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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript


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MATTHEWS: Let me go to Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz. Your view on this? Because I--the problem is that the Democratic Congresspeople who have been reelected are from relatively safe districts, from Democratic districts. All the moderates from swing districts were wiped out in the last election. So everybody"s getting very ideological, it seems to me, in saying no tax breaks for the wealthy. But maybe there"s another argument besides ideology here.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Well, I mean, the bottom line here is no matter how this turns out, shame on the Republicans for getting the priorities backwards. I mean, the gall that they have to insist that every other proposal, any legislation be halted and held back until we make sure that we cover tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires is just unbelievable. And if they think that"s not going to come back to haunt them, then they"re really living on another planet.

You know, you made a reference earlier to the president not really being like Ralph Cramden in any way, shape or form, but what I think he should be doing--and this is through watching repeats and reruns, rather than living in the moment, but he should be more like the dad on "Father Knows Best"...


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: ... or "Leave It to Beaver," where he shames the Republicans into doing the right thing because, you know, to say that we are going to hold unemployment benefits hostage going into the holiday season to make tax cuts for wealthy people a priority is really, I think, not going bode well for the Republicans over the long-term.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Howard. You know, there"s a...

FINEMAN: Well, Chris, I think...

MATTHEWS: ... lot of tough talk out there. That wasn"t tough. That was smart. But there"s been tough talk. Look at Weiner--I mean, Congressman Weiner. He did a memo to the president, a tweet this afternoon. "Why are we always punting on third down? Let"s get our offense on the field."
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FINEMAN: Well, I think...

MATTHEWS: I mean, that"s again one of these emasculating comments you"re getting from men and women both, right and left, directed--tell, and this time against the president.

FINEMAN: Yes. Well, what the White House is going to argue is that they have gotten out of these negotiations more than anybody would have expected a while ago. There will be the extension of unemployment benefits. There will be, apparently, a payroll tax credit on the employer side, not the employee side. There will be--there will be a reimposition of the estate tax for families--or for inheritances over $5 million, which in its own way is a kind of wealth tax.


FINEMAN: And there are going to be some other things there to spur the economy that are going to allow the president to at least go to the House Democratic caucus, at least go to the liberals in the Senate, and say, Look, I got more out of this negotiation than you think. I"m not the bad negotiator than you thought. I have more spine that you think. And he"s the deal. At least, that"s what they"re arguing behind the scenes.

Now, that"s what they"ve been arguing for the last few days. Whether they can make that sale with all the Democrats in Congress, I doubt. Whether they can make it with rank-and-file Democrats all over the country, I"m questioning. But that"s going to be the administration argument for the next hours.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: At the end of the day--Chris, at the end of the day, we need to make sure that Democrats continue to be the champions for the middle class, fighting to create jobs, turn the economy around. And you know, if we don"t end up with a deal that is going to demonstrate that that"s what we"re doing and that"s what we"ve accomplished, then--then shame on us. I mean, I"m confident that President Obama is in there swinging. I think both Democrats in the House and Democrats across the country want to see a little bit more fight and a little bit intensity going forward. Hopefully, we"re going to be able to get a little bit more out of the president than we"ve seen. But you know...

MATTHEWS: Tell me--tell me what you mean, though, Congresswoman, because I"ve got great respect for you and I probably agree with you on a lot of things, but I don"t know what--I keep hearing that word "fight."

My colleague Ed Schultz uses it. A lot of people on this network use it. What exactly does it mean? Does it mean get red-faced and yell, pound the table?


MATTHEWS: Does it mean hold the government up? Because, basically, the only leverage this president, the man we"re looking at, has right now, the only leverage he has now is not to sign something. That"s the only fight he has in him: I"m not going to sign it.

So, you send me a bill that...


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, that"s not the...




MATTHEWS: What other--what other fight does he have?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I disagree that"s the only fight.

MATTHEWS: What can he do?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The president has the bully pulpit for leverage.

And I think the--the fight that people are talking about--and, like I said, it"s more "Father Knows Best" than Ralph Kramden--but using the bully pulpit more strategically and effectively. And I think...

MATTHEWS: OK. Give me an example. Script him right now. What would he do? What would he say you would like him to do?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: What I would like him to do?

I mean, he could go on national television and--and make an address to the United States citizens, talk about the importance of making sure that we don"t blow up our deficit with tax cuts for--for the wealthiest Americans.

I mean, what was I think probably the best focus was that they could have made a case--this is my opinion--they could have made a case to say, well, we"re not going to allow the tax cuts to be extended for people above a million dollars.

You know, fighting for that provision before it was--a vote was taken Saturday night in the Senate, raising the profile of it, using the bully pulpit, like I said, more strategically effectively, you could make your case to the American people across the country. You could do it in an Oval Office address. You could do it through some well-placed--well-placed high-profile speeches.

MATTHEWS: And then what? And then what?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And shame--and shame the Republicans. Make it politically untenable for them to be able to insist on this unbelievably outrageous line in the sand that Mitch McConnell drew.


You can call it that. You can call it that.

Howard, I want to ask you a political assessment. If the Democratic president went out and did that, would that in any way endanger Republican senators in their seats? Or would they just say, nice try?

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FINEMAN: Probably not, but it might have been worth a try.


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Yes, make them uncomfortable.


FINEMAN: Yes. What Obama is doing here is what he does, which is, he"s going to say, look, I got some results. Read these pieces of paper. Read points A, B, C, and D. I got this on payroll tax. I got this on the inheritance tax.


FINEMAN: I got this. I got that. I got that. Read the memo.

And what--and he may be right. But what--what--one of the things that"s missing--and it may sound trivial, but it"s not--is the music here, is the marching music. And that"s what the Democrats don"t hear.

And that"s one of the things they"re upset about, as well as the fact that he sort of gave in on the tax question from the beginning.


FINEMAN: Now, they"re going to argue that they got all these things, but mostly what they got are other kinds of tax cuts. So, in a sense...

MATTHEWS: You"re right.

FINEMAN: Other than the inheritance tax.

MATTHEWS: You"re right. You"re right, because they gave up--I thought they gave up election night, guys.


FINEMAN: Yes. Yes. Yes.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We"re not going to give up, though.

MATTHEWS: Congresswoman, don"t you think the president basically gave up--the president did--on election night? He came out of that election, having lost all those seats, with the idea, well, we"re not going to be able to control the tax fight now.

Here"s my question to you, Congresswoman, last question. If he goes to midnight on this, right through this New Year"s, through the holidays, and says, I"m going to fight this thing, this is my fight, this tax equity question, but doesn"t get don"t ask, don"t tell because of it, won"t the progressive base be angry with him on that, that he failed on that question?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I think the president absolutely needs to engage in aggressive negotiations, but he needs to use all the tools available to him. And they need to make sure that they"re operating on all those cylinders that they have.

And I think that they probably could have done that a little bit more
effectively and used the more progressive members that are left in the--
that are still in the House caucus. We have the ability to help leverage -

give him leverage.


FINEMAN: Chris...

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: ... and play that against the Senate and the senators, who have a little bit tougher time.


MATTHEWS: Got to go. Got to go.

Thank you so much...


MATTHEWS: ... U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Have a nice holiday, when it comes.


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