MSNBC "Election '08" Interview - Transcript
MR. MATTHEWS: We're back in Boca Raton, Florida here at Florida Atlantic University, where the Republican presidential candidates faced off in their final debate before Tuesday's very important Florida primary.
We're joined now by two members of the United States Congress from Florida, Republican Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a famous family name from Cuba, of course, who joins us from Miami; and here with us is Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I know you both quite well.
Let me ask you, Congressman Diaz-Balart, I don't know whether it helps the Republican Party or not, but John McCain's been endorsed today by The New York Times. Does that have any value for you and your party and your candidate?
REP. DIAZ-BALART: Well, I still love him, despite that.
MR. MATTHEWS: Ha! Despite.
REP. DIAZ-BALART: The reality of the matter is that -- yeah, The New York Times is not too popular, not too popular in Republican Party circles nor in our community. But, you know, we're working hard for McCain. And it's a close race here, and John McCain's been making a lot of progress, and we feel really confident about Tuesday.
MR. MATTHEWS: Who won tonight?
REP. DIAZ-BALART: Well, I think McCain did very well, and I think he made points that he had to make. The bottom line is that, you know, he's ready to be president. It's a difficult era we're in. And, you know, I think the people are giving him -- and it's evident ever since New Hampshire -- a second look. They certainly are giving him a second look in Florida, and that's why he's leading.
And, you know, he stands up, confronts the tough issues. Straight talk characterizes him. And people respect him. And so, you know, that second look is really paying off. I think he's going to win the nomination, and he can beat Hillary Clinton.
MR. MATTHEWS: Let me go to Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz.
You know, I just kept hearing the name over and over again tonight -- Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton. I mean, such advertisement. It went on. I mean, Romney went after her. McCain, I think, went after her. One of them called her General Hillary Clinton with ridicule. The other one talked about Bill being back in the White House with nothing to do, an obvious allusion to his problem in the past. Is this going to be a pasting of the Clintons personally from now till November?
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I mean, I think it's pretty clear that the fistful of Republican candidates tonight, which are basically different packaging -- George W. Bush in different packaging -- demonstrated that they all fear Hillary Clinton the most. I mean, they're the most concerned because she has the most experience, has the most detailed proposals, and is the most ready to lead on day one.
And so you didn't hear them firing at any of the other Democratic candidates. You heard them targeting Senator Clinton because she's the one they are the most concerned about. And she's the one that will win Florida's primary on Tuesday and have a huge bounce into Super Tuesday.
MR. MATTHEWS: Congressman, was it out of fear her name was mentioned so many times?
REP. DIAZ-BALART: No, but it's out of the fact that the perception is that the probability is that she will be the nominee. That's what we're seeing. Obviously there was great momentum for Obama coming out of Iowa. But the perception is pretty clear now that the inside track in the Democratic process for the nomination is the one that the Clintons have. And that's why we're hearing a lot about the Clintons. And there's no doubt that that does motivate the Republican voter and the base, and we're going to see extraordinary turnout.
MR. MATTHEWS: Does it motivate you? Does it motivate you, Congressman, personally?
REP. DIAZ-BALART: Yes.
MR. MATTHEWS: How so?
REP. DIAZ-BALART: Yeah, yeah, because, you know, really, I don't want to see a return of the Clintons. I mean, you know, my first eight years in Congress, every day, you know, going to work, I didn't know what the shoe was that was going to drop; you know, what Clinton would be -- what we would hear was going to happen that day.
Really, in answer to your question, I definitely would not want to see the return of the Clintons. But, you know, that's something that, across the board, no matter who you're with now in the Republican Party, there's consensus.
The good thing about John McCain is, you know, he's going to unite the Republican Party and he can appeal to independents. He can appeal -- he can bring that Reagan coalition back together and appeal to the great center of American politics. That's why I think he can win.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, Chris, my good friend, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, is making some understandable points, because he's doing his job as a Republican member of Congress. But I'm not sure why he wouldn't want to go back to the surplus that we had during the Clinton administration, wouldn't want to go back to a time when we were actually creating millions of jobs, when we actually had an economic situation that was second to none in the world, and instead, when compared to today, where we turned a surplus before the Bush administration into the largest deficit in history, when we're hopelessly mired in a war in Iraq, when we have absolutely no vision and no respect from around the rest of the world, that that's a time that he doesn't hearken back to and wishes that it wouldn't occur.
REP. DIAZ-BALART: Well, we'll see.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The American people --
MR. MATTHEWS: We'll see how it works.
REP. DIAZ-BALART: I have great respect and admiration for my friend -- and she is my friend -- Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz. But I remember, for example, 1998, when Saddam Hussein expelled the inspectors, the inspectors from Iraq. And I remember President Clinton saying, "Well, the problem is, you know, we've got all these sanctions and all these resolutions from the U.N. Security Council, but gosh, we have to fudge them. We've got to fudge them."
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Lincoln, what I remember is that there are no weapons of mass destruction that have ever been found.
We are continuing to be hopelessly mired in a war in Iraq that all of these Republican presidential candidates would continue to leave us in.
MR. MATTHEWS: Welcome to the 2008 presidential election.
REP. DIAZ-BALART: No, Debbie --
MR. MATTHEWS: It's being fought right here.
REP. DIAZ-BALART: Debbie, you know, reviewing the record the other day, do you know how many times Saddam shot at our planes that were complying with the 17 resolutions of the U.N. --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Lincoln, we are in a war that we have no hope of getting out of --
REP. DIAZ-BALART: -- Security Council in Clinton's last year?
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: -- if any of the candidates on the stage tonight are elected.
REP. DIAZ-BALART: Five hundred times.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We need to make sure --
REP. DIAZ-BALART: Five hundred times.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: -- we elect a Democratic president --
REP. DIAZ-BALART: It was an unsustainable situation.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: -- to move this country in a new direction.
REP. DIAZ-BALART: It was an unsustainable situation. And the reality of the matter is that national security is going to be a key issue in November. And that's why someone like John McCain --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The economy is the most important issue right now.
REP. DIAZ-BALART: -- is going to be -- oh, no, the economy is -- (inaudible). I agree.
MR. MATTHEWS: I want you both back.
REP. DIAZ-BALART: And that's why we have to keep taxes down --
MR. MATTHEWS: We'll have to have you both back.
REP. DIAZ-BALART: -- and not increase taxes.
MR. MATTHEWS: You know, what, Congressman Diaz-Balart? Thank you, sir, for coming on tonight. Thank you for coming. We want you back as many times as we can get you.
REP. DIAZ-BALART: Thank you.
MR. MATTHEWS: And, of course, one of our favorite guests sits to my left --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: (Laughs.)
MR. MATTHEWS: -- Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz.
REP. DIAZ-BALART: Hey, she's a dear friend of mine and a favorite member and colleague as well of mine.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The feeling is mutual, Lincoln. Thank you.