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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guest Host: Ron Reagan
Guests: Charlie Cook, Eugene Robinson, Brian Sullivan, Jeff Corwin, Jonathan Martin, Ron Christie Ezra Klein, Chris Bell

RON REAGAN, GUEST HOST: A dope, a joke, and a fraud.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good Evening. I`m Ron Reagan, in tonight for Chris Matthews.

Leading off tonight: Looking for love in all the wrong places. Rick
Perry has leapt ahead of the Republican field in a new Gallup poll, the
economy is in trouble, people think the country is headed in the wrong
direction, and President Obama`s approval ratings are in the tank.
Republicans should be thrilled, right? So why all the long faces?

Yesterday, Politico reported -- and we`re quoting here -- that
conservative elites consider Rick Perry a dope, Michele Bachmann a joke,
and Mitt Romney a fraud. Remember, that`s conservatives talking. Why
Republicans don`t think much more of their candidates than you do -- that`s
our top story.

Also, George W. Bush called himself a war president and famously
declared "mission accomplished" when no mission was accomplished, yet under
President Obama, bin Laden is dead, Gadhafi is out and al Qaeda is on the
run. So why does the White House seem so reluctant to make the case for
Obama as a successful war president?

Plus, is the Texas economy really the miracle Rick Perry claims it is?
And if so, how much credit does he deserve? We`ll take a close look, fair
and balanced, you might say, at the so-called "Texas miracle."

And forget seismologists, talk to the animals. At Washington`s
National Zoo yesterday, moments before the earthquake, apes sought high
ground, lemurs sounded an alarm, and birds huddled together. What do they
know that we don`t?

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with Rick Santorum`s obsession with gays,
marriage and your choice of paper products.

But we start with the Republicans not really happy with their field
for 2012. Charlie Cook is NBC`s political analyst and editor of "The Cook
Political Report." And Jonathan Martin is senior political reporter for
Politico. Welcome to you both.

Charlie, let me -- let me start with you. It seems to me, and correct
me if I`m wrong, when I look at the Republican field kind of on paper, as
it were, it seems to me that none of them are actually electable.

-- the thing is, I think a placebo would have an excellent chance of


COOK: I think this is Republicans` race to lose. It really is. And
the question is, will they -- you can`t nominate placebo, you have to
nominate a real person, and whether who they nominate can do as well as a

But you know, look, there`s a lot of disillusionment. Jonathan -- his
piece yesterday really nailed it. There`s a lot of disillusionment within
the Republican Party for their field. But I might add there`s a lot of
disillusionment within the Democratic Party. And I would also add, back on
Republicans, the president`s job approval rating in the Gallup poll last
week among -- among -- among Republicans was 8 percent. The week before,
9, the week before, 10, the week before that, 12 percent.

The thing about it -- they may be disillusioned with their candidate,
but I think, frankly, at the end of the day, are they going to vote a year
from November in the general election? You bet.

REAGAN: Well, Jonathan, doesn`t that apply to the Democrats, too? I
mean, we may -- some Democrats may be disillusioned with Obama, but they`re
not going to go voting for Rick Perry. And doesn`t -- isn`t the big
problem or one of the big problems for the Republican Party that they are a
fractured party? If you want -- you`ve got the Romney-Huntsman wing, and
then there`s the --


REAGAN: -- Bachmann-Perry wing, and those two don`t see eye to eye.

MARTIN: Well, I think both parties certainly have their problems
right now. I think it`s more acute in the Republican Party because we`re
watching the primary unfold. Of course, President Obama doesn`t have a

You know, Charlie knows this, but usually, when incumbent presidents
do lose, it`s often preceded by having a primary challenge, and it seems
like President Obama is not going to have that this time, which obviously
helps him quite a bit.

But you talk to senior-level Republicans and they really want more
options in this field. Paul Ryan has said that he`s not going to run. But
I`ll tell you what. The donor class especially still really wants Chris
Christie to run. He`s said repeatedly he`s not going to do it, but that
longing is still there.

But if you do have a two-person race, eventually, between Perry and
Romney, you`re going to see some fracturing. There`s no question about it.
Romney going to be stronger in a place like New Hampshire, Perry certainly
in South Carolina. So I think you`re going to see that clash, part of it
is cultural, between those two candidates.

But at the end of the day, Charlie gets to the central point here,
Ron, and that is the president running for reelection with the unemployment
challenge being where it is, regardless of who the nominee is, it`s going
to be a competitive race, as long as they do nominate somebody that is, you
know, something of a viable candidate. Swathes of this country --

REAGAN: But who does that --

MARTIN: -- are red states -- yes?

REAGAN: Who is that viable candidate? I mean, Charlie, and both of
you, really, when you look at the individuals there -- and let`s call
Romney, or Perry, if you want, the kind of nominal front-runner here --
Perry, of course, is up in the polls right now. But Perry`s positions on
a lot of issues are way, way out in right field somewhere. The general
public isn`t going to go for that.

And Romney, I got to say it, even in the primaries -- and I know that
a lot of people don`t like to talk about this, but the evangelical
Christian vote in the Republican Party is huge, and they are not going to
vote for a Mormon. They`re not.

COOK: Well, the thing about it is, I think evangelical Christians
conservatives will not vote for a Mormon in the primaries. But in a race
with President Obama, I really don`t think they`re going to defect.

But to your larger point, to me, you have a Republican tradition,
Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Bush 1, you know, Bob Dole, your dad -- that
Republican tradition, if there`s a Republican nominee that`s in that
tradition, I think they -- with 8.5 percent unemployment, I think it`s kind
of a no-brainer they`d win.

REAGAN: But who is -- who is that Republican? Jonathan, are there
any Republicans out there that fill those shoes?

MARTIN: Well, I think there`s an argument to be made that Romney
certainly could. I think Huntsman certainly could, if he could find more
appeal within his own primary.

REAGAN: Huntsman`s at 1 percent! And Romney`s the guy they`re
calling a fraud!

MARTIN: I think, Ron, certainly, Perry -- it`s an open question as to
whether or not he can be that person. And in fact, I think the biggest
question now hanging over this race, primary or general election, could be,
Is Rick Perry a viable general election candidate? Can he play in
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan?

Look, I asked him that question last week in Iowa. I said, Governor
Perry, what do you say to those folks in your party who say, you know, He
can`t play in a Pennsylvania? He can`t play in an Ohio? And his response,
his fairly curt response, was, They care about jobs in Pennsylvania, too,
which is shorthand for saying, Look, as long as the economy is where it is
and I stick to a jobs and economic message that that will trump any
cultural differences.

REAGAN: Former Florida governor Jeb Bush offered up a warning to the
Republican candidates trying to appeal to voters. Let`s have a listen to


JEB BUSH (R), FMR. FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I hope that Republican
candidates, when they`re offering their solutions -- it`s good to -- to be
critical of the president. I think the president means well, but his
policies have failed. And to point that out, nothing wrong with that.
That`s politics. But just to stop there and say, I`m going to win because
I`m against what`s going on, is not enough.

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: Do you think some in your party over do it?

JEB: I do. I do. I think when you start ascribing bad motives to
the guy, I think that`s wrong. It doesn`t -- it turns off a bunch of
people that want solutions.


REAGAN: Charlie, Perry, Rick Perry, is somebody who doesn`t shy away
from getting personal with people. When he was asked the other day if he
thought that the president loved America, he demurred on that question in a
rather obvious way. Well, go ask him, he said. Is that -- does he -- is
Jeb Bush right? Do they -- all the candidates have to watch that kind of

COOK: Oh, I think absolutely because that`s not the kind of talk that
independents want to hear. And they`re the people that are going to be the
deciders in this race, the independents. And you know, I think -- I think
Romney gets it. I think, as Jonathan said, Huntsman probably gets it. I
think before he dropped out, Pawlenty certainly got it.

The question is, can a Rick Perry or a Michele Bachmann -- can they
move over, can they become appealing enough and non-threatening enough to
independent candidates? (SIC) And I think the jury is still out on that.

REAGAN: Does it strike you that, of all the candidates, the
Republican candidates in the race, only two, Huntsman and Romney, have
declared that they accept evolution, evolutionary science? Gingrich tried
to have it both ways, but everybody else is anti-evolution, which is kind
of startling to me.

MARTIN: Well, that was one, and the question about, Would you accept
a package that had $10 in spending cuts for every dollar in new taxes.

REAGAN: Right.

COOK: You know, I have a lot of Republican friends that were sort of
-- and business leaders that were sort of aghast at that. You know, that`s
the kind of stuff that -- that doesn`t fly with independents.

REAGAN: Yes. Jonathan, what about Sarah Palin? Is she -- has she
devolved into irrelevancy at this point, or is -- does she still have a
ghost of a chance?

MARTIN: Oh, I still think she has a very loyal following, certainly,
in this country, and I think she also retains a following among us in the
news media because she`s good copy. So I think, when she does get in, if
she does get in, it will certainly generate significant attention.

I guess my question about Palin is, are voters, GOP primary voters,
still interested in her, not as somebody that they admire, who they
respect, who they think has gotten a raw deal, but are they interested in
her as a potential presidential candidate?

And certainly, her supporters, and they`re loyal, are there. But can
she appeal to the broader primary universe? If you are a conservative
activist in Iowa or South Carolina or New Hampshire, why would you be for
Sarah Palin instead of for Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann? I think, as
Charlie said, the jury is still out on that. I think it`s an open

REAGAN: Charlie, is Bachmann toast at this point because of Perry
getting into the race?

COOK: Oh, I don`t think so. I think there`s a certainly flavor of
the month element here, that Perry`s the new guy on the block --

REAGAN: Right.

COOK: -- high-profile. And I think there`s a certain amount of that.
But I still think it`s going to be a knock-down, drag-out fight between
Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann for sort of dominance in that wing of the
party. Romney`s wrapped up the other one. And then there`ll be a finals
between the winner of the -- of the -- the winner of that -- I mean, you
actually laid that out in the beginning. I think that -- we see the
contours of this race, and I seriously doubt if Sarah Palin gets in.

REAGAN: Well, there are three Republicans still thinking about
running, former New York governor George Pataki, former mayor Rudy
Giuliani, and of course, former -- Palin, who we talked about. Taking
Palin out of it because we`ve talked about it -- Pataki, Giuliani? Really?
Is anybody feeling a chill run up their spine with any of those two?

MARTIN: Well, I was actually joking yesterday on Twitter. I said,
Well, you know, where`s John Rowland, you know, talking about former tri-
state governors here, with Christie, of course, in the mix, too.

Look, I think if Pataki and Giuliani, Giuliani would probably have
more impact in a place like New Hampshire because of his branding with
9/11. But I think it`s very uncertain as to whether or not any of them
would have a major impact, if they did run. And I think it`s really
uncertain as to whether or not either are going to run. The Republican
Party is in a very conservative place right now, and I`m not sure why
moderate New York politicians from yesteryear would have much appeal at
this moment.

REAGAN: Well, we`ll keep watching this, of course, as the debates and
everything else proceed. Thank you, Charlie Cook and Jonathan Martin.
Appreciate your being here.

MARTIN: Thank you.

REAGAN: Coming up: George Bush was very good at dressing up and
standing in front of the "mission accomplished" signs. President Obama is
actually good at accomplishing missions. So why isn`t he making the most
of being a war president?

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


REAGAN: Well, you can add one more name to the wink-wink list of
those who say they will not be vice presidential nominees. Florida senator
Marco Rubio now says he loves the Senate too much and would kindly decline
an offer. Just last week, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who --
dismissed the idea, and we`ve already heard "no thank-yous" from Newt
Gingrich and Governor Chris Christie. So let me get this straight. When
that phone rings, you guys are simply going to say no to the possible
president of the United States?

But wait! Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman says he`d be
open to running as VP, as long as he doesn`t have to run with Mitt Romney.

We`ll be right back.



to the American people and to the world that the United States has
conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda.


REAGAN: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That, of course, was the president
on May 1st of this year. And as Moammar Gadhafi`s regime unraveled in
Libya, the president said this on Monday.


OBAMA: This much is clear. The Gadhafi regime is coming to an end,
and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people.


REAGAN: President Obama`s success as a war president is
unquestionable. In addition to helping to take out two of the world`s most
well-known terrorists, he`s presided over a ramped-up U.S. troop presence
in Afghanistan and the wind-down of our involvement in Iraq. Yet he seems
reluctant to fully embrace the role as a war president. Is he missing an

Eugene Robinson is a "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC political
analyst. Ron Christie is a former special assistant to President George W.
Bush and an incoming fellow at Harvard University`s Institute of Politics.
Welcome to you both.


REAGAN: Eugene, he got Osama bin Laden. He pulled the trigger on the
Somali pirates. He doubled down in Afghanistan. What else did he do here?
Lots of stuff. Well, he`s been pretty good, it seems me, in sending troops
overseas to do things. By traditional Republican standards, how is Obama
doing as a war president?

what he has done, I`d say, Ron, is neutralized the traditional Republican
attack on Democrats, that they`re wusses who can`t be trusted to defend
America or project American military force the way Republicans would.
Clearly, Obama is not hesitant to do so, and he`s clearly rather skillful
at doing so because he`s had these successes. So I think that`s the major
political impact.

REAGAN: Ron, if George W. Bush, or for that matter, Mitt Romney, had
somehow nailed Osama bin Laden of had been flying those drone missions over
Pakistan, what would Republicans be saying about them?

CHRISTIE: Well, look, I`ll give the president all the due in the
world. I think it was an important accomplishment to find -- to track
down, locate and to kill Osama bin Laden. And whether that`s President
Obama or any president, I`m going to give him his due.

My problem, however, Ron, is the fact that we keep hearing about all
these successes that the president`s had. The Arab spring, in my opinion,
has been a disaster! For the last 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, the president
of Egypt, has kept the peace with Israel. Now you have him in jail. You
have insurgents on the border in the Sinai shooting rockets into Israel.

You have a situation in Libya where he originally said that we`re
going to lead from behind, or at least one of his allies said that we`re
going to lead from behind. We don`t know who these people in this
transitional council are, Ron! And my concern is, what happens once
Gadhafi`s gone? Is there going to be a stable region? Are these folks
going to install a democracy? Or is it going to instead fall into
something like Somalia, where you have warlords who are just shooting at
each other? We just don`t know yet.


ROBINSON: Ron -- Ron Christie --

REAGAN: Yes. Go ahead, Eugene.

ROBINSON: That same argument could have been made about the decision
of the president you worked for to invade Iraq and to take out Saddam
Hussein, who, after all, had provided stability in Iraq as far as most
European and U.S. interests were concerned, not the chaos that we`ve seen

In fact, this is one thing that Obama has continued from Bush, a kind
of democracy agenda. And I don`t know why all of a sudden you would object
to that or find --

REAGAN: Ron -- Ron, good question --

ROBINSON: -- that something (INAUDIBLE) wrong with that. Respond to
Eugene`s point there, Ron, if you will.

CHRISTIE: Absolutely.

REAGAN: -- if you will.

CHRISTIE: Absolutely.

To my good friend Gene Robinson, he knows of course that the United
States, with the coalition of the willing, going to the United Nations
South Carolina, seeking resolution after resolution, recognizing that Iraq
was a threat to the democracies, not only in the Western world, but to the
Middle East, and the United Nations, working in concert with the United
States and her allies, determined it was time for him to go.

What President Obama has said is, oh, we`re not really at war with
Libya, I don`t really need to go to the American Congress under the War
Powers Resolution to seek congressional approval, because it`s not a war.

But yet and still, President Obama wants to take credit for a war in
Libya that he`s allegedly leading from behind that of course isn`t a war
because we haven`t had the War Powers Resolution? That`s the difference,
Gene. President Bush went to the United Nations Security Council. He
worked with Great Britain. He worked with our allies in a coalition of the
willing, and we took down a dictator there.

REAGAN: Last time I checked, the U.N. and the Arab League both wanted
us to go into Libya. So --

CHRISTIE: Correct. Correct, Ron, but, of course, President Obama
said after initially committing U.S. troops and U.S. forces over in that
part of the region, said, oh, no, we don`t want American troops here, we`re
going to turn this over to NATO, we`re going to lead from behind.

And, again, I go back to the War Powers Resolution. We`re not at war.
We`re in a kinetic military activity. It`s all silly. That`s the
difference, Ron Reagan, I think between what President Bush did and what
President Obama has done.

REAGAN: Well, Eugene, Ron makes a pretty good point there about that
silly business about it not really being hostilities.




REAGAN: I think, when you`re dropping bombs, that`s pretty hostile.


REAGAN: But what about the constitutional issue and going to

ROBINSON: Look, the constitutional issue is there.

Absolutely, President Obama asserted executive powers that probably go
beyond what the founders intended and what the War Powers Act intended, as
has every president, including your dad, Ron, going back as far as I can
think, as far as I can recall.


REAGAN: Since World War II, I think, nobody has declared war.

ROBINSON: It`s the way it works now.

But, yes, it was ridiculous to say that this is kinetic military
activity or something, as opposed to hostilities, when clearly these were
hostilities. And it also was a fiction to say, oh, by the way, it`s going
to be led by NATO. Well, what is NATO, in fact, if it doesn`t have U.S.
command-and-control, U.S. lift capability, U.S. logistical and intelligence
support? It`s not anything.

REAGAN: How does -- Gene, how do Obama play this on the campaign
trail, though? He does seem reluctant to advertise himself as the war
president, if you will. Can he do a better job of that? And how would he
do that?

ROBINSON: Well, I think he could talk about it more, and point out
the successes he has had.

You know, one reason he may be reluctant to do that is there`s still a
question mark as to how the Afghanistan escalation is going to work out and
how the United States is going to extricate itself from a conflict that
President Obama did in fact escalate.

REAGAN: Yes. The president gets high marks on his handling of
terrorism threats -- 53 percent approve and 40 percent disapproved.

Ron, how do the Republicans handle this politically as they go forward
in the campaign? I don`t think that they sound too well complaining about
him getting Osama bin Laden or anything like that.

CHRISTIE: No. And I --

REAGAN: How should they do this?

CHRISTIE: I think this is one of the areas that should be
nonpartisan. Again, I think Osama bin Laden was one of the most brutal
tyrants that needed to be brought to justice. And whether it was a
Republican president or President Obama, I`m glad that it was done.

And, of course, President Obama did come out and take credit and said,
I gave the order. It was my decision.

I applaud him for that. But looking forward and moving forward, I
think what`s going to matter is what`s going on in the ground in Tripoli,
Iowa, rather than what is going on in the ground in Tripoli, Libya.

The question of this election, in my opinion, is going to be the
economy, the domestic issues, the jobs. And while the president might tout
what he believes his foreign policy credentials are, I think the American
people are going to assess the first four years of his candidacy and his
presidency as, did he make it a better America than when he inherited it
four years ago?

And I think at this point, the answer to that is no.

REAGAN: Well, it`s always the economy, stupid, as somebody once
famously said.


REAGAN: Thanks. Gene Robinson and Ron Christie, thanks, you guys,
for stopping by. Appreciate it.

CHRISTIE: Take care.

ROBINSON: It was great to be here, Ron.

REAGAN: Up next, it`s the all-important struggle to attain name
recognition in the upcoming presidential election, but what to do when
you`re more well-known on the international stage than here at home?
That`s next in the "Sideshow."

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


REAGAN: Back to HARDBALL. Now for the "Sideshow."

First up: name recognition. We all know it`s a crucial part of
gaining national traction in a presidential campaign. Well, as it turns
out, GOP candidate Jon Huntsman has that part licked. The problem is,
there`s a bit of a language barrier. Huntsman explained his problem to
Piers Morgan on CNN.





MORGAN: What the hell have you just said to me?

HUNTSMAN: I said, "Whatever I say, you will have no idea what it is."


HUNTSMAN: and after that, I said my name is Chinese, and I said, "I`m
going to become the next president of the United States."


HUNTSMAN: And for the billion people who live on this Earth who
actually know who I am and my Chinese name, the unfortunate thing is,
Piers, I`m known by the wrong quarter of the world`s population.




REAGAN: Kind of a unique dilemma.

Huntsman did enjoy a bit of star power in Washington last month when
he was swarmed by a group of Chinese tourists, all vying to snap a picture
and get the candidate`s autograph. If only the excitement were a bit more

Next up: The people speak. With nearly 60 percent of House members
deciding not to participate in free town hall meetings in their home
districts during the August recess, some voters have taken their
frustration to the streets.

Take the case of Republican Chip Cravaack of Minnesota. He didn`t
cancel town halls altogether. It`s just that they were at least a two-hour
drive from his home district`s population center. Curious. Let`s see how
yesterday`s confrontation played out.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, guys? Hey, guys --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- for just a second.










UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, guys. You guys want a town hall?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want a town hall?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Be at the airport tomorrow 4:00. We will
have a town hall in Duluth at the airport at 4:00.


REAGAN: And the people win.

This may not bode well for some of Cravaack`s Republican colleagues,
who have crafted other strategies to avoid angry confrontations at town
halls, some even pre-selecting attendees. That kind of defeats the
purpose, doesn`t it?

And now for the "Big Number." Believe it or not, even though most
members of the House and Senate have made time to head home this month,
neither chamber has formally recessed. As a result, both are
constitutionally required to meet at least once every three days.

Well, yesterday happened to mark a meeting day for members of the U.S.
Senate. And despite being rattled by yesterday`s earthquake, they struck
to the rules, securing a location in the basement of the Postal Square
Building not far from the Capitol. A rushed official meeting did convene,
and rushed as in really, really rushed. Just how long did the session last
before someone announced, OK, that`s a wrap? Twenty-two seconds.

Talk about short and sweet. No official business was handled.
There`s a shocker. That`s tonight`s "Big Number."

Up next: Rick Perry is happily taking all the credit for job growth
in Texas, but is the Texas economy a miracle or just a mirage?

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


"Market Wrap."

A pretty respectable rally. We have got three winning sessions in a
row on our hands, the Dow Jones industrial average up triple digits, 143
points, to be exact. The S&P 500 gained, as did the Nasdaq with a 21-point
move up. A lot of activity in the financial stocks today, Bank of America
soaring nearly 11 percent on very heavy volume. Some analysts saying, hey,
that stock simply got oversold over the past couple of weeks. A lot of
concern around Bank of America, but not today.

Gold, though, different story. Get this. Gold had its worst day in
three years, plunging almost 6 percent. Investors cashed out, moved on to
riskier stocks. Gold was down more than $100 an ounce.

Durable goods order rose more than expected in July. That helped ease
some concerns about some recent anemic reports on regional manufacturing in
the economy as a whole. And Research in Motion, the maker of BlackBerry,
gaining on reports that its new QNX smartphone tablets will run on Google`s
Android applications.

And TiVo also surging after-hours. It beat earnings and revenue
expectations and almost doubled the number of customers added over the
previous quarter. Not a bad day.

That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to

REAGAN: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

If you have listened to Rick Perry on the stump this past week-and-a-
half, you have probably heard him talking about his jobs record in Texas.


what we have done in the state of the Texas over the last decade -- 40
percent of all the jobs created in America from June of 2009 until the
present were created in Texas. I know how to create jobs.

For 10 years, Texas has become, without a doubt, the job-creating
center of the entire United States. I`m proud of that. And it didn`t
happen by accident.

Folks come up and say, well, how did you do that? I mean, what`s the

And it`s not magic. It`s actually common sense.

If Texas were a stand-alone entity, we would be somewhere, I think,
around the 11th largest economy in the world. We`re about the same size as


REAGAN: He probably just forgot to mention that Texas has an
unemployment rate of 8.4 percent, which is lower than the national average,
but higher than such high-tax, high-regulation blue states as New York and

And while it`s true that Texas produces a lot more jobs than other
states, critics have raised some important questions, like, what kind of
jobs is Texas creating? Is its economic model one Americans should want to
see on the national level? And while we`re at it, how much credit does
Governor Perry deserve for the so-called Texas miracle?

To help answer those questions, we`re joined by MSNBC political
analyst and "Washington Post" columnist Ezra Klein and the former U.S.
Congressman from Texas Chris Bell.

Welcome to you both.

Chris, you ran against Rick Perry, I believe, in a race, and so you
probably have a good bead on this whole Texas miracle thing. Is it a
miracle down there, or is it something a bit less?

CHRIS BELL (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, if it`s a miracle,
Ron, I would sure hate to see what a catastrophe look like.

He keeps painting this picture of this great utopia here in the Lone
Star State. And those of us who are here on the ground just don`t see it.
And people need to drill down a little bit.

And something else that is interesting, you raised the question of
credit. He`s basically taking credit for something he had absolutely
nothing to do with it, unless he`s going to take credit for the state of
Texas having a great deal of oil and gas, because what we have seen is that
the economic boom here has been fueled by the energy sector. And that`s
been around for a long, long time, way before Rick Perry.

And as far as the types of jobs that are being created, we`re tied
with Mississippi for the highest percentage of minimum wage jobs. So if
people are looking to recruit those people with minimum wage experience,
they need to set up shop here in Texas.
REAGAN: Ezra, there`s -- I think I heard you talking the other night
about the types of jobs that Texas has created in the last few years.

And, apparently, since 2008 -- and correct me if I`m wrong -- since
2008, Texas has actually lost 40,000 jobs in the private sector, but they
have made up for it by hiring in the government sector, 115,000 jobs. Is
that representative of the Texas miracle?

EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I don`t want to take too
much away from what has happened there, because the honest truth is -- and
I don`t think we should beat around the bush on this -- if the whole
country was doing as well as Texas is, we would be doing better, not over
the last 10 or 15 years, but in this recession.

They have come out of it quicker. Part of it is more complicated than
Perry. It`s housing regulations. It`s population growth. It`s zoning
policy. But as you say, one thing they have been able to do, because they
have not been as hard-hit by the housing crash, they have been able to add
a lot of government jobs.

And when you can add a lot of government jobs, as the Keynesians will
tell you, when you can add a lot of government jobs, you can actually keep
your economy growing even if the private sector is shedding some jobs.

So, the miracle has a lot of liberal elements, it has a lot of
conservative elements, and it is in general quite complicated, as economies
tend to be.

REAGAN: Rick -- Rick Perry talks about the -- Obama`s stimulus money,
of course, to boost the economy. He doesn`t seem to have anything nice to
says about -- about the stimulus plan from President Obama.

So I`m assuming that, as governor of Texas, he -- he wants absolutely
nothing to do with all that dirty money, huh?

BELL: Well, he didn`t want anything to do with several millions. But
he wanted something to do with $17 billion that helped us balance our
budget back in 2009. It was a great boom to Texas, and we wouldn`t be able
to balance the state budget any other way. And it saved a lot of state
workers jobs and it saved a lot of schoolteachers jobs here in Texas.

REAGAN: So government spending is at least partly responsible for the
Texas miracle, such as it is?

BELL: I think what people really need to look at, Ron, is the
disconnect. Yes, he got us out on the stump and says how evil the federal
government is and how bad the stimulus was, but meanwhile, we took $17
billion. Ezra brought up a very interesting point. That`s another great
example of the disconnect.

Why we were saved from the housing crisis here in Texas is because one
area that is strictly regulated in the Lone Star State is the mortgage
industry. Not so in other states where you saw it have such a horrible
impact. We didn`t suffer through that here in the state of Texas. And so,
it was much easier for us to recover.

But Rick Perry goes and speaks against regulation at every turn but it
was actually regulation that helped saved the day for us here.

REAGAN: And the mortgage industry aside, Ezra, there has been
deregulation in Texas, but what has that brought Texans in terms of their
quality of life?

KLEIN: Well, you get a lot of different pieces of that, right? It
has helped them in some ways. I mean, again, in the housing area you`ve
had a lot of cheap land and cheap buildings. You`ve had a lot of
population growth. And population growth is an important thing for
economies. On the other hand, there`s been a fair amount of environmental
deregulation that had pretty bad consequences in the long run.

And on a related note, the spending cuts, so Perry doesn`t have to say
he`s raising taxes, the degree to which they are chopping deep into
education and to health, these are things an economy needs to grow over the
long term. You`re really destroying the education system in Texas, much I
should say as we`re doing in my home state of California.

And, you know, people like to analogized government to households. In
general, that`s not a good idea. But even a household knows when you`re
having a tough time, the thing you probably don`t want to cut back on is
sending your kid to college.

So, I do worry that when I look at Texas and again, I don`t want to
take too much away from it, but I do worry that it`s been a bit of penny
wise and pound foolishness over there where there`s been an effort not to
raise taxes. But by not raising taxes, they have taken long-term growth
away from the future of that state.

REAGAN: And, Rick, is Governor Perry himself responsible for the
follows he claims have led to the Texas -- or to some extent did he inherit
those policies?

BELL: Ron, it`s Chris. And that`s one of my --

REAGAN: Oh, sorry.

BELL: You`re thinking you`re talking to Rick Perry, but you`re really

REAGAN: My apologies.

BELL: We all sound the same down here.


BELL: But, no. I asked people to look at what programs he`s
responsible for, because what they`re going to come up with is a big round
zero because he`s not responsible for any programs. He hasn`t championed
any programs during his campaigns. George Bush on the contrary actually
ran on some ideas that when he became governor, he worked to put into
effect, especially in the area of education. Rick Perry was happy
basically adopt a lot of programs from the Bush administration, none of
which were his own. So, when you really look at credit for what has
happened here on the state of Texas, he really doesn`t deserve any.

REAGAN: We`ll leave it there. Thank you, Ezra Klein and former
Congressman Chris Bell of Texas. Appreciate you being with me.

Up next, a remarkable story. The animals at the National Zoo in
Washington, D.C., seemed to anticipate yesterday`s earthquake. What did
they know that we didn`t?

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


REAGAN: Relatives of 9/11 victims were in Washington today to meet
with Attorney General Eric Holder, following allegations that some may have
had their phones illegally hacked by reporters working for British
newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch. The relatives want to cooperate with
the FBI and Department of Justice to determine if such hacking was
attempted and/or occurred.

We`ll be right back.


REAGAN: We are back.

Yesterday`s East Coast earthquake took everyone by surprise. But the
National Zoo is reporting that some of the animals housed there had
noticeable changes in their behavior right before the ground began shaking.
Apes climbed to the tops of trees, lions stood still and lemurs sounded an
alarm call well before the earthquake hit the nation`s capital. Now, that
doesn`t suggest we should all keep an ape other lion in our homes just in
case, but it does suggest animals do possess remarkable instincts.

Joining us now to talk more about this is wildlife biologist and NBC
science and environmental expert, Jeff Corwin.

Jeff, welcome to you.

How are you?

REAGAN: I`m doing just fine. Now, you weren`t at the National Zoo,
at the -- just before the quake hit. But apparently many of these animals
reacted. What did they do? Did they panic? Is that what`s going on?

CORWIN: Well, I think we`re getting a number of responses here. Of
course, most of this is based on anecdotal evidence and observations, and
really less than scientific evidence, but for many, many years, there have
been lots of observations where we have seen animals react to some sort of
environmental event, such as an earthquake or a tsunami. We see them go
into sort of panic mode, an irritated mode, and sort of a fight or flight
response when something like this happens.

REAGAN: So, we`ve known about this for a long time, but nobody can
quite figure out what`s going on. What are the ideas floating around out
there as to why animals, but apparently not humans should be so sensitive
to impending earthquakes?

CORWIN: Ron, it`s an interesting question and quite a conundrum as we
tried to sort of unravel the mysteries of the natural world of why animals
can react this way. I think probably the simplest and most logical
explanation is that these creatures are so finely tuned and so highly
plugged into their environment.

For example, human beings, we live in a very one-dimensional
relationship when it comes to our connection to the environment. It really
is in the immediate time and our moment of being around. For example, when
we experience an earthquake, it`s right there in the moment as it happens.

But look at something like a great ape. This is a creature that lives
in a multidimensional experience. It is not just faceted to the earth. It
is climbing through canopies, moving through branches. So, it`s
experiencing things in a very different way.

We can look at biology of animals. For example, creatures likes
sharks. They is what is called the lateral line that lateral line and
lateral line allows this animal to actually sense and pick up pulse like
movements from almost half a mile away. Or alligators have sensory sites
around their pit where they can detect movement and changes in the water.

So, it`s really ill logical or it is very plausible that these animals
are connected and plugged in to the world, especially with something like a
geological event far beyond what the capacity is for human beings.

REAGAN: Now, do different animals seem to react in different ways?
For instance, I gather that flamingos react in a certain way to this sort
of thing?

CORWIN: I think what was interesting about the observations of the
way these animals reacted is that it was very much in tune in the way they
manage dangerous situations in the environment where they live.

For example, flamingos sort of rely on safeties in numbers. So,
literally within seconds of the earthquake, the flamingos began to cluster
together in a tightly bound flock. And that`s very logical. For example,
when these animals get attacked by birds of prey or other predators,
they`ll come together because chances are, you are less likely to get eaten
and you`re hoping your neighbor next to you will have worse luck, and he`s

You look at something like the primates. When the great apes detected
something going on, about 10 seconds before the earthquake, they climb to
the top of their cage as they would probably climb to the top of the canopy
in a rain forest.

So many of these animals reacted in the way they would in a dangerous
situation, in the environment. For example, the beavers and some of the
ducks immediately took to the water.

REAGAN: Yes, and my cats at home just fell asleep. So, I guess
that`s --

CORWIN: Well, most of those West Coast cats. They`re used to that.

REAGAN: They`ve seen it before, the earthquake. They`ve been -- 5.9
is nothing to them.

Now, understandably, human beings, you know, having noticed the fact
that animals seem to react to earthquakes on the way, have tried in the
past to sort of harness this ability of animals. Are we having any success
whatsoever with that?

CORWIN: Well, we look at animal behavior all the time and we look at
the physiology and the natural design of creatures. And we augment it and
twist it and apply it to our own survival and our own technologies.

So, above and beyond our ability to manage a situation like this,
we`re looking at these animals when it comes to flight when it comes to
computer technology. And we`ve actually looked and the physiology of
creatures for example like sea turtles and birds, you know, and an animal
like something as simple as a pigeon, inside basically above the beak area,
it has a region called the crystal of lament. It`s like a natural compass
that allows this animal to target and accurately fly its way when it`s
navigating from one point to the other.

So, we can see that perhaps there is a connection between the change
in the earth`s geology and that navigating ability, and we learn from that
ability of nature and apply it to our own technology for survival.

REAGAN: Jeff, we got to leave it there. But thank you for dropping
by. If we see animals heading for the hills, I know what it means.

CORWIN: Go under the sofa, put a helmet on.

REAGAN: Dive under the desk.


REAGAN: Thanks, Jeff.

CORWIN: Thanks, Ron.

REAGAN: When we return, "Let Me Finish," with what I really think
about Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum and his whimsical

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


REAGAN: "Let Me Finish" tonight with Republican presidential
candidate Rick Santorum.

Santorum is lately taken to comparing marriage equality to a choice of
paper products. According to his whimsical logic, gay people mustn`t be
allowed the same opportunity to wed that straight couples enjoy, because,
well, a paper towel is not a napkin. If only Santorum was only a lonely
homophobic voice shrieking in the wilderness.

But all the other Republican candidates, whether they choose bounty or
brawny, have likewise signed on to defend the inappropriately named Defense
of Marriage Act, a law designed solely to disenfranchised gay couples --
even leaving aside the fact that some of us have been known on occasion to
employ a paper towel as a napkin, it`s an odd nonsensical comparison.

Santorum`s larger point seems to reflect his discomfort with so-called
traditional marriage being redefined. But what tradition does he have in

Marriage has in various times and places throughout history been
treated as a property arrangement, with husbands in effect owning their
wives as they would cattle. Is that the tradition Santorum seeks to

In late 19th century America, men were entitled to beat their wives as
long as they used a stick with a circumference no larger than their thumb,
the so-called rule of thumb. Does Santorum harbor a yen for corporal

Of course, Santorum and many of his anti-gay colleagues can do better
than paper towels. They`re fond of claiming if gay people were allowed to
wed, we`d also have to allow polygamy, incest and bestiality. This
assertion is so absurd, some people find it difficult to argue against.

If you find yourself similarly flummoxed, just point out this very
simple distinction. Laws against polygamy are non-exclusionary. Whether
you are gay or straight, black or white, Christian or Muslim, you can`t be
married to more than one person at a time.

Preventing gay people from exercising the same rights as their fellow
straight citizens creates a separate unequal class of people. It is
exclusionary. That is the only meaningful distinction you need to keep in
mind with arguing -- when arguing with people like Santorum. Life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness -- it`s impossible to believe that marriage to
the person of one`s mutual choosing doesn`t fall into one or more of those
categories. Santorum and his friends might want to consider the meaning of
the word unalienable.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

More politics ahead with Al Sharpton.


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