tv The Chris Matthews Show NBC September 26, 2010 11:00pm-11:30pm PST
it will take billions from our children when we can least afford it. get california working again-for all of us. >> this is "th cheris matthews show." >> ask not what your country can do for you -- >> i can hear you. kevin: we loved him in the campaign. how is the marriage working out? has the president changed or have we? f.d.r. and clinton knew how to court us all the way. why did this guy stop at the altar? should a presided lea the charge against his foes? is it cool for barack obama to go face to face with the tea party set or does it help bring him down? finally, commander in chief. the book reveals president obama rejected the push for a wider
war in afghanistan. they wanted in, he wanted a way out. hi, i'm chris matthews. welcome to the show. with us today is john heilemann, cynthia tucker, nbc's norah o'donnell and "the washington post" michael gerson. with barely five weeks left before democrats may lose the congress, president obama is trying to fire up the people who sent him but have lost faith. some presidents were the same politicians in office as they were running for office. f.d.r. was, reagan was, clinton was. a moment this week showed the contrast between president obama and president clinton. with barack obama, recall how george bush 41 suffered in comparison to clinton in the 1992 town hall debate when a voter asked a feel your pain question. >> how has the national debt personally affected each of your lives? and if it hasn't, how can you find a cure for the economic problems of the common people if
you have no experience in what's ailing them? >> i think the national debt affects everybody. obviously it has a lot to do with interest rates, it -- >> on a personal basis, how has it affected you? >> has it affected you personally? >> i'm sure it has. i love my grandchilden. >> tell me how it affected you again? >> you know people who lost their jobs and lost their homes? >> uh-huh. >> i've been governor of a small state for 12 years. i'll tell you how it's affected me. kevin: now look at the side chris: now look at the side by side. barack obama in a town hall. >> it's taken an enormous toll on my family. my husband and i joked for years we thought we were well beyond the hot dog and beans of our lives. quite frankly it's starting to knock on our door and might be true that's where we're headed again. quite frankly, mr. president, i need you to answer honestly, is this my knew reality?
>> first of all, i think that you describe exactly what is the bedrock of america. chris: we wanted to drill down why president obama lacks political touch. what has barack obama lost as president as he had as a candidate? the most common answer from half our meter group is he's no longer inspiring. the meter says he does not have a consistent message. and finally, some on our meter said mr. obama doesn't know the country. john, i thought your answer was interesting and said he lacks a consistent compelling communication right now. is it the people don't get why he is president, the basic reason he's there? >> yeah, and actually it goes beyond communication. you mentioned in the setup reagan and clinton. these are two people who are not just good communicators but had a good theory of the case, they knew what they believed and explained it well to the country and talked about where the country was at that moment in history and how their policies would translate and lead us forward. obama during the him campaign had a clear message but had that
theory of the case, he was for change, he was not a clinton, he was not a bush. he came into office still without that big narrative and really hurt him because at this moment you can see he is left as a state figure. people on the left think he's sold out as becoming a modern centrist and betrayed their ideals. people in the center think he sold out and went to the left. no one still knows. even those who want to support the president, no one understands what obamaism is and what the president is all about. chris: it's clear his campaign was inspiring. something about you went in the rooms with him and people were overwhelmed by the hope of this guy, hope. remember that poster? >> sure. chris: where is it? >> he promised hope, he promised change, he promised to never forget the middle class and it's the middle class who feel forgotten and exhausted. and as was said, that woman eloquentxp elained how she's going back to hot dog and beans
and he said i remember when michelle and i were eating hot dog and beans and paying off school loans but he failed to connect in that way. he is prefaceoral. he had a meeting with axel rod and said you have to connect better with voters. that's his weakness, they acknowledge that and will have to change. chris: bill clinton, how he walked up to the woman, they said deficit and he said recession and there was no doubt he connected. >> there's no doubt bill clinton is one of the best politicians of his era and no doubt. but i think what we forget is what obama was like during the campaign. he was not always pitch perfect. there were times when his supporters, his advisors were worried that he wasn't communicating very effectively with the public. but i also think that we can't forget that obama is facing some
problems that neither reagan nor clinton faced. the recession is worse, he was stuck with two wars and it is hard to make the case that i have brought change when things are still as bad as they are. chris: reagan had an 11% unemployment rate going into the first midterm. i think of people like churchill, they were losing and kept the faith of the people. you've been there with president bush, george w. bush, is it a speech he needs to give or has he given too many? >> i recall david axel rod earlier when he was with clinton at the beginning of the senate campaign and asked, can you take a punch? that was the real question. and the president sometimes when he takes a punch when events are bad, he comes across looking pricklely and defenseless. i have a good friend who spent time with obama and a favorably disposed to him. in private he reacts to everything boehner says and everything the republicans in
congress say. chris: i wanted to get to that. does he react too much to the 24/7, some bloggers said something like he won't respond. is he losing his ability to make a compelling communication? >> i think all of these presidents have enormous egos. you've worked closely with them before. of course they feel challenged and want to respond to those. it's their presidency and their job and they feel so passionately about the country. he may respond too often but in a 24/7 culture, i think a lot of politicianings who haven't responded have found themselves on the other side. chris: the press secretary simply can't say "no comment." >> exactly. you allow the other side to win if you don't comment. chris: back in the campaign the big thinker, david pluff, the big thinker and axel rod, a very likable guy that's always around. are those two functioning at the clip it was then? >> i think that, look, the two of the three big guys in the
campaign are in the white house, robert gibbs and david axelrod and he slumped out for a different self in the form of rahm emanuel. i think the team is tired and there is -- obama loves the tight circle. you want to talk about the grassroots, he managed the top down way on that campaign mores so than any other presidential candidate. he didn't want to talk to his pollsters or advisors and there was a small group of people he relied on fov adice. he kept those people and they are tired. i think you'll see after the midterm elections you'll see the pluff coming back refreshed into the white house and new faces that will bring in an outside perspective outside the obama bubble and tell him what he needs to hear. chris: let's imagine the president is up sunday morning and watching us. what is he saying about this conversation, that's what it's about, how he reacts to this kind of thinking about him will and questioning him. oehe dsn't like it, does he? >> no, like bill clinton and george w. bush he doesn't like us talking about him in almost
any case. still, the test of the team has been the economy. the state of the union address, all of a sudden we were going to shift to the economy and that's happened like six times. now we're going to shift to the economy, now we're going to shift. chris: he keeps getting off his point. >> arizona, the mosque, the middle east. all these things have gotten in the way of a disciplined message. it's not been a disciplined communication. >> yeah, but you can't be president of the united states and not respond if a well explodes in the gulf of mexico? he certainly didn't want to do that but he had no choice. chris: you were a peechwriter for the president, for the first george w. bush. let's get to the question earlier, he is a great speechmaker and uses the teleprompter too much, i get the message, just listen. what is the problem with communication, can he ramp it up the next five weeks before the election with a hell-raising speech? >> as a former speechwriter, i love the teleprompter. but i would say that obama has a
problem that's not just the speeches, although they sometimes have been disappointing. it's a manner of argument. he comes to transcend arguments. it's like there's the one side, there's the other side, i'm above these arguments. it makes him a bad populist. he should get down and take one side of the debate. he's too distant and an litting when he approaches things -- analytic when he approaches things. chris: he had to keep a left coalition together and he had to go to the business community and talk to them with their terms with the business guys. there's money in that room, as you remember. he has to talk to the african-american based, the people who are working people. how does he do both with the same speech? >> well, that's -- chris: i might take sides. >> you have to to establish the image of who you really are. you see the foreign policy a lot, they'll take a large issue and analyze both sides. chris: we've got to get to the second part of the show to see
where he stands on afghanistan even after the woodward book. >> obama's advisors called his authentic voice, he had trouble finding it during the campaign, and now he's having trouble as president because he's dealing with these difficult issues and he doesn't have an authentic voice when it comes to the economy and understanding the pain. chis: we'll have more. after the election i think you'll hear a lot more of this. before we break, president obama's struggles have some people comparing him to presidents who have been one-termers, jimmy carter has a book out trying to burn his image but back in the day he was the subject of ridicule, he was dan akroyd of s.n.l., the weekend before the 1978 midterm election. >> last week i delivered a message on inflation, since then the dollar has dropped in value, the stock market sustained record losses and the wholesale price index increased .9%. in other words, our economic system is screwed, blued, and
tattooed. p i want you to try to look at the inflationin a entirely new way. inflation is our friend. who wants more money. i can just call up the bureau of engraving and say hi, this is jimmy. roll off some of those 20's. chris: george bush 41 was a very favorite s n.l. target. here he was after a weak showing against pat buchanan in the 1992 primary. >> i sure got the message and i got it, i'm going to write it right down, message right here, message being written right now. i'm moving the implement that will form the letters that will spell said message, the message
that i got. p and here is that message. chris: when we come back, the new bob woodward book shows this president skirmishing with the pentagon and denied an exit plan after months of requests. scoops and predictions from the notebooks of our top reporters. >> get the full newspaper p delivered to your mac or p.c. and works on your existing computer. >> connect to download put news.
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afghanistan plan much later than expected. we now know why. bob woodward's book says the delay was caused by conflict. the president was boxed in by the pentagon. which one of the bigger roles, the brass stuck him on his constant request for an exit plan. in the end, woodward reports, the president created his own strategy. obama's object was to limit the commitment. they show president obama in a meeting with the top commander and secretary of defense as follows. in 2010 we will not be having a conversation about how to do more. i will not want to hear, we're doing fine, mr. president but it would be better if we just do more. john, it seems like he avoids getting boxed in and keeps asking for an exit strategy and ends up with a hybrid, 30,000 troops more than we have in there and leaving by a certain deadline. never seemed to click that hybrid, is it because all the conflict? >> partly as a result of the conflict but goes to a deeper conflict which is during the campaign he painted this war, the afghanistan at the good war in contrast to the iraq war, the
bad war. he was boxed in by that as anything else. i think there's some degree, this is a guy who appointed a bunch of people on to his foreign policy team who could have absorbed in the mccain administration. jim jones, all those people could have served in a moderate republican administration. i think he really does not want this to be a war without end so he found himself boxed in by his campaign commitments and his legitieste dmaire to try to get the troops home. chris: he ended up in a middle of the road with biden who said get out quick and do counterterrorism and the military who said stay in a long time and do nation building. what do we have if we look at the woodward book, seems like he wasn't happy with either plan and wrote his own. what is that plan? >> president obama is a plan who sees the world as a complex place, not a place where issues are black and white but they're often gray. i happen to think there's a very good qualities for a president to have. afghanistan is a complex place.
e we'rnot going to, quote, win even if we stay 10 years and spend a trillion dollars. but complexities are not easily explained on the campaign trail for the president in office. so it is a problem for a politician. if you believe in complexities, they're hard to explain. chris: the problem with the complexity here is it's somewhere in the middle and asking young men and women to die for a cause that's not worth staying the next year and a half for. we're going to leave so soon. >> that's why the book, i think, is damaging. it reveals a very divided process, not just by policy disagreement but by personal contempt among members and she's highly politicized process, political people involved in this process, which i think is a bad thing. and an ambivalent commander in chief and in afghanistan we have a patient, determined enemy and doesn't look like we a patient, determined president. >> it doesn't show the president was ambivalent but the opposite,
the president welcomed a vigorous debate, an analysis on this, took the amount of time to welcome that debate, didn't want to send another trillion dollars in an open-ended war in afghanistan and then dictated a six-page, single-spaced memo he got everybody on his team to sign off on to suggest that they were all on the same page and then obviously gave that memo to someone in the white house which is presented in this book. that show as determined president to make sure there was no misinterpretation of his role. even someone who grew up in a military family, the president is still the commander in chief. to say that he ignored the generals, he's the commander in chief. he makes the ultimate decision and he's voted in or out by the american people. >> one of the things about the woodward book is it's going to shine a brighter spot on the afghan review process in december and then will be a big iocisn next july politically and on the nation'ur secity. but i would add one thing about this division, it's very interesting for all the division that woodward shows in the
foreign policy team, that he are still in place and the entiretyy of his economic team are now out. that's an interesting contrast. chris: as bob woodward speaks, we all listen. when we come back, scoops and predictions from the note books of these top reporters. predictions from the note books of these top reporters. tell me somethig in don't know. [ female announcer ] this is a strawberry pop tart. but this is warm, fresh-baked strawberry toaster strudel. [ music ] see the difference? pillsbury toaster strudel,
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we sell to australia, india... that big blue machine over there? it's going to malaysia on wednesday. with ebay, she created jobs for millions of people. with meg's creativity, she'll be able to create jobs here in california. i'm mariano ruiz and i'm a meg whitman success story. chris: welcome back. john, tell me something i don't know. >> i think november 3 will be an ugly day for democrats but i
think there will be one bright spot, my native state of california where i believe at this point it's risky to say, but i think it's true arena and meg whitman will lose. democrats will win. chris: cynthia? >> president-elect's race to reform plan is in trouble. democrats never have been enthusiastic about it because it calls for firing poorly performing teachers and aggravates the teacher unions but the house take, the republican takes over the house, they'll oppose parts of it as well, especially the part that calls for national standards, republicans like local control. chris: norah? >> the afghan review process does happen in december but people i've spoken with says it is not a review but an evaluation. in other words, there won't be any strategic changes, that it will be more of a fine-tuning of the policy. in other words, the president's goal is still on to get most of our troops out of there.
mike? >> the big political story is not witchcraft in the senate race but the fact the democratic candidates in pennsylvania and in ohio are tanking. the bottom is falling out among democrats in those states and heralds a massive change. the biggest fact this week was barack obama has 65% of independents in ohio who say that he is doing a bad job as president. that was an amazing -- chris: ohio and pennsylvania have been startling bad for the democrats this month. don't know what went on. we'll have to find out. the big question of the week, if unemployment and the presint'sj around, is there a chance the president might decide not to run again?
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it will take billions from our children when we can least afford it. get california working again-for all of us. >> closed captioning provided by -- chris: welcome back. the job situation remains desperate as everybody knows and the president's approval numbers remain very low. our big question this week, if that does not improve dramatically, do you see any chance the president might decide not run again. john heilemann? >> i think it's close to zero and not because i don't think there's part of him that would actually like to hang it up. you hear things like that from people around him near the white house, in the white house but his competitiveness and focus on the place in history are too great to let him back down from a re-election party.
chris: cynthia? >> i agree but this is a man that wants to accomplish things in the policy arena. and some of those like an energy policy are most likely things he couldn't get done until a second term. >> yeah, i think there's no chance. chris: no chance? >> i think a very low chance. unless he would have hillary clinton position herself to run, that would be a serious race. it was a 50/50 race remember in the primaries. chris: great roundtable, john heilemann, norah o'donnell, mike [ male announcer ] as the ceo of hp, carly fiorina laid off 30,000 workers. when you're talking about massive layoffs, which we did...
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