Hardball | February 26, 2013
>>> good evening. i'm chris matthews back in washington. let me start tonight with this. we can usually tell when a political party has gone off the deep end. republicans did it with goldwater, democrats with mcgovern, fdr did it when he tried to pack the supreme court . republicans did it when they impeached bill clinton . so let's talk about this grabbed standing hue loo hooping bonanza of bs the republicans have thrown at chuck hagel . look at the list of gop senators who voted today again to continue the filibuster against the president's nominee for secretary of defense . check these names. barrasso and enzip of wyoming. cornyn and cruise of texas, crapo and rich of idaho, paul and mcconnell of kentucky. boozman of arkansas, coats of indiana, fisher of nebraska, grassley of iowa, heller of nevada, hoeven of north dakota , imhoff of oklahoma. eye sayson of georgia, johnson, wisconsin.
>>> kirk of illinois. moran of kansas. portman. roberts of rubio florida. toomey of pennsylvania. vitter of louisiana and wicker of mississippi. think about it, all these men, all men, voted against even having a vote on hagel . they did so after it was clear there would be a vote today on hagel . they did it to put themselves on record for no better ran than to undermine, undermine is the key word here, the successful functioning of our government. they knew it would hurt hagel 's prestige, would discredit president obama 's leadership and did it anyway. want to know why the government is grinding to a halt? check this list. they are men bent on division, distrust, and disdain toward the elected presidency of barack obama . and i mean it. i'm jined by steve clemens and piter by nert. these people are disrepresentable. peter binert why on god's earth with a united states senator whose purpose is to help the republic work knowing this guy is going to be 1k9 of defense , knowing there's going to be a vote on it, vote publicly to deny him even a vote today? why would they do that?
>> well, i think it's because they wanted to somehow show that they are more militantly in opposition than anybody else. but the whole thing is absurd.
>> they already did that.
>> that's right.
>> they already did that a week ago, two weeks ago. you know, peter , they did it. they did all that. they dutched all over this guy's nomination. they attacked him in the hearing, issued all the prereleases, made their point. why would they do it the very day they knew he'd be confirmed knowing they would be dumping on him as secretary of defense , not as a nominee, but actually as dkt of defense ?
>> because we have so debased the idea of the filibuster that i honestly think people think of not voting to allow a vote as simply the same as voting no. this is how corrupted our political system has become that actually people see voting for a filibuster as simply no different than simply voting against someone. the whole system is not working the way it's supposed to.
>> you know what? steve , i respect any opinion on this within bounds. there are problems with this nomination. this is not superman.
>> but they looked and they looked and i said face-to-face enough, they looked. had he ever made an anti-semitic look in private. had anybody heard him say anything awful. they looked and looked and looked and they couldn't find it an they still voted to deny him a vote.
>> two of the most militant senators opposed to hagel nonetheless did the right thing and voted for clowe you tour and that was mccain and graham. those were two of the centerpieces. when you look at inhofe, ted cruz , inhofe is ranking member of the armed services committee . he has certain responsibilities. i think they just blew it.
>> but you're right, they voted against -- voted for cloture to stop the debate. let me ask you about this, peter . let's talk about the look looking forward and what it does to our government. we have a government closed down in a lot of defense spending . it's going to hurt a lot. we have a potential -- we have a war we're still fighting. i wish everybody remembered that 37 men and women are out there on the post right now in some cases scared to death wherever they're stuck fighting the enemy and they couldn't agree on a secretary of defense in the chain of command . what's it do to the active military? what's it do to our future potential for saving money in defense and perhaps fighting another war in iran?
>> i think it's terrible. the fact that afghanistan which you remember mitt romney never mentioned in his speech at the republican national convention was barely mentioned by any of the republican senators in the 7 1/2 hour hagel hearing. i think it shows how fundamentally unserious and unreal so much of this foreign policy debate is. this hawkish party, this party which claims to be the party of national security in the military basically acting as if the united states is no longer at war when american soldiers are still dying there. i think, unfortunately, this very, very nasty campaign against hagel and let's be honest hagel 's not very stellar performance in front of the senate armed services committee is going to make it harder for him to have the political leverage that he's going to need to make the tough decisions on cutting the defense budget . he's going to have to rebuild some of the political clout that i'm afraid he lost over the past few weeks.
>> let's go with that. steve , same question. what does it mean to our country. the wars were fighting now, the one we're sort of getting out of in iraq. the one we're still in in afghanistan. the one we may face within months.
>> i know chuck hagel and know him well. i know he's going to sit down and he's going to do exactly what peter said. he's going to come out with a plan. he's going to communicate with the soldiers in the field. he's going to remind them he was a sergeant, too, and he is going to implement the president's policy of shifting out of the wars we're engaged in now and sorting out other priorities. i think my estimate of this is that he's going to dom out with a very, very good and confident looking strategy for the military and its priorities and how to responsibly handle what likely are to be sizable cuts. so he's going to owe it, but people in the gop are saying that he's going to have to reinvent their relationship with them. i think it's the other way around. i grew up in oklahoma. my parents are in texas. these places have bases, defense contractors . now, hagel will be judicious. he's not going to hold anything against them, but their constituents are going to want -- can you talk to chuck hagel about our base? i don't know if he's going to take his calls before --
>> he may have to --
>> he will take their calls. he's not going to hold any grudges.
>> i guess --
>> but their grudges are go going to cost their quaets.
>> peter , let's talk about the republic. what does it say about the ability of a president to pick his cabinet, especially the top officers. they're going after jack lew. they gave i guess kerry got this pretty clean but it looks like they're being very tough on these top appointees.
>> that's right. and this obsession with the benghazi thing, it seems to be again, it's a way for the republicans to still continue to fight the last election, and just politically it's hard to understand what the republicans feel they're gaining by continually picking these fits that they know they're not going to win. it seems like, you know, you're a student of the history, chris. you know how this happens. sometimes when parties get smaller because they have lost elections, they get more captive for a while by their most extremist wings. if you look at the way that ted cruz was essentially driving this whole debate over chuck hagel , you see that you have a republican party when in some ways it's most militant factions, the ones who are furthest away from ever being able to help the republican party compete nationally, are the ones driving the agenda.
>> i think one thing they'd like to do, let's talk about the golden fleece , what they're really after here. i think what the republicans want to do with benghazi , it's the thing -- the only thick they're interested in and they're the only ones interested in it is potentially in their dream world that they can prove that the president of the united states got an emergency call from benghazi , from lib yashtion and heard our ambassador, chris stevens , was in trouble, was under attack, and went off and played golf or had his dinner or forgot about it. . they want to show that somehow the president of the united states didn't go to the defense of his own guy over there and that's why the guy is dead. i think that's what they're after. i don't think there's any proof, any evidence, any reasonable to believe it, but that's the only thing that can justify this continual refocusing and refocuses and reattack. peter , what do you think. they're fighting the old battle. i think they're still going after obama personally.
>> also about hillary clinton in 2016 . it's about trying to take away the benefit she's gotten from what most people agree was a pretty successful run as secretary of state and creating a political scandal they can use all the way through until the next presidential election .
>> let's face it, they're going to turn on hillary the main she makes a move.
>> absolutely. they're waiting.
>> only last as long as obama's run.
>> that's right. jo let's take a look at the confirmation vote. chuck hagel 's been confirmed by 58-41. so he got some republican votes there.
>> it's interesting. john bolten when he was up for under secretary of state, he also had 41 no votes against him. so they're tied. so those that were the bolden crowd can feel like they got a tie with chuck hagel .
>> injure attempt at symmetry disturbs me. i think no one is in the same league as bolten. why do they keep bringing up benghazi . what's the bee in the bonnet?
>> i think there's a couple things. for them there's the earnest side if you want to give john mccain and the others the benefit of the kout, they're national heroes and they think it's markers for things like the iraq surge . if you're not in the right place on that, you're not a true national hero stewarding the interests of the country in the right way. the deeper thing is this is a time where the other side really just wants to tear down the president anyway he can and to do it viciously every day over and over again and not be about constructive solutions. now, i happen to be one who doesn't think john mccain and even lindsey graham are really about that, but i think that the ted cruzs and inhofes are.
>> cruz is voting against everybody.
>> i think it's -- the petty slander. we've got to call it what it is. there is a game of slander that's coming out of u.s. senate offices today in a way that we haven't seen in generations. that's what we should be worried about.
>> we saw the staffer who said we're going to prove he's an anti-semite.
>> right. friends of hamas.
>> peter , i know you're a high level policy analyst but let's talk down and dirty politics. i don't dislike lindsey graham . in fact i like him. i don't dislike the guy at all. i think he's facing a potential right wing chal feng for renomination in south carolina by some standards on the republican right down there he's a moderate republican , i guess. was this a way to show that he had some bullets in his gun and he was willing to play right wing cowboy on issues like benghazi and it would make up for the fact he was smart and reasonable and even a bit progressive on issues like immigration?
>> absolutely. you know, lindsey graham reminds me of what al di ma toe used to be like when he was senator from new york . in the last couple years he would have to race to his left politically to get in touch with new york and in some ways graham does the same thing. he's actually relatively moderate the first four years and the last couple years he races to get in line with the tea party because people have seen what happened to richard lugar . there were people who were considered reasonable conservative credentials who are now no longer conservative enough to win their own primaries and that's what's driving even big questions like how you vote on chuck hagel .
>> i remember pataki in new york moved to the center. i like people who move to the center in general elections . it's the whackos who move so far right th