Hardball | July 24, 2012
>>> good evening, i'm chris matthews in washington . let me start with general mitt romney . i use that term sarcastically because general in this case is an armchair general. the gentleman who spoke to the veterans of foreign wars could be no more foreign with foreign wars, no match in his resume, only his plans. how many countries does he want it fight in the next four years. does he want to outdo bush one with one war or bush two with two. there he was reading a speech by the same neo-kinds that took us into iraq and always seem to have the next war on his agenda. does this guy have any idea the words of war have meaning and dead and wounded, no meaning stupidity and deceit through bush and cheney, backed up by chaens in this election speak of leagues, national security as we never heard by w. and cheney and libby did when they had their hands there. chairman of republican national committee and msnbc political analyst and editor in chief of national memo.com. let's take a look at romney 's speech before the vfw members today. let's listen.
>> i am an unapologetic believer in the greatness of america . i am not ashamed of american power. i'm guided by one overwhelming conviction and passion. this century must be an american century .
>> but who does romney think he's contrasting himself with? president obama made no bones about his belief in america 's greatness as recently as yesterday. let's listen.
>> if anyone tries to tell you our greatness has passed, that america is in decline, you tell them this. just like the 20th century , the 21th century is going to be another great american century .
>> who is ashamed of american power, michael ? who is this guy he's attacking in his speech before the guys who did serve in war?
>> i think it's a matter of laying out very clearly and i thought he did an excellent job setting up the contrast. there are a lot of similarities in obama's policies with the bush administration . there's no doubt about that with respect to the war on terror , for example. i think when it comes to specifics with respect to israel and the middle east and certainly our position in the world, the president has come off in the view of many americans and certainly the romney team as apologetic.
>> you're an analyst, michael , and you know that team. where in the other team was there apology. give me an example. one would be enough. when has obama apologized for america 's strength.
>> pardon me? i didn't hear what your question is. what do you want to know?
>> give me an example of when president obama apologized for america 's strength.
>> i don't think it's a question of a specific -- what he was speaking to was the overall emphasis this administration has placed on foreign policy and the lack of focus in the sense that we go to the u.n., we go to foreign soil and the president has a tone that is less than strong in the view of a lot of folks. so i think that that's the contrast that he was setting up and trying to draw out today. that's clearly it.
>> argument is weak. for him to intimate barack obama is weak on foreign policy or anything on that matter, romney has buckled to every right wing group. he bowed with this line.
>> i was a severely republican governor.
>> he vowed grover norquist when he signed his tax pledge, he signed the other guy which norquist trumped on his website. on foreign policy buckled to neo-cons. mr. romney 's public comments have usually rejected mainstream orthodoxy. they sound more like talking points of the neo-conservatives. the bolton fax as they called this group. i know what you know, joe . it's the same thing i know. this guy has fallen into the hands of the same guys who took us into iraq and now iran . he's reading the script with all this talk about apology for our strength. like marty talking about muscular foreign policy . the metaphor of war.
>> this is someone who has no strong convictions of his own, chris. no experience in foreign policy . he is going to the basket with the same move republicans have used for the last 10 years or more, democrats are supposedly weak. the president has a very easy response to that, tell it to osama bin laden . tell it to moammar gadhafi . there's no question the president is willing to use american power when appropriate. however, he is judicious with this, not a crazy warmonger, not somebody who thinks everybody is a nail because has he a hammer. i think your point is very well taken. this is somebody with no real experience in these matters who entrusted himself to a group of people who are proving wrong.
>> how can you say, we went into afghanistan, then went into iraq again a second time under a second bush. now he's talking -- trumpeting like a bugle boy going into war like a rant. is this like a pez dispenser . every time we elect a republican he's got a war in mind? why does he have wars in mind?
>> stop it, stop it.
>> i'm not going to stop.
>> he's not pushing war. you're being ridiculous right now. the fact of the matter is he's laying out a very strong view for himself and for others that this is the new reality, that we've got to deal with it. as president of the united states , he's prepared, peace through strength, sit down at the table. he's prepared to make sure our allies know we stand firmly with them, israel , and our enemies knows we're not going to sit down and have a face-to-face kumbaya, at this point important for him to do. the point about experience, he has as much experience going into this as barack obama had coming into the white house in 2009 .
>> but barack obama --
>> you just ripped the scab off, mike. if israel wants to go to war with iran we should go along with anybody who wants to start a war, we should be with them.
>> no. why are you making that lead. just because i set out a strong foreign policy doesn't mean my next move is war. what i'm trying to do, what the romney folks are saying i'm trying to do is to lay out exactly where we stand on some of these issues and contrast this administration and contrast some of the approaches they have taken. i think that's only fair. the policies he espouses will bear that out one way or the other.
>> joe , only thing to the right of the president is a war on iran , upping the sanctions as tough as you can get. if there's some other step beyond sanctions it's war. when you start talking about we're going to make sure it doesn't happen, guarantee this --
>> somebody needs to tell mitt romney --
>> we will do what's in our country's best interest. next. go ahead.
>> the truth is he laid out nothing in terms of a real policy. he won't cut the defense budget no matter how much waste there is, which isn't so great. these are all the same old talking points karl rove used, as you can remember, chris, in the 2002 midterm when they accused democrats of wanting to send social workers to deal with al qaeda . i think the president at this point has made it very clear that is not the kind of president he is. romney is going to have trouble showing he has anything to offer in terms of foreign policy that is stronger or more knowledgeable or useful than what this president and his secretary of state have done. they are as tough as anybody around mitt romney .
>> let's take a look, here is romney went off script perhaps accidentally, i think in today's speech. pay close attention to the next to last word in this sound bite . let's listen.
>> when growth is missing, government revenues fall, social spending rises and many in washington look to cut defense spending as the easy way out. that includes our current president.
>> at least one major newspaper, los angeles sun, reporting romney called barack obama our corrupt president. i think he said that. i don't think he said it on purpose. play it over and over again. i heard the word corrupt. i think sound experts will find that. what happened there, michael .
>> until you said corrupt, it sounded like current to me. i couldn't really tell. i don't think that's something that romney obviously would intend to say.
>> let's listen again.
>> everybody hears different things.
>> growth is missing, government revenues fall. social spending rises and many in washington look to cut defense spending as the easy way out. that includes our current president.
>> what did you hear then, michael ?
>> sounded a little more like corrupt.
>> what do you think he's up to?
>> i don't really know. i wasn't in the man's mind. it's hard to say. i don't know if it was a slip. i don't know if he was thinking maybe some of the hot rhetoric that's been coming out about solyndra and all of the sweetheart deals the administration made on the defense side.
>> i opened the door. you walked right through it.
>> of course i walked through it.
>> what did you hear, joe ?
>> there was no context for him to use the word corrupt in that phrase unless he was going to talk about corrupt defense contractors , there was plenty.
>> so everybody goes to the door on this one. here is what i think. i read prompter a lot and i'm about to do it again, mike even though i know you very well. i read michael steele . you read corrupt and current, visually alike. i see where he made the mistake. i hold nothing against him. i'm sure he'll correct himself in the days ahead. michael steele , you're dead wrong on the big stuff but on the little stuff