November 30, 2012
Guests: John Brabender, Bob Shrum, Steve McMahon, Rick Tyler, David Eisenhower, Evan Thomas
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A no-brainer for Boehner.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Somebody`s got to break it to Mr.
Boehner, Your side lost. Romney, remember him? He`s the guy who ran on
the rich man`s platform, the "hands off the big boys" ticket. He`s the guy
who said to his fellow 2 percenters, Got your backs, while telling the 47
percent in the other direction to go fly a kite.
So Mr. Boehner, ye of limited memory, the voters looked this issue
directly in the eye. They heard the president blaring away about the need
to hit that 2 percent with their Clinton-era tax rates. They heard your
guy, Romney, playing palace guard for the plutocrats. And they said, I
think I`ll vote for the guy who`s looking out for the middle class. I
think I`ll let that guy go back to Bain or whatever.
Time for Mr. Boehner to stop defending his rejected politics, stop
talking about the rich and threatening more fights to defend them. This
election was clean, its results clear, its winner right there in the White
House now, trying to do what the people reelected him to do.
Joy Reid is managing editor of TheGrio and David Corn is Washington
bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and author of the ebook "47 Percent." Both
are MSNBC political analysts.
Like the way I lowered my voice there?
DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes!
MATTHEWS: Well, anyway, today the president took his tax pitch to a
factory in the Philly suburbs, and he made clear that the rich must pay
their fair share, meaning taxes will go up for the top 2 percent. Obama`s
job number one, a tax cut for the 98 percent, the rest of the people.
Let`s listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s not acceptable to
me and I don`t think it`s acceptable to you for just a handful of
Republicans in Congress to hold middle class tax cuts hostage simply
because they don`t want tax rates on upper-income folks to go up, all
right? That doesn`t make sense.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: The Senate has already passed a bill to keep income taxes from
going up on middle class families. That`s already passed the Senate. Your
members of Congress, like Allyson and Chaka, other Democrats in the House,
they`re ready to go. They`re ready to vote on that same thing.
And if we can just get a few House Republicans on board, we can pass
the bill in the House, it will land on my desk. And I am ready. I`ve got
a bunch of pens ready to sign this bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And 30 minutes after the president was finished, House
Speaker John Boehner held a press conference and he left unanswered the
president`s call for decoupling that 98 percent from the richest 2 percent,
and he gave a pessimistic assessment of the negotiations.
Let`s listen to Mr. Boehner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There`s a stalemate.
Let`s not kid ourselves.
But when I come out the day after the election and make it clear that
Republicans will put revenue on the table, I took a great risk. And then
the White House spent three weeks trying to develop a proposal, and they
send one up here that calls for $1.6 trillion in new taxes, calls for a
little -- not even $400 billion in cuts, and they want to have this extra
spending that`s actually greater than the amount they`re willing to cut --
I mean, it`s -- it was not a serious proposal. And so right now, we`re
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let me -- let me start with -- let me -- let me start with
Joy on this thing because you and I often agree. If we don`t, we don`t,
and we`ll live with that.
MATTHEWS: But this whole thing here -- I just think Boehner has never
accepted the fact that the rates have to go up at the top. I mean,
(INAUDIBLE) something about deductions and all this finesse.
They lost the debate. This was fought -- if there`s any issue that
came out of the campaign -- the president`s dead right on this, he made his
case clear. The polls now, as of right now, show it. The public wants to
have some tax fairness. They don`t want the top 2 percent to hold this
Boehner doesn`t want to hear that. Why not? Is he unable to hear it?
Does he not want to hear it? Or is he afraid of his people in the party,
the people in that sort of ideological zoo he`s got to deal with up there
that won`t let him do what he wants to do and has to do, which is cut a
damn deal before Christmas?
JOY REID, THEGRIO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think it`s the latter, Chris.
I think John Boehner is in a nightmare situation. It could not be a
cleaner case for Republicans defending only the tax cuts for the top 2
percent. This is very clear.
Mitt Romney tried to parse it and say, Well, maybe we`ll get revenue
from capping deductions. Maybe we`ll go after the mortgage interest or
some other deduction. That was litigated. They lost.
This is very simple and very clear to everyone, that 98 percent of
those tax cuts could go through tomorrow, today, in an hour, any time that
Boehner just got out of the way. But he still`s got the rejectionists in
the lame duck caucus, and I think he`s just a little bit afraid that that
right flank might come at that speakership that he has to re-up for on
January 3rd. He`s still got to talk the Tea Party talk, even though he
knows it`s a losing proposition.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you -- I know you`re a progressive, and that`s
why I love you. But the fact of the matter is here -- let`s talk politics.
MATTHEWS: Why does a political party that hopes to get 51 percent of
the country in the next presidential election, in the next congressional
election, put all its stock in 2 percent?
CORN: Well, you`re dealing with reality. The reality...
CORN: No, they`re -- the Tea Party caucus of the House went from 55
to 51 to 52...
MATTHEWS: But they`re not rich people, these Tea Party people!
CORN: It doesn`t matter. They are against taxes because they think
it fuels government, and they`re against government. They`re against
compromise. They`re particularly against compromise with this particular
president for a whole host of reasons.
And we have the same dynamic we had back in 2011, when John Boehner, I
think, left to his own devices, would cut a deal within five minutes with
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about -- you and I disagree about the
importance of the cliff. I think the cliff`s damn serious -- darn serious
business because who knows what the world`s going to react to this -- we
don`t know what the world`s going to do.
CORN: Well, the market...
MATTHEWS: Let`s try this. Let`s try...
MATTHEWS: We don`t know. Forget the market. The world economy
doesn`t (INAUDIBLE) My question is this. Would the Republican Party like
to go over the cliff hanging onto that 2 percent of rich people and say
that`s why they did it? Can they live with themselves if they do that?
CORN: They have -- in some ways, the politics for Boehner becomes
easier -- I don`t like calling it a cliff -- after you go down the slope or
whatever you want to call it.
MATTHEWS: Why? Why?
CORN: Because if nothing happens between now and the end of the year,
all the tax cuts, poof, they disappear. You come back the first week in
January and you pass a bill...
CORN: ... then the Tea Partiers, Boehner can make the argument to
them, if they want to be reasonable, now you`re voting for a tax cut, not
for everyone, but for 98 percent. Before that happens, the Tea Party
people will say, We`re voting to raise taxes on the rich. If you let it
happen on its own...
MATTHEWS: Do you buy this, Joy? Do you think people are that -- the
people don`t get what`s going on? They know what the mechanics of this
CORN: Let me just finish one second. The Tea Partiers have to worry,
some of them, about being challenged from the right if they vote for
MATTHEWS: I know.
CORN: ... resembling a tax hike. If you wait until after the slope
hits, you can say it`s not a tax hike.
REID: Well, Chris, I think...
CORN: So that may help Boehner.
MATTHEWS: I think you`re being -- you`re really playing down the
intelligence of the people on the right, that they don`t know...
CORN: Oh, I`m not giving a lot of credit of intelligence to Tea
MATTHEWS: They know what a tax increase is and whatever it is, and
they know also what a fiscal cliff is and they disagree (INAUDIBLE) and
they do worry. If this market crashes in the world and every country in
the world`s watching us like a bunch of crazy people...
CORN: They were willing to do this...
MATTHEWS: We disagree on this.
CORN: They were willing to do this for the debt ceiling.
MATTHEWS: If this country goes down and the rich Republicans are
blamed for it. They`re not going to -- that`s what I think a lot of the
rich people on Wall Street are saying to Boehner, Stop it already.
MATTHEWS: We can live with a little tax increase. We`re loaded up
here. Just move on and don`t screw up the economy because we`ll lose a lot
more money if this market crashes to a second great recession.
REID: Well, I mean, Chris, I think to some extent, the market has
priced in the notion that we would go over the fiscal cliff for a little
MATTHEWS: No! You`re wrong. You`re wrong!
REID: They`ve priced it a little bit.
MATTHEWS: Everybody -- who you talking to? I keep talking to people
and they tell me that -- who you talking to?
REID: No, I actually spoke with a source the other day who`s in
Washington -- he`s an attorney -- who said, Listen, people that he`s
MATTHEWS: A lawyer?
REID: ... that are on -- lawyer, but speaks to a lot of folks that
are Wall Street types, who said, Look, the market could take it for a
couple of weeks. We`re not talking about months.
MATTHEWS: They are -- the cake is baked and they think the
REID: Yes, that the market wouldn`t...
MATTHEWS: ... of politicians is up to this challenge.
REID: ... crash -- but that I think markets...
MATTHEWS: I think.
REID: ... that Wall Street doesn`t really have a lot of faith in this
process to be able to get done. And so they`ve priced in just a little bit
that this could happen for a while, maybe not for months, but you wouldn`t
see the market necessarily crash, like, the next day. You`d have time.
And I think if they came back on January 3rd and they didn`t have a
deal, you`d be able to sustain it for a while because they`d do a deal
really quickly because they don`t...
MATTHEWS: This isn`t an ideological difference. This is a matter of
perception and world view. I believe if they don`t have a deal by -- as we
approach the 21st of this month, three weeks from now -- if they don`t have
a deal by then, the thing starts cracking. It`s going to start melting,
and you`re going to see that market going down and down every day...
REID: I don`t think it`ll happen...
MATTHEWS: ... and that`s not...
REID: ... that quickly.
CORN: No, it`s not a joke, and it may happen. But you have to...
MATTHEWS: The question is who gets blamed.
CORN: You have to remember back in the summer of 2011, the Tea
Partiers in Congress -- some were advocating for that. Others were saying,
We don`t care if it happens. So Boehner has this same problem. The
markets may scream. The Wall Streeters may say, Don`t do this. That
CORN: ... it`s going to have an impact...
REID: And Chris...
MATTHEWS: We`re getting back to something we all agree on, equity
here. An article in today`s "New York Times" front page is fascinating.
Its headline, "Complaints aside, most face a lower tax burden than in the
It reports that the richest Americans, the people of the top on this
chart, making more than $350,000, were by far the greatest beneficiaries of
the tax cuts over the last 30 years. Meanwhile, at the bottom, the least
fortunate, those making less than $25,000, barely saw any tax cut at all.
So it`s interesting that you see an objective study here, David, that
shows that what most people think, which is the top`s gotten a really good
deal from these tax cuts.
CORN: You know, don`t bother us with facts. I mean, again and
MATTHEWS: It`s very timely.
CORN: The president has been arguing for the last two years that the
rich can afford to go back to the Clinton rates, and we see that with many
-- with many studies. We see also that when you cut rates at the top, it
doesn`t always correspond to economic growth. The data is not there to
support the right`s position. But they believe it as if it`s theology.
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s go -- let`s go to politics we also agree (ph) on.
I think Boehner is playing a very dangerous game here, and I don`t know why
he`s playing it, but maybe you guys can help me here.
Boehner says we`re not only going to face this fiscal cliff, we`re
facing endless fights over debt ceilings from now on. There`s going to be
this regular thing, this, you know, vegomatic. Every couple days, we have
to go through this whole thing. In other words, he`s saying to the
liberals who might be willing to go along with the deal, Joy, If you go
along with this, there`ll be more to pay in two months...
MATTHEWS: ... in February. Then we`ll have to do more in a few
months after that. So he`s making it very difficult for the president to
convince his progressives, Maybe we ought to give a little because
(INAUDIBLE) Wait a minute, if I give here on Medicare, I`m going to have to
give again in a month and then another month. It looks horrible for -- and
then the other side, He`s saying, Oh, boy, this is going to be fun.
Now, maybe he`s playing to his right wing crowd saying, Don`t worry,
if we don`t get a big apple bite this time, we`ll get another bite out of
these people next month.
MATTHEWS: Who`s he playing to when he says we`re going to have more
trouble down the road?
REID: I think you`ve got to remember that the cross-currents facing
Boehner include not just sort of the Tea Party crazies that are in his
caucus, but the right-wing donor class is very hard right on this
ideological issue of never seeing any tax increases.
And the Republican -- just the campaign committees -- if you compare
the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee with the DCCC that raises
for the House Democrats, the Republicans far are more reliant on big
donors, where the Democrats have a bigger small donor base.
MATTHEWS: I know.
REID: So Republicans really do have to constantly cater to a very
hard right-wing donor class that wants to hear this message. They don`t
want to hear Boehner capitulate.
Look, if you go and read a lot of the right-wing sites...
MATTHEWS: I know.
REID: ... again, not the crazy ones but the regular ones, they`re
already teeing up to say Boehner is a failure, he`s capitulating, he gave
in to Obama. They want to hear him talk the talk.
And I think while he still has the rejectionists in hand in the lame
duck caucus and while he still has that donor class that wants to hear this
conservative rhetoric, he`s still got to play the game.
Behind the scenes, I think Republicans understand they`re going to
lose that top rate fight. They`re going to lose that, and I wouldn`t be
surprised if they wound up putting the debt ceiling into the deal at the
end. But up until the moment...
REID: ... they make the deal, he`s got to talk the talk.
MATTHEWS: If I was only interested in right-wing money and only
(INAUDIBLE) money at the top, I would say that`s all true, and therefore,
the faster they make a deal the better because if they`re going to cut the
rate anyway -- or raise the rate anyway -- get it over with!
REID: It would be better for the Republicans if they made a deal now.
CORN: Boehner can make a better deal now. The question is whether
anyone in the party will let him do that.
MATTHEWS: OK. This is going to continue next week. Thank you, Joy
Reid. Thank you, David Corn.
REID: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: We agree on almost everything, except it is a cliff.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, seriously, haven`t they learned anything?
Tonight, how their own polls fooled the Romney campaign into thinking they
had this baby won. What went wrong on the numbers for those guys?
Also, did Republicans lose the election because voters rejected Mitt
Romney, or did they lose because voters rejected what Romney was saying he
believed? We`ll ask the strategists.
And leave it to Congressman Louie Gohmert, the old birther himself, to
suggest that the Obama administration is in league with the Muslim
Brotherhood. For an old birther like Louie, the election`s never over.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" with my memory of when Americans really had,
believe it or not, two political parties that were both modern and
moderate. That was a long time ago. We`re going to talk about the days of
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: House Speaker John Boehner, the aforementioned speaker, now
is 1 for 20. He`s finally named a woman, believe it or not, to serve as
one of his chairs in the 20 House committees he oversees. Congresswoman
Candice Miller of Michigan will chair the House Administration Committee.
It`s a big one.
And the Republicans took a lot of heat after announcing the other 19
House committees will all be headed by -- there they are -- men.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. There`s a reason Mitt Romney`s
team seemed confident in the days leading up to the election. Remember how
they were? Well, their internal polls, it turns out, showed Romney on the
brink of victory.
The problem was that the electorate they told themselves existed bore
little resemblance to the actual people who showed up to the polls. "The
New Republic" magazine has a dramatic illustration of this. The magazine
obtained the internal poll numbers from the Romney camp in the days leading
up to the November 6th election.
In Iowa, the campaign`s numbers showed them tied with Obama. In
reality, Obama beat Romney by about 6 points. In Colorado, Romney`s team
thought they were -- excuse me -- up by 2.5. They actually wound up losing
by 5.5. Excuse me, I`m burping here.
In New Hampshire, Romney`s polls had him ahead by 5 -- or 3, rather,
and-a-half. The reality, Obama won by 5.5. These are, like, 9-point
"The New Republic" also showed Romney`s internal numbers were off in
Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Minnesota. A closer look at the numbers shows
even more clearly why their confidence peaked right before the vote. Over
the last weekend there, the Romney numbers showed Romney gaining strong
momentum in these key states.
In Wisconsin, Obama lost 4 points in the polling just as Romney gained
4, tying up the race. And in New Hampshire, Obama lost 4 while Romney
gained 3, giving him a decisive lead.
The magazine quotes a Romney aide on election night talking to
Romney`s son, Tagg, as the results were coming in. Quote, "He looked like
he was in a complete state of shock, as if these numbers cannot be real."
To make matters worse, their polling told them that Florida and
Virginia, two states that Romney lost, were in the bag.
Well, now the Republican Party is left asking itself what went wrong
and how they fix it. John Brabender is, of course, a Republican strategist
and top adviser to Rick Santorum, and Robert Shrum is our old friend here,
Democratic strategist and a columnist for the DailyBeast.
I want to start with you, John. And you`re on the inside. You know
something about this. Do you understand how somebody would think that the
electorate that`s going to participate in 2012, in a general election with
Barack Obama, an African-American, a Democrat, and a relatively popular
president, would create a different electorate than the one you saw, say,
in 2010 or in a primary situation?
JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think -- and as you
know, every poll starts with an assumption -- Here`s who we think is going
to show up and vote, therefore that`s who we ask the question of.
Republicans -- and not just the Romney campaign, but Republican
pollsters all across the country guessed wrong. We didn`t see the
intensity that there was there for the president, particularly among young
voters. We oversampled male white voters.
And you know, you add all that together, and you`re going to see 2, 3,
4-point differences. Plus, the assumption always is that the incumbent is
not going to pick up any votes on election day. I think this time,
MATTHEWS: I think that`s right. Bob, couple -- those two points --
you`re a pro. Let`s go through the first one, perception`s about the
enthusiasm level. We thought -- you and I were watching the last election
(INAUDIBLE) You could see well before the election of 2008 the excitement
for Obama. You could feel the -- I felt it myself, obviously, at the
rallies we`d go to, all the speeches.
BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right.
MATTHEWS: This time around, it was an effective excitement. It
wasn`t, Wow, wow, wow, we love this guy`s speeches. The speeches weren`t
that great this time by Obama. But it was effectively excited because they
all decided to vote for other reasons. I think voter suppression efforts
besides, but -- what was that? How come it wasn`t palpable that this guy
was going to get the same turnout as he got last time?
SHRUM: Well, it was clear to Joel Benenson, who was the Obama
pollster and who got the thing right on the money.
It was clear in the average of the public polls, as Nate Silver
SHRUM: I just think the Republican Party -- I think John is right
about this -- there was an assumption inside the party that there was going
to be a different electorate.
MATTHEWS: Did you see it, Bob? Did you see the excitement this time
we both saw in `08 for Obama?
SHRUM: No, of course you didn`t see the same level of excitement, but
I saw a level of determination that was intense.
MATTHEWS: OK. That`s better.
SHRUM: I saw people waiting for hours in line in the polls. And I
will tell you one other thing. You cannot explain simply by your
conception of what the electorate was going to be those crazy momentum
numbers that you showed over that last weekend. There was something else
wrong with that polling.
MATTHEWS: What do you think it was?
BRABENDER: Well, first of all...
MATTHEWS: Was it the -- was it the getting together with Governor
Christie in that great show of bipartisanship? Was it the fact that your
side couldn`t push the Benghazi issue they were pushing for some weird
reason for weeks before that? What changed the last weekend toward Obama?
BRABENDER: Well, certainly, I think Sandy did change a little bit.
It let the president be president.
BRABENDER: And people like to see him -- I think that helped.
MATTHEWS: It changed the subject from Benghazi, too, which they got
right back to after the election.
BRABENDER: Exactly. I would also say this race was more of a
referendum in some way on Mitt Romney than it was the president, and that`s
MATTHEWS: Does your side -- I know you`re a true believer and I
respect that. Do you think -- I mean it. Do you think they didn`t really
believe he believed?
BRABENDER: No, I don`t think that was the problem.
MATTHEWS: You don`t?
BRABENDER: I think the bigger problem was two things.
They never personally connected with him. They never felt this
attachment. And they just didn`t see him as...
MATTHEWS: That`s just personal.
BRABENDER: Yes, that`s his personality.
Second of all, I think we failed middle-income blue-collar voters who
feel that we no longer understand their life, no longer are fighting daily
for them, and they think what we`re about are just the social issues and
fighting for tax breaks for the wealthy. That`s not what we`re about, but
we sure let that perception happen.
MATTHEWS: I know. My dad used to say -- my dad`s a regular
Republican, not a right-winger. He used to say, the trouble with my party,
his party, was that they care about the big corporations too much. That`s
the way he looked at it, like GE he used to always point to.
Look at this. Romney senior adviser Stuart Stevens defended his
campaign and his candidate this week in a big article he wrote. He said
the campaign had the right ideas, but failed to do a better job -- oh, my
God -- communicating to women and Hispanics. Let`s take a look. They
communicated all right, I would argue, quite well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STUART STEVENS, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: I think we
should have done a better job reaching out to women voters. The governor
has a great record on women`s issues. We should have done a better job
articulating that record. And we should have done a better job reaching
out to Hispanic voters.
We should have done it earlier and in a more effective way. And I
think, looking forward, those are questions for the party. I think we have
a very good message there. We just have to do a better job with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Bob, I would argue that the message got out from Akin, it
got out from Mourdock. It may not just be Romney, the sense of almost
weird right-wingism on social issues got out there. And I think a lot of
especially the numbers show single women were really turned off at the
chance that they might -- they liked the looks of Romney in that first
debate. A lot of numbers showed they liked what they saw out there, strong
performance on economics.
But then they go, oh, this other stuff is scaring me away. That`s
what I think.
SHRUM: Yes. Look, I don`t think the structure of the race changed
even after the first debate, and it wouldn`t have unless the president
turned in the same kind of performances the second and third time around.
But, look, Romney did reach out to Hispanics. He reached out and
pushed them away. He talked about 11 million people self-deporting. He
used the phrase illegals. He did everything he could to make sure that
that kind of constituency, which Rove and Bush understood was critical to
Republicans winning the presidency, wouldn`t be there.
The most extraordinary thing that Stuart wrote in his op-ed in "The
Washington Post" was, our ideas carried the day.
Well, they didn`t carry election night. And that`s what counts.
MATTHEWS: I don`t think so at all. I think voters are very aware
what the issues were and what side both sides took.
Look, speaking last night at a gala for a conservative group, senator-
elect Ted Cruz, a real hero of the Tea Party from Texas, gave a postmortem
on the election.
Here`s what he said: "You want to know why Barack Obama won 71 percent
of the Hispanic vote? Tone on immigration contributed, but I think far
more important was 47 percent. Republicans nationally, the story they
conveyed was that the 47 percent are stuck in a static world. We don`t
have to worry about you. I cannot think an idea more antithetical to the
American principles of this country`s founding."
Well, that`s a strong statement. Did he mean the 47 thinking or the
fact that David Corn and "Mother Jones" got that out that he had said that
BRABENDER: Well, I think part of it is we did let the other side
MATTHEWS: Well, was it the thinking about looking down on people or
it was the words?
BRABENDER: No, I think what happened was early on the Obama people
did a good job with the perception that Mitt Romney wasn`t George Bailey.
He was Mr. Potter.
MATTHEWS: Right. You`re exactly right.
BRABENDER: And then we said narratives that confirmed that to people.
MATTHEWS: Lionel Barrymore.
BRABENDER: Yes. And we can`t do that as a party. As a party we have
to let everybody know we`re fighting for them, understand their lives, and,
frankly, we failed this time. But we did well in 2010 and we can do well
MATTHEWS: The banker`s eye, right?
MATTHEWS: I mean, Tip O`Neill used to say the guy who had the eye
missing, and one was a glass eye, he would say that was the warmer one, the
glass one, for the banker.
Your thoughts, Bob. Is it just the personality of the guy? He looked
like an elitist cold-hearted guy that would say no to you when you went to
the banker`s window?
SHRUM: Yes, that was part of it. And I don`t always agree with John.
In fact, I seldom agree with John, but I will tell you he`s right.
What happened in the summer was that the Obama campaign brilliantly
went out and defined Mitt Romney. They defined him with the Bain ads. And
18 years after he lost that campaign to Senator Kennedy, he wasn`t ready
for those Bain ads.
SHRUM: I found it inexplicable that they didn`t have some kind of
comeback. He defined him on the auto bailout. He defined him on tax
MATTHEWS: They should have been ready.
SHRUM: I mean, Mitt Romney is...
MATTHEWS: Bob, you taught them the lesson that first time. They
should have been ready for that, see they were going to do it again.
Hey, Bob Shrum, I`m out of time. It`s always an honor to have you on.
Have a nice weekend.
SHRUM: Thanks. You, too.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
And, John Brabender, you`re always welcome here, sir.
BRABENDER: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: something else that won`t help Republicans out of
their mess. U.S. Congressman Louie Gohmert, what a piece of work he is.
He is out there suggesting the Obama administration -- How can he repeat
this stuff? -- is in cahoots with the Muslim Brotherhood. Who is buying
this malarkey? Malarkey is a good word.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And now to the "Sideshow."
First, after President Obama and Mitt Romney got together for their
post-election lunch yesterday, Jon Stewart reflected on the event, with
help from the `80s movie "Coming to America."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": The event was
actually closed to cameras, but we do have some footage of Governor Romney
arriving to the White House. I believe that`s him there.
STEWART: And then he`s getting out, and then...
STEWART: The campaign is over so, he doesn`t have to pretend anymore.
He can finally wear that Serengeti lion sash he hadn`t been wearing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Also, we have heard from Republicans who are ditching
Grover Norquist`s no-tax pledge, but how did one of them free himself after
-- without admitting he was backpedaling?
Well, from the office of U.S. Congressman Chris Gibson in New York --
quote -- "Representative Gibson signed the pledge as a candidate in 2010
for the 20th Congressional District. Regarding the pledge moving forward,
Congressman Gibson doesn`t plan to resign it for the 19th Congressional
District, which he now represents."
Well, as MSNBC`s Joy Reid said yesterday, that`s like breaking up with
someone by changing your phone number.
Also, tonight, the apps weigh in. During the campaign, the smartphone
super PAC app provided fact-checking information and let viewers rate
political ads. Which ad came out on top in the love category? Well, from
the Democratic Governors Association, think Obamacare pants on fire and
Yosemite Sam. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I`m just not going to be a part of,
again, socializing health care in the state of Texas.
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: The IPAB, what that is, will
be a board that will tell you, Bob, whether your level of productivity in
society is worthy of receiving the rationed care that will be the result of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, the ad that got the most votes in the failed
category was the one called "Join Our Fight to Repeal Obamacare" from
conservative super PAC Restore America`s Voice.
Finally, this week in conspiracy world, it`s Texas Congressman Louie
Gohmert and this sugarplum about how the Obama administration is in cahoots
with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Here he is in a radio interview with neocon Frank Gaffney.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: I think it almost makes a prima facie
case when you look at the decisions made by this administration over the
last couple of years, or actually all four years.
But you look at the decisions it`s made, especially in the last two
years, and going through the revolutions in Northern Africa and across the
Middle East and to the Far East, and the only way you could explain the
horrendous decisions that were so completely wrongheaded would be if this
administration had a bunch of Muslim Brotherhood members giving them
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He represents 600,000 people. Unbelievable. Gohmert was
among the gang of Republicans, by the way, who suggested earlier this year
that Huma Abedin, one of Secretary of State Clinton`s closest aides, was a
mole for, of course, the Muslim Brotherhood. Why not? Usual suspects.
Up next: Is the problem with the Republican Party the messenger or
the message? This is going to be great. I love this conversation.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MILISSA REHBERGER, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger with
your CNBC "Market Wrap."
Stocks ended virtually flat. The Dow added three, the S&P gained a
fraction and the Nasdaq lost one. There was one big decliner today, Yum!
Brands, which slid nearly 10 percent. The company`s 2013 guidance was
below expectations due to soft sales in China.
Speaking of China, Apple will soon be able to sell its latest version
of the iPhone there after getting clearance from Chinese regulators.
And as for the economy, consumer spending fell slightly last month due
to disruptions from Hurricane Sandy -- now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Republicans have spent the past three weeks at least doing an
elaborate and very public autopsy on the 2012 election, asking what went
wrong. Good question. And just like Democrats before them after a losing
election, they`re focusing on the usual suspects, we didn`t have the right
candidate, we didn`t get our message out, we didn`t get our voters out.
But one explanation no losing party wants to consider is the voters
rejected what they heard, your ideology. Still, when you lose the popular
vote in five or six elections -- of five of six elections, you have to
consider what the voters didn`t just -- that they didn`t just reject your
messenger; they rejected perhaps your message.
We have got two HARDBALL strategists back with us tonight to hash this
one, one Democrat, Steve McMahon, and Republican Rick Tyler.
Thank you, gentlemen.
So, Rick, you first, because you guys lost.
RICK TYLER, FORMER NEWT GINGRICH AIDE: Yes.
MATTHEWS: And I don`t mind saying that because I`m heartened by this.
MATTHEWS: But -- and I didn`t know it was going to happen. I thought
the first debate, as I have said clearly on the air, when I went nuts over
it -- the president said I was having a stroke over it -- I thought there
was an opportunity there for you guys to win if you stayed on that line, we
can create jobs. But somehow you got into something else.
What happened in this election on issues?
TYLER: Well, look, I was telling Steve earlier in the green room that
I started to believe it after the first debate also.
I didn`t believe it all the way up. As you know, I was on this
program being probably the number one critic of Mitt Romney. And we tried
everybody. We tried Tim Pawlenty. And then we tried Michele Bachmann.
And then we tried Herman Cain. And then we tried Rick Perry. Actually, I
think that was averted, but then we tried Newt Gingrich and then we tried
Rick Santorum. And then we arrived at the inevitable Mitt Romney.
I think this has a lot more to do with the messenger than probably it
MATTHEWS: You ended up with a weak candidate?
TYLER: In many ways, yes.
MATTHEWS: Do you think any of the other guys or women that you passed
over would have been better?
TYLER: I don`t know yet. You don`t know.
MATTHEWS: You actually think so? You think Michele Bachmann would
have been a better candidate for president?
TYLER: I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: You`re being a real agnostic. That`s agnosticism carried
pretty far here.
TYLER: Who knows.
MATTHEWS: I don`t agree with any of that. I think he would beat all
the other candidates, that none of them had the...
TYLER: Well, like I said, in some ways, he was very good, but in some
MATTHEWS: No, your best candidates were on the bench. Your best
candidates, even though they had weaknesses, are obviously other people
that could have ran, Mitch Daniels. You could have had Jeb Bush, guys with
TYLER: Not the point.
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, there were a lot of people
that could have run and didn`t run.
And Mitt Romney sort of came into the race without an ideology.
MATTHEWS: Actually, Christie would have been a better race.
MCMAHON: He certainly would have been more interesting, too. What
would they have done at the end, though, when they were walking around
together? But going back to...
MATTHEWS: Well, they wouldn`t have had poultry for lunch.
MATTHEWS: They would have had a much heftier lunch at the White
MCMAHON: Going back to the hurricane that we just saw, speaking of
turkeys, Romney came into the race without a real firm ideology.
MCMAHON: And then he took a firm ideology in the primaries, which
made it very difficult, maybe impossible, for him to win.
He ran to the extreme on abortion. He ran to the extreme on
immigration. He used words and created symbols for himself that he
regretted later. And then he had -- he had, you know, people out there
like Todd Akin in Missouri who were creating other symbols that were
problematic not just for him, but for the Republican brand, which actually
are problems that endure today.
Mitt Romney has left the stage already. All the problems that the
Republican Party has are front and center right now, which is why there`s
this hand-wringing and soul-searching.
MATTHEWS: Let me go over a couple things. Let me try something. Let
me try. This is sort of an I.Q. test for you. All right?
TYLER: All right.
MATTHEWS: Do you think most Americans would like to outlaw abortion,
outlaw it, period? You can`t have an abortion in this country? You got to
go overseas to get one?
TYLER: I think most Americans would not like to see abortion. I think
most of the left would agree with that. The question is how do you get
MATTHEWS: No. Would like to outlaw it?
TYLER: I think most Americans are pro-life.
MATTHEWS: No, this is not the position of your party. Your party
says outlaw it.
TYLER: I`m not a pollster. I`m not going to sit here and tell you -
MATTHEWS: Do you think most Americans --
MCMAHON: I`ll tell you.
MATTHEWS: -- would live in a society where you have no choice?
MCMAHON: No, absolutely not. I mean, even people who are pro-life,
Catholics who are -- have, you know, of good faith, with conscience --
MATTHEWS: The most Catholic states are the most pro-choice states.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to the Iraq war. I believe one reason --
TYLER: Abortion to the Iraq war.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask this, why President Obama is president? I`ll
tell you, because Hillary Clinton was wrong on the war and he was right.
Let me ask you this: do you think most Americans are happy we went
into Iraq? These are the big issues of our times, war and peace, freedom
TYLER: I think most Americans given the right information would say
that, yes, it was the right thing to do with Iraq with what we had --
MATTHEWS: You`re hopeless.
MCMAHON: You know what? He`s in a tough position because he`s here
as a Republican. He`s defending the party. He knows that the views on the
Iraq war which by the way 80 percent of America was at one time in favor of
it but it was because of false intelligence and false --
MATTHEWS: I`m going over the issues. I guess my question --
MATTHEWS: This is a hard argument you`re making. It`s not the
issues that cost Romney the election. It was Romney.
TYLER: I think in many ways it was Romney. And as Steven pointed
out, he came in with no ideology and no way to communicate.
MATTHEWS: But you believe he was believed? Did people believe he
believed what he said?
TYLER: I don`t think -- no.
MATTHEWS: That`s what I think was the problem.
MCMAHON: That was one of his problems but the other problem was --
MATTHEWS: They don`t believe he was saying anything more than what
he thought would win the election.
MCMAHON: He got 27 percent of the Hispanic. You cannot win as a
Republican with 27 percent of the Hispanic vote. He got beat by women by
14 points. You cannot win -- when you give big blocs of the electorate
away which Republicans are now doing, you can`t win.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me try somebody. Ronald Reagan was elected
president. He beat Jimmy Carter. And I can tell you, he ran a powerfully
smart campaign. Although he was pro-life, although he was pretty hawkish
on foreign policy, he focused on jobs, he focused on the economy. And he
So people sort of got the message wink, wink, yes, I`m pro-life but
I`m not going to change the law. Do you know what I mean? Because ion
California, he didn`t sign a pro-choice position. He wasn`t anti-gay in
So, in other words, the emphasis he put on the job creation and the
economy is what got him elected. Your guy this time, Romney, was all over
the place getting stuck with positions that the public didn`t want.
TYLER: But if you watch Romney, he basically talked about mostly
jobs. I don`t recall him being out there with a great big pro-life
position. Do you?
MATTHEWS: Well, I thought he was.
MATTHEWS: Your platform said Fourteenth Amendment rights for the
TYLER: I think in every speech he gave he talked about jobs, jobs,
and jobs. But I think in the end -- look, a couple things happened. One,
he didn`t have an ideology. Two, he ran a scorched earth primary campaign
which caused people with all the other campaigns not to lift a finger for
him. They might have voted for him but they didn`t lift for him.
MATTHEWS: OK. So now they tell us. Karl Rove conceded he knew that
a lot of the candidates he supported were doomed. He knew it, even as he
raised millions for them through his super PAC, American Crossroads.
Here is Karl on the road to Damascus. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I was involved in a group called
American Crossroads. It was the worst volunteer job I`ve had in my life.
I was in charge of raising money. We raised $324 million.
And I got sick and tired of spending money in races where the
moderates and conservatives had gone at each other and made victory
impossible, and, you know, I`d rather have somebody who agrees with me most
of the time than to do something and to send somebody there who is going to
vote against my values and my views.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: A least in the case of Bernie Madoff, Madoff got the
money. Who got all this money? He didn`t even get it. It was just
TYLER: So he says. You really believe Karl Rove got no money?
MATTHEWS: Well, he said he volunteered.
TYLER: Well, fine. It shows in your tax returns and we`ll if he got
any money. I don`t believe it.
MATTHEWS: I like this. We like this HARDBALL here. Karl Rove off
with the money.
MATTHEWS: Was this like the producer where you think we`re going to
win, we`ll make more money if we lose?
MCMAHON: The 80 percent -- I`d rather have people who represent my
views 80 percent of the time. Is he talking about the conservatives --
MATTHEWS: He meant Mourdock shouldn`t have won the nomination for
senator, you know?
MCMAHON: They should have pulled the money -- you know, they should
have pulled the money back if they didn`t think these conservatives could
win and saved if for people who might be able to actually win.
MCMAHON: The fact of the matter is, that --
TYLER: I take it that you believe if Republicans acted more like
Democrats, they would get elected.
MATTHEWS: I got to tell you something that stunned me about this
election. Not that the president won. I knew it was going to be close.
But when people like Heidi Heitkamp won in North Dakota and the voters of
California voted to raise taxes to pay for education and all these pro-gay
marriage decisions and all these pro-marijuana decisions.
The country voted very liberal this time. I was surprised by that
and I don`t quite get it yet. But it`s going on right now.
But this country is much more liberal than people thought it was.
Steve McMahon -- bad news for you, Rick Tyler -- good news for you.
Up next, what`s happened to the moderates in the Republican Party,
the so-called -- I grew up with them -- the Eisenhower Republicans?
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero" has just hit number six
on "The New York Times" best-seller list. It`s a great book to get for
Christmas and the holidays for one great reason. It reminds us all of how
Americans cannot just get the job done, but actually achieve great things.
It`s about a young leader who opened the door for civil rights, inspired a
generation and literally took us to the moon.
So, go out this week and get a copy of "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero".
It makes a fabulous, affordable gift for people who share your ideals.
It`s a paperback, it`s cheaper.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
The Republican Party as we just said is in a soul-searching mode
right now, looking to explain its loss and find a new candidate to take
them to a win. Back in the 1950s, the moderate wing of the Republican
Party was coming off defeat until General Dwight D. Eisenhower came in,
creating what would later be called Eisenhower Republicans, a group that
seems near extinction.
Evan Thomas is author of a new biography, "Ike`s Bluff", which is
getting great reviews.
David Eisenhower, for whom Camp David was named. He`s professor at
the University of Pennsylvania. Of course, he`s grandson of Ike.
David, it`s great to have you on. We`re going to talk about your dad
DAVID EISENHOWER, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Good to see you,
MATTHEWS: -- because you`re a Pennsylvanian, too, and I want to talk
Eisenhower Republicanism, it meant an internationalist view of the
world, anti-communist but very moderate in the politics compared to the
hard right that we have today.
EVAN THOMAS, AUTHOR, "IKE`S BLUFF": Sure. I mean, the hard right
wanted to get rid of the New Deal and Eisenhower said, no, we`re going to
keep it and we`re going to be an internationalist party, and we`re going to
appeal to moderates and he did. He won overwhelmingly in 1952 and by a
landslide in 1956.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go, David. Your thoughts about his legacy then.
Was he able, I mean, through Rockefeller and Scranton and the rest of --
they actually create some kind of legacy for moderation?
EISENHOWER: Well, what he did was he started a national Republican
movement which involved (ph) in the New Deal/Harry Truman deal. The
Eisenhower presidency is the first in line of Republican presidency
starting in 1952 and he did it by combining, I would say, pro-business
conservative principles on one hand but moderation and outlook and in
manner and above all, the ability to reach across the aisle. I think this
is something that he had.
But this was a war-time habit that he developed as general and also
as part of the times. The Democratic Party was the majority party in that
period and Republicans had every incentive to reach across the aisle, which
is really not the case today. Today, you`ve got Republicans and Democrats
very narrowly divided, which means all of the incentives are to mobilize
your own and to maintain the morale of your own side. And this is standing
in the way I think of bipartisan cooperation.
MATTHEWS: You know, today because of the neocons and George W., you
get the field that the Republican Party is a hawkish party. John Bolton
couldn`t wait to be secretary of state again. And all those people, all
that crowd, I have really come to love, sarcastically.
You know, Eisenhower, I though -- I haven`t read your book yet, but I
know it`s going to be great because I know your angle. To me, the greatest
thing about Ike was the wars we didn`t fight. We didn`t get dragged in the
Suez in 1956, in the side of Israelis, the French, the Brits, when they all
tried to take back the canal.
Tell me about Ike`s ability to just bluff, to say, I`m not going to
go into these wars. He didn`t take his (INAUDIBLE) half million people
into Vietnam. He basically said, no, no, no to the hawks.
THOMAS: He had seen war, he ran World War II on the European side
and he wanted to avoid one. He did not commit any combat soldiers. After
he got us out of Korea in 1953, he didn`t commit any combat soldiers,
didn`t lose anybody in combat. That`s a record that no president since him
MATTHEWS: What were the pressures for him to do so?
THOMAS: There were people on his own team who wanted him to use
nuclear weapons against China and --
MATTHEWS: Operation Vulture.
THOMAS: Yes, and Vietnam. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral
Radford, wanted to nuke --
MATTHEWS: What would you nuke in a jungle? How do you defeat an
army with nuclear -- I mean, I`m asking an obvious question. It`s only
THOMAS: It`s a new tactical -- so-called tactical nuclear weapons,
one of these kind of new weapons and they wanted to try them out.
Eisenhower threatened to use them. He was great at bluffing.
MATTHEWS: Is that how he ended Korea?
THOMAS: Historians are quite aware of this but --
MATTHEWS: Let David tackle this.
What do you know about this?
EISENHOWER: By the way --
MATTHEWS: Did your grandfather end the war by threatening something
EISENHOWER: Well, that`s what they say. I want to congratulate
Evan, by the way, on this book. I`ve really enjoyed it, Evan. We had
talked about it earlier.
This is a -- this bluff that you cover in the Eisenhower years is a
really critical part of the story of that era. It`s also a bluff that, in
all fairness, condition continues into the Kennedy years. The Cuban
missile years involved the same kind of stakes that happened in Berlin, and
in Quemoy and Matsu, Korea, Indochina, the various episodes that you cover.
I would second Evan, I think this was -- Eisenhower was a war-time
commander and he understood the difficulties in dealing with the Soviets
but because he commanded the western front in World War II, he also
understood the possibilities for rough or fundamental, I would say, co-
existence or cooperation with the Soviets and I think that this was behind
this bluff. It was behind the Kennedy bluff in Cuba. It was the idea that
in the final analysis --
MATTHEWS: Explain your buff. Explain the buff to people.
EISENHOWER: The bluff is that there are political differences --
there are national differences that would justify a general war. I think
that that is something that many years, many decades removed from that
period, I think we would find it very difficult to justify. But in that
period, the idea that --
EISENHOWER: -- the United States and the Soviet Union would have a
general nuclear exchange over differences, say, regarding Berlin or Cuba
was to some degree a bluff. But it was something that rested, I think, on
a hard-nosed understanding that the Soviets did not, in the final analysis,
want war, nor did we. And this bluff reinforced a status quo. It was
invoked in Berlin.
MATTHEWS: OK. David, you`ve done --
EISENHOWER: It was invoked where the apples have fallen.
MATTHEWS: I get the point. You know what? When I think about Ike,
I think about him as humble and wars, and how can a guy from Kansas be
where I am at right now and some things I really think are great about that
guy and I think -- you`re doing what David McCullough did for John Adams.
THOMAS: I hope so.
MATTHEWS: Well, that means a lot (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: David Eisenhower, Evan Thomas, the new book is called
"Ike`s Bluff", if you care about modern American history, post-World War II
history, which is the best. Read that book.
Anyway, we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:
Imagine having two modern political parties in this country, two
parties that are moderate on social issues, reasonable on fiscal and
economic matters. Imagine having a Republican Party that represents the
thinking of the big cities, the suburbs and the states of the East and West
Coasts, a party capable of competing across the country with the Democrats
and again, reasonable in its politics and principles.
Eisenhower Republicans they were called in the 1950s. They were
international with their foreign policy, moderate on domestic matters. And
here`s the plus, when you went to vote, you had a reasonable choice. You
could look at the candidates and think who was the best -- not like today
where one political party holds views so out there that many people feel
they have no real choice when they get out into the voting booth.
Well, we`ll see. Will the Republicans get the message of this
November, or will they double down on disaster? It`s an historic decision.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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