Hardball | December 11, 2012
>>> on the right. let's play "hardball."
>>> good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. let me start tonight with this racket on the right. that's what bill kristol calls the far right fringe, a racket. what's exposed this rift is the fiscal cliff , the united states faces this january 1st . the hard righters are attacking any sign of compromise as a white flag of retreat. who is going to ge could out the winner in this fight? the people who make money pulling conservatives to the hard right or the people who believe conservative office holders like liberal office holders have a real stake in making the government work. a far bigger question, will the war on the right help the country unite and avoid the fiscal cliff or will it give the right a chance to bring the house down. with me is ron reagan and dana milbank of the " washington post ." there's been a new offer, unclear so far, put forward by the gop to the white house regarding the fiscal cliff . at this time nbc cannot confirm any specific details within the offer. it was sent over this afternoon. speaker boehner's spokesman said, quote, we sent the white house a counteroffer that would achieve tax and entitlement reform to solve our looming debt crisis and create more american jobs . that's all we know. dana milbank , they say it's good. they said it will solve our problems. they won't say what it is. explain.
>> well, look, we're still in the fairly early stage of posturing here, and nobody can strike a deal until they get closer to it, until their feet are to the fire.
>> when do you say the fire begins?
>> nobody can make any prediction for sure --
>> they could hammer this out in three hours if they really wanted to.
>> that's right.
>> but if they don't wait until the very end of december or even go over the cliff --
>> i think it's 21. i'm going to bet on -- what's your hunch about this, ron reagan ? you're here -- i think they're going to try to get it done by christmas just for efficiency's sake and not to scare the horses. that's the thought i have. i may be conservative about this.
>> yeah, i think you're right, they'd like to, but i'm not sure they can get it done before christmas, maybe before the end of the year. i think, again, as we get down to the last few hours, i think then you will see a real push to get something done. as dana implied, everybody knows in a sense what this agreement in broad strokes is going to look like. we're going to have tax increases on the upper 2% and we're not going to have a tax increase on the middle class . and there's going to be some spending cuts. but that's, you know, that's about all we know tem.
>> let's take a look at this fight. that seems to be emerging on the right. it's not surprising. to some extent it may be represented on the left but i don't think so. republicans fall into two camps. the realists we'll call them and the ideologues we'll call them because it makes sense. former mississippi governor who is a realist haley barbour planted him in the realist camp and even rush limbaugh has acknowledged republicans ' weak position. let's listen to both.
>> as a republican, i would take raising the rates on the two top brackets if in return we had tax reform laid out over a period of months, if we had entitlement reform, if you have the whole package. i would hold my nose.
>> what i'm saying is i don't think there's a republican alive who can stop what's going to happen. we don't have the leverage, the power isn't there.
>> talk about a decisive move. we got him in the realist category, it's a strange brew . then the ideologues. i thought rush was always there. they say avoid tax increases at all costs. here is kentucky senator rand paul. let's listen.
>> i think the president's got it exactly backwards. he's adamant about raising tacks and etion dead wrong.
>> what do you think of mr. boehner's idea, cap can heductions and get $800 billion in revenues. does that make any sense?
>> it's a tax increase. it's a bad idea.
>> what kind of question was that to ask him? conservative blocker and editor of red state.com, eric ericsson , he wrote a piece entitled why john boehner must not fold on tax rate increases. it's a shame that republicans are playing into mr. obama 's hands negotiating in public prematuring giving up on the tack issue. this is why i think it's an easy case to make if you're on the right. we had an election. if you respect the election, you must assume they were paying attention when barack obama , the president, as you like to say appropriately, the president over and over in every speech said we've got to raise the tax rates on the top bracket. and everybody heard it, and everybody voted for him knew they were voting for that and that was the majority. that would help the conservatives say this time i'll go with the voter.
>> and this shows if you live long enough, you will see anything happen and now we have rush limbaugh being the voice of moderation.
>> on the dream team .
>> within the republican party . the voice for pragmatic decision making in the party. i think people do realize that. they say it privately. each day more and more of them say it publicly. this is inevitably where we're going but the republican party is like the lord of the flies . it's not clear who is in charge. that's why i can't join you. i can't join you in that prediction because it's not clear whether a guy like rand paul has enough people with him --
>> let's talk about the president for a second. you remember cool hand luke . i sometimes think this president is cool hand luke . back when he was fighting, people would say get going, take her on, she's killing you. she was 20 points ahead, he beat her. we watched the complain, i'm having a stroke, he says i got it, stop being so crazy about this. he's playing it very cool. it's now december 11th . they've got ten days under a fast clock to get this done. is he too cool? is he sending a message out there on the stump that he wants to send?
>> yeah. i think he is, and, no, i don't think he's too cool. look, if we go over the fiscal cliff , it will only be for a little while and it's probably to the democrats' advantage anyway. they'll say the republicans pushed us over the cliff in the first place and by the way, now that eve gone over the cliff , about 70% of the deficit would take care of it if we stay over the cliff at least. you know, i take dana 's reference to lord of the flies . it's really more like a monkey's wedding or something out there, the disarray in the republican party .
>> i have never been to one of those actually.
>> well, you can imagine the confusion. yeah. but it's the ideologues versus the pragmatists. the pragmatists simply want to serve their donor base. that's why they don't want to raise taxes on the rich but the ideologues have a different game altogether. they want to bring down government basically.
>> well, you can't watch the game without a scorecard. here is some more of the people on the pragma side and it's an unusual shaping up. bill kristol is leading the criticism, that the republican needs a come to jesus moment. he writes, it may be major parts of american conservatism have become sauch racket that a kind of refounding of the movement as a cause is necessary. joe scarborough , our colleague, amplified his opinion on "more than joe" yesterday. let's listen to joe.
>> conservatism is a racket for a lot of people to get very, very rich.
>> david former speechwriter for "w" agrees. conservatism has been corroded by money. let's listen.
>> the conservative followership has fleeced, exploited, and lied to by the conservative entertainment complex .
>> this is great stuff. it's basically like an eisenhower speech, military industrial complex . he says basically you have people like rush out there making zillions. people in the blog steer who just enjoy what they're doing but there's an entertainment industry led by hannity and the rest of them and they always take the fringe side.
>> sure. it's blindingly obvious what they're saying but the fact they're now saying it is kind of interesting. if you went back and looked at the tea party , a lot of the so-called populist groups were funded and backed by the u.s. chamber of commerce and other corporate interests. you have all these well-meaning blue collar republicans out there doing the bidding of millionaires --
>> how are they backed by the chamber?
>> all kinds of corporate lobbyists are involved. if you look at the people, they have just been transplanted over from other well-funded groups to try to harness that tea party movement and well-meaning people were exploited.
>> you said you wouldn't mind tiptoeing across the finish line january 1st . i have no idea. i'm afraid of that risk myself, but what are the right wing, what if they bring this house down. they do want this trouble. you don't want this economy to flatten out and go to a second recession. what are the right wingers who don't want any deal whatnot? what is their card game at the end, ron?
>> it's kind of a crisis capitalism in a way or crisis governance. they create an energy by going over the fiscal cliff and then they say because we have this big emergency we need to do drastic things to defund mostly the domestic side of government, turn it over to private industry . that's their aim. it's to drown the government in their bathtub as grover norquist famously said.
>> i know. that sounds like the late senator moynihan that the idea of supply side was basically to get rid of so much revenue the government had such big deficits that even liberals couldn't call for new programs. dana , your thoughts on that?
>> that would be well and good except they're also getting all the taxes to go up at the same time so they're not achieving anything by that. the republicans realize they lose politically if we go over the fiscal cliff , but this isn't just a political thing. the country loses economically if we go over it and then everybody is going to suffer --
>> let's go back to normal world. assume everybody is rational for five seconds.
>> i can't do that.
>> dana , you first. you're here in washington and then ron. what's the game play out the next few days. i think the republicans have reached the end of the line . they're hoping obama will show his cards and come out with cuts for entitlements and then they will show something on tax cuts .
>> he has no incentive to do anything at least publicly.
>> will they show their cards on tax cuts first ?
>> they have to.
>> who is going to show their hand first.
>> the republicans . they're going to have to. obama can stand pat and he's doing it right now. he can be cool hand luke .
>> i think that's the way he is playing, very cool. thank you. he's going to force john boehner to come out and say what he wants done to protect the rich people or not protect them. thank you ron reagan , thank you and dana mill ban.
>>> a big anti-union vote in mooer michigan is coming up. a right and left going at it. it isn't about gutting unions. a lot of people think so. stf about lowering wages and hurting democrats? you bet.
>>> plus the most talked about movie in hollywood hasn't even talked about. it's about torture. many critics say "zero dark thirty" suggests without torture we wouldn't have gotten the guy. it's going to be hot.
>>> and the gop's favorite supreme court justice scalia just came out with a sugar plum . if we can't have moral feelings request homosex you'llity, can we have it against murder? can we have it against other things?
>>> finally, let me finish with the problem with judge scalia. i think you just heard it. this is "hardball," the