tv The Chris Matthews Show NBC March 6, 2011 4:30pm-5:00pm PST
tegrating solutions, helping business, and the world...work. rethink possible. >> this is the "the chris matthews show." >> ask not what your country can do for you. >> i can hear you! >> a time for change has come! chris: this is a winning country. can obama get us to double down on believing that he'll keep us number one? has he got the good stuff to bring us back from the bad time? has he got the hot hand to match real concerns that we may be down for good. too much information. it took one bad conversation to turn good-time charlie sheen into bad-time charlie sheen. remember sarah palin's chat with katie couric and jimmy carter getting up close and personal with "playboy" and what's up
with the tea partyers? can't they get a candidate? they might have swoon for thune, now someone is pretending to like them. i'm chris matthews. welcome to the show. with us today, "the huffington post's" howard fineman, the bbc's katty kay, msnbc's norah o'donnell and "time magazine's" rick stengel. "time magazine" has this cover, is america still number one? nobody knows, job growth is on the right path right now but if we don't cut the debt, will america's greatness end, and if we don't invest in education and research, will greatness end? decade after decade, we relearn that the american belief in our strength tends to be self sulfilling and presidents to speak to that faith in the future tend to lead there and those who speak to worry don't do as well. jimmy carter, 1979. >> the erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of america.
>> the 2012 race will test president obama's ability to inspire confidence, optimism in the future in the face of increasing global rivalries. there's a big partisan divide on this and nbc's last poll, 39% of democrats said the country's in decline, just 39%. but look at this jump. 58% of independents and 69% of republicans who live in the same country think we're in decline. rick, big differential there. how will this play out as we pick another president or keep this one? >> part of what makes us great, chris, is that we are eternally questioning our own greatness. adams and jefferson wondered whether america was in decline. here's the situation. there are problems with america today. you know, we were once the land of social mobility and now we are behind france in social mobility. that's embarrassing. chris: the ability to move up from working class to middle class? >> right. chris: the french? i always thought the french were
satisfied with the class they were born in. >> even katty's country is probably ahead of us in social mobility. now if you're born as a working class person in western pennsylvania, you'll probably stay that way. the problem going forward for politicians and president obama is we really like happy warriors. we have to say, look, things are bad now, but we're going to make them better. chris: i'm stunned by this because i think it's a can-do country. these statistics about life expectancy and college graduation are real. >> rich gave me the opening i wanted by mentioning western pennsylvania. i'm from pittsburgh and the other side of the story is that pittsburgh, which used to be a steel town, is now a college town with the third highest concentration of college students in the country and there is still social mobility there, at least there's education opportunity there, terrific healthcare and research. so a rebirth, if it happened in my home town, and it's possible
through the rest of the country, and the president has to find places around the country to make that case. chris: katty, we're not going to get better on the comeback trail without it seems to be doing something and i'm asking that. reinvention is very good. after world war ii, not just winning the war, g.i. bill. all of a sudden, the entire working class of america had a chance to go to college for free and become middle class and a lot of those men became upper middle class. because of government policy, something changed. >> i think what leads us there is recognition of a problem. sometimes i'm not sure i'm going to question rick a little bit because i think there's a tendency for denial and denial will lead this country to decline. chris: but the republicans are questioning. >> if you ask americans where is your healthcare system in the world i bet you americans will tell you it's number one but it's just one place above cuba's but americans don't want to look at other countries. chris: everybody comes here to get fixed when they're riched.
>> if you look at the overall life expectancy, problems with diabetes, asthma, we come out according to the world health organization one place above cuba but there is a tendency if politicians question america, immediately the public or press turn around and say, they are unpatriotic and don't believe in american exceptionalism and that is a problem for barack obama. >> the president posed the question, are we winning the future? so everybody from charlie sheen focused on winning to the president focused on winning the future. chris: but he's deranged. >> yes, he is. but -- [laughter] >> but i think the point is, is that, america's still the number one economic superpower, still the military superpower, still the greatest innovator in the world in terms of things but we are falling behind in education when we're spending $4 on
seniors for every $1 on young people. there's a debate in wisconsin, in ohio, in indiana. >> it's a system that doesn't allow you to make long-term decision. when congressman are obsessed with being re-elected and raising the finances to do that every four years, the chinese have 40-year plans on healthcare renovation. chris: you make that point in your magazine, beautiful. he points out that all decisions in america are contemporary. how do you get re-elected this election year? you don't touch social security, you don't touch medicare. >> part of what he says, too, is to get the country moving again as j.f.k. said is when we look at these issues. the times in american history when we've leapt forward is when we question what we're doing and our greatness and what we share is that the budget is out of control. >> the trick is to be honest and inspirational at the same time. chris: 50-year-old factory
worker, 50-year-old man or woman in western pennsylvania, indiana, the states that will decide the next election, wisconsin, we're there all the time. are they thinking the president has this figured out? >> if you look at the statistics and polling and talk to poem in those places, they don't think that. they're highly skeptical and open to another message from somebody who, if he or she can find it, mixes honesty with inspiration. if you're just going to tell people, look, here are the cold, hard facts, that's not going to work. newt gingrich is tiptoeing around actually running and i was struck by what he said. we believe it is possible through the right policies with the right values to create dramatically more jobs with dramatically higher incomes. now, open question, can newt gingrich do that? i don't know. but if there's a can-do person who can say, i know how to do it and let's be optimistic. obama's tried that but not everyone is convinced he knows
how to do it. chris: is it saying optimistically we can do, like reagan, or here's how we do it. we asked 12 of our regulars what will be the more effective message next year. hopeful talk about the future or straight talk about the problems we face? i hate these because they're tied six to six but of the people here, you, howard, norah and katty, all said, hopeful message will work with the american people. do you have to mix that with hopeful for what reason? it can't be, we muddled through before, we'll do it again. in your piece, that's what happened to the british after world war ii. they won the war and shrank. >> right. we can't just be managing decline and you can't say as the candidate paul tsongas did, there is no santa claus. we like happy warriors, people who feel like i can coldly look at the situation but i can fix it. >> it's a question of having the right language whilst having the
right policies. you need the inspirational language and long-term investment in america's future that will make things better and keep america's position number one. >> i'm thinking about you, you're married to a business guy, the entrepreneur. the entrepreneur has to make an independent decision, not the partisan politician, but the people deciding these elections are men and women who make business decisions. i have a brother like this. i can tell who will win the election, how charlie will vote. he says, wait a minute, this guy has a hot hand, i'm with clinton. >> how's he leaning now? chris: i don't know yet but i'm thinking a smart business person will answer your question, newt gingrich question. but then they'll look at newt and say, is he the guy? >> the president benefits from a good trajectory and the trajectory is, is that unemployment is going down, right? chris: 3.9 this week. >> and economists say it will be in the mid 8's by the end of 2012. the president has cut small
business taxes and put a burden on small businesses with the healthcare mandate but the president will try to run on that and the trajectory of at least unemployment benefits his re-election. chris: there's also growth in the overall economy, however, slow and agonizing of the he's going to have to argue that the trends in the right direction. that's his best case because no president's ever been re-elected with unemployment over, i think, 7%. >> then you have a short-term focus on what this month's unemployment number is and that is not getting you to the long-term question of american decline which is a spending question in some cases, as the president said in the state of the state-of-the-union address, we need to invest in the things that will keep america strong. chris: eat your spinach, answer, and i'm waiting to see which one will say eat your spinach, get your dessert later. before we break, charlie sheen, the affirmation, learned a lesson this week that many politicians could have told him beforehand. doing interviews isn't always the smart move when you're not
ready. there was the fateful decision by sarah palin to grant an interview to katie couric which she was not prepared for. >> what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed in the world? >> i've read most of them, again, with a great appreciation for the press, for the media. >> what ones specifically? >> all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years. >> can you name a few? >> i have a vast variety of sources. chris: and there was the eventful ted kennedy interview on cbs when his presidential candidacy was derailed by this question by roger mudd. he wasn't ready to answer. >> why do you want to be president? >> well, i'm -- >> he looked so good there. and jimmy carter probably thought it was smart to talk playboy-ish when he granted them
an interview. it was this un-carter-like talk that interview is remembered for. "i've looked on a lot of women with lust. i've committed adultery in my heart many times. this is something god recognizes i would do and i have done it and god forgives me." "saturday night live" played it this way. >> i don't know why i said that but i said it because i think it would probably get me elected. as your president, i look forward to deeply satisfying each and every one of you. god forgive us all. thank you. chris: another lesson from that episode, you have to be yourself, not someone you think "playboy" readers want you to be. when we return, the far right has a favorite to beat barack obama, but they're not running. so will the regular republicans who are running play to the haters? must, scoops.
chris: welcome back. this week we saw how conservative talk on radio and cable may drive next year's presidential candidates to extremes. here is one of the leading republicans who could not resist playing to a far-right radio audience. >> this perspective, growing up with opinion of father and grandfather, their view of the mao revolution is different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the british are imperialists. chris: huckabee is the most popular potential candidate among all republicans, including the farther right. he has 27% of tea partyers in our new poll. sarah palin has 14% of tea
partyers but despite that pandering, huckabee's really not expected to run for president, nor is palin. among the more established candidates running, newt gingrich has 19% among tea partyers, mitt romney down to 14%. why aren't the tea party favorites running? >> i think it's economy managers who are running and the social issue people who are holding back. i think they may think that in this year, as we were discussing, the concern about decline in the american economy and so forth, that the social issue play, the regional play, talking about traditional values, is not going to be as important and that's one of the things that those people are known for, whether it's sarah palin or mike huckabee. chris: in iowa, you can play up the cultural right, the religious right. i think you saw huckabee pandering to that crowd with this kenya talk. >> then huckabee saying, oh, i meant to say indonesia.
none of that adds up. what's interesting about the tea party, you have the economists that are focused on the deficit and on taxation and there is no one representing the financial wing of the tea party. so you have the social conservatives who are not running but i'm surprised we have not had somebody come from the tea party side capitalizing on what we saw in the midterm elections. chris: george will says this will skunk the republican party next year, all this talk about kenya and ethnic stuff that's clearly nasty, intended to be nasty, has nothing do with fixing this country's economy. >> what we've seen in presidential politics always is that pragmatism trumps purity. these guys are trying to be too pure. chris: what do you mean? >> huckabee, all these folks are trying to be ideologically aligned with the tea party. at some point the republican candidate will have his or her
sister soldier moment with the tea party. >> the tea party people are interested in fiscal issues, not necessarily interested in the social issues and where obama grew up. some may espouse conspiracy theories, but they're concerned with fiscal issues. do they believe that mitt romney in massachusetts or tim plenty, two-time governor of a purple state who has a record on fiscal issues. those are the two guys it will come down to. for huckabee and palin, they're more interested in making money and selling books. chris: and the question for you, will the economic based people like romney, will they go over to the social stuff and try to win the right with that stuff and will it hurt them? >> yes, the tea party is not basically a social issue movement. it's basically a fiscal movement so they'll try to secure that fiscal base and fight each other to see who can benefit from the social side. >> i don't see romney going over to the ethnic and nasty stuff. he will try to win this on
somebody who has experience in business issues and the economy. chris: he'll stay away from the huckabee stuff this week? >> fiscal trumps social. chris: they're not going to do it. >> if the republicans want to win, they have to say, i can handle this economy better than president obama. chris: i think they'll go back to who's the real american number again. >> let's secure the economic side, then they'll go over there. chris: in iowa, they're going for the nasty. when we come my diet? well yesterday i had an apple turnover.
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chris: welcome back, howard, tell me something i don't know. >> the organizational battle is starting not just in the states but in cyberspace. on facebook, newt gingrich has 100,000 facebook fans. mitt romney has 800,000, but most significantly, barack obama has 18.5 million and that's an organizational tool that his people are right now figuring out how to update for the 2012 campaign. chris: wow. >> how many friends do you have? >> zero. chris: catty? >> the white house is very focused on the middle east and the history of the middle east, not just the invasion of iraq and specter of that and the u.n. resolutions that hang over no-fly zone over libya. they're also looking back to 1991 when george bush sr. told iraqis to rise up against saddam hussein and they did and they were massacred for it.
>> the president faces a lot of problems -- libya, the budget crisis but perhaps the biggest problem is inflation. you have gas prices above $4. food prices, worldwide, 20%, but here in america, coffee up 100% on wholesale. meat, prices are going through the roof. this is going to drive prices up at your restaurants, at your local stores, grocery store. chris: not just oil? >> all the commodities. >> as we all know, nondefense discretionary spending is a measly 17% of the national budget. republicans want it cut. one of the things they want to cut is americorps which supports programs like city year and teach for america which are designed to halt american decline. that's a tragedy. chris: i agree. when we return, the big question of the week, how much longer before americans demand a faster pullout from afghanistan?
army into asia or into the middle east or africa should have his head examined. chris: that was macarthur-esque, bringing us to this question -- will americans be patient with the current withdrawal time table for afghanistan or will they push for a quicker withdrawal given that statement? >> i think they're going to be patient because frankly, at this point, they don't want to look too closely at it. the american people are tired and upset about it and i don't think want another fight about it. they'd just as soon the president manage the decline. chris: katty? >> amazing how bob gates is being outspoken at the moment. i agree with howard. i think there is not going to be a big push to pull these troops out faster. they feel there is a time table in place and they're happy to stick with it. >> pentagon officials say robert gates was talking about the future, not passing judgment on the current wars in iraq or afghanistan. chris: they can say that. >> there is a time line for july for there to be a withdrawal of forces from afghanistan but it
is contingent on what happens on the ground. i don't think the president, people i talk to, say that he's anxious to get out of this war. he doesn't want to lose this war, and they actually think they're making progress on the ground. >> but here's the problem. someone has to enunciate what is the mission in afghanistan? what is our strategic purpose there? even dick holbrook who had questions about it would talk about pakistan, but it's very hard to explain why we should be in afghanistan to protect our interests in pakistan. the american public doesn't understand that. chris: when somebody says they're not going to do something again, it's a suggestion they did the wrong thing the last time. that's a great roundtable today. howard fineman, katty kay, norah o'donnell and rick stengel. [ woman ] bathing suits. shorts. tank tops. [ female announcer ] grab a box of multigrain cheerios,
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