Hardball: Ned Lamont Endorses Joe Sestak

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From Hardball Oct. 19, 2009. Thanks to our friends Ned Lamont and Joe Sestak for stopping by C&L for the chat, and hopefully it was more enjoyable than this interview on Hardball just before you came to visit here.

Updated. Transcript from MSNBC.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Three years ago, businessman Ned Lamont rode an anti-war tidal wave to defeat Joe Lieberman in a Democratic primary. Well, Lieberman turned independent and beat Lamont to keep his seat, but Lamont is still a big deal for many Democrats. Today he endorsed U.S. Congressman Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary here in Pennsylvania against Senator Specter. They both join me here in Philly right now, Sestak and Ned Lamont.

Ned, why did you do it? Why are you here in Philly making the case for the challenger here, the David against the Goliath, you might say right now?

NED LAMONT (D), FORMER CT SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, Chris, it's great to be back with you and I'm delighted to be here with Joe Sestak. Look, Joe's got guts. He's not only just taken on Arlen Specter, he's taken on the entire political establishment.

And Joe, I know where you're coming from right now. The calls are coming in. They're telling you not to do it. Don't do a primary. You're upsetting the apple cart. And I just think it's good for democracy. Joe knows where he stands on the issues. It's not a question of political calculation. I hope people vote for Joe Sestak.

MATTHEWS: Well, Joe Sestak, Congressman, thank you for joining us. Here's the latest polling. It's done by Pollster.com. It's an average of all the polls in this primary fight. Specter's beating you by about 20 right now. How do you catch him?

REP. JOE SESTAK (R-PA), SENATE CANDIDATE: Boy, that's great. You know, that's cut us down about half in the last four months. I've only been in the race two months. Here's how to do it, by being out there and just talking to the people. They have lost such trust, such credibility that they once had in Washington, D.C. We've been down there too long with too many people, much like you ran against somebody who had forgotten that it was about the middle class, the working family. It's being everywhere, Chris. It's being on your show. And it's making sure that I have enough to get out there and just shake hands and be on the media. I want them to know there's a credible alternative who will be in it for them, not their own job.

MATTHEWS: I was picking up the paper this morning, "The Politico," in D.C. before I came up here on the train, and the one thing I noticed, Congressman, is that you're having a money problem. And Arlen Specter never has money problems. Is politics in this country driven by who's got the money?

SESTAK: Well, look, I'm obviously a co-sponsor of a bill for public financing of campaigns, but I don't have a money problem. As you can see, Arlen has already spent $2 million this year. I've only spent $500,000. And his approval rating has dropped all the way down to only 30 percent of the people believe he should be re-elected. So it's not about money.

Chris, this is about the future of Pennsylvania and this nation. I don't say that lightly. I honestly think they want to see people who believe principle should triumph over political calculation to where-

Arlen Specter gave 2,000 votes to President Bush, voted for tax cuts where 50 percent went to the top 1 percent, the millionaires of America. They just want a change. No, they want more than that. They want a warrior that's going to fight with President Obama to make sure they bring about that change.

MATTHEWS: Well, why is President Obama supporting him? Why is Joe Biden supporting him? Why is Eddie Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, supporting him? Why is the Democratic Party of Philadelphia run by Bob Brady supporting him? Why is the entire Democratic Party of Pennsylvania, elected party, backing this guy?

SESTAK: That's the establishment. That's why I was so proud to have Ned Lamont with me today. Look, I don't begrudge President Obama tactically needing-politically, in a calculation, another extra vote perhaps in this very tough year.

But you know what? We're going to be left after this year with a-someone who will be taking us into the future for the next six years, in fact, the next 30 years. And they're going to be unlike the last 30 years where this Republican now turned Democrat was part of the GOP leadership that ran us aground. When I was in the Navy, we relieved commanding officers when they ran us aground.

But think about it this way also. Right now, I understand why they're supporting him. And that's because Arlen Specter is pretty tough to control. The White House has to continue to give them the carrots, as I provide the sticks. That's why you have you seen the polls and everything else shifting.

We actually are going to be out there as a credible choice. And I love running against the establishment. It's the right thing, because you're working for the people.

MATTHEWS: You know, Ned, the problem with your candidate here, as I see it, is, he's not tough enough.

You know, in Philly, to get elected, the way they used to get elected in the old days, the Democratic reformers, the way they would beat the corrupt Republican machine, was call them a bunch of bums, stand in front of city hall with a bullhorn, saying, we're-we're going to get the drones out of city hall, the people that are just hanging around, taking your money. They knew how to go after the bums and they would say, throw them out.

This guy won't call point a bum. He won't call Arlen Specter a bum. He won't go after these guys. He won't go after the fact that they have circled the wagons and grabbed all the ethnic money from-all the money, I should say, all the money. There's no-this guy can't raise any money right now.

Now, you get-let me get back to you, Congressman. Can you get money out of the legal community? Can you get money out of the usual givers to the Democratic Party? Can you get any of that money? It looks to me like they have dried it up on you.

(LAUGHTER)

SESTAK: Look, two things. I have got $5 million.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SESTAK: We're doing mighty fine. We're just shy of $5 million.

Number two...

MATTHEWS: Yes, but you started with $3 million. You starred with a lot money.

SESTAK: Absolutely. And we have kept-this year, this month, we matched Arlen Specter dollar for dollar, except the president did come in and raised him a little bit of extra more than he got.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, $2.5 million -- $2.5 million at one event.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And you're going to beat this guy?

SESTAK: Without a question.

Remember, Mrs. Clinton came in here, and was outspent by President Obama 4-1, and she won.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK.

SESTAK: And, number two, am I tough? Hey, look, you know, I headed the Navy's anti-terrorism unit. There is not a question about toughness.

So, we're going to do quite fine.

MATTHEWS: OK. Maybe I know too much, but here's my problem.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I think that you're a relationship politician. You're a loyalist. You like the Clintons. You worked for them in the NSC. You're an admiral of the United States Navy. You served the country. You have everything right on your resume, except I don't think you have got any teeth.

And the question I'm going to ask you, why don't you get Bill Clinton to come in and pay back what he owes you? You supported him all those years. Why don't you say to President Clinton, get in here and campaign for me and even this thing up, him against Obama? It would be a hell of a campaign in this state.

SESTAK: I don't need President Clinton to win.

MATTHEWS: You don't?

SESTAK: Number two, number two...

MATTHEWS: Well, why don't you ask him right now to come in and help you.

SESTAK: Number two-number two...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why don't you say, Bill Clinton, you owe me; come on in and help me?

SESTAK: And, number two, I have-I honestly believe something, loyalty not just down, but also up.

And I believe I should never ask a former president to place himself in an awkward position with somebody...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SESTAK: ... who has decided for various reasons to support my opponent and is now the president.

But, more than that, we're not worried about taking this fight to the very, very end, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SESTAK: This is one, without a question, we are going to persevere.

I wouldn't get in this...

MATTHEWS: OK.

SESTAK: ... if I didn't know I would prevail in the end.

MATTHEWS: Who is the hawk and who is the dove on Afghanistan, you or Senator Specter?

SESTAK: Well, he...

MATTHEWS: I sense he has gotten to your left on this issue. He is very much questioning whether we should put more troops.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You're coming off as the insurgent here, but you're also more hawkish. Am I wrong or right?

SESTAK: I'm...

MATTHEWS: Help me.

SESTAK: I'm for what makes Americans more secure.

And I made sure, as Arlen Specter puts out a list of about 25 questions he wants answered, look, I was on the ground at the beginning of that war for a short period of time, then the retaliatory strikes.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SESTAK: I believe we need a measured increase in troops, as long as this president provides us an exit strategy to measure the success or failure of a new strategy.

MATTHEWS: Right.

SESTAK: And, second, there is only one reason to be in Afghanistan, and that is to extinguish...

MATTHEWS: OK.

SESTAK: ... that safe haven from al Qaeda in Pakistan.

MATTHEWS: OK. This is your problem.

SESTAK: No, this is the right thing. And that's why we're going to win, because we're on the issues.

MATTHEWS: So, you're more hawkish than Arlen Specter.

SESTAK: And forthright.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask Ned Lamont, are you comfortable backing a guy who is for sending more troops into Afghanistan, yes or no? Are you comfortable backing the more hawkish position on Afghanistan, sir?

NED LAMONT (D), FORMER CONNECTICUT SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, Joe Sestak, 31 years in the U.S. military, if that guy was on the Armed Services Committee in the House in 2004, I guarantee you, we would not have rushed into that war in Iraq. He opposed it during his race in 2006.

And I love the fact that he's going to have a very measured, strategic response when he looks to Afghanistan.

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. No.

LAMONT: I want a guy with background like that sitting at the table.

MATTHEWS: Joe, Admiral Sestak-but Admiral Sestak was for the war in Iraq. Am I wrong?

SESTAK: No, I opposed the war in Iraq from the day-look, I took my carrier battle group...

MATTHEWS: OK.

SESTAK: ... into the Persian Gulf. The three-star admiral said, Joe, what do you think about this? And I said, this is a tragic misadventure.

MATTHEWS: OK.

SESTAK: And that's-so, that's why I wanted a date certain out of Iraq.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me-you're right. And let me-I -- -- I stand corrected on that, Admiral Sestak. You were on the right side of that issue.

Let me go back to Ned Lamont and check you one more time, give you an answer here-opportunity. Do you support the more hawkish position in Afghanistan advocated by your candidate?

LAMONT: Look, I believe you have got to have a partner in Afghanistan. Whether President Obama decides to send more troops in or not will be secondary to whether we have a strong government there that we can work with.

MATTHEWS: You're hedging. You're hedging. You're hedging. Are you a hawk or a dove on Afghanistan, sir, Mr. Lamont?

LAMONT: I think you have got to hedge. You have got to know that you have a partner. If you don't have a legitimate government that...

MATTHEWS: OK.

LAMONT: ... the people of Afghanistan look up to...

MATTHEWS: OK. OK.

(CROSSTALK)

LAMONT: ... all the troops in the world are not going to make a difference.

(CROSSTALK)

SESTAK: And, Chris, you know these terms are too simple, hawk or dove.

(LAUGHTER)

SESTAK: It's whether you have a very thoughtful approach in order to achieve your objective, eradicating al Qaeda, so we can be safe at home, without having an open commitment, an open-ended commitment...

MATTHEWS: OK. Great.

SESTAK: ... like we didn't do and Arlen Specter voted for in Iraq.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much.

SESTAK: Thanks for having us.

MATTHEWS: Congressman Joe Sestak, former admiral, a great man who defends this country.

Ned Lamont, a great man, thank you, sir.

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