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tv   The Chris Matthews Show  NBC  August 29, 2011 12:00am-12:30am PDT

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hurry in and lease the jetta s for just $179 a month. ♪ visit today. [captioning made possible by nbc universal] >> ask not what your country can do for you. >> tear down this wall. >> a time for change has come. >> not only that, we have an african-american president, been there, done that, now what? obama's election proved what we can do, but are we doing it? 48 years after dr. king's historic address, the first african-american president struggles to fulfill the dream. white voters prefer the republican but in 2008, barack obama didn't do too badly with whites. what about next time? will the racial divide grow wide
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and nasty? and finally, dick cheney and the tea party. does his hawkishness sell the republican voters? do they have a champion in the fight this time? so far you have to say no. welcome to the show. with us today, new york magazine's john holman, cynthia tucker, the "new york times's" helene cooper and "time" magazine's richard sten gal. the very fact of president barack obama is a resounding affirmation. two generations later of dr. martin luther king's dream. it was 42 years ago today that dr. king talked about america as a shining city on the hill. that seemed to be coming true two years ago today when barack obama wove that into his speech.
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>> that promise 45 years ago today brought americans from every corner of the land to stand together on the mall in washington before lincoln's memorial and hear a young preacher from georgia speak of his dream. >> he went on to win 43% of white votes in that election and that may sound low but democrats never win a white majority. bill clinton got 43% of the white votes back in 1996. al gore got 42%, john kerry got only 41% of white votes in 2004. obecause meas' 24% was on the high end. last november's she lacking of democrat -- shellacing of democrats beat a retreat. democrats got only 37% of white votes last november. 37%. it's all very worrying for the obama re-election campaign because in the most recent nbc poll, he, the president, is down to just 36% of whites.
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there you see the drop, helene, why the fall off? >> and you're asking me? i thought it was interesting what you said right now -- just now about the white house and obama's re-election campaign worrying about this. trying to get these guys to talk about race, is one of the hardest things to do as a reporter covering the white house. they always tell you, we don't look at it that way. they've tried so hard to present barack obama as a candidate who is not thinking race, race, race all the time they've don't present him that way. but of course they're worried about that. i think that's definitely an issue. a far bigger issue is not about whether race is going to be an issue. it's employment. i think the unemployment rate is what it comes down to for president obama. i think. and the white house. the white house officials, that's what they come back to. >> is it color blind or is the
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focus on his background? >> i think if you look at it through the prizm of class, not race, you see something going on in an interesting way in this country. down market voters, many of whom are white, making under $30,000 a year, who don't have high school educations, migrating to the g.o.p. what you had in the last election, one out of five voters made over $100,000 a year. obama won them by an overwhelming margin. that's an interesting class divide, not so much a race divide. >> that's pretty traditional, the white working class feels threatened by change. what do you say when you hear republicans like reck perry say, we're going to take our country back, not the white house back, what does that mean if it doesn't have a racial ting to it? >> i think it absolutely has a racial ting. that's not the same thing as calling, saying that they're racist. but they are using what activists call, political
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activists call something, sending a signal to their base to say, we understand the grievances that you have. and there is an interesting, not just a class divide but an interesting psychological divide, too, among black voters that separates black and latino voters from white voters. many white voters are persuaded that the future is not going to be any better. it's going to be gloomier for their children than it was for them. blacks and latinos were hammered more by the recession but they believe the future will be brighter. white working class voters look out at a country that's becoming more diverse, browner if you will, and they believe their influence is declining. chris: the knock on him, or i should ask, is there a knock that he's too black, favors the black community you hear that,
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is that an implication from the right charged against him? >> we heard a little while ago, we heard tom coburn make a comment about brauk -- barack obama trying to build a dependent state and he as an african-american relied on that to an extent when he was growing up. it's not that direct. it's not even about race it's about making barack obama seem like the other. it's about kenya and indonesia and it's about harvard and it's about the faculty lounge. chris: in the last campaign, barack obama saw race behind the way that republicans were handling the change he embodied. >> what they're going to try to do is make you scared of me. oh, he's not patriotic enough. he's got a funny name. he doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills, you know. chris: for his part, john mccain made it a policy to discourage
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plays on obama's race. will that be true this time? this month, rick perry said this. >> one of the powerful reasons i'm running for the presidency of the united states is to make sure that every young man and woman who puts on the uniform of this country respects highly the president of the united states. chris: whether it's rick perry or someone else, will the general republican candidate talk that way? we asked 12 of our group. eight say it won't be used, four say yes will. john, you say it will, helene you say it won't. how do you react to what you saw from perry? >> you talked about applause, i didn't hear much applause. >> you said john mccain
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discouraged using racial appeals. there were a lot of people around mccain who wanted to go through but the financial crisis hit. lehman brothers collapsed and it said that talking about jeremiah wright in that climate wouldn't help them. i think there's always a concern that republicans would use race-freighted issues to try to peel away white working class votes. they couldn't do it in 2008 and right now, given the state of the economy and the way the whole thing has been flipped on its head, i think it will be irresistible. >> for exactly the reason you said, economy is in the tank they don't need to. what's the point of doing that? they can run against him on the economy. chris: i wonder whether the big institutions, the major networks, for example, will try to fight this if the this -- if they smell it? >> i think that's true.
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we're talking about it today. if you go back four years and said, you know what we just elected our first black president. four years from now, the opposition is still going to run on the idea that he's the other that he's unfamiliar. we'd all say, my god by that time he would have been president for four years, he would have been so familiar, it's unusual that this still resonates and they're still using it. >> it says that race remains a divisive issue in the society and you can appeal to some voters by using it. and that's not going to go away any time soon. chris: i agree with that point. movies are always about the present, i believe, and a big hit right now is "the help," which was a huge bestseller as a book. it's set in the south, civil rights, early 1960's, it talks about a -- about white women and their demeaning or nasty
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treatment of black maids. >> hey, it wasn't there. >> going to have to kill that woman. >> are you in there? >> you are fired. >> well in the earlier days of hollywood, movies portrayed the antebellum south by presenting whites in a far better light, blacks in subservient roles they seemed comfortable in. here's the 1930 great "gone with the wind." >> if you don't care what folks says about this family, i does. i told you and cold you, you can always tell a lady for the way a woman eats like a bird. >> fiddle-de-de, he told he 4e likes a girl with an appetite. >> what a gentleman says and what he means is two different
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things and i saint een mr. ashley asking to marry you. don't eat too fast. crip in 1962, the civil rights era itself, hollywood produced "to kill a mocking bird," that unforgettable courtroom scene brought home the violent injustice in the american south. >> the witness is for the state, with the exception of the sheriff of the county, presented themselves to this court in a cynical confidence. knowing they would not be doubted. confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption, the evil assumption
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that all negros lie, all negros are basically immoral beings, all negro men are not to be trusted around our women. that assumption one associates with minds of their caliber. and which is in itself, gentlemen, a lie. chris: wow. movies are always about the present. "to kill a mocking bird" came out when john f. kennedy was taking on the system, defending the right of a student to be admitted to ole miss. when we come back, dick cheney's memoir coming out, will any republicans run on his legacy?
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chris: welcome back. dick cheney's new memoir is out
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this week. it reminds us of the old politic he is served up with the bitter charge that democrats were willing to ignore the threats out there. he's trying to keep that alive. >> if you try to walk away from pakistan or after dwan stan or that part of the world generally i'm fearful that we're headed for trouble down the road. i don't think we need to run for the exit. chris: but chaney's -- but cheney's party isn't there anymore. listen to the reception that ron paul got a few years ago. here he is in 2007. >> if we understand that 70% or so of the people in america want the war over with and want our troops to come home. third, senator clinton -- [audience booing." >> i say stay out of their internal business, don't get involved in the wars, bring our troops home.
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[cheering]. >> you don't hear that in these speeches this month from michele bachmann and mitt romney. >> we can never commit our troops to harm's way without a clear and vital american interest. we use overwhelming force and then we get out. >> our troops shouldn't go off and try to fight a war of independence for another nation. only the afghanis can win afghanistan's independence for afghanistan chris: where is dick cheney's voice in all this? >> it's all gone. tim pawlenty is the only candidate trying to voice something like that. now you have, whether it's mitt romney, rick perry, michele bachmann, ron paul, all float to isolationism. they recognize that people are tired of the endless wars and it is a political winner to be in favor of a more restrained foreign policy. chris: going on the offense which they will, because they're trying to take the white house
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back, are the republicans going to talk about obama's weakness? where will they find that? >> when you heard michele bachmann, she was talking about libya, saying we don't need to be fighting another country unless it's clear america's national security interest is at stake. i think they'll go after him on iran and definitely on israel. you don't hear any of the major candidates saying, we need to be in afghanistan longer. they are trying to hammer him on other places, other countries, as helene said, iran. are we being protective enough of israel? money is very much an issue in this. it is going to be very difficult, one of the things that's going to be interesting is the supercommittee now negotiating around the debt. will, in fact, the republicans refuse to come to the table to agree to a compromise that might
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have revenue increases, or will they allow severe cuts to the pentagon. this is setting up a test to see where the g.o.p. right now is on military spending. chris: could this be an election, we haven't had one in a while, where foreign policy just doesn't make it? doesn't get in the game? >> i'll put that in the context of what we're talking about with the military and what romney and balkman said. it's not just generals who fight the last war, it's politicians. to talk about the doctrine of overwhelming force, the powell doctrine is so yesterday. what we have found in afghanistan, what we saw in the killing of osama bin laden, it's the rise of special forces. it's the raise of sale team six, it's general petraeus' war ideology. they're not fought with the doctrine of overwhelming force. chris: that's so expensive. >> so expensive. the president can say, you're
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not even talking about the reality anymore. by the time the election happens, we'll be out of libya, withdrawing from iraq. we're just not going to hear about this. we'll hear about apology tours and how the president doesn't embody american exceptionalism. another cultural issue. chris: another way to say, we're going to take our ♪
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chris: welcome back.
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john, tell me something i don't know. >> for the entire republican presidential campaign, people assumed mitt romney was not going do to compete in iowa. with rick perry, michele bachmann and ron paul in the race, i think the romney campaign is saying they could split the conservative side of the field and we could sneak in and win iowa. my prediction is he'll compete there full-on by next january. >> chris, here we are celebrating a monument to dr. king, ironically the civil rights organization he founded, the southern christian leadership conference son its last legs. it had a fight over alleged embezzlement, a bitter court fight among board members, but its biggest problem is it hasn't been able to carve out a role for itself in a nation that has a black president. >> helene? >> the obama administration thinks it's got a secret ace in the hole in these debt super committee negotiations that are coming up in the fall. they think at the end of the
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day, the trigger is tilted in such a way that it's going to hurt republicans much more than democrats. i think that could be what tips things over. >> will it bring republicans back to revenue hikes? >> that's what they're bet bug actually the republicans don't care about waging war anymore either. >> speaking of 9/11 and the 10th anniversary, "time" has a documentary airing on hbo, you'll hear dick cheney praising president obama for what he did with osama bin laden. chris: when we come back, the big question of the week, will barack obama come roaring back after labor day and get the upper hand over republicans? [ man ] i got this new citi thankyou card
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the upper hand politically this fall and win a bipartisan agreement on the economy? john? >> the president always has bad augusts and good septembers. i think he'll come back with a lot of energy but i find it hard to understand how he's going to get actually something passed he may end up winning politically but i can't imagine legislatively how republicans, given the way the house is constituted,ians how he won that battle any easier than the last one. >> cynthia? >> i'm with john. i think that eventually, the president's poll numbers will improve some but i do not see any hope for a bipartisan agreement especially if it hinges on republicans agreeing to some revenue increases. >> the white house would argue that even if he loses, as i think he will, the battle in congress over getting a debt deal, he'll win the large every war because he will seem as more reasonable in the public eye.
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chris: will he -- will we know what he's for at the end of the argument? >> chris, i don't know. chris: it would help if we knew what he was fighting for. >> we're now in an environment that is 100% political. i think the actual legislation is not going to happen but he will come back with policies and you will know what he's for. chris: stark difference between him and the republicans. >> whether it's tax reform or other issues. they're looking at the bill clinton 1996 re-election playbook. he can stand up for it and people will say, we know what you're for. chris: great round table. thanks for watching, we'll see chris: great round table. thanks for watching, we'll see you back here
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