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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript


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REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Well, the smart move is to do exactly what the president is going to do. He is going to galvanize Democrats and talk about the need to strengthen America"s position in the global economy, to out-innovate, to out-educate, to out-build the rest of the world. And that"s the position that Democrats are absolutely united with.

Now, the other deal is for those Democrats who may be concerned about the president"s message, just listen to Congressman Ryan"s response to the State of the Union or to Michele Bachmann"s response--

MATTHEWS: You can"t listen to Michele Bachmann. You"re asking too much.


ISRAEL: That"s right. We"re not the ones privatizing Social Security.

MATTHEWS: -- knowing less about American history when you"re done that when you start with her. She thinks slavery, by the way, went away in the federalist period back in Washington"s day. She never took one of those bus trips in the high school of Mt. Vernon and saw the slave quarters, she never saw.

Let me ask you about--back to this serious world. What do you think the fight between the president and Paul Ryan? Now, we know Paul Ryan is respected by the president as an adversary. Is there going to be any common ground out there on the floor besides the hand holding between the couple sitting out there on the floor? Will there be any common politics out there tonight?

ISRAEL: Look, you know, tonight, Democrats and Republicans may be sitting together, but what really counts is what we stand for. And tomorrow, Democrats will be the ones who are standing against privatizing Social Security, something that Paul Ryan wants to do, against forcing seniors off Medicare and on to vouchers and against raising taxes on middle-class families. Those are issues that really--that"s the contrast between Democrats and Republicans.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you to do something that"s going to bother people if you answer it the wrong way, which says I was asked this question.

ISRAEL: That"s why I love coming on your show, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Are there some people who have safe seats, who don"t face general elections, Anthony Weiner, the people from the Bay Area, and San Francisco. I know them well. I like a lot of them, but they don"t know what a general election looks like.

You"ve got to win on general elections. Does the president have to think more about people who have to face general elections in your party than people from safe seats?

ISRAEL: Well, I respectfully reject your premise.

MATTHEWS: I know you would.

ISRAEL: This year, everyone understood what a general election was. I don"t care how safe you just, including Anthony Weiner. It was a tough deal this year. My job as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is to focus on one thing: to drive to 25. We got to win 25 seats to take this back, and we"ve got to plan to do it and a path to do it.

MATTHEWS: Knowing what you know and the president"s speech, once more, it looks like he"s going to do what he calls some smart spending. He"s going to do things like education, R&D, infrastructure--I love all that stuff because I think it does spell economic development down the road.

He"s also going to cut some stuff apparently to keep the people, well, to do what he thinks has to be done long term. Will that balance sell with your party left?

ISRAEL: Well, look, we"ve got to live within our means. Everybody understands that. But what really matters is how you privatize within those means.

And one of the things that I think we should all be excited about in this speech is the president"s going to redefine this as a Sputnik moment. In 1957, the Soviets beat us to outer space. We had a Sputnik moment. Then what did we do? We out-educated. We out-built. We out-engineered the rest of the world.

The president is going to say this is a Sputnik moment, we"ve got to do the same thing, and all Democrats can get behind that.

MATTHEWS: OK. Steve, I don"t know. I"m going to call you Steve, because this is a personal message.

ISRAEL: Please do.

MATTHEWS: Don"t forget those districts you lost. The people in those districts like Bucks County and upper around Scranton, they would like to have an option next time, too. So, don"t just--you know, those are the people you"ve got to talk to. That"s the American--

ISRAEL: Understood.

MATTHEWS: That"s the fighting zone right there.

ISRAEL: I"ve got you.

MATTHEWS: You know you have those back there"s going to be a Democratic Congress. Thank you, sir.

ISRAEL: We may have to have you come to a next DCCC meeting.

MATTHEWS: I"m not allowed to, but I can speak openly on television about what I think the smart move would be.

Thank you, Congressman. Steve Israel of New York, the chairman of the


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