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MSNBC "Hardball With Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

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<br>MSNBC "Hardball With Chris Matthews" - Transcript

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MATTHEWS: Joining me right now is U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California. She‘s chairman of—or chairwoman, rather, of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Thank you, Congresswoman, for coming on.

And, also, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn has been on the show many times. She spoke at Saturday‘s rally.

Congresswoman Lee, thank you for joining us. You‘re from Berkeley, North Carolina California. I love that area.

Let me ask you, what do you make of these very strong-minded signs, like undocumented worker? They‘re accusing this guy of not being in the country legally, our president.

REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: Let me say first I think that our country turned a really very important page in our history when we elected the first African-American president last November. What a remarkable feat that was.

But we all know that there is much unfinished business in America, and that race is a big issue still. And so we have to confront these issues head-on, and we can‘t allow our policy debates to be consumed by issues that really take away from the debate, say, on health care reform.

And, so, we have to recognize that much of the unfinished business of America has to do with race. We cannot sweep that under the rug, and we have to confront it head-on and deal with it head-on.

MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Blackburn, your view of the motives behind the strong language that we‘re seeing in these rallies.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN ®, TENNESSEE: Chris, you know, there is no doubt there were views there that I don‘t agree with, that any of us would say that we oppose.

But I think the larger point here—and you‘re as good a political strategist as any guest that you have ever had on your show—when you have people that drive by the tens of...

MATTHEWS: You‘re shining me up. I know what you‘re doing here.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I don‘t know why you‘re taking this approach. But go ahead. I like it. Go ahead.

BLACKBURN: No, I mean, it‘s true—because it‘s true.

But, when you have people that drive by the tens of thousands across the country and come to Washington to make their views known, that is a significant event. And I think, for the Democrat Party to just dismiss what occurred on Saturday, I think that is something that they probably shouldn‘t do.

People were here to really express their opinion and to let this nation know, to send a message to Washington that they spend too much, and they need to get that fiscal house in order.

MATTHEWS: Well, the only thing—let me ask you about this. I mean, I am a student of history, like all we are, all—all three of us are.

And I—you know, I remember how unpopular Harry Truman was before David McCullough dug him up and said he was a great president. And a lot of people agree.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: He was—he was booed. And—but nobody ever called him

nobody yelled out on the floor of the House, “You lie.” Nobody talked like that, I don‘t think, when he was speaking. There seems to be a question about this president‘s legitimacy from some people, especially in the south, but not just in the south. Comments like undocumented worker, this birthers movement, questioning whether he was born here and is rightfully here.

Congresswoman Blackburn, pick up on that. This legitimacy question, we‘re looking—you‘re one of the people that wants to see future candidates for president prove their legitimacy as candidates by having their birth certificates available. Well, that gets into this whole question of is this guy one of us or is he one of them, some stranger from somewhere else? He‘s got a long African name. He seems to be different.

That attitude about him, he‘s not one of us, bugs me. What does it do to you, Congresswoman?

BLACKBURN: Well, in my mind, there is no doubt, the president is an American citizen. And he was duly elected. I think that what has occurred through time is people questioned Barry Goldwater, John McCain, President Obama, that people began to say, I can‘t believe you don‘t have to show an ID, or you don‘t have to show some kind of information to prove that you are who you say you are.

And I had so many parents say, my goodness, I show more information for my child to go to summer camp and play soccer, so if it improves the system—

MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Congresswoman, Lee.

LEE: Chris, I have to say—Chris, let me just say, what I see happening, unfortunately, is that fear mongering is taking place. There are those who are preying on the fear of a lot of people in our country. And you know what happens when people get scared.

And what I saw during August, what the country saw during August, was a lack of civility. People would not allow people to offer different points of views without yelling about health care reform. We couldn‘t communicate with each other, because there were certain groups of people in this country—yes, the far right ring—who was trying to scare the heck out of Americans about many, many things.

I mean, President Obama was duly elected as our president. He is an American citizen. And so why don‘t we just move on? Why all of the—

BLACKBURN: And I agree with that, Barbara. I agree with that. But I think the point here—I had 11 town halls. They were great. Not everybody agreed with me, but everybody was welcomed. And they were able to express their opinion.

I think that the Democrat party, at their peril, dismisses what has occurred in this country, through the tea parties, through the town halls in August. And to just blanketly say, people are cooks or confused or bigots or racist if they attended Saturday‘s event or came to town halls, I think that that is also inappropriate.

And I do agree—I certainly agree that our debate would be helped with a degree of civility. But—

LEE: The Democrats are not dismissing anything. What we are saying is that there have been so many lies and so many myths put out there, we have to dispel those myths and those lies. For example, there are 47 million people uninsured in our country. A public option in this health care reform bill will help reduce the costs for those who have insurance, and will insure competitiveness. The insurance industry, including the insurance industry that perpetrates fraud in many respects on Republicans, in Republicans‘ lives and their families‘ lives, in terms of jacking up insurance costs, they have to be dealt with. And so that‘s why we want—

MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Lee, you first. I‘m sorry. Congresswoman Lee, do you believe you can ascertain, given your life experience, if someone is being racially motivated in a political debate? Can you tell by the look in their eye, their language? Can you tell?

LEE: Let me say, I was born in segregated El Paso, Texas. I had to drink out of the colored-only water fountain. My mother almost died because they wouldn‘t allow her to come into the hospital so she could deliver me when I was born. And so I have experienced racism like you would not believe.

It‘s hard to know what is in the hearts and minds of people. However, I do know when I see people who are bringing Swastikas to members of Congresses offices, and putting them on the doors, as happened with Congressman Scott—I do know the signs. I do know that hate speech can lead to hate crimes.

And I do know that we have not turned that page yet in our own history. And we have to do that. We have to be civil, and we have to understand that racism has to be addressed head-on.

MATTHEWS: OK. Last word from you, Congresswoman Blackburn.

BLACKBURN: We would all agree that hurtful actions and inappropriate actions, whether they come from the left or the right, are just that. They‘re inappropriate. And not any of us would support that.

What we also have to agree is that the American people, people that love this country dearly, have the right to stand up and to speak out and to send Washington a message, that they think Washington, D.C., this Congress, this Senate, we spend too much money; government is too big; government is too intrusive. Thanks, Chris.

LEE: Everyone has the right to their first amendment right. You have a right to speak out against the—against policies that disapprove or policies they agree with.

MATTHEWS: I just wish people would respect the other side to argue with the other side, respect the other side. And its right to have an argument, but not to get into person, but to focus on policy. I think that‘s where this thing gets off track.

BLACKBURN: I agree with you.

MATTHEWS: I think we should argue about the issues, and let aside the fact we already have an election. It‘s over. We have one president. Thank you, Congresswoman Barbara Lee. And thank you, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn for coming on.

Up next, a new ABC News poll shows liberal Democrats still support health care reform, even if the public option is taken out. So why are some liberals demanding a public option? We just heard one. Fair enough. The politics fix is next. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

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