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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript


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MATTHEWS: Well, "I`m not threatening default." Mr. Israel, thank you
for coming on. You run the campaign committee for the Democrats. I just
wanted to have some insight here. It looks to me like Boehner`s
threatening just that. He`s not going to let the debt ceiling be
increased. He`s not going to let the government continue to function.

He`s going to create a crisis right before this election, which will make
the Tea Parties dance with delight, but the American people once again may
see their credit rating drop, the S&P will go down, the president will
suffer. But more importantly, this country will suffer.

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D-NY), DCCC CHAIRMAN: Well, Chris, this is like a
bad summer rerun. They did this last summer. Their playbook was partisan
obstruction versus progress, millionaires over Medicare, protecting
millionaires, but saying we have plenty of money to give millionaires tax
cuts but not enough money to give seniors their Medicare, and continuing to
obstruct any progress in our economy.

These Tea Party Republicans care about one thing, Tea Party
Republicans in Congress. And they will once again bring this economy to
the brink of default in order to try and experience some partisan gain.
They`ve got to stop the partisanship and stop the obstructionism and learn
how to compromise.

We supported cuts, $2 trillion in cuts. They walked away from that...

ISRAEL: ... because we also said that oil companies should do a
little more, as well.

MATTHEWS: You know, I`ve got here, David Corn with me. You`re an
expert. You wrote about this last summer. Here they just are a couple
days ago. The Republicans passed what they call their -- their "fix-it
thing," protect the Defense Department against any cuts. (INAUDIBLE) that
was the deal last year after, you know, this whole mismash occurred -- and
just cut Medicaid and food stamps. Guess who they`re cutting?

MATTHEWS: Medicaid for poor people and food stamps for poor people.
And meanwhile, they`re pushing for big tax cuts for the rich. They are a
cartoon of a right-winger party!

CORN: Yes. And perhaps even more important, they`re not sticking
with the deal they accepted a year ago.

MATTHEWS: Right. Which was even-handed cuts.

CORN: I mean -- I mean, John Boehner, you know, tried to cut a deal
with the president -- I write about this in "Showdown" -- that would have
shared sacrifice, some revenues, entitlement reductions, and he couldn`t do
it because of the Tea Party wing of his party. So they ended up cutting a
smaller deal that they all agreed to. They would have automatic cuts,
hitting social programs...


CORN: ... and the Defense Department. And now they can`t stand by
those cuts. And they say the president doesn`t have a plan, and they`re
threatening yet another default. It just shows you that John Boehner can`t
do anything on his own and he can`t govern, as you said earlier.

MATTHEWS: You know what I`m thinking, Mr. Israel? I`m thinking that
if Romney gets to be president, what he`s really offering himself up on the
way to the presidency -- I`ll be another Boehner. In other words, I`m not
as much -- I`m not as crazy as the rest of these cuckoo clocks out there,
these 200 Republican Tea Partiers, but I`ll do what they tell me to do.
You know, I`m not as loony tune as they are, but I`ll act like him.
Look at Boehner. He`s not loony tune. He`s a regular person. He`s
not right-winger, but there he is, doing exactly what the right wing wants
him to do, bring hell to bear here, have another debt crisis, bring the
government to a halt, like Newt Gingrich. He might as well be one of the
Tea Parties.

And my question to you is, is the Republican Party run by its bottom,
by its least informed people telling the top people, who do know what`s
gone wrong, to do what they do? I`m afraid -- I`m afraid we`re looking at
Boehner, too, here, that Mitt`s going to be another Boehner, another guy
who`s sort of a middle-of-the-road Republican listening to the call of the

ISRAEL: Well, Chris, I think the problem is that the inmates are
running the asylum. John Boehner doesn`t have control of his caucus.
You know what America needs? America needs a Republican Party. You
know this better than anybody. Ronald Reagan and Tip O`Neill, at the end
of the day, could negotiate a compromise. These people believe that
compromise is evil. They will not compromise. They want it all their way.
It`s partisan obstruction.

I mean, look, we don`t even have a transportation bill because these
people believe that roadways can only veer to the far, far right. And
they`re going to be held accountable.


ISRAEL: Let me just say one other thing. I think -- I think,
politically, they`re -- they don`t take advice from me, but any time we can
contrast Democratic priorities -- to protect the middle class and Medicare
-- with Republican priorities, to protect tax cuts for millionaires, we win
that argument.

MATTHEWS: I know it. Why would any voter go in and say, OK, let`s
screw the poor people one more time? Let`s get rid of any food stamps left
out there. Let`s get rid of the Medicaid. You can`t go to the hospital,
you can`t go to the ER, nothing, we`re not giving you anything. That seems
to be the Republican argument.

Meanwhile, they keep coming out with, We want more breaks for the
rich. Lookit, it didn`t seem like any progress, by the way, was made at
the White House today, when the president did meet with these leaders like
Boehner and other members of the congressional leadership.
Here was Jay Carney`s read-out of the event today.


clear that he refuses to allow a replay of last summer`s self-inflicted
political crisis that eroded confidence and hurt the American economy.
The president reiterated that any serious bipartisan approach to
tackle our deficit must be a balanced approach, and he made clear his
willingness to work with Republicans and Democrats to stake out an
agreement along those lines.

But it was just as clear that he would not accept an approach that
asks middle class families and senior citizens to make sacrifices without
asking for anything more from millionaires and billionaires.


MATTHEWS: Well, an aide to Speaker Boehner said -- provided this
account, a different one, of course. "The Speaker asked the president if
he is proposing that Congress pass an increase in the debt ceiling, of
course, that does not include any spending cuts to help reduce the deficit.
The president said yes. The speaker told the president, As long as I`m
around here, I`m not going to allow a debt ceiling increase without doing
something serious about the debt." OK, blah blah blah.

But here`s the point I have, but I want to ask you a political
question, Mr. Israel. Your job is to get Democrats elected. You`ve been
saying you think you can win a majority this November.

Here`s my concern, as an American watching this thing. If the
Republicans are right and they can screw up the economy -- every time they
talk debt ceiling crisis, every time they say the government will go to a
shutdown, every time they say, We`re going to renege on paying our debts,
the S&P, the Standard and Poor`s may go down.

A friend of mine just e-mailed me saying every time the S&P goes down
-- in other words, the market goes down -- Obama goes down. Could it be
that they have got a very serious plan here to basically sabotage the
president, which is create this Goetterdaemmerung screw-up with the debt,
once again, we get a lower bond rating, once again, the economy starts to
creep along instead of roaring along, the president goes down in the
numbers on job performance, and they pick up the pieces.
What`s wrong with that as strategy for them...

ISRAEL: No, I...

MATTHEWS: ... just in terms of real politics?

ISRAEL: I think you`re right. I think you`re right. In fact, Mitch
McConnell admitted it. The Senate Republican leader said that the
Republicans have one mission, deny Barack Obama a second term. They`re all
about one thing, and this is why I think we`re going to take the House back

MATTHEWS: Will it work?

ISRAEL: ... people are fed up.

MATTHEWS: Well, you said...


ISRAEL: I don`t think it works. I think people are smart. They
realize who`s driving the bus, it`s House Republicans, and that they`re
only driving to the far, far right and they keep stomping their foot on the
brakes on the economy, on jobs, on everything else.
They will be held accountable to a strategy that puts partisan
obstructionism ahead of...


ISRAEL: ... economic progress and opportunity...

MATTHEWS: Explain to me...

ISRAEL: ... for the middle class.

MATTHEWS: OK, David, you`re a journalist. I know you`re an advocate,
but you`re also a journalist. Why do Tea Party crackpots keep winning
elections out in the country?

CORN: I think they`re -- I think they`re taking advantage, exploiting
the anger out there, that some Democrats and that the president hasn`t
always tapped as effectively as they can. If things are going bad, people
vote against the incumbent, you know, regardless of who the challengers

MATTHEWS: Who do they blame?

CORN: Well, they blame the people in power. And this is where the
Democrats have -- have some danger and...

MATTHEWS: Because they believe in government.

CORN: Well...

MATTHEWS: They`re willing to say, We`re the government.

CORN: They believe in government...

MATTHEWS: The Tea Partiers say, We`re the protest party.

CORN: Exactly. But listen, Mitt Romney is out there not saying much
about anything. He`s just blasting away at the president. Now,
Congressman Israel and everybody else can say, Look at what the House
Republicans and what John Boehner is doing, and it may bring down the
economy and cause all sorts of pain. But Mitt Romney`s strategy obviously
is going to be to stand apart from that and let it fall on...

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about...

CORN: ... Barack Obama and...


CORN: And then so how do you sort of tie this together if you`re the

MATTHEWS: Mr. Israel, let`s talk about the timing here. Here we are
in May, going into June. We`re halfway through this month. We have a
summer ahead of us, a big, hot summer. At what point does this debt crisis
hit? He`s saying now they`ve got to deal with the Bush tax cuts extension,
got to deal with the sequestration problem of cuts in domestic and military
spending cuts. And they got to deal with the end of the -- the fact that
we have to raise the debt ceiling.

Is all this going to crash before the election? Are they going to
stop the government before November?

ISRAEL: Well, they tried to do it last year. Again, this is a bad
summer rerun. We`ve seen the playbook. We know how it plays out.
I believe that their strategy is to do everything they can to make the
president look bad in order to experience some partisan gain.

The whole -- the tragedy here is it doesn`t have to go down like this.
We can compromise. Democrats want to end spending for programs that don`t
work and make spending more efficient for initiatives that protect
opportunity for the middle class. We wish we had a Republican to negotiate


ISRAEL: We can solve this.


MATTHEWS: By the way, what you said about Tip and Reagan is right.
They did negotiate. They did fight, but they negotiated. Let me ask you -
- am I too strong in saying this is a sabotage campaign?

ISRAEL: Are you asking me, Chris?


ISRAEL: No, I think -- Mitch McConnell admitted it. It`s not you
who`s saying it, it`s Mitch McConnell`s own words -- Our mission -- he
never said, Our mission is to create jobs for the American people, but to
take one job away from the president of United States.

MATTHEWS: You`re a great guest. Good luck with the DCCC.


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