tv The Chris Matthews Show NBC September 26, 2010 10:00am-10:30am EDT
>> this is "th cheris matthews show." >> askot what your country can do for you -- >> i can hear you. kevin: we loved him in the campaign. how is the marriage working out? has the president changed or have we? f.d.r. and clinton knew how to court us all the way. why did this guy stop at the altar? should a presided lea the charge against his foes? is it cool for barack obama to go face to face with he tea party set or does it help brng him down? finally, commander in chief. the book reveals president obama rejected t push for a wder war in afghanista ey wanted in, he wanted a way out. hi, i'm chris matthews. welcome to the show. with us toda is john heilemann, cynthia tucker, nbc's norah o'donnell and "the washington post" michael gerson. with barely five weeks left before democrats may lose the
congress, president obama is trying to fire up the people who sent him but have lost faith. some presidents were the same politicians in office as they were running for office. f.d.r. was, reagan was, clinton was. a moment this week showed the contrast between president obama and president clinton. with barack obama, recall how george bush 41 suffered in comparison to clintonin the 1992 town hall debate when a voter asked a feel your pain question. >> howhas the nation debt personally affected each of your lives? and if it hasn't, how can you find a cure for the economic proble of the common people if you ha no experience in what's ailing them? >> i think the national debt affects everybody. obviously it has a lot to do th interest rates, it -- >> on a personal basis, how has it affected you? >> has it affected you personally? >> i'm sure it has. i loe my grandchilden.
>> tell me how it affected you again? >> you know people who lo their jobs and lost their homes? >> uh-huh. >> i've been governor of a small state for 12 years. i'll tell you how it's affected me. kevin: now look at the side chris: now look at the side by side. barack obama in a town hall. >> it's taken an enormous toll on my family. my husband and i joked for year we thought we were well beyond the hot dog and beans of our lives. quite frankly it's starting to knock on our door and might be true that's where we're headed again. quite frankly, mr. president, i need you to answer honestly, is this my knew reality? >> first of all, i think that you describe exactly what is the bedrock of america. chris: we wanted to drill down why president obama lacks political touch. what has barack obama lost as president as he had as a candidate? the most common answer from half our metergroup is he's no longer inspiring.
the meter says he does not have a consistent message. and finally, some on our meter said mr. obama doesn't know the country. john, i thought your answer was interesting and said he lacks a consistent compelling communication right now. is it the people don't get why he is president, the basic reason he's there? >> yeah, and actually it goes beyond communication. you mentioned in t stup reagan and clinton. the are two people who are not just good communicators but had a good theory of the case, they knew what they believed and exained it well to the country and talked about where the country was at that moment in history and how their policies would translate and lead us forward. obama during the him campaign had a clear message but had that theory of the case, he was for change, he was not a clinton, he was not a bush. he came into office still without that big narrative and really hurt him becauset this moment you can see he is left as a state figure. people on the left think he's sold out as becoming a modern centrist and betrayed their
ideals. people in the center think he sold out and went to the left. no one still knows. even those who want to support the president,o one understands what obamaism is and what the president is all about. chris: it's clear his campai was inspiring. something about you went in the rooms with him and people were overwhelmed by the hope of this guy, hope. remember that pter? >> sure. chris: where is it? >> he promised hope, he promised change, he promised to never forget the middle class and it's the middle class who feel forgotten and exhausted. and as was said, that woman eloquentxp elained how she's goinback to hot dog and beans and he sd i remember whe michelle and i were eating hot dog and beans and paying off school loans but he failed to connect that way. he is prefaceoral. he had a meeting with axel rod and said you ha to connect better with voters. that's his weakness, they
acknowledge that and will have to change. chris: bill clinton, how he walked up to the woman, they said deficit and he said recession and there was no doubt he connected. >> there's no doubt bill clinton is one of the best politicians of his era and no doubt. but i think what we forget is what obama was like during the campaign. he was not always pitch perfect. there were times when his supporters, his advisors were worried that he wasn't communicating very effectively with the public. but i also think that we can't forget that obama is facing some problems that neither reagan nor clinton faced. the recession is worse, he was stuck with two wars and it is hard to make the case that i have brought change when things are still as bad as they are. chris: reagan had an 11% unemployment rate going into the first midterm. i think of people like
churchill, they were losing and kept the faith of the people. you've been there with president bush, george w. bush, is it a speech he needs to give or has he given too many? >> i recall david axel rod earlier when he as with clinton at the beginning of the senate campaign and asked, can you take a punch? that was the real question. and the president sometimes when he takes a punc when events a bad, he comes across looking pricklely and defenseless. i have a good friend who spent timeith obama anda favorably disposed to him. in private he reacts to everything boehner says and everythinghe republicans in congress say. chris: i wanted to get to that. does he react too much to the 24/7, some bloggers said something like he won't respond. is he losing his ability to make a compelling communication? >> i think all of these presidents he enormous egos.
you've worked closely with them before. of course they feel challenged and want to respond to those. it'sheir presidency and their job and ty feel so passionately about the country. he may respond too often but in a 24/7 culture, i think a lot of politicianings who haven't responded have found theelves on the other side. chris: the press secretary simply can't say "no comment." >> exactly. you allow the other side to win if you don't comment. chris: back in the campaign the big thinker, david pluff, the big thinker and axel rod, a very likable guy that's always around. are those two functioning at the clip it was then? >> i think that, look, the two of the three big guys in the campaign are in the white house, robert gibbs and david axelrod and he slumpedout for a different self the form of rahm emanuel. i think the team is tired and there is -- obama loves the tight circle. you want to tak about the grassroots, he managed the top
down way on that campaign mores so than any other presidential candidate. he didn't want to talk to his pollers or advisors and there was a small group of people he relied on fov adice. he kept those people and they are tired. i think you'll se after the midterm elections you'll see the pluff coming back refreshed into the white house and new faces that will bring in an outside perspective outside the obama bubble and tell him what he needs to hear. chris: let's imagine the president is up sunday morning and watching us. what is he saying about this conversation, that's what it's about, how he reacts to this kind of thinking aboutim will and questioning him. oehe dsn't like it, does he? >> no, like bill clinton and george w. bush he doesn't like us talking about him in almost any case. still, the test of the team has been the economy. the state of the union address, all of a sden we were going to shift to the economy and that's happened like six times. now we're going to shift to the economy, now we're going to shift. chris: he keeps getting off his point. >> arizona, the mosque, the mile east. all these things have gotten in the way of a disciplined
message. its not been a disciplined communication. >> yeah, but you can't be president of the united states and not resond if a well explodes in the gulf of mexico? he certainly didn't want to do that but he had no choice. chris: you were peechwriter for the president, for the first george w. bush. let's get to the question earlier, he is a great speechmaker and uses the teleprompter too much, i get the message, just listen. what is the problem with communication, can hramp it up the next five weeks before the election with a hell-raising speech? >> as a former speechwriter, i love the teleprompter. but i would say that obama has a problem that's not just the speeches, although they sometimes have been disappointing. it's a manner of argument. he comes to transcend arguments. it's like there's the one side, there's the other side, i'm above these arguments. it makes him a bad populist. he should get down and take one side of the debate.
he's too distant and an litting when he approaches things -- analytic when he approaches things. chris: he had to keep a left coalition together and he had to go to the business community and talk to them with their terms with the business guys. there's money in that room, as you remember. he has to talk to the african-ameran based, the people who are working people. how does he do both wth the same speech? >> well, that's -- chris: i might take sides. >> you have to to establish the image of who you really are. you see the foreign policy a lot, they'll take a large issue and analyze both sides. chris: we've got to get to the second part of the sh to see where he stands on afghanistan even after the woodward book. >> obama's advisors called his authentic voice, he had trouble finding it during the campaign, and now he's having trouble as president because he's dealing with these difficult issues and he doesn't have an auhentic voice when it comes to the ecomy and understanding the pain. chis: we'll have more.
after the election i think you'll hear a lot more of this. before we break, president obama's struggles hae some people comparing him to presidents who have been one-termers, jimmy carter has a book out trying to burn his image but back in the day he was the subjt of ridicule, he was dan akroyd of s.n.l., the weekend before the 1978 midterm election. >> last week i delivered a message on inflation, since then the dollar h dropped in value, the stock market sustined record losses and the wholesale price index increased .9%. in other words, our economic system is screwed, blued, and tattooed. p i want you to try to look at the inflationin a etirely new way. inflation is our friend. who wants more money. i can just call up the bureau of
engraving and say hi, this is jimmy. roll off some ofhose 20's. chris: george bush 41 was a very favorite s n.l. target. here he was after a weak showing against patbuchanan in the 1992 primary. >> i sure got the message and i got it, i'm going to write it right down, message right here, message being written right now. i'm moving the implement that will form the letters that will spell said message, the message that i got. p and here is that message. chris: when we come back, the new bob wodward book shows tis president skirmishing with the
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>> as commander in chief, i have determined it is in our vital national interests to send an additiol 30,000 u.s. troops to afghanistan. after 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. chris: welcome back. that was president oba last december announcing his afghanistan plan much later than expected. we now know why. bob woodwar's book says the delay was caused by coflict. the president was boxed in by the pentagon. which one of the bigger roles, the brass stuck him on his constant request for an exit plan. in the end, woodward reports, the president created his own strategy. obama's object was to limit the
commitment. theyhow president obama in a meeting with the top commander and secretary of defense as follows. in 2010 we will not be having a coersation about how to do more. i will not want to hear, we'e doing fine, mr. president but it would be better if we just do more. john, it seems like he avoids getting boxed in and keeps asking for an exit strategy and ends up with a hybrid, 30,000 troops more than we have in there and leaving by a certain deadline. never seemed to click that brid, is it because all the conflict? >> partly as a result of the conflict but goes to a deeper conflict which is during th campaign he painted this war, the afghanistan at the god war in contrast to the iraq war, the bad war. he was boxed in by that as anything else. i think there's some deree, this is a guy who appointed a bunch people on to his foreign policy team who could have absorbed in the mccain administration. jim jones, all those people could have served in a moderate republican administration. i think he really does not want
this to be a war without end so he found himsf boxedin by his campaign commitments and his legitieste dmaire to try to get the troops home. chris: he ended up in a middle of the road with biden who said get out quick and do counterterrorism and the military who said stay in a long time and do nation building. what do we have if we look at the woodward book,seems like he wasn't happy with either plan and wrote his own. what is that plan? >> president obama is a plan who sees the world as a complex place, not a place where issues are black and white but they're often gray. i happen to think there's a very good qualities for a resident to have. afghanistan is a complex place. e we'rnot going to, quote, win even if we stay 10 years and spend a trillion dlars. but complexities are nt esily explained on the campaign trail for the president in office. so it is a proem for a politician. if you believe in complexities, they're hard to explain.
chris: the problem with the complexi here is it's somewhere in the middle and asng young men and women to die for a cause that's not worth staying the next year and a half for. we're going to leave so soon. >> that's why the book, i think, is damaging. it reveals a ver divided process, not just by policy disagreement but by personal contempt among members ad she's highly politicized process, political people involved in this process, which i think is a bad thing. and an ambivalent comnder in chief and in afghanistan we have a patient, determined enemy and doesn't look like we a patient, determined president. >> it doesn'show the president was ambivalent but the opposite, the president welcomed a vigorous debate, an analysis on this, took the amount of time to welcome that debate,didn't want to send another trillion dollars in an open-ended war in afghanistan and then dictated a six-page, single-spaced memo he got everybody on his team to sign off on to suggest that they were all on the same page and
then obviously gave that memo to someone in the white house which is presented in his book. that show as determined president to make sure there was no misinterpretation of his role. even someone who grew up in a military family, the president is still the commander in chief. to say that he ignored the generals, he's the commander in chief. he makes the ultimate decision and he's voted in or out by the american people. >> one of the things about the woodward book is it's going to shine a brighter spot on the afghan review process in december and then wi be a big iocisn next july politically and on the nation'ur secity. but i would add one thing about this division, it's very intesting for all the division that woodward shows in the foreign policy team, that he are still in place and the eniretyy of his economic team are no out. that's an interesting contrast. chris: as bob woodward speaks, we all listen. when we come ba, scoops and predictions from the note books of these top reporters. predictions from the note books of these top reporters. tell me somethig in don't know. think about the internet.
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chris: welcome back. john, tell me something i don't know. >> i think november 3 will be an ugly day for democrats buti think there will be one bright spo my native state of california where i believe at this point it's risky to say, but i think it's true arena and meg whitman will lose. democrats will win. chris: cnthia? >> president-elect's race to reform plan is in trouble. democrats never have been enthusiastic about it because it calls for firing poorly performing teachers and aggravates the teacher unions but the house take, the republican takes over the house, they'll oppose parts of it as well, especially the part that calls for national standards, republicans like local control. chris: norah? >> the afghan review process does happen in december but people i've spoken with says it is not a review but an evaluation. in other words, there won't be any strategic changes, that it
will be more of a fine-tuing of the policy. in other words, the president's goal is still n to get most of our troops out of there. mike? >> the big polical story is not witchcraft in the senate race but the fact the democratic candidates in pennsylvania and in ohio are tanking. the bottom is falling out among democrats in those states and heralds a massive chnge. the biggest fact this week ws barack obama has 65% of independents in ohio who say that he is doing a bad job as presidt. that was an amazing -- chris: ohio and pennsylvania have been startling bad for the democrats this month. don't know what went on. we'll have to find out. the big question of the week,f unemployment and the presint'sj around, is there a chance the president might decide not to run again?
>> closed captioning provided by -- chris: welcome back. the job situation remains desperate as everybody knows and the president's approval numbers main very low. our big question this week, if that does not improve dramatically, do you see any chance the president might decide not run again. john heilemann? >> i think it's close to zero and not because i don't think there's part of him that would actually like to hang it up.
yohear things like that from people around him near the white house, in the white house but his competitiveness and focus on the place in history are too great to let him back down from a re-election party. chs: cynthia? >> i agree but this is a man that wants to accomplish things in the policy arena. and some of hose like an energy policy are most likely things he couldn't get done until a second term. >> yeah, i think there's no chance. chris: no chnce? >> i think a ver low chance. unless he would have hillary clinton position herself to run, that would be a serious race. it was a 50/50 race rememberin the primaries. chris: great roundtable, john heilemann, norah o'donnell, mike gerson, cynthia tucker.
(voice 1) we've detected an anomaly... (voice 2) how bad is it? (voice 1) traffic's off thchart... (voice 2) they're pinging more targets... (voice 3) isolate... prevent damage... (voice 2) got 'em. (ice 3) great exercise guys. let's run it agn. fo years ago, bob ehrlich got fired asovernor of maryland. (ice 3) great exercise guys. for good reason. first, he protected tax loopholes for giant cable cable companies.