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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Monday, August 1st, 2011

Guests: Howard Fineman, Richard Wolffe, Kelly O‘Donnell, Ken Vogel, Jonathan Allen, Jay Newton-Small, Jim Moran, Charlie Rangel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Unfair, unbalanced. Let‘s play HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Los Angeles.
Leading off tonight: political polygamy. The problem with a deal struck among Republicans, Tea Partiers and Democrats today is the problem with polygamy. It‘s not balanced, it‘s not equal, it‘s not fair.
And, right now, the House of Representatives is voting on it. And Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has returned to Washington for the vote. What drama.
First of all, there were three parties to this, that‘s the problem. Two parties to the right, the Republicans and Tea Party, making demands on a president that was negotiating, at the end, from center left. The result is what you would expect: something well to the right of center.
So we have peace, but at a price. The Tea Party is setting the terms. The Republican Party is living with it. The Democrats are forced to live in a political household dominated by the other side.
Today, the Republicans have been preening. Democrats have been bowing their heads. And we‘ve got it all covered beginning with “The Huffington Post” media group editorial group editorial director, Howard Fineman. He‘s an MSNBC political analyst. He‘s joining us right now.
Howard, let‘s watch this right now.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the vote as it transpires?
FINEMAN: Well, watching this now, Chris, and you know, having once worked on the Hill, you know exactly what‘s going on. This is—the leadership, both Speaker Boehner and his top Republican lieutenants and Nancy Pelosi and her lieutenants are deciding right this minute who gets the privilege of voting no. OK?
They need 216 to pass this thing on both sides. They are going to get votes from both sides. But very few people actually want to vote for it. There‘s no positive energy in the room right there on the House floor.
And everybody is going to the leadership saying please, let me vote no. If you desperately need my vote, if I am the last vote, if I‘m the cushion, OK, I‘m with you. But please, I don‘t want to do it.
That‘s the dynamic right now of what‘s going on.
MATTHEWS: Hey, Ken Vogel, you‘re joining us right now from “Politico”—following up with Howard. I‘m looking at these numbers, the coral as we call them on the Hill, 33 Republicans still in the coral, 120 Democrats. It looks like they are actually rationing their nay votes, 55 Republican nays right now, 54 Democrats.
The Democrats are holding this. Watch the dynamic. It is fascinating—
KEN VOGEL, POLITICO: Hey, absolutely. And Steny Hoyer said earlier that he expected Republicans to have to deliver 150 yes votes for it. We see that they have that with 30-some odd to spare. We know there are going to be at least 22 no votes against it because there were 22 no votes against the Boehner plan that failed to go through earlier this weekend, or that did go through earlier this weekend.
That‘s the real hardcore Tea Party caucus. There‘s really no way the people can vote for this.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s already—sorry to interrupt you -- 53 against so far. So it‘s going to be a lot more than those 20 against this bill on the Republican side.
But look at these numbers here. We‘re watching it live, and it‘s fascinating. I love the drama of this. Twenty-eight Republicans haven‘t voted yet, 118 Democrats haven‘t voted. As you both point out, you‘re pointing out, look, they need 216.
Howard, you come on here now, 181. It‘s like a horse race to get to 216 and 241.
FINEMAN: Yes. Well, as I said, I think there‘s not going to be overwhelming vote for this obviously because all the reporting I have done today, nobody likes this thing. They don‘t think it‘s going to help the economy. They don‘t think it helps our credit worthiness necessarily. Yes, it‘s a disaster avoided, but it‘s hard to go back to the voters at home and say the best thing I did in Washington this year is help avoid a disaster that I helped create with the drama up here.
So, nobody wants to vote for it. And I think the leaders of both parties are going to ration and permit as many people as possible to vote no, as long as they still get the majority. So, you got jockeying within each party and then you have the measurement and jockeying between the parties to see who contributes how many votes to this in the end.
MATTHEWS: Gabrielle Giffords, apparently, just voted, because that‘s the only reason I can imagine there‘s cheering out there. It‘s not for the results or even the bill here.
Now, Ken Vogel, here we go again, we‘re up to 191. We got 25 Republicans who aren‘t voting. And you know they‘re going to have to do something, vote aye or nay, 102 Democrats in that coral, a lot of Democrats don‘t want to vote.
VOGEL: Yes, that‘s right. I mean, well, both on the bases of both parties. And I think even more particularly with the right and with Republicans, we‘re going to see a backlash, a Tea Party backlash against members who cast themselves as Tea Partiers, Tea Party heroes in the 2010 election that got elected with Tea Party support who just looking at the math are going to have to vote in favor of this for Republicans to be able to get that 150 votes that Steny Hoyer predicted they need with Democrats delivering the rest, and Tea Partiers don‘t like this.
And they are not going to see the validity and the argument that compromise was necessary and that they really shifted the debate and moved it from a place we were talking about just a straight yes or no vote on whether to lift the debt ceiling to how many trillions we would cut.
MATTHEWS: It‘s in. Guy, I‘m interrupting you, Ken. They just got the vote they need. It has passed. It‘s got 224 votes out of a requisite 216. The rest of the votes probably all go to nay right now.
Howard, up to 234, actually, they are getting a premium. I‘m surprised they‘re getting more votes than they need for this bill. I‘m surprised. Your thoughts?
FINEMAN: Well, one thing is that President Obama and the Democrats have been telling—the Democratic leadership have been telling the rest of progressives don‘t worry, none of the cuts kick in until 2013, which is not quite true, but it is true that a lot of cuts are backloaded, and they‘re saying, don‘t worry, the super-committee and other maneuvers we can try down the road may change this. That‘s not an argument they want to make publicly or widespread because that would have just increased discontent on the Tea Party side.
MATTHEWS: Well, the safest vote in Washington, Howard, has always been the vote against something that passes or vote for something that doesn‘t pass. So, look at this, 88 -- you know I am being cynical. It is true and you know it.
Ken, you know that. Vote on something that passes, vote for something that is defeated. Look at that, 91 Democrats, a majority of Democrats will have voted against this. It looks like, look at that, 91-88. There is 91-90. Well, that‘s getting close.
We‘re going to have an interesting party divide, Ken.
VOGEL: Yes, absolutely. And the Democrats, the same calculation goes. I mean, Howard mentioned that progressives are kind of uneasy with this. And, of course, they are. They didn‘t get nearly the level of—I mean, they didn‘t get any increased revenue, the euphemism, of course, for tax increases. But some cuts are really potentially in areas that are near and dear to the hearts of folks in the Democratic base and they‘re going to have a lot of explaining to do.
This is not the type of thing that‘s going to motivate high base turnout on
either side. This is something that really the electoral gains and sort of
wash out.

MATTHEWS: Ken, thank you.
But we‘re looking at a human interest story in the back. There‘s Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona. She has a blue shirt on in the screen in the back of the picture.
She‘s one of the women right here, surrounded by very, very supportive members of Congress. She‘s wearing glasses, she‘s right there voting on this measure. So excited she came back to make it.
There it is, we‘re getting to the final count here. All times expired—
174, Republicans for it, 93, Democratic for it. Wow, bipartisan support, both parties gave the majority to this measure after all the anger -- 267, 51 more votes than necessary to pass it.
Howard, a comfortable victory for the compromise.
MATTHEWS: For all we heard from the left and right of discontent and it‘s legitimate—I guess you could argue both ends of the ideological spectrum, a sound victory for the establishment here.
FINEMAN: Yes. And I think it‘s the result of the fact that, you know, I know a lot of Democrats were critical of President Obama for not putting out a specific plan and lobbying for it, and instead just telling everybody to call Congress and, you know, flood the switchboard.
But I think the flooding of the switch boards had a role here, because I think all the polls showing that the American people were just utterly disgusted with the shenanigans in Washington had an effect here, and I think the reason why there was a bigger margin than we expected was just that. People were in the middle, as if they were afraid of the independent voters on this.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s the speaker. Let‘s take a listen.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The gentleman from Utah rise. Without objection to order.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) kids who are in the back that you can‘t see because you‘re standing in front of them. It‘s the first time that we‘ve ever had pages here not in two small groups but one summer group. These pages are going home this week. They have had a chance of being here to see history in the making on several fronts.
MATTHEWS: OK. That was a little house business. Cheering pages for work they did. The House pages, like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Back to the wholesome part of the work here.
Howard, this is history in the making. I don‘t think it‘s been great for the country. I don‘t think the next poll we‘re going to see about what do you think of Congress is going to look too good.
FINEMAN: Well, that‘s true. But I would have to admit that I‘m a little surprised that the margin ended up as big as it was. And I think it‘s for the reason I said. I think that there was widespread understanding here inside the Beltway in the last 24, 48 hours. But the spectacle that have been put on here was just completely intolerable to most of the American people, and especially if you‘re looking --
MATTHEWS: Howard, hold on.
MATTHEWS: There is Congresswoman Giffords in the short hair and glasses.
They are cheering.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, I yield to the gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Kildee.
REP. DALE KILDEE (D), MICHIGAN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to express my personal gratitude.
MATTHEWS: He is retiring the end of the term.
We‘ll have to say, Ken, this is a wonderful tribute to American medicine and resilience to see that this woman who was shot in the head so recently, to come back on the floor, it is a statement about our national character in this one personal way. This is certainly a distinction from what we have been watching, the pettiness of the debate that‘s gone on for weeks now.
VOGEL: And it really is the one redeeming moment, at the end of this nasty, partisan and high profile dispute that in some ways is a microcosm for the way Congress works, not the Gabby Giffords coming back, which is truly exceptional, unprecedented and touching. But rather the fact that we had this debate that just happened to be, you know, a draw extreme amount of attention. But it‘s the way that these issues tend to work, where you have the two sides navigating their bases, and having to find a compromise solution that actually in spite of all the brinksmanship and the nastiness and the partisanship speaks well to the democratic process and the way Congress works.
MATTHEWS: Howard, go ahead.
FINEMAN: I was going to say the fact that she made it back here and came for this vote I think ace message—not to be overly dramatic—but the message from outside the Beltway, the real world, saying, you know, if I‘m committed to coming back here and to trying to make sure we avoid default, and that we end this fractious debate, I think that had some emotional effect on the floor of the House, the fact she came to vote yes to end the impasse I think really mattered.
MATTHEWS: It‘s also important to really why she was coming back. She was shot by a violent act, of course, a person using a gun, breaking up a political meeting with a gun, bringing one to a political event which we saw a lot of in the Tea Party demonstrations, people carrying firearms to political events—the violent level of the right wing in this country, not particularly this case, but generally where people feel the need to show firearms at political events, I think that‘s a bad development in our history to bring guns to political events. You should come to argue, not to show your firearms, and to have now this horrible case of a woman who was shot down in her political act, meeting with her constituents, shot only not dead because of modern medicine and her character and resilience. That is all part of this story this year, Howard. And I am not going to forget it.
FINEMAN: Chris, if the leadership, if Democratic and Republican leadership, if President Obama and John Boehner and the rest need somebody or something to sanctity this vote and give it‘s blessing as a sort of act, if you will, after a long, fractious debate, no possible better way to do it than have her here and have her here voting for it. And so, I think it is an important symbolic moment, even if the bill itself remains controversial, and even though many think it won‘t do much for or to the economy or the debt, the fact she was here to give blessing to this establishment compromise is a big deal.
MATTHEWS: Ken, how much are we going to have to live with now that the right, the far right, Tea Party right got its way here tonight, the fact they were able to threaten bankruptcy, with default, with international, financial embarrassment to historic extent, to get their little argument won, are we going to have to see this done—is this going to be Bonnie and Clyde again, they take down one bank, they‘ll go for more banks?
VOGEL: Well, I don‘t think they won the argument.
VOGEL: They are displeased with the result. I do agree that they shaped the debate, but this is not the result that they wanted. It‘s arguable that the result they wanted was impossible, certainly the balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, which was the thing that they continue to hang their hat on was something that was a no go in the Senate, President Obama wouldn‘t have signed into the law no matter what—they did shape the debate.
And again, this is the way the legislative process works. You have the bases of either party making their points. In this case, the Tea Party made their point and made it in a way that attracted a lot of blame and scrutiny. But nonetheless, they are acting as activists trying to influence a political process. And I think they will continue to do so, and, in fact, I think that they will seek to extract some measure of revenge against Republican lawmakers that they deem to be sufficiently true to the values that they espouse.
MATTHEWS: Well, I couldn‘t disagree more because I don‘t think this is use of the process. I think people have found their way into our political office and government who don‘t accept the responsibility of government, they don‘t accept the fiduciary responsibility of paying bills, and yet accept their paychecks. They get their medical paid for, their travel paid for, their staff paid for.
MATTHEWS: No, I am talking about people elected to United States Congress and are using their votes to bring this government to the brink of default. Those are the people that are not acting—if you want to stand outside with placards and yell, that‘s fine. That‘s First Amendment.
Once you‘re elected to the United States government, you take an oath to keep the government going. That‘s what we disagree. It‘s not legitimate use of your vote to bring the government to default to make your point.
Jay Newton-Small joins us right now from “Time” magazine and Jonathan Allen, also, he‘s joining us now, from “Politico.”
Let me to go Jay. First of all, Jay, your thoughts about the historic nature of this event tonight, this vote, of course, with Gabrielle Giffords joining the vote?
JAY NEWTON-SMALL, TIME: It‘s amazing to see her. She looks like she‘s speaking, she‘s talking, she‘s walking around. She looks normal. I mean, it‘s heartening to see that especially coming at the end of what just such an acrimonious month, such a horrible process, sort of sausage grinder was, as Dianne Feinstein put it to me yesterday, nobody likes watching the sausage, but this was particularly bad sausage grinding.
And so, just to see that, it‘s kind of like an uplifting moment at that end of, you know, that politics, you know, isn‘t all awful, isn‘t all sausage making, and there are some really nice moments to it.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Some nice ones. We just heard one from Luke Russert out on the floor there, reporting that saying her colleagues, she remembers their names. She‘s quite aware of people around her. Everything is functioning at least at this level she‘s being asked to perform.
Let me go to Jonathan.
Jonathan, your sense at this point putting it together, picture we‘re watching of Gabrielle Giffords back from attempted assassination to this moment tonight.
JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICO: It is amazing, Chris. Talking roughly seven months here. This is a situation she was shot through the brain. People didn‘t know if she was going to survive. And here she is voting, doing her duty as member of House of Representatives on the floor.
You know, Gabrielle Giffords stands out among her colleagues and always has for having particular interest in constituent service, being somebody who really enjoyed her job as a legislator in a way that I think you would appreciate as somebody that used to work on Capitol Hill.
So, an amazing, touching moment with her, and obviously on a very, very important day for the country in terms of this massive deal between President Obama and the congressional leaders.
MATTHEWS: How do you score this event in terms of the deal itself, Jonathan?
ALLEN: I‘m sorry, which event? The deal or Gabby Giffords showing up?
MATTHEWS: The deal.
ALLEN: Look, it is huge, Chris. I mean, this is—
MATTHEWS: Score it, who won?
ALLEN: Who won? I think Senator Mitch McConnell won more than anybody else. He stuck to his guns. He was able to negotiate down the last minute. He shows up to be the only guy on Capitol Hill who negotiates with Joe Biden at the end of these big deals.
And he basically preserved his ability to run for majority leader next time because there wasn‘t this default crisis which could have been blamed on Republicans. He is the big winner here.
President Obama is not going to have to deal with default again between now and the next election. He did all right in this.
And, of course, you know, the big losers here are the left who are going to see programs they care about and their constituents need gutted.
MATTHEWS: Jay, let me go to Jay, because I really that if it hadn‘t been for Mitch McConnell, very much a partisan—who has dedicated this session of congress to the defeat of the president in the next election, and has publicly said so this Congress, if he hadn‘t offered up this mechanism for the second part of the deal which basically gives the president the authority subject to Congress being able to veto with an override required there, if that hadn‘t been offered as an alternative to an all-out fight, I don‘t think we would have had a deal tonight, do you?
ALLEN: I think you‘re right.
NEWTON-SMALL: Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: No, Jay now.
NEWTON-SMALL: I said absolutely not, you‘re right. I think in many ways, Mitch McConnell sort of did President Obama favor at the very end. At the very last day on Saturday, he refused to negotiate with Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, and he actually brought in and insisted he negotiate with the White House, with the president, although he ended up more negotiating with the vice president.
But—I mean, in a weird way, he sort of gave Obama the leave to kind of take credit for whatever the final deal was. And even though it‘s one that the left doesn‘t particularly like, it did avert a crisis, it did—it does enable him to say that he‘s—will be able to say that he‘s cut $2.4 trillion from the deficit and kind of inoculates him against claims he is a socialist or he‘s a big government guy.
And so, in that sense, McConnell did kind help (ph) Obama in the very end.
MATTHEWS: Who‘s laughing, Jon?
FINEMAN: It‘s Howard.
MATTHEWS: Howard, let‘s go back to you while you‘re chuckling there.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
FINEMAN: I go way back as reporter to Louisville where I started at the “Courier Journal” and covered Mitch McConnell when he was county judge at Jefferson County. He‘s propping—in his mind, he is propping Barack Obama up against the ropes to get him ready for the knockout punch next year.
MATTHEWS: I agree. Now, let‘s go to this. Let‘s go to this very point.
I want you all to hear.
My conjecture from the beginning, my conceit, if you will, from the beginning of this program tonight is that there are now three political parties in the field right now: the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the Tea Party. I would argue that Mitch McConnell is a Republican. He‘s an opposition leader in the classic sense. His goal is to get back power to knock the presidency.
You pick up on this, Howard. The Tea Party people are in the business of protesting. You know, we had Matt—what‘s his name on tonight --
MATTHEWS: Matt Kibbe on tonight. Kibbe on tonight. They guys believe their job is to basically attack, criticize, protest. They are the protest party.
They are not an opposition party. They accept no fiduciary responsibility when the government goes bankrupt or not. They say pay the interest. They are not serious about it.
MATTHEWS: It‘s so interesting. Howard, your thoughts about—we have an opposition party, a government party, and now, we have a protest party. Interesting development here.
FINEMAN: OK. I am. And I think Jonathan is exactly right about Mitch McConnell being the big winner. I disagree with him about the president. He think McConnell may drag the president down, and made him look weak, and it was dividing the Democratic base and all kinds of other things.
But McConnell, again, started in Louisville at a time when busing was a big deal in Kentucky, in Louisville, and there were busing protesters all over the place. Mitch McConnell was not a busing protester. He was an establishment, a new generation establishment Republican who figured how the to use the energy of protest and the anger of disaffected people in middle class in Louisville to gain power as a Republican and build a Republican machine in Kentucky. OK? That‘s what he did in the last 20 years.
Now, he is trying to do the same on a national level, taking the anger and protests, using the energy of it to cut deals in the Senate, and he did it brilliantly. His role model is an old name in American politics, Henry Clay, going back to the 19th century, the great compromiser.
But Henry Clay was trying to use compromise to build a nation and keep it together. Mitch McConnell is using his role as the sort of anti-Clay to tap into this protest movement and try to take the federal government out of a lot of business at the state and local level. That‘s his vision, that‘s what he‘s trying to do. That‘s why as Jonathan said, he preserved the position to drive himself in the majority leader‘s role, because as Jonathan rightly pointed out, the Republicans did not want to drive the bus over the cliff, they did not want to be blamed for a shutdown, for a default, et cetera, and it was just brilliant maneuvering by McConnell.
MATTHEWS: Howard, stay with us.
Joining us right now is U.S. Congressman Jim Moran, Democrat of Virginia.
Congressman Moran, I watched you on the floor this morning, or later today, I should say. You didn‘t look too happy about this deal.
REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: I‘m not, Chris. I trust if you were here, you would have voted the same way. But I think this is a bad deal.
You know, the Tea Partiers put us into a straitjacket, but I think to some extent, the Democrats tied the knot. In order to get through another short term crisis, we have really created a situation in the long term that‘s going to come back to haunt us.
The real problem is the economy. We never cut ourselves out of recession, Chris. We have grown out of recession.
I know the way you feel about this country. We tap its human resource potential, we‘ll be fine and generate enough revenue to pay off our debt. But the problem is we‘ll have no money for education, for research and development, for infrastructure investment. We got hundreds of billions of dollars of projects that are just sitting there.
MATTHEWS: But that‘s my question. That is—Congressman, that is exactly where my heart and head are at. I look at the situation where corporate America is not hiring people back. The top CEOs and CFOs in this country make their money by thinking of ways not to hire people, not giving people lifetime jobs—temporary, overtime, any trick in the world. I know all about it, to avoid getting real jobs.
So, how do we get out of the recession except through government?
MORAN: Thank you. Seventy-five percent of corporate profit over the last two years has been a result of cutting personnel and innovation. We are cutting out jobs in order to maximize profits, and corporations are sitting on $2 trillion of cash.
We are not a poor nation. We are a wealthy nation. But we are never going to realize our real wealth as long as we don‘t invest in our people.
You know, when you think of the fact, the last four years the Bush administration, Hispanic families lost 66 percent of wealth, African-American families 53 percent, Asian families, 54 percent. They need help, getting into homes, getting the education and training they need. They need to get into the mainstream of this economy, and they need the help of the federal government.
This is like 1937 when a conservative Congress came in and forced Roosevelt to repeal all the measures that had rescued us from the Great Depression, and put us back into depression. The only thing that rescued us really, ultimately, was Hitler having to spend the kind of money that we needed to, and then we invested in the G.I.s returning home, and housing, higher education. That‘s what made the difference and the interstate highway system, infrastructure, it sustained the middle class for two generations.
And now, here we are again, we are going to make the same mistake we made back in 1937. Chris, this is wrong and we ought to focus on the long term and not make these kinds of expedient decisions just to get through one crisis after another. We are going to have another crisis in September 30th, and then another the day before Thanksgiving, and every time we yield on this, that we don‘t confront the real problems, we empower those that want to diminish government, take it out of the picture, and as a result are going to sustain the economic recession we‘re in.
MATTHEWS: Well, sitting around and trying to beat the Republicans at budget cutting isn‘t going to win any elections. I agree with you, Congressman.
But here‘s my question. Back when I was a staffer for Tip O‘Neill. I did one thing I thought was the smart thing to do. I called the chief engineer of the Republican leader‘s district, Bob Michael‘s district, and I asked for a list of bridges below safety code, all the roads who are in disrepair. The names and addresses, the speaker, Tip O‘Neill, who had all the guts in the world said I am going on the floor with that. He went on the floor, read the list of all those.
Why don‘t you go after the Republicans district by district? I don‘t care how far right now and if they can‘t get beaten in the next election, burn their butts with that information. Make them see all the jobs that need to be put to work in their district, all the bridges that are dangerous for the next school bus to cross, all the roads with potholes and disasters about to happen, and put the names of them out there and say, you say we have make work projects, we got real work to be done. And your Congress person won‘t support.
Why don‘t you bring the fight to them?
MORAN: I was going to on the water infrastructure projects. We got $688 billion of water infrastructure projects that are suspended because they don‘t have enough money. We were going to do that on the floor of the House, and they pulled the bill.
And I don‘t think they are bringing it back again.
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t you do stuff like this? Why don‘t you list the projects in districts that Republicans represent and burn their butts into voting for it? Embarrass the hell out of them, say look, what‘s the unemployment rate in your district, Mr. Congressman, Republican? What‘s the unemployment rate among minorities as you point out? It‘s what, 20 percent. You‘re going to sit on that?
I mean, go to work. Go after these guys. Just a thought.
MORAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I‘m just on the sidelines here.
MORAN: And those are jobs that are here and they pay well, and they lay a foundation for even stronger economy in the future. That‘s what we should be investing in.
We are selling our people short. We are selling this nation short. That‘s why I voted no.
MATTHEWS: Why doesn‘t Steny Hoyer or Congresswoman Pelosi, your leader, why don‘t you have a jobs bill that emanates from the House and force the Republicans to vote? I guess you have a hard time scheduling it, but at least post it out there online.
MORAN: We have it, but, you know, Make it America, Steny‘s initiative, we tried that, Chris. But we can‘t get that kind of thing on the floor, and it wouldn‘t go through the committee. We don‘t have the majority in these committee that we need. I mean, you know that.
It‘s horribly frustrating.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Moran, you got a good heart, sir. Thanks for coming on HARDBALL tonight.
When we return, much more on what this deal means for President Obama. Did he give away too much? You just heard he did. Was he trusting the Republicans who are negotiating with him ore weren‘t really negotiating? They had the hard right back to the Tea Party saying no to everything. Charlie Rangel is going to joins us in a minute when we come back. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: The House of Representatives has passed the debt deal by a vote of 269 to 161. I‘m trying to get a breakdown of who voted where. The Senate votes tomorrow at noon.
Let‘s bring Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York.
Mr. Rangel, thanks for joining us. Give me a portrait of who voted against the bill on the Democratic side, among your colleagues. Who are the people? Were they progressives, caucus members, who did?
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: I really don‘t know because I didn‘t check out the vote. I was surprised so many, but certainly not the majority of the Congressional Black Caucus voted for this bill. It was a terrible bill and it is hard to say. I was overwhelmed with the size of the votes for the bill.
I really thought that in the final analysis that this was a very historic occasion, and that people would not want to be recorded. I have to admit that if my vote meant the difference between default and survival of our great nation, it would have been a conscience vote. But I guess I could have done it.
But, you know, to hold the president of the United States hostage when this has never happened with any other president, to hate him so much and the policies that Democrats have had, that they would risk the good faith and credit of the United States of America, I don‘t see how anyone can be happy with what they have done.
And that means so much for shared sacrifice because I look at it, they mugged the president, let him keep his wedding ring and said that, you know, they were giving something back to him—but never from the beginning of this discussion did they have anything with anybody that enjoyed the wealth of the United States made any sacrifice, not even an inconvenience. So, this puts a different front on our great country in terms of what we want people to believe that we are.
And this vote, all I can say is that there will be changes in 2013.
MATTHEWS: But you think there‘s going to be public reaction to this that‘s going to help your party?
RANGEL: There‘s no question that Congress was far behind what the polls were saying. It depends how you ask the question. Do you believe the United States of America and especially Congress should cut back in spending? Yes. And do you believe that tax loopholes worth trillions of dollars and the fact that we haven‘t had a decent increase in pages for the rich since 1950 should then make us sacrifice? Yes.
So, it‘s clear that equity and fair play was understood by Americans. It just wasn‘t understood by certain people who said under no circumstances would we even look at closing loopholes.
RANGEL: Revenues are off the table.
So, it doesn‘t make any economic sense to cut programs and to put people in the street at a time that we are going through this recession.
And the only way you can pull out of this is that people are working on quality jobs. Our schools are producing people and training them for jobs, and getting the corporations if they need incentives is to bring the jobs home and not incentives to keep it overseas. It is easy to do that. But instead of that, they‘d rather embarrass the president instead of creating jobs, which we haven‘t heard from them since they got the majority.
MATTHEWS: I know. We‘ll get back to that with everybody else. Thank you so much for joining us, U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel of New York.
RANGEL: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: It‘s great to have you on.
We are going back to “Huffington Post” Howard Fineman,” “Time” magazine‘s Jay Newton-Small, MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe—they‘re all going to join us now.
Howard, it‘s a big night here. And I want—you seem to be enjoying it. And I think you appreciate the historic nature of this program and what‘s going on.
MATTHEWS: Howard, in all seriousness, I want a score from you on the president right now. I want to get you sober minded and brutally challenged here. The president‘s score card handling this—A, B, C, or D, or F? Give him a grade?
FINEMAN: I give him a C-minus. I think he handled—he had a very difficult situation to deal with, but I have to say I agree with a lot of his Democratic colleagues who think he misplayed it in negotiating terms.
I think he underestimated and didn‘t really understand the strength of the Tea Party. I didn‘t think he understood the dynamics within his opposition that he was dealing with across the table.
At one point, he said, when he was sitting with Boehner and Cantor, who am I dealing with? He should have known better the dynamics of his foes. That‘s number one. Number two, I think he should have put out and committed to if he wasn‘t demanding just a clean bill, should have put out a more specific program. At least that‘s what the Democrats said, had it scored, had it buttoned up, and then taken that to the American people.
Now, he survived to fight another day and it is true he won‘t have to at least in theory deal with debt increase again until after 2013, after the presidential election.
But, you know, I think he lost a lot. I think his party is divided. I think a lot of people are disappointed in him, that we‘re already concerned about him. I think he conceded the point about taxes yet again. He‘s now done it twice, and he‘s going to have a hard time doing it a third time.
But the one thing about Barack Obama is that he is a terrific situational politician who always seems to benefit from comparisons and from his surroundings. So, you know, he‘ll live to fight another day, but I don‘t think this was his best or strongest moment as president by any means.
MATTHEWS: Howard, you made a great point there. In fact, I‘m out in Los Angeles, and I‘m remembering the great movie “Grand Canyon,” Larry Kasdan‘s movie. Now, I‘m thinking of that the scene when Kevin Kline is getting surrounded by these hoodlums. And who was it, Danny Glover, comes to save him with the pickup.
And Danny Glover gets him out of a terrible situation, his kids want to hold him up with his nice car, and it was Danny Glover says who am I talking to with the kids, remember? Who am I talk to go? He wanted to know which kid was carrying the gun.
And that is what you‘re saying the president was missing. He didn‘t know, it wasn‘t Boehner he was talking to, it‘s whoever was leading or speaking for the Tea Party people. Is that what you‘re saying?
FINEMAN: I also think that—and he‘s got many virtues—many, many virtues as a leader and as a president. But it‘s at least my sense—at least it‘s the sense of Democrats in the Senate who were yelling at Jack Lew, the OMB director, the other week behind closed doors that this White House and this president in particular don‘t enjoy diving into the dynamics of Congress.
Not all presidents do. But for Barack Obama who didn‘t have that much legislative experience, really, he had a cup of coffee in the Senate. He wasn‘t that involved in the Illinois legislature. I think the fact he doesn‘t have a granular feel for Congress, at least according to fellow Democrats, is a problem for him and it showed this time because I think Mitch McConnell essentially took him cleaners.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take in, boy, that‘s smart and tough.
Let‘s bring in now the chair of the Democratic National Committee, U.S.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She‘s a very close, by the way.
We all know this of Gabby Giffords.
First, some human interest. Your pal came back tonight, Gabby Giffords.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: She did. It was an absolutely incredible experience to see her triumphantly return to the chamber.
Little less than eight months ago, Chris, we predicted she would. She has the determination and heart of a lion. She‘s been as been working so hard. She knew it was important for her district to have her voice on probably the most pivotal vote that we will have this Congress—incredibly important to her.
MATTHEWS: OK. How did you vote? How did she vote? And why?
SCHULTZ: Well, I voted aye. And Gabby voted aye as well.
The reason that we both voted aye is because default is not an option, number one. We absolutely could not allow our economy to go over a cliff. We needed to make sure we were protecting Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. The Republicans tried in all in all of their efforts before this negotiations to end Medicare as we know it, and to make sure that we can have a balance when it comes to deficit reduction, and when the super-commission sits down and hammers out the second tranche of deficit reductions, that it‘d be balanced and considered revenue as well as cuts.
MATTHEWS: Why was the Tea Party—you‘re a congresswoman, you‘re politician, you‘re leader of Democratic Party—why was the Tea Party able to muscle aside much of the political establishment and basically control the ball for months during this debate? The Tea Party who were telling Boehner what to do, talking perhaps through Cantor and McCarthy, but they were calling the shots. All along they controlled the ball.
How did that happen in this country? Are they speaking for the majority of the country?
SCHULTZ: Chris, I simply don‘t agree that the Tea Party has been controlling the ball.
MATTHEWS: They haven‘t?
WASSERMAN: No. They have been controlling the Republican Party, and, unfortunately, John Boehner allowed the tail to wag the dog. And as a result, he was not able to do something historic like Barack Obama wanted to do which was pass a significant, historic plan to reduce the deficit and really address our long term economic problems.
John Boehner walked away from that opportunity twice because he essentially shrinks from the strength from the Tea Party, the extremist in his caucus. As a result, cooler heads finally prevailed, we struck a compromise that was not something that the president or any of us were thrilled about, but we were able to make sure we don‘t default. We were able to protect seniors so that the safety net isn‘t yanked out from them when it comes to Medicare and increasing Medicare costs.
We were able to get real reductions and ensure that going forward, when that commission meets, it‘s going to be balance between revenue and spending cuts, and those spending cuts include significant cuts to defense. That is in a not very good situation a good victory for a side that really wanted to do something much more significant.
MATTHEWS: But, as you pointed out, and I think you‘re right, the Tea Party crowd controls the Republican Party now.
MATTHEWS: And half the membership of this new committee that‘s going to decide the second round of these cuts is Republican. What‘s going to stop the Tea Party from doing again what they have done now so successfully, called the shots for the Republicans?
SCHULTZ: Here‘s what‘s going to stop the Tea Party. It is called an election. And what has to happen in the next election is the American people who repeatedly overwhelmingly and in every poll over the last few weeks have indicated that they want deficit reduction that includes balance between revenue and cuts. They want us to focus on jobs and the economy and they want us to make sure we continue to get the economy turned around.
The Tea Party has been obstructionist. The Tea Party members have insisted it being their way or the highway. And they were willing to let us go off that cliff. They were willing to insist on draconian, extreme cuts—a plan that would have ended Medicare, as we know it, a plan that privatizes Social Security, separately and that would have really harmed—and puts all the pain on the middle class, on working families on people who can least afford it, leaving the wealthiest and most fortunate with absolutely no skin incompetent the game.
The election is what‘s going to make—what‘s going to bring the change we need. And we need to reelect Barack Obama. We also need to make sure that we give Democrats the House of Representatives and the majority again so we can get on the road back to getting our economy turned around.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that President Obama used all the powers of the presidency, including the bully pulpit, effectively, in this long fight over the debt?
SCHULTZ: I am very proud of Barack Obama, very proud of the president who used all the levers that he had available to him.
Look, he put on the table what would have been every sacred cow that we have in the Democratic Party. He was ready to put his presidency on the line and stand up and say this is what the right thing to do for the country is.
And John Boehner and the Republican leadership were so afraid of the Tea Party that they walked away not once but twice. And you know what, at the end of the day, doing the right thing to President Obama is more important than holding on to power. It was evidenced when it came to Republican leadership that power was more important than doing the right thing.
And that‘s the choice the American people are going to have at the end of the day when it comes to who they choose to continue to lead this country.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much for coming on.
SCHULTZ: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I am proud of you and your friendship with Gabby Giffords.
SCHULTZ: Oh, I‘m so proud of Gabby.
MATTHEWS: One bright light tonight in an otherwise sultry event.
But thank you so much, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairman of the Democratic National Committee and also U.S. congresswoman from Florida.
There she is again, Gabby Giffords and her friend, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Thank you both for coming.
We‘ll be back with more of this historic event, but not exactly happy event. This is the deal nobody wanted left to right. And certainly, the left didn‘t feel like they came out happy in this situation. We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We are back.
The House, of course, voted strongly for this debt ceiling deal that nobody on the left or right liked. The Senate votes tomorrow at noon apparently.
MSNBC‘s Richard Wolffe joins us.
Richard, I‘m looking at the nay camp, which you and I finally find most fascination. What an usual set of bedfellows here. It‘s all the people of the hard right with the progressive, the people on the left, all joining and holding hands against this.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, well, I suppose that might make the White House feel a little better.
I actually don‘t think the politics of compromise really worked in their favor, though. Even though they can legitimately claim that people on both extremes don‘t like it, in this case, Republicans can legitimately claim that they brought this president to the point of making these cuts to spending sooner than he would otherwise have done so. They missed out the soon a bit.
But, you know, this is not in his time frame. It‘s not in his economic policy framework to be making these cuts at this point in the economy. So, this kind of deal, the normal strategy inside the White House is any kind of compromise is good, it gets to independent voters. I don‘t think this time it works for them. I think independent voters will hear Republicans say this was our agenda, we brought the president to account and they‘ll take credit for it.
So, if anyone takes credit in this mess, it doesn‘t really read down to them no matter what the no votes are.
MATTHEWS: Is this new mini carte and not the magna carte, where the Congress now can anytime it wants to hold the president‘s feet to the fire and say, if you don‘t give us based on what you want, we‘re not going to give you debt ceiling legislation, or we‘ll find something else you absolutely need to keep the country going and we‘re not going to let you have it.
MATTHEWS: Constitutional overflow in some direction here.
WOLFFE: This is the strategic problem of negotiating with hostage takers because the ransom just kept coming in. I‘ll get more kidnap victims.
You know, the president didn‘t take this approach with the Somali pirates, by the way. The Tea Party has two opportunities to play the same routine, one when it comes to the super committee because they‘ve been promised no taxes in this deal. White House is saying taxes are legitimately in the deal. So, they could play that and the triggers do not balance out equally.
No matter what people say, there are many in the Tea Party who are re happy to see defense cuts. So, it‘s not an equal trigger in that sense. And secondly, the money runs out at the end of September. There‘s going to be another government shutdown on the card.
So, right to the brink, run it over the edge of the cliff, and who‘s going to blink this time?
MATTHEWS: You mean, right before the presidential election?
WOLFFE: No, no, this year, before we get there. That‘s the problem with Debbie Wasserman Schultz‘s approach. Yes, an election is really important. But before we get to the election, we‘re going to have at least two more rounds on this kind of brinksmanship on exactly the same subject.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s go to Kelly O‘Donnell. Hold on there, Richard.
Kelley‘s up on the Hill.
Kelly, give me the smell of the crowd up there. I mean, what we can‘t see?
What was it like out there?
KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, today, there was a real intense energy, Chris. And I think one of the things that was different was there was sort of a tired euphoria last night when the deal was announced by the majority leader and Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate and then the president came out, then there was this sort of lull today where it was sort of a twist, where you had had Tea Party Republicans and conservatives who are dominating the headlines for days with the things they were upset about and they were demanding, and then, all of a sudden, today, you heard much more from liberal Democrats.
Not that we hadn‘t heard their concerns before, but it really seem to blow up today. They gave the vice president an earful in a meeting that went more than a couple of hours, where the vice president was here, he said, not to convince anyone to vote but to hear them out, explain how the deal got from where it began, where it ended up. And there was a particularly tense exchange where people in the meeting have described to us that some of the more liberal members were so heated about the Tea Party they threw out terms like referring to them as terrorists, referring to them as hostage takers.
And later, the vice president put out a statement saying no, he was not using that language. He didn‘t think that was appropriate for political discourse, but he was sure caught up in the mess of it, and then had to explain that afterward, not helpful to the vice president for sure.
And, then, of course, just now, there was this emotional lift of the surprise return of Gabrielle Giffords, and what you do have in the not part of the votes, not part of the underlying bill, not part of what happens with the committee, but just the human reaction from both parties seeing her return, seeing her look as well as she does, seeing that she wanted to be here and was returning to the floor and it‘s been eight months since we have seen her in Washington, D.C. So, you‘re even getting Republicans, this no surprise in a circumstance like this, they are putting out statements now of encouragement and welcoming her back. So, it has in a way put a pin in the balloon of the really toxic environment that has dominated the day.
Now, certainly, they‘ll get back to that, but for a moment, when there was so much focus on the fight, there was this breath of optimism that walked into the room. Not about the politics, the human story of Gabrielle Giffords‘ return.
And then, tomorrow, we‘ll be checking in with you, Chris, then because of this Senate votes, won‘t be as tough a fight there, but it won‘t be easy either.
MATTHEWS: Thanks so much for that great report, human report. Thanks so much, Kelly O‘Donnell from the Hill, and what was feeling up there.
Richard Wolffe, thank you. Howard Fineman, thank you. Jay Newton-Small.
When we return, we‘re going to finish with something I said a couple of hours ago about this vote. It is really important I think historically. And there‘s something missing here. What other options could this president use that he didn‘t?
We‘ll be right back with my thoughts.
MATTHEWS: “Let Me Finish” tonight with what I‘ve been looking for this entire show, options.
Is there not a way to lead this country than to listen to the other side‘s demands and try to meet them? Is there another way than either buckling to the Republicans or letting the government and country crash?
How does a president like Obama command authority that doesn‘t come from obvious levers of power? How does he move the country so that his rivals have to buckle? How does he use the power of the presidency, the logic, the emotion, the basic patriotism of the people to thwart those willing to threaten and disrupt, even possibly destroy to get their way?
And how does he find the authority that comes from being the country‘s leader to push back on, push down on if necessary, those who do not don‘t agree with him, do not wish his success, do not wish him well—in fact, we‘ll do anything to get their way?
This is so basic a question but it is important to get an answer to. Is there something missing in this whole thing, some stretch of executive power by Obama, some leadership capacity that he just simply failed to exploit?
I am willing to leave that question open right now. But the country is going to render a verdict on what happened this past couple weeks and months and hours and what didn‘t happen. What leadership could have been employed by this president to match the devious, willful powers that were address against him, because there was clearly a reality here that will not be forgotten, regardless of how this vicious, terrible game ends up—the fact still sits out there for all to see, that through all these months and weeks and days and hours, the team that controlled the ball on this mess did not have the name Barack Obama stitched on its jersey.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell starts right now.
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