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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript: Government Shutdown

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MATTHEWS: Well, that was a chuckle worthy for old Rushbo.

But what do you make of this weird behavior? I`m reminded of that movie, "Advise and Consent," where the bad guy was a lefty in that case, Ackerman, remember?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Right.

MATTHEWS: This guy`s behaving like the bad guy in the movie about the U.S. Senate, and he doesn`t seem to know he`s the bad guy.

KING: No, he really, to me, comes across to me as a holier-than-thou fraud. I mean, he`s the only honest man, he`s the only guy who`s fighting for the country. And yet everything he`s telling us is basically a lie.

I mean, he has convinced, unfortunately, too many Republicans, too many Republicans in our base, that all we have to do is defund "Obama care," vote to defund it in the House of Representatives, and that`s going to be the end of the president`s health care bill.

This is nonsense. He knows it, but he keeps propagating it. And the more he tells these falsehoods, the more self-righteous he gets.

I just -- you know, I don`t know which bothers me more, Ted Cruz himself or that so many people have allowed him to set the agenda. I mean, to have one person like this who all -- you get in the room of 100 people, 99 will agree that Ted Cruz is basically being like a carnival barker here. But the fact is, he is the one who`s been setting policy and he`s been setting the terms of the debate. And he`s right now bringing us to the edge of the cliff.

We`ve got to stand up and say we`ve had enough of this guy and we`re going to go forward. We have to make government work. Chris, you and I may disagree on any number of issues, but both of us have a certain reverence for the art of politics, for the skill of politics.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I do.

KING: And you get people -- you know, you get people from different views, different parts of the country, totally different beliefs. And you get in a room and you work it out. And nobody walks out happy, but you get the deal done. And that`s what democracy`s about, taking all these conflicting ideas and making them work...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KING: ... and no one person saying they`re holier than the other one.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about the destructive pattern I think the government is on right now, I think thanks to him, largely. Does he -- what happens the next couple of days and weeks? I mean, I`m looking at this sort of a pincer movement now. We`ve got the government shutdown possibility. We have the possibility now of a real loaded-up issue coming forward with the debt -- with the debt, with a possible default.

We`ve got all this coming at us, and there doesn`t seem to be people in the middle that`s saying, you know, We`ve made our point. We`ve made the political argument on the right, perhaps in this case -- it could have been on the left -- the job`s done. Everybody knows where we stand. We`ll go to the election next year in 2016 or 2014, and win on the issues we`ve raised.

They don`t seem to know it`s time enough. Like, everybody else knows when to stop. They don`t know when to stop. That`s my worry here, that this won`t stop.

KING: Yes, Chris, I can only speak for the House. One of the problems is not that there`s not more people in the middle, but there`s very few districts in the middle. The way the lines are drawn, they`re either very partisan Republican or Democrat. The old Boll Weevil Democrats are going, and there`s virtually no northeastern Republicans left at all.

There`s only a handful of us, literally. And so it`s harder to find compromise because of that.

Now, I`m convinced that John Boehner does not want the government to shut down. How he prevents it, I don`t know. I know he`s going to try to tie the debt ceiling into this and find ways to keep the government open, but it`s going to be difficult. And I know Senator Reid`s in a tough spot.

So -- and I think sometime, the president should inject himself into this. It seems like he wants to stay out of it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KING: Maybe he wants -- you know, got to let Republicans kill themselves off. That may be a short-term political plus, but I think it`s very damaging for the system here.

I agree with you. If we can`t keep the government open, if we can`t meet our debt obligations, then we look bad as a country. We really do. And as far as the president...

MATTHEWS: You know...

KING: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I want to talk about this because I`m serious about this. It`s not just that this guy looks like Joe McCarthy, acts like him. I grew up in a family, we were all anti-Communist. And my father was smart, a moderate Republican. He`d said, Well, he`s right, he just went too far.

It`s not about being conservative. It`s about how far you go. It`s about zealotry and all -- to the point of terrorism, where you don`t care if you bring the house down. That`s what this guy reminds me of. It`s not that he`s wrong that we need smaller government. That`s his argument. Fair enough.

It`s not that he`s wrong in saying different things he says about issues like "Obama care." It`s this -- it`s his methods, like McCarthy. And somebody`s got to stand up and say it`s not about philosophy, it`s about methods, damn it. And we can`t run on a country that`s run on self- destruction, or it won`t work.

And if it doesn`t work, that`s all we`ve got. If democracy and republican form of government doesn`t work, what are we going to fall back on, Cruz, his point of view?

KING: Chris, it`s not just the messaging per se or his point of view, it`s the fact that he`s spreading a lie. When he -- he`s trying to tell people -- he was telling them all summer, just vote to defund "Obama care" and it`ll go. And that`s it.

And he knows that`s not true. So it`s his strategy. He`s leading us into a cul-de-sac. He`s leading us off the cliff, and it`s wrong. And I agree, we cannot have people like this. He`s a false leader.

MATTHEWS: How`d he get away with what he did yesterday? How`d he get away with talking for 21 hours like he was Fidel Castro? I mean, that`s the last time a guy gave a speech that long. I know he hates to hear this because he didn`t like the guy, obviously. But 21 hours to say he`s going to vote against cloture, against stopping debate.

And guess what? The next hour, he voted with the other 99 senators.

And none of his claque out there in the country noticed the utter hypocrisy
and dishonesty of what he just did. In one hour he did it! Nobody noticed. Don`t the people who are e-mailing you notice that he`s full of bull?

KING: No. In fact, they basically say that I`m -- that President Obama has something on me, that the Republicans have sold out, that Ted Cruz is the only honest man.

And I mentioned this this morning on another MSNBC show. You know, you and I have heard a lot of cursing and yelling over the years. I tell you, the vile language that`s coming in -- I have these young women answering the phones, and the cursing and the screaming that goes on from his people -- now, I`m not holding him responsible for all of that, but he has tapped into a very troublesome vein of American society.

And they are really coming out of the woodwork and they are -- they believe him. He`s their messiah. He`s their leader. And he`s -- basically, he`s leading them down a false path. That`s bad enough. How we allowed ourselves as a House and Senate to get locked into this situation is absolutely beyond me. The one guy with eight months in the Senate who is not telling the truth is able to set the agenda. It really -- you know, maybe 50 years from, now some political science class is going to study this.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman Peter King of New York.

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