|The Chris Matthews Show
September 17-18, 2011
Announcer: This is THE CHRIS MATTHEWS SHOW.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, host:
Beware the true believer. You get the feeling Democrats are rooting for Rick Perry. Easy to beat, they say. Too far right. Have they forgotten they said the same about Ronald Reagan? Could the Texas governor be on the money, that it's not about political correctness, it's about wanting a leader.
Lost pulpit. Millions hung on his every word. He's still speaking, but are people listening? Can Barack Obama get his voice back? Can he do it in time?
And finally, the American queen. Regal in every way, she spoke hardly at all, and then in soft whisper. Jackie Kennedy has come back to tell us what life was like with a beloved president. He left without a chance to say goodbye. Now she's doing it for him.
Hi. I'm Chris Matthews. Welcome to the show.
With us today, Time magazine's Michael Duffy, the BBC's Katty Kay, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, and the National Journal's Major Garrett.
First up, with the sudden rise of Rick Perry, lots of talk about whether he could actually win the White House. Is he the underestimated conservative who could be elected like Ronald Reagan was in 1980? Polls show Republican voters are convinced Perry could repeat Reagan's defeat of a weakened Democratic president.
But there's some smart analysis out there that says no. It points to these differences between Perry and Ronald Reagan. First, Reagan was very well known nationally, even famous. Perry's virtually unknown. Reagan was super conservative, but on the national stage, he was not seen as divisive the way Perry is. And Reagan was smooth. He was ideological but also affable. Look how he handled this famous jab from Jimmy Carter.
(Clip from October 28, 1980)
President JIMMY CARTER: Governor Reagan, as a matter of fact, began his political career campaigning around this nation against Medicare.
Governor RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.
(End of clip)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, Perry's more sharp-elbowed, more spoiling for a fight. And in his interview with Time magazine this week, he bragged about it.
Governor RICK PERRY: There may be someone who is a, you know, an established Republican who circulates in the cocktail circuit that would find some of my rhetoric to be inflammatory. And I think the American citizens are just tired of all of this, you know, political correctness and politicians who are tiptoeing around important issues. They want a decisive leader.
MATTHEWS: Mike Duffy, there he is on the cover of your magazine, that great interview, but he—is he right? Do they want a leader enough to put up with a really soddy buster cowboy who has a rough edge?
Mr. MICHAEL DUFFY (Time, Assistant Managing Editor): We thought in this interview he would back off, maybe 30 percent from Ponzi scheme, from his attacks on Social Security. Instead he seemed to notch it up. He called the president a socialist, which he'd stop doing for a few weeks. He said Social Security was a criminal enterprise. That's your key to know that he believes that the key to winning the nomination for at least the next few weeks and months is to go as hard to the right as he can in his rhetoric.
MATTHEWS: Can you go this hard-edged, win Iowa and step back enough to be OK to independents like up in New Hampshire and win that thing that way?
Mr. DUFFY: He also said in the interview, but I'm not going to be perfect. He knows that he got booed by the tea party in this debate the other day. He is careful to sort of have a different approach on immigration. So he knows that he can't get completely over the edge, but for now he's going to walk a very hard right wing line.
MATTHEWS: Kelly, you're up on Congress all the time covering these guys. There's some rough edges up there, with Eric Cantor.
KELLY O'DONNELL reporting:
Oh, yes, yes.
MATTHEWS: They have sharp elbows. Do they think that this is the kind of guy that's more, as I—I'm older some of the people here, in fact, all of you—they—can they pick a guy that's more Jimmy Cagney, more James Cagney than Jimmy Stewart? Do they want a guy who's tough?
O'DONNELL: Well, there isn't one voice on this, but those who do like Perry like that he is fearless about even making mistakes. Isn't one of those who feels a need to apologize and to rework himself. They like the bravado, they like the stature, and...
MATTHEWS: Will it win for them? Do they believe he's a winner?
O'DONNELL: Well, they believe he's an early winner. I mean, the distance is something we'll have to see and there's a lot of people who believe Romney will eventually appear a safer choice. But that has its perils, too. But Perry is sort of dazzling them at the—at the moment.
MATTHEWS: You know, I think it's a great calculation for conservatives who want to get President—rid of President Obama.
Mr. MAJOR GARRETT (Congressional Correspondent, National Journal): Mm-hmm.
MATTHEWS: They have to decide do they want one of them, a real angry guy who would show up at a tea party meeting, for example.
Mr. GARRETT: Right.
MATTHEWS: Or a guy who would never show up at a tea party meeting. Like Mitt Romney, who'd be, perhaps, a slam dunk?
Mr. GARRETT: For Rick Perry, there are a couple of big differences with Ronald Reagan. Rick Perry's never run for president before. Ronald Reagan had run twice before he won in 1980. That's a huge structural and professional difference. Second of all, Ronald Reagan built the modern conservative movement, along with Barry Goldwater. In Texas, Rick Perry
associated himself with the tea party movement that built itself before he showed up. He got there faster than most Republicans, but most people in Texas will tell you he didn't built it.
Mr. GARRETT: He saw it, intuited its importance before other politicians in Texas or nationally, so he's got savvy. He's got real time political instincts. The other thing that Rick Perry presents for Democrats is someone that they can comfort themselves now that oh, we can beat this guy. And I would say right now that's the worst possible theory for any Democrat to have, that you can beat a Republican because he's too tough on Obama.
MATTHEWS: And that was the feeling of a lot of people inside the Carter administration.
Mr. GARRETT: About Ronald Reagan.
MATTHEWS: And I was one of them back them as a speechwriter who thought great, Reagan, here he is. They can beat him. He's easy.
Let me ask you about the way the country's being run. We've got a new poll out, Mike, you mentioned it earlier before the show, there's like 12 percent of the country who respects Congress. It's almost like before there's a coup to have so little confidence in their Parliament. I've never seen anything like it in our country. Do they want a strong president who doesn't need to sit around and mess around with Congress, but will just have a big stick and
get things down?
Ms. KATTY KAY (BBC, Anchor, "BBC World News America): Well...
MATTHEWS: Will Perry have that strength?
Ms. KAY: I mean, that's certainly his banking. That's why he chooses words like decisive leader. I mean, it's a deliberate signal to the country about I'm not going to care whether people on the left are angry with me, I'm not even going to care that much whether I annoy the tea party sometimes, I'm just going to push things through and I'm going to get things done because there is this sense around the country that Washington has been lacking in leadership, that the Obama administration has not been strong enough on its leadership and he is directly tapping into that. But you know, on the Reagan comparison, I keep thinking that he's just—his anger and his viciousness, when he accuses Republicans of being on the cocktail circuit.
Ms. KAY: There's this sort of a needling there that Reagan didn't have. And it's almost kind of Sarah Palinesque.
Ms. KAY: It's like, I don't need the—you know, you don't need the credentials, you don't need the resume...
O'DONNELL: It's the Texas bravado, too.
Ms. KAY: ...you guys in the establishment, you're just the cocktail circuit Republicans.
Mr. GARRETT: This week he called Mitt Romney's program for health care in Massachusetts socialist. I mean, he not only puts that label on President Obama, he puts it on Mitt Romney.
Ms. KAY: Right. On other Republicans.
Mr. DUFFY: Another difference here between the Reagan era and with—if this is the Perry era, and that is the Republican Party.
Mr. DUFFY: They're much more anti-Washington, must more anti-authority, much more anti-party than Reagan's party. We know when Reagan got the nomination in 1980, he said Social Security is essential, it's essential that we preserve it. That was right in the speech and he ended that speech with a quote from FDR.
Mr. GARRETT: FDR, right.
Mr. DUFFY: And there is not a candidate in the Republican primary running today who would ever quote FDR.
O'DONNELL: One more detail...
MATTHEWS: What about—yeah, sure.
O'DONNELL: ...he—on the road, Perry looked out adoringly to his wife Anita and said, `Wouldn't she make a fine first lady?' You hear that when you're the nominee. You tend to not hear that when there are still eight or nine candidates.
MATTHEWS: And therefore...
O'DONNELL: He is already sending a signal that he is the one and that confidence that it doesn't matter what the other guys are doing, that's just to me a tone of confidence that you don't normally see.
Ms. KAY: You know, maybe—it may also just be that...
MATTHEWS: I think so.
Ms. KAY: ...the independents are looking at Romney and thinking, we don't really like Perry and his tone, but we don't like the fact that Romney is so like Obama in style. And therefore...
Ms. KAY: ...the would plum for Perry against some of their more, you know, instinct, better instincts, perhaps.
Mr. GARRETT: And, Chris...
Ms. KAY: Because they would think Romney can't actually beat Obama anyway.
Mr. GARRETT: As you will...
MATTHEWS: Is this a time that's different—so different from 1980 where things were bad, but they didn't have this sense of hatred and anger about the government.
Mr. DUFFY: Hm.
MATTHEWS: That people hate the government today, not just the president on
Mr. DUFFY: Yeah. Someone who works for—worked for Reagan for years told me that he—that he sees this race shaping up between a fight in Republicans—people want to beat Obama rationally who are kind of for Romney, and people who want to beat him almost emotionally.
Mr. GARRETT: Yes.
Mr. DUFFY: Who tend to be further to the right.
MATTHEWS: What's more important to them, getting it or getting rid of him?
Mr. GARRETT: No, no. What's most important is nominating someone who can not only beat Obama but can get them as close to 60 votes in the Senate as they possibly can, who sets a grass fire in as many different parts of the country as they can. And that's, I think, Rick Perry's appeal.
Mr. GARRETT: That he offers this idea that if people jump, they're going to jump and stay enthusiastic through the campaign, which gets you close to a working majority that can beat a filibuster in the Senate. Let's remember, the first two years of the Obama presidency were not inactive, they were not inert, they were incredibly active.
MATTHEWS: So they want a sweep.
Mr. GARRETT: Democrats got things they really wanted and wanted for 20 years.
MATTHEWS: So you're saying the right wants a sweep.
Mr. GARRETT: And the Republicans want all of that back.
MATTHEWS: OK. What about the religious piece because this candidate, Rick Perry, talks a lot about his religious fervor. Is that going to hurt him with independents?
Mr. DUFFY: Well, it's totally different than what we saw before. Independents tend to want you to have some kind of faith, they really don't want to hear about it. Reagan knew that. He talked only very privately about it to the extent that he had a faith. This is very different. Perry is out testifying. He's having meetings in tents with religious leaders.
MATTHEWS: Oh yeah.
Mr. DUFFY: And he's having 35,000 people into a stadium to talk about the book of Joel.
Ms. KAY: And it—if the standard is not to be like Barack Obama, who was the candidate who had faith but didn't talk about it, then having a candidate who has faith and my God talks about it all the time, may actually, you know, if we are—if this is an electorate that is always voting for change, they voted for change in 2006, 2008, 2010.
MATTHEWS: OK. And by the way, it's a...
Ms. KAY: Then they might want change on this front, too.
MATTHEWS: It's a particular strain of religion, it's evangelical Christianity, conservative Christianity. Let's go to the meter right now about the question we've been asking 12 of our regulars, including Katty and Kelly. Is Rick Perry like Ronald Reagan in 1980? Is he the underestimated conservative who could win the White House? Well, the meter says he's not.
Eleven say no way, just one person said yes. All of you, including O'Donnell—11 of you, including Kelly, you're first, and then Katty, say this guy is not one of these underestimated, he's properly estimated and he's not really up to the job of beating Obama, you're suggesting.
O'DONNELL: Well, I think that, especially when you're talking about Reagan comparisons, that's a big set of shoes to fill. And so I think it's a little early there and I think for the reasons we've talked about. Reagan had a milder public tone.
MATTHEWS: Easier to take.
O'DONNELL: Easier to take.
Ms. KAY: Yeah. And I can't see Reagan making the same kind of, I mean, mistakes, perhaps, on Social Security, kind of backing himself into this that Rick Perry has made. You know, taking a position that might be electorally unpopular and then kind of sticking by it, so...
MATTHEWS: But don't forget the young Reagan, the earlier Reagan, welfare queens, the young buck with the food stamps.
O'DONNELL: He ran a union.
MATTHEWS: He ran...
Mr. GARRETT: Yes.
MATTHEWS: No, he ran rough-edged right wing statements out there.
Mr. GARRETT: Yes, he did. And we're also 30 years removed from the discussion of Social Security, which was only 40 years removed from Social Security starting itself. Reagan was of a different era, grew up in that, had a much different orientation as a person, as a politician. One last thing, Rick Perry is likable. Look at the Florida debate. Everyone thought he got pounded there. In Florida, the polling afterward showed he went up, not down.
MATTHEWS: I predicted that. OK.
Mr. GARRETT: Even though he got—even though he got pounded.
MATTHEWS: Don't generalize everybody, OK. I thought he did fine.
Before we break, Major, as we noted, one advantage Ronald Reagan had over Rick Perry is that Reagan didn't just burst onto the national scene, he was in 50 films and downright famous for some of them like "Knute Rockne."
(Clip from "Knute Rockne, All American"/Warner Bros.)
MATTHEWS: That's Reagan with the great Pat O'Brien. In the '50s and '60s, he hosted a top-rated prime-time show on Sunday night, "The General Electric Theater."
(Clip from "The General Electric Theater")
MATTHEWS: In short, he was a celebrity. Here he was, the celebrity guest on "What's My Line?" back in '53.
(Clip from CBS's "What's My Line"/July 19, 1953)
MATTHEWS: My father always said Dorothy Kilgallen was the smartest person on that show. She got it. Anyway, in '75 after he left the governorship of California, he was planning a run for president in '76. Here he was with Johnny Carson.
(Clip from "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson," March 13, 1975)
MATTHEWS: Ronald Reagan, five years before he shellacked Jimmy Carter. And when we come back, Jackie Kennedy talks. The gift of personal history from the wife of the heroic president. Plus, scoops and predictions right out of the notebooks of these top reporters. Be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. Jackie Kennedy's 1964 interviews with Arthur Schlesinger are, of course, a precious history of her personal witness to the president who could, of course, never look back. Caroline Kennedy talked about her mother's motivation and her decision to publish it all, unedited.
(Clip from "Good Morning America")
Mr. GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Pretty unvarnished. Yeah, your mom's opinions in these tapes. Did that make the decision to release them, unedited, difficult?
Ms. CAROLINE KENNEDY: Well, it was certainly something that I thought about the editing issue and I think people really need to understand the purpose of an oral history. She sat down with Arthur Schlesinger who was the pre-eminent historian of his day and this was for the Kennedy Library. This wasn't sort of an interview that was accidentally recorded.
Mr. STEPHANOPOULOS: She knew what she was doing.
Ms. KENNEDY: This was something where she felt the obligation to be honest.
(End of clip)
MATTHEWS: Well, this, of course, a great gift that offers a fine, I think, alert parallel to all the other first-hand accounts I've come across for my book "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero," which is coming out in November. I came across a great observation, in fact, about the close relationship between Jack and Jackie. It comes from a very close friend of theirs, Len Billings, who thought he knew what it was that attracted Jack to Jackie in the first place. Quote, "Jack understood the two of them were alike. Even the names, Jack and Jackie: two halves of a single whole. Her otherworldly qualities made her
unlike all the other women he'd known and dated. She was detached, elusive, like him."
Mike Duffy, elusive. They both were.
Mr. DUFFY: Yeah. This is a gift to history because he was such—he remains after 50 years such a mystery. You know, presidents have no peers. There's no one they can really confide in. Occasionally, they get a pastor like Billy Graham. Really, they only have their spouses who they can turn to late in the day and tell them, unburden themselves. And so this is a huge gift. She has, obviously, repeated much of what he told her at various times over the years that we didn't know before and didn't have access to. It's rare. First ladies rarely talk. This is a big help.
MATTHEWS: All right. It felt so real. What did you think?
Ms. KAY: Yeah. I mean, it does demystify Jackie Kennedy. I'm not sure it shows her in a particularly pleasing light. She doesn't come out of it terribly well. There are a ton of people she doesn't like.
MATTHEWS: She seemed to—not to misuse the word, but a bit catty at times.
Ms. KAY: Yeah. And you wonder, you know, if for Caroline whether that was a bit of tough decision.
Ms. KAY: Because it doesn't make her mother look wonderful. On the other hand, it does show her very much married to Jack Kennedy.
Ms. KAY: And it shows that she was...
MATTHEWS: Was that the motivation?
Ms. KAY: Well, who knows? You know, well—but it does certainly put her mother firmly in the White House and firmly in that marriage.
O'DONNELL: And that unwinds a lot of what the public discussion has been for years since. And I think the other thing that's interesting is to remember she's speaking in 1964 about people she actually knew.
O'DONNELL: Not the mythology of the decade since.
O'DONNELL: And that snapshot in time of dealing with people as you do peers or colleagues and the things you might say about them that would be different than looking back and referring to the Eisenhowers as anyone else might.
O'DONNELL: Who would think of them as figures of history. They were real people to her.
MATTHEWS: It was slice of life.
Mr. GARRETT: And I'd put that cattiness in the category of spousal loyalty and spousal political loyalty within the Kennedy clan itself.
Mr. GARRETT: But also, the tremendous intimacy. Jack Kennedy, she says, cried openly with her after the Bay of Pigs. She begged him not to send her and the children to Camp David during the Cuban missile crisis. We want to die here with you.
Mr. GARRETT: The children do, too. And once, once she asked him about Vietnam. Over dinner. He said don't ever bring that up with me again.
MATTHEWS: Boy, that's...
O'DONNELL: She describes herself as criminal for doing it.
Mr. GARRETT: That kind of stuff is absolutely...
MATTHEWS: That's telling.
MATTHEWS: So telling from the other stories I've gotten.
Mr. GARRETT: There's no way to understand how the burdens of the
Mr. GARRETT: ...affect the president and his spouse.
MATTHEWS: They were truly married and that was a great proof of it there. I think you're so right. This shows that they were in a real relationship, it was really intellectual and it was ongoing for all those times.
When we come back, scoops and predictions from the notebooks of these top reporters. Tell me something I don't know. Be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. Mike, tell me something I don't know.
Mr. DUFFY: The Super PACs, the secret fundraising groups working on behalf of candidates directly this cycle, are now expected by Republicans to raise two or three times the amount of money that the actual campaigns will raise and spend, which means all kinds of things are moving from open systems, to secret systems in this new presidential...
MATTHEWS: So all the Watergate reforms are out.
Mr. DUFFY: Yeah. Well, you can basically do whatever you want and you'll never find out who paid for it.
MATTHEWS: Oh. Katty:
Ms. KAY: Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary, has used uncharacteristically tough language on Europe this week saying the European leaders are behind the curve on dealing with the debt crisis. This is not concern just for Europe, it's, of course, also about 2012 politics because if the European economy crashes for whatever reason, because of the banks or because of Greece, that will—all bets are off. I mean, you will see unemployment spike again here. We will be back in a recession.
MATTHEWS: Boy. We have seen—we have learned that lesson with the stock market the last couple of weeks.
Ms. KAY: And that's going to affect the White House.
MATTHEWS: Everything is Europe.
O'DONNELL: Well, there's a perception that Speaker Boehner has trouble with his House freshmen. He says, well, not so much, it's more of the veterans. And he shares an anecdote about how he's able to deal with those freshmen. He said during the debt crisis, he called two of them in, into his special office. Said, `Boys, that door won't open until you say yes and I've got a week and a half worth of cigarettes in the drawer.' And that's his hammer.
Mr. DUFFY: Hardball.
Mr. GARRETT: Picking up on Speaker Boehner, he knows Rick Perry very well.
They first met here in Washington in the early '90s. They've played poker together. They had dinner together here in Washington right after Speaker Boehner became speaker-elect and Rick Perry was re-elected governor. And their emphasis in the House Republicans on regulations and federal regulations dovetails nicely with Rick Perry's national message on regulatory reform. That's not a coincidence.
MATTHEWS: Perry—is that a ticket?
Mr. GARRETT: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
MATTHEWS: OK. Just asking. Just asking.
Mr. GARRETT: No, no, no. No, no, no.
MATTHEWS: I think it's going to be a ticket of Romney and Perry.
When we come back, the big question of the week, has Barack Obama permanently lost the power of the bully pulpit? Be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. The president's been on the trail trying to build a tide of public pressure on Republicans in Congress. Well, this week's big question, is there time for him to get Americans to listen to him again? Mike Duffy:
Mr. DUFFY: Sure, absolutely. Don't forget, he wasn't actually winning the race in 2008 until about mid-September. He has four or five opportunities between now and that point from a year from now. Sure.
MATTHEWS: To regain in the pulpit?
Mr. DUFFY: You bet.
Ms. KAY: The White House is going to get him out in the country as much as possible over the next few months with housing speech, with a deficit speech. They hope that will get attention. It's not easy.
O'DONNELL: It's a challenge because he is so pervasively available and he speaks so much, it's hard to get people to hear something new.
MATTHEWS: I'm with you on that.
O'DONNELL: But when he is out and he's more candidate than president, there is an energy that comes with that and people always feel something when they see their president in person or in their town and that connection can help people to tune in.
MATTHEWS: Major, you know where this question comes from. People stopped listening to Jimmy Carter around '79.
Mr. GARRETT: Yes. Bad data point for the president and the White House. In the 12 days before the special election in Brooklyn on Tuesday, he fell 12 points, from 45 to 33. In the middle of that was his speech. And they—lack of popularity or the deceleration of his popularity accelerated after that speech. Things got worse after he talked, not better, in the internal
Democratic polling. That's a very bad sign.
MATTHEWS: In that district.
Mr. GARRETT: In that district. Now, he has time, what he needs is a fight and he needs a plan. He has both, that gives him a chance.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thanks for a great roundtable. Great show this week. Michael Duffy, Katty Kay, Kelly O'Donnell and Major Garrett.
That's the show, thanks for watching. See you back here next week.
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