constituency. What‘s—could that be something that happens down the road? Could you find a situation where you guys ask him to leave, he leaves, but then he gets reelected?
CLYBURN: That‘s absolutely true, but I don‘t know that we‘ll ask him to leave. I think that we can do certain things. We give out committee assignments...
MATTHEWS: Take away his committee assignments? You can do that?
CLYBURN: Yes. And there other persons in the caucus who have and precedent was set a couple years ago, you may recall, when a member was removed from the Ways and Means Committee because of a scandal. So I believe that Mr. Weiner serves on a very important and exclusive committee. And so there are certain things that the caucus can do, which I would hope we would just act once and for all...
CLYBURN: ... and get it behind us and stop talking about it.
MATTHEWS: Suppose he hears you. He sees the committee—the caucus take away all his committee assignments, and he says, I‘m staying. I‘ll be a member of Congress anyway. What do you do then?
CLYBURN: Well, that would be perfectly within his rights, but I think that the caucus, the Democratic caucus, will have acted within its power to act, and I think the American people will understand that.
MATTHEWS: Do you that would remove it as an election issue? Can‘t you see the Republicans running next fall, saying you‘re the party of Anthony Weiner, you‘re the party that has Anthony Weiner as one of its members? And what do you do then?
CLYBURN: Well, they may say that, but we can say the same thing about some of the members on the other side, some of whom are still in the body. So I think that—for instance, the senator that resigned the other day. I think it would be foolish for us to be running against a senator who resigned or a senator who may have gotten reelected after a sex scandal, as well.
I think that what we ought to do is do what we can do as a caucus, and then leave it up to his constituents to decide whether or not he ought to continue to serve.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s take a look at White House spokesman Jay Carney on the Weiner scandal. Let‘s listen to him. He‘s the president‘s press secretary.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president feels—as feel at the White House this is a distraction. Obviously, as Congressman Weiner has said himself, his behavior was inappropriate. Dishonesty was inappropriate. But the president is focused on his job, which is getting this economy continuing to grow, creating jobs, and obviously, ensuring the safety and security of the American people.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do you think it‘s something you would look forward to if Weiner got back on the stage, like he was until a couple weeks ago, on a show like this all the time, all the time being the congressman from New York, but really the most out-there Democrat on big issues like the economy and Medicare? Would that make you comfortable?
CLYBURN: I don‘t think so. I believe that...
MATTHEWS: You can‘t stop him.
CLYBURN: No, we can‘t. But I think that the leader of our caucus determines who can and will speak for our caucus. I think our caucus collectively can make those determinations. I cannot see—if my caucus were ever to ask me not to speak on an issue, I would certainly not speak on that issue. And so I—no, we can‘t stop anybody from saying whatever they want to say, but we certainly can determine whether or not they‘ll speak on behalf of the caucus.
MATTHEWS: You know, I hate to break it to you, but some other network can put Eliot Spitzer on television.
MATTHEWS: I‘m telling you, you can‘t stop the networks from inviting who they want to invite. I know it‘s ludicrous. By the way, that was ludicrous that he‘s even talking about this case.
Anyway, here‘s Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chair, on “MEET THE PRESS” yesterday. I want you to react to this. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DNC CHAIR: At the end of the day, you know, a member of Congress makes their own decision, and that‘s certainly going to be up to Anthony Weiner. But we have made clear that he needs to resign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Who‘s going to be in power longer, Congressman? Maybe this sounds frivolous, but maybe you have a theory. Who‘s going to be in power longer, Moammar Gadhafi or Mr. Weiner?
CLYBURN: I don‘t know about that, but I will tell you this. I would hope that Gadhafi would leave at least by tomorrow morning.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, sir. It‘s nice to you have on again. Good sense of humor there. Thank you, Congressman Jim Clyburn, one of the—assistant leader of the Democratic Party in the Congress.
Joining me right now is Alex Wagner, social impact reporter—I love the phrase—for the HuffingtonPost and an MSNBC analyst. Thank you, Alex.
You know, you‘re smiling because this seems like a funny story, but in a way, if you‘re a Democrat, squeaking your way back to try to get control of the Congress again, trying to get credibility, and here is this big, 800-pound gorilla, if you will, just dominating...
ALEX WAGNER, HUFFINGTONPOST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and I think...
MATTHEWS: ... that isn‘t going away, looks like.
WAGNER: And it‘s now become a question of leadership, as the RNC would have it. On that same “MEET THE PRESS” interview, the chair of the RNC is saying, This is a problem with Democratic leadership. They can‘t control their caucus. Which is the last thing Nancy Pelosi wants right now.
MATTHEWS: Well, obviously, they can‘t control this guy. Can they get rid of him?
WAGNER: Well, can they turn the heat up in the room to the point that he either fries or faints? I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: ... committee assignments. They give him the order, Don‘t show up on television, stay off MS, stay off CNN, stay off everything.
MATTHEWS: And he says, Forget it, buddy. I got elected. I‘m going to talk.
WAGNER: Well, look, this is someone who is notoriously outspoken, right?
WAGNER: This is not a guy who‘s a shrinking violet. He‘s going to be inclined to defend himself. And now what they‘ve started to do is position this as a mental and a behavioral issue, not just simply a scandal but a health concern.
MATTHEWS: Well, he did that.
WAGNER: Yes, but I mean, Nancy Pelosi said one of the reasons, you know, in her statement—I think it was very telling. She called Anthony Weiner on Saturday to say, I think you should resign. He said, I‘m going to go to rehab. And she said, I‘m going to take this public. And I think you have there real fisticuffs, and she‘s the one that I think has been out there saying, Look, he has a problem, he needs rehab, he doesn‘t need to go through rehab while, you know, having the pressures of being a member of Congress.
MATTHEWS: If you had 56 percent of your district saying stay and you knew that once you left—he doesn‘t have a law license, he‘s not a lawyer, he‘s not a CPA, he‘s not going to get a job teaching in school with this situation developed. He‘s not going to have any opportunities as a lobbyist because nobody wants him represent them.
MATTHEWS: His safest place to be is a member of Congress because at least he has his staff. He has money coming in the door.
MATTHEWS: He has some institutional respect. If he walks out the door and gives all that up, what‘s he left with?
WAGNER: Well, no, I think that‘s a very valid point.
MATTHEWS: That‘s what he‘s thinking.
WAGNER: This is all he has. He probably doesn‘t have the mayorship of New York anymore. That dream is gone. This is all he has. And I think as much as anything, he needs to hold onto this for his own sanity. I mean, he‘s lost everything, effectively, if he gives up the seat.
MATTHEWS: All right, here‘s the president of the United States. In an interview with NBC‘s Ann Curry, President Obama said, Ultimately, there‘s going to be a decision for him and his constituents. So it‘s up to them. Let‘s see what he says. If I was him—if that was me, I would resign. That‘s the president.
WAGNER: Well, I mean, there you go. I think a lot of people were surprised that Jay Carney, the White House spokesperson, didn‘t go that—didn‘t sort of get there. I know House leadership would have preferred a call for resignation. But certainly, the fact that the president has said that lends fuel to the fire. Whether Anthony Weiner chooses to listen to Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama is really up to only...
MATTHEWS: It is an absurd thing for the president to say “If I were him.” The president‘s never had any problem like this in his life, any personal problem like this. He‘s a lawyer, a college professor. He has, ultimately, so many things he could do with his life besides be a politician. Here‘s Anthony Weiner, who doesn‘t have those options. So it‘s really hard to say, “If I were him,” with all respect to the president.
WAGNER: Of course! I mean, I think it‘s impossible for the president to...
MATTHEWS: What would you do if you were Weiner? Would you quit?
WAGNER: I think—look, I think, as—as the president is fond of saying, the arc of history—the arc of history is long but bends towards justice. I think if Anthony Weiner makes a concerted effort to rehabilitate himself, leave Congress and then either run again, or have a second career in the media...
MATTHEWS: Oh, thanks.
WAGNER: ... or in some other...
MATTHEWS: What are we...
WAGNER: (INAUDIBLE) horrible career!
MATTHEWS: Are we the elephants‘ graveyard?
WAGNER: ... the trash compacter of...
MATTHEWS: I mean, is this Spitzerville? I mean, does everybody come over here when they have a problem? We have some bad precedents operating lately in this business.
WAGNER: We do, Chris. We do.
MATTHEWS: I wonder. But thank you—with all due respect, Mr. Governor Spitzer. Anyway, I did wonder about what he was talking about this—I would recuse myself from some of these topics, if I were him. Anyway, thank you. but I‘m not a media critic. Alex Wagner, thank you.
WAGNER: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thanks for coming on the show.
Coming up—you know, I wonder. You‘ve just started in this business, and all we have is this stuff to talk about. It used to be better around here.
Anyway, we‘re going to talk about the rumble in the Republican Party tomorrow night, big debate tomorrow—actually, tonight in New Hampshire, the first time they‘re all there. All eyes on going to be on Mitt Romney because he is—and all the polls show this now—the big front-runner. And everybody goes after the front-runner. Or do they? Will they go up there and pile on the president? That‘s the great question. I think he‘s going to get tagged tonight for his health care bill over and over.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Tomorrow, President Obama will become the first president since John F. Kennedy to officially visit Puerto Rico. The president will deliver a speech in old San Juan, a beautiful place, and meet with Puerto Rico‘s governor.
But politically, he‘s hoping his visit resonates with Puerto Rican voters in states like Florida and Pennsylvania. Consider this. There are now more Puerto Ricans living in United States than in Puerto Rico, and a huge number of them live in the I-4 corridor between Orlando and Tampa. I didn‘t know this. Big community down there. President Obama needs those voters if he hopes to win Florida again in 2012. Boy, he‘s going out there picking around those votes.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Well, tonight it begins. Welcome back to HARDBALL. All eyes on New Hampshire tonight when seven Republican candidates will take the stage—there they are—for the big GOP debate. It‘ll be the first debate for Newt Gingrich coming off that big staff mutiny last week, Michele Bachmann, who has yet to formally announce—she‘s going to be in it—and Mitt Romney, who as of this morning is currently leading in both the CNN Opinion Research poll—look at that, 24 percent—and the “USA Today” Gallup poll, which also has him at 24 percent and well ahead of the pack. So will the lesser known candidates team up and attack Mitt, or will they focus on the president‘s record on jobs and health care?
“Time‘s” Mark Halperin is an expert on these things. He‘s in New Hampshire right now. He‘s MSNBC‘s senior political analyst. And Jonathan Martin is Politico‘s senior political reporter.
Gentlemen, you‘re the two best in the field. Let me ask you about this big question tonight. Does it—if you just assume—let me make the assumption. You don‘t have to buy into it. But let‘s assume that this race is probably now Romney, Pawlenty and Bachmann as the probable front-runners, in most eyes. Tonight, who has the most at stake tonight of the three? I‘m sorry, Mark Halperin.
MARK HALPERIN, “TIME,” MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that of those three, I think Pawlenty has the most at stake. He‘s drawn bigger crowds over this past weekend in the run-up to the debate than he‘s had in New Hampshire, I think. And he‘s got to prove to people not just in New Hampshire but around the country, donors and activists, he is the Romney alternative. With Jon Huntsman not at this debate or formally in the race, right now, if you ask people in the establishment, who are the big players right now, Who do you like if you don‘t like Romney—a lot of them like Pawlenty, but they‘re not sold. I think tonight, he‘s got to use the opportunity on the stage with these other people and Romney to make that case.
MATTHEWS: And he has to begin to do that fairly soon.
HALPERIN: I think he does because one of the biggest dangers to his candidacy is fund-raising. And he‘s not getting as much money in the door because people who don‘t want Romney, a lot of them, don‘t see him as the alternative, as someone who can take on Romney and take on the president.
MATTHEWS: Well, they‘ll keep looking—if they don‘t like his looks tonight, they could keep looking and find Huntsman.
HALPERIN: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Let me go now to—let me go now to Jonathan on the same question. Who‘s got the big stakes tonight of the top—I‘ll just—among those three? I‘ll just speculate among those three.
JONATHAN MARTIN, POLITICO.COM: I think Pawlenty, Chris, because he‘s got to stand out here. We cannot have another debate like he had last month down in South Carolina, where you couldn‘t really pick him out as a more serious candidate from the folks that were on the stage.
He is right now—to pick up on what Mark is saying—in something of a tough, tough cycle (INAUDIBLE) that a lot of candidates that are not well known and cannot self-fund have in this stage of campaigns, Chris. He cannot get poll traction really yet until he‘s on TV, but he can‘t get on TV until he‘s got some money in the door. And he can‘t get money until he can convince donors and bundlers that he‘s a viable candidate. And guess what? Those big-time donors don‘t want to cut a check if they see a candidate who‘s mired in the 3, 4 percent range in a lot of polling, like Pawlenty is.
MARTIN: So he‘s stuck in the vortex right now. How can he break out of that without going on TV and putting points on the air? One of the ways is to have is a big moment at a debate like tonight.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, let‘s take a look at how he might do it or might not do it. Tim Pawlenty spent yesterday trying to link his rival, Mitt Romney, with President Obama. Here he is on “Fox News Sunday” yesterday. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”)
TIM PAWLENTY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama said that he designed Obamacare after Romneycare and basically made it Obamneycare.
And so, we now have the same features—essentially the same features. The president‘s own words is that he patterned in large measure Obamacare after what happened in Massachusetts. And what I don‘t understand is they both continue to defend it.
I strongly oppose the individual mandate at any level.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That seems to be the heart of the discussion right now.
Mark, it seems to be Obamneycare. He said the other—a couple of hours ago today he‘s not going to bring that up. But I don‘t know how he can avoid it, since he has already raised that specter that the president, at his worst, was simply imitating Mitt Romney.
HALPERIN: Chris, there‘s no doubt that Tim Pawlenty has one advantage
over some of these other people, which is that he‘s been at a pretty long -
pretty long time. He‘s gotten better as a candidate.
But I think what he did this afternoon was a big mistake. Even if he doesn‘t plan to bring up this new notion Obamneycare, to say in advance he probably won‘t, just using the word probably—one of Tim Pawlenty‘s challenges is to come across tonight and in every public presentation as decisive, as tough and decisive.
And to say “I probably won‘t bring it up,” I think, runs absolutely counter to the kind of image he needs to project.
MATTHEWS: Do they have a problem with this? Maybe it‘s not just psychological. The Republican Party always likes to give lip service to what Ronald Reagan called the 11th Commandment...
MARTIN: Right. Yes.
MATTHEWS: ... not to get too much—don‘t—don‘t get too schoolyard in this thing. Don‘t go after each other with fists.
Is—are you allowed, in the current Republican protocol, to go after the front-runner and say, he did worse than the president; in fact, he started this health care thing up there in Massachusetts?
MARTIN: I mean, I think you can, Chris, but I think these candidates always want the other guy to throw the first punch, right?
MARTIN: I mean, isn‘t that always the preference...
MARTIN: ... attack the front-runner for you?
MARTIN: Plus, the other thing, I think, Chris, for Pawlenty is, he‘s still getting himself defined. He wants to try to define himself in a positive way to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, introduce himself in a way that they can get to know his background and his record. He doesn‘t want to define himself out of the gates as the negative guy going on the attack.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about Bachmann. By the way, the term is attack from a defensive position. It‘s a military term. You get the other side to attack. Then you counterattack. And everybody roots for you.
Famous example: “There you go again, Mr. President.” Killer.
Let me go now to Bachmann. Bachmann, we—I think we sort of created her here, so we have a sense of having launched her career from a small town called HARDBALL years ago.
MATTHEWS: And, Mark, it seems to me that she—as—in Massachusetts, they always say the shape of the field determines the winner. She‘s the only woman. She will obviously stand out just visually there tonight.
Can she pop, as they say on television tonight, pop meaning the one you do remember from the night?
HALPERIN: I think she might be able to, Chris.
But remember the other people on the stage, besides the two we have talked about, Romney and Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul. They guys can all pop, too.
HALPERIN: And all those guys have just as much incentive, just as much intellectual desire to—to draw—to cross swords with Romney. So, I‘m not sure she will stand out. Look, a lot of what‘s going to happen tonight is going to depend on our colleague John King...
HALPERIN: ... who‘s moderating this thing. If John wants to set up a colloquy between Bachmann and Romney, I think he can, and I think she would take advantage of that.
But it‘s really going to be up to John as much as any of the candidates.
MATTHEWS: Well, he‘s one of the great journalists. I just wonder whether he won‘t be pushed to try to make this a little more theatrical than they even want it to be.
HALPERIN: I hope so.
MATTHEWS: By the way, on that same point, what do you make of the fact that Herman Cain, who I know hardly anything about, dug back into that horrible turf called birtherism the other day with Jeff Goldberg, saying that the president was raised in Kenya and, then, when Goldberg said, oh, yes, it actually was Indonesia, he said, OK, Indonesia.
This whole “He‘s a foreigner” thing, what do you make of Cain pushing that, Mark?
HALPERIN: Well, I think one of the great things about the Internet age and this proliferation of people in our business now, broadly defined, is that even these less likely candidates, these minor candidates, although Cain has moved up in a lot of polls, get the kind of scrutiny that previously they wouldn‘t have gotten.
He says some things that are provocative. He‘s obviously drawing a lot of attention. But when he make comments like that, you know about it. People write about it. And the person who wrote that up from that interview wrote about in a negative way.
It gives people a chance to scrutinize him. And I think if John—if John has time tonight, I would like to see him ask Cain about some of his controversial comments. My view, as always, is, treat these candidates who seem like they don‘t have a good chance to win, treat them like real candidates. Hold them to the same standard as major candidates.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s have some fun here.
Jonathan, the question of Newt Gingrich...
MATTHEWS: ... he‘s Captain Bligh. He‘s in the little boat now, the -
he‘s been dumped off the big Bounty, the big ship. The staff has run away from him.
He‘s the first candidate I have seen without a campaign because the campaign dumped him.
MARTIN: How could...
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t he just going to come on tonight as just—I hate to say this—just another commentator, not—without a campaign tonight?
MARTIN: I mean, I think Newt‘s whole strategy now is to basically live off the land, go to all of these debates, get as many TV appearances as he can get.
MATTHEWS: But what is he? Is he a candidate or is he just a commentator?
MARTIN: Well, I think that question is actually very apropos right now, and it‘s not certain as to exactly what...
MATTHEWS: What‘s the answer?
MATTHEWS: But what‘s the answer, Jon?
MATTHEWS: Is he one of us or is he one of them? That‘s what I want to know.
MARTIN: I mean, look, we‘re going to see if he can actually keep doing this. And Newt wants to stay in the race. But there‘s come a point here where, financially, I‘m not sure he can still do it.
If he wants to take charter jets around the country on the campaign trail, it‘s going to be hard for him to make this thing after Labor Day.
MATTHEWS: Well, what‘s his prep session look like, Mark? It‘s he and his wife. This is the strangest thing in the world. This guy‘s—I say it again, dumped by his own team. This is rare.
Your—have you—can you remember a case where a candidate was actually dumped by the entire apparatus going into the different primary and caucus states as well?
HALPERIN: Never once.
And, of course, the people who left included not just people relatively new to his orbit, the people who had been with him for years.
MATTHEWS: Who know him best.
HALPERIN: Almost inconceivable that they would dump him.
Look, I think, in the debate prep, you have got Callista, you have got Newt, probably a mirror.
HALPERIN: That would help as well.
And not everybody left him. He does have some people still working for him.
HALPERIN: I think the big question is, can he raise money on the Internet?
He‘s got this fabulous asset, this list of e-mail addresses of people...
MARTIN: ... who have supported his various causes.
If he starts to mail that list aggressively and say, “This is it, I need money,” let‘s see how much he can raise, $10, $20, $25 at a time.
Well, the hardest thing for John King tonight, I think, is to try...
MARTIN: He has to fly commercial.
MATTHEWS: The hardest thing for John King tonight is to try to get enough emphasis on the real front-runners so it really matters, but show some dignity to the other people.
Anyway, thank you, Mark Halperin. It‘s always great.
HALPERIN: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Jon Martin.
Up next: Speaker of the House John Boehner admits he has got a tough last name. Wait until you see the guy about the various pronunciations of his name. It‘s a riot. It reminds me of this Weiner thing. He did remind us of that.
Stick around for the “Sideshow.” It‘s going to be fun tonight.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
First up: the name game. Yesterday, at Ohio State‘s commencement, John Boehner broke his silence on the Anthony Weiner scandal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: When you begin to go out there and ask people to vote for you, they‘re probably not going to vote for you if they can‘t say your name.
You know, my name looks like Beaner, Bonner, Boner.
BOEHNER: Thank God it‘s not Weiner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. He also advised the crowd of students that they shouldn‘t be afraid to shed a tear.
Next up: essential reading. “The Wall Street Journal”‘s Stephen Moore asked Tea Party icon Michele Bachmann what she reads on economics. Well, it‘s impressive—quote—“She responds that she admires the late Milton Friedman, as well as Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams.” She also says—quote—“‘I‘m also an Art Laffer fiend. We‘re very close,‘” she adds.
“‘And Ludwig von Mises. I love von Mises,‘” getting excited and rattling
off some of his classics like ‘Human Action‘ and ‘Bureaucracy.‘ When I go
on vacation‘”—this is Michele Bachmann—“‘and I lay on the beach, I
bring von Mises.‘”
Whoa. My guess, Congresswoman Bachmann wanted dearly to draw a distinction between herself and Sarah Palin‘s devastating non-answer to what do you read when Katie Couric posed the question. Bachmann wants people to know she is doing her homework—apparently, she is—and that her conservatism at least is grounded in study.
Finally: piling on. Governor John Kasich issued a resolution praising
the Dallas mavericks on their NBA championship, hint, hint. Kasich of
course is the governor of Ohio. Without naming names, Kasich praised the
Mavs‘ loyalty, integrity and teamwork, even made the team history honorary
the Texas team honorary Ohio citizens.
Take that, LeBron.
You see, LeBron James walked out after an hour-long TV show talking whether he‘d do it or not, left the Cavaliers, went down to Florida to become a big name. They‘re mad about it. Kasich is playing the number.
Now the “Big Number” for us tonight. Look what—it looks like Mitt Romney has won over at least one influential conservative, Matt Drudge. You remember him? In the past 13 months, how many negative headlines about Romney have appeared on The Drudge Report? According to Politico, one, unus, uno. The headline hasn‘t even been that negative.
This is what it says: “Bachmann Outraises Romney.” Well, the Republican front-runner gets a free pass on The Drudge Report. He‘s won the Drudge primary. One not-so-darn-bad headline is the only one he‘s got. Well, Drudge is playing favorites, and the “Big Number.”
Up next: His staff fired him last week. His two kids will have to serve as spinners after tonight‘s debate. Is Newt Gingrich off to the worst presidential campaign ever? We‘re going to take a look back at some of the worst campaigns of all time.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks ended narrowly mixed as another downgrade for Greece‘s debt rating offset an avalanche of M&A activity. The Dow and the S&P each added about a point, but the Nasdaq slipped four points.
Choppy trading right from the opening bell, as investors moved into defensive stocks, ahead of a handful of key economic reports this week. We also have Standard & Poor‘s lowering Greece‘s debt rating by three notches, saying it‘s restructuring plan could amount to a default.
And an extra busy M&A Monday. Underwriters Allied World Assurance is buying Transatlantic Holdings for $3.2 billion in stock. Apparel company VF is acquiring outdoor sports giant Timberland for $2 billion. And Honeywell is picking up EMS Technologies to boost its mobile and satellite communications presence for $491 million in cash.
That‘s not all. Wendy‘s will sell its struggling Arby‘s arm to an investment group for $130 million in cash.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It‘s been a bad month for Newt Gingrich. Let‘s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don‘t think right-wing social engineering is anymore desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don‘t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you just did to Paul Ryan is unforgivable.
GINGRICH: I didn‘t do anything to Paul Ryan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you did. You undercut him and his allies in the—in the House.
GINGRICH: No, I said...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘re an embarrassment to our party.
GINGRICH: Well, I‘m sorry.
Any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood.
Go talk to Tiffany‘s. All I‘m telling you is, we are very frugal. We in fact live within our budget. We owe nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Any ad that quotes me directly is dishonest. That is a first in American politics.
Anyway, adding insult to injury, Newt‘s entire senior staff, as I said a moment ago, last week abandoned ship, leaving him on the little boat. It begs the question, is this the worst campaign in history?
Well, here to answer that is Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo and Chris Cillizza of “The Washington Post.”
Gentlemen, you‘re here for the kill. You‘re the firing squad.
MATTHEWS: We‘re going to look at some examples of earlier campaigns as we go on.
But Newt Gingrich, what do you think, Josh, one of the worst ever?
JOSHUA MICAH MARSHALL, FOUNDER AND EDITOR, TALKING POINTS MEMO: The most spectacular implosion ever.
You know, I—my sense is, is that Newt never actually had a chance to be nominated. So, in that sense, it‘s not quite at bad as like Gary Hart in 1984, when this guy was going to be the nominee, and it just blew up in his face.
But for—for just sort of—for just, like I said, spectacularness, it‘s—it‘s—it has to be the biggest ever.
MATTHEWS: I guess, Chris, the only thing he could have done is run off and married a Greek shipping magnate...
MATTHEWS: ... like Jackie, to get in more trouble in one week.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: It‘s—it‘s—you know what is remarkable? I had to remind myself of this, Chris. His campaign formally launched on May 13. It was 29 days between then and the day all his staff quit.
And all those clips you just happened—happened during that time.
MATTHEWS: Every minute. He didn‘t waste a minute not destroying himself.
CILLIZZA: Twenty -- 29 days. I—you know, I also think...
MATTHEWS: Well, isn‘t what I have been saying about him true? Isn‘t what I have been saying about this guy from day one—he is a problem. As I said, the only reason we know he‘s not the devil is he sort of looks like him.
MATTHEWS: Here he is. Let‘s—presidential candidate Joe Biden. We‘re going to back to the golden oldies, 1987, defending himself against charges of plagiarism, you know, the Neil Kinnock story. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: The notion that every thought or notion or idea you would have to go back and find and attribute to someone, I think, is, quite frankly, ludicrous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, was that—that didn‘t get him off, did it, when he quoted an entire biography of Neil Kinnock, the British Labor leader.
MARSHALL: That wasn‘t—wasn‘t—wasn‘t Biden‘s greatest moment.
Nothing like this, though.
MATTHEWS: Nothing like...
MARSHALL: Nothing like this.
MATTHEWS: Chris, do you agree, nothing like this? This is still the worst?
CILLIZZA: You know, I would say—the only thing I would say is, I would go—go back to Josh‘s first point, Chris, which was, people forget, Biden, in 1987, was a pretty hot commodity.
This is a guy who was elected to the Senate...
MATTHEWS: Yes. He‘s a winner.
CILLIZZA: ... young. He was someone who was seen who could win.
I would agree with Josh about Newt. It‘s spectacular, but, ultimately, did we really think he was going to be the nominee? At that point in ‘87, with all the Neil Kinnock stuff, there was case to be made that Joe Biden was among the strongest, if not the strongest, Democratic candidate.
So, I would say, given the stakes, I think it matters.
CILLIZZA: But it certainly doesn‘t reach the level of what we saw with Gingrich over the last 30 days.
MATTHEWS: In all fairness, because I really like Joe Biden. I‘ll admit that, because he‘s a good guy personally. The guy was always a attributing what he was saying to this British labor leader—it‘s a great quote. And one time he went out and didn‘t say great quote. He just did it. And everybody said, what are you, pretending you‘re a Welsh coal miner?
Here he is in 1997 Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart dared reporters to follow him and see what they could find out about his private life. This indelible image of the married senator with model actress Donna Rice, of course, ended him.
You start on this, Chris, that picture, the monkey business—
CILLIZZA: Monkey business, I‘ll never forget.
MATTHEWS: And he was a serious politician who thought in was that old divide for the days of Kennedy, I guess, that journalists didn‘t cover this stuff. Little did he know?
CILLIZZA: Chris, you know, look. I know that happened 20-plus years ago, but it‘s not—the hubris in politicians doesn‘t changed. I think in some way, that‘s what make some captivating. Look, Gary Hart, as you said, he literally said, “Follow me around”—even though he knew he was having an affair.
You know, this behavior, I just do not understand. And remember, Hart in ‘84 came close. So, Hart in ‘87, there‘s another person we were talking about potential nominee. He was kind of the liberal‘s choice.
Big stakes there. You know, I just don‘t get it. If he doesn‘t say it, maybe it never comes out. He invited that level of scrutiny and then got caught in that level of scrutiny.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s keep moving here. I want to show you the great Alexander Haig was, of course, a great general, then he became secretary of state. But why while he was secretary of state, he got in trouble in this one. He was the one that went out and said after the president was shot that he was sort of had charge. Let‘s watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER HAIG, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Constitutionally, gentlemen, you have the president, the vice president and the secretary of state in that order. And should the president decide he wants to transfer the helm to the vice president, he will do so.
As of now, I am in control here in the White House, pending return of the vice president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Josh Marshall, why was that a problem what he just said?
JOSH MARSHALL, TALKING POINTS MEMO: Well, it wasn‘t true. That was the part everybody was a little—
MATTHEWS: He said I‘m in charge here at the White House?
MARSHALL: Well, he‘s not. The vice president is in charge.
There‘s a whole there‘s a whole system for who‘s actually is in charge.
MATTHEWS: It‘s called the Constitution.
MARSHALL: The Constitution, yes, it‘s a small thing. And everybody
and for the younger viewers, there was some back story with Haig, people already being a little worried.
MATTHEWS: That he was shaky.
MARSHALL: That might conduct himself—
MATTHEWS: He looked shaky there.
MARSHALL: He did. You know, the thing is, all of these other people, they had these key moments that brought them down.
MATTHEWS: Iconic moment.
MARSHALL: Yes. And that in many cases, with Hart, kind of with Haig—it kind of went to the core of who they were. But Gingrich—it‘s just rapid fire ridiculousness, right? It‘s going out and dumping on his party when he‘s launching his campaign.
MATTHEWS: You‘re so smart. You know, Jack Kennedy, once—I‘ve been working on this project most of my life, I guess, Jack Kennedy once said he once made get mad (INAUDIBLE) at “Time” magazine because something ran in “Time” saying he had posed for “Gentleman‘s Quarterly.” He said, you can‘t be the president posed for “Gentleman‘s Quarterly” because of it‘s particular reputation in those days.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look—here‘s Josh, by the way—we‘re out
of time. We‘ve done it. Newt Gingrich, both agree, is the worst in memory
the worst beginning of a presidential bid.
CILLIZZA: It‘s not good.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, guys. Thank you, Josh Marshall. Thank you, Chris Cillizza. It‘s a lot of fun.
Coming up—except for Newt, it‘s not a lot of fun—those new president Republican governors in state legislatures are trying to do something serious. And now, we‘re getting serious tonight. They‘re basically trying to change the way people have to vote. They‘re making it very tough for African-Americans, Latinos and elderly people, college students and the poor to vote, setting all kinds of new restrictions on the amount of time you can vote and what kind of documentation you need.
This is called voter suppression. We‘re going to talk about it.
And this is darn serious business.
This is HARDBAL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a great news. Gabrielle Giffords released a pair of photograph on her Facebook page as she gets ready to leave the hospital this month. The pictures show the congresswoman outdoors and smiling. There is she is. There she was with her mom and she‘s got close cropped hair, of course.
And her face shows only minor after effects of the shooting that nearly took her life. What an amazing recovery. What great work by those physicians.
Congresswoman Giffords will leave for in-patient rehab hospital in Houston later this month, likely returning home to Tucson where she represents the people.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Some Republican governors and state legislatures are trying to make it harder to vote. For more than two-thirds of states have adopted or considering laws that would requiring citizens to show a government-issued ID before being allowed to vote.
In Wisconsin, the bill would disallow college ID cards as valid proof, even if issued by a state university.
In Texas, a bill would also reject student IDs as valid proof to vote. But anyone with a handgun license would be qualified.
In Florida, the early voting period has been cut from 14 days down to eight and eliminates the Sunday before Election Day.
Is this about protecting the voting process or disenfranchising voters, specifically those who tend to vote Democratic?
Cynthia Tucker is a columnist for “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,” Ron Christie is a Republican strategist who worked for the Bush 43, that‘s the first President Bush White House.
Let me go Cynthia.
Since I agree with you, I‘ll go with you first. This is a pattern I‘ve seen all my life. It‘s called voter suppression.
CYNTHIA TUCKER, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: It‘s raising the bar, limiting the time, requiring documentation. What is the scandal in the country in voting? What is the big evidence of corruption that requires these new rules? That‘s what I‘m asking.
TUCKER: Well, there is none, Chris. Here are two ways that you know that this is not about preventing voter fraud.
The first is this: there is simply no history of in-person voter impersonation. I‘m not going to show up at the polls pretending to be Michelle Obama or Oprah Winfrey. That does not happen. And that‘s what his voter ID law purports to prevent, but it doesn‘t happen.
The second way you know is not about voter fraud is that these new laws do very little to rein in absentee ballots, and it is much easier to commit fraud in absentee voting than in in-person voting. But Republicans believe that absentee ballots favor they are middle class, white constituents.
MATTHEWS: How so? Why—give me their thinking. Why do you think they think that?
TUCKER: Because these are the people who tend to go on vacation, to plan very carefully, to think two or three weeks out, oh, I‘m going to need an absentee ballot. Poor voters tend not to do that.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. You just described the advantage of the Republican Party. They do plan ahead. I can‘t believe you‘re admitting that.
TUCKER: It‘s true.
MATTHEWS: If you go the movies, the Republicans are there 10 minutes ahead of time. They‘re all organized.
OK. I want to yield to you what Cynthia yields. Your party is more organized. You plan for vacations better.
But here‘s the question. When you‘re going to voting booth, you‘re 85 years old, but you still vote. In fact, you read the papers, and you care about Medicare. You don‘t have a driver‘s license. How are you supposed to vote?
RON CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, Chris, how do you know that?
MATTHEWS: I don‘t want to anybody who‘s 85 --
CHRISTIE: The thing that I love about the Democrats with this specific case is they say, oh, we‘re trying to disenfranchise elderly people. We‘re trying to disenfranchise African-Americans.
CHRISTIE: There is not one documented case in the United States of America at district court level, at circuit court level or the Supreme Court, that proves that people have been disenfranchised. Where the impetus of this case came from, Chris, was 1993, the Help American Vote Act and the National Registration Act. And this specific piece of legislation, it t made it a lot easier for people to be eligible to be on the ballots.
CHRISTIE: Wait, this is an important point.
MATTHEWS: Your facts are wrong. The Brennan Center points out that all citizens, 11 percent of all citizens do not have readily available proof of citizenship.
MATTHEWS: But 15 percent of low income people don‘t. That‘s people below 35K a year. Young people, 18 percent don‘t have readily available ID. African-Americans, 25 percent do not have readily available ID cards.
So, there is evidence that it‘s prejudicial.
CHRISTIE: Are you going to let me --
MATTHEWS: Now is your chance. But you gave the wrong facts to start with.
CHRISTIE: No, actually, I gave the right facts. In fact, there‘s a case that‘s called the Marion County Board of Elections versus Crawford in the United States Supreme Court in 2008. The Supreme Court specifically held that these studies and these allegations of people either disenfranchised due to the color of their skin or their age were specious at best. Secondly, if you look at a state where Cynthia says, oh, there‘s no proof, in Indiana --
MATTHEWS: Talk to Cynthia.
CHRISTIE: In Indiana, in the state of Indiana, in 2000, they speculated that, frankly—and I find this preposterous—that 49.1 percent of the people in Indiana weren‘t eligible to be on the ballot. In the 19 out of the 92 counties in Indiana, they said that there were over 100 percent people of the voting population. So, what Indiana tried to do is say, let‘s have a voter ID in place to have the integrity of the ballot box.
But who was it, Cynthia, back in 2005, Chris‘s old boss, Jimmy Carter—Jimmy Carter and the former Secretary of State Jim Baker said that one of the ways we can ensure we have the safety and confidence in ballots is to have a voter ID. So, rather than suggest this is an effort by Republicans and some racist effort to suppress the vote --
MATTHEWS: I‘d just gone by the numbers. Let‘s go to Cynthia.
TUCKER: I didn‘t use—first of all, I didn‘t use the word racist. It is certainly race conscious, however. Republicans know very well that they don‘t attract a lot of African-American voters.
But this does not go after the African-American middle class anyway. This goes after poor, elderly voters and college students. This is about shaving off a half percentage of voters that would affect the results in a close race.
And Ron used a word important word. He said the state of Indiana speculated. Yes, the state of Indiana speculated, but there‘s absolutely no proof.
CHRISTIE: Let me correct what you heard. I didn‘t say they speculated. They issued a report that said 41.4 percent of the people in Indiana—
TUCKER: They said there was a report speculating --
CHRISTIE: No. If I said speculation, that‘s not
MATTHEWS: Let me go to the other issue—
TUCKER: They didn‘t have the evidence.
CHRISTIE: They did have the evidence.
TUCKER: Ron, if you can show me two—if you can show me two convictions for in-person voter impersonation over the last 20 years, I‘ll contribute $500 to your favorite charity.
MATTHEWS: OK. I‘ll tell you, everybody out there—by the way, Congress plays a part here. I think everybody watching those—the people who have the least trouble with the ID cards, the people who drove to the polling station, have an ID right in their pockets called their driver‘s license and they are middle class people with enough money to own a car. And they‘re young enough to drive and old enough to have enough money to own a car, they are probably able to vote. It‘s the younger person and older person who might be disenfranchised.
MATTHEWS: Sorry, Cynthia, you‘re dead right.
Ron Christie, nice try. Thank you.
CHRISTIE: Oh, you‘re dead wrong. The facts—
MATTHEWS: No, common sense will prevail here in this discussion.
Thank you both for joining us, as always.
MATTHEWS: And when we return, “Let Me Finish” with the suggestion for Congressman Weiner. This is the best idea I had in the least, well, several days. I mean it. This is what I think he should do or seriously consider doing and I think it will solve this problem, just about for everybody.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: “Let Me Finish” tonight with a suggestion to Congressman Weiner. He needs one. And I offer this with a completely open mind about what he should do with it.
A couple of facts right up front: The leadership of the Democratic Party didn‘t elect him. While he owes his committee assignments to the party organization, he owes his seat to the people of his congressional district, the voters.
Second, the media didn‘t nominate or elect this congressman. We can cover him, put out all kinds of information and commentary on him. We can judge his fitness and say what we think he ought to do.
But, again, he doesn‘t owe us his seat. He doesn‘t owe us anything.
We didn‘t get to pick him. The voters did.
Third, I don‘t believe he stands accused of a crime so the courts can‘t decide anything. Therefore, whether he deserves to serve in Congress or not is up to him. It‘s the voters who get, who put him there.
So, let‘s leave is t to that and here‘s my suggestion: the congressman should drop his leave of absence talk and resign. He should then sign up as candidate in the special election Governor Cuomo will to fill this seat.
In this way, he will show a responsible approach to what he‘s done. He will show he takes it seriously as a problem and not simply a public relations problem. He will admit that he‘s given the people who elected him cause to reconsider. He‘s given him a chance to reconsider and that shows respect.
It may be too late for this approach, but I‘m not sure. People like to be asked. They like to be given the right to make decisions on how they‘re governed.
Who is to say that the conduct Congressman Weiner has engaged in
offsets all his years of serious advocacy? I know. The people who elected
him. If the congressman wants to continue to his career, that decision
should be returned to them. The voters need to weight what they have done
what they‘ve now heard he‘s done to his and their embarrassment against what they know he‘s done for them in the past.
This will be a race worth covering. And it would put the Democratic leaders in Congress, the Republicans and the media in the bleacher seats with Weiner, his rivals and the voters down there on the field where they belong.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.
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