tv The Chris Matthews Show NBC January 1, 2012 11:00am-11:30am EST
>> this is "the chris matthews show." >> ask not what your country can do for you. >> tear down this wall. >> i can hear you. >> a time for change has come! chris: terms of endearment. what is it going to be in 2012. does the country hold or fold? does it go with the popular stirrings of barack obama or with the angry demands he be dumped? it's starting in frigid cold iowa, the christian conservatives who like pat robertson and mike huckabee will beeline to the caucuses and the whole shebang begins. getting the story right. we're hear to hear them. what does the panel think the press can do better to cover this election. how do we tell the story the
american people are about to tell. and finally, i can see clearly, ok, how good were we? all those tell me somethings i don't know, who really did tell us something only he or she knew. hi, i'm chris matthews. happy new year and welcome to the show. with us today, the national journal's major garret, cnn's gory borger, kelly o'donnell and david ignatius. happy new year. we have been looking forward to this presidential election year it seems forever. finally, we're on the verge of the first voting. we want to give you a road map for the rest of this year. no matter who the republicans choose ultimately, voters will have to decide whether to trust barack obama with for more years. his low poll numbers and his people say that he must begin to tear down the opposition. so it stands to be a historically negative year. right now it looks like you would have to go back to nixon-mcgovern in 1972 to find a year when americans faced
their presidential ballot so dismayed by what is confronting them. major, this year, how negative is this going to get between now and november? >> the president doesn't have much of a record to run on. he intends to define the choice, not about what he has done, but what a republican would do that would be even worse. that's an uncomfortable place for an incumbent to be. most successful presidential successful campaigns are about a journey taken and yet to be finished. you talk about what you have done, what the country has accomplished with you and how that can be built on for the future. president obama doesn't seem to be very much focused on the journey so far, just don't reverse. so i think it's a difficult place for the president to find. chris: how can he run a campaign slogan of this is how good it gets? >> he can't. >> it would be worse if you go over there or drift over there. that is the biggest problem for president obama. the republicans will say are you satisfied with these three years? are you happy with the journey we have been on? chris: is there a mood that this president is probably
going to lose as events take the course? is he headed towards defeat? >> i think there are lots of democrats i talked to who are very worried that with a high unemployment number, with the deficit being front and center that the president is going to play defense the entire time. look, as major was saying, it's very difficult to win an election when you would say, you know what? the other guy, whoever the other guy turns out to be, the other guy would make things worse. chris: you think this is bad? >> yeah, you think this is bad, this could be worse. that is not actually a positive optimistic, hopefully morning in america kind of message, so i think barack obama has his work cut out for him. chris: david to you now, the question is, do they feel like that? do you have a sense that there is a feel out there that the obama people know they're going to face a very uphill battle this year? >> i think they're worried. they have been worried. it's obama's way to play defense. that's just how he has conducted himself as president. this year is his last chance to
define himself for the american people in a clear way as a leader so that people might join him. i know one thing. obama is the only candidate in this race who can say to the american public, i killed osama bin laden. i took down america's biggest enemy. i made the country safer. that could be powerful. >> it's not going to be about foreign policy, the election. >> it's about i can protect you. i have done it. i showed that i can do it. chris: let's go back to a previous election recently where foreign policy was important, 2004. we had gone into iraq with the argument by george w bush we had to do it. there was no w.m.d. there, illusionment about the war, mixed about the war still being fought. he basically ran against john kerry by beating him, swift voting, all of the negative stuff. there was a case of a president who squeeked back in with ohio, basically one state, by trashing his opponent. >> 100,000 votes in ohio. i was on the plane and bus with
john kerry that year, remember it well. in the first debate, the then president george bush didn't do very well. there was a sense that kerry would lock this in. john kerry would say it was a tape of osama bin laden that hit in october that really switched things for him and made that argument that almost seems quaint now that you don't want to change horses during a war with a president. if you remember how fiercely people at that time did not like the war in iraq. a lot of it came down to john kerry and a comfort level. in this election year, the notion of electability which is such a great sales pitch until people settle in with the gut check. chris: let me ask you about history, david, the whole question about the way people get re-elected. historically looking back several decades, presidents tend to get re-elected rather resoundedly, johnson in 1964. reagan overwhelmingly, nixon, clinton. they come back in like gang busters. the race was the exception in
2004. in obama does pull it out, going to look like 2004? any chance he wins by a landslide? >> after 2004, george w bush changed in significant ways from chaney and the confrontational policies. what i hear from the white house is looking towards second term on foreign policy, which i cover, as an opportunity to do the broad things that would establish an obama agenda. he came into office impassioned about the middle east and the palestinian issue. i see him taking another really strong crack at that. chris: go head-to-head? >> this white house thinks that he has had success. that's an area -- who would have said that any war president candidate four years ago could run on a strong foreign policy record. >> if people are anxious as people in this country are, they want a president that is going to offer, not only some sort of hope for the future, but stability. i think people are looking for stability. so when they look at two candidates, they're going to say --
chris: what is more likely, a wipeout of the president or a smashing victory by the president, major. if you push it that way it's it seemed hard not to bet on a dramatic defeat. >> i would not bet on a dramatic defeat of president obama. if he loses, he would lose narrowly. look at politics since 1929. democrats when they have won have won by big electrical margins. republicans have won with the supreme court or a small majority. when democrats have won, they have won big, not republicans. also, here is the historical perspective. no president since andrew jackson has won a second term with a lower popular percentage vote than he won the first time. no president. does anyone at this table believe that barack obama if he is re-elected will receive 52.9% of the popular vote? >> no. >> no. so he would be historic if he won with 50.5%. he could still win. it would be a historical anomaly. most presidents if they win a
second term win very big or bigger than the first time. chris: what does this tell you? >> what this tells you if the country is not ready to give you 50, they will give lower. >> the key is republicans are enthusiastic about beating barack obama. they're just not enthusiastic about their candidates. so the question is what will get republicans to the polls? republicans go to the poll. chris: a bloody four-night debate series which is so tight this fall, whoever is against him, the blood will be on the faces like a painting. at the end, you will know this is a fight and there will be bloody and the audiences out there will say i'm getting to the polls. we haven't seen anything until we see the fall when it gets bloody. >> channeling anger. who is going to be the better repository for that anger and challenge it in a different direction. obama wants to identify with it, but how do you challenge it. chris: begun to do it at the end of the year by focusing on the populist argument, if
you're not doing well in the middle class out there, it's because of these historically right wing forces and business out that is hurting you badly and i'm fighting that for you in the next four years. before we break, here is a sensational new year's treat. our own highlights reel of all presidential primaries going back to 1976. you're going to enjoy this. >> i'm in the campaign all the way. >> the closest presidential primary ever held in new hampshire is over and mr. ford squeaked to victory by a margin of 1,300 votes. >> some of those who didn't do so well yesterday seemed to be satisfied with second. [laughter] >> good morning, everyone, i'm tom brokaw reporting with you live the morning after the iowa caucuses. >> clearly the winner, scored well, came from nowhere. >> i'm still alive. >> what the candidates were after was a boost, some momentum. >> the momentum we had.
>> a lot of momentum. >> forward momentum. >> i hate to use the word anymore, it's overused, "momentum." >> very interesting that the man who invested this type of what i call a voodoo economic policy. >> i have this microphone. >> ambassador bush, you were rolled over tonight by a reagan steamroller. what happened? >> i was rolled over by a reagan steamroller. >> for all of kennedy's optimism, he faces a tough road. >> and we're claiming victory tonight! >> why do you want to be president? >> well, i'm -- >> that's a judgment for him to make. i guess not. >> i hear your new ideas, i'm reminded of that ad, where's the beef? >> thank you, iowa. thank you, thank you very much. >> the people of new hampshire
tomorrow have the chance and the power to change the course of american history. >> the sights and sounds of victory at george bush's headquarters. senator dole, is there anything you would like to say to the vice president? >> yeah, stop lying about my record. >> i have been scrutinized more carefully than anyone else, absolutely. >> the best america is yet to come. [applause] >> bill clinton is almost pleading with voters to give him a second chance. >> i'll never forget who gave me a second chance and i'll be there for you until the last dog dies. new hampshire tonight has made bill clinton the comeback kid. [cheering] >> my opponent for this nomination is bob dole. >> bob dole must win tonight. he knows that. >> thank you, iowa. >> this is my opportunity obviously to thank the people of new hampshire. >> we want everybody here in
new hampshire. >> this tennessean is in the end zone and it feels great! >> we're going to washington, d.c. to take back the white house! >> i love new hampshire! >> thank you, iowa! >> the next president of the united states, barack obama. chris: actually pat buchanan beat bob dole in one of those races. thank you to our producer who put together a great reel. when we come back, our new year's resolutions for our own world here, the media, how did we do and can we do better? "scoops and predictions" from the notebooks of these reporters, be right back.
new year's resolution for all of us, this is tricky stuff, in this profession of journalism, right, what would it be? >> i would say stop interviewing donald trump so much. maybe don't say the word kardashian and start -- chris: god, i love it. >> and continue as we do around this table, covering politics, seriously. chris: major? >> invest in hard journalism. it takes a lot of money. it takes a lot of time. do the investment and always understand that nothing in this business is worth anything without verifiable, accountability, and accuracy. those are old school values that never ever go away. chris: where is your head going when you think about what is not getting covered in depth right now? >> there has been from that reel all the horse race application of political coverage. the horse race is vital, it's important, but amid the horse race, serious issues are discussed, sometimes seriously,
sometimes unseriously. let's unpack both and spend more time on the issues and a little bit less time on the polls and the horse race. chris: i think you're making me think about the economy and trying to really understand what makes it work or not work, the energy crisis we always face. >> it's so true. and covering politics for television, it makes the horse race very attractive. it's easy to understand. it's visual. it's exciting. how do we make what really matters and the underlying issues more interesting so that we hold viewers' attention? a lot of why we do what we do is because people get caught up in the shiny object, we're all guilty of it. if we can try and make substance more sexy, that would be great. chris: the debates the republicans have been having these last couple months have been effective for educating the public? >> i think having a lot of debates and having the great interest we have seen in people watching the debates have given the chance for people to compare them beyond the six or seven-second south bite. chris: people are watching. they like it. >> yes. >> let's stop using the phrase
"arab spring" to describe a process we really don't know how it's going to turn out. second, the second that all of my colleagues are saying, we have to find a way to cover politics that doesn't add to the noise and divisiveness and confusion the american public are experiencing. our political system that we cover is sometimes near the point of breaking down and somehow this year, i hope that goes better. >> again one thing we can do and continue to do and a lot of networks are doing it is when we have these debates, which are so interesting to reality check and fact check what the candidates are telling us. chris: i think it's very important, just what i have to do is ask people questions is to make sure they give an answer. i think more and more candidates are willing to come in, well, actually some of them said recently i don't have to answer my question. i can give my own presentation based on your question like it's a cue, when, in fact, the public generally does matter what they think of the media left to right, they do want the questions asked. they do applaud you when you ask a tough question to a candidate and you have to play that surrogate role for the
people watching. they can't jam the candidate, but you can jam the candidates and force them to answer the complicated difficult questions which involve the consequences of what they're arguing. that's what the public i think wants to know. >> one other thing that has happened in our industry, a lot of the hierarchies have been flattened. that's a good thing. people tend to vote on the coverage they like to say. a tremendous amount of information to news organizations about what people are reading and consuming. that's not our role to constantly feed those habtsdz. our role is to an ligse, unpack, and give information that may not in its first six hours get 50,000 clicks. over the course of a conversation can make a big difference. chris: my advice to the viewer, change the channel once in a while and hear the other view. when we come back, we look at the 2011 "scoops and predictions" from the notebooks of these top reporters.
chris: welcome back. this time a look back at some of this panel, these four people's predictions for the past year. first up, major garret. >> in the debt and reduction talks, the talk to be the republicans will be hard binding numbers for the two next fiscal years that are unbreakable. chris: spending. >> on spending cuts. they're willing to be flexible in the out years. the first two years are vital. until there is an agreement on that, nothing else will be discussed. chris: they want real cuts, no b.s. >> no b.s. chris: i can't wait for the word to be agreement. are we going to get one on the
debt ever? >> my prediction was right. that's what they fought for and what they got. they have some sense of regret about foisting this entire crisis on the president. it spread into our markets and globally. i think republicans look back on that now, yes, they won some important budgetary reforms and spending cuts, but was it worth all of the vibrations, most of them negative, set off across the global economy. but that is going to be the sum total of republican answers to obama on every issue going forward. spending cuts, reduce the size and scope of goff. that's where they are and going to stay. chris: here is one of yours from the past year. >> i'm going to predict a newt gingrich boomlet. i think newt gingrich is going to be a beneficiary of herman cain. chris: a lot of buzz along those lines. >> there he is. we have had how many boomlets? chris: two months ago and i give you credit for your
crystal ball. it was insightful. >> thank you. chris: analyzing an issue is proven by the ability to forecast and you have done that. anyway, kelly, yours wasn't exactly a prediction but a golden nugget. let's watch it. >> there is a perception that speaker boehner has trouble with his house freshman. not so much, it's the veterans. he shares an anecdote of how he is able to deal with the freshman. during the debt crisis, he called two of them in, boys, that door won't open until you say yes. i got a week and a half worth of cigarettes in the drawer. that's his hammer. chris: what is his special office? >> the more ornate offense. he doesn't stand on the pomp and circumstance of his station as speaker. so to put them in that high real estate end was controlling. i think that there is a misperception that it's the freshmen and it's been shown in a lot of the fights that some of the more veteran republican members have been giving him the hardest time. chris: i would love to see the republican party he would like
to lead. i think he is different than what he has been. i think he is a more interesting guy. david ignatius, here it is, your prediction. >> leon panetta, the defense secretary, is so worried about a failure by the supercommittee to pass a budget would mean in terms of doubling of cuts in defense to a trillion dollars. he is telling his aides, we may have to choose between which threats we're going to defend against. i think what he means is are we going to look to china as a threat? are we going to say we can't afford to deal with it? >> do we have that 2 1/2 war scenario thing? >> that is precisely what he thinks he can put on the shelf. chris: how many wars right now? >> 1 1/2. he is making the strategic choices that i was talking about in that prediction, but the bigger harder choices await the sequestration, the amount of cuts could double and panetta hasn't begun to answer those questions and he really doesn't know. those are the cuts that scare people. chris: troubling.
chris: welcome back and happy new year. and happy election year, i guess. thanks to today's great roundtable. major garret, gloria borger, kelly o'donnell and david ignatius. that's the show. we'll see you next week from new hampshire. [captioning made possible by new hampshire. [captioning made possible by nbc universal]