MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript



Joining me now is Illinois lieutenant governor Sheila Simon and U.S. Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, vice chair of the House Republican Conference. Thank you both for joining me.

Let`s hear right now -- we have a couple points here. Congresswoman, what do you make of -- in Virginia -- by the way, Congresswoman, what do you make of the charge that Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, is making in her new fund-raising letter that there is, in fact, a war on women being waged by the Republicans?

RODGERS: The reality is, in 2010, the Republicans won the women`s vote. And the Democrats know that in order to win the presidency, in order to win the seats in the House and the Senate, that they have to scare women, that they have to win the women`s vote.

And they`re trying to scare women by manufacturing this war on women to really distract American women, as well as Americans in general, of the real issues. And the real issues are that President Obama`s policies are failing, whether it`s his economic policies, his health care policies or the debt that he`s leaving to our children and grandchildren!

MATTHEWS: Governor Simon, your view on this? Is it fair to accuse the Republicans of a war on women, or is that too strong?

LT. GOV. SHEILA SIMON (D), ILLINOIS: I don`t know if it`s too strong. There are certainly a lot of skirmishes going on, though. And what scares us is those attacks on our basic constitutional rights. In Virginia and other states across the country, we want to protect those basic
constitutional rights that we have grown to depend on.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s look at a case in point. In Virginia, where a law requiring a woman to have a mandatory ultrasound before an abortion, a new poll shows voters disagree. By a huge 51-point margin, Virginia voters say government should not make laws which try to convince women seeking an abortion to change their minds.

Congresswoman, where are you on that poll? Are you with the 72 or the 21?

RODGERS: I`m here to say that the polls are showing that -- that when it -- the debate that`s been in Congress has been over the right of conscience. And on those -- those polls, the American people are with the Republicans position, and that Obama`s approval rating among women is at a record low. It`s at 41 percent.

I believe that when -- when women look at these issues a little deeper that they see that it is not about any kind of war on women by the Republicans. It`s really...


RODGERS: It`s really about the...

MATTHEWS: Let`s get below the rhetoric -- let`s get below the rhetoric, then. OK, let`s -- I`ll ask you the question they put to women voting in Virginia. Should the government try to discourage a woman who shows up at an abortion clinic to have the procedure? Should there be
steps taken at that point, at that point, to discourage her from going ahead? What`s your principled answer?

RODGERS: I would say, you know, that is not the issue that`s on the forefront of the voters` mind, and that...

MATTHEWS: Well, what`s your position on that issue?

RODGERS: Well, it is an example of where I believe that we`re -- that there`s an effort under way by the Democrats to really distract Americans from the real issues, which are -- it`s the economy, it`s health care, it`s the debt that is...


RODGERS: ... we`re passing on to the next generation.


Well, why are state legislatures doing all this stuff in an election year for president? You say a distraction. Fair enough. Who is causing the distraction? Why are these Republican-led legislatures, as in Virginia, pushing this social legislation which is so controversial in the
midst of a presidential election? They shouldn`t be doing it, but they are. What is your position?

MCMORRIS RODGERS: Well, I would say, in Washington State, there is a social agenda being driven by the Democrat legislature.

They passed gay marriage, which is going to be on the ballot this fall. And they are working on other pieces of a social agenda. I`m here to say it is all a distraction from the real issues that are facing Americans. And we need to get back to the debate over economy and jobs, health care.

Women make 85 percent of the health care decisions in this country for themselves, their families. And they are fearful.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

MCMORRIS RODGERS: The real scary part is that the federal government might step in and start making their health care decisions.

SIMON: Well, I think health care really is the question that we are talking about here.

And as the congresswoman mentioned, it is women making decisions about health care. That`s where we are getting scared in Virginia and other states that are proposing these laws that are really trying to peel away at our constitutional rights.

MATTHEWS: Just to respond to the congresswoman -- Congresswoman, I want to give you a list now. Over the past decade, just the past decade, the number of states that are hostile to abortion, for example, defined as having enacted four or more provisions that have put up a hurdle for women seeking that -- seeking one, has doubled.

Here is just a sample of what is happening in various states. In Arizona, which has a series of bills right now in the works right now that would limit abortion access, a Republican representative sent this e-mail -- quote -- "Personally, I would like it make a law that mandates a woman watch an abortion being performed prior to having a surgical procedure."

In Utah, the Republican governor just signed a law extending the waiting period for women seeking abortions from 24 hours to 72 hours. That`s three days. In Tennessee today, a bill that would have mandated publication of information identifying abortion providers, doctors, and
possibly their patients was amended to strip those requirements, perhaps in
reaction to the national criticism.

All of these state legislatures have been busy bees out there pushing this stuff, adding hurdles to this kind of decision by a woman. My question to you is, is it the Democrats raising the issues, these social concerns you say are distracting, or is it conservative legislatures led by

MCMORRIS RODGERS: I`m a member of Congress. I serve in Congress. The House released its budget yesterday.

And the criticism that came immediately from the women, Democrat women in the House, was that they said it was anti-woman. That`s where I say this is a distraction from the real issues.

The reality is, the Republicans won the women`s vote in 2010 and the Democrats know they have to win the women`s vote and that they are scared. These are scare tactics to scare women. And they have -- they have often used the abortion...

MATTHEWS: Whose tactics are they? I`m just asking you, whose tactics are they? You say they`re Democratic tactics.

How did Democrats get Republicans legislators to make these proposals? How tricky are they, these Democrats? They get the Virginia legislature to bring up all this stuff on abortion. They get Santorum to talk up contraception. These Democrats are ventriloquists? How do they get the
Republicans to say all this stuff? They are really masterful, I would say. I know I`m being sarcastic.

But you know the evidence is a lot of right-wing social activists in your party are giving the Democrats catnip here, right? You`re admitting that.

MCMORRIS RODGERS: There are a lot of left-wing social activists that are also pushing their agenda in various legislators -- legislatures, and here in Congress, the same thing.

What I`m here it say is that when it comes to women right now, two out of three businesses are started by women. They understand firsthand the challenges that they face in trying to start a business, grow a business, a regulatory nightmare because of the federal government that makes it harder and harder, the tax burden.


MCMORRIS RODGERS: Women make the health care decisions and they don`t like the idea of the federal government making these decisions. Those are the issues that are driving the women vote.


MATTHEWS: Let me just tell you, if you run against Cantor for speaker, I will endorse you, OK?

MCMORRIS RODGERS: Oh. I`m not sure that would be very helpful.



MATTHEWS: I think it -- well, it wouldn`t help you, but it would be fun.

Let me just tell you this. I think you have got a weak case here because I think a lot of these right-wing social activists get elected on the tax issue, right, Governor? They win on lower taxes and less government. And the minute they get into office, they push the screaming
right-wing social agenda that never got elected in the first place.

The Tea Party movement of 2010, Congresswomen, had nothing to do with all this abortion and contraception stuff.

MCMORRIS RODGERS: No, it didn`t, right.

MATTHEWS: Contraception -- well, why are you guys all pushing it?

MCMORRIS RODGERS: I`m in Congress. We are talking about jobs, the economy, what it`s going to take to get Americans back to work.

There was a very common sense measure that helps protect women, there are reasons why women are paying attention to these issues right now. That`s the debate that we`re having.

SIMON: Well, the Republicans in a Senate committee just voted against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a very commonsense measure that helps protect women. There are reasons why women are paying attention to these issues right now.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.

SIMON: Thank you.