tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC September 24, 2010 5:00pm-5:59pm EDT
wealthy. our guest monday, president of the american federation of teachers. that's going to do it for us. "hardball's" up right now. let's play har hard. good evening. i'm chuck todd in for chris matthews. today may be remembered as the day american politics jumped the shark. when steven colbert came to testify before congress about the plight of migrant farm workers, he did so in character. it's not clear whose reputation took a bigger hit today. >> as we've heard this morning, america's farms are far too
depent on immigrant labor to pick our fruits and vegetables. the obvious answer is to stop eating fruits and vegetables and if you look at recent obesity statistics, many have already started. >> it didn't stop at capitol hill. harry reid and sharon engel supporters broke out into a full on brawl at a local christian school. plus, the republican pledge to america. what does it really mean? some say it's designed to get votes and change nothing. some on the left say it's nothing more than a smoke screen to disguise radical ideas. and the comeback kid with another comeback. bill clinton may be the go-to guy president obama needs to save him and his party. ask yourself this. how appropriate is it for clinton to be backseat driving obama when he's wrestled over
the same thing happening to him. also, finish the following sentence. the tea party is a, tearing apart the republican party or b, energizing the gop and opening up an enthusiasm gap. with democrat, the answer may tell us a lot. a and wait until you hear what eliot spitzer has to say about andrew cuomo. but of course, the "side show" is the lead today. in nevada, it's silly season. john raulsen and von berger, the politics editor for msnbc.com. look, we got to start with what happened on capitol hill. here's an exchange between john conniers and steven colbert today. let's listen. >> i'm asking you to leave the committee room completely and submit your statement instead.
>> if she would like me to remove myself from the hearing room, i'm happy to do so. >> that is correct. >> thank you very much. >> von, let me start with you. you've been doing this as long as i have. watching the 24/7 news cycle infect congress and now it's sort of gone to a level where an actor or comedian decides to go in character on capitol hill. what did we witness today? >> well, i really think that was the sticking point right there. we've seen celebrities parade in congress. kevin costner was there recently. they're in and out of that place all the time. but for colbert to be there in character was really taking this to an entirely new level and a really bizarre level. i think what they were trying to do, they were trying to get attention, the chairwoman was
trying to get attention for this issue. she succeeded, but i think that she and other democrats on the hill are going to be a little surprised at the negative attention they get over this. >> here's more of colbert testifying today. >> we know there was a long tradition of great nations importing foreign workers to do their farm work. after all, it was the ancient israelites who built the first food pyramids, but this is america. i don't want a tomato picked by a mexican. i want it picked by an american, then sliced by a quat mall lan and served by a venezuela where -- >> we're going to go to the crazyness you're in the middle of, but i'm in new york, vaughn in washington and we're seeing this and a lot of us are offended, an institution that while can get mocked all the
time went down a road we thought were not even capable of. how did you see this from your perch? >> wait a second, that's a steven colbert character? i'm shocked to hear that. we didn't know that. seriously, the real problem is what you know. people hold congress in such disrepute already and think it's a joke and then they see steven colbert go before congress in character and make these comments, i can't see how that helps the democrats. they can say they're bringing a higher profile to a big issue, but people see it as a comedy show. >> here's more. >> i've got to ask, why isn't the government doing anything? maybe this ad jobs bill would help. i don't know. like most members of congress, i haven't read it. >> i guess vaughn, what i don't understand is look, he is who he is. he knew what he was doing and
didn't make any pretense that he was going to be anything other than what he was. why were all those members of congress sitting there? why didn't they leave? we heard conyers. >> conyers was sort of giving the early warning signal. i'm not sure a lot of members of congress really got what was going on. when colbert talks about entering footage of his colonos, this is just reenforcing the negative opinions most people have of congress and they're going to be surprised this gives -- it's going to have a lot of backlash. >> now, pelosi was asked about colbert's testimony today. >> do you think it was appropriate he testified today? >> he's an american.
before the committee, has his point of view. he can bring attention to an important issue like immigration, it's great. >> one think i'm wondering about, i've seen some reaction on twitter. you're a big use rer of it, i'm a big user of it. today felt like a day that embarrassed me -- feels like a blue state, red state divide here. saying you know what, that's what satire does. sometimes satire's the best way to bring attention to an issue in a very smart way. if wall streit's one of those t maybe the heartland will say, this is why we want to throw the bums out. >> i think in the 24/7 world we live in now and things get posted, i don't think this is going to last that long. but i really think that the problem here is what we talked
about earlier. is that immigration is a serious issue and then you have steven colbert, who is a very, very funny guy. as a matter of fact, he had the las vegas mayor on his program last night in a farce, but he's a farcical guy. and to take an issue like that and have him talking about mexicans picking tomatoes, i think that's going to rub both folks the wrong way. >> this stuff in the congressional record, you can't read tone. just like in e-mail. it's going to live forever. i want to jump to nevada. jon, first we got to show the video of what happened last night. here's this fight at a christian school. i guess nobody was channelling their inner christian here. between engel supporters, reid supporters. this is a race to the bottom. in fact, you wrote today, you wrote a column today that said
basically you almost see why voters in nevada are going to put up their hand and not want either of these guys. you were there. what happened? >> it was a very strange crowd, chuck. this was an hour-long forum. harry reid wasn't even there. he had previously answered set questions by videotape. sharon engel was there. about 800 people there. cle clearly, the reid folks sent people in there, but both sides were equally unruly. engel was getting heckled and at the end as she was leaving, there was this scuffle that broke out and there are some astonishing pictures of this man throwing a fist right at a woman who was apparently bothering him and trying to get by him. who started it, who knows, who
cares. the kind of passions going on on both sides and it's not go sharon or harry. it's kill sharon or harry. the an mouse out there in this state toward these candidates is just astonishing. >> vaughn, every cycle, we say, it's never going to get stranger than this, than that. this cycle, every cycle takes on its own personality. this is one where it feels like all the venom you read about is now starting to be channelled at rallies. >> i think you've seen that throughout the campaign, frankly. you've seen commercials that talk about get your arms together and let's go against this federal government. >> some absurd rhetoric like what newt gingrich has used. >> that's right. as a result of the campaigns using that rhetoric, what do we expect to start happening other
than open brawls and campaign events? >> at one point, you wonder if this is going to start turning people off. you know, the irony of what colbert's doing, he and jon stewart are trying to have this rally on the mall for sanity and of course colbert today contributed to the insanity. vaughn, we've got a new feature we're teaming up on. the voter confidence index. tell us more about it. >> what we're trying to do with this is measure the impact of the anger out there. we've taken the average of big poll questions these national major polls ask commonly and averaged them together. we've come up with a number that sort of illustrates where the feel, the mood of the country is. negative is bad, positive is good. president obama is down to negative 38. we've also taken that back and looked at how the numbers stack up historically to other midterm elections. he's right now the president in
his party are about the same level as bill clinton was in 1994. they're worse off than where president bush was in 2006. we're not trying to be predictive. we're just trying to get people a twi look at what's going on. what that could mean in midterm elections. >> like our dow jones ticker. vaughn, political editor at msnbc and jon raulston who has a front row seat and could use boxes cliche to cover a senate race. coming up, the latest poll nurnls and the gop pledge to america. conservatives say it's too modest. we'll try to figure out both sides. [ male announcer ] you are a business pro.
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david axelrod who was president obama's main architect will leave and go to chicago. axelrod has long made it clear that he misses his acquired hometown and would return before the end of obama's four-year term. going to go back to chicago to restart the campaign. we'll be right back. ♪ now the healing power of touch just got more powerful. introducing precise from the makers of tylenol. precise pain relieving heat patch activates sensory receptors. it helps block pain signals for deep penetrating relief you can feel precisely where you need it most. precise. only from the makers of tylenol.
47-40. now to new york. a new merit poll finds and finally, the race in nevada, tied at 43. that's in a las vegas review journal. none of the above is the one that matters. we're going to continue this check the scoreboard each night leading up to election. the polls we know have a long track record of being accurate. time for more on the house republicans' pledge to america. here's california republican congressman kevin mccarthy today. >> the one thing you have to realize rk it's not a platform for the party. we have a platform. these are bills that can be taken up today. if you look at the 42 pages of
where you go through specifically lays out each bill of where it goes. this is something that could be taken up now when we won't leave. >> will this help the republicans in november? does it help democrats by giving them something to bash? let's bring in richard wolffe and perry bacon. richard, i'll start with you. it seems as if there's a lot of criticism being levelled at this pledge to america, from republicans, conservatives who are wondering why did you put anything out and make yourself a target and two, what you put out was too milk toast. >> i think it points to two thin things. first of all, this is a talking point for republicans. they have an agenda. people need to talk off the table the criticism there's no plan out there. that's important, but it begs
comparisons with 1994 which encourages us to say that's the benchmark. can they make 54-seat gains in the house. may not be helpful, the other thing this points to i'm afraid, negatively here, how unruly the house republican caucus is going to be after november. >> perry, let me read you something that andy roth wrote on his blog. he says -- we can go on and on, one of the pieces of reporting i understand was out there, this was a john boehner document and that eric cantor has been kind of silent on it, but not everybody inside the house republican caucus thought putting this out was a good idea
and if you're going to do it, watering it does was something everyone could agree on. >> social conservatives wanted more to be said about gay marriage. you've had people in the republican conference who wanted kind of a balanced budget. you also had people who wanted specific plans on social security and medicare. the republicans side -- not do any of those things. this is coming out before the election and they wanted to make sure they wanted an issue obama could attack. very political in method and probably won't be what they'll be doing this time next year if they're controlling congress. >> here's john boehner answering a question thursday. >> legislativlegislatively, how plan to honor families, traditional marriages --
>> if you look at house republicans over the course of the last year, two years or for that matter, the last ten years, you'll see that by and large, we have supported those pro family traditional values issues. on the point we make in this preamble to our pledge, is that we are not going to be any different than what we've been. we are going to stand up for those things that we believe in. >> we are not going to be any different than what we have been. richard wolffe, you hear the white house was giddy when they heard that comment. pat buchanan was saying yesterday, you gave something for the democrats to run against and now, john boehner just gave them a quote to use on tv ads. >> sure they did. remember how george bush packaged himself in 2000 as a different republican.
it's the same old republican. he was talking about social issues. it's not about the economic policies, which the white house would prefer to talk about. if you are just coming back with a same old same old, they want to throw all incumbents out. they want change to business as usual. i don't know how more of the same is what people want to hear. they want radically new things. most of all on the economy. i don't think either the family stuff or going back to the past is a winning message in either case. >> chuck, i think that the republicans were trying to say they're not going to do much. they were trying to say we're going to -- obama's done a lot, we're going to do very little. they wanted to put a document that said were for the same things we always were. that's what they were trying to do. it's not as if they were looking for new policy in the first place. >> it's clear they felt pushed into this. by either us in the media.
as the 1994 contract with america, is fact there were so many comparisons to that time period and thought if newt gingrich can do this, then john boehner can do this. the big difference, i want to ask this question of both of you and perry, the organizes force in 1994 was newt gingrich. in 2010, it's the grass roots. i think that's the complaint here, that that's not reflected in this pledge. richard? >> yeah, and it's not reflected because which part of the grass roots force of are they channelling here? clearly, people want to talk about the economy and is that the deficit side, the tax cut side. the one new piece of it is the obama piece. is that going to run into a chain saw on the deficit
questions because technically, health care lowers the deficit. i don't know which part of the tea party they want to channel here other than the winning part. the motivation part. you don't want to mess with that. >> perry, what did we learn potentially from this episode, watching this back and forth? this could be gone in a couple of days. we might not be talking about it as much. what did we learn about how the house republicans can govern, the leadership versus the rank in file? >> two things. one, we learned from watching boehner's answer to the question about moral values is that they are very nervous about how to talk about abortion, gay marriage. he did not know what to say. it was not a great answer. the second thing is they know what they're against. obama's health care plan. a lot of things the president and democrats have done. the document makes clear they're
not sure what they're for beyond making the government smaller. the question next year, if they're in charge, what do they do in march? what do they do when they have to actually solve problems. that's what i think the most important thing this document says. >> does john boehner own this document, own this idea? that was the indication. hey, this is boehner's. does this mean he already starts out as a speaker that's going to be, if he becomes speaker, that is going to be so answerable to the grass roots that we won't be able to even cut a deal with the senate majority leader, whether it's reid or mcconnell, or with the president without making sure he doesn't lose his own caucus. >> it's going to be a tough job. normally, the discipline questions come in for the senate
side. in the house here, he's going to have trouble with this big class of freshmen coming in if all the predictions are correct. at the same time, he's got to worry about the people who have been criticizing him. >> there are a lot of speakers in waiting besides john boehner. thank you, both. come iing up, chris christis a true gentleman not afraid of a fight. especially to defend a lady. today feels like an entire show that got turned into a side show. in the sky ♪ ♪ for a chain of supply, that's logistics ♪ ♪ when the parts for the line ♪ ♪ come precisely on time ♪ that's logistics ♪ ♪ a continuous link, that is always in sync ♪ ♪ that's logistics ♪ ♪ there will be no more stress ♪ ♪ cause you've called ups, that's logistics ♪
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a heckler interrupted. christie was dwoik jump in. >> hey, listen. hey, listen. you want to yell, yell at me, but don't give her a hard time. we're here talking about the future of the state of california and our country and you know what? let me tell you this. it's people who raise their voices and yell and scream like you that are dividing this country. >> christie services are in demand. california's just the first stop on his 11-state political tour. he says he's not thinking about running for president in 2012. in new york, eliot spitzer laughed at andrew cuomo. spitzer said yesterday --
this is come frging from the guy who himself had to resign over his own personal scandal. ouch. finally, the white house sends it regrets. check out today's lead item in page six. obama trio planning to skip peter orszag's wedding. paper reports they made last minute cancellations apparently because of a new york times column orszag wrote this month. the wedding is set for tomorrow in manhattan. i think it has a lot more to do about something that is not about the column, but how they work together in the white house. now, for tonight's big number. started with lisa murkowski. now, mike castle is trying to see how he would do as a write-in candidate. there's been just one senator
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please welcome president bill clinton, ladies and gentlemen. welcome back to "hardball." president clinton shows he moves with ease. here's his advice to democrats in this midterm. >> i think that the democrats ought to put on one card no more than five and no fewer than three things to be their priorities. we've still got a chance, 30 days, to have an honest debate. >> president clinton is an in-demand cameraer. can he make the difference for democrats? jim vandehei and howard, howard, let me start with you. it is interesting to me to watch
bill clinton in essence, second guessing some of the folks in the white house. here's supportive, but second guessing the strategy. when he frankly had the same problem in 1994 and there were people second guessing, though not so publicly. >> yeah, there were. there was a whole generation of kennedy people, for example, who thought they knew more about washington and politics even than bill clinton did. there were some people on the hill back in the days when hill people were independent forces and not thought of as appendages of their interest groups. they were saying the clintons are in over their head. they're not communicating. one of the things bill clinton should have said here is that when you get to become president, you assume in the first year or so, that everybody's listening, everybody understands, everybody knows your successes and failures. it's not true and it wasn't true back then. bill clinton learned after '94
that he had to campaign relentlessly to say wa his goals are. >> john may be one of the best observers of bill clinton and h he's had a couple of tours this week. the one earlier this week where he reported that bill clinton, he was he was repeating an adage about a transformation he thought newt gingrich delivered in 1994, which erases the tip o'neal, all politics is local. gingrich nationalized and he was basically saying all politics is nationalized now. >> right, which i think a will the of people on the hill don't agree with. he's arguing that they've all been national elections. it's probably true this year because i think the national issue is that there's a ton of frustration with the size and
scope of government and unemployment rate. his advice isn't that exotic or original to say you've got to some up with a couple of ideas. everybody knows they have to come up with something that's going to appeal to voters. the problem is, the clock is ticking and there aren't that many democrats. it's a little late for that advice. >> howard, what is it, this clinton advice, is it helpful to the democrats right now to hear this, him going public like this or is it something that frankly folks in the obama white house and folks running on the ballot this year, thinking, hey, big dog, we know you're a great political strategist, but don't go public now, please. >> it's kind of mixed. i think they would much rather at the white house, if bill clinton was out there just campaigning and saying good things about obama and saying it's democrats holding the
majority is important and not sound like mike shanahan, coach of the redskins. there's always been mixed feeling and emotions. barack obama was running against the clintons. as president, he should be doing more to cite bill clinton's record from the '90s. he should be saying, this is what democrats do. this is how we roll, this is what we did in the '90s, but to do that, he has to praise the clintons in a way that barack obama has never been comfortable doing. it's a mixed relationship. obama should be bragging more about clinton and clinton should be just out campaigning for obama, not giving advice. >> here's president clinton on the tea party. jim, i want you to respond after. >> in their purest form, tea partiers are saying i've been let down by big business and government.
i want reform in both. but the funders of the tea party movement tend to be pretty far right extremists. their goal is to destroy the power of government to mediate the power of corporations. i don't really that is a sustainable position. >> what's interesting, to watch him diagnose this and sort out the organizers from the grass roots. i remember bill clinton did an interesting response one time to the phrase compassionate conservatism where he was trying to send a message to al gore, here's how you respond to push. gore didn't take it. this is where he's at his best, which is being able to message for the democratic party that usually republicans are better at. >> i think that's correct. the way he can be most useful to democrats is to get out there and go fire up the democrats. if you break down the polling, democrats have acute problems
with african-american voters, working class voters. if you look at their level of enthusiasm, it's low an they have to figure out a way to reverse that. i think he has proven in the past in that pennsylvania special election not long ago, that he's very effective in certain districts and states. lord knows there's a ton out there where democrats could use him. i think it's just late for the messaging. you can't change trajectory of the campaign. what you can change, do you have if money, the ads and people fired up at that moment. >> howard, before we go, richard nixon or bill clinton. who's been a better ex-president strategist, political strategist, for their own party? >> party nixon. let's see how bill clinton does. and they say, chuck, that i'm joining the "huffington post" as
senior political editor. i know you're probably confused about how to identify me. >> i love a man with a lot of titles. >> i'm shedding some and ado adopting some. >> howard fineman of the "huffington post." jim vanderbihei, the better loog half. up next, are the tea partiers destroying the republican party or reenergizing it in a way they haven't seen in a long, long time? and the 60-day handshake lives on, that five-finger bond that communicates trust, honor, follow-through, and follow-up. it's a promise that says go ahead and buy a ram 1500 or a heavy duty without a payment for 60 days. and if it doesn't do everything you ask it to do...
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lawrence o'donnell is host of "the last word," which debuts this coming monday at 10:00 p.m. eastern time and jonathan allen is with politico. jonathan, because the last word, i'm going to let somebody else get the first word. jonathan, charles kraut is saying they -- >> i think a lot of these people are disallusioned from the past. the kind of people who described themselves as conservative first. if you're a political strategist in the midterm election when most people don't vote, you take the energy of the tea party and hope for the best. at
happens when political parts lose, that in the following ele, basically, the base is what energizes it. we saw it -- we've seen it happen inside of the democratic party before. we've seen it insisted republican party frankly multiple times. isn't this in many ways history repeating itself. >> yes, exactly the kind of energy that the democrats had in 2006 and then again in 2008 because they had something -- they had a regime to overthrow in the congress, and then you know in the white house. and so, there is no energy in politics like the throw the bums out energy. and the side that has that especially in midterms is a very difficult side to bet against. >> you know, jonathan, on the -- on what's going on inside of the tea party movement, and planted their flag and i think that what we saw with the roll out of this pledge to america and we saw frankly a rise up in disagreement, i would say, under the antiestablishment conservative press, right, if
you want to talk about the blogosphere. the folks based in washington, "national review" "weekly standard" like the pledge. it was the folks, the conservative writers outside of washington, saying, wait a minute, guys, you don't get it. >> well, it certainly doesn't have all the things that the tea partiers want, certainly not the social conservatives p it's almost silent on social conservative issues. it doesn't deal with immigration which is one of the big issues for tea partiers across the country and other folks who've been drawn to the anti-obama field. but i think that republicans believe that they're going to be able to hold onto those folks for the next five, six weeks anyway and that this pledge will be something that they can point to as a plan but not something that dominates the conversation. >> all right, we're going to be -- take a break right here. more with lawrence o'donnell and jonathan alflen just a moment. you're watching "hardball" only on msnbc. in a bubble. but what we can do is arm ourselves for the ones we love with a flu shot from walgreens. ♪ [ coughs ] [ female announcer ] with the most pharmacists certified to immunize... [ sneezes ] ...and walk-ins welcome everyday,
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my greatgrandfather did not travel across 4,000 miles of the atlantic ocean to see this country overrun by immigrants. he did it because he killed a man back in ireland. that's the rumor. i don't know if that's true. i would like to have that stricken from the record. >> all right we're back with lawrence o'donnell and jonathan allen. lawrence, you worked on capitol hill, a staffer for one of the most famous senators, maybe ever, in the 20th century, danek patrick moynihan. i ask you, was today a good day or a bad day for the institution of the united states congress? >> i've been asking myself that
all day, chuck. you know, at the senate finance committee where i scheduled the witnesses, i will say that i never, ever would have had a witness like this. and one of the reasons is, we never needed to get attention for our hearings. it was the most important committee using the most important subjects. however, when the house judiciary committee on immigration, refugees, border security and international law -- >> by the way, you've got to correct. ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. >> yeah. >> i know, well done. >> get the cameras there, there is only one way. and so he did bring attention to an issue and he broke character to certain point and made a serious point about this. he brought attention to an an issue that otherwise would have don't get none but it seems in most the coverage the attention is all about him. >> you know i guess i've got ask jonathan, borat has done this. i mean is that what we saw today, the borating of congress. i mean, did congress get the
joke. >> i'm not sure that congress did get the joke. we've heard a lot of this talk from democrats who are trying to cover-up afterwards. he brought attention to the issue but i think that lawrence made the point there. he brought more attention to himself know that the issue. i think to some extent he made not only a mockery of congress which can be done in small ways appropriately. >> sure. >> but this is a rather large way. but also in a way, kind of the issue. this is a serious issue the plague of migrant farm workers and here he is making jokes and fairly lewd jokes. i am sure they'll be replayed on comedy central or pay-per-view at some point. >> but he also, he also reminded them of the biblical passage, whatever you did for the least of my brothers, and then he went on to say, it seems like the least of my brothers right now, a lot of people have the least of brothers right now because of the economy's so bad. and he didn't want to take any hardship away from the other hard employed but made the point the least of our brothers are these migrant workers and made the point that they suffer and have no rights. there is a section of this
presentation of his that was very serious. chuck, the most fascinate thing for me was chairman connors tried to get rid of him when he came in and discovered that the subcommittee chairwoman had invited a comedian to the hearing. >> what if al franken was in character in the u.s. senate? what if he decided to be stewart smalley in the senate? >> never going to happen. >> i understand that he -- well you say, never going to happen. i guess what i'm asking, lawrence, is, i understand this whole -- we've sort of merging reality and celebrity into one now. this is what the 21st century media culture is, whether it's "dancing with the stars" or the "colbert report" or whatever it is. i -- i'm asking you, is this good for the system, bad for the system or is it simply the system. >> i think this is -- and you saw the don flict. john connors the full chairman. >> long time. the guy's been in congress for deck sides. >> it's what is this guy doing here and literally says to colbert, basically get out of here, leave. i don't want to hear your statement and then the subcommittee chairwoman hose
come in and explain, well, i invited him. that was to me one the most absurdest moments i've ever seen and knowing way that chairmanships work thaty to me was stunning. >> that he didn't -- >> why not invited speaker pelosi. had told speaker pelosi when she planned to do so i feel like she felt she the permission to do do it over and above chairman connors. >> lawn, i'll get you get the last word. i want you to promote youry. >> it's in my contract, chuck. don't get me wrong you're going to get the last word but i guess, is it fair to say -- here we had a comedian testifying on capitol hill, we had an actual brawl breakout on a u.s. senate debate swreerks chris christie yelling at audience members, is this campaign 2010 in a nutshell. >> it's what it's coming down to and as you know, chuck in that month the attention builds everywhere in both parents. every word, every move is scrutinized. the pressure increases every day on these things. and i think -- that's