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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Balancing the Budget

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MATTHEWS: Last night, this president, Barack Obama, gave a strong defense
of the role government plays and he once again criticized Republicans who
say we must balance the budget through cutting government services alone.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is our unfinished task to
make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just
the few.

Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the
deficit by more than $2.5 trillion, mostly through spending cuts, but also
by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.

We can`t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire
burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest
and the most powerful.

Most Americans, Democrats, Republicans and independents, understand that we
can`t just cut our way to prosperity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Senator, thank you for joining us tonight. It seems to me there
was a statement there from the president which is clearly distinguished
from the statement President Bill Clinton made in an attempt to get
positioned for reelection back in `96. He wasn`t apologetic. He was
positive about the role of government last night. And it got a backlash
today from the other side.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Well, it doesn`t surprise me it got a
backlash, Chris, but I think it was the best State of the Union that
President Obama has ever given. He was intimate with Congress. He looked
at us in the face. He said, This is what we have to do. He started right
in.

I remember sitting in my chair, thinking, Wow he just started right in on
the economy, what needs to be done. We didn`t even have copies of the
speech, just simply a point-by-point agenda.

And part of the beauty of not having the speech is no one read it ahead of
time to figure out when they should stand of what was happening, and you
had that powerful moment at the end, when the entire Congress was standing.
Whether they agreed with what he was saying about victims of gun violence,
there was this moment where people said, yes, we should have a vote. He
didn`t say, You have to vote with me. He said, These people deserve a
vote.

So I think the speech was a bread-and-butter speech about a very clear
economic agenda for the country. I didn`t see it as a caustic speech. I
didn`t see it as a divisive speech. There weren`t words in it that were --
to me seemed fairly partisan. They were simply words that said, Let`s get
this done. Let`s get this going.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KLOBUCHAR: We need to reduce our debt in a balanced way, but we also have
to move forward as a country to compete in this global economy.

MATTHEWS: Well, Chuck`s here, as well, Chuck Todd. Let`s look at this.
Here`s the Republican reaction we were mentioning there, and it was out in
force today, knocking the president`s address. Senator Majority Leader --
actually, Minority Leader still, Mitch McConnell, said the speech was full
of recycled liberal talking points. Let`s listen to the senator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: An opportunity to bring
together the country instead became another retread of lip service and
liberalism. For a Democratic president entering his second term, it was
simply unequal to the moment. Following four years of this president`s
unwillingness to challenge liberal dogma, we got more of the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Speaker John Boehner dismissed the president`s proposal to
raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour. Let`s listen to the speaker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Listen, I`ve been dealing
with the minimum wage issue for the last 28 years that I`ve been in
elective office. And when you raise the price of employment, guess what
happens. You get less of it. At a time when the American people are still
asking the question, Where are the jobs, why would we want to make it
harder for small employers to hire people?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Chuck, last night reminded me of high school debating.
It was the same old arguments. I mean, I`m not putting them down
necessarily, but what we heard from Senator Rubio and we just heard Boehner
-- Let`s go fight over minimum wage. These are the kind of debating things
you had in high school.

CHUCK TODD, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/POLITICAL DIR.: Well, and...
MATTHEWS: The evils of minimum wage?

TODD: This is where -- this is where you look at this -- and I look at
this speech as a political document. And you look at the -- minimum wage
is a 65 percent approved item.

MATTHEWS: Did he intend to smoke them out?

TODD: The -- the -- when you look at universal pre-K, that`s a 65 percent
approval. When you look at the idea of having high schools, you know, get
more skill -- teach more academic skills, these are 65 percent ideas.

And it`s very similar to the sort of -- the okeyoke (ph), if you will, or
that Bill Clinton would pull on Republicans back in the late `90s. He
would put out these, and they`d all sit there -- Hey, they seem small-bore,
they seem liberal...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: School uniforms.

TODD: ... all this stuff. And yet it`s what average people around the
kitchen table are thinking, Well, you know what? Geez, universal pre-K --
I wish I could do that. I can`t afford this private school...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: ... and I`m not poor enough to qualify for assistance and get my kid
in this school.

And you go through this whole thing -- and so if Republicans find
themselves where they`re letting the president talk about kitchen table
issues and have that conversation on his own, and they`re not having -- so
the minimum wage is a classic thing.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: They`re going to end up on the -- looking like they`re on the wrong
side because there`s an argument that the minimum wage is sort of like the
payroll tax cut. It`s actually a way to put stimulus into the economy
because what happens when you have lower-income people, you give them more
money...

MATTHEWS: And they spend it all.

TODD: ... they spend it all.

MATTHEWS: Every (INAUDIBLE)

TODD: They spend it -- so there`s a -- some economists who sit there and
say, You know what? You want to stimulate consumerism, give lower-income
people more money.

MATTHEWS: You know, Senator, you`re an expert because you deal with people
all the time, but it seems to me this is an easy way to smoke out your
opponents and prove that they`re once again the elite party.

More people would like to see people get the minimum wage than (ph) people
who have to pay it. I mean, obviously, there`s only -- relatively
speaking, there are fewer employers out there than there are employees, and
every union member, man or woman, wants to see the minimum wage go up
because that means their wages will get jacked up a bit. It happens that
way.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, the things the president talked about last night are
things people are talking about at the dinner table. They`re talking about
how, Are we really going to be able to afford to send our kid to college?

Are we really going to be able to afford to pay off these loans? Can we
actually buy a house and make the down payment? The fact he even went into
the mortgage issue and making it easier for people to refinance their homes
-- that`s what I loved about this speech.

And I also liked the fact that he raised many issues where there`s
bipartisan work (ph) already. You can`t deny it -- immigration reform,
energy independence, the fact that he was able to celebrate how far we`ve
come and talked about the oil drilling, as well as the renewables.

So I think there was a lot of good things in this speech that could bring
people together. I`m not surprised by the reaction today.

But I think one thing you have to note is in the chamber last night, it
wasn`t incredibly partisan. There weren`t boos. There weren`t yells.
People were listening intently. And I think they know we have to move
forward as a nation.

MATTHEWS: Well, the Politico newspaper (ph) called last night`s State of
the Union an aggressive speech. Quote, "For all the talk about bipartisan
cooperation, Obama couldn`t have been clearer. He`s confident his agenda
has popular support. He`s not going to compromise too much, and he`s
prepared as much time going around the country now pressing his case as
it`ll take."

Well, to that end, the president was in Asheville, North Carolina, today,
where he pushed his manufacturing policies, and he made sure to call out
Congress on that point. Let`s watch him in Asheville today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Now, I`m doing what I can just through administrative action, but I
need Congress to help. I need Congress to do their part.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: I need Congress to do their part. I need Congress to take up these
initiatives because we`ve come too far and worked too hard to turn back
now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, there`s a preacher aspect to the president, repeating
himself, you know, almost...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... black church, a kind of a -- we had repetition. Last night,
I was watching it, that cadence, repetition, repetition. What`s that
about?

TODD: I just would just say that there was a whole sense of -- he seems --
he seems more confident than we`ve seen him in a while. This was -- I
mean, look at the previous State of the Unions. Each one came at a time
when he was a little nervous, either nervous because, suddenly, he was
dealing with a Republican House, nervous it was a reelection State of the
Union...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: ... nervous because health care looked like it was on the -- I mean,
you think about 2010, 2011, 2012, those three State of the Unions.

This one, from the minute he walked in, he had this confidence about him
that was different. And the fact he got that entire -- I still think it`s
quite remarkable, what happened at the end of that State of the Union.

I don`t think people realized how cynical -- no offense, Senator Klobuchar
-- how cynical senators and members of Congress are. And when they find
themselves caught up in a moment of just -- and it was bipartisan. I saw
Jeff Sessions stand up...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What was it like...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What did it feel like sitting among Republicans as you all were,
I mean, intermingled bipartisanly? I saw the older woman who -- how many
people make it to 102 anyway, and how many people stand in line eight hours
to vote at any age?

KLOBUCHAR: Yes, I...

MATTHEWS: And I guess there was a confluence of things you couldn`t not
stand for.

KLOBUCHAR: Exactly. Actually -- actually, I was sitting next to Jeff
Sessions. He was my State of the Union date for the third year, Chuck. So
maybe there`s a reason he was standing.

(LAUGHTER)

KLOBUCHAR: I remember turning to him -- I actually said, You can`t not
stand for a 102-year-old woman. So I truly believe that there was this
element of surprise and people getting taken up in the moment.

Will that change how they`re going to -- what positions they`ll take on
everything? No. But there was a civility in that room that we need to set
some common ground. It carried over today -- incredible Judiciary
Committee hearing on immigration reform. I really believe that we have
some opportunities. And that`s what I loved about this speech. It was
about optimism for our country...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KLOBUCHAR: ... and it was about opportunity, not just problems.

MATTHEWS: And I don`t think there`s a long reach. These weren`t hail Mary
passes. Let`s at least have a vote on gun control...

TODD: He wasn`t saying...

MATTHEWS: Let`s have a $9 minimum wage. Let`s have real comprehensive
immigration reform with some teeth in it. I mean, basically, he was moving
the ball maybe one foot to the left of the midfield.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: Bush was trying to do something big with Social Security...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: ... a home run or go home.

MATTHEWS: What`s the left-wing part? Objectively, was there a left-wing
piece to the speech last night? I mean, truly left? I didn`t see it.

TODD: If you believe that the ideology between the two parties now is
divided between government getting more involved in your lives and
government getting less, then, of course, the party that believes that
government needs to be less involved is going to think, well, government
mandating a minimum wage and government doing these things with universal
pre-K...

MATTHEWS: OK.

TODD: Now, even though he was...

MATTHEWS: I would say it differently. I would say immigration reform that
works. I would say a $9 versus $7 thing...

TODD: Which was what the president was making his argument, which is this
idea of, No, it`s not about big government, it`s about smart government.

MATTHEWS: Yes, smarter.

TODD: And the question is, where`s the middle of the country? And I think
we learned in November 2012 where they are.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think they`re where the president is pretty much. It`s
ironic. You`re right, I think -- I think our colleague here was right.

The president is polling. We`re going to poll against (ph) next week,
right?

TODD: We are.

MATTHEWS: And I think the president has pretty well polled on these
issues.

And by the way, you are the most normal politician I have ever come across
in 40 or 50 years. I don`t know how you stay so completely commonsensical.
And I hope I`m not being patronizing. I think you`re fantastic as a
representative of regular people.

KLOBUCHAR: Oh, thank you, Chris. You`re very nice.

MATTHEWS: Even Minnesota, which is getting so regular these days. It`s no
longer that old liberal state it used to be.

Thank you very much, Senator Amy Klobuchar...

KLOBUCHAR: OK. Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: ... although I loved Gene McCarthy and...

KLOBUCHAR: It`s great to be on.

MATTHEWS: ... Humphrey. Chuck Todd, thank you, sir.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.


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