tv The Chris Matthews Show NBC October 17, 2011 12:00am-12:30am PDT
>> this is "the chris matthews show." >> ask not what your country it do for you. >> tear down this wall. >> i can hear you. >> the time for change has come! chris: independence day, have the right and the left lost their poll. after the hatred and gridlock, the shouts of my way or the highway, is america heading to the center lane? with returning to in-between the warring sides? location, location, location, has mitt romney moved without drama to the political high ground? by refusing to join the tea party, has he positioned himself just where a challenger to obama
ought to be as close as possible to the middle. and finally, street smart. do the people protesting unfairness have the bull by the horns? with the economy, will the american people hear the attacks on the rich and say you know what, that's pretty much what i think. hi, i'm chris matthews. welcome to the show. with us today, "time magazine"'s joe klein, the bbc's katty kay, the "washington post" nia-malika henderson and the national joirnl's major garrett. our country is not full of haters and angry desperate people. it's a country between the political 40-yard lines. how is the obama presidency changed the country's thinking? we looked at a side byside of this week's "wall street journal" nbc poll and the same poll four years ago. in a dratdra matic shift, voters on both the far left and far right have moved to the middle. the number of independents has risen during the obama term. up 1% in that time and that's a
historically big move. it's an america that fundamentally gets the difficulties confronting president obama, but feels he may be over his head. right now, it looks receptive to the untested but steady mitt romney over the president. romney's negative poll numbers are much lower than obama's, 29% negative for romney against 40% negative for obama. joe, it looks like the poll that nbc takes and the "wall street journal" completely verifies what you found in your long trip up and down the country? >> right. i mean, the great thing about americans is that going out there and actually talking to them is that you can't predict what they're going to say. and what they were saying this time is, hey, what about us? you guys in the media are always showing the tea party folks and now the occupy wall street folks. there is a great bunch of us in the middle who want to see deals made, who want to see compromise. and the "time magazine" poll this week, 89% said they would
rather have politicians who compromise than those that stick to their principals. what people say when you ask them about the tea party is they're envious. how did those guys get the attention to the people in washington, not that they agree with them, but they envy the fact that the tea party got its message across. chris: if joe is right and his numbers match up with his shoe leather reporting up and down the country, in texas and in the mississippi basically, that matches up with our nbc poll, people are not far left and far right. they want deals. >> we keep hearing that america is polarized, very polarized, bittererly polarized and we are hearing that people are angry. those are people that we hear. i thought the cover of the magazine this week is so interesting. it talks about the silent majority. you have this central america, but that's by and large silent. as joe found when he was traveling, people who are moderate and in the center in those meetings that you had, they didn't want to speak of and have arguments and the fight.
what we have is that we're hearing from the extremes of the country. that makes us think that that's where the country is. chris: the tea party people on the hill, 200 or so that say no to everything and the speaker can't cut any deals, i wonder if they're paying attention to this. wait a minute, maybe the hard right, my way or the highway aren't representing the people. >> it seems they aren't. if you look at the deals with the debt ceiling fight, they are opposed to this. they aren't listening to the silent center in part of because they're not voicing this idea. chris: you want to ask them. >> they want compromise. what they do see, if you can turn to the campaign, you see romney sort of picking up on the silent center. in the last debate, he talked about compromise. he talked about the need for leadership and compromise, message that he had got out of a
script at the lincoln library. chris: the 8% that didn't have health insurance got it. >> this isn't driven by a lack of evidence. look at the operators in washington. the "national journal" every two years checks voting behavior in congress. in 1982, there were 60 senators you could classify in the broad middle. in 2010, there were zero. in 1982, we had 353 members of the house that could be classified as broadly in the middle. there were seven in 2010. this is before the tea party wave election of 2010. the operators in this town act more partisan than the voters they -- chris: why? explain it. they're professionals. why do they get it wrong? >> they get it wrong because they have become much less attenuated and attached to parties. they're individual political operations, they have their own coltants and act in ways that are reinforced by those voters that they represent.
>> in 2008, obama is elected president. 80% of the people say that they like the health care they have. what is it he tried to do? he tries to reform the whole health care system. in 2010. the republicans steam in, 80% of the people say they love medicare. what do they try to do? they try to reform medicare. it's because they're only listening to their bases. they're not listening. >> it has exacerbated and you have more districts in the country where you are going to have people not fighting. you can do the whole show. look at the polarization in america. chris: they want to get re-elected. let me ask you about the president. most of the country voted for him, but what you are hearing, mixed feelings? >> it's sadness, not anger. they respect him. they think he he is a smart guy. they like most of his positions in trying to compromise on things like the deficit. they feel that he is in over his head and that he hasn't been a good leader because he hasn't been able to get anything done. chris: let's talk about romney.
he speaks to be positioning himself in the debates we're all watching, people like us are watching at least, as someone who is not willing to go far right. he seems to know about your polling and your street reporting. don't go hard right. stay somewhere right neither the center. >> he rarely says the phrase "tea party." he sticks to the same speeches that he gives to a house party in new hampshire. he does occasionally throw a bone, i think, to the tea party. in the second debate in florida, he, for instance, talked about illegal aliens which -- chris: he uses that word. >> he uses that word. that is throwing a bone. chris: this language is the game here. highly incensed, i'm with you haters. as a bottom line, we asked matthews meter, is mitt romney now in a position where he can stick to his views center right and not bend to the far right. seven say no, romney can't ignore the right. he has got to bend. you two, joe and katy, you voted
he could stick to the that position. >> we talked about rick perry and whether he could surge again in the polls. it depended on him turning in a good debate performance. he didn't do that this week, which puts romney increasingly in the position of being the frontrunner. if he is already in that position, the onus on him to shift to the right and have to do the double step back again. chris: joe, he can't get above the 23% in the republican primary polling? >> i think that there is great doubt about his health care plan and there is great doubt about the fact that he is a mormon. but, you know, it's interesting that all of the headlines from the debate this past week was herman cain and 999. mitt romney gave, i thought, one of the most impressive, impeccable debate performances i have ever seen by a candidate. i mean, that should have been the headline. this guy has actually gotten pretty good at this >> there isn't a republican president elected who didn't have a solid relationship with the republican base since richard nixon in 1968.
every republican nominee and president has had a solid enthusiastic relationship with the base. mitt romney does not. tactically right now, it may not matter. you have six dividing up the nonromney vote, he can win. >> there is not a candidate called cain, perry, bachmann. chris: or romney. i heard this week that all obama has to do is say to mitt romney to the voters, he is on the far right. you don't want him. he is just like perry and the rest of them. is that convincing? >> no, because it doesn't stick with who romney is. >> exactly. he doesn't seem like a far right. >> he can't decide. is mitt romney a flip flomer or a tool of the tea party, not both. chris: chris cristi came around to mitt romney this week. what was amazing was his timing. hardly the first to notice that two days before he stood add that podium to endorse romney,
"saturday night live" had this exit, he was pleading with republicans to like romney. >> listen up. you have to start showing governor romney some respect. i mean, how do you think he feels watching you like everybody more than i am. he is a nice man in a clean suit that wants to be president. where are your manners? it's like he took you to a fancy dinner and a nightclub and you spent the whole night grinding on the sweaty guy from new jersey. >> that's not the first time that those geniuses of "saturday night live" have mirrored political reality to the point that they help create it. look at this exit back in 2008, how it played off charges by the hillary clinton campaign that the press favored obama. >> and our first question is for senator obama from jorge ramos. >> senator obama, are you comfortable? is there anything we can get for you? [laughter] >> no, thank you. i'm fine. >> john king, a follow-up?
>> senator obama, a minute ago, jorge ramos asked if there was anything that we would could get you and you said "no thank you, i'm fine." my question is, are you sure? [laughter] >> because it's really no trouble. chris: look how art eventually influenced life in the next debate? >> anybody that saw "saturday night live," maybe we should ask barack if he is comfortable and gets another pillow. i find it curious that i'm getting the first question on all of these issues. chris: the biggest impact was the character ca tour of sarah palin which she embraced and got the real john mccain to be part of the play the weekend before the election. >> ok, listen up, everybody, i'm going real great now. keep your voices now. available, we got a bunch of these here. [cheers and applause]
>> just try and wait until after tuesday to wear them, ok? i am not going anywhere and i'm certainly not going back to alaska. chris: in the end, palin decided not to run this time. tina's change into palin became a part of her real life persona. when we come back, are we seeing the start of something bigger in the wall street protests? is the street the new political stage? could the protesters go into a political force in the election? plus scoops and predictions from these top reporters. be right back.
one is left wing agitators who would be happy to show up next week on any other topic and sincerely middle class people who are close to the tea party people and are actually caring. you can tell who are which. the decent responsible citizens pick up after themselves. chris: that was newt gingrich and he couldn't resist securing the protesters with the final comment. he avoided slamming all of them. for his part, mitt romney is sending signals that the protesters may be a force to be reckoned with. >> i don't worry about the top 1%. instead of worrying we need to help them, i want a strong and vibrant and prosperous middle class. i look at what is happening on wall street and my own view is, boy, i understand how those people feel. chris: romney is aware of the politics here. you can see that in a new "time magazine" poll. the favorable ratings for the wall street protests are double for what they are for the much ballyhooed tea party. katty, they have been around for
a couple weeks. the tea party is part of the history and they're beating them 2-1 in public support. >> it took americans so long to come out and protest given how dire the state of the economy is and how the gross inequality has been so great over the last couple of years. it's interesting that they have tapped in clearly to a general dissatisfaction with the direction that america is taking in terms of the economy. the people are seeing the top 1% of the country that mitt romney referred to, taking a larger and larger slice of the g.d.p. that resonates with how they're feeling at home. so long as the protests stay nonviolent, i think which is critical, then there seems to be more support for it. >> newt likes to exude disdain every time he opens his mouth. he does have a point. in terms of substance, the american people and a lot of the tea party people are with the anti-wall street protesters. in terms of style, if this starts getting weird and maybe
violent, then -- >> i have seen the dynamic of the white house. chris: why can't the president win with the same points that the protesters of wall street are making? they're making the point of inequality. have you could change the tax structure or something to change the way things are shared in this country. >> the president has to govern. that's a complicating factor. a protester who has a set of grievances but no particular agenda, that's easier for them. that's a huge number one difference. the president also understands or at least until the american jobs act that he should have to deal with the congressional republicans. with the american jobs act, that is a pivot point. i'm not going to deal with you. i'm going to argue with you. i'll argue on my basis and even if i lose down stream or i compromise, i want this argument to define you and me. i would say in the month since the american jobs act and i didn't think this would happen, i think the president has gotten more of his voice and has become
more resonant on this topic then i would predict. chris: the 10-point shift toward the democrats in congress, dramatic shift. >> it shifted six points, who would you like to see in control in congress two years ago away from republicans, that is the largest move away from the republicans in the poll in 1997. chris: this is hurting him? >> it appears to be. >> it will be a challenge for the president to say i have this agenda, but the republicans won't let me push it through. it's almost like a revision of yes, we can. chris: mcconnell says i will have a vote on it right now, go ahead. the president's party wasn't ready to present the bill they thought they could get 50 votes for. >> in the americans job bill are lower taxes, highways, everyone is in favor of high waist and infrastructure. they are blocking it purely for political reasons. the other problem that obama has with this is that he doesn't agree with the occupy wall street protesters. if he did, he would have never
made tim geithner his treasury secretary. chris: what is filtering from the streets up there into the halls of the white house? are they picking up on the strains of the argument? >> you see that in the white house and with the democratic party. i think they're also being very careful. if this morphs into a hippy communist commune out there, that's a problem. >> anything that is happening in 140 cities in this country, you better pay attention. chris: is this going to matter to the election? will they have the firing power by then? >> i don't know that this particular movement will, but the feeling against wall street will. >> the people in the streets be there election day? >> i don't know, but i agree with joe that the underlying sentiment that there is something wrong in the inequality that we're seeing will be there. >> the underlying discontent and anxiety remains even if the protesters are gone. >> unemployment is at 9.1% and unemployment, it will go away.
chris: welcome back. joe, tell me something i don't know. >> the iranian plot to kill the suddeny ambassador may seem like a weird, crazy thing. people are worried about this in our intelligence community. it points to a much bigger problem is that we're getting closer and closer to a huge sunni shiite blow-up in the middle east which could be a huge war that involves the
entire region. chris: katty. >> there was some good bipartisan news in washington this week. there was a free trade agreement signed with the south koreans. both parties worked together and it's possible. the republicans didn't make that much play of it, presumably, they don't want to give the democrats much credit. democrats are suspicious because it might cost american jobs. chris: it's not a do nothing congress. they're going to use it. >> immigration will be a bigger problem for rick perry than his debate performances. in iowa they have problem. in south carolina, he has problems on the stump. chris: giving tuition. >> instate tuition, exactly. >> mitt romney said if he were president on the first day, he would deny as china as a currency manipulator. mitt romney has complicated the
chris: welcome back. this week's big question, if mitt romney is the republican running against barack obama next year, will his mormon religion cost him states in november? joe. >> only if there is an evangelical or libertarian third party that comes as a result of the fact that they really do believe mormonism is a cult. >> it will be a question whether enough evangelicalses or baptists stay home in some southern states or states toward the south that possibly the democrats might -- chris: name one of the states where it might change? >> florida, i don't know enough, but could it have an impact in a
state like that? >> barber came out and said herman cain could sweep the south if he was the nominee which is saying that mitt romney would have trouble down there i think he will. chris: is that your translation? >> that's my translation. and i think, i think ultimately it will be fine. we just elect an african-american president. i think the country is much more diverse and tolerant than people think they are. >> mitt romney is better on health care than he was eight months ago. he will be better on his face going forward. i predict a speech on this, not unlike john kennedy in 1960 and the issue will be not entirely laid to rest, but where it will matter it will not pull a state away from him. chris: thanks to a great roundtable. that's the show. thanks for watching. we'll see you back here next thanks for watching. we'll see you back here next week.