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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript


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We start with President Obama and his reelection campaign. Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been nominated to lead the DNC. Congratulations, Madam Chairman!


MATTHEWS: I can hear it reverberating through the convention hall in Charlotte next year.


MATTHEWS: It"s a great honor to have known you as you"ve risen through the ranks to the chairmanship of your party.


SCHULTZ: Thank you so much.

MATTHEWS: I"m going to ask you a funny question. I didn"t prepare this, but I have to ask you. Last night, I was going to bed, I heard this crazy story that Donald Trump doesn"t want to be nominated by a political party or doesn"t have to, he"s going to go all the way and pull a--what"s his name, a--what"s that guy"s name? Perot, Ross Perot number.

SCHULTZ: Ross Perot.

MATTHEWS: How can I forget--who got 19 percent.

SCHULTZ: Or John Anderson.

MATTHEWS: He was certifiable. He was certifiable. So do you think Trump would help President Obama get reelected by having two people on the right run against him? Doesn"t that split the vote? Is that good news for you?

SCHULTZ: Well, you know, I mean, I heard Donald Trump say today, Chris, that his wives had a hard time living with him. I think that means the country would probably have a pretty hard time living with him, too.

But you know, we"re going to be focused on making sure that we talk about the president"s accomplishments, about the fact that we"ve turned this economy around and we"re creating jobs and we"re focused on making sure we solve--


SCHULTZ: -- our long-term fiscal challenges. We"re not concerned about who gets in the race. We"re focused on making sure we can talk about the president.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK, let"s leave the "Twilight Zone" and go back to planet earth. Here"s President George W. Bush--here"s the president--the president today, President Obama, on George W. Bush. Let"s listen to what he said about his predecessor.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We increased spending dramatically for two wars and an expensive prescription drug program, but we didn"t pay for any of this new spending. Instead, we made the problem worse with trillions of dollars in unpaid-for tax cuts, tax cuts that went to every millionaire and billionaire in the country, tax cuts that will force us to borrow an average of $500 billion every year over the next decade.


MATTHEWS: So fresh in my mind, it was actually yesterday. That"s the big speech we"re talking about. We seem to think here at HARDBALL that the president was really laying out the big messages. Is this going to be a fight, really, between Republicans who basically boxed in this government, the United States government back in the "80s and have done it ever since under George W. Bush by saying, We"re not going--we"re going to squeeze this beast. We"re going to cut taxes for the rich, so there"s nothing for government to do but either have the Democrats squeal for higher taxes or cut every program they believe in. Is this the box that this president came in?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think what President Obama talked about yesterday, down the road, when we"re in the thick of the campaign, it"ll give us an opportunity to demonstrate the dramatic contrast between the direction that the Republicans want to take this country and the direction that President Obama and congressional Democrats have been taking our country.

And I mean, I think you couldn"t--the contrast couldn"t be more clear. The president called for shared sacrifice, for tax reforms that make sure that everybody pays their fair share, make sure that we don"t balance our fiscal--our fiscal repairs on the backs of frail, elderly seniors and the most vulnerable, as compared to the Republicans, who have proposed to end Medicare as we know it, who have proposed to block grant Medicaid and are going to leave seniors potentially out in the cold.

It"s a pretty dramatic contrast, and I think it"s something that any candidate should be out there talking about, and I"m sure President Obama will continue to do so, as well.

MATTHEWS: Well, here he is on taxes, the president. Let"s listen.


OBAMA: Everybody pays, but the wealthier borne (ph) a little more. This is not because we begrudge those who"ve done well. We rightly celebrate their success. Instead, it"s a basic reflection of our belief that those who have benefited most from our way of life can afford to give back a little bit more.

But we cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society. We can"t afford it. And I refuse to renew them again.


MATTHEWS: Are you confident the president will stick to his position this time? He didn"t last fall. A lot of us believe he should have compromised last fall. Will he do it again? Will he stick now and say, No more Bush tax cuts for the very rich?

SCHULTZ: Well, what I"m--yes, and what I"m also confident about is that President Obama is going to make sure that the proposals that he put forward, like he did yesterday, when it comes to turning our--getting our fiscal house in order, are going to be balanced and that everything"s on the table, unlike the Republicans who clearly said right from the get-go that, We"re not going to put everything on table, that talking about revenue is a non-starter. And that"s irresponsible.

I mean, the bottom line is that we have to make sure that we bring all the grown-ups to the table, that we get everybody, as President Obama called for yesterday, to sit down, Republicans and Democratic leadership alike, and hammer out a compromise for our long-term fiscal health.

You know, I hope the grown-ups in the Republican Party show up to participate in that process because it"s very important. I mean, for me as a mom with three young kids, Chris, I"m a little worried. I"m quite worried about our fiscal future, and I want to make sure that we can all come together to fix it.

MATTHEWS: Well, let"s take a look at the president. Here he is on the Ryan plan, which may well soon be the Republican Party"s plan. They"re about to adopt it, it looks like. Let"s listen.


OBAMA: Ronald Reagan"s own budget director said there"s nothing serious or courageous about this plan. There"s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don"t think there"s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don"t have any clout on Capitol Hill. That"s not a vision of the America I know.


MATTHEWS: You know, I"m trying to figure this out, Congresswoman, and you had to figure it out as a part of your job, is to figure out where do you draw the line on wealth and who pays a bigger chunk of their income as it gets more progressively higher. Now, the president talks about the well-off, but you know, you talk to people like Senator Schumer, who"s coming on tonight, and basically, it"s easy to sell much higher taxes, no tax breaks for people who are millionaires.

But there"s not a whole lot of money if you just tax people who are millionaires. If you want to balance the budget or begin to balance the budget, you"ve got to tax people who make, say, a quarter million a year. Politically, can you draw that line at $250,000 and say people who make over a quarter million a year are going to have to give up their Bush tax cuts, period? Can you make that case politically?

SCHULTZ: I can, and I can make it in the same way that President Obama did yesterday, when you"re talking about what Paul Ryan under the Republican plan proposed, which is to have 33 seniors each pay $6,400 more in health care costs for Medicare to give another $200,000 in tax breaks--

MATTHEWS: I got you.

SCHULTZ: -- to the wealthiest Americans. That is crazy! No one would think that"s fair. I have a--I actually have a district that"s on the wealthier side, Chris, and when I go home, at town hall meetings, people who make that much money are not begging me for more tax breaks. Small business owners are--


SCHULTZ: -- and the middle class folks are, and that"s who we have to focus on so we can broaden the tax breaks for everyone.

MATTHEWS: It"s not my job, but I do think something"s not getting through. They talk about vouchers to replace Medicare. They"re not talking about vouchers, they"re talking about subsidies that will never cover the cost of any--

SCHULTZ: That"s right.

MATTHEWS: -- any health insurance premium you could possibly buy in your 70s 80s.

SCHULTZ: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Who"s going to insure somebody against illness in their 70s and 80s and think they"re going to make a profit?

SCHULTZ: That"s right. And you"ve got 60 percent of the seniors in nursing homes on Medicaid. So what are they going to do when there"s no enough money provided by the federal government to give the states to keep those folks on Medicaid in nursing homes. What happens to them? I"m worried that they"re going to get left out in the cold.

MATTHEWS: Well, let"s take a look at the president on--I think this is the hottest issue for the Democrats. Everybody turns 65. Everybody likes Medicare. It is enormously popular because it"s the one time in your life you get a break. Let"s listen here.


MATTHEWS: I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry with a shrinking benefit to pay for rising costs. I will not tell families with children who have disabilities that they have to fend for themselves. We will reform these programs, but we will not abandon the fundamental commitment this country has kept for generations.


MATTHEWS: How do you tell somebody who"s 80 years old, Here"s your Starbucks gift certificate, go get yourself some health insurance to pay for your heart transplant? What are we--it"s crackers! It"s crazy to talk like that! Health care costs are enormous. You can"t give somebody some check--Oh, here"s a couple hundred bucks, get yourself health care squared away.

SCHULTZ: Right, go fend for yourself.

MATTHEWS: What are these guys like Ryan talking about?

SCHULTZ: What they"re talking about is telling seniors, You know what? You"ve got to go fend for yourself. We"re going to pay X amount, up to X amount, and then we"re going to leave you to the perils of the private insurance market. And the insurance companies are going to be put back in the driver"s seat, where you"re no longer covered, your safety net is gone, and you"re going to have to, you know, fight your way through the complexities of the private insurance market. And maybe they"ll cover you, maybe they won"t.

Well, we ended that angst for seniors 40 years ago, and the Republicans are proposing to restore it. I already have seniors who have to score their pills, cut them in half, and because of the donut hole, which we"ve finally closed in the Affordable Care Act--


SCHULTZ: -- and now we"re going to leave them with even more worry and concern.

MATTHEWS: Well, congratulations to the Democratic Party for picking you as their chairman. I"m going to call you Madam Chairman. I"m going to mix it up the old way--


MATTHEWS: -- because I like that old sound--

SCHULTZ: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: -- from the conventions. Madam chairman! I love it!


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you.

SCHULTZ: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Congratulations.

SCHULTZ: Thank you very much.


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