tv Hardball Weekend MSNBC December 11, 2011 7:00am-7:30am EST
hooting newt. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews, back in washington. leading off tonight, nailing newt. newt gingrich is finding out what it means to be the front-runner. newt's under siege from rivals like mitt romney and rick perry. perry's hitting him for his three marriages, believe it or not, and romney's hitting him for changing positions, and religions. and now a conservative pastor out in iowa who's backing santorum is running a video calling newt the kim kardashian of the gop, and also attacking his serial marriages and his conversion to catholicism. with two debates in the next seven days, the attacks against gingrich are going ballistic.
but republican voters are falling for newt, because they see him as a gladiator. he can counterpunch, and his supporters are betting he can survive the onslaught. are they right? then, there aren't that many house republicans who endorse newt gingrich, but we'll talk to one of them about his chances -- newt's chances of winning iowa. georgia congressman jack kingston. he joins us tonight. and dumping trump. that debate donald trump wanted to host has been rejected by count them, five republican presidential candidates. huntsman, paul, romney, perry and bachmann have all passed. only gingrich and santorum are in. did the clown show just lose a ring master? and president obama's fierce defense against republican charges of appeasement proves once again that if you underestimate this president, you may do so at your peril. finally, let me finish tonight with a line from nietzsche that may be a line to gingrich. we start with newt gingrich under siege. can he be stopped?
chuck todd is nbc's political director and chief white house correspondent, and john harris is editor in chief of politico. we've got the heavyweights tonight. here's the question. a new fox poll of republicans nationwide now shows gingrich at 36, way ahead of where romney's ever been nationally. romney tucked down below that 25%. he never gets above at 23%. ron paul, the libertarian, is at 12, and he's pretty much irrelevant to this debate as to who the nominee's going to be. chuck todd, i have a theory. the more they attack -- i was going to call him nietzsche, because he is nietzsche. the more they attack newt, the better he looks, because he looks more blooded, tougher, nastier, with more dirt on his uniform. and that's what he wants to look like. >> that's the rush limbaugh theory. that's what he said this week. the more establishment attacks him, and it's been brutal -- >> even a broken clock is right twice a day, talking about rush. >> george will, david brooks, peggy noonan, then you've mad member of congress. there's a whisper campaign, and now it's sort of a megaphone campaign. now we've got the super pac.
and that is the risk here, right? which is, if you don't knock him out now, what does not kill him will only make him stronger, as this marches on. so that's why this is a risk/reward strategy. i think the romney people have no choice. they have to figure out -- they can't let him get out of steam ahead of iowa, but, boy, this comes with risk, because iowa is a place that whoever is the perceived conservative has the -- has the upper hand. >> isn't this almost definitional, john harris? if you get into a boxing match with another guy, you're making him into a boxer. if you start punching him, you prove every time you land a punch, he can take a punch. unless you actually knock him out of the ring, he's still -- he's rocky. he's still standing there. the guy up against the powerhouse. >> chris, this would apply for both candidates. the fact is, i can't really think of any examples in modern times where somebody has gotten a major party nomination without a fight. without a brawl. without some turbulence along the way. nobody coasts to it. not even george w. bush came closest in 2000. there's always a fight.
what you say is true of gingrich, that he's going to be stronger if he surmounts these withering attacks, is also true of romney, who has looked weak. if he can somehow find his spine, come back, he's going to be much more formidable. >> but you're being very fair here. aren't you being too fair in a sense that saying that both of these guys equally enjoy the gladiatorial aspect of politics? newt gingrich is a gladiator. >> no, no, no. >> romney doesn't like this stuff. >> mitt romney's fatal weakness to date has been that he hasn't shown that he can really win a bar room brawl. he won't win the nomination unless he proves that he can do it. i do think with respect to gingrich, you know, chuck mentioned, he's under attack from the social conservative right on the ground out in iowa. he's also under attack sort of from above the elite of the party in washington and new york, under ordinary rules, no candidate could surmount this kind of -- survive this kind of challenge.
what gingrich has to bet is that these are the conventional rules do not apply, this is not a conventional year, this is not a conventional moment and an unconventional candidate can prevail. although really, on the books, he's got a lot of what would ordinarily be fatal weaknesses. >> you know, there used to be a phrase in the rules of boxing, you don't hit below the belt. i'm not sure where the belt is anymore. look at some of these attacks on gingrich right now. the first attack on gingrich's religion yesterday in that romney ad, highlighting romney's consistency in his faith. take a look at this surprisingly, i think, serious mistake by romney, venturing into the issue of religion. >> i think people understand that i'm a man of steadiness and constancy. i don't think you're going to find somebody who has more of those attributes than i do. i've been married to the same woman for 25 -- oh, excuse me, i'll get in trouble, for 42 years. i've been in the same church my entire life. i worked at one company, bain, for 25 years, and i left that to go off and help save the olympic games. if i'm president of the united
states, i will be true to my family, to my faith, and to our country, and i will never apologize for the united states of america. >> you know, a lot of people convert from one religion to another, we do that in a free society. i think it's very unfortunate for someone who's spent two years of his life converting people as a missionary to make fun of conversion. i think part of a free expression of religion comes the right to, if you will, change religions. now for the below-the-belt version of what we just saw. an iowa pastor who is backing rick santorum is sending out a blast message to voters, urging them to watch this inflammatory -- well, we say it's inflammatory video -- attacking newt gingrich for his three marriages. let's watch. >> newt married the mistress, of course. but after awhile he got bored, cheated on her, and ran off with another mistress. but don't worry, this mistress was different. she was a devout catholic who not only showed newt a good time, she also convinced him to convert to catholicism. oh, you didn't know any of this?
oh, yeah, callista's quite the missionary, first lady material, all the way. mothers and fathers of america, newt and calista are the last role models we want our sons and daughters looking up to. seriously, i can't stand barack obama, but at least he doesn't trade in his wives like used cars. >> wow. john harris, your reaction. will people find that an indecent punch below the belt, or will they say, i didn't know all that about the guy, or what? >> i think there will be mixed reaction. >> that's all true, just nastily delivered. >> some, and some people, there'll be a backlash. i think the one thing about newt gingrich, he is not an unknown figure. he is not introducing himself to the electorate the way that michele bachmann was or even rick perry was. he's well known, both his strengths and his baggage. so it's a question in my mind of how much these particular attacks will break skin. >> i wonder how much people care about the past when they're so worried about the present and
the future. most people voting are economically insecure, worried about our place in the world, and it seems to me if you start focusing on something 20 years ago, you risk looking like jimmy carter attacking ronald reagan for where he was on medicare 20 years before. >> remember, big elections when there are big issues on the table, the personal stuff goes away. i don't think, whether it's religion, and you know, i don't -- in mitt romney's defense, remember, he said at the cnbc debate, he wasn't really talking about -- he wasn't talking about newt gingrich at the time. newt gingrich was still sort of an afterthought to him when he made that statement. so i think -- >> you mean, when he said the same marriage -- the same religion? >> yes, it was done during that cnbc debate at the time, but they weren't aiming -- what they're doing is an excerpt from that debate. >> well, they should have put it out there. >> they made the decision to put that out there. i think they want to believe that the family stuff is a big deal to evangelicals. but i think you're right in this sense. i don't think voters this time
are going to worry about the personal works. if newt gingrich undoes him, is undone, he's going to have done it to himself in some form. i think -- >> in realtime. >> in realtime. and i think the romney strategy is hoping you throw all of this stuff at the wall, you hope at some point he cracks. you know, gingrich every once in a while, in his past, when you've gotten under his skin, he cracks, you know? he gets upset about air force one, and that's really the strategy -- >> okay -- >> -- gets personal. >> anyway, thank you chuck todd, thank you john harris. have a good weekend. coming up, what is it about newt gingrich that a good many of his former house colleagues simply don't like? we're going to ask one of the few members of the congress that supports him. georgia congressman jack kingston. you're watching "hardball." hi, i'm cashing in my points... peggy? no more points - coupons now. coupons? coupons. coupons?
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welcome back to "hardball." newt gingrich served as speaker of the house for four years in the 1990s so you might think he'd have support from the legislative branch in his bid for the presidency. yet many congressional republicans are openly distancing themselves from gingrich, and many more tell reporters off the record how unenthusiastic they really are about the prospects of newt gingrich returning to a position of power in washington. perhaps most telling of the members of congress who have issued endorsements, 55 have given them to mitt romney. only 8 have gone to back already newt gingrich, according to roll call. one of newt's backers joins us
now, a fellow republican from georgia, congressman jack kingston. i've got a lot of respect for you, sir, and i appreciate you coming on the show. let's take a few examples of current and former members of congress who have worked with newt gingrich and who aren't so excited about his candidacy as you are. let's watch and then you respond to what their motives might be. >> there's a lot of candidates out there. i'm not inclined to be a supporter of newt gingrich's having served under him for four years and experienced his leadership. i just found his leadership lacking. >> most of us are terrified to death that he would become the republican nominee. we know he has these visions of grand grandiosity. >> as far as governing, he's too erratic, he's too self-centered. the time he was speaker, there was one crisis after another and they were almost all self-inflicted. >> what do you make of these critiques, congressman? >> i certainly respect their point of view, chris, but i have to point out that when the dark
days of newt's campaign happened in may, a lot of members of congress kind of left the ship. and as you know, members of congress, generally speaking, are cautious about who they endorse. because you embrace a candidate whose candidacy implodes, and then it reflects on you, and you look pretty silly. members of congress tend to hold back and look cautious anyway. and what newt did in may when he said, okay, these fair weather friends who were going to line up behind me have left me. i'm going to go straight to the voters and i'm going to go talk to the people of new hampshire and iowa and south carolina. i'm going to do the debates and then he started doing that and it was a comeback charlie. he has come back very hard. he's shown a lot of character, i think, in terms of his reserve, his staying power, if you will. and now what we're hearing and what i'm getting on the floor of the house and joe barton and mike burgess and phil gingrey, people are coming up to us and saying, you know what, i want to take a second look. tell me more about newt, when can i meet him, is he coming back to the hill to talk to us? >> but if you go hire his staffer, chief of staffer to
work with your constituents, you would ask around about what he was like or she was like to work with. and here we're getting people who actually worked with newt who don't say -- it's not that they hold back judgment, as you suggest, they offer judgment, and it's negative. how do you explain that? what's their motive in attacking him, even if he's not going to be the nominee? >> i understand sue molinari and peter king are from the northeast, where we don't do very well in new york city, in general. and so sometimes it's in the congressman's district interest not to support somebody like newt. mitt romney is the safer candidate. >> tom coburn. >> coburn is an outspoken guy, regardless. but i'm going to give you that one, chris. i understand that. but let me say this. when newt came to power as speaker, we had deficit projections of $2.7 trillion for the next decade. after four years, we had surpluses of $2.3 trillion. unemployment went to 4.6%. welfare reform was accomplished in which childhood poverty was
decreased and two-thirds of the people on welfare got jobs. now, this was done under a bipartisan administration, working with bill clinton, and sometimes fighting bill clinton very famously and very openly. and yet, despite the chaos, the achievements and the accomplishments speak for themselves. and that's why i think he's doing so well among republican voters who have been watching this whole process for six months, tuning in on every single debate and saying, debate after debate, newt gingrich seems to be the winner. >> well, one of the people who watch newt in action is me, congressman, back when i was the speaker, say, yeah, tip o'neill. i watched a couple things, which i think are objectively wrong about him. there are some strengths. he's obviously very smart. and in many ways, he brought the republicans into power. but look at how he did it. he called democratic leaders corrupt, that was his word. he likes that word, "corrupt." he organized special -- what do they call them -- special sessions in the evening, special orders, where he went after the democrats as traitors.
as not loyal to their country. his tactics are so vicious. is every democrat you don't like corrupt? are democrats traitors? i know the ends justify the means sometimes. do you justify them there? the means he used to get in power? >> no, i don't. and i think his style has calmed down a little bit, and i think it was too hard charging in the day. and chris, i want to point out, i'm one of the few members of congress who has sponsored a bipartisan piece of legislation and worked on it with dick durbin and herb kohl in the senate, it was signed into law, the agriculture appropriation bill, about a month ago. so i believe in bipartisanship, particularly in split government. and while newt sometimes does have a bombastic style, you still have to remember that balancing the budget, decreasing the unemployment numbers and welfare reform, medicare reform, contract with america, all of those achievements were done with bill clinton's signature as president. so despite the rough and tumble style, accomplishments were made. think about this, would newt gingrich ever have left town and
gone to indonesia while a super committee was working on deficit reduction? he would not do that. he would be a very on-hands president. there's some good and some bad in that, i understand. but still, i think he's a guy of action, which is what the voters are looking for. >> he would have gone to indonesia if he got to ride in the front of the plane. but that's another case, where he had a tantrum because he had to ride in the back. i agree with you, nobody's perfect, nobody's totally evil. i do have a couple candidates for that situation but i'm not going to bring them up right now. one's dick cheney, of course. but anyway, thank you, congressman jack kingston of georgia, the state of newt gingrich. joining us right now for a look at newt's chances in iowa is new york magazine national appearance editor john heilemann, he's also on msnbc political analyst. mitt romney has unleashed his dogs, his surrogates, john sununu and jim talent to attack newt gingrich. if he doesn't do it himself, he's going to look like pawlenty, a guy that was a wuss when he's expected -- will this guy be a pawlenty this saturday
night in that abc debate, john heilemann? >> we'll see, chris. i think the folks up in boston know the truth of what you're saying. i think they know that if this narrative is going to get changed and if they're going to hold newt back and break this momentum he has right now, it is going to have to be mitt romney that does it. >> thank you, john heilemann. geronimo! remember rick perry? he's so desperate to get his campaign back on track he's attacking gays and lesbians. i think it's pretty shameful strategy. by the way, mr. perry, governor, there are nine members of the supreme court, not eight. i wonder if you could pass a citizenship test right now. you're watching "hardball" only you're watching "hardball" only on msnbc. it'll cause cavities, bad breath. patients will try and deal with it by drinking water. water will work for a few seconds but if you're not drinking it, it's going to get dry again. i recommend biotene. all the biotene products like the oral rinse...the sprays have enzymes in them. the whole formulation just works very well. it leaves the mouth feeling fresh.
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campaign that in addition to blaming president obama for a, quote, war on religion, it also slams letting gays serve openly in the military. well, let's watch a portion of the perry ad. >> i'm not ashamed to admit that i'm a christian, but you don't need to be in the pew every sunday to know that there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can't openly celebrate christmas or pray in school. as president, i'll end obama's war on religion and i'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. >> well, no surprise that the ad sparked backlash from people on both sides of the political divide. and even garnered close to 500,000 "dislikes" on the campaign's youtube channel. and apparently that's what really got the campaign's response. the campaign's response, they disabled the "like and dislike" icons for the newest campaign lineups. but still, perry stuck to his argument when asked about president obama's, quote, war on religion.
and true to form, his response was not without a snafu. let's listen for the. >> do you really believe he's waging a war on religion? >> i do when you see his appointment of two -- from my perspective -- inarguably activist judges. whether it was -- not the -- not -- not the mayor -- >> sonia sotomayor. >> sotomayor and kagan were both activist judges. whether it's about prayer in school, whether you can celebrate christmas. those are decisions that should be left to the states. >> oh, god. at least he knew what the name rhymed with. as i mentioned earlier, perry also referenced the fact that we have eight supreme court justices. i guess he had a brain freeze before thinking of the other
one. and finally, how should a presidential candidate that hasn't been invited to any of the recent republican debates know he's hit rock bottom? ask buddy roemer whose campaign currently looks a bit like a one-man show. a piece in today's "washington post" gives an inside look at the lack of enthusiasm surrounding roamer with his recent lack of attendance in a rally. "the rally was scheduled to start at 6:00, so roemer arrived at the park 15 minutes early with two of his aides. the temperature was below freezing. finally, at 6:15, roemer's director of scheduling looked at his watch and realized his boss' parking meter was about to run out. roemer had already received four $20 tickets in the past month. fearful of more tickets, his staff had taken to pausing its work every two hours to refill the meter. governor, we better deal with your car now, the scheduling director said. okay, said the governor, let's call it a night. there's no audience here anyway." well, not quite the image you usually associate with a presidential campaign, is it? i think calling it a night might
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