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tv   Hardball With Chris Matthews  MSNBC  December 12, 2011 7:00pm-8:00pm EST

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point out what's really going on in america and fight for fairness and justice. and have a little fun doing it. what? what? you want me to do what? chris -- "hardball" is up next. that's right. "hardball" starts right now. neutron bomb. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews up in new york. leading off tonight, the bomb thrower. here's why newt gingrich is winning right now. he's a bomb thrower. he's willing to pay any price, bear any burden, say anything, as long as the result is that he sticks it hard and good to president obama. newt channels the visceral irrational contempt so many on the right feel for our president. and it's working. he's running free and clear to
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the goal line right now, and the best mitt romney can do is hope newt fumbles. that's not a strategy, that's desperation. there were two images, by the way, on our tv screens this weekend that stand out. one was when the circus came to town for the gop debate. the other was of a thoughtful president obama on "60 minutes" last night defending his presidency. the contrast with the republicans was jarring. conservative columnist fred barnes of the "weekly standard" believes the big winner of republican debate so far was president obama. by the way, could mitt romney be this year's hillary clinton? his experience, you know, i've got the experience argument, like hers, is falling flat right now. he has to defend his health care law up in massachusetts just as hillary had to defend her vote for the iraq war. and they both had debate gaffes. hillary got 18 million votes, by the way. could mitt be gone by february? and we learned over the weekend that the key witness in the penn state scandal told a very different story when he talked to his relatives. why did he not say he saw that boy getting raped?
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let me finish tonight with the republicans' deal with the devil. and you know who that is. we start with newt, the bomb thrower. howard fineman is "the huffington post" media editorial director. david korn is mother jones washington editor. both are msnbc analysts. in south carolina, gingrich leads the pack. these numbers are growing, 42%. romney comes in a distant second, 23%. ron paul, down at 9%. in florida, a state that was supposed to save mitt romney, gingrich's lead is also strong. he's up to 44% to romney's 29%, with paul at 8%. gingrich's huge lead in these new polls is testament to his willingness to be a bomb thrower. he showed it in that debate when he refused to back off his assertion that the palestinians are an invented people. let's listen. >> is what i said factually correct? yes. is it historically true? yes.
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someone ought to have the courage to tell the truth. these people are terrorists. they teach terrorism in their schools. >> the last thing bibi netanyahu needs to have is not just a person who's an historian, but someone who is also running for president of the united states stand up and say things that create extraordinary tumult in his neighborhood. if i'm president of the united states, i will exercise sobriety, care, stability. i'm not a bomb thrower, rhetorically or literally. >> it is helpful to have a president with the united states with the courage to tell the truth, just as it was ronald reagan who went around his entire national security apparatus to call the soviet union an evil empire. i'm a reaganite, i'm proud to be a reaganite. i will tell the truth, even if there's the risk of causing some confusion sometimes with the timid. >> that was the most self-congratulatory piece of crap i've heard in a long time. ronald reagan called the soviet union an evil empire
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because it is one. the palestinians didn't think up the fact that they lived the palestine for several thousands years. they had to be stuck there. and it's part of the world history that we have two peoples trying to share the same small piece of geography. is newt gingrich helping the middle east situation or being tumultuous, as he intends to be, apparently? by the way, his bomb throwing could have consequences. >> a couple points. first of all, chris, you're right. it's a ridiculous analogy. the soviet union was a worldwide threat. it was evil or certainly won out to try to undermine the west and spent years if not decades trying to do it. there was a long cold war over that. whatever you want to say about the palestinian people, the last thing they are is an empire. they're people struggling for their own rights and their own identity in the middle east, just as other peoples in that region are. that's number one. number two. it was fascinating to watch newt's face and his body language when mitt romney said that some people create extraordinary tumult with their comments.
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newt gingrich smiled like the cat who'd swallowed the canary at that point. he's proud of that. his whole appeal to republican voters is that he's a guy who will create tumult. that he will end the sort of barack obama period of sort of peaceful conversation, which they, that is republican conservatives and activists, think high and radical obama agenda that's clothed in the language of reasonableness, and that mitt romney is going to be the -- excuse me, newt gingrich is going to be the guy who's going to rip that mask of civility off and get down to tumult making. that's what they want and that's why newt was proud to give it to them. >> well, it's a great yiddish term. i shouldn't be the one to join in with that one, but there is one called a tumuler. one of those guys from the old days, one of the guys to shake things up on a rainy day.
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>> but that was about comedy, chris. that was about comedy and having fun in the catskills. that's not like this. >> this guy seeks to be a real one. let me get back to you, david korn, about this, this guy being a bomb thrower. i just keep thinking, the republican party, do they really want someone this bad, that they're willing to take him, because he is so bad. i use those words carefully. he is bad news for the country. he was divisive when he was around the first time. he likes -- boy, you pointed that out well. when he chuckled there, that grimacing little chuckle of his, because romney called him out, he seemed to really enjoy being the bad guy here. >> a word, yes. we talked about this last week. i think he likes to be the joker character from the "batman" movies, creating chaos. and i think the most important statement of the night was what we just heard, when mitt romney said, i am not a bomb thrower. actually, that's too bad for mitt. because i do believe that the republican primary electorate wants a bomb thrower. you know, michele bachmann looked like a bomb thrower at
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the beginning, but then rick perry came along and he was a gunslinger, but he just didn't have the brains upstairs to pull that off and people soured on him. and now they're looking at newt, who really is, in politics, the little bad boy. for 30 years, he's been calling his enemies the most atrocious names, they're treasonous, they're traitors, they're betraying the country. he's caused anyone, even if he gets his dry cleaning late, he calls the person in charge neville chamberlain. he's all about excessive rhetoric, guised in this intellectual metaphors and analogies that often don't hold water but it sounds good. so anyone out there really looking to take it to obama, he doesn't feel their pain, he feels their anger and he gives it right back to them. and that's what they're loving right now. >> okay. looks like we have got a contract with the devil replacing the contract with america. today in new hampshire, mitt romney was asked about the idea that people like newt gingrich because he is a rhetorical bomb thrower. let's listen to mitt romney.
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>> i know that among some folks, just saying outrageous or incendiary things will get you a lot of kudos and drive your numbers up. but it's not going to win us the white house and it's not going to win us the respect of people on the other side of the aisle, that we have to bring together to overcome the extraordinary challenges that we have. look, i think this president's been an extraordinary failure. i think this president has taken on a job and he's way over his head. but i don't think he's an evil person, i don't think he's a bad person. >> boy, howard, it's rare we get -- this is a real morality play, the way these two guys -- this isn't complicated. one guy wants to be civilized and the other guys wants to be a troglodyte or, you know, a caveman. it's really different approaches, to be -- it isn't hard to be a pundit this year, is it? >> no, it isn't. >> to discern the differences between these guys. >> the problem is mitt romney hasn't figured out how to be a compelling nice guy. >> yeah.
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>> he just comes off as a boring and somehow a little too contrived nice guy. and because he seems so contrived, it elevates the contrast between him and newt. i mean, newt's been all over the lot on every conceivable issue. but yet he somehow seems to be a genuine flip-flopper compared to the contrived flip-flopper. maybe they're both the same in many ways, and newt gingrich has taken more positions on more sides of more issues than mitt romney has. but yet he comes off as somehow more genuine than mitt romney. and that remais mitt romney's problem. the other thing about newt gingrich is, he does sometimes say interesting, provocative, thought-provoking things. and they're salted in there with all the other craziness. and it makes it hard to separate one from the other. i mean, i've covered -- david and i, you know, have decades worth of covering politicians. i dare say there are a few more thought-provoking political figures that either of us have
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ever covered than newt gingrich. often it's maddening. often when you follow the trail of his thoughts, it leads nowhere. but it gets you thinking in a way that few other politicians do. >> that means it's the perfect place for him in our world. it's called fox news as a commentator. right where he belongs. here in a clip, by the way, we've got a clip that's gone viral from the debate. mitt romney is so sure he's right, and he is right, rick perry's wrong, and he is wrong, but look who lost this rhetorically. mitt romney offered a $10,000 bet. most people don't have that in their wallets. that's not table steaks for most americans. here he is. today newt gingrich chided romney for the big bet. let's listen. >> he must have been really sure. well, i wouldn't bet that amount of money. >> how much do you want to bet you'll win new hampshire? >> that's me, that's me. buddy. >> not more than $10. >> well, there, david corn, the brilliant opportunist, acting like he's small beer compared to this guy. as newt was bragging two weeks
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ago or was it five days ago, that he was making $60,000 a pop. he was out there bragging wholesale, and now he's mr. uriah heap all of a sudden. this guy's ability to turn on a dime is frightening. he's now poor. >> he could put on the table his wife's jewelry for several million dollars, if he wanted to. but i think what -- you just hit it on the nail there, chris. it's not that he's a flip-flopper, he is a gyrator. he will say whatever comes into his head at the moment that gives him an advantage. no matter whether it's true or not, he has this great penchant for attacking people on the very things that he himself is vulnerable for. so he'll say, you know, barney frank and chris dodd should go to jail because of their associations with freddie mac and fannie mae, even though he made $1.6 million from those same government entities. nothing holds him back. he's entirely situational. >> but isn't about our medium? david corn, that's our medium.
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>> it is our medium. and mitt romney doesn't. >> every six hours the news cycle changes. as long as it's good for that news cycle, fits in that particular box, six hours later, he's got a new line. >> chris, it's all about buzz. it's all about buzz. i would say that cable tv is now even too slow for what's really going on. we're talking about twitter, we're talking about a twitter universe here. where every jab, where every cut and thrust is immediately retweeted all over the planet. and that creates the buzz that people are following, almost as if mesmerized in the instant-by-instant of the campaign. and i'll say this for newt gingrich. when he came to town, nobody was using c-span as a platform for attack. newt gingrich figured out how to use c-span, he figured out how to use cable tv, he's sold all these 24 books. >> i'm going on c-span tomorrow to sell a book. still works. >> well, far be it from me to criticize that, but that's what
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he's doing. >> you know, the interesting thing, i think our medium is pri fast. when you talk about slow-moving medium, don't talk about "hardball." would you slow it down?! would you stop interrupting people. nobody's ever said we're too slow. you guys are the best. thank you, howard fineman. and i can't keep track of the brilliant pieces of analysis you two come up with in just ten minutes. i need some sort of chronicle to keep up with your genius. hey, guys, thank you. happy holidays, but i'll see you sooner than that. >> see you soon. coming up, mitt romney's campaign for president seems to have a lot in common with hillary clinton. this is no knock. they're both people running on tried and true records, have done great things in the past, very accomplished, but may not be caught up in the zeitgeist, the sense of what their parties want. hillary clinton was on the wrong side of the iraq war issue and this guy's on the wrong side of the health care issue and the anger issue. he's not nasty or angry as newt is, and that's what the right wing wants, contempt for the president and he won't show it. you just saw it. you're watching "hardball," only on msnbc.
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we've got new poll numbers on a hypothetical general election matchup. and for that we go to the "hardball" scoreboard. let's start in florida. according to a new nbc news/marist poll, president obama leads romney by 7 down there. that's good for obama. against newt gingrich, the president's lead is 12. he's still strong in florida. in south carolina, which is reliantly republican, the president has a three-point lead, if you believe it, over romney, 45-42 in that new poll. he also has a lead over gingrich, 46-42 down there. keep in mind, jimmy carter is the only democrat to carry south carolina in the last 12 elections. finally to pennsylvania, and a college poll that shows president obama leading mitt romney again there by four. that's not enough to carry the usual margin up there. you need to win nationwide. against gingrich, the president's lead is much bigger, 52-35.
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that's a strong lead in pennsylvania. these polls are somewhat varied as you've noticed in the last week or so. we'll be right back. d bag. you know organization is key... and so is having a trusted assistant. and from national. because only national lets you choose any car in the aisle...and go. you can even take a full-size or above and still pay the mid-size price. here we are... [ male announcer ] and there you go, business pro. there you go. go national. go like a pro. really? 25 grams of protein. what do we have? all four of us, together? 24. he's low fat, too, and has 5 grams of sugars. i'll believe it when i--- [ both ] oooooh... what's shakin'? [ female announcer ] as you get older, protein is an important part of staying active and strong. new ensure high protein... fifty percent of your daily value of protein. low fat and five grams of sugars. see? he's a good egg. [ major nutrition ] new ensure high protein. ensure! nutrition in charge!
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welcome back to "hardball." mitt romney was seen, actually, as almost the inevitable nominee just a short time ago. remember? a couple weeks ago. but the surge of newt gingrich has romney on the defensive, gearing up for a long nomination fight now. here he was earlier today in an interview with politico's mike allen. >> governor, is newt gingrich the front-runner in this race? >> he is right now. i'm not in trouble. i'm in a great spot. of course i want to win. i'm fighting hard to win. this is not going to be decided in just a couple of contests. i certainly have to be in a position to run the full campaign, just like happened last time with the democrats. >> he drew the comparison. we'll talk about the republican party questioning the longtime front-runner seems an awful lot like hillary clinton trying to win over democrats four years ago while getting a challenge from barack obama. are there parallels actually between the romney and the clinton candidacies? chuck todd's is msnbc's chief white house correspondent, host
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of "the daily rundown" on msnbc. dan balz is the national political correspondent and the best of them all for "the washington post." let me go to chuck. you started this. the parallel, hillary clinton experienced counts, it's all about having a proven track record, not going for the hot kid new to the block, comparing that to what's happening right now between mitt romney, the longtime candidate, against newt, even with all his years in the past, looks like he's just off the bench. >> and it's an establishment/anti-establishment argument. and where the party hits today, timing has to do with a lot of this. throw in the fact that mitt romney has one big negative with a lot of primary voters that defines the other negatives, and that is this issue of the health care mandate. for hillary clinton, it was that iraq war vote. she chose to own it. mitt romney has chosen to own at least a part of his health care support. that mandate at least for the state of massachusetts. but i think the biggest factor here is simply in timing, right? where the democratic party was
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in '07/'08, they were looking for something new. they were looking for change, not continuity. where the republican party is today, i would say, rhetorically, they're looking for somebody who's going to be confrontational, who's really going to take it to president obama. and even again today, we saw it in saturday's debate, where i think the most clarifying answer and difference between newt and romney had to do with their answer about israel and this issue of the palestinians, if they're an invented people, and mitt romney used sobriety as describing himself, you know, i'm going to be sort of the steady guy at the wheel. i'm not going to use that hot rhetoric. he said it again today on the trail. newt gingrich made no apologies. that's what the republican base of the party wants to hear. confrontational, no apologies. >> you know, dan, do these guys -- they do have a responsibility. they're running for president of the united states. this is a pre-game, if you will, to what their presidency will be. for newt to declare war on the palestinians as a people, calling them terrorists, as a
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people, it doesn't look like he's auditioning to be the traditional american president. even "w" recognized that we have a peacemaking role as well as a support of israel role. >> well, we've seen this in newt gingrich's career time and again, where he will stake out a seemingly outrageous position, and then he will figure out ways to pull back from it. he does that for a couple of reasons. one is he knows how to get attention. another is he likes to be provocative. and then at the same time, he does have some, often, some pretty good political antennae when he gets into situations like that. and i suspect that you will see him vacillate back and forth, or oscillate back and forth, in the way he tones that out. but this is what you get with newt gingrich. that kind of provocative statement that puts him way out on the edge, and then an effort to try to ameliorate it afterwards. >> let me stay with you for a second and then back to chuck with the same question. i'm thinking of all the paradigms that you and i have been through, dan, all these different cycles, four years. i think we all keep looking for the classic example of what's
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happening now having happened before. do you think this is one of those campaigns where a guy like mitt romney can withstand some real explosions for two or three events, or hillary, but in his case, come back like mondale came back after some very early defeats? >> well, there is a difference, i think, both in the analogy with clinton and romney, and also with mondale and romney. in both cases, clinton and mondale had deep roots within the democratic party. >> yeah. >> mitt romney doesn't have that. and i think that's a substantial difference. i don't know whether that's going to be decisive in this race, but i think you're dealing with a different kind of candidate when you look at romney this time. he has been, i would say, a nominal front-runner, but never an inevitable front-runner, and never a dominant front-runner in the way that hillary clinton certainly seemed to be in september into october, until she made that mistake at the drexel debate, at the end of
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october, in '07. romney's got a problem about having struggled throughout the year to enlarge his constituency. and he hasn't been able to do that. it's not as though he's lost a lot of ground the way hillary clinton seemed to at a certain point, it's that he's had trouble enlarging the constituency as a front-runner ought to be able to do. >> chuck, does he have the resources, personal or financial, to fight a long fight, as he suggests he's ready to now. >> well, i think he does. and you know, four years ago, you know, mitt romney was at a point, he could have put in more of his own money in the state of florida. that was his last stand versus mccain. he narrowly lost, but he chose not to put his own money in it was sort of like, if it was meant to be, then he'd do it and go on to super tuesday and really take this fight. if not, he would hold back four years. there is no next time for mitt romney. so, a, i think the likelihood that he would put in his own money, if necessary, is there. and then, two, i would say, these super pacs really change the game.
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i think the superpac, right now, the pro-romney superpac is up with over a couple million dollars of negative ads in iowa against newt gingrich. and you'll see more of that in the next few weeks. >> will florida be his firewall? is that where he'll make his stand? where he puts all the money he's willing to put in the campaign, in a media campaign and diverse florida with the belief if he loses florida and finishes out january with no victories except a squeaker in new hampshire, he's not really in this game anymore. >> i think he can keep going. the you look at the calendar. look, i have -- that is the worst-case scenario. which is he finishes, say, a distant second or, worse, third in iowa, goes into new hampshire, sees his length shrink to single digits, but pulls it out. doesn't win south carolina, goes to florida, loses a squeaker. then what do you do? the good news for romney is short-term the calendar then gets a little bit better for him. in five days, he can go win nevada. he's got a couple of other places that should be more romney than newt, a place like
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maine. so a new england state. so he could put together a couple of wins, regroup, and then make that end of february michigan/arizona push, where we could be in a whole new ball game. >> it's great to have you both on. thanks, dan balz, so much for coming on "hardball," and thank you, chuck. up next, the best thing about donald trump's ego is getting darrell hammond to play it on "snl" and i mean it. that performance saturday night was a big winner. that's in the sideshow. if you missed it saturday night, it's coming here. donald trump better than donald trump because he's played by darrel hammond. we'll be right back. i've got nothing against these do-it-yourself steam cleaners.
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wild self-referencing of trump on display. >> gentlemen, welcome. donald, let's start with you. how did you come to moderate this debate? >> well, i'm an obvious choice, greta, because i'm been very successful. i'm not sure if you saw the recent article in "forbes," but the magazine just reported my net worth at $7 billion. also, i've got the number one show on television, which is seen every week by something like 5 billion people. it's huge. >> it sounds like you're going back and forth, like, will i run, won't i run? >> well, you know, greta, i've been very successful in my life. and my wife is very hot and very young. also, i own many properties and they're all very large, so in terms of square footage, they've been quite successful as well. i'm the obvious choice, born in the usa, "the apprentice," nbc, bing bong boom. you're fired!
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>> that's darrell hammond. you can't believe that guy, he's so good. that's a tough act to beat. and speaking of showbiz taking on politics, one of my favorite actresses, julianne moore got candid with the "new york daily news," she spoke about playing sarah palin in the tv mini series. in addition to having palin's speeches rolling on repeat on her ipod, she watched interview after interview of palin in order to prepare for the role. think it gave her a new perspective on the former alaskan governor? not exactly. a "daily news" interview with moore reads, "when we asked moore if she'd developed a newfound respect for palin after delving deeper into her life, the actress, 51, raised an eyebrow and sighed deeply. no, she said, quietly." anyway, i'm sure she did some digging, but how deep can you dig with this character? and finally, setting the bar and setting it pretty low. with approval ratings for congress currently in the single digits, it shouldn't come as
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much of a surprise that the american people are also rather underimpressed with the standards of honest and ethics up on capitol hill. but to put the numbers in perspective even more, let's take a look at who americans put ahead of congress when it comes to standards for honesty and ethics in a new gallup poll. here goes. 64% said the standards of honesty and ethical standards in congress were either low or very low. next in line, lobbyists are close behind with 62%. these are negative numbers. but here's the kicker. telemarketers are in third place with 53% of people saying they have low standards of honesty. and behind them, car salesmen, these poor guys and women, 47%. they got to love the cars. i love what jerry seinfeld once said about telemarketers, he said, ask them for their home numbers next time they call. since they're calling you at home. up next, the two big tv events, the republican debate and the president's interview on "60 minutes." the president says it may take more than one term, even more than one president to get this country on the right track again.
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that's humility. will voters give him more than one term if he says he needs it? he is saying it. you're watching "hardball" on msnbc. [ knock on door ] cool. you found it. wow. nice place. yeah. [ chuckles ] the family thinks i'm out shipping these. smooth move. you used priority mail flat rate boxes. if it fits, it ships for a low, flat rate. paid for postage online and arranged a free pickup. and i'm gonna track them online, too. nice. between those boxes and this place, i'm totally staying sane this year. do i smell snickerdoodles? maybe. [ timer dings ] got to go. priority mail flat rate shipping at a simpler way to ship.
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i'm milissa rehberger. here's what's happening. the sprem court says it will rule on arizona's widely criticized immigration law. the obama administration challenged four provisions of the law, including one that would allow police to question a person's immigration status if they were suspected of being in the u.s. illegally. it's not enough to pacify the occupy movement. but the rough economy has taken a toll on the top 1%. average income of the richest americans fell to a paltry $957,000 a year in 2009, according to the latest tax figures. that's down from $1.4 million in
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2007. speaking of the rich, a tax plan proposed by newt gingrich is not getting rave reviews from the tax policy center. the group says the plan would give huge tax breaks to those making more than $1 million and cut federal tax revenues by $850 billion come 2015. meanwhile, gingrich and rival top gop hopeful mitt romney traded barbs over money today, each challenging the other to return the millions they made while working in private business. back to "hardball." i always believed that this was a long-term project that reversing a culture here in washington, dominated by special interests, was going to take more than a year, was going to take more than two years, it was going to take more than one term. probably takes more than one president. i'm a persistent son of a gun. i just stay at it.
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>> welcome back to "hardball." that was, of course, president obama last night on "60 minutes." if you were home this weekend watching tv, you saw a fascinating contrast. first you had the gop debate saturday night in iowa. six candidates standing on stage, all bashing the president and each other. fighting over who could present the most extreme defense of israel, who could level the most unfair charge against president obama and who could unnerve their opponents the most. then you had president obama last night making a thoughtful case for his re-election. could the differences be any more stark? even frustrated conservative critics of obama could see the barrage of pettiness are taking a toll on their team. "republicans are paying a high price for allowing their presidential race to be dominated by nationally televised debates. the gop candidates have reduced themselves to supplicants whose weak points are probed by media questioners. the president has concentrated on fleshing out a self-serving narrative for his re-election
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and now is trying to impose it on the campaign. whose time was spent more productively this weekend?" eugene robinson is an msnbc analyst and michelle goldberg is a columnist for "newsweek." michelle, what do you think? who won the weekend bakeoff here? >> i think it's obvious that you have kind of obama seeming, if a little bit weary, also, very dignified and serious. and then you have the latest episode in this ridiculous clown show. the idea -- it's actually not the fault, you know, contrary to what fred barnes said, he kind of blames it on the liberal media for setting up these debates to make the republican candidates look bad. the republican candidates are making themselves look bad all by themselves. and kind of, they are diminished, i think, by this process, because it is such a race to the bottom. but that's where their base is. >> eugene, i wonder if the debates vice president served one purpose of finding the most ferocious combatant. newt gingrich, if this was like "survivor," a reality show, it has succeeded. they've got what looks to be the toughest customer they could run
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against the president out of all these nightly -- these almost every other week debates. >> well, that would be one way of looking at it, chris. i think it's really the, who can appeal more to the red meat conservative republican primary base. and that is a rather small subset of the electorate that's going to vote in the general election. and what the republicans are doing with these debates, in addition to not looking very presidential, to setting up the contrast you talked about with the president's appearance this weekend, in addition to that, they really are boxing themselves into a corner on the far right, that's not going to play well, certainly not with african-americans, not with hispanic voters, not with the general voting electorate that comes out in november, i think. >> i agree with you. i'm not so sure, though, because i think among the 40% or so of the angry right, which is a pretty burgeoning group of americans, they do like this all-out, sort of infinite fighting here. here's the president taking subtle jabs at his leading republican opponents on "60 minutes" last night.
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let's watch. >> it doesn't really matter who the nominee is going to be. the core philosophy that they're expressing is the same. >> what do you make of this surge by former speaker gingrich? >> he's somebody who's been around a long time and is good on tv, is good in debates, and, you know, but mitt romney has shown himself to be somebody who's good at politics as well. he's had a lot of practice at it. >> that's not much, is it? for a president who you would think is really watching carefully his opponents develop, he's in a country which might be against him right now, marginally, just marginally, but he's got an uphill battle. he didn't have much to say. >> but what does he really have to gain by taking them on at this point? right now i think this interview makes it look like he's above the fray, he's kind of concerned with serious problems, while these kind of very small figures diminish themselves in this --
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>> yeah, i wonder whether, michelle, he'd be advised -- i'm not his adviser -- to talk in the way he'd like to see his surrogates talk, to say things he'd like to have the democratic party faithful here. "60 minutes" gets a huge audience, a very smart audience. and here's his chance to say, here are the differences between their approach and mine. let me lay it out for you right now here at the beginning of this year. >> but he's been making that pretty clear on "60 minutes." not by taking them on individually, but taking on their insane, you know, insane obstructionism, their desire to raise taxes on the middle class through refusing to renew the payroll tax cut. he's been, i think, framing it, much to fred barnes' dismay, he's been framing it pretty effectively as a battle between the plutocrats and the middle class. you know, so he doesn't have to really personalize this and make it about newt gingrich or mitt romney. >> i just wonder, gene, you have enjoyed the sport of politics, as i do, occasionally. wouldn't it be better to put a little sharp elbow in it and
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say, newt is with me one day, against me the next day, i can't tell which way he is, same with mitt, and do the same thing in a little bit tougher way to newt gingrich. newt gingrich is going to be pretty sharp elbowed in this debate if he wins the nomination. shouldn't the president be beginning to do some of that pre-fight taunting, if you will? >> you may see that in the coming weeks. but i think the calculation is not to do that yet, to fire up the democratic base in the speeches that he's giving. but in an appearance like "60 minutes" you know, sunday evening, a kind of more reflective time to kind of use to it speak to the nation in that calm, presidential tone, which, in itself, serves as a contrast between what, if they listened, they heard on saturday night. >> so you think he's setting it up to go against newt. because he will be the reasonable guy appealing to the center, and let newt get the crazies on the far right but not poach too many from the center. >> i think clearly they figured newt into their calculations. now, before, it was all about
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romney. everything you heard from the white house was romney, romney, romney. now, you know, they're looking over their shoulder. could be newt. so let's, you know, make sure -- >> i'm one of those who believes the president pays strict attention to everything we do maybe not verbatim from this kind of program, but he knows what's going on politically. here's "60 minutes," steve kroft asking the president what he accomplished his first term. let's watch the president's very important answer here. >> not only saving this country from a great depression, not only saving the auto industry, but putting in place a system in which we're going to start lowering health care costs and you're never going to go bankrupt because you get sick or somebody in your family gets sick. making sure that we have reformed the financial system so we never again have taxpayer funded bailouts and the system is more stable and secure. ending dlt "don't ask, don't
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tell," decimating al qaeda, including bin laden being taken off the field. >> compelling argument for re-election yet, or not? >> i think -- obviously, i think it is. but, you know, i don't know how much any politician gets credit for what doesn't happen on their watch. so a big part of his argument, which happens to be true, even though i don't know if it's effective, is that he forestalled a second great depression. >> things could have been worse. >> things could have been worse. i don't know if that works. but i think it's right. >> gene, do you think that's a compelling argument for re-election or is he still working at it? >> i think that's an impressive record. he's still working at it and i think the central argument of the campaign is going to be, look, you may not be tremendously happy about the way things are going, but i'm better than those guys. you know, better with me than with those guys. >> he can say, if you want newt gingrich as your president, you're insane. he could say that too. thank you, eugene robinson. may not be presidential, but we can say. michelle goldberg, thank you both for coming on. up next, the penn state scandal continues. and by the way, it gets crazier. it's always a horrible story, but now it's getting weird. the key witness against jerry sandusky told relatives at the time that he didn't actually see
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that rape of a boy in 2002. but what does that mean in the case against sandusky when, in fact, mcqueary said under oath that he did see it? so what do we believe here? this is "hardball," only on msnbc. this was the gulf's best tourism season in years. all because so many people wanted to visit us... in louisiana. they came to see us in florida... nice try, they came to hang out with us in alabama... once folks heard mississippi had the welcome sign out, they couldn't wait to get here. this year was great but next year's gonna be even better. and anyone who knows the gulf knows that winter is primetime fun time. the sun's out and the water's beautiful. you can go deep sea fishing for amberjack, grouper and mackerel. our golf courses are open. our bed and breakfast have special rates. and migrating waterfowl from all over make this a bird watcher's paradise. so if you missed it earlier this year, come on down. if you've already been here come on back... to mississippi... florida... louisiana... alabama.
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take up to an extra 15 percent off storewide now through sunday. we're back now. new developments in the penn state story over the weekend could make the prosecutor's job more difficult, as the credibility of their star witness is now being questioned. mike mcqueary, the former graduate assistant who says he was an eyewitness to the encounter between sandusky and a 10-year-old boy in a penn state shower reportedly told his father and his family and a
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family friend a different variation of that shower story immediately after the incident in 2002. mike isikoff is msnbc's national investigative correspondent and buzz bissinger is a daily beast contributor. let me start with michael. give me an update on what this new conflict and count is all about. >> reporter: well, first, chris, it is potentially very important. but it's probably not all that important for what's going to take place tomorrow, which is the preliminary hearing against jerry sandusky. there's going to be multiple victims testifying in public for the first time. jerry sandusky facing his accusers and the problems with mike mcqueary's testimony, most legal experts say, is probably not going to materially affect the case against sandusky, because that's going to rest on the testimony of the victims. but, for those two penn state officials, tim curley and gary schultz, who are charged with perjury in this case and failing
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to report knowledge of sex abuse, mcqueary is a critical witness. in fact, the testimony against testimony against them, the case against them rests centrally on what mike mcquery said he saw that day when he walked into the locker room in march 2002. according to the grand jury report he says he saw jerry sandusky sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy. and he left distraught. he was shocked. and then reported it to joe paterno and then paterno told him to report it to tim curley and gary schultz. well, what this new witness, dr. jonathan drainoff, a friend of the family of mcquery says mcquery told him that night, the night of the incident was something very different. that he didn't see any sexual activity. he heard sex sounds in the shower. and he saw the boy emerging from
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the shower, an arm grabbing him back in then sandusky emerging from the shower in a towel. it's something less than what is in that grand jury report, and so therefore, this could undermine the case against curley and schultz. it doesn't, by way, absolve them of the moral obligation to do something when hearing about this. in terms of the legal case against perjury, it could be very significant. >> there's an aspect to this potentially, buzz. i mean, one person says it to one person, they say it to another. if it's not clear what mcquery said in the first instance when he was telling his relatives about this, how do we know what he told to the athletic director or how it got couched finally to joe paterno? buzz? >> you know tharks t, that's a . as the trials unfold, you get a
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tidbit here, a tidbit there. you have to listen and hear what mcquery said to the grand jury. what he said to the grand jury did him no favors. he admits he's seeing sodomy and runs from it and does nothing which made him a national disgrace. he's not doing himself any favors by saying that. you know, are there inconsistencies? yes. are those two -- are curley and schultz going to be held for trial on friday? definitely. what puzzles me is why the prosecution would put on the victims. it's a very dangerous strategy. it is unnecessary because it gives the defense attorney another shot to drive a hole through their credibility. i don't know why they're doing it. >> let me ask you about paterno. do you have confidence he got a clear account of this horror? in the first instance? >> you know, we don't know. we don't know. we know what paterno said. he said it was something of a sexual nature. it may have been fondling, it may have been horseplay.
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i still find it hard to believe that if mcquery is telling the truth, i believe he is, that he wouldn't have said to joe, joe, you won't believe what i saw. >> but he didn't see it according to what he told his relatives, buzz. he says, we're getting this account in the first instance he didn't tell an eyewitness account. he wasn't an eyewitness. he was sort of an eyewitness but didn't see the rape, if you will, itself. let me two go to mike on this. what do we know of the first account? >> reporter: first of all, a couple of points. what buzz says is absolutely correct. we need to hear the full testimony and everything the prosecutors have when they went before the grand jury. at the end of the day, they believe and the grand jurors believe mcquery. they didn't believe curley and schultz. so they may well have other evidence that supports mcquery's version of events. it's also worth pointing out dr. dranoff, the individual whose testimony is key here, also has
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his own self-interest in not saying he heard that sandusky was seen doing this because then he would have had an obligation to report it as well. >> we'll get this in court under oath. thank you, michael isikoff and buzz bissinger. let me finish with the deal with the devil the republicans are on the verge of striking. you know what i'm talking about. [ female announcer ] that's the all-natural sugar she puts on her grapefruit. but is she eating sugar this week? maybe she wants the all natural, zero calorie stuff. but if you're wrong, you're insinuating she's fat. save yourself. it's only natural. with less chronic low back pain. imagine living your life with less chronic osteoarthritis pain. imagine you, with less pain.
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seal a faustian deal with the devil. every observer from left to farthest right knows what's going on here. the republicans led by the angriest among them are about to give away their partisan souls for an all-consuming political purpose, the destruction of barack obama. they're about to begin the nomination for president of a figure who represents what they preach. he is nasty, brutal, ready to fight and kill politically, a man of no discernible commitments or values who has nothing to offer but a sharp as hell intellect. for the right price and a presidential nomination is his, newt is ready to jump on a dime and hit any opponent where he shows weakness. why are they on the verge of enlisting in the army of newt? he voices in cold, nasty, deadly tone the words of their contempt. because he's an opportunist ready to seek any route to his opponent's heart and thereby kill it. he's a political killer, a gun for hire. but he offers a price so precious he cannot be resisted.
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this -- this is the faustian deal at hand. newt gingrich's promise of vision of which they on the right have set their hearts. the few minutes of national television of which the president and his wife stand before them in defeat. that's why they're offering up their partisan souls, why they're ready to bow down before this false god of hatred. they will give their souls to newt. pain of their enemy. they want it more than yet another tax cut, more than another wild, unwarranted war, more than love or freedom or joy, they want the president's head. and they've cut a deal to get it. what they're doing isn't good. they know it as well as we. we know it. deep down, it is wrong to run someone who is so different from what you value. they know it's wrong and they're doing it still. they're willing to give up all the values and hopes and claims to goodness they've ever professed. they're willing to strike this deal with the devil because they want to hurt obama. the most enticing prospect of this entire campaign is the chance to bring down this president. and in the prospect and act of


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