Announcer: This is THE CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW. Today...
CHRIS MATTHEWS, host:
Houdini. Can John McCain escape the Bush straitjacket of huge war costs,
nasty gas prices, a limp dollar, doomed mortgages and an even dimmer future? Is McCain's only hope to warn that Obama will raise taxes?
Keep it simple, stupid. If Obama wants to win the war of wallets, why not
keep things vague? Why not channel Ronald Reagan instead of Walter Mondale?
And finally, what a country. A look at two guys chatting in church, sitting
together, honoring our friend Tim Russert. A fitting goodbye to Tim, a guy
who believed in America.
Interview: Katty Kay of the BBC, Jim Cramer of "Mad Money,"
Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post and Andrew Sullivan of
The Atlantic on McCain and Obama's election strategies; Tell Me
Something I Don't Know; Commentary on Tim Russert
CHRIS MATTHEWS, host:
Katty Kay covers American politics for the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Jim Cramer hosts "Mad Money" on CNBC. Kathleen Parker's a columnist for The
Washington Post's Writers Group and author of the new book "Save the Males."
And Andrew Sullivan is senior editor at The Atlantic. What a group.
First up, this was the first full week of the general election campaign, and
the candidates gave their full attention to how much people are hurting right
now and how little hope exists out there. In a new NBC poll, 76 percent of
Americans said the economy will not get better at anytime soon in the next
year. If history's a good indicator, the current bundle of economic troubles
should doom any Republican hoping to secede George Bush. If McCain can get
out of this mess, he's a 21st century Houdini. So how ask does he pull a
Houdini and escape the situation that surrounds him? Answer, by tagging
Barack Obama as the guy who's going to raise your taxes.
Senator JOHN McCAIN: Under Senator Obama's tax plan, Americans of every
background would see their taxes rise--seniors, parents, small business
owners, and just about everyone who has even a modest investment in the
MATTHEWS: Obama's plan does call for some tax increases on the better off,
those making over 250,000 a year. So should he talk straight, as Walter
Mondale did back in '84?
Mr. WALTER MONDALE: (July 19, 1984) Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so
will I. He won't tell you. I just did.
MATTHEWS: Well, that didn't work too well in the end, so Obama is taking a
Senator BARACK OBAMA: John McCain and the Republican National Committee keep
on mischaracterizing my plan, so I want you to hear it from me, and it is
supported by every independent economist who has looked at our plan. If you
are a family making less than $250,000, my plan will not raise your taxes,
MATTHEWS: So, Jim Cramer, he says he's only going to raise taxes on the very
Mr. JIM CRAMER (Host, "Mad Money"): Right.
MATTHEWS: ...over 250 a year, 250,000 a year. Is he basically taking us back
to before Bush tax cuts for the rich?
Mr. CRAMER: Yes, and I think it's going to work. I think people recognize
that the whole Bush plan turned out to be a facade, a charade, because most
Americans don't own stock. It's not an ownership society. We don't care how
our stocks do because they don't do well. So I think--I think Obama's making
a lot of sense.
MATTHEWS: So--but on the question of equity, is he right to say, Obama,
that--`what I'm going to do is basically hurt the very well off. I'm not
going to raise taxes on regular people, whether on the capital gains side or
on their regular income'?
Mr. CRAMER: Yes, because it's not class warfare anymore. We don't feel like
that if we get rich, we're going to pay. We feel like, you know what, the
rich have had such a great ride and what has it done for us. It's time for
other people to do well.
MATTHEWS: You make it sound like the old Stockman thing with Reagan. The
whole trick was to really get lower rates at the very top. It wasn't to help
the average person.
Mr. CRAMER: Look, it didn't work. I mean, that's what Wall Street thinks.
It didn't work, Chris. Everybody got screwed except for a couple people who
make more than $2.8 million a year. That's the way America looks.
MATTHEWS: Andrew, you just heard it from the horse's mouth. James Cramer
himself is now saying don't fall for this argument, that it's a battle
between, you know, the tax increase and the guy that wants to protect your tax
Mr. ANDREW SULLIVAN (The Atlantic Senior Editor): Well, I think there are
two responses. One is if Obama says, `Look I'm taking you back to the Clinton
era. That's all I'm doing. That's not taking you back to the Mondale era.
It's not taking you back to the Carter era. It's taking you to Clinton.' And,
remember, Clinton in many ways was an absolute affirmation of the Reagan
revolution. I mean, he never raised the taxes back to where they were before.
And secondly, I think--I think Obama...
MATTHEWS: And times were pretty good in the '90s.
Mr. SULLIVAN: Yeah, and Obama has to talk about the debt. I mean, we've
added, in the last eight years, according to the GAO, $32 trillion in unfunded
liabilities for the next generation. Most people know that. They know the
debt is a problem, and raising taxes a little on the wealthy is not a killer
in that context. We've got to pay for this sometime.
MATTHEWS: Katty, you look at all the situation right now. It really takes a
Houdini to get out of it. It's almost like he is belted up with all these,
you know, what do you call, chains around him and he's in some kind of safe at
the bottom of the Atlantic. He's got to get out of the gas tax problem.
Defend that. He's got to defend us against--himself against a recession,
against a dollar that's worth like an old Portuguese escudo right now. He's
got every problem in the world economically--you're laughing, Jim, but it's
Mr. CRAMER: It's true.
Ms. KAY: Yeah...(unintelligible).
MATTHEWS: (Unintelligible)....overseas knows that. Everything's wrong and
he's going to say, `You think this is bad.'
Ms. KATTY KAY (BBC Washington Correspondent): I mean, every single number is
going in the wrong direction, and at a time when 82 percent of Americans think
the country's on the wrong track, it is almost impossible to believe that
another Republican could get elected. But here's his silver lining. The
Republicans' ratings are going down, but John McCain's ratings in comparison
to his party are doing pretty well.
MATTHEWS: How do you masquerade yourself as not the defender of the status
quo if you're John McCain? How do you avoid--how do you just avoid all the
hell that comes with just being in the incumbent party this time?
Ms. KATHLEEN PARKER (Columnist Washington Post Writers Group): Yeah, well,
he's clearly no longer the maverick. He's the mainstream candidate. But I
think what McCain's trying to do is paint Obama as the Jimmy Carter candidate
and he's trying to leapfrog over Bush and over Clinton to Reagan and attach
himself to that legacy. And he's likely to do that well, because he does have
a taxpayer-friendly economic plan. The problem he's going to have is being
heard at all because even if you say that the class warfare is over, it's
be--Obama's platform is perceived as the poor people vs. the rich people...
Ms. KAY: But then...
Ms. PARKER: ...and he wants to make it hard on corporate America. He's
going to raise the taxes on corporate America, which does, you know--140
million Americans go to work in corporate America every single day.
Ms. KAY: But there are plenty of Republicans who don't trust John McCain on
taxes, either. I mean, remember, look how long it took Grover Norquist, the
tax cutter of the Republican Party, to come out and support John McCain. It
took him a pretty long time. I mean, it's not as if John McCain is a
completely solid pro-business candidate anyway, is it?
Mr. CRAMER: Not at all, no.
Ms. KAY: I mean, he's got his own problems within...
Ms. PALMER: Well, he's...
Ms. KAY: ...his own party.
Ms. CRAMER: No one trusts him.
Ms. PALMER: Well, he's trying to create that image and...
Mr. SULLIVAN: But the one thing...
Ms. PALMER: ...whether he succeeds or not...
Mr. SULLIVAN: ...he does have, and what McCain...
MATTHEWS: That's one thing you can say for the Democrat Party...
Mr. SULLIVAN: This...
MATTHEWS: They don't have anybody named Grover Norquist. No, I'm just
Mr. SULLIVAN: This is how McCain--this is how McCain does work. In fact,
because the economy is in such terrible shape--at least, it feels in terrible
Mr. CRAMER: Yeah.
Mr. SULLIVAN: ...the risk of tax increases becomes much higher. I mean, you
can say look, yes, we might be able to have these tax increases another
MATTHEWS: I'm going to ask you...
Mr. SULLIVAN: ...but we're already in a recession.
MATTHEWS: It's counter--it's...
Mr. SULLIVAN: You're going to tip us into a much worse one. That is
his--that is his strongest argument...
MATTHEWS: It's pro...(unintelligible).
Mr. CRAMER: You're right.
Mr. SULLIVAN: ...which is whatever--yeah. Exactly that.
MATTHEWS: OK. Bottom line time. We asked The Matthews Meter, 12 of our
regulars, can John McCain escape the disastrous economic situation he
confronts, and we all confront, by warning that Obama will hike taxes? Well,
this is a close one. I don't like close ones, but seven say no, McCain will
not escape the disastrous economic conditions when Election Day comes, five
say McCain can escape the blame for the Bush economy by labeling Obama a tax
raiser. Andrew, you're one of those who say he can't escape.
Mr. SULLIVAN: The conditions are so overwhelming that it's very hard for him
to get out of this Republican taint. But as I said before, I do think that
the fear, the fear of a new young president raising taxes is an important fear
in a depressed economy.
MATTHEWS: It's a good Rorschach test question for the panelists. Katty, you
agree with Andrew. He can't escape--John McCain has to pay the piper for the
Ms. KAY: I just--I just keep coming back to this 82 percent number, and I
just find it very hard to see how there is another term of the same party when
so many people in the country, across the board, and these are...
Ms. KAY: ...Democrats and Republicans...
Ms. KAY: ...both saying that it's going in the wrong direction.
MATTHEWS: Speak for the investor class, Jim. I know you don't like to be...
Mr. CRAMER: Investor class is sick of it.
MATTHEWS: You like to be more of a...
Mr. CRAMER: Investor class is sick of Republicans.
Mr. CRAMER: They're sick of them.
MATTHEWS: So Wall Street...
Mr. CRAMER: We have stagflation. It's the worst. It's the worst for rich,
it's the worst for poor, it's worst for the middle class. We need a new
MATTHEWS: So the Election Day is over, the morning after election, if Obama
wins, does the stock market go up?
Mr. CRAMER: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Even though capital gains go up?
Mr. CRAMER: Absolutely. We're sick of it.
MATTHEWS: Whoa, what a--this is news we've made here. Jim Cramer says the
market will resound positively to an election by--of Barack Obama.
When we come back, we're going to talk politics and the war of the sexes.
Kathleen here has a new book, "Save the Males," in which she takes on the
conventional wisdom about men and women. She says it's the men who are the
endangered species right now. It reminded some of our producers of a
"Saturday Night Live" sketch back in 2002. Here's Amy Poehler playing a hot
shot CEO who's unhappy with her marriage to a guy named Dave.
(Begin clip of "Saturday Night Live")
Ms. AMY POEHLER: (as Gillian) Jessica, the other day when I told you that
everything was fine with my marriage, that wasn't true.
Unidentified Actress: (as Jessica) What's the problem?
Ms. POEHLER: (as Gillian) It's David. He was always affectionate, but
lately he's been following me around, hovering, invading my personal space.
I'll come home from work, and he's there waiting. Or I'll be getting into
bed, and suddenly he'll lie down beside me.
(End of clip)
MATTHEWS: So who's playing her husband in this sketch? Why, none other than
a certain Republican nominee for president. Look closely at the guy behind
the beard as his wife comes home from a hard day at the office.
(Begin clip of "Saturday Night Live")
Sen. McCAIN: (as Dave) Hello, Gillian.
Ms. POEHLER: (as Gillian) Oh!
Sen. McCAIN: (as Dave) I missed you.
Ms. POEHLER: (as Gillian) What are you doing here?
Sen. McCAIN: (as Dave) The conference was cut short so I rushed back to see
Ms. POEHLER: (as Gillian) David, you shouldn't sneak up on people like that.
You scared me half to death.
Sen. McCAIN: (as Dave) Forgive me, darling. You know I'd never hurt you.
You're so lovely.
Ms. POEHLER: (as Gillian) Oh, oh!
Sen. McCAIN: (as Dave) I could watch you for hours.
Ms. POEHLER: (as Gillian) Oh my God, David. How did you get in here?
Sen. McCAIN: (as Dave) The door was open, angel. Shall I loofah your back?
Ms. POEHLER: (as Gillian) No, no. That's all right. I just need a moment
to myself. I'll be in in a minute.
Sen. McCAIN: (as Dave) I'll be waiting, my love. We were meant to be
(End of clip)
MATTHEWS: Oh, God. What do you make of that performance by John McCain. I
never say I'm stunned...
Ms. PARKER: Pretty creepy.
MATTHEWS: ...and I'm stunned. Kathleen?
Ms. PARKER: Pretty creepy. I don't think he wants that one circulating on
YouTube the week before the election.
MATTHEWS: You know, he can't read a teleprompter, and he can do that? That
is good stuff.
Ms. PARKER: That's good acting.
MATTHEWS: This guy has another career.
Ms. PARKER: Yeah. Well, if this doesn't work out...
MATTHEWS: This is "Friday the 13th" stuff. After the break, we'll talk about
Kathleen's theory that Americans will like what she terms "manly men," like
George Bush, but after eight years of cutting brush and declaring mission
accomplished, have her manly men have gotten a bad name by now? Plus, scoops
and predictions right out of the notebooks of these top reporters. TELL ME
SOMETHING I DON'T KNOW. Be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. Forget experience, judgment and character. It seems
another way to weaken a guy running for office is to question his manliness.
At the Republican convention back in '04, Arnold Schwarzenegger was
unequivocal. He wanted a manly man to be president.
Governor ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: (August 31, 2004) To those critics who are so
pessimistic about our economy, I say don't be economic girly men.
MATTHEWS: Kathleen, you write in your new book, "Save the Males," quote--this
is a quote--"Bush won the presidency against Al Gore and John Kerry in part
because enough Americans considered him to be more manly than his effete
opponents. How did a college cheerleader beat two Vietnam vets? Bush oozed
regular guyness." Kathleen, make your point. Make your point.
Ms. PARKER: Well, I would like to make the point that the book is a broad
view of male bashing in American culture, and this is just simply one little
teensy part of it. But I would say that George Bush has probably retired
regular guyness in politics for all time.
MATTHEWS: OK, we've had it with that?
Ms. PARKER: So--yeah, yeah. Well let me just--let me just--I caught a--I
got glimpse of what I'm talking about when I was interviewing Bobby Jindal and
others in New Orleans leading up to the gubernatorial race, which he won. OK,
now, Bobby Jindal would not be your sort of stereotypical manly man, right?
Ms. PARKER: He's kind of physically slight. He's of Indian descent. He's
always the smartest guy in the room. And I was interviewing this guy Jack
Stephens, he's the sheriff of St. Bernard's Parish, very big, 6'5". All the
sheriffs in New Orleans--I mean, in Louisiana, except for seven, are Democrats
and yet they shifted to Bobby Jindal. So I said, `How do you explain that?
What's --how do you explain this devotion to this guy?' And he said, `Well,
Katrina taught us that brains matter.'
Ms. PARKER: So I think the new model of masculinity and manliness is going
to be the intellectual. And surely that's going to benefit Obama.
MATTHEWS: That is so fascinating.
Ms. KAY: But does it--Kathleen, does that save the males or does that
destroy the males?
Ms. PARKER: I don't even know.
Ms. KAY: If the image of a male is now going to be effete and intellectual
rather than strong and manly?
Ms. PARKER: But you don't have to be effete and intellectual. You can be
Ms. KAY: And manly.
Ms. PARKER: ...and regular, you know?
Ms. KAY: And regular.
Ms. PARKER: But you can't--I think the cowboy is off in the sunset by now.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let's talk turkey. Let's talk about these two guys running
for president right now. Who's the guy here in your theory?
Ms. PARKER: You know what? They both are. These are two unique individuals
who are--but the differences are generational, I think, as much as anything.
I mean, McCain does come out of that older sort of, you know, Christian
soldier template. And Obama is--he appeals to the young people because he's
more like they are. But, you know, it was helpful, I got to say, when he was
shown to be good at shooting hoops after that rather lousy performance at the
bowling alley, don't you think?
Mr. SULLIVAN: But the other thing is, especially with relationship to women,
we're talking about men and women relating to manly men...
Mr. SULLIVAN: Is--and this hasn't really come out as much as it might, but
Obama's personal life, I mean his marriage, his children, compared to McCain's
rather colorful life might appeal to women a little bit more as the kind of
man you kind of want there at home rather than the manly man that might take
you on a war, which you weren't actually expecting to go to.
MATTHEWS: He strikes me as having a very modern marriage.
Ms. PARKER: Who?
Ms. PARKER: Obama?
MATTHEWS: Very equal.
Mr. CRAMER: Right.
Ms. PARKER: Yeah, and he's--you know, he's really uniquely positioned in a
way that I think is very, very important. To be a role model as a father and
as a committed married man--married man. When you have, you know, a third of
children born out of wedlock now, he kind of--he's--he embodies that
commitment to family.
Ms. KAY: Although you know, I was interested to read that here is this guy
who is this great dad and he's held up as this great dad who's actually only
spent 10 days at home in the last year...
Ms. PARKER: Well, there is that.
Ms. KAY: ...since he's been campaigning for president. But you...
MATTHEWS: Who's that?
Ms. KAY: ...can bet...
Ms. PARKER: Running for president.
Ms. KAY: Barack Obama.
Ms. PARKER: Yeah.
Ms. KAY: He's been out on the road the whole time.
Ms. KAY: Now, if it was his wife running for president, there is no way that
she will be...
Ms. KAY: ...still seen as a good mum because she had been away from her...
Ms. PARKER: That's a good point.
Ms. KAY: ...kids so much campaigning.
Ms. PARKER: Yeah.
Ms. KAY: So there's a--there is kind of an interesting--he can still be a...
MATTHEWS: Politics is not good for parenthood. I mean, Joe Scarborough...
Ms. KAY: No.
MATTHEWS: ...I worked with on MS...
Ms. KAY: But he can still be seen as a good dad.
MATTHEWS: ...he quit Congress. He gave up his career because his kids needed
him at home. I mean, this is real stuff for fathers today...
Ms. PARKER: Yeah.
MATTHEWS: ...if you're raising a family.
Ms. KAY: Right. And he's...
Ms. PARKER: Well, and they got married and then they had children. That's a
big step in today's culture.
MATTHEWS: I'll be right back with scoops and predictions right out of the
notebooks of these top reporters. TELL ME SOMETHING I DON'T KNOW. Be right
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
Andrew, let me tell you something you already know. Some of your predictions
are right on the money. More than a year ago, you sat in that chair and
predicted Obama. Let's watch.
(Begin clip from May 27, 2007)
Mr. SULLIVAN: I think most people want to move on. I think that's Obama's
fundamental strength. If you--if you look at the polling this week, 72
percent, wrong track, the highest ever reported.
Offscreen Voice: Mm-hmm.
Mr. SULLIVAN: Who is the candidate that most represents change? Obama.
(End of clip)
MATTHEWS: Score Andrew. And then, well before Iowa, when McCain was running
fourth, you predicted McCain would be the winner.
Mr. SULLIVAN: (December 16, 2007) There will be a moment probably in New
Hampshire when John McCain emerges as the John Kerry of this cycle when the
Republican Party panics at all the people they have and swoop back to the old
MATTHEWS: There are going to be some horse races in Washington next week.
Mr. CRAMER: Yeah.
MATTHEWS: So Andrew, tell me something again I don't know.
Mr. SULLIVAN: I think that the vice presidential picks are both going to be
boring and underwhelming. We hope for a big moment, but it's
actually--neither candidate wants to mix their brand up with another strong
brand. I think that Pawlenty will probably be McCain's number two. I think
he's already made that decision, actually. And I think Obama has yet to pick,
but he doesn't want someone that will outshine Obama.
MATTHEWS: So that ticket is going to be known as good and Pawlenty.
Ms. PARKER: Ah!
Mr. CRAMER: Very good.
MATTHEWS: Ha! TELL ME SOMETHING I DON'T KNOW, Katty.
Ms. KAY: This week, Chris, we saw reports that Abu Dhabi was thinking of
buying the Chrysler Building.
Ms. KAY: It hit all the blogs. There was a lot of uproar about it. Well,
that's nothing compared to what happen--might happen if Saudi Arabia launches
what could be a $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund, the biggest in the world.
And if the Saudis, it's too much money to invest in Saudi Arabia, if they
start looking at America and looking at American targets, you can imagine the
kind of outcry that that's going to cause. It's going to be very politically
MATTHEWS: Empire State Building is next or what?
James? Jim Cramer?
Mr. CRAMER: I've been--I've been viciously negative about housing to the
point where the National Association of Realtors did a letter-writing campaign
to get me fired because I said on the "Today" show, I guaranteed that your
house would lose value about nine months ago. I am now guaranteeing this.
Nine months from now you'll regret if you haven't bought a house. Totally
contrary view. Housing will bottom nine months from now.
MATTHEWS: It will bottom in nine months?
Ms. CRAMER: Yes, it will.
MATTHEWS: So you don't buy until nine months from now.
Mr. CRAMER: Right. But then you've got to start thinking about it because
we're not building--we're building a fourth of the number of houses we were
building two years ago, and we are a great growth country and people will need
MATTHEWS: What's your favorite stock?
Mr. CRAMER: My favorite stock right now? I still like every oil stock, so I
don't want to be specific because oil is--oil and natural gas are going
MATTHEWS: All right. Sounds good. Buy oil. Jim Cramer, anyway.
Mr. CRAMER: Yeah.
MATTHEWS: Kathleen Parker?
Ms. PARKER: Well, I have one for you...
MATTHEWS: Author of "Save the Males."
Ms. PARKER: One for you and one for me, and to put a wrinkle in what Andrew
just said, I'm hearing that the Obama campaign thinks they're really--that
they have a chance in Florida and they're going to pump a lot of money in
there, which means that McCain, who has to win Florida, may be shifting toward
Governor Crist as his running mate.
MATTHEWS: Well, we'll see who's right. Anyway, thanks to a great
roundtable--Katty Kay, Jim Cramer, Kathleen Parker and Andrew Sullivan.
After the break, Tim Russert was laid to rest this week, and I'll have some
personal thoughts on a scene I caught at the church that will make you very
happy to be an American.
Commentary: Chris Matthews on Tim Russert's memorial service
bringing both parties together briefly
CHRIS MATTHEWS, host:
I was sitting at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown this Wednesday for the
funeral Mass of my friend Tim Russert. It's a quiet little church, a Jesuit
church a few blocks from the great Georgetown University itself. On the iron
gate along the sidewalk out front there's this little plaque that says it's
the church John F. Kennedy attended all those years as senator and later as
president. You might figure Tim would have loved to have had it just in this
There was something else about the occasion that Tim would have loved.
Certainly his son, Luke, did because he said something about it in his eulogy.
Over to my left on the far end of the pew, I think it was the second row,
there were two guys chatting away as we awaited the ceremony to begin. I
could see the head of the younger guy bobbing away as they chatted with such
closeness and familiarity, and I suppose shared feelings, about this Mass of
the resurrection for the man they both liked and respected. The two guys were
the two guys now running for president of the United States. It was for me
the stuff of America, the very fiber of our democracy--good, wondrous
competition for the hearts and minds of our people, and for those moments in
Holy Trinity, a sign of our unity. God bless America.
And so we move on. In sports, they retire the number when the Hall of Famer
departs the game, you know, the number on the back of the jersey. They hang
it up in the girders for all the fans to look up to and honor for all the
years ahead. It's a way of reminding people that this guy's talent will not
be seen again. It's like Babe Ruth. You'll never see a Yankee wearing a
number three on his pinstripes, not since the guy they say that built the
stadium for the Bronx Bombers. So let me just say this, as a friend and
colleague, to Tim Russert, that in this studio, where he long did "Meet the
Press," we will always remember him. I once said before, having grown up with
them and their rivalry, that this is the room where Jack Kennedy and Richard
Nixon once debated. Now it will always be the room, too, where Tim Russert
was the best of the major leaguers at what he did so incredibly and
unmatchably well. Tim, together with you, let us all say, `What a country!'