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tv   Hardball With Chris Matthews  MSNBC  September 30, 2010 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT

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246. lost one since the last show. for more information on this saturday's one nation march in washington, d.c., you can go to "hardball" with chris matthews starts right now on the place for politics, msnbc. we'll see you tomorrow night from the nation's capital. >> clinton joins the argument. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews in dublin traveling with former president, bill clinton. leading off tonight, clinton one on one. he says the answer isn't about yes or no. it's about what you believe. that's coming up on the show. also, james clyburn said on "hardball" last night that if republicans win the house, they will try to delegitimize president obama. republican darrell issa called the charge, paranoid. really?
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let's see what issa does have in mind if republicans gain control. plus, wait'll you hear the threat that karl paladino the governor running for new york, made last night. >> you send another goon to my daughter's house and i'll take you out buddy. >> how you going to do that? >> yeah. >> watch. >> there's more to this tape. by the way, who is this candidate that's threatening to take out people? and all the president's generals. how is president obama working with american generals in afghanistan? who's calling the shot? that's my question for bob woodward. remember this scene when michele bachmann was so inspired by president bush that she wouldn't let him go at that state of the union. well, she's turned on bush in her latest ad. that's in "the sideshow." all of that is ahead. first, let's check in on the latest polls in the tight races around the country. for that we go to the "hardball" scoreboard. let's start with california. where a new ppi c poll shows
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what we've seen from other current polls. senator barbara boxer's building a strong lead over republican challenge, carly fiorina. up in alaska it looks like a real race now with republican joe miller at 38%. senator lisa murkowski at 36%. and democrat, scott mcadams down at 22%. and that new cnn/"time" poll, remember murkowski's is running as a write-in. finally, to florida. where marco rubio is pulling away. he's up 13 points over charlie crist in a quinnipiac poll with meek way behind. we'll continue to check the scoreboard each night leading up to the election day. now, my interview with former president clinton. i began asking him about all of that firing negativity that seems to be dominating ever since he left office. let's talk about the phenomena in american life. since you've left office, it's
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gotten worse, much worse. of this fiery negativity. >> i don't know how it could get much worse, but i do think -- >> well, now it's cross parties. it seems like everybody's either far left, far right and angry as hell at the other side. political environment and a polarized media environment even increasingly. i think that part of it is that the american people are having a tough time. by the time i left office, we were growing together again since the first time really since the 1970s. they saw their incomes go up in percentage terms saw their percentage goes up as the top 20%. it seemed that the government was working again. the approval of government was higher than it had been in a long time. and then we had the controversy over iraq. and we had the recession. and even before the financial
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meltdown in september of 2008, the economy had only produced 2.5 million jobs, so that depressed wages and after inflation, health care cost had doubled. so there was a lot of anxiety out there. and i think, in anxious times, people get on more of a hairtrigger. they're afraid that they are not doing the right by their families. they're afraid their own dreams are going to be thwarted. and the silence on kind of politics, you know, that one extreme or the other it seems to have more weight. >> you're quoting yates to me the other day on the plane. and the center. and both you and tony blair the prime minister that i spoke to recently about you in fact and he's very supportive of what you did and it's very similar. today in this environment is it possible to find that third way again? to bring a center left constituency together when everybody wants to maybe get on the air on msnbc and take a far left position.
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get on fox and take a murdoch position all the way right. i don't see the republican party fighting that center right. is there a democratic center right? >> i think that there is. >> a center left, rather. >> but there -- first -- i think the answer to creating it is to persuade 2/3 of the american people that you've got your facts straight first. that there is a factual basis for what we're trying to do here. for example, one of the things that has always frustrated me and hillary, we've talked about this a lot, is that americans historically have been aware, accurately, of the exceptional nature of our country. and it is in many ways still quite an exceptional place. but they have therefore been resistant to comparative information. so one fact that drives everything i think about health
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care is that we're now spending 17.2% of our income on health care and wealthy competitors spending 10.5 and they have longer life expectancies and lower infant mortality rates. that means if we had their systems, we'd save a trillion dollars a year and be healthier. so a lot of people don't want to hear that. they just know i go to my doctor and i like him and somebody sends me a bill for my insurance. that's just one example. i think it's relative that we recovered 70% of the income we lost from the depth of the recession. germany's at 60%. japan's at 50%. the u.k.'s at 30%. we don't have the jobs yet because they come always in the last 30% and then when you're out. >> you think facts like this will turn hearts in this environment today? >> well, first of all, people's hearts are pretty hard. but their ears are not closed yet. i think that people's hearts are
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moved when their lives are changed and this, you know -- i'm not saying those things are self-serving for me as a democrat, what i said, but there are accurate facts. and i think that you know, the republicans, i'll give you an example. a republican accurate fact. we have -- they said one thing i've always agreed with them on is that, adults who are compis mentis ought to buy health insurance policies across state lines. what's the argument against that? new york, where i live, requires a lot of things to be on health insurance policies and i agree with them all but suppose you live in new york and you have two kids and you want them to have some kind of insurance and you could buy an insurance policy in iowa and you think that meets the basic needs of your family, i think that you ought to be able to do that. now, the argument for that is basically, you wind up driving all people into lower policies. in other words, it's not like
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there's no argument against that, but i'm persuaded that it's right. why? because i've thought about the facts. if you say from the get-go, president obama is a closet socialist who wants to you know, extend the reach of government across the length and breadth of the land and choke off free enterprise and small business and individual initiative and therefore i have to be against for whatever he is for. or if you say, we beat bill clinton and the democrats in '94, by just saying, no. we were responsible for health care not passing. we were responsible for thwarting things and we got credit for it and the things they did do, no one knew because the no drowned out the positive accomplishments. let's do it again, see if it'll work again. it may work in the short run, but in the end, the country loses. in the end, we have to find a way forward. i'll never forget when i worked with the reagan white house in
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'88 in the first incarnation of welfare reform. private, they're perfectly honest with me. we've worked through these things. even though they were more conservative than i was, they knew i wanted people who could work to work. and when i pointed out that you couldn't ask poor people to go to work if they lost their food support or they couldn't provide medical care for their kids, as a result of it, they got that and didn't want to take it away. we had a kind of debate that sensible people have when a husband and wife have a difference at home and they work through it by listening to each other and figuring out what the best compromise is? >> the republican party in the era under you decided early on in the health care fight to just say no and they didn't get hit hard on it. president obama has decided, maybe it's chicago politics, you don't talk about the opposition.
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dick daley politics. he never mentioned boehner's name. never mentioned mcconnell's name for like a year and a half and now he's calling him out. should he have called him out earlier? is that good politics? >> probably. >> they just get away with saying no and stopping things. >> probably because the other side was systematically attacking not just the president, but also speaker pelosi and senator reid and they're not -- and you wouldn't expect them to be -- because very few people are, they're not as gifted on telephone or in defending themselves as president obama. >> so you'd get them in the ring. >> and so they hauled them in there, but the election, the republicans want this to be an election on every bad thing you ever heard about barack obama, nancy pelosi and harry reid. and so the reason the president is doing this, i think, is not
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just to hurt them, but to say what they stand for and this is not -- it's a choice between harry reid and mitch mcconnell. it's a choice between nancy pelosi and john boehner. and it's almost impossible with only a month to go and they've been doing it for maybe a month to fill up the tank as much and -- but it's worth reminding americans that every election is a choice. if you have to run against the ideal, if it's a referendum, every one of us will get beats. nobody will get elected. we'd have nobody in office because there's no such thing as the perfect public servant. the choices you make in politics are like the choices you make in life. you look at the facts as best you can and you make the best available choice. >> that's part of a long interview that we did today for an upcoming documentary on the former president. coming up congressman james clyburn said yesterday on "hardball" that if republicans win the house they'll use subpoena power to try to delegitimize president obama.
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republican congressman darrell issa called us and said that congressman clyburn was being, quote, paranoid. up next i'll ask issa what republicans are actually planning. you're watching "hardball" from dublin only on msnbc. , no. oh. but i did pick up your dry cleaning and had your shoes shined. well, i made you a reservation at the sushi place around the corner. well, in that case, i better get back to these invoices... which i'll do right after making your favorite pancakes. you know what? i'm going to tidy up your side of the office. i can't hear you because i'm also making you a smoothie. [ male announcer ] marriott hotels & resorts knows it's better for xerox to automate their global invoice process so they can focus on serving their customers. with xerox, you're ready for real business.
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two political items of note. first republican congressman mike castle has decided against running a write-in campaign for u.s. senate delaware castle's name recognition would have been making him a formidable opponent for the general election. chris coons looks like he's going to win that now. and rahm emanuel officially steps down tomorrow and beginning his campaign for mayor of chicago. white house senior adviser pete ross will replace rahm on an interim basis. they have to pick perhaps a heavy weight chief of staff. "hardball" back after this. thatx is their financial life.
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era of dan burton the erav people taking the fifth, leaving the country and in some cases going to jail, is an era i hope that none of us repeat. in other words, the crimes that went on shouldn't repeat and neither should the subpoenas. >> welcome back to "hardball." that was congressman darrell issa on a couple of weeks ago on cnn. he's expected to chair the house oversight committee the republicans take the majority. last night on "hardball," jim clyburn the third-ranking democrat in the house leadership told us what he expects if republicans get control. let's listen. >> do you really believe as you've said the other day that if the republicans get control that congress and the subpoena power, they're going to usually go after the president's birth records, they're going to try to prove he's a foreigner and other nonsense like that? >> i absolutely believe that. i take them at their word. i've watched their actions. you know what i always say, having grown up in a postammage,
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it's not their words, it's their deeds. let's look at the members of that committee that's been talking about the government oversight committee. you've got dan burton sitting there. he is a co-sponsor of the birther bill. dan, you know, the ranking member, though he says that i didn't meantime birther stuff. i meant to look at fraud cases. well, that's what they're saying. they're trying to delegitimize this president. they're calling him a fraud. so he'll be -- going after these subpoenas with that in mind. >> let's go right now to congressman darrell issa. thank you, congressman issa, for joining us tonight. so it's not true, congressman clyburn's dead wrong. you are not going to do the kind of burden stuff. not shooting at cantaloupes out back on the vince foster case. you're not going to be doing birther stuff and although burton's on one of the birther list and so is fortenberry he's
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apparently talking like a birther. you're not going to follow their lead? >> not at all. >> not at all. first of all, that issue is long since settled. i came into congress when people were questioning whether or not george w. bush was legitimate. then, i thought we should move on and work with the president. two years ago i felt the same way and i have been since. >> well, let's take a look at some things you have said. you've answered that question. something that you said on may 25th of this year concerning the issue of joe sestak, your fellow congressman. let's watch. >> an allegation has been made that mult mel sources in both parties, anthony wiener, dick morris and other democrats have made it very clear, even axelrod, that they should answer that in fact this is serious, this is an impeachable offense, according to dick morris and i think that brings back the whole nixonian question, what
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was done wrong, it's about the cover-up. >> do you believe there was any impeachable offense involved in white house conversations or alleged conversations with joe sestak? the democratic for the state of pennsylvania. >> that investigation has been pretty well been completed. it's not an alleged allegation now that we have e-mails and conversations with joe sestak and with romanov. what we're trying to get to the bottom of in the next congress, is this business as usual. something that happened under what we believe probably happened under the bush administration and as governor rendell says well you don't change everything. will the american people want us to change that, to quit in the future, using taxpayer dollars and positions? to influence primary events. or save their party money? i think the answer is, we're going to have to try to get compliance. >> well, that's the question. -- okay. well that's the question.
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are you going to spend the next several months if you get to be chairman of the reform committee, subpoenaing people like rahm emanuel, perhaps rendell, anyone you are mentioning here, i don't know, asking them about a possible deal involving a job offer. are you going to spend your time doing that? >> as i said, when governor rendell said this is typical, it goes on. i've done something similar. a member of the bush administration's press team said that similar things happened under the bush administration. what we discovered was that laws that are on the books to prevent this, routinely are not considered to apply. so as part of reform, it's not a matter of looking back. let's asoum for a moment, as i believe, that every administration has done it, we will look into whether or not taxpayer dollars should be used in that way, and try to prevent it in the future, which i think are the sbechbt laws are. but we've got a lot bigger problems. you know we have $1.4 trillion of borrowed money to get through each year.
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we're going to are to find savings, waste and so on and that's going to be the main agenda of our committee. >> so it's not impeachable? >> you know -- >> so you're changing your mind now. it's not what you call, impeachable. no, you use terms like this. >> chris, chris -- >> i don't think made up these charges against you, when you go after issues like -- go ahead. >> chris, i appreciate your comment. but let's understand that i was quote what dick morris said. i was in no way, shape, or form talking about it. i'm not going to be cheering that committee or anything else. the fact is, i'm on the committee of waste, fraud and oversight and reform. it's really about going after far down below the president, below his key cabinet officers and get into the parts of government that waste your dollars. that's what my committee has to do. that's our mandate. that's what i intend to do if i'm given the opportunity. >> okay. here's something else. this was posted this year by your staff. let's listen to it on health care.
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>> the concern is that if you can bribe and i mean bribe members of the house and the senate to get their votes, then democracy as we know it simply won't work. >> what we're talking about health care and you're using the term bribe there. you use terms like bribe, like impeachable, the subpoena power. the question is, is this going to be another 80th congress. like we had right after world war ii, where they used to say, they open every day with a prayer and ended it with a probe. are there going to be a lot probes like this going after people like rahm emanuel and people who you say took bribes in the health care bill? >> well, i wish, i wish rahm good luck in his campaign. the truth is we have a problem in congress with earmarks, we have a problem in congress with trading something for a district, for something else in somebody else's district. and yes, i'm going work with, i hope, speaker boehner, to end the era of earmarks no matter where they come from and get back to accountable spending.
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transparent spending. that is something i want to work on. it's not the issue of my committee, but it is the issue of republicans if we have an opportunity to lead. >> do you believe that members of congress, your colleagues, were bribed to vote for the health care bill? you used the term here, it's a legal term. do you mean it? >> i certainly think there were a lot of inducements but we can go back to a lot of inducements on medicare part d. it is not unique to have the heavy hand from the white house to try to move legislation. the real question is are we going to make it impossible, either for an administration or for powerful members of the house or the senate to airdrop in spending or benefits in order to get a vote on an unrelated matter, that's important. and something that i take very seriously. i think all republicans have learned from many republicans falling into that. i think that's important issue.
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have the republicans learned their lesson from having been in the majority at a time in which earmarks got out of control. >> you sound very sober now, congressman. and i would accept anything you say tonight because you're in a very sober mood, but your staff is putting out terms like this, and i just got this, calling congressman clyburn, one of the ranking democrats, ranking members of the house, a sock puppet. you call him goofy and paranoid. you think these are appropriate ways to get along with your fellow members? these terms? >> i think calling someone paranoid, putting words into mouth when my position is just to the opposite as to the president, i think that was appropriate. i think perhaps the democrats are getting paranoid the republicans are going to gain control, so they're coming out with things in fear or making them up. i have supported this president. i've worked with this president. i've tried to get legislation passed with this president and i intend on working with the president next congress
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regardless of the outcome, so i would hope we can use better language. i would hope we would not claim that somebody's intentions are flat wrong. i think we have to make sure the process is fair, the process is transparent and we all have to live up to the high standards that are set. >> thanks for coming on the show, congressman darrell issa. in fact, is the ranking member of the reform committee, may be chairman if the republicans get control of the house. up next remember when congresswoman michele bachmann hugged president bush and wouldn't let go of him? now she's doing a complete 180 of the former president. wait until you catch her act on "the sideshow." you're watching "hardball" from dublin where i'm traveling with president clinton. back after this. introducing our quattron quadpixel technology.
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back to "hardball." time for the "sideshow." first, where's the love? remember when michele bachmann first got our attention? she was at the 2007 state of the union. a newly elected congresswoman when he latched on to president bush and as you can see, wouldn't let go. three years later think with woman bachmann is singing a new tune. check out the opening to her new ad. >> government spending doesn't create good jobs that's why i fought and voted against the bush/wall street bailout. >> i'm sorry. it's a small point, but where the congressman's bachmann's salary coming from? >> how did you get so damn rich? >> um. >> it's probably embarrassing
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you're like the tepth wealthiest person in the world or something? >> that's not embarrassing. >> what am i talking about? >> try it sometime, you'll like it. >> well -- >> letterman could be onto something. bloomberg might be too rich to get elected president. up next an amazing confrontation between karl paladino the tea party-backed republican nominee for governor of new york and a newspaper reporter. we'll have much more of that harsh show coming up ahead and if this will hurt republicans? you're watching "hardball." i do a lot of different kinds of exercise,
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i'm page hopkins. here's what's happening. the white house says with a wink that president obama will make a personnel announcement on friday, chief of staff rahm emanuel and expected to step down to run for mayor of chicago. senior adviser peter voss likely to fill that post. he served as chief of staff for then-senator obama in 2004. ed is reportedly well liked within the administration. over in afghanistan, at least five allied troops were killed in three separate incidents. their nationalalities have not been released. up to new jersey's attorney general to decide whether to charge two college students with hate crimes. they're being blamed for driving another student to suicide by secretly taping him in a sexual encounter and posting it online. a sprawling storm moving up the eastern seaboard snarling road traffic from north carolina to new york. at least five deaths are already blamed on the storm after a family's minivan lost control and crashed in north carolina killing everyone inside. and now we're going to take you back to "hardball."
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you know, back when i was a kid -- welcome back to "hardball." when i was a kid we used to go at a family up at lake george, new york. something scary happened there last night. it involved carl paladino going after a "new york post" reporter fred dicker. now this is a frightening scene that you don't often see, even in politics. let's watch. >> it says, you've descended into the gutter by suggesting that he was involved in extramarital relations when there is no evidence. if you have no evidence of that, isn't that going into the gutter? >> hm, well, the guy's been in the gutter and spent a good part of his life with andrew varcis
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in the gutter should think twice about trying to characterize me. >> you're a lawyer. you've heard the term and i'm -- >> i'm also a lawyer -- >> what evidence do you have? >> i want to know why you sent your goons after my daughter. i want to know. >> your charge against cuomo, do you have the evidence? >> three daughters -- >> how can you say that -- >> i have a daughter too, fred. i have a daughter. >> you brought it out, fred -- >> stay away from me. what evidence do you have? >> listen, you go after my daughter -- say it one more time. >> come on, guys. easy. >> come on, stay away from me, man. >> don't touch me. >> who are you? who in the hell are you? >> go ahead, ask him a question. >> do you have any evidence for the charge that you made? >> in time you'll get it. >> this guy is the attorney general of the city of new york and you're a stalking horse fred dicker. you're his stalking horse. you send another goon to my
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daughter's house and i'll take you out, buddy. >> you're going to take me out? >> yeah. >> how are you going to do that? >> watch. >> let's go to earl lewis from "the new york daily news." and ""time" magazine." just been going across the country getting a look at our country's mood. carl paladino threatening a reporter, threatening anybody to take them out. what's the nature of that threat, earl lewis? >> he used it quite a bit. karl paladino has said it about the political leaders of the legislation, his political opponent, now a journalist. he says, i'm going to take him out. that's part of his theme about cleaning up albany. throwing the rascals out. it's a growing list of people on carl paladino's problems or enemies list. >> so, it has an unusual meaning in his case. you're saying, it's not a physicalkill him? >> no, no, no. you know what, the reporter he was talking to, fred dicker, has
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i think a green fwhelt karate so if i don't know if that was really a realistic opportunity or option for karl paladino, but no, he says it quite a lot. but anger is real. the frustration that he's been trying to panel it's been a major theme of his campaign. he's been saying there's just no room. he talks in very rough language. when he criticizes the head of the state of the assembly. he doesn't just say, i want to get him out by voting him out. he says i think he ought to go to prison. really, wild kind of charges. and so, so this has been the temperature of the campaign. >> that's a legal remedy. joe klein, i'm not so sure of what i'm listening to here up here. when one guy threatens a guy and says, i'm going to take you out, it sounds more severe than just, i'm going to talk to your employer, mr. murdoch, about you. what do you make of that charge that threat? >> oh, it's kind of low key, new york politics as usual. but i think, chris, what you're looking at is a larger trend here. you have within the republican
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party, you have a majority of people who have been angry at their incumbents. they've voted them out. they've voted in these amateurs and i've seen them across this country, who really don't know how to behave like politicians. >> yeah. >> and sometimes that's refreshing. other times it's really embarrassing. >> let's go up to maine to another center of activity. another ring in this fight game. paul lapage. he's a gubernatorial candidate. let's take a look at this scene up in maine and it also involves anger and tough talk. >> and as your governor, you're going to be seeing a lot of me on the front page, saying governor lapage tells obama to go to hell. >> well there's interesting language. and now let's go ahead and take a look more of paladino talking to kate snow, one our reporters.
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take a look at that scene. here's paladino. let's take another look at the other side. >> that's okay. it's all right to show people that you're angry. it's sort of gets the discussion going. >> who are you angry at? >> angry at a government that took advantage of the people. a government that is self-sustaining, they've been eating at public trough. the play-to-pay club. >> you first, you talk about the anger in new york. and i went -- and then i want joe to pick up on it because he's been traveling across the country like paul simon look for america. and finding it red-faced. you first. this anger out there. earl? >> there's definitely anger out there. upstate new york in particular. where karl paladino hails from, they've been betrayed over and over again. and you're justified to be angry. when you adjust for the property of a home, it's a highest of the nation. they've lost tens of thousands of jobs.
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people's kids just move out of state and it's been happening by the hundreds of thousands every year. it's a real crisis and hasn't broken through the media bubble down here in the city and carl paladino is trying to breakthrough that bubble and trying to basically grab the state by the lapels and say, we're dying upstate, we've got to do something different, we've got change what goes on in albany. the missing ingredient, as you say, chris, what's the real plan, other than being outraged. >> yeah, joe, tell us about your trip. >> well, listen, you know, i don't as much fist shaking anger out among the people as i do on tv. there's some of that to be sure, but what people are really are are freaked out, you know, in past economic downturns that you and i have both covered, chris, people are concerned their kids aren't going to be able to live as good as they have. now, they're absolutely convinced that their kids will not live as good as they have.
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they're absolutely convinced that we're going to be number two to china. they're absolutely frustrated with our politicians for not dealing with the jobs and the trade and the outsourcing issues. you know, for every time that i hear the war in afghanistan from average americans, i hear china 25 times. and they look at washington. they don't see anybody addressing this. >> well, you know the interesting thing is at the same time you hear people say they're against government. they think government's too big and yet they're holding it responsible for not getting their job back. it seems like they want a bigger role for government. they want it to get in there and big foot the economy and make it walk right. isn't that a contradiction, joe? >> yeah. but there is no consistency. no ideological consistency from the american people. i talked to a cop out in rural michigan, who won't even tell me why he hateless the president. obviously, the president's some
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kind of a secret muslim and then i say, well, what do you think we should do to make the country better? then he says, the government has to provide more jobs. there's no consistency. you see it. there is no such thing as a straight-ahead liberal or a straight-ahead conservative in this country right now. what there is, is an awful lot of frustration in a sense that -- in a sense of fear. a lot of -- you can't imagine how many people, as earl was just saying, you can't imagine how many people's mortgages are under water in this country and they see their neighbors walking away from their mortgages which reduces the value their homes and they're saying to each other, god was our parents like this? they would have never done anything like this. what's wrong with us. what's happened to us as a country? >> yeah. yeah. joe, it sounds like a president, i just talked to bill clinton. is right on this. he say they ought to think of alternatives and what they're voting for and against rather than pounding their fists.
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i know the mood. i appreciate what you're reporting here. and certainly i haven't seen anything like this guy, karl paladino. i hope i don't see too many like him in politics. anyway, maybe i'm wrong. thanks for joining us. joe klein. earl lewis. errol lewis -- well, there's quite a managery out there. thank you, joe klein. who's been out there checking out the cages. we'll be back with bob woodward, the best journalist in the country i think, with no offense to these guys the best investigative reporter in the country. his big book, an insight into this war in afghanistan. "obama's war" is the name of the book. we'll be right back. words alone aren't enough. my job is to listen to the needs and frustrations of the shrimpers and fishermen, hotel or restaurant workers who lost their jobs to the spill. i'm iris cross. bp has taken full responsibility for the clean up in the gulf and that includes keeping you informed. our job is to listen and find ways to help.
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we're back, we're joined right now with bob woodward of "the washington post." bob, thanks for joining us. i'm over here in dublin. i wanted to know before we get any further into this, your sense, i guess it's something you could conclude as a straight reporter, is barack obama got control of the military right now? >> well, he's the commander in chief and as general petraeus says in these meetings, actually told president obama, we in the military will support you. we're not self-employed. at the same time in the strategy review last year, they really erected this, these blocks of granite that included hillary clinton, secretary of defense gates and said 40,000 troops as mcchrystal wants and that's it. it's quite baffling and
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astonishing to see at these meetings where i have the notes and the whole scene is in book.. the president said, well, you promised three options today and you're essentially giving me one. and the military said, well, yes, sir. obama went at gates and confidence look, where's the option? this is unacceptable. an electric moment in the situation room of the white house. secretary gates said, yes, we owe you that option, and it never came. and the president had to devise his own. >> you know, bob, you're familiar with the military. you served in the military and covered it all these years. through all your books about presidents and the military, is this one of the cases where the military is putting the president in a situation where eventually they'll get him to do what they want by the way they sort of euchre him into a
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strategy plan? >> new yoo, it's not that. this is not out of conviction on the part of the generals. they believe they need these troops and this time. the problem -- and this is the problem obama has -- he's very cerebral and analytical and get all these intelligence reports. they have a secret monthly update about you how the war is going, and the news is not good. out of one of these meetings, he said given this definition of the problem, i don't see how we are going to design a solution. it is a war that i think even has general petraeus' head spinning. he said there's been some signs of progress. but when you really dig into this, you find that there are more signs of trouble and an insurgency taliban, insurgency there that literally still has the upper hand.
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>> do you have a concluding thought about the president's own clarity of thought? it seems in all i've read from the book, he wanted to get out on a timetable. he didn't want to be stuck in a long-term war or find himself stuck with a bigger war than he started with. did he obviously accept there would be constraints to that policy and certain dangers to that and certain things we couldn't control if we were to leave in a rapid timetable? >> he wants out. and the theme music in the background is vietnam. even though he told me and reminded me he was so young, vietnam didn't have an impact on him as a young boy, vietnam is there. and the joe biden, the vice president, is all over the president just pushing and
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pounding and hammering. you don't have unlimited time. we have to tell the military what they can't do, not just what they can do. so the condition bottom line of this is right now, you go through and read all of this and it sets the table for the world we're in at this moment, which is very unsettled. not just in the politics of the country and where the economy is going, but very much the war in afghanistan. the president's going to have to make some tough decisions in the next six to nine months. >> we'll be right back with more with bob woodward. i want to know whether next july will be the deadline for beginning to leave afghanistan. back with bob woodward in a minute. pearblossom highway? it's just outside of lancaster.
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we're going to be in london tomorrow night on "hardball." i'll have a live interview with tony blair about many of these topics, including the war. here's president obama saying to the military, to his generals, i'm not going to make a commitment that leaves my successor with more troops than i inherited in afghanistan. that's a tough charge, bob woodward. he's saying, i want to reduce the number of troops.
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is he also saying i want to do a little nation building for the next couple of years? >> well, there's nation building in the strategy of win hearts and minds and protect the people. at the same time, he's made it very clear, if you look at and you you talk to him about this, as i have, he never uses the word counter insurgency, which is really the core of the strategy. and you can see that he's a doubter. he gets into the details here. and the whole theory of the case that he's presented to the generals and the national security team is, okay, you go into an area, a platoon or company of our soldiers. you clear out the insurgents and hold the area, build the schools and kind of nation build a little bit. and then you have to transfer to the afghans. and you look at this and there are almost no areas of the country where this can be done now. so we're not -- the military is
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not even on the edge of implementing his theory of the case. >> does the president have something that he can get done in his mind's eye over the next two years that justifies the loss of life and limb that will come from staying a couple more years in afghanistan, then leaving? >> i think he's got to have some good news out of this war. and, you know, one possibility, if secretary gates leaves, which he kind of has one foot out the door, put somebody in there who's really a leader, who knows how to deal with war. the name that's being bandied around is colin powell, somebody who served in vietnam, general in the first gulf war. learned a lot of lessons in