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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

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MR. MATTHEWS: We begin with a couple of campaign surrogates tonight, and I love surrogates. From stage right, as Shakespeare would say, Heather Wilson, a Republican congresswoman from New Mexico, and proud of it; in many respects proud of it. And stage left, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democratic congresswoman from Florida.

Ladies, thank you, first, for joining us.

Heather, Congresswoman, did you see "Saturday Night Live" last night?

REP. WILSON: I did.

MR. MATTHEWS: Do you think John McCain should have been so much a good sport two days before an election, three days before an election?

REP. WILSON: I thought he was funny. And the self-deprecating humor was refreshing, particularly, you know, given the 30-second commercials at least we're seeing here in New Mexico. And, you know, he's a good guy. He's a solid guy. And he doesn't have trouble laughing at himself. So I thought it was fine.

MR. MATTHEWS: What did you make of Governor Sarah Palin sort of sneaking off in a kind of a Shakespearean aside and waving a T-shirt that said, "Palin in 2012," and then when she gets caught by McCain, she says, "Oh, I'm just talking taxes, Senator"? What did you make of that little opera bouffe?

REP. WILSON: I thought it was funny. And I think Tina Fey is -- you know, she's a dead ringer for Governor Palin. And it was funny. So, you know, it's like lighten up and laugh. That's how I felt.

MR. MATTHEWS: Okay, great for you.

Let me ask Debbie Wasserman Schultz, did your side score some points last night by portraying John McCain as a loser?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I think last night showed that John McCain has some other work he could pursue after Tuesday.

MR. MATTHEWS: (Laughs.)

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: So that was -- he got a little practice in before the end of the election on Tuesday. So that's probably helpful for him.

MR. MATTHEWS: Well, anyway, I think he came across as a good sport.

Let me ask you about these latest polls now in Florida. Let's go to where you're at, Congresswoman -- 47, Obama; 45, McCain. Can you enlighten us as to the real meaning in those very tight numbers?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, most of the polls, including the Real Clear Politics poll, have it at five points. Some of the polls have it at four. It is going to be a tight race, right down to the wire. But the Obama grassroots turnout operation is in full swing.

I'll tell you, Chris, I pulled into my driveway after dropping my kids off at Hebrew school this morning and was delighted to see four Obama volunteers get out of a car on my street canvassing voters and trying to get people to the polls.

So, you know, we have a campaign that is everywhere. And Florida is going to be blue on Tuesday and in Obama's column because we have so many needs, so much concern about the economy. We need to move this country in a new direction, and Florida voters are ready to embrace change. And they'll do that on Tuesday.

MR. MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Wilson, I would like you to make a prediction as to how your state is going to go, the Land of Enchantment. How's it going to go on Tuesday night?

REP. WILSON: It'll be --

MR. MATTHEWS: I know how it's going to go, but I want you to 'fess up and say how you think it's going to go.

REP. WILSON: (Laughs.) New Mexico is always a battleground state. And Chris, I have to tell you, I think there's been -- in the month of October this year, there have been more national polls than in the entire year of 2004. And we need to be looking more at the candidates as opposed -- I guess it's easier to look at -- you know, call a horse race than it is to describe a horse. And the difference between these two men and the change direction that we need, particularly on the economy, is huge.

I was up in North Carolina and in New Hampshire this last week on behalf of Senator McCain. And I remember back on election night in the primaries where everyone was predicting that, you know, "Well, Barack Obama is ahead by 10 in New Hampshire, and it's all over tonight, and Hillary Clinton is going to concede defeat." And Hillary Clinton won New Hampshire.

The poll that matters is the one that happens on Election Day. These two men are very different when it comes down to what direction we want the country to go in --

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That's absolutely true.

REP. WILSON: -- and the change that we need. It's Senator McCain who offers that, particularly when it comes to taxing small business.

MR. MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz for a couple of issues. We have a new USA Today/Gallup poll that shows that on the issue of who's going to make your life better, your personal finances better, it's overwhelmingly for Barack Obama, like about a 20-point spread. And on the issue of who's going to protect you, it's flat even. They're neutralized on that issue.

What do you make of that? That sounds like a successful campaign for Barack, that he's caught up to McCain on security and he's got the Democrat edge, the out-of-power party edge, on the economy. He's kept one advantage and taken away the other guy's advantage on his strong suit.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, right now people obviously are most concerned about the economy and their pocketbook. In my state, Chris, we have the second-highest foreclosure rate in the country. We have property values that have plummeted. We have people -- we are at 6.1 percent unemployment, which is higher than the national average. And we have an electorate right now that wants to embrace change by ensuring that we have a president in the White House who is going to move us in a new direction and focus on the middle class and working families.

John McCain, with all due respect to my colleague, Heather Wilson, will just offer us more of the same; will offer us more Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest few, has embraced President Bush's record 90 percent of the time. So if that's change, we're looking at a different dictionary.

MR. MATTHEWS: Okay, let's take a look at both candidates today. Congresswoman Heather Wilson, you'll be next to respond. But here's Congressman -- or rather Senator Barack Obama in Columbus today, and then we'll show you Senator McCain speaking as well today.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL, Democratic presidential nominee): (From videotape.) After 21 months and three debates, John McCain still cannot tell you, the American people, a single major thing that he'd do differently from George Bush when it comes to the economy.

I mean, think about it. You've been getting a lot of ads here in Ohio. You've watched those ads. Can you tell me what it is that John McCain says he's going to do about the economy that's different than George Bush? I mean, he's spent a lot of time talking about me.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ, Republican presidential nominee): (From videotape.) My friends, this is the fundamental difference between Senator Obama and me. And Americans are figuring it out in the last 48 hours of this campaign. (Cheers, applause.) Senator Obama and I both disagree with President Bush on economic policy. The difference is, he thinks that taxes have been too low, and I think that spending has been too high. My friends, I'm not George Bush. If Senator Obama wanted to run against George Bush, he should have run four years ago. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Wilson, do you think that Barack Obama is a socialist?

REP. WILSON: I think he's a very liberal Democrat, and he has talked -- you know, he's told the now famous Joe the Plumber and other people that he thinks that government should spread the wealth around. That is a very liberal Democratic position, and it's not what government is for.

MR. MATTHEWS: Is he over there with the old British Labour Party, old Labour? Would you put him that far in terms of national health insurance and nationalization of major issues? I mean, the term socialist has some pedigree. We know what it means. Americans know what socialist means. It means the government grabs control of the economy, even more so than it's done in this country under this administration. Do you think he's a socialist?

REP. WILSON: I think he's a liberal. I think I just said that.

MR. MATTHEWS: Because that word has been used a lot by your party.

REP. WILSON: I think he's a liberal, and he's unashamed about it.

MR. MATTHEWS: So you don't think your party should be using the word socialist. So you think John McCain's wrong in using the word socialist.

REP. WILSON: (Laughs.) Chris, I think he's a liberal. He's a very liberal Democrat. He's the most liberal Democrat in the United States Senate. I worry about his policies, and particularly their effect on small business, which is the engine of economic growth in America. You can't increase taxes -- you know, 50 percent of the tax revenue that comes in from that top tax bracket is actually small business owners who pay at that top rate. If you increase taxes on them, you will kill job growth in America.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Chris, 98 percent --

MR. MATTHEWS: You know, there are some people out there -- Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, there are a lot of Republicans out there, I'm told, in phone conversations today who are honestly worried that socialized medicine is on the way, which means you'll have to wait in line to get a heart transplant. You will have a rationing of health care products -- products; I shouldn't call them that -- vital needs in terms of health care, like organ transplants and things like that. You'll have to wait in line. We're going to a socialist system. Is that real?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Oh, no. That is -- we're the furthest from that. Barack Obama has a private market-based universal health care plan. John McCain has a plan, or a semblance of a plan, that would cover almost no one. Barack Obama's plan will cover everyone. It's based on the private market. It also would have a public option, but it would ensure everyone. We are not going to go to a Canada model or a single-payer system under Barack Obama. He knows that we need to use the private market as the base. And so any concern or accusation --

REP. WILSON: Debbie, you know the answer to this --

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: -- any concern or accusation like that --

REP. WILSON: Debbie --

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: -- is completely unfounded.

REP. WILSON: Debbie, maybe you know the answer to this, but Barack Obama has said that for a business that doesn't provide health insurance to their employees, that he is going to put a fee on that business. There will be a penalty. How much will that penalty be, and what size business will be exempt from it?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I'll respond to that. I'll respond to that in saying that John McCain's plan would require us cutting $882 billion from Medicare in order to pay for --

REP. WILSON: He has never said, and you know that, Debbie.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Oh, yes, he has. Doug Holtz-Eakin --

REP. WILSON: No, he has not.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: -- has said on national television many times that in order to pay for John McCain's health care plan, it would require a cut in Medicare, and he would only give a paltry $5,000 tax credit. Barack Obama's plan covers everyone. And you know what? It's time to make sure we have a president in the White House that knows that health care should be a right, not some vacuous responsibility that John McCain called it.

MR. MATTHEWS: Okay --

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Whose responsibility, Heather?

REP. WILSON: And that is a very liberal position --

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: (What we need is ?) universal for everyone.

REP. WILSON: -- that health care should be a right. I don't have a right to a doctor's services.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It's very liberal to ensure that when you're sick, you should be able to go to the doctor and not worry about how you're going to pay for it. That's very liberal.

MR. MATTHEWS: You should check the websites, people watching right now, both candidates, to get more details about their health care plans. It's very doable. Check their websites. These can be very tricky to understand.

Here's an ad, by the way, put out by a third-party group called the National Republican Trust. It's one of those 527s. It's running in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida right now at a cost of two and a half million dollars these next couple of days.

(Begin videotaped segment.)

ANNOUNCER: For 20 years, Barack Obama followed a preacher of hate and said nothing as Wright raged against our country.

REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT: Not God bless America -- God damn America.

The US of KKKA.

ANNOUNCER: He built his power base in Wright's church. Wright was his mentor, adviser and close friend for 20 years. Obama never complained until he ran for president.

Barack Obama -- too radical, too risky.

(End videotaped segment.)

MR. MATTHEWS: Congressman Wilson, your thoughts about this? Is this ad fair ball?

REP. WILSON: I think it is. And I have to say that, you know, Senator McCain has said he's not going to go there, and this is the guy's faith and so forth. But it did concern me when Senator Obama said, you know, "I can't distance myself from this pastor," and then the pastor said something, you know, again offensive to most Americans, and he decided to, you know, kind of throw him overboard.

But he was in this church for 20 years. I don't agree with every pastor that's in my pulpit. You know, ours change as Methodists a little bit more frequently. But the fact that he says he was his personal mentor, close friend; he names his book after a line from one of his sermons. That's pretty close.

MR. MATTHEWS: You know, it's easier --

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It's the politics of fear.

MR. MATTHEWS: It's better to be a Protestant. You can say things like, "I disagree with my pastor." I'm a Catholic. I can't say I disagree with what I hear in church, because it would be the same in every Catholic church I go to.

Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, do you think this crosses the line into dirty politics, into ethnic politics, showing the Reverend Jeremiah Wright with such power like that?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I do. It's a place that not even John McCain would go. But he's allowing his surrogates and his affiliated organizations to do it for him. He has nothing left but fear and doubt. John McCain has spent most of the last two weeks to three weeks saying only negative things about Barack Obama, very little about his own plan as president. It's because he is just going to offer us more of the same, more of his 90 percent voting record.

And all he has left, Chris, is to throw enough stuff up on the wall and hope something sticks to plant enough doubt in voters' minds. People want change. They're going to embrace it on Tuesday. And we're going to really be able to move this country in a new direction finally.

MR. MATTHEWS: Who will win Florida, Congresswoman? Who will win Florida Tuesday night?

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I think Barack Obama will win Florida. I think it's going to be close, but he's going to win.

MR. MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Wilson, who will carry North -- rather, New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment?

REP. WILSON: It's going to be a battleground. And as I've told you before, I don't do polls. I try to get out the vote.

MR. MATTHEWS: Okay.

REP. WILSON: And the poll that matters is the one that happens on Election Day.

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I'll agree with you on that, Heather. (Laughs.)

MR. MATTHEWS: New Mexico will go -- okay, I do do polls. New Mexico will go for Democrat Barack Obama.

Thank you, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz --

REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you.

MR. MATTHEWS: -- and U.S. Congresswoman Heather Wilson. Thank you both for joining us.


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