November 27, 2012
Guests: Jeff Merkley, Jonathan Weisman, Claire McCaskill, Sheldon Whitehouse, Michael O`Hanlon, Jonathan Landay, Alan Simpson
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Grudge match.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" with this. There`s a real battle going on tonight.
John McCain is out there on every television show accusing U.N. ambassador
Susan Rice of covering up a national security breach. He says Rice denied
al Qaeda`s lead role in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that
cost the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others and that she
did so knowing it was true.
Well, the man who defeated McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign
takes this as a personal shot at him. How will he respond? Will he name
Ambassador Rice his new secretary of state to replace Hillary Clinton?
Will he meet McCain`s challenge head on and send Rice up to the Capitol to
go face to face with the enemy? Well, tonight we study the battlefield and
the firepower of the two sides in this year-ending political firefight.
McCain sure wants this fight, but do his fellow Republicans? Do they
want an older white guy taking on the competence of a young woman of color,
a Rhodes scholar of solid reputation? Most important, what end does the
president want for this match of fact and wits?
I`m joined by Michael O`Hanlon of the Brookings Institution and
Jonathan Landay, the national security and intelligence reporter for
Michael, thank you for this. And I want to get to the facts. Am I
right, is the main charge here coming from McCain and the others that
Ambassador Rice knowingly covered up a national security breach for
MICHAEL O`HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I think that`s probably
correct, Chris, because I don`t understand the level of invective and anger
otherwise. Clearly, there could be a debate about whether Rice chose the
correct words even based on what was known at the time, and I don`t think
it was her most stellar performance.
But I have a real hard time believing that she was trying to be
mendacious or in any way misleading, and I think that Senator McCain must
have reached the other conclusion or it`s hard for me to see why he would
be so focused on this issue so long after it happened.
MATTHEWS: So Jonathan, thanks for joining us. The big -- this is an
argument about fact. I don`t know how to address it except the argument
being made by McCain, by Lindsey Graham, and by Senator Ayotte of New
Hampshire, is that this ambassador to the U.N. went on all the national
shows, including "MEET THE PRESS," in mid-September and basically tried to
delay the news because it would get out eventually that it was al Qaeda
that launched this attack.
Does that pass the smell test, that somebody would knowingly do that,
knowing the truth would be coming out in a matter of days?
JONATHAN LANDAY, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: Look, they still don`t know
really who was responsible. There are links to al Qaeda, they say, but
"links" is a broad word. Those links can take many forms. I think this is
all a big political red herring.
LANDAY: The main question...
MATTHEWS: You`re with Tom Ricks on this one.
LANDAY: Yes, well -- the main question is, why was the consulate in
Benghazi still open when the administration -- when even the ambassador
acknowledged that the threats against the United States was rising and
security wasn`t adequate.
MATTHEWS: And the answer could be that we had -- we had CIA agents in
MATTHEWS: ... (INAUDIBLE) be protected.
MATTHEWS: Ambassador Susan Rice met with her strongest critics on
Capitol Hill today to answer questions about Benghazi, and the verdict was
decidedly negative from her adversaries. Senator John McCain, Lindsey
Graham and Kelly Ayotte, the three I mentioned, said the meeting left them
-- here`s the word -- "troubled." Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We are significantly troubled by many
of the answers that we got and some that we didn`t get concerning evidence
that was overwhelming leading up to the attack on our consulate.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I`m more disturbed now than
I was before. If you don`t know what happened, just say you don`t know
what happened. People can push you to give explanations, and you can say,
I don`t want to give bad information.
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I`m more troubled today because
it`s certainly clear from the beginning that we knew that those with ties
to al Qaeda were involved in the attack on the embassy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to Michael here. What I`m hearing
today is that Ambassador Rice, when she went on "MEET THE PRESS" and those
other shows in mid-September, was basically handed a set of talking points
which came directly from the director of national intelligence, Mr.
Clapper, and she followed them.
What did she do wrong by the lights of anybody, objective Democrat or
Republican or just hater? What can you say she did wrong if she took the
talking points from our top intelligence official?
O`HANLON: Hi, Chris. Well, again, on that, I don`t know that there
was anything that was particularly wrong that Susan Rice did. We don`t
really know who took the latest intelligence information as it was
developing on the 14th and 15th and put it into these unclassified talking
That appears not to have been done all that well, to be blunt, and
even someone like myself, who`s a big defender of Susan Rice and definitely
does not think she should be disqualified for this episode, has to
acknowledge that someone in the administration probably should have done a
better job. But let`s also...
MATTHEWS: Well, apparently, she said today that she had nothing to do
with the campaign. She met with no one from the campaign, had no one in
the White House involved in this. It was all done, according to her,
through the intelligence agency.
She went to the source, primary source of information we have in our
government, which is our G-2, our intelligence people. She got it from
them and then she took it on television. There wasn`t any political filter
going on there. She wasn`t playing any political games for the team. Your
O`HANLON: Well, I agree with that. I...
MATTHEWS: ... Jonathan.
LANDAY: Well, I mean...
MATTHEWS: Yes, go ahead. Finish up, then, I`m sorry, Michael.
O`HANLON: Well, just to take that point, Chris, more broadly, there
was every reason to think this might have been a spontaneous demonstration,
and Susan`s instincts may have been in that direction.
If you think back what happened the same day in Egypt...
O`HANLON: ... it apparently still was spontaneous, and that`s still
what our best intelligence says. If you think to the demonstrations in
Afghanistan over the years, when Korans were burned or when the prophet was
insulted, that was often spontaneous. The same thing when the Danes
published that cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed with the explosives wrapped
as a turban around his head, and there were demonstrations throughout the
Muslim world. It was not an unreasonable initial assumption.
I do believe that someone in the administration -- not in the campaign
but in the administration -- probably could have done a better job between
Wednesday and Sunday of getting better talking points. But I don`t think
it was Ambassador Rice`s fault. I definitely don`t think she lied.
MATTHEWS: Well, according to -- if it came through the White House,
then she didn`t give a straight story.
Anyway, Joe Lieberman, who`s fascinating to watch politically because
you never know which way he`s going to go -- he`s usually, of course, a
faithful ally of McCain and Graham -- they`re the three amigos usually --
but this afternoon, after meeting with Rice himself, Joe Lieberman came to
a far different conclusion.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: I specifically asked her whether
at any point prior to going on those Sunday morning television shows she
was briefed or urged to say certain things by anybody in the White House
related to the campaign or political operation. She said no, she was not
given messaging points at all by the White House.
To me, based on her public record and her public service, barring some
evidence to the contrary, I think she`s answered the questions that I have
about why she said the things she did on those Sunday morning talk shows.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there you have Joe Lieberman -- I think he`s an
honest broker in this case -- saying everything that he asked her, the
right questions, Did you get any PR advice from the White House, any way to
spin this thing so it looks like it was just a spontaneous demonstration we
couldn`t have prevented -- but he -- if he said and -- if he asked her, Did
you talk to the White House about this, did you get any push from them to
spin this thing, she must have included -- he must have included in his
question the National Security Council, Tom Donilon`s office.
There`s no way she could have answered honestly and said, Well, I did
talk to the National Security Council, because the National Security
Council`s part of the White House, right?
LANDAY: Yes, that`s true, but these talking points were actually not
prepared for her. They were prepared for Republican members, Democratic
members of the House Intelligence Committee who were going to be going on
the Sunday talk shows, as well.
MATTHEWS: I got you.
LANDAY: There were no other talking points. So the intelligence
community ran them through the filters, according to what they`ve said.
They took out classified information and they took talking points that
LANDAY: ... were for the House and given to her.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask -- this might not be the right question for you,
Mike, but I`m thinking about it. Do the Republicans -- does John McCain --
it looks to me like, just watching him over the years, he`s a pugnacious
fellow, to put it lightly. John McCain likes to fight. That`s what he
does. I mean, the kids in the back seat fight. People fight in the Middle
East. John McCain fights. It`s just his normal mode of living.
Is he wanting to bring this thing for weeks? Does it look like he is
in the mood now to keep this going through Christmas?
O`HANLON: I don`t know, Chris.
MATTHEWS: He`s trying to kill the nomination, it seems. At least,
you could argue that, the nomination of her to secretary of state, if she
is the president`s pick, something nobody I know knows for a fact yet, by
the way, that he -- that she is the president`s pick.
O`HANLON: That`s a good point. And here`s the analogy that I would
use to ask Senator McCain to reconsider. Eight years ago, Condoleezza
Rice, at roughly the same age that Susan Rice is now, had a legacy that was
not altogether perfect in the first Bush term. As national security
adviser, she had been responsible for trying to coordinate different
positions, or at least bring them up to a level of decision making where
the president could decide between competing views. As you know, on the
MATTHEWS: She said the smoking -- smoking gun would be a mushroom
cloud. I would say that was a problem.
O`HANLON: Well, on the intelligence...
MATTHEWS: She led us to believe if we didn`t do go to Iraq, we`d have
-- we`d have a nuclear weapon being attacked against us and used against
us. I would say that was a problem.
O`HANLON: And I like Condi Rice and I`m glad the Senate confirmed
her, but there were more serious mistakes made in the first Bush term on
intelligence and also on coordinating, as Condi Rice`s job required her to
do. Now, it wasn`t all her fault, and therefore, the Senate gave her a
This is a much smaller issue...
MATTHEWS: Yes, much more.
O`HANLON: ... and therefore, I think the Senate should also give a
second chance, even if people think that Susan Rice made a mistake here.
MATTHEWS: And isn`t it interesting they`re accusing her of flacking
for the administration, which is what Condi Rice did big-time when she made
the case for war which was totally overblown and we all know it now.
LANDAY: Absolutely. One of the things, the ironies -- this is full
of ironies. One of the ironies is the security problems that occurred in
Benghazi was because of the overthrow of the dictator Gadhafi. Who was one
of the main American promoters of that? It was John McCain.
LANDAY: And that`s one of the ironies that`s lost in all this.
MATTHEWS: Because Gadhafi was our helpful -- helped...
LANDAY: He was being helpful...
MATTHEWS: ... in going after al Qaeda.
LANDAY: ... against al Qaeda. Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Boy, this is -- this is -- this is really black spy, white
spy. This is crazy stuff. Anyway, thank you, Michael O`Hanlon -- Michael
O`Hanlon and Jonathan Landay.
Coming up: Elections have consequences. I say that all the time. And
the Democrats are feeling emboldened now. They want to see taxes go up on
the rich and they want to protect programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
Will they give President Obama room to negotiate some kind of deal that
gets through this hell coming January 1st? They say they won, the other
side lost, they`re going to fight.
Well, Democrats are moving to end the so-called silent filibuster
which Republicans have used to quietly say, If you don`t have 60 votes, you
ain`t going nowhere. This is the big question. If they`re successful,
it`s possible -- it`s possible -- the Democrats will be able to get some
things done. We`ll talk about that in a minute.
By the way, they`re going to be just like Jimmy Stewart, finally.
They`re going to force them to actually filibuster, like they did in "Mr.
Smith Goes to Washington," anytime they really want to shut down the
And the Democrat considered least likely to win back her Senate seat
beats the odds and Todd Akin-0 I think thanks to Todd Akin, to a large
extent -- and is back for a second term. Our friend, the great Claire
McCaskill, joins us tonight, the senator from Missouri.
Finally, what`s the first sound you hear after a Democrat wins a
presidential election? A Republican crying fraud. Tonight, the latest
Republican fairy tale of how President Obama -- I`m not going to say it --
took the election by ruse or whatever. They say "stole." I hate that
Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: A lot of people think President Obama was helped when New
Jersey governor Chris Christie effusively praised him in the aftermath of
Hurricane Sandy. Well, now Christie is getting a whole lot of home state
Look at this. A new Quinnipiac poll finds Christie`s job approval has
soared to -- not used to this number -- 72 percent. That`s nearly 3 in 4.
And even a majority Democrats from the other side of the aisle approve the
job the governor`s doing.
Christie yesterday filed paperwork towards running for reelection next
year. That`s 2013.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: We need to be open to some topics and
some issues that are painful and hard for us to talk about. We cannot
stand by the sidelines in denial that this is ever going to engage us in
the things that we value. We can`t be so naive as to believe that just
taxing the rich is going to solve our problems.
I really go back to Simpson-Bowles. I think they had it right. Put
everything on the table -- repeat, everything on the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: One of my heroes there. Welcome back. That was Senator
Dick Durbin of Illinois who voted for the Simpson-Bowles plan, and today
(ph) he served on the commission and voted for the proposal.
I`ll say it again and again, even though it includes significant
entitlement cuts and he for a Democrat doesn`t like that. Anyway, the
upcoming December 31st deadline, the so-called cliff, has been called
anything from that fiscal cliff to that fiscal slope. Liberals are saying
that to that austerity bomb that people -- progressive people don`t like at
Well, former senator Alan Simpson proposed a plan to get the United
States` financial house in order that some say was our best shot at
solvency and avoiding the mess that awaits us come December 31st.
Senator Simpson, it`s always an honor. Politics -- I know you
understand the irony of politics.
ALAN SIMPSON (R), FORMER WYOMING SENATOR: Oh!
MATTHEWS: It makes strange bedfellows.
MATTHEWS: I think -- I want to try something by you. The president
wants a deal. The president would obviously like to include something on
revenues. The conservatives may not want to go along with that, but it
will include something on revenues.
The best push is coming from people I don`t normally side with, like
Tom Donahue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, because he`s warning if the
Congress screws around with this thing through New Year`s, through
Christmas then New Year`s, the whole world`s going to be watching us screw
it up again and it`s really going to hurt the economy. No matter who`s in
charge, it`s going to hurt everybody, and we better darn well have a deal.
I think they`re the strongest push, better than the progressives, in
getting a deal. Your thoughts?
SIMPSON: Well, I think Dick Durbin, first of all, is a hero. I`d
give him the Medal of Honor with oak leaf clusters. He was on our
When you give a spread between Dick Durbin and Tom Coburn and get five
Democrats and five Republicans, one independent, 60 percent of the
commission, a supermajority, and then everybody walks away because they all
say -- and Durbin`s tremendous, he`s absolutely up front on that -- but
everybody`s saying, Well, it`s the framework.
Look, we don`t care whether our names are connected with it. Call it
Rivlin-Domenici, that`s a beautiful piece of work, the "gang of eight," but
for God`s sake, get off your can and do something!
And unless you go big, go home because on December 31st, there`s a
mess floating around right now...
SIMPSON: ... about 7.2 trillion bucks worth of stuff in 10 years.
Got to do something.
MATTHEWS: Why do members of the House and the Senate play the clock?
People are now talking today about, This ain`t going -- isn`t going to get
done -- the need to meet this $4 trillion cut over 10 years is not going to
get done until you can smell the jet fuel.
They have to be on their way to the plane, the kids are crying, they
want to go home, their wives or their husbands saying, We have to be
somewhere, we promised, we got the cheap tickets. What are you doing
It`s not until then that they actually do something. Are we going to
face something like that around New Year`s?
SIMPSON: You`re the man that knows too much. You`ve been here too
long. Let me tell you, that`s exactly -- these people never -- never
respond, which would be a beautiful reaction, they react. They react. And
they`re going to react right down to the last point when there`s going to
be blood and hair and eyeballs all over the floor, and they`re going to
come up with something.
But let me tell you, if it`s just kicking the can down the road -- the
can is now a 55-gallon drum filled with explosives. You can`t play that
game anymore. And if it`s kick the can down the road, the markets are
going to chop us up. And it`ll be an unknown (ph) day (ph).
MATTHEWS: I agree.
SIMPSON: And Durbin was the guy that kept saying, Where is the
tipping point? When the tipping point comes, inflation kicks in, interest
rates go up, and who`s the guy that gets diddled the most? The little guy,
the middle class. Who`s kidding who? What fakery.
MATTHEWS: Well, The payroll tax goes up and the tax goes up for
everybody, including the people that make just barely enough to live on.
My concern is the world. I`m sitting there -- imagine you`re in
England right now or you`re in Australia right now or you`re in Africa, and
you`re watching the news every day. And you know that in the United
States, both political parties -- you sort of know who they are -- both
know there`s a problem, both know the number they need to reach, both know
they got to reach an agreement, and they don`t do it!
And what does that say about our country`s -- we`re the great role
model for democracy, for republican form of government, and we can`t govern
ourselves in the simplest damn thing of getting the numbers straight!
SIMPSON: Well, it`s pretty simple...
MATTHEWS: I mean, I worry about that. I worry.
SIMPSON: They love -- they love their -- they love their party more
than they love their country. How did we get to that point? Don`t ask me.
But you know, the whole business of reform and money in the campaign
and beat up the guy -- and it`s not a case of who wins, it`s you want to be
sure somebody loses.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.
SIMPSON: And I say to people, whether it`s Grover Norquist or
whatever, lord`s sake, if you can`t step up to the plate, what can happen
to you? They can`t murder you. They can`t burn your house. The only
thing they can do is defeat you for reelection by throwing some cuckoo from
the left or some cuckoo from the right on you.
And if that means more than your country when it`s extremity, it needs
patriots instead of panders, you shouldn`t even be in the damn Congress.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of Speaker Boehner? And we -- I sort of
like Boehner personally. I watch him and he seems he`s a Jack Lemmon
character in the movies. He`s always under assault, a middle class guy
under assault, crying a lot. I don`t know what the purpose of that is.
But I get the feeling that he would like to deal, but he has this new
constraint, not just the 218 votes to get a majority in the House. There
has to be a majority of the Republicans in the House, and then a majority
of the House. He wants to get that first majority.
Is that a reasonable demand, that he has to deliver it? I have seen
politicians. You and I know this over the years. They have bucked the
majority in their own caucus and they have gotten through deals that way.
One party says, all right, we will kick in 100 votes. The other party
says, well, we can do 120, it`s easier for us, and they get stuff done that
Now they are saying, no, I have to get my majority before we get your
minority or whatever.
SIMPSON: Well, he`s got -- he lost 11 of the Tea Party guys, but he`s
got then 70 guys who didn`t go to Congress to limit government. They came
there to stop it.
SIMPSON: So how do you deal with guys who came to stop government or
Grover wandering the earth in his white robe saying he wanted to drown
government in the bathtub? I hope he slips in there with it.
MATTHEWS: Well, I can`t be that...
SIMPSON: We will put some soap in the tub.
MATTHEWS: I`m with you on the full metaphor there. I will him the
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Senator Alan Simpson, co-chair of the Simpson-
SIMPSON: Always a pleasure.
MATTHEWS: ... or Bowles-Simpson, if you will, whatever works for you.
SIMPSON: Well, we don`t Bowles-Simpson because the acronyms can be
SIMPSON: We don`t do that. It`s Simpson...
MATTHEWS: That`s right. I just thought of it. You had to tell me,
didn`t you? You had to ruin my day. You were doing so good there with
that soap in bathtub.
Anyway, thank you, Senator.
MATTHEWS: An article in today`s "New York Times" points out that
President Obama may get trouble from his own left wing, if you will, the
progressives, even far progressives, when he tries to negotiate a budget
It reads in part -- quote -- "President Obama`s reelection and
Democratic gains in Congress were supposed to make it easier for the party
to strike a deal with Republicans to resolve the year-end fiscal crisis by
providing new leverage. But they could also make it harder, as empowered
Democrats, including some elected on liberal platforms, resist significant
changes in entitlement programs, like Social Security and Medicare."
Well, joining me is a liberal senator from Rhode Island, from Rhodey,
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.
Senator, you`re smiling, but I don`t know whether it`s in delight that
you`re going to be a holdout.
MATTHEWS: I know you represent a state -- a friend of mine lives up
there, Frank Sullivan (ph), who regularly tells me about the unemployment
situation in your state, the need that a lot of seniors have up there,
golden agers, Tip called them, to really rely on Medicare and Medicaid and
Is that going to be your position, no deal if it involves those
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Well, I think the
president has already said that Social Security should be outside of this
discussion. It has not contributed to the deficit, and it shouldn`t be
part of this discussion.
I think the press office said that the other day. We completely agree
with that. We should set Social Security aside. It is solvent for
decades, and by simply kicking in the Social Security tax above $250,000,
you can make it solvent for decades more.
So, that`s less of an issue I think in reality than it is in the
longtime Republican desire to attack it whenever they can. Remember, this
is a party that tried to put it into the stock market just before the
MATTHEWS: I remember.
WHITEHOUSE: So they have a long history of going after Social
Security and we have to, I think, set it aside.
Medicare is a more complicated problem because we have a health care
system in this country that`s immensely expensive, way too expensive,
somewhere between $700 billion and $1 trillion a year by most standards,
and 40 percent of that washes back through the federal budget.
My position is that if we`re going after the old folks on Medicare and
cutting their benefits, if we`re going after the families who have a
disabled child who couldn`t take care of them if it wasn`t for Medicaid and
we`re not dealing with the overall cost problem, then we are really
I had this conversation with Senator Simpson in the Budget Committee
when he was our witness there. He agrees with it. But -- and there`s
always a caveat in these things -- that side of the equation is hard to
score. And so from the...
MATTHEWS: I know. Well, this is an old argument.
WHITEHOUSE: ... the technical CBO insider problem...
MATTHEWS: I know. I want to keep it simple.
I always say to people when you talk about cutting spending by the
government, you`re actually stopping a check from going to some person.
MATTHEWS: Now, it may be going to a nurse. It may be going to a
doctor who is really working very hard in the surgery room. It may be
going to an attendant who works in a hospital and does a very good job.
You`re cutting somebody`s check off.
Whose check do you think we could cut off in the health care world
that wouldn`t hurt the patient? That`s my question always.
WHITEHOUSE: I think you can do it with efficiencies.
And if you look at -- the Institutes of Medicine just said there`s
$750 billion a year we can save. The president`s own Council of Economic
Advisers said it`s $700 billion a year. You go to the Lewin (ph) institute
and George Bush`s Treasury Secretary O`Neill, they`re all the way up to $1
trillion a year.
As you know, when you talk budget numbers, you multiply by 10 because
that`s the budget horizon we talk about. So, that takes you to $7 trillion
to $10 trillion in the budget year. You only get 40 percent of that back
in the federal government, but that`s still a very big number. And if you
only succeed at getting 25 percent of those savings, you`re still back to
$700 billion to $1 trillion in the budget.
MATTHEWS: You`re looking for a way through this. Thank you. You`re
looking for a way through this. We have to get cost control. Anyway,
thank you, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.
WHITEHOUSE: You bet, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I agree. It`s not easy to turn off -- just turn off the
Coming up, Republicans are trying to explain President Obama`s
reelection victory by crying fraud. Well, this isn`t to be serious. By
the way, I`m reporting this because it`s crazy. It`s not real. They are
saying the president somehow stole the election. Nonsense. But we`re
going to cover the nonsense because we like to do it here in the
"Sideshow," where it belongs. We sort of fence it off from reality.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": First of all, I caught
up on "Homeland."
If you haven`t seen it, it`s the twisting tale of an Iraq war vet who
may or may not be a terrorist operative or a double agent who has been
brainwashed by al Qaeda who matches wits with a bipolar CIA operative who
is convinced that he`s part of an attack against America and is in an on
again/off again affair with him.
COLBERT: Here is what I can`t figure out. When do they charge their
COLBERT: They`re always on them. It`s always like full bars.
COLBERT: D.C., Beirut, Baghdad, great reception.
COLBERT: Makes the whole thing kind of unbelievable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
Well, some Republicans are still suggesting that President Obama won
reelection because of voter fraud. This time, it`s Virginia Attorney
General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican who actively supported Mitt Romney.
Cuccinelli did a radio interview where one of the hosts, Cheri
Jacobus, had questionable reasoning for voter photo I.D. laws. Let`s hear
what she said and then how Cuccinelli responded.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Voter photo I.D., Obama lost
every one of those states. He can`t win in a state where photo I.D. is
required. So clearly there`s something going on out there.
And until there`s a way to have something done about it, where, when
you report it, you know it`s going to be looked into, the other side just
says, oh, well, you`re just poor losers and that sort of thing.
KENNETH CUCCINELLI (R), VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Your tone suggests
you`re a little upset with me. You`re preaching to the choir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we get that.
JACOBUS: I`m so with you.
CUCCINELLI: I`m with you completely.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, get this. President Obama lost Georgia, Indiana,
Kansas, and Tennessee not because of their strict photo I.D. laws, but
because of their conservative voting majorities, obviously.
Next, a whole new meaning for a campaign in shreds. We`re talking
literally. The remains of some documents with information about Mitt
Romney`s campaign motorcade went through an unlikely disposal process.
They became the confetti found by bystanders at the Macy`s Thanksgiving Day
Some parade watchers notified police when they noticed the numbers and
other text on the confetti seemed to match up with the Romney campaign.
Other documents with the Social Security numbers and license plate numbers
of Long Island police officers were in the confetti mix. And a Macy`s
spokesman said the documents were not part of its stock of confetti, that
it had to have been brought in by other means.
Well, do you believe that or not? Anyway, the police force up in New
York says they`re reviewing their procedures for disposing of documents.
Finally, the other sexiest man alive. We all know about the "People"
magazine version of sexiest man alive, but check out this headline from a
Chinese news Web site -- quote -- "North Korea`s top leader named the
Onion`s sexiest man alive with 2012" with a snapshot of Kim Jong-un.
That`s the Onion, as in the joke online news source here in the U.S.
Well, the author of that piece in China did not catch the joke at all,
quoting the Onion piece in the article. You won`t believe this: "He has
the rare ability to somehow be completely adorable and completely macho at
the same time."
Well, they`re not the only international news source that fell for the
Onion spoof. Earlier this year, an Iranian Web site ran an article about a
Gallup poll showing that rural whites -- rural whites in United States
preferred their president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to President Obama. Their
source? The Onion. I love this stuff.
Up next: Democrats in the Senate are proposing changes to the
filibuster rule, which Republicans have been using, we all know, to block
anything they don`t like under President Obama. And if the Dems get their
way, Republicans may be forced to stand up and actually talk for hours on
end, just like Jimmy Stewart did wonderfully in "Mr. Smith Goes to
I love that movie. And that`s ahead. This is HARDBALL, the place for
JACKIE DEANGELIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Jackie DeAngelis with your
CNBC "Market Wrap."
Fiscal cliff worries sinking stocks, the Dow slipping 89 points, the
S&P losing seven, falling below 1400, and the Nasdaq ending off nine. As
for the economy, consumer confidence hit a four-and-a-half-year high this
month while home prices rose in most major cities in September according to
And orders for durable goods were flat last month as rising demand for
machinery offset declines in autos and defense.
That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back over to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON")
JIMMY STEWART, ACTOR: I`m not late. And I`m going to stay right here
and fight for this lost cause, even if this room gets filled with lies like
these and the tailors and all their armies come marching into this place.
Somebody will listen to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Now, that is what a filibuster looks like, a real one, Jimmy Stewart
collapsing at the end of a 23-hour filibuster, a one-man filibuster in "Mr.
Smith Goes to Washington."
Well, now filibusters are those nonevents that gum up legislation and
lately have almost paralyzed the United States Senate. Well, the talking
filibuster, like you saw in that famous Jimmy Stewart scene, may be making
a comeback, no more just hiding and having full tracks, but actually
forcing the filibuster to go out there and filibust.
Anyway, Democrats are pushing for the change. Republicans, led by
Senate Leader -- you won`t be surprised by this -- Mitch McConnell say it
will only make the gridlock worse. Of course, he makes the gridlock worse
by his existence.
Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon supports a rule enforcing a talking
filibuster. Jonathan Weisman is a congressional correspondent for "The New
Senator, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
I have never met you, but this is quite a cause.
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: You`re welcome.
MATTHEWS: How does it look? Can you get this done on the first day
of business in January?
MERKLEY: Well, I think it has a very good possibility.
Senators are so frustrated with the current state of affairs that
they`re recognizing that there is no longer a choice, if you will, between
just getting along or reforming. We`re going to have to reform the rules
in order to have the Senate have any chance of addressing the big issues
that America faces.
MATTHEWS: What is it -- as you look at it, as a student of politics,
you`re now a United States senator, what is a proper use of a Jimmy
Stewart-type filibuster, where one guy or woman goes out there and
basically holds the floor as long as this physical ability and their moral
MERKLEY: When you have an issue that you feel so profoundly concerned
about that it threatens core values or core interests of your state, core
constitutional principles, then to stand up and be heard and make your case
before your colleagues and the American people, the Jimmy Stewart-style
filibuster is completely appropriate.
MATTHEWS: And so you don`t believe -- if you force them to go out
there -- I will get to Jonathan in a minute. If you force them out there,
you don`t expect they will use it to read the Bible or to read the
Constitution over again because nobody on C-SPAN now -- Jimmy Stewart
wasn`t on C-SPAN.
Now they would have to do it 24/7. Do you think it would be a good
filibuster, just asking a qualitative question, if it didn`t include hard
arguments again and again for the position you were taking?
MERKLEY: Certainly, I think that a senator reading, if you will, from
a phone book is going to make much less of an impression to the American
people than someone who is arguing convictions from their heart.
But here is the thing. If they do read from a phone book, then it`s
before the American people. It`s on television, and the American people
can see the source of the obstruction. And they can say, given the cause,
that that person is either a hero in their eyes or a bum. And they can
call up their own senator, their own home state senator, and say, either
join the filibuster or vote to end debate, because it`s outrageous and
But right now we don`t have any of that public accountability. It`s all
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a case here, Jonathan. Suppose John McCain sticks to
his guns and he`s -- if, I don`t know, it`s all an "if". I don`t know if
the president has made up his mind or not. If he does put up Susan Rice
for secretary of state to replace Secretary Clinton and John McCain says,
"I`ll filibuster it", wouldn`t he have to get up there and argue really
hard facts that knock down her right to be accepted?
JONATHAN WEISMAN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: If Senator Merkley gets his way --
absolutely. But right now, all he`d have to do is say I object or even not
even say I object -- to have Mitch McConnell say, I object. Harry Reid
says, oh, well, we move on to the next thing -- and that`s the end of it.
MATTHEWS: So, that`s the way they do it. They double track it. They say,
we`ll talk other business now.
What do you think is going to be the way the Senate decides this? Will it
be partisan? Whether they decide to go to a real filibuster, you go to the
mattresses, you stay up all night and force quorum calls over and over
again where they gave up on change? What do you think is going to be the
politics of this?
MERKLEY: Well, the politics right now are that Mitch McConnell is
absolutely opposing any change in the rules because he has the advantage of
paralyzing the Senate with no public accountability. The talking
filibuster forces his process to be done before the American people, and I
think he realizes the American people are not going to like what they see.
And yet that`s where it should be.
If you don`t have the courage of your convictions to stand before the
American people and say, "I`m obstructing this bill and here is why," then,
in fact, you should shut up, sit down, and let the vote go forward. And
there`s no silver bullet here, but creating this public visibility so
there`s time and effort put into a filibuster and responses, feedback and
perhaps change the next culture vote to end debate is probably the best of
creating a real dialogue on the Senate floor, real accountability and
transparency before the American people.
MATTHEWS: Jonathan, when the Senate -- Jonathan, when the Senate comes
back this January, how will it work? How will the people like Senator
Merkley who want to get this done, how will they do it? Technically, how
do they do it?
WEISMAN: Well -- Senator Reid has a huge decision here because if he can
have -- if he can get 51 Democrats, he`s got 55 Democrats -- 53 and two
independents, if he can get 51 of them, he could do this by doing what
Senator Merkley would call the constitutional option, what a lot of other
people on both sides call the nuclear option, which is to say, "I`m going
to go, I`m doing to move to make this rules change, and I`m going to just
ignore a Republican filibuster."
If they do that, the Senate parliamentarian will rule almost certainly that
they`ve broken the rules, and then with 51 votes, Senator Reid could just
overrule the parliamentarian, throw out his ruling and say, we`re changing
the rules anyway. If he does it, that`s going nuclear. It would be a huge
deal, and really it`s never been done on anything this big. It`s really
the big question that Senator Reid has to do because I`ll tell you, they`re
not going to get the Republicans they need to make this rules change.
MATTHEWS: You know, back -- Senator, back in 1957 when Nixon was vice
president, he tried to do this from the vice president`s chair. He tried
to declare the Senate a new body, like the House is a new body every two
years, a new Congress, and he tried to it. It was the Democrats, the
liberals, who backed up the segregationists and they struck -- they
defeated him. He tried to do this singlehandedly.
What do you think are the odds of you winning this one?
MERKLEY: I think the odds are fairly good, and the reason why is that each
time there`s been a ruling in the past, it`s been actually in favor of the
constitutional option or as a constitutional issue, it`s been put to the
body and the body has then -- for example, in 1975 voted that, indeed, 51
could change the rules. That set the stage for a negotiation.
So there is the possibility that if 51 are in place and ready to act, that
we will be able to persuade Republicans, look, you have concerns. You want
to be able to do amendments on the floor. That`s something I think is a
legitimate issue. Democrats want to be able to do amendments on the floor.
Let`s come together, recognizing that if we don`t come together, we`re
going to have a rule change with 51 that will address the filibuster but
not the amendments, and let`s find a proposal that actually works on both
of the major concerns, Republicans` concern about amendments and Democrats`
concern about this silent blockade of legislative action.
MATTHEWS: Yes. You know, when the Nazi shut down the American films in
occupied France in World War II, they said no more American and British
movies. That was the movie that the theater directors -- the theater
managers ran again and again as the last free movie, the last movie about
Thank you, Senator Jeff Merkley.
MERKLEY: No problem.
MATTHEWS: And Jonathan Weisman of "The New York Times."
WEISMAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next, Senator Claire McCaskill won re-election this year by
beating the odds. Of course, we all followed that race. She also had the
luck of running against Todd Akin, but she`ll be back with us, as she
should be in just a moment.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: "The New York Times" has listed by book "Jack Kennedy: Elusive
Hero" on its best-seller list. The book has just been released in
paperback. It`s a great honor to be back on that list.
It`s the story of a real American hero and heroism and a leader who
inspired the country through some of its toughest times.
And it makes a great gift, anyone who wants to share our love of history
and American greatness should get it.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
Pundits declared Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill the underdog earlier
this year in her race against Todd Akin. But she battled back and won a
decisive victory against Mr. "Legitimate Rape", returning to the Senate.
She`s now one of the leading moderates in her party and she says her top
goal right now in the lame duck session that`s coming up is to find a
compromise with Republicans on the issue of taxes and spending.
What exactly would that look like?
Welcome back to HARDBALL, Senator McCaskill. And thank you for coming on
from the Russell Building.
This is the classic American dilemma. Missouri is a moderate state,
somewhere near the middle. Your state voted for George Romney by about 50-
some -- Mitt Romney, rather, maybe George Romney had his chance there, too.
You won by 55 percent to 39 percent. Romney won your state by 54 percent
to Obama`s 44 percent.
How do you represent a state that voted for you and Romney?
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Well, it`s not hard as long as you
are trying to solve problems instead of play politics. I think compromise
is what the Senate should be about. It`s what it`s always been about in
And finding -- you know, our Founding Fathers were really smart. They have
-- the people have equal power regardless of what size or kind of state
you`re from. And that is supposed to be an environment where we come
together and hash out our differences and agree to compromise.
So, I want to be part of that middle that finds those compromises, which we
have to have to solve hard problems.
MATTHEWS: Well, my belief is I want to compromise, too, but I don`t think
you`re going to get the liberal core of your party, the Democratic Party,
to support anything until they see the vampire bites on the necks of the
Republicans, until they see them taking a piece out of them on the issue of
high income taxation. Are they going to give on entitlements? They`re not
going to give.
MCCASKILL: Well --
MATTHEWS: What do you think? You know the politics.
MCCASKILL: I think that there are ways we can move forward. And everyone
has to understand we are the majority party because we have moderates in
our caucus. And the Republicans need to understand that these tax cuts are
going to go away at the end of the year if they don`t get reasonable. And
once they go away, then we can come back in and pass tax cuts for the
middle class and leave the very wealthy out of that equation.
So, there is pressure here on both sides of the equation. We`ve got a real
debt and deficit problem. We need to be serious about it, while we protect
the middle class. And I`m so hopeful that we can find some combination of
an increase in rates for the wealthy, some limitation on deductions to the
wealthy and some kind of means testing for Medicare that would -- you know,
we don`t need to be buying Donald Trump`s prescription drugs, Chris.
MCCASKILL: We can do this --
MATTHEWS: For a number of reasons.
MCCASKILL: Yes, for a number of reasons, although he may need the drugs,
we don`t need to be buying them.
We need to also look at spending cuts across the board. Maybe not as --
with a two-by-four like the sequestration but surgically, we need to look
at spending cuts.
And all those things need to be on the table and we need all quit trying to
play politics with this and get it done.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question on the social front. John McCain, the
other day, and I think I read him clearly on one of the Sunday shows with
Chris Wallace, he said basically -- I read him this way, abortion rights
shouldn`t be a partisan issue.
Do you think that`s an issue that should stay on the table as a party --
your party is pro-choice, the other party is pro-life, to use the
shorthand. Is that something that should cease being a political or a
partisan debate? Should we just basically go to free -- I think he`s sort
of saying it shouldn`t be a partisan issue. It may be a personal/political
MCCASKILL: Well, I think the Republican Party has a real problem with
MCCASKILL: If you look at the next Congress, there will not be one
committee in the House of Representatives that will be led by a woman.
If you look at just the Violence Against Women Act, this has never been a
controversial provision. How dare the House of Representatives sit on that
legislation? It passed the Senate with a bipartisan number. It sits in
the House languishing.
You know, violence against women is a real problem in this country. That
legislation is thoughtful and it`s needed.
So, if the Republicans are worried --
MATTHEWS: What`s their problem? What`s their problem? It seems good
politics to vote for that. Why would they vote against their interests?
Why are Republicans so hard-nosed about this? What is it?
MCCASKILL: I think it`s the same problem they had, frankly, with a very
extreme position that Congressman Akin expressed which was --
MCCASKILL: -- that rape victims should not be entitled to get the morning-
after pill. So, you know, there`s a core of the Republican Party that
wants to drag this country to the edge of the world. And meanwhile, like
the Violence Against Women Act --
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m just glad you got one to run against you. Senator,
I`m just glad you found one to run against you. That`s all I care about
because you`re a moderate on many issues, a moderate. Some of them are
left, but many of them a moderate. I think you`re a great voice to have
out there for Missouri.
Thank you very much, Senator Claire McCaskill.
MCCASKILL: Thanks so much.
MATTHEWS: Reelected to another term.
When we return, let me finish with how I think we should get government
working again. I think we need to make some changes. You`re watching --
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.
You know, it looks like this country is going to be divided politically for
years to come. I can`t imagine a situation lasting for long where one
political party gets working control of the entire U.S. government,
controlling the House, the Senate and the White House. And I really can`t
foresee the Democrats or the Republicans becoming so dominant in years to
come that they get the presidency, the House and a 60-vote filibuster super
majority in the Senate.
So, that leads us with two ways to go down the line. That`s if we really
want this republic of ours to move, to take on the challenge of our time,
to prepare for the future and the people who will be the Americans of the
future of the latter 21st century and beyond.
One is to remove barriers like the filibuster rule. As long as a lone
senator, a minority of senators, can log-jam the entire U.S. government,
the people want to get something done will be in the words of Tennessee
Williams, relying on the kindness of strangers. Anyone in the minority
will be able to demand not just a majority of senators to pass a bill but a
super majority of 60. That means we`re not going to see much get done, are
Well, the other way to make the government more active, of course, more
responsive to the country`s need is for one party to do such a bang-up job,
such a manifestly good job that the people rewarded with a strong super
majority of support in the U.S. Senate, along with a majority in the House
and regularly re-electing Democratic or Republican presidents.
I think the best route then is for the first one. Get this filibuster
thing done in what -- and get it back to what it was back in the 1930s,
when we could all root for Jimmy Stewart and hope he could be that corrupt
political machine we all love to hate in that greatest of all political
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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