tv The Chris Matthews Show NBC October 24, 2010 11:00am-11:30am EDT
>> this is "chris matthews show." >> ask not what your country can do for you. >> i can hear you. >> the time for change has come. >> not his year. remember those words. remember the music in '08, barack obama rocked this country. but today the president can only plead his case, putting many to sleep. is it just easier to win de legates than to creat jeob and did the president in going after health care simply get caught off base? rogue party. sarah palin wants the gop to toe the line the next few years or face a walkout. will the regulars bow to her and
tea partiers or palinites go rogue in 2012? finally, rush to judgment. did n.p.r.'s firing of ron williams signal to the world that would rather show the gate than take the heat? hi, i'm chris matthews. welcome to the show, dan rather, bbc's kathy kay, cynthia tucker and "the atlantic" andrew sullivan. first up, two years after proving himself one of the great politicians of our time, barack obama is trying to save the day for the democrats. question is, should he have been a better salesman and sooner? it was nine months ago the democrats lost the stunner in massachusetts when republican scott brown won his senate street running against health care and bailouts. the next day george stephanopoulos had an interview with the president and opened his report, predicting that surprise defeat for democrats would have a big effect on barack obama. >> a political nightmare for obama that would change the course of his presidency. >> the same thing that swept scott brown into office swept me into office.
people are angry and they're frustrated. not just because of what happened in the last year or two years but what's happened over the last eight years. chris: seven months later brian williams had this interview with the president, who resisted any suggestion he worry about short-term politics. >> i'm focused on making sure that the decisions we're making now are going to be not good for the nightly news, not good even necessarily for the next election but are good for the next generation. chris: do you take him at his word, dan, he really didn't think that election in massachusetts was an offshore warning of what's to come? he really didn't think part of the president's job is to think about politics? >> i take him at his word. the election in massachusetts, the president knows and proven themselves to be tone deaf about what was happening and they paid the price. this was an early warning to them, and they didn't pick up on it. they didn't adjust to it. i take the president at his word that at the time he didn't worry about it very much and he paid
the price. chris: katty, is he not the politician he was two years ago? he was the best and new he seems to not want to be a politician. >> this goes to the question of whether the policy themselves were at fault and there were those in the white house who said you could never pass mrk reform without expending a huge amount of capital in the country. those who say the policies were right, it's just the communications effort around that. and they sort of believe the narrative of here is barack obama, that could change the way politics is done. you could rise above politics just by virtue of who he was. it was actually what he promised on the campaign trail. he didn't go back and anything he was going to do. he said he would be a president who rode above politics and didn't do things for the "nightly news." chris: he walked into a situation of terrible calamity, and does he did he also walk into one more to the center right than him? >> i think he should have focused on the debt sooner. but he has a debt commission.
you said he paid a political price. he is higher than clinton was at this time. high area than reagan was. reagan was at 37% and reagan lost midterm. this is normal. chris: you're saying if he gets rocked out of controlling the house, his party, and takes a massive loss of seats in the senate, that wasn't a rebuke to him? >> i don't think it's a direct rebuke to him, i think it's a rebuke with the frustration with where the economy is. and frankly the best thing that could happen to him. i think the one thing that is killing him is republicans could criticize and criticize and criticize, but because they have no power and responsibility, they would have to say what they could do. when they get into oicffe and responsibility and say we're going to slash medicare, we're going to slash entitlements, we're going to do what the british tories have the guts to do, then we'll see what happens. chris: we'll see if that happens to democrats. cynthia, let me ask you about expectations. the president wasn't that worried about scott brown.
he wasn't that concerned as recently this summer as role of political leader in the democratic party and their savior potentially. is that because he overestimated the quickness with which the american people would say you know this health care thing, this is pretty good. it's new and better and did he get it wrong when he let christine romer, his economic adviser, say we'll have the unemployment rate down to 8% this quarter? >> face it, chris, the president has made some serious mistakes. you talk about expectations. one of his biggest mistakes was not managing the outside expectations that the american public had of him from the very beginning. when he was inaugurated, his approval ratings were in the 60's. that was incredible and a signal that people thought that he could wave magic wand and turn -- and turn the economy around. >> but his inaugural address was the most sober, telling people it's going to be really bad. >> but he needed to say that
over and over again. he needed to say to people, this fix is going to take a long time. >> where i slightly disagree with andrew is to say actually if you look back over his presidency, there have been substantial victories in terms of his spending policies. we have now carp being repaid at an 8% rate. we have the auto bailout saving over a million jobs and being repaid at a profit to the american taxpayer. why are the achievements of the presidency not being better sold on the campaign trail? >> unemployment is high. any politician who's in office when unemployment is high is going to have difficulty. chris: yeah. is somebody telling him, his pollsters, axelrod, the p.r. people, are they telling him be careful, don't brag about anything? >> i don't think that's it. i think the president, unlike say bill clinton and unlike ronald reagan, simply is not as good at playing partisan politics. he really does believe that the
policy seldom sells. >> he was elected not to be a partisan democrat. let me make one more point, chris, which is that if you look at the actual general voter, you see the difference between the politician is not that great. the reason they're going to lose is enthusiasm and anger. chris: let's get to that. >> and that is fox news, a different media environment and -- chris: not everybody watches fox news. swe have our regular panelists and asked the meter could president obama have limited the midterm democrats to health care and still done health care and big economic stimulus? eight say yes, it was how he did it politically and four said no, he would have paid the price. you believe there was a way he could have achieved his formative goals, which is health care, stimulus, economic development, all of that and still come out better than he is right now? >> i think health care is the questionable one. the stimulus i think he absolutely -- i mean, i think you look back at what happened
to the question, it was totally essential to have a stimulus bill and even a bigger stimulus bill than the one they had. financial regulation was essential to hav chris: you think he could have been a better salesman and you disagree because the economy was so tough t. would be hard for any president? >> if he had agreed, we would have 15% unemployment. what else could he have done? >> he could have asked and fought for a bigger stimulus. he didn't fight for the stimulus. he let congress write the health care bill and didn't make jobs priority one. >> he also might have told the american people that one-third of the stimulus bill is tax cuts. 90% of americans don't know that. a lot of lost opportunities. chris: he has a week to go before the elections. he will hit a bunch of big cities arrange the -- around the country. will he be successful in rousing the electorate or trigger more animosity and hostility towards the other side? what will be the net effect? >> what he can trigger enough
enthusiasm from his base, i think it will come down on that side. let's point out, a lot of people are disappointed but bill clinton is helping him tremendously and excite the base. yes, he will excite it some. the question is, is it too little and too late? >> they closed well because the president and bill clinton is out there. >> it's not as much as the net positive as bill clinton is. >> i think that there will be more democratic voters who turn out than people think in part because of the president, michelle obama's out on the campaign trail, bill clinton. i think they will probably still lose the house but i don't think it will be a huge wave of losses. >> i think this guy is doing what he always does. he hangs back, he hangs back, he hangs back and then pounces. i think the expectations are so high for republicans. they could have a wipeout according to everybody, that if they fall short of that, the whole thing shifts. chris: you have the rope-a-dope theory, right? >> that's what he does. chris: before we break, the senate race that keeps on giving. this moment came on tuesday. >> the reason we're in the mess
we're in is because our so-called leaders in washington no longer view the indispensable principles of our nouppeding that's truly -- founding as truly that. >> one of those indispensable principles is the separation of church and state. >> where in the constitution is separation of church and state? >> excellent point. >> hold on, please. >> jimmy kimmel couldn't resist. >> how could you not know about the separation of church and state? i know about the separation of church and state. somebody give this woman a copy of schoolhouse rock because this is ridiculous. pamptly they don't teach the constitution at hogwarts. >> harry potter reference there. but the uninformed christine don't just a reminder that even presses occasionally come up with head scratches, like this infamous gerry ford stunner -- >> there is no soviet domination
of eastern europe and there never will be under a ford administration. chris: here's how johnny carson treated the fallout from that one. >> president ford went out to rockwell international where he climbed into the cockpit of a b-1 bomber and the president said the b-1 bomber is essential to protect him from polish voters. chris: not just them, but maybe one of the funniest screwups was this from vice president dan quayle's visit to a junior high school backn i '92. >> and that one little bit on the end. there you go. chris: david letterman knew a great kid interview when he saw on e. he booked that young man, william figueroa, who told him quail -- quayle actually came prepared for that meeting. >> he had a type of like flash cards with the words on them. >> he this the correct spelling
of the word that he was going to ask you about? [laughter] >> except for potato. >> except for potato. that's right. >> you announce potato and your hand goes up. >> he picks me so i go out to the chalkboard and start writing potato, and then when i was walking back to my chair, he said stop and go back and put the e on potato. that's when all of the reporters came to me. then i showed them the book. and it said potato. and they were all laughing. >> you think he knows how to spell the word re-elected? chris: when we come back, we know dating the tea party has been fun for regular republicans. but how will the marriage go? sarah palin says if republican leaders don't watch their step, they -- there could be an ugly divorce. plus, scoops and predictions, from these top reporters.
chris: welcome back. who's most worried about tea parties coming to washington in the next congress, democrats? actually, it's regular republicans. sarah palin has been issuing threats to the establishment gop. >> i think some in the gop, it's the last shot, it's the last chance. why not a third party? chris: senate majority mitch mcconnell may not be general but he's what he told "the national journal" -- quote, one of the things we have to remind newcomers and those who supported him, we need to have a humble, grateful response about this election. andrew, that was a bit condescending to the former governor of alaska. >> they have been riding this tiger and she is now licking her chops, ok? and the truth is they have campaigned on slashing spending and never touching taxes to end the deficit, ok?
so when they get into power, the people who elected them will be expecting that. and the republican party has certainly under bush not done anything like that. so if they don't, i think she's right. i think that palin is right. i think that there will be revolt, and i think -- i think it plays exactly -- this is the rope-a-dope again to obama. chris: where the tire hits the road is where they get elected. a bunch of these guys like angle and miller, a bunch, they will go in there and tell mcconnell, the senate leader and boehner, perhaps the new speaker, what they want done and they'll stomp their feet until they get it done. will they be intimidating or told to shut up? >> they will be told to shut up but they won't listen and in the end they will be intimidating. in at least this narrow way, this will be an advantage to the democrats and to president obama. i have the suspension that a lot of republicans, including republican leaders, are secretly praying that not too many of these tea party people get ected. chris: any more than they need. >> our father who art in heaven, please save us from these tea
party people. chris: and here's my question, will palin be as big a deal? 76% approval rating in the republican party, sarah palin. nobody will be even like it. will she be as high sky next year as this year? >> name me somebody else who will be higher in the republican sky than she will be. chris: will she be able to say you guys aren't cutting the budget? you guys aren't reducing taxes? >> y,es because she very good at supporting people around the country who have won primaries. chris: democrats enjoy it. >> and no one else. chris: cynthia, democrats are not just observers to this, not vatican observers watching the republicans in the far right fight with each other. what does president obama do when he sees this public fight, and we all will be covering it, between the tea parties that get elected and established leaders? >> for heaven's sake, let them stand back and kill each other. it has become a firing squad. let them kill each other. meanwhile he will play the game better that he's been playing all along.
i'm above all of this. see, we told you they didn't have a governing strategy. i have suggested some areas where we need to make cuts over here. republicans will not agree to that, and leb in a stronger position. chris: let me start with you. if sarah palin doesn't run for the republican nomination and actually bring the tea party into the party, will there be a third party? >> if she wants to lead one, she's got one. chris: if she runs for the nomination of the republican party, there won't be a third party? >> no, she'll win it. chris: she'll win the nomination. >> i thought she was going to win the nomination for years. >>hef s chooses to run, all of the energy, she's got the foot soldiers to dominate republican presence. chris: if she doesn't run, will there be a third party? >> maybe. >> maybe and then you also have to look at michael bloomberg and wonder if we're not looking at a fourth party. chris: will the tea party stay in the gop or go rogue? >> i think they stay in but i wouldn't place a big bet on that. i think sarah palin is odds on favorite to be the republican
electronic voting machines, their integrity could not be insured. after this election, they -- there may be more talk of that in this country. chris: wow. good story. >> the two big lines to watch in the tea party, assuming they do well on the house and senate will be on defense spending and social issues and we could see real divisions within the party. we're going to cut spending but will they ever cut defense spending? chris: cynthia. >> i think you know the midterms believe there will be fewer women in congress because there's so many on the democratic side. what you may not know is after november 2nd there could be more republicans of color in congress. there are currently no black republicans in congress. there could be as many as three. and there could also be more latino republicans in congress after the midterms. chris: good story. andrew sullivan? >> i think the president realized he's not going to be able to end don't ask/don't tell in the lame duck session so he's done something interesting. he has reserved the decision to fire openly gay service members
to just five senior pentagon officials. they will have to approve every discharge and they will not. so this thing will die on the line. chris: that's consistent with the statute, he can do that? >> yes. chris: good lawyers. when we come back, the big question of the week, juan williams was fired by n.p.r., national public radio, over statements about muslims on airplanes. only the most recent and high-profile media firings. are media companies too quick to respohe to at?
chris: welcome back. juan williams was fired by national public radio for statements he made on fox about muslims on airplanes. within recent months rick sanchez was fired by cnn for comments he made elsewhere about jewish people in the media, and helen thomas was abruptly retired, you could say, after statements about israel, which brings us to this week's big question -- are media companies sometimes too quick to react to heat over opinions voiced by their employees? dan rather? >> it's not sometimes. it's nearly all times in the modern era. that they just don't have the resolve to back their people. they get pressure and melt faster than a popsicle on a radiator. chris: katty, popsicle on a radiator. i think they feel like that.
your thoughts, katty kay. >> i'm going to duck the questions on the juan williams particular case, but i do think we have to be careful about saying things in muslims in america that would not be permissible of any other minority. chris: are media companies quick to respond to pressure from groups than they are to give a fair hearing to the person that made the comment? >> i think probably in the quest for ratings, the quest for ratings has gotten so pernicious that driving of companies there's a tendency to respond too quickly. >> it is tricky but i take n.p.r. at that word that they didn't end juan's contract over this episode. they claim that they have warned him before that he was in violation of their standards and their standards are very different from fox standards. chris: andrew? >> you can't talk about all media companies. there are all media companies and then fox news. on fox news if you say something bigoted, you get rewarded, you get promoted and you get
celebrated and that is a direct strategy. that's a media strategy. chris: what about n.p.r.'s handling of this? >> i think it was a little abrupt. i think he should have been alouped to make his case and explain his comments. i think when you look at the comments, they're self-evidently about muslims but i don't think he's a bigot. chris: he's a great progressive. in civil rights, hies written about it for years. >> of course. we're all human and sometimes our prejudices get the better of us and a company has to decide if that's an offense too far. chris: a lot of this is commercial, even with public radio. some people think about their contributors and who gives to them. they all think about who their people are. that's how things are gone. thank you to the round table [ ehrlich ] four years ago unemployment in maryland was under four percent. today, it's nearly double. and nearly a quarter of a million marylanders are looking for work. in addition, we face a national health care plan that will hurt small business and cost us jobs. so we have to ask, are you better off today than you were four years ago? we're heading in the wrong direction.