January 17, 2013
Guests: Carolyn McCarthy, Cynthia Tucker, Bob Shrum, Peter Beinart, Christopher Lawford, Patrick Kennedy
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: High noon for guns.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. It used to be that the only way to get
elected in the old Dixiecrat South was to be the farthest out there in
backing segregation. Anyone who showed moderation was seen as soft.
Anyone who talked compromise on Civil Rights was suspected of being on the
Well, to win in today`s Republican Party, which began displacing the
Dixiecrats a half century ago, you have to be the farthest out there
backing guns. Show moderation, you get your NRA badge ripped off you.
Agree to any rule on gun safety, and you`re marked as a traitor for life.
Well, it`s not just the back benchers. Today, some of the top people in
the Republican Party, the people to watch -- Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted
Cruz -- are right out there front in opposing President Obama on gun
safety. So what happened? Why is the GOP the party of guns over people?
Our guests are Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, a Democrat of New York, and
Cynthia Tucker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist. Thank you both --
thank you both for joining us.
You have been in this fight for so long, Congresswoman McCarthy, and I got
to ask you, is there something out there in the water that`s changed, or
are we confronting the old power of the NRA?
REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D), NEW YORK: Well, certainly, we are confronting
them. We`ll always be able to confront them. But this time is different,
and I think that the American people are realizing on how radical they
You know, when you see the polls and most people in America support on what
we`re trying to do, even NRA members, so that this time is different. You
know, I think it`s a combination of the gun violence that we have seen over
the last couple years, but what happened in Connecticut, that went over the
We had a hearing yesterday afternoon, and I have to tell you, victims that
I`ve been working with for years from Virginia Tech, from Aurora -- I mean,
everybody was crying as the superintendent of schools was talking about the
children and what they can do.
So it is our job, but we can`t do it alone. And the president`s doing a
wonderful, wonderful job with his energy, and the vice president`s energy,
bringing America together for sensible reduction of gun violence. That`s
all we`re asking.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you first, before I show some of these
snapshots of some of the crazier Republicans now -- Cynthia, how can we
have what I do believe is a movement toward the center of the country from
the right? I think there`s a slippage away from that crazy side.
But at the same time, you have real angry, zealous 2nd Amendment talk out
there, not just for hunting or self-protection, but to fight the
government. And these are leaders in the Republican -- I`m going to show
them -- how can both be happening at the same time?
CYNTHIA TUCKER, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA: Well, I think there`s a split, the
same kind of split that you`re beginning to see in the Republican Party on
other kinds of issues, including fiscal issues. There`s one group of
Republicans that realizes in the wake of the slaughter in Connecticut, you
need to at least be sensible and sensitive and sit down and listen to talk
about sensible gun measures...
MATTHEWS: Yes. What`s breaking that group apart, though? You study
politics. What makes the right stay on the right and the real people in a
hurry types the real political types like Rubio and Rand Paul, the ones who
really want to go for the gold -- why are they going hard right? Is that
where the gold is for the Republicans still?
TUCKER: They -- they believe that...
MATTHEWS: The craziest right?
TUCKER: They believe that they get money and support only if they back the
most extreme policies of the NRA. I don`t think that`s true, Chris. I
think the NRA has persuaded people that it has a lot more power than it
You know, when Al Gore lost in 2000, lost the Electoral College vote, he is
the one who started saying that he lost because of his support and Bill
Clinton`s support for gun control measures, including the assault weapons
ban. Other Democrats began to say the same thing.
Well, that gave the NRA far more power than it deserved. I didn`t believe
it was true then...
MATTHEWS: Well, you got to look...
TUCKER: ... and I don`t believe...
MATTHEWS: ... at West Virginia, and West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee.
That`s where he was finding his problems, right?
TUCKER: Where Republicans win anyway. The people who vote for Republicans
in those states are not going to vote for a Democrat. It doesn`t matter
MATTHEWS: OK. I`m not going to argue with you except on these points of
Electoral College votes. It used to be until recently we got Arkansas on
the Democratic side. West Virginia was a consistently Democratic --
anyway, let`s look at some of the guys on the far left here -- far right
here -- fear factor.
Kentucky senator Rand Paul, who wants to run for president, is concerned
the president has a king complex, and Paul is out there vowing to nullify
any executive orders that impede on congressional powers, which, by the
way, has not happened. By the way, you use the word "nullification,"
you`re talking Civil Rights -- civil war here. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: And our founding fathers were very concerned
about having a separation of powers. They didn`t want to let the president
become a king, and so they wanted to say that Congress was the one to
legislate, not the president.
So we have a bill that we`re going to introduce early next week, and in
this bill, we will nullify anything the president does that smacks of
legislation. And there are several of the executive orders that appear as
if he`s writing new law. That cannot happen.
I`m afraid that President Obama may have this king complex sort of
developing, and we`re going to make sure that it doesn`t happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Nullification, Senator Bilbo.
Anyway, Marco Rubio last night accused the president of not believing in
the 2nd Amendment. Here`s a guy clearly running for president. Let`s take
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I actually think the president, and he just
doesn`t have the guts to admit it, is not a believer in the 2nd Amendment,
although he states that he is. And that`s what I`m saying. If these guys
don`t -- the 2nd Amendment is in the Constitution. I didn`t write the
Constitution. Neither did you, neither did he. If he doesn`t want the 2nd
Amendment to be in the Constitution or if he wants to reform the 2nd
Amendment, then have the guts to admit that!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman McCarthy, what`s this -- where is this talk come
from, this sort of street corner lingo, guts, guys getting together, guts,
the president has the guts. A little respect might be in order here for
the president of the United States from this guy, talking about a guy not
having guts. It`s street corner talk from Rubio.
Your thoughts. And we`re talking about guns here, by the way, right?
MCCARTHY: We`re talking about guns here, yes, but we all swear to uphold
the Constitution. I believe in upholding the Constitution. The Supreme
Court already came out that a person has a right to own a gun. But you
also know that we also have the right to pass laws to protect our citizens.
So I mean, this is the fear that they keep throwing out there. And they`re
not trying to get to someone that`s a moderate. They`re going straight to
their hard-core right people. That`s why they lost the presidency. That`s
why they lost a few seats in the House.
They have to start -- excuse me -- coming together to get -- not just on
the gun issue, on an awful lot of issues. Look what happened the other day
with Sandy. It was Democrats that got that bill over the line.
But you know, it should be working together for all of the American people.
And right now, all the polls are showing the American people, including NRA
members, including gun owners, are saying we should be doing something.
One of the things that we noticed, most people, NRA members, gun owners,
didn`t know that everybody was not going through a background check. They
didn`t realize that 40 percent of gun owners are getting their guns without
going through a background check.
These are all law-abiding citizens when they go to buy their guns. Why
isn`t everybody else? That`s what we`re fighting for. And the president
is not trying to be a king, he`s trying to save lives.
MATTHEWS: Well, we`re getting a mixed message from the right, but here`s
the crazier talk. Already, there`s pushback to the potential of new
federal gun laws in the states highlighted on your screen right now. There
For example, state lawmakers in Wyoming, Texas and Tennessee proposed
outlawing any enforcement of these laws. That`s nullification, pre-Civil
War talk, that don`t exist (ph). And by the way, sheriffs in Kentucky and
Oregon have said no to enforcing them. These are people saying, I`m going
to break the law by not enforcing federal law.
In Mississippi, Governor Phil Bryant asked his statehouse speaker to pass a
law declaring unconstitutional gun laws illegal. Anyway, he also doesn`t
believe in the ban on high-capacity magazines because criminals could still
get their hands on them. He said this week, quote, "If they want a 30-
round clip, they`re going to get it in Brazil or the Soviet Union. It`s
going to go on the black market. Self-protecting citizens won`t have that
right, but criminals will."
yes, I guess it is harder to get a gun from Brazil, though, maybe, or a
little harder to get one from -- what`s this place called, Soviet Union?
TUCKER: The Soviet Union.
MATTHEWS: How about catching up or keeping up with the class here?
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this because I did -- we got to look at
this now, in all fairness. Here`s David Keene, who I`ve known for years.
He`s a hard conservative for years. Here he is on "CBS This Morning"
talking about background checks. And this is where I think a window is
MATTHEWS: ... where in this area, I think people right, left and center
with any kind of rational sense know we got to do something. Don`t let
criminals, don`t let people with court-ordered sort of mental situations,
where they`ve been ordered not to do things or been under watch, to get
ahold of guns.
Let`s watch David Keene on "CBS This Morning."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID KEENE, NRA PRESIDENT: We want to see the proposal, but as a general
-- as a general proposition, the NRA has been very supportive of doing
background checks on purchasers through the instant system, and secondly,
of adding the potentially violently mentally ill to the database.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Cynthia, you`re shaking your head no. You don`t believe...
TUCKER: No. No, no, no.
MATTHEWS: ... the NRA`s been good on this.
TUCKER: But the NRA has opposed background checks for private sales. The
NRA has opposed background checks for sales at gun shows. The NRA and
other elements of the gun lobby are the groups that have kept the federal
government from having a comprehensive database on gun owners. They have
even stopped the CDC from doing research on gun violence. That`s how far
And I think there`s another element of this we have to discuss, Chris. I
would be remiss if I didn`t point out that it`s no coincidence that some of
this crazy over-the-top paranoia started with the election of a black
MATTHEWS: How so? Connect.
TUCKER: Well, let`s remember that in 2008, Obama had campaigned for his
first election being afraid to mention the words "gun" and "law" in the
same paragraph. He never said a single thing about gun control, gun safety
Yet when he was elected, gun stores sold out of guns. Gun stores sold out
of ammunition because the gun lobby had persuaded them that this guy is
coming for your guns. They`re already paranoid, extremist...
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s get to that overlay.
TUCKER: ... and they don`t like progressive, Democratic administrations.
A black president makes them crazy.
MATTHEWS: This is what`s changed, Congresswoman, in my, obviously less
than you, focus on this over the years. You`ve been totally focused for a
generation, since the tragedy in your family.
This idea that we don`t have a gun to protect ourselves, we don`t have them
to go skeet shooting or shoot rabbits or deer in deer season. It`s not the
usual sort of healthy sounding, at least, reasons to have a gun. It`s now,
I need my gun to protect me against the helicopters, the federal government
or the U.N.`s coming to get me. And now you`re actually hearing that sort
of point of view loudly, this idea, I need my gun to fight my government.
Is that new?
MCCARTHY: No, it`s not new.
MATTHEWS: It used to be posse comitatus and the real whackjobs out in the
far West were into that.
MCCARTHY: Well, we have them here, too. I mean, I`ve had constituents
come up to me and say, Why are you allowing black helicopters coming over
our areas? And I say, Well, we don`t have them coming over our areas,
possibly, you know, when the president comes into town.
But I mean, this is the fear that they keep putting out there all the time.
And I think that is -- and by the way, I believe that most Americans aren`t
buying that because, again, the polls are still showing that they feel that
the NRA leadership has become too radical in their thinking.
MATTHEWS: I hope they see it that way. Well, maybe that`s the good sign.
The silver lining could be that they`re so wacky, so awful, and indecent
when they talk about the president`s kids having bodyguards and they go
that far into that ditch, maybe the American people will break 3 to 1
against them. We`ll see.
Thank you very much, Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York and Cynthia
Tucker. It`s good to have you back.
Coming up: No more Mr. Nice Guy. President Obama tried to be accommodating
to Republicans in his first term, as we all know. What did that get him?
A debt ceiling crisis, charges he was a foreigner and total war on health
care reform. Well, now the president isn`t asking anymore, he`s demanding.
And you know what? It may just work.
Also, beating the neocons at their own neocon game. The neoconservative-
industrial complex put all its weight behind defeating Chuck Hagel. Looks
like they`re going to lose -- looks like it. Could it be that the neocons
are a spent force? Could we be that lucky?
And back in the USSR. Yet another Republican cites the Soviet threat to
the United States. These are the other kinds of neocons. They`re still
fighting the cold war! They want the cold war, I guess. Anyway, that`s in
the "Sideshow," where I hope it stays.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with my own thoughts about alcoholism and
addiction and how it tragically struck down one of the most prominent
political families in our nation`s history.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: In 2001, George W. Bush took the oath of office after a bitter
legal battle that only ended when the United States Supreme Court, of
course, ordered the state of Florida to stop counting ballots. Well, the
newly sworn president made reference to that struggle and tipped his hat to
his opponent, Vice President Al Gore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The peaceful transfer of
authority is rare in history, yet common in our country. With a simple
oath, we affirm old traditions and make new beginnings. As I begin, I
thank President Clinton for his service to our nation and...
BUSH: ... and I think Vice President Gore for a contest conducted with
spirit and ended with grace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, he seemed to be speaking English as a second language
there, didn`t he? Well, anyway, not everyone was as graceful as Gore, and
thousands of protesters demonstrated against the new president, some even
egging his limousine during the inaugural parade.
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Obama has sound the charge
for his second term with a trio really of bold moves this week. On Monday,
he warned Republicans to not even think of using the debt ceiling as
bargaining leverage. Let`s listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But they will not collect or
a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. The financial
wellbeing of the American people is not leverage to be used. The full
faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: On Tuesday, following a meeting that took place in the West
Wing, President Obama surmounted a huge hurdle in the nomination of Chuck
Hagel to be defense secretary when influential New York senator Chuck
Schumer gave it his blessing.
Then yesterday, the president forcefully and emotionally laid out his
proposals to curb gun violence and challenged Americans to confront their
representatives and stand up to the NRA. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Ask them what`s more important, doing whatever it takes to get an A
grade from the gun lobby that funds their campaigns, or giving parents some
peace of mind when they drop their child off for 1st grade?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Joining me right now is former RNC chair and MSNBC contributor
Michael Steele and Democratic strategist Bob Shrum.
Shrummy, I`ve got to start with you because it sounds like you got into the
president`s ear. I know you hadn`t, or haven`t that I know of. But he`s
starting to charge this campaign for the second term the way I think you
like to run campaigns, go to the essential issues, fight them, get tough as
BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think that`s true. Look, he had
some historic achievements in first term, but every time he reached out, he
He`s been through a campaign. He believes he`s won a mandate, and he has.
Every piece of polling data we have shows us that the American people
overwhelmingly agree with him on not playing around with the debt ceiling
and the full faith and credit of the U.S., overwhelmingly agree with him on
issues like taxes, 90 percent agree with him, for example, on universal
background checks on the purchase of a weapon.
It`s very different from what happened with George Bush when he won a very
narrow victory in 2004 and then said he had a mandate and decided he had a
mandate to privatize Social Security, which was deeply unpopular.
The great strength of the president here is that he knows what he wants to
do, he`s very focused, and he has the country with him. Some of this stuff
is going to be tough to get through Congress, and you may have to fight it
in the mid-terms and beyond, but he`s going to make real progress, I think,
because of what he believes and because he`s got the country with him.
MATTHEWS: Well, these are kind of fundamental issues for a president, guns
and keeping the government going and fighting for his foreign policy team.
It`s not like he`s looked for a fight.
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, and...
MATTHEWS: Let`s face it, Newtown forced everybody to deal with the issue.
MATTHEWS: The gun...
STEELE: ... changed everything.
MATTHEWS: Your thoughts. But I don`t think he`s looking for a fight. I
think he`s found one. Your thoughts.
STEELE: I agree with you on that.
And I think this has been, since the election, probably the best period
this president has had in the last four years, where a lot of things have
just come together for him. And he`s in sync with the country and the
country is in sync for him.
And I think Newtown was that galvanizing moment. And the question for the
GOP right now, quite honestly -- and I will look you in the eye and ask
you, are you prepared for this Barack Obama? You didn`t seem to be able to
handle the first one. Are you prepared for this one, who now has the kind
of wind in his sails going into a second term? That can be very, very good
for him in terms of at least in the first six or so months laying down some
hard lines for the GOP to cross.
STEELE: I think they can, but they`re going to have to make the argument,
you know, from a principled position, get off of the crazy noise that we
have right now that distracts from that underlying...
MATTHEWS: On an issue we just talked about, which is at the heart I think
of the common conversation in this country, is that we`re all on the same
pages about guns right now.
Bob, you agree, right? We`re talking about guns. It`s not like he changed
the topic. That`s the topic, and now the question -- right?
SHRUM: It had to be the topic.
SHRUM: And, look, what has happened is the tragedy was vivid, he`s been so
powerful and clear, that it shattered the old NRA notion that somehow or
other this was about gun confiscation.
And I agree with Michael. This has put the GOP in a very difficult
position because they can`t look like they`re just doing the bidding of the
NRA. They have to look like they care...
MATTHEWS: Well, they have to have a bill.
SHRUM: ... about the health and safety of our kids.
MATTHEWS: They have to have a bill, your party.
STEELE: They have to have a bill. They have to have a bill.
I mean, you can wait all day long for the Senate to send you something, but
you better have something to put on the table that...
MATTHEWS: Right. They have got to do something on background checks and
some other things.
Anyway, here is President Obama warning about the tactics. And this is
where he`s getting aggressive, pointing out the tactics as he presents --
he`s doing what Schwarzkopf used to say was shaping the battlefield. Let`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This will be difficult.
There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists
publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty -- not because
that`s true, but because they want to gin up fear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, President Obama put the ultimate onus on Americans to get
gun laws changed.
Listen to how he`s getting people engaged here. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I will put everything I have got into this, and so will Joe, but I
tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: A good point, and I think both of you know this.
As I said the other night, if only the corporations set corporate tax law,
it would be pretty low. If only the gun guys -- if only the gun guys set
gun laws, there ain`t going to be any gun laws.
MATTHEWS: So, the people who don`t own guns or the people who own guns
casually are going to have to do something. Right?
STEELE: Yes, exactly right.
And that is what the president has taken away from the lessons of Newtown,
listening to the heartbeat of the people right now on this. And you can
see it in the polls. You hear it in the language, and right now the GOP`s
message is out of sync with that heartbeat. And I think there are ways and
opportunities for them to get back in sync to lay out that concern about
the Second Amendment and why the protection is important, but put it out
there in the context of those kids who were killed, because that`s what
people will see most of all.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about the president`s strength now. Bob, you
know what they are. This Monday and this Tuesday, he will have taken the
oath a second time. The American people have doubled down on this
president. A majority of the American people have voted for this guy, two
majority votes in a row.
He will have that in his pocket starting Monday afternoon. The second
thing is his party is, fairly -- well, it`s not fairly -- to say any
politicians are popular. But look at this. The Republican Party`s
favorable numbers are in the tank. Right now, the favorable rating for the
Republican Party is 26 percent, and 49 percent unfavorable.
And that`s 49 percent, an all-time high for the GOP. What happened to your
party? Because, Michael, I`m not blaming it on you. It was riding high
comparatively under you.
STEELE: Well, it was.
MATTHEWS: But under Reince Priebus lately, look what happened to it.
STEELE: I inherited a party -- I inherited a party where that number was
26 percent and we got it back where we had a conversation with the American
people about things that mattered to them.
We weren`t out talking about vaginal probes and all these other things. We
were talking about the economy and jobs and what people really wanted to
see done. We moved away from that. You know, the RNC, the leadership,
whatever it is, they have focused on something other than what the American
people are talking about.
And we paid a dear price this past November. And we will continue to pay
that price if we don`t wise up and get smart about what the people in this
country are concerned about.
The other side to you, Bob, as a Democrat, what are the advantages the
Democrats have to use as a party now? They don`t control the House.
Whatever happens on guns, for example, is going to have to come out of a
Republican-dominated committee in the House. That`s tricky.
And I keep thinking in the end we can talk all we want about the man in the
street and the woman in the street and public opinion. You know how it
works. Somebody has got to get it out of committee and on the floor of the
Senate and the House. Somebody has got to do it.
SHRUM: Well, we will see if somehow or to we can get around this rule
about the majority of the majority has to be for something.
We have -- basically, Boehner`s dispensed with that rule twice. But, look,
when you look at those numbers for the Republican Party, I`m reminded one
of my favorite lines from JFK, which you quoted on the show last week. "If
you ride the back of the tiger, you often end up inside."
Well, they rode the back of the Tea Party to power, and right now the Tea
Party is dictating to them. If the Tea Party succeeds, for example, in
pushing them into default on the full faith and credit of the country, and
the economy crashes, that 49 percent disapproval will be 69 percent.
MATTHEWS: Bob, that`s exactly what I was thinking before the show tonight.
Who is in charge, the NRA or the Republicans. Who is riding whose back?
It looks like the Republicans are riding the NRA back, and it`s a dangerous
Thank you very much, Michael Steele, sir.
And, thank you, Bob Shrum.
SHRUM: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Remember those long lines in Florida this past
Election Day, where Republicans tried to make it difficult for people to
vote? Wait until you hear what Governor Rick Scott is saying about it now.
Not my job. I didn`t do that. Don`t blame me.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow."
Escaping the blame, or trying to. Remember those huge lines, those long
lines we saw on Election Day in Florida? Well, that was the result of
fewer days and locations for early voting, all part of the Republican push
to discourage certain groups, hint, hint, from getting to the polls.
Well, back then, Florida Governor Rick Perry -- or, actually, Rick Scott in
this case, didn`t seem troubled by it at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Should you have extended early voting hours?
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Well, I`m very confident that the right
thing happened. We had 4.4 million people voted.
QUESTION: Well, you said that, but should you have extended early voting
SCOTT: We had 4.4 million people voted. We had great...
QUESTION: Can you answer the question?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, things change, don`t they?
In a meeting with members of the state legislative Black Caucus on Tuesday,
that`s this week, Governor Scott said: "It wasn`t my bill. The legislature
passed it. I didn`t have anything to do with passing it."
Sure. He only signed it after it was passed by members of his own party.
And then his administration spent a half-million bucks in legal fees trying
to defend it. And now he`s reversing course, when can happen when your own
disapproval rating stands up there at 57 percent negative.
Also, I told you earlier about Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and his
warning that if people can`t get high-capacity gun magazines here in the
U.S., they will go to places like, well, Brazil and the Soviet Union to
fill the void.
Unfortunately for Republicans, Bryant is just one more add to the list of
party members who have forgotten the Soviet Union dissolved over two
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: What people recognize is there`s a
fear that the United States is in an unstoppable decline. They see the
rise of China, the rise of India, the rise of the Soviet Union, and our
loss militarily going forward.
RICHARD WILLIAMSON, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: Leading
means engaging an issue like Syria, one that is -- according to the CENTCOM
commander, the biggest strategic blow to Iran is if Assad leaves. It`s
strategically important to the Soviet Union.
JOHN LEHMAN, FORMER ROMNEY ADVISER: We`re seeing the Soviets pushing into
the Arctic with no response from us. In fact, the only response is to
announce the early retirement of the last remaining icebreaker.
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On almost every measure
this president has failed. Now, he`s also failed overseas. He entered
into an agreement with the Soviet -- excuse me -- with Russia with regards
to the New START Treaty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Too many neocon speechwriters. These cold warriors are still
fighting the war.
Finally, bad news for Roe v. Wade. It`s got nothing to do with overturning
it. According to a new Pew poll, it turns out young people don`t really
know what Roe v. Wade was. Just 44 percent of those under the age of 30
correctly cited the case dealt with abortion rights; 16 percent thought Roe
v. Wade was about school desegregation; 41 percent either didn`t know at
all or said with another issue like the death penalty or the environment.
All the same, the poll showed a majority of Americans, bottom line here,
want to keep abortion legal.
Up next: The neocons are fighting Chuck Hagel, and the neocons are
currently losing that fight. That`s ahead and that`s coming here. You`re
watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
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Stocks rally with the Dow closing up 85 points, just shy of a five-year
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years, and the Nasdaq added 18 points.
Investors overlooked disappointing earnings from Citigroup and Bank of
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jumped more than 12 percent last month. And jobless claims falling by
37,000, hitting a five-year low.
That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Even before President Obama announced the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be
secretary of defense, his secretary of defense, the neocons out there, the
hawks, made it clear they would go to war to stop it. And, of course, the
neocons know how to start wars, but nearly two weeks after the president
picked him, Hagel`s nomination is gaining momentum and his neocons critics
out there are increasingly on the defensive.
This week, two influential, very influential Democrats threw their support
being Hagel, Chuck Schumer of New York and Barbara Boxer. And a new poll
for "The Washington Post" and ABC shows 42 percent of this country supports
the Hagel nomination, compared to only 24 percent who oppose it.
That shows an amazing amount of knowledge on the public`s part. I`m a
little skeptical. The confirmation hearing, however, is set to begin
January 31, not too far off, and Hagel will no doubt face tough criticism
from Republicans on the committee.
But the neocon hope of defeating Hagel outright seems to be a bit dimmer
this week. And more important, they seem weakened. Did they overplay
their hand? Big question.
Peter Beinart is editor of The Daily Beast blog. Open Zion, it`s called.
And Joan Walsh is editor-at-large at Salon and an MSNBC political analyst.
Thank you so much.
Peter, I have watched your views and have followed them as you have gone
through the journey you go through so often on these issues. And I do
respect it, always when I disagree with you, I really disagree with you.
And when I agree with you, I`m in wonder.
So, you watch the neocons, and they tend to be a little bit coward right
now or hesitant, although I still read "The Weekly Standard" every week, I
still hear from Kristol. You hear Bolton with his outlandish statements.
Where is that community right now on Hagel? Have they given up? Do they
feel they overplayed their hand? How would you write it as a columnist
PETER BEINART, THE DAILY BEAST: I think we have moved on to phase two.
I think phase one was to try to stop Obama from nominating him. Once Obama
nominated him, I think they couldn`t win, and I think the phase now is
essentially to de-Hagel Hagel, to neuter him...
BEINART: ... to get him to walk back all of the statements about, for
instance, the potential dangers of military action against Iran. I think
that`s where we are now.
MATTHEWS: So, we`re now in a Cambodian reeducation camp.
BEINART: I`m not sure I would use that analogy, but I think they`re now
trying to basically make Hagel be in line with the absolute conventional
wisdom in Congress, which is that you say military action is on the table,
which is OK, but you don`t say that military action could have very
Let me go to Joan on this.
Joan, you and I watch this group. You`re more a dove. No, we`re both
doves. In fact, I don`t know why I even said that. We`re both doves. And
I think I just am very skeptical of any wars, including going and getting
Noriega and Grenada, and all the rest of these little bite-sized wars.
Well, when we confront with Iran, it`s hardly going to be bite-sized. It`s
not going to be a neat, clippy war, we do the job, we come back and they
live with it. Who knows what is going to be the fallout?
In saying these are dangerous propositions, like going to war with Iran, it
seems to me evidence of sanity on the part of Hagel, not something to fall
JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, in fact, it`s absolutely sanity.
He`s also called the defense budget bloated.
They will probably get him to walk that back, even though it`s true. He
called for an earlier exit from Afghanistan than perhaps the president
would have backed at the time that he said it, although things have changed
since Hagel said it.
So it`s a terrifically important piece -- decision. And Peter`s latest
piece is great. I hope he`s -- I`m probably too idealistic. I hope he`s
not going to walk back his positions, because he`s right on all these
things. The reason he...
MATTHEWS: You`re talking about Hagel, not Peter.
WALSH: Peter is...
MATTHEWS: He was looking -- I was looking at his face while you were
talking. He was worried I was talking about him.
WALSH: No, no. No, I`m talking about Hagel.
Peter is right about this, too, about -- generally about this. I think
they did overplay their hand. You know, I guess if you or I had gotten us
into a war based on false pretext, Chris, maybe we`d be cocky and walking
around like we could tell President Obama what to do. You know, they also
took over Mitt Romney`s campaign, even though they left poor George Bush
and his reputation in tatters.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Yes.
WALSH: So they`re very cocky. They`re very full of themselves. But I
think they met their match in Chuck Hagel.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go into the weeds here, Peter. You`re Jewish in your
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s -- this is tricky business so I`m careful how I go
into this as a non-Jewish person. The question is about anti-Semitism.
When that flag is raised, certainly it scares everybody. No one wants to
be known as that way. No one wants to be ever accused of that even though
this country before World War II, before the Holocaust, before everything,
all the horrible things that happened, all the people that were killed by
the Holocaust, there was a casual kind of anti-Semitism in the country.
I have seen studies on. Just reading a new book by Lynne Olson on that
about the Lindberg period and all that. It was casual. Seventy-some
percent of people were just openly, flagrantly anti-Semitic.
When you make that charge today, first of all, you`ve got to get into
another person`s heart and mind. It`s very tricky business. But when it`s
given, it does work.
Talk about how that was done in the past, Peter, and how you feel about it
being used in the case of Chuck Hagel, fairly or not.
BEINART: The reality, historically, is the anti-Semitism of the United
States started to decline dramatically after World War II because anti-
Semitism was associated with our enemies. That was the fundamental shift
that took place generationally, really kicking in by the 1960s and `70s.
Is there still anti-Semitism? Of course, there`s still anti-Semitism. But
I as a committed American Jew it seems to me very, very important that we
say very clearly that our fellow Americans who are not Jewish are innocent
of anti-Semitism until proven guilty and that the bar has to be high just
as the bar for accusations for racism or other forms of bigotry should be
high. You shouldn`t make these accusations casually. You should do your
homework and you should be careful about them.
And that was not the case with Chuck Hagel where a bunch of people
basically popped off without knowing really what they were talking about,
and besmirching the reputation of a very, very good man. And I am so
pleased and so proud that so many people, including many Jews, stood up and
said, you know what? This is disgraceful and we`re not going to stand for
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s take a look at this. Hagel has faced those charges.
I mentioned it, you mentioned it.
Elliott Abrams is a deputy national security adviser to President George W.
Bush, told National Public Radio, quote, "Chuck Hagel seems to have some
kind of problem with Jews."
Let`s listen to Elliott.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ELLIOTT ABRAMS, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I think he has a
chance at his confirmation hearing to show that he is not what he appears
to be, which is frankly an anti-Semite. It`s not just being anti-Israel.
He`s got a problem with what he calls "the Jews", the Jewish lobby.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I don`t think he ever used "the Jews" as a term, by the
MATTHEWS: And I think he said the Jewish lobby casually. He probably
should have been more precise because he was referring in this instance to
those who support Israel. He wasn`t referring to a Jewish lobby concerned
about general anti-Semitism or the idea, or in those groups that are
legitimately called or you might call them the Jewish lobby.
But when you`re talking about Israel, you`ve got to be precise in this
country, which is very heterogeneous. We have a lot of different points of
view and a lot of sensitivities that have to be respected. I believe that.
That`s how we talk, Joan, in America.
MATTHEWS: We make careful effort to do that. Your thoughts?
WALSH: Right. And Peter is right. The neocons didn`t do their homework,
because Aaron David Miller, the great Middle East expert who actually is
the person that Chuck Hagel used the phrase the "Jewish lobby" with, came
out in foreign policy and defended him and called these charges scurrilous
and defended his approach to Israel and to war.
So, you know, they really -- they popped off, they didn`t do their
homework, they assumed -- you know, Elliott Abrams is despicable just to
hear him talk about Chuck Hagel that way.
WALSH: There`s no evidence for it, and they`re used to those charges
really stinging. I mean, Peter has faced it in his own way, too. They`re
used to those charges really putting you beyond the pale.
And this time it didn`t work. A lot of American Jews came to his defense.
There was no evidence for it, and it`s actually kind of a great feeling
when something like that really backfires on the people who are trying --
MATTHEWS: Well, I think we as free in our debates. I think, Peter, you
agree with me, as they are in the Knesset down in the Israel --
MATTHEWS: -- because they argue -- you see (INAUDIBLE), you have people in
peace now, you have people in the center, people on the left fighting it
out with Netanyahu. You`re allowed to fight with Netanyahu, ladies and
gentlemen. It`s OK.
Your thoughts, Peter. Last thoughts.
BEINART: Absolutely. There`s no consensus on these views in Israel. No
one has a monopoly of being pro-Israel and, in many ways, Chuck Hagel
reminds me an enormous amount of the Israeli generals and people from
national security establishment like Mayor Dagan who are drawing their own
military background and warning about the potential of war with Iran.
MATTHEWS: Because like Hagel, they`re the ones --
BEINART: They are the ones who seen it up close.
MATTHEWS: That`s so -- and, by the way, the history of Anwar Sadat and
Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, people who have fought the good wars and
Eisenhower, if you will.
BEINART: And learned the lessons.
MATTHEWS: Knowing when and they`re pretty good not to do it.
Anyway, thank you, Peter Beinart and thank you, Joan Walsh.
BEINART: Thank you.
WALSH: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next, this prompter is a little show. Two Kennedys, former
Congressman Patrick Kennedy and his cousin Christopher Lawford Kennedy,
join us to talk about addiction, mental health and guns.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: In 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sworn in as president for
the first of his four terms. And with these words, he delivered an
inaugural address that`s been called the most important American speech of
the 20th century.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Let me assert my firm
belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That voice rings true. Anyway, FDR`s first inaugural was the
last to be healed in March. The Twentieth Amendment, which is ratified in
the January of `33 moved all subsequent inaugurals to January so it`d be
And we`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
One way or another, nearly every American family has been touched by
addiction, whether it involves alcohol, gambling, nicotine or drugs, and
whether the addict is under your roof or somehow intertwined in your life,
you`re affected. And the Kennedy family is no different than others.
In that respect, Christopher Kennedy Lawford has written a new book to help
addicts and their families. It`s called, "Recover to Live: Kick Any Habit,
Manage Any Addiction."
He`s joined here by his cousin, former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick
Kennedy, a pal of ours.
And thank you both for coming in.
CHRISTOPHER KENNEDY LAWFORD, AUTHOR, "RECOVER TO LIVE": Thanks.
MATTHEWS: You`ve written a book here, a lot of useful information, besides
your own personal story. What were your problems, personally? What
history do you have?
LAWFORD: I started using drugs when I was 12. I had genetic front
loading, I also had trauma.
And we know from the studies at NIH that these two things together make you
a real candidate for this disease.
This book has the best information on the planet today for people who have
this illness and people who don`t or people who think they might or know
MATTHEWS: When do you know you`re an addict? Some people call themselves
social drinkers, heavy drinkers. When you reach the point when you say, I
can`t control this without doing something?
LAWFORD: It`s a cost benefit thing. It`s how much harm is this behavior
causing you in your life? And do you want to change it?
If you`re the only one that can really make that diagnosis. And it really
-- it depends on how much harm, if there`s enough harm and you`re willing
to make some changes, you can pick up this book and you can get the
information that you need.
MATTHEWS: Your family, Patrick, yourself, your brothers. I mean, you lost
a brother David, down in Florida, drug overdose, you know --
PATRICK KENNEDY (D-RI), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: My cousin, David. Yes.
MATTHEWS: It had impact probably and other brothers like -- your cousins
like Michael. Who knows what influence it had? Your mom had the problem.
Some of it`s your family. Some of it is just you.
KENNEDY: You know what, I had the honor of sponsoring the Mental Health
Parity and Addiction Equity Act with my father. And, for me, it was a
great, personal vindication that I got to sponsor a bill that said you
ought to treat mental illness and addiction the same way you treat every
other physical illness. Even though my dad was old school and looked at it
as kind of a character flaw.
KENNEDY: And that`s the way America looks at it these days. We still have
to come to that realization these are chemistry issues, not character
MATTHEWS: Yes. Tip O`Neill, my old boss, looked at it that way. He had
problems in his time, his father, his brother uncle had a problem, his
brother died, had the problem with alcohol, and he had a child who had the
problem with drugs, too. Yet, he always thought it was a discipline
How do you change that?
KENNEDY: Well, Obamacare is going to implement uniform health care that
includes your brain -- everything, a check-up from the neck up. You know,
your mental health is going to be checked just like your blood pressure and
your lipids for high cholesterol.
MATTHEWS: OK. We`re talking to people out there. Suppose your wife is
out there watching and your husband is drinking right now -- too much.
LAWFORD: Too much. Well, the issue becomes --
KENNEDY: Buy the book.
LAWFORD: Yes, or buy the book.
I interviewed 150 smartest people on the planet about what this disease is
and what to do about it. There`s assessment tools in here. There`s tools
that can show you a way to recovery.
This is not -- this is the neuroscience that we know today. The brain
science that we`re getting today is irrefutable. This is a disease that
centers in the brain. People can`t deny it. Tip O`Neill, they didn`t have
the science back then.
MATTHEWS: Yes. What happens if have family members, four or five family
members and they all grew up the same way with the same parents, and only
one gets hit by it? How do you explain that?
LAWFORD: It`s a tricky illness. I mean, there`s one gene in your body
that determines whether you`re lactose intolerant. There`s 20 genes in
your body that identify that have something to do with the way alcohol is
metabolized in your body. You just don`t know. You can`t ignore the
complex interplay between biology and environment when it comes to this
MATTHEWS: What about the ethnic factor? We always talk about the Irish,
the Native American Indians. Is it a lack of tolerance? What`s the term?
Is there a term for it? Is it just legacy of it?
KENNEDY: No, no, no. There`s a genetic factor and there`s an
environmental factor. But the bottom line is we know how to deal with this
-- prevention, prevention, prevention.
KENNEDY: Nine out of 10 addicts started when they were teenagers. If the
brain is still developing and you hijack it with the use of experimentation
of marijuana, drugs, you`re permanently --
MATTHEWS: You don`t like these laws legalizing marijuana?
KENNEDY: No, I don`t. I think we need the public health community to
weigh in here. Because we already know what the liquor industry and the
tobacco industry have done to our country and targeting kids. And so, we
need to be mindful, and not rush into this.
MATTHEWS: Like Joe Camel and that kind of stuff.
KENNEDY: Exactly. Joe Camel, where are liquor stores? Liquor stores are
in places where people are going to abuse liquor and are going to have easy
access or going to be --
MATTHEWS: Now that I have the Kennedys here, this is too hot. The hottest
topic in this country right now is gun safety. Your family has been
victimized, this whole country, because of your family being victims, you
are all victims.
What`s your feeling about it?
KENNEDY: Well, it`s not just the person that`s killed, like my uncles.
It`s the whole family. So my father survived. But I can tell you, he had
post-traumatic stress. And that communicated itself to me.
He was in mourning the rest of his life. He suffered tremendously. And
all of my cousins who grew up without a father were also victims.
KENNEDY: That`s what we lose sight of. It`s not just the kids that are
killed up in Newtown or in Colorado. It`s all of their families who are
LAWFORD: And it`s a generation.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s well said. Thank you for coming on. You`re a good
guy here, Richard -- I mean, Richard. Christopher, that`s my name.
Anyway, the book is called "Recover to Live: Kick Any Habit, Manage Any
Addiction." A very useful book. We only sell books you can use on this
program. But I think this one is for people to know what we`re talking
about, and you all know who you are. You know, our family knows this, too.
I know it, too.
Christopher Kennedy Lawford, Patrick Kennedy, thank you.
We`ll be right back after this.
LAWFORD: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: I never stop wondering why
people think drinking is too much -- it`s actually a joke, drinking too
much. How can something that ruins so many lives be the subject of such
rich humor? I said this as someone who believes alcoholism is a disease.
I`m not saying people aren`t responsible for drinking too much, just that
at a certain point, which can come early, a person is no longer in control.
It`s then either the person stops drinking or the drinking stops the
person, and for good.
I`m glad we had Christopher Lawford on tonight. He shows that the problem
of addiction is not limited to the down and out. The richest and most
glamorous of people are subject to it, sometimes more often because people
born to privilege can get the idea that they`re immune to dangers others
face. Alcohol and drugs could destroy not just ambition but lives and
families, telling jokes about it may have given us some laughs over the
decades, but for every comedy, there`s been more than one tragedy.
Getting this into our heads is a worthy go and I give Christopher Lawford
and Patrick Kennedy a lot of credit for devoting themselves now to getting
it into our heads.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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