updated 8/9/2007 11:14:17 AM ET 2007-08-09T15:14:17

Guests: Steve Skvara, Mike Huckabee, Holly Bailey, Amanda Carpenter, Michael Crowley, Jesse Jackson, Jon Soltz, Buzz Patterson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  What‘s with Hillary?  Why is she the favorite of hawks and at the same time the favorite of Democratic doves?  Which crowd has got it right?  More important, what will we get if we elect her?  Now‘s the time to ask.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Like American gladiators, the 2008 Democratic presidential candidates entered Soldier Field in Chicago Tuesday night and battled for the nomination in front of thousands of political fans.  MSNBC‘s Keith Olbermann moderated this AFL-CIO-sponsored event, which turned out to be one of the most raucous political forums of the season.  The cigarettes, egged on by a feisty crowd of over 10,000 union workers, came ready to fight for the labor vote, but one working-class hero had the question for the politicians and almost stole the show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE SKVARA, LOST PENSION AND HEALTH INSURANCE:  After 34 years with LTV Steel, I was forced to retire because of a disability.  Two years later, LTV filed bankruptcy.  I lost a third of my pension, and my family lost their health care.  Every day of my life, I sit at the kitchen table across from the woman who devoted 36 years of her life to my family and I can‘t afford to pay for health care.  What‘s wrong with America, and what will you do to change it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be talking to Mr. Skvara right here in just a moment.

And is Hillary Clinton a hawk or a dove?  Which is it?  The Iraq war is the biggest issue facing the country right now, but just where does the Democratic frontrunner really stand?  That‘s our HARDBALL debate tonight, and it‘s a big one.

Plus, the National Association of Black Journalists is holding a forum today.  It‘s asking, “Is Barack Obama black enough?”  We‘ll put this question from them to former Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson later in this program.

But first, HARDBALL‘s David Shuster has this report on last night‘s Democratic forum.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It was part pep rally...

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If you want to get out of NAFTA, let‘s hear it!  Do want out of NAFTA?

(APPLAUSE)

KUCINICH:  Do you want out of the WTO?  Tell these candidates!

SHUSTER:  And it was part debate.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Look at our records. 

Look at our records.

SHUSTER:  Whether it was due to the searing heat, the provocative questions or a rowdy audience that at one point booed frontrunner Hillary Clinton, last night‘s labor union forum provided more fireworks than any presidential campaign event this year.  John Edwards attacked Clinton for her corporate campaign contributions.

JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The one thing you can count on is you will never see a picture of me on the front of “Fortune” magazine saying I am the candidate that big corporate America is betting on.

SHUSTER:  Hillary Clinton was given a chance to respond, but said she wanted to talk instead about Republicans.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  And I will say that for 15 years, I have stood up against the right-wing machine, and I‘ve come out stronger.  So if you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I‘m your girl.

(APPLAUSE)

SHUSTER:  Barack Obama was targeted for saying he would pursue al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, even if Pakistan‘s president refused.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If you‘re making a mistake today, you ought to stand up and say so.  It was a mistake, in my view, to suggest somehow that going in unilaterally here into Pakistan was somehow in our interest.  That I think is dangerous.

SHUSTER:  Then Clinton joined the attack.

CLINTON:  You can think big, but remember, you shouldn‘t always say everything you think if you‘re running for president because it can have consequences across the world.  And we don‘t need that right now.

SHUSTER:  But straight talk is what the audience wanted, and Obama stood his ground.

Sen. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Chris, if we have actionable intelligence on al Qaeda operatives, including bin Laden, and President Musharraf cannot act, then we should.

SHUSTER:  Obama then turned the tables on all of his Senate colleagues at once, hammering them over the Iraq war.

OBAMA:  I find it amusing that those who helped to authorize and engineer the biggest foreign policy disaster in our generation are now criticizing me for making sure that we are on the right battlefield and not the wrong battlefield in the war against terrorism.

(APPLAUSE)

SHUSTER:  New Mexico governor Bill Richardson stayed out of the fray, though he pounded the Bush administration on labor issues.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  My first day as president, I will get rid of all the union-busting attorneys at the Department of Labor and OSHA and all our agencies.

(APPLAUSE)

SHUSTER:  More than 15,000 union activists were in attendance at Soldier Field, and all of the candidates boasted about their support of union interests.

EDWARDS:  Two hundred times, I‘ve walked on picket lines.  I was on a picket line on Saturday.  I was on a picket line on Sunday.  I have been in organizing campaigns all over this country.  Here‘s the America that I believe in.  I believe in an America where anyone who works hard is able to earn a decent wage.

SHUSTER:  But even on their union records, there were brutal exchanges.

BIDEN:  The question is, did you walk when it cost?  Did you walk when you‘re from a state that is not a labor state?  Did you walk when the corporations in your state were opposed to you?  That‘s the measure of whether we‘ll be with you when it‘s tough, not when you‘re running for president in the last two years, marching on 20 or 30 or 50 picking lines.

SHUSTER (on camera):  Today the AFL-CIO said last night‘s forum made it clear there is not a consensus candidate for a presidential primary endorsement.  However, that frees up the 55 unions who are part of the federation to make their own decisions, and already several presidential campaigns have ratcheted up their lobbying efforts for endorsements and help this fall.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  As I said in the welcome (ph), at the AFL-CIO forum last night, a question from union member Steve Skvara was one of the most memorable of the night.  Let‘s see it again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE SKVARA, LOST PENSION AND HEALTH INSURANCE:  After 34 years with LTV Steel, I was forced to retire because of a disability.  Two years later, LTV filed bankruptcy.  I lost a third of my pension, and my family lost their health care.  Every day of my life, I sit at the kitchen table across from the woman who devoted 36 years of her life to my family and I can‘t afford to pay for health care.  What‘s wrong with America, and what will you do to change it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Steve joins us right now.  Mr. Skvara, thank you very much for joining us.  I want to learn from your horrible situation, and maybe one of these candidates will do something that will deal with it and help you and help others by the millions.  The company you worked for was LTV.  Do you believe that they filed bankruptcy to avoid meeting their responsibilities to you and other workers?

SKVARA:  I truly do.  I believe that that was their way to escape.  You know, the unfortunate thing about bankruptcy with corporations is—and Edwards answered it correctly—one of the questions correctly as far as I was concerned—is when they walk away from the employees that devoted all their years and their lives to the company, they lose everything on a bankruptcy, but the corporate leaders end up with million-dollar bonuses.  And it‘s just not right.  I mean...

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re not treated—you‘re not...

SKVARA:  ... it‘s robbing from the poor.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not treated as a creditor.  You‘re not treated as someone they owe money to.

SKVARA:  No.  And in fact, we had given up wages, as people that understand, you know, union contracts—we give up wages in exchange for, you know, benefits, you know, and there‘s a tradeoff.

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

SKVARA:  And the PBGC, you know, we believed was there to guarantee our pensions.  As we found out that there is certain stipulations and language in the PBGC law that allows a company to escape part of that.  I mean, you know, like I myself lost a third of my pension.  And it hurts.

MATTHEWS:  So when you were working all those—in your good years, Steve, and you were working, what were you looking forward to as part of the deal you had with your union and with LTV?  What were you looking forward to when you were really out there, working on the line?

SKVARA:  Well, it was a good future, a secure future.  We were—you know, I was looking at retirement and being able to relax and not worry because I had health care and my wife would be taken care of with health care.  I mean, it was written in gold, I thought, but it wasn‘t.  I mean, you know, it sadly disappeared, and it disappears today for so many other workers.  I mean...

MATTHEWS:  You mean you had a health care...

SKVARA:  ... nowadays, you...

MATTHEWS:  ... package that was going to continue through your retirement.

SKVARA:  Yes.  That was the understanding.  You know, we paid into it after we retired.  After we retired, you know, we paid for part of it.  But it was—you know, our understanding was it was guaranteed for life.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that the...

SKVARA:  You know, and unfortunately...

MATTHEWS:  ... U.S. government is going to move and make up and pick up these pensions, for example, with Chrysler, where they‘ve been sold to an equity firm, or they‘re about to be, and these pensions—I‘m thinking of all these guys and women like you, who had big, heavy-lifting jobs for the last 100 years, and you had good union contracts with the UAW, the Steel Workers, with big American corporations, and now the corporations are coming apart.  The executives are splitting for Palm Springs or Palm Beach or wherever, and you guys are being left behind.  You‘re being discarded.

SKVARA:  We are.  And it‘s a shame that this is—you know, it‘s being allowed to happen.  I don‘t know what we‘re going to do about it, except for the people to start talking to the politicians that make the decisions in this country and start making them realize what the real problem is, like with health care.  I mean, until the other night, everybody was trying to ignore health care.  You didn‘t hear much about it, I mean, even in the mainstream media.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

SKVARA:  And now it seems to have hit the front page.

MATTHEWS:  Well, our NBC poll, for what it‘s worth—I know you don‘t need a poll to know what life is like.  You‘re living it, Steve.  But the poll shows that health care is behind the war in Iraq as the number two issue in the country right now.  So it has moved up, and the question is what we‘re going to do about it.

Are you impressed with what Mr. Edwards said last night, or any of the Democrats or any of the candidates...

SKVARA:  I would have liked...

MATTHEWS:  ... including the Republicans like Rudy Giuliani and Romney are talking health care, too.  What do you make of i?

SKVARA:  Well, they‘re talking the talk, but they‘re not walking the walk, if you know what I mean.  I mean, their answer is, Well, let the corporations take care of it.  I mean, even one of the Democratic candidates had made the statement, We have to invite them to the table, the insurance companies.  They‘ve been at the table for the last 35 years, and they‘ve been eating our lunch.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of...

SKVARA:  They‘re the ones...

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of Edwards?  Do you think he‘ll do it?  Do you think Hillary will do it?  I remember she talked health care 10 years ago, back in -- 15 years ago.  She was doing it back in the early ‘90s.  It didn‘t work out.  Do you think if the Democrats get in the White House and they control the Congress that they‘ll finally get it together and do it in the next couple of years?

SKVARA:  I sincerely hope they do.  It has to be done soon.  I mean, there are so many folks out here, not just, you know, a retiree and his wife, but there‘s a lot of young people out here trying to make a living, and without health care, there is nothing for them.  I mean, it‘s a disaster waiting to happen.  There are so many I know, you know, single-parent homes, whether it‘s a husband or wife that‘s taking care of the kids, and they‘re out there trying to earn a living and one illness can wipe them out completely.  And I mean, it‘s just a crying shame that this goes on.

MATTHEWS:  How good is Medicaid...

SKVARA:  Things have to change.

MATTHEWS:  How good is Medicaid for you, sir?

SKVARA:  I‘m on Medicare.

MATTHEWS:  And how good is it?

SKVARA:  Medicare is good, but now they‘re trying to privatize that, something else that...

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you—I‘m talking about what you live with every day.  When you—when you have to get help with medicine, when you have to get help with—help with your wife‘s sickness, is it good or not?

SKVARA:  Medicare for me is excellent.  I think it‘s a fantastic program.  It answers my needs.  I need to go...

MATTHEWS:  But you said last night rather dramatically that your wife

you weren‘t able to—you look across the table at her, and you‘re not able to deal—to give her the—or make sure that she gets the medical care she requires.  What does Medicare let you down, if it does?

SKVARA:  Because she‘s not on Medicare yet.

MATTHEWS:  I see.

SKVARA:  She‘s not eligible.

MATTHEWS:  You have to be—can you get it...

SKVARA:  I mean, she‘s a 56 years old.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, she‘s young.  You have to wait at least to 62, right? 

Or is it 65?

SKVARA:  Correct.  No, it‘s 65.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well...

SKVARA:  So we‘re talking about nine more years.

MATTHEWS:  Do you like any of these candidates?

SKVARA:  They‘re interesting.  I‘m not going to commit to any candidate at this time.  I like the answers I got from Edwards, but I would have liked to have heard a definite answer from all of them.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

SKVARA:  I mean, things have to change.

MATTHEWS:  Well, can I pay tribute—can I pay tribute to you, sir?  I think you‘ve had a voice out there with—I looked at the polling last night, or ratings.  About a million people heard you make that plea for attention, for this country to focus on medical care.  You may have been more effective than any of these candidates, including Hillary Clinton, in terms of your plea.

SKVARA:  Well, I...

MATTHEWS:  So I hope—and this isn‘t a partisan view.  I got to tell you.  If anybody doesn‘t think that health care financing is the number one domestic issue in this country, they‘re just not living here.

Anyway, thank you.  Steve Skvara, you‘re a great American...

SKVARA:  Thank you, sir.

MATTHEWS:  ... to speak so well to the needs of this country.

SKVARA:  Thank you for giving me this opportunity.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

Coming up: The Republicans face an early test this weekend in Iowa.  It‘s called the Iowa straw poll.  It costs 35 bucks to vote there.  Is that democracy?  And with Mitt Romney leading in the polls, who‘s going to come in second?  Maybe the guy we‘re going to talk to right now, presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.  Everybody seems to like this guy.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The first big test for Republican presidential candidates is this Saturday‘s Ames straw vote out in Iowa.  George Bush won the last one in 2000, and with Rudy Giuliani and Senator John McCain skipping the poll this time around, many are expecting Romney to win.  But the race is on for the lesser-known Republican candidates to make a strong showing and build momentum for their campaigns.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has been criss-crossing Iowa to drum up support for the straw vote right now.  In fact, there he is, surrounded by his peeps out there, Governor Huckabee.

You know, you and I were talking before we went on the air, and I‘d love to hear what you say now on the air because you seem to have been affected by what we just saw.  Mr. Skvara, who‘s a former steelworker—he‘s retired.  He‘s on Medicare.  His wife is ineligible for Medicare by age yet.  What do you, as a Republican, say to a fellow like him, who worked hard his whole life, is disabled, and can‘t pay the medical bills of the family?

MIKE HUCKABEE (R-AR), FORMER GOV.  REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 

Well, Chris, the first thing we‘ve got to do as a Republican Party is quit being a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wall Street and the corporations that have done exactly what Steve talked about, and that is allow workers at the bottom to make money for their companies and then let a CEO get a pension, get a wonderful bonus, take a trip to the Riviera, and Steve takes a trip to the poorhouse.

Not many Republicans are willing to say it, but we better say it or we‘re not going to win another election for a generation.  We‘ve allowed a lot of people in the airline industry—the baggage handlers, the ticket agents, the clerks—to take 40 percent pay cuts.  The executives steer the company into bankruptcy, they get a $200 million bonus.

And it‘s based not on capitalism.  That‘s a good thing.  But this is sheer, unadulterated greed, and that‘s not what makes a strong economy, and it‘s going to ruin not just this country but it‘s going to collapse the Republican Party if we don‘t start standing up and saying that you can‘t have that kind of economy, where CEOs make 500 times that of their worker and call that perfectly acceptable.  It‘s not acceptable.  And people like Steve have got to be factored into the equation.

I came from a working family.  I understand what it‘s like when you have a dad who has the grub of the day on his hands and never got it off as long as he lived, never finished high school, wanted his kid to do better than him.  You know, a lot of Americans have been able to live better because our parents sacrificed for us.  You look at a guy like Steve and you realize, we better run for president and remember him and not just the folks who come to the high-price cocktail parties in Manhattan and Georgetown.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that sounds very important, but the question comes down to—I guess, two questions.  What do you do to corporations who betray their compacts with their workers formed over many, many decades, and in some cases many generations of families, and basically give it up to some equity firm and drop all the responsibilities because they sell the place?

And secondly, what do you do to fellows left behind?  No matter what happened, this guy‘s stuck without health insurance for his wife.

Let‘s go to that second question first.  How would you, as a Republican, get this guy health insurance for his wife who‘s not yet 65?

HUCKABEE:  One thing we have got to do is to change this post-World War II health care system which is based on tying your health care to your employer.  That may have been fine when my dad and people of his generation worked for the same people for 30 years.  People do not do that. 

We need plans that are tied to the individual, not to their workplace.  I need to own my own health care.  I need to be able to get the best doctors that I can.  And that is not going to happen if I have got somebody up the company corporate ladder who is looking after the company‘s interests, not mine. 

So the first thing is move to a portability-based system, and a personally-owned system.  Empower people to have their own health care, pick their doctors, bring quality into the equations.  Let us know what it is really costing.  Give me the power of information to shop as a consumer. 

Electronic medical records that belong to me, not to my doctor, so that I can carry them with me to the best health care professionals that I know that I can get.  Chris, we can transform this problem.  But you know, what is frustrating, in four debates that we have had, I can only remember one health care question that came up. 

Two of us on that stage, Tommy Thompson and me, have been talking about the need to move from an intervention-based health care system to prevention.  And I want to give Tommy credit, because I do not want to sound like I am the only voice out there, but there are some of us that are looking at this as a fundamentally upside-down system. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

HUCKABEE:  It has got to have some transformation. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, here is a political question:  Why should people have to pay $35 to vote for a Republican this Saturday in Iowa? 

HUCKABEE:  Well, it is a fundraiser for the state party of Iowa, and I think your question, is it a democracy?  Well, in a way, no, it is probably a little bit more of a raw capitalistic fundraising idea for the party. 

But here is what it does do.  And it is fair.  It shows organizational strength and the capacity to motivate your voters to get them to Ames.  You know, this isn‘t an election where they are already going to go to the polls and you are just trying to get them to vote for you while they are there, you really have to get people motivated to drive three-and-half or four hours from distant corner of Iowa.

MATTHEWS:  Well, a lot of them are getting motivated because the candidates, as you know, are paying for their gas, paying for their tickets, paying for their lunch.  This is not exactly democracy.  This is like the old days of the political machines—big Democratic political machines in the big cities where they drive the ethnic groups to the polls, pay for lunch, give them a couple bucks, and kick them in the butt.  That is what it seems like is going on in Iowa. 

HUCKABEE:  Yes, and you know what, Chris?  Every one of you guys in the media are going to be there with your cameras.  And if we do well.

MATTHEWS:  Well, not me. 

HUCKABEE:  . you will say we did a great job.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, we are all guilty.  Oh God.

HUCKABEE:  And if we don‘t do well, you are going to all say that we are not making any progress.  So that is why we are going to go all out.  We are going to have a great day Saturday.

MATTHEWS:  God, I‘m waiting—I think I am hearing one of those old liberals from the 60s saying, we are all guilty.  You know?  I do not know.  But thank you, you are a good heart.  Thank you.  I like your answers, I like your participation. 

HUCKABEE:  Thanks.

MATTHEWS:  And everybody likes you, Mike Huckabee.  We will see how you do on Saturday.

HUCKABEE:  Well, let‘s hope they like me on Saturday.  That is when I want them to like me.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you.

Up next, a panel of African-American journalists is asking the question, is Barack Obama black enough?  That is what they are asking.  We will get reaction from the Reverend Jesse Jackson and get his take on who won last night‘s Democratic presidential forum.  You are watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  This week the National Association of Black Journalists holds their convention in Las Vegas.  On Friday, a session moderated by NPR‘s Michel Martin will ask a question, is Barack Obama black enough?  According to the convention‘s program, it is:

“The question he,” Barack Obama, “cannot seem to shake, is he black enough?”.  Is this an unfair question?  What is the measure of blackness?  And who gets to decide?  Civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson, the founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.  He is the former presidential candidate himself and backing Obama. 

There are so many great Jesse Jacksons.  I have got one in front of me here.  Heroic leader.  Great orator, politician.  What else?  But anyway, you are also a backer of Barack, aren‘t you? 

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION:  Well, I support him.

MATTHEWS:  As a Chicagoan, yes?

JACKSON:  I support him as a hometown favorite.  I am not really involved in the campaigns.  I am communicating with all of them.  With Barack, with Hillary, with Kucinich.  But I think this question really is a diversion, the authenticity of his blackness.

MATTHEWS:  Who is pushing it?

JACKSON:  Well, I am not sure, it keeps getting pushed.  We are—in

some senses we remember our experiences, and the line from Jakarta and

Hawaii looking east toward Columbia and Harvard, a different line from

Mississippi and Georgia looking north towards New York  

There were those who said Dr. King, because of his eloquence and his Ph.D. training was not as grassroots, say, as Malcolm was.   Look at the degree between say, a Thurgood Marshall and a Clarence Thomas.  And so the degrees are there, but the pedigree is the same.  We all have got public accommodations on the same day.  We all have got the right to vote on the same day.  We all have open housing on the same day. 

So if disagree Barack, make it on substance, not on some diversion about his degree of his race. 

MATTHEWS:  There are so many black Americans, African-Americans who came up from the islands, from the Caribbean, I mean, Colin Powell‘s family, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, a lot of guys came up. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They didn‘t all come up from the Deep South. 

JACKSON:  But we all—but we did.  We were boat stop apart.  The boats went from Africa to Brazil, south central Latin America, then through the Caribbean, then to South Carolina on up to New York, up the coast.  And so we are all just a boat stop apart.  And so sometimes in fact we might speak Portuguese in Brazil.  We might speak French in Haiti.  We might speak another language in South Carolina.

But to—I think when Barack makes a case about social justice, he represents something new and different.  He broadens the basis of the base.  If you decrease with him on philosophy, about his priorities, do so.  But do not make—use a kind of strawman issue about the authenticity of his race.  Is—when Edwards is talking, is Edwards too southern in his drawl?  I mean, of course not.

MATTHEWS:  I wonder if this isn‘t a part—I have always thought about you and I think you would have been a hell of a senator.  But you came through civil rights movement, that meant polarization, that meant standing against the establishment.  You had to challenge the Daley machine, you weren‘t part of it.  You could have been but you challenged it.  This guy was part of the regular political organization.  Barack had a break, he came in through the system.

You guys, especially you, John Lewis too, fought the system. 

JACKSON:  Well, he was a beneficiary, and the other generation was a

benefactor.  (INAUDIBLE) so beneficiaries would come along.  I mean, my

son, Jesse Jr., has not had to face—I mean, I was arrested July 16th,

1960, trying to use the public library.  I was arrested trying to a public

trying to use a theater. 

Because we pay those dues, the next generation didn‘t have to pay them.  Why are we are discussing blackness in all of that?  One hundred ninety-two thousands semiautomatic weapons are missing, made here.  Are they in Iraq, or are they here?  None of those weapons are legal. 

While we are discussing blackness, $12 billion cash sent to Iraq.  Where did that money go?  A bridge collapsed in Minnesota, levees collapsed in New Orleans, both ends of the Mississippi River, infrastructure collapsing while we are dealing with that, first class jails, second class schools.  It seems to me that we are losing some great moments in time arguing a nuance of race. 

MATTHEWS:  On the other side of race, I mean, you travel the country.  You can feel people‘s reaction to you.  You are so iconic.  Do you think racial attitudes are actually changing? 

JACKSON:  Well, they are.

MATTHEWS:  And since you started—you were the nominee—you were almost the nominee back in ‘88.  You gave the best speech.  I have said that before, 20 years ago at the convention.  You did not win.  Today have things changed? 

JACKSON:  Well, some things have changed.  You know in ‘88, out of $17 million, I got 1,300 votes.  If Gore had not pulled out in New York, I maybe would have won New York.  I could perhaps could have gotten through.  So things have changed.  I went to the Super Bowl when the Bears played the Colts.  And one thing I observed was I saw basic white middle American women with their children and husbands wearing Tony Dungy caps.  And I saw blacks from Chicago wearing Urlacher‘s jerseys as opposed to having to wear number 34, Payton‘s. 

I mean, America has become more acculturated.  There are changes.  So there is a change at one level.  There is still a vicious undercurrent that is going on, but I think that we do see the changing face of America.  I look at that stage and I see a woman in the lead, a (INAUDIBLE), an African-American, a Latino, a white southerner.  I see America is emerging to a much more mature state. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what is going on, kids are coming home from school and not telling parents like me their teachers are black.  They did not even notice it.  That is changing.

JACKSON:  Well, because they are growing.  And the thing about the athletic field, which is having a powerful social impact—more even than Congress or even church, on the playing field, the rules are public and the goals are clear.  And the playing field is even, and hard work matters. 

So more and more of this athletic stuff, whether it is Tiger Woods, or whether it is Barry Bonds, or whether it is the—Rodriguez. 

MATTHEWS:  So you do not think it is a false dream when black athletes are promised the world because they are athletes?  You don‘t that is a diversion from where they should be pursuing careers? 

JACKSON:  Oh no, that means on the conditions where you have an even playing field, in the publics rules, we do very well.  Off the field, when you form education on property tax, we don‘t have a property base, then that tilts the playing field.  Or here where you are trapped in the war, where we are losing money and life and honor, and there is a war in Iraq, but no war on poverty, I mean, to me, these issues—and I hope when—the reason why I am in investing in all of these candidates, I hope one of them will become president, that is my desire.

But I want America changed.  His name Steve (ph), the labor leader who was standing behind on stage, he represents the point.  Not in ultimately one‘s degree of one‘s race, or one‘s gender, or one‘s fundraising skills, ultimately answering his question is the question of the hour. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  It is not race, it is need.  Thank you (INAUDIBLE). Thank you very much, Reverend Jackson.  It is great to have you on.

Up next, the HARDBALL debate, is Hillary a hawk or a dove or is she trying to have it both ways?  You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  It is time for tonight‘s HARDBALL debate.  Is Hillary Clinton a hawk or is she a dove?  Jon Soltz is an Iraq War veteran with votevets.org.  And Buzz Patterson is the vice chairman of Move America Forward, and a former military aid to President Bill Clinton.  He is also the author of “War Crimes.”

John, is Hillary the kind of candidate who we can trust to get us out of Iraq and not go to war with Iran? 

JON SOLTZ, VOTEVETS.ORG:  I think Hillary is someone who has all of the strengths of a strong commander-in-chief.  She understands how we fight.  I mean, when you talk to her privately, she can tell you the difference between an old brigade combat team and a new unit of action and how we have, you know, combined our mechanized infantry and armor.  It is absolutely fascinating to speak with her behind the scenes.

Her last eight years in the Armed Services Committee she has learned from.  And she understands why we fight.  You know, I was at a large event with her several months ago and she pulled me aside and she asked me about staying in the Army or not staying in the Army.  And I said, well, ma‘am, I do not know. 

You know, I love the Army, and my greatest hour was ever—I ever had in my life was leading soldiers into war.  And she says to me, you know, you are right, Jon.  There is no greater honor than being in charge of our troops in a combat zone.  And for her to understand that, like I said, she understands how we fight and why we fight.  And she is somebody that.

MATTHEWS:  So she is a hawk.

SOLTZ:  She is not either.  She is someone who represents sensible foreign policy.  I mean, she is someone who will take the fight to al Qaeda.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Help me out here.  Should a hawk vote for her?  Somebody who believes in this war in Iraq, should he vote for Hillary Clinton?

SOLTZ:  I think people should vote for Hillary Clinton if they want someone who will protect America, take the fight to al Qaeda. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, help me out here, help me out here.  If you are for war in Iraq, you want to keep the troops over there, you want to keep them fighting over there, should you vote for Hillary? 

SOLTZ:  I do not think you should vote for Hillary Clinton if you want to retreat and defeat against al Qaeda.  If you want to defeat al Qaeda, you need to vote for Hillary Clinton.  If you want to keep American troops stuck in the middle of a civil war in Iraq, you should go vote for a Republican. 

But if you want a strong national security, someone who will rebuild the Army and Marine Corps, someone who will destroy al Qaeda in the Afghan/Pakistan region, you should support Senator Clinton. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s go to Buzz Patterson.  How do you see Hillary, hawk or dove?

BUZZ PATTERSON, MOVE AMERICA FORWARD:  Hey, Chris.  She is a dove in hawk‘s clothing.  I mean, I know her personally, worked for her for two years, with her husband from 1996 to 1998, and she is anything but a hawk.  I mean, she wants to pull us out of a Iraq.  She voted for the war before she voted against the war, to coin a phrase from a previous candidate. 

She will say anything she has to say, Chris, to get elected president.  See, she is a pathological liar.  She does not understand the military.  I can speak first and foremost personally, knowing her intimately.  She is not a hawk.  She is anything but.  She is a Wellesley College, socialist, anti-military, anti-American. 

SOLTZ:  That is absolutely ridiculous.  That is so ridiculous.

MATTHEWS:  How did you get that insight on her working—were you her military attache or her husband‘s military attache?

PATTERSON:  Yes, I was President Bill Clinton‘s Air Force aide from 1996 to 1998. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you hear sotto voce that we haven‘t heard from her?  What insight did you get from working at close quarters?

PATTERSON:  Well, the fact that she wanted to outlaw military uniforms in the White House when I first arrived in 1996 is a perfect example.  And she talks about President Bush now, Chris, not having the gumption to support our troops.  Look at Bill Clinton‘s record in the 1990‘s.  Drawing the Army divisions from 18 down to 10, drawing Air Force fighter wings from 24 to 12, reducing Navy ships from 586 to 324, cutting the military troop strength—Josh know this better than anybody. 

(CROSS TALK)

SOLTZ:  He is wrong.  He‘s making the argument for us. 

PATTERSON:  John, I was there, pal.  You were not. 

SOLTZ:  I was there. 

PATTERSON:  You weren‘t in the White House.  By the way, let me tell you—

SOLTZ:  Let me tell you something, you weren‘t in Kosovo when I was in Kosovo under Bill Clinton.

PATTERSON:  I was in Bosnia.

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, OK—

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s what I need—Let‘s pretend this is a court room. 

We need facts.  John Soltz, you believe Hillary Clinton is a credible national defense expert.  You believe that she is the strongest candidate of the Democrats running to defend the country, including continuing the campaign in Iraq. 

SOLTZ:  I think that all of the Democrats are stronger than the Republicans, because the Republicans right now have opposed increasing the size of our military for last seven years.  It‘s absolutely ridiculous.

PATTERSON:  That is so incorrect. 

SOLTZ:  They have dedication of super duper missile defense systems in the sky that have alienated our allies.  And the Democrats have a position where we can take the fight to al Qaeda in Afghanistan.  I was in Kosovo when we had—

(CROSS TALK)

SOLTZ:  Why did we have armor equipment under Bill Clinton in Kosovo, but when I was in Iraq, we didn‘t have it? 

(CROSS TALK)

SOLTZ:  Bill Clinton was a better commander-in-chief than George W.

Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  John, nobody‘s hearing anything here.  Let me ask you, Buzz Patterson—this is a question.  Based on all that you know about the Clintons, including the former president, six months into office, how many American troops will remain in Iraq. 

PATTERSON:  She will yank about half out, which will be a debacle.  It will be a nightmare.  John, I‘m so happy you‘re not serving in Iraq right now, stabbing your fellow men and women, like you‘re doing—

MATTHEWS:  OK, John Soltz, six months into the Clinton presidency, how many troops will we have in Iraq? 

SOLTZ:  You will see an offensive against al Qaeda in Afghanistan.  You‘ll probably see a redistribution of troops to take the fight to the enemy, to the people that attacked our country, and keep America safe. 

MATTHEWS:  You both agree that she will cut the number of troops dramatically in Iraq?

SOLTZ:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  You say that two, Buzz?

PATTERSON:  I agree with that.  I think we will be out of there in about 12 months. 

(CROSS TALK)

PATTERSON:  We are fighting Iraq—we are fighting al Qaeda in Iraq. 

SOLTZ:  You know what, I don‘t need the memo.  I was in Iraq.  You read the newspaper, I was in Iraq.  That‘s the big difference between you and I. 

PATTERSON:  I have been to Iraq too. 

SOLTZ:  Are you talking about your ra ra sis boom ba cheerleader tours the White House takes you on? 

PATTERSON:  Are you still in the Reserves, John? 

SOLTZ:  I‘m a private citizen right now, chairman of VoteVets.org. 

PATTERSON:  are you getting a DOD paycheck? 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  You guys can settle this outside.  I want to thank Buzz Patterson and John Soltz. 

Up next, how did the Democrats do last night?  The panel will be here to pick the winners and losers for last night.  We‘re looking for hard verdicts to follow up on that hard argument.

And with other candidates taking aim at Obama and not Hillary, what is that all about?  Why are they going after him and not her?  Are they trying to get on her team?  Are these candidates for secretary of state or VP or what?  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time now to dig into the day‘s hottest political news.  Here to do it is our panel, Michael Crowley of the “New Republic,” Townhall‘s Amanda Carpenter, back by popular demand, and Holly Bailey of “Newsweek.” 

First up, Obama versus everyone?  On Thursday night‘s MSNBC—actually Tuesday night‘s NBC forum, the Democratic candidates targeted their attacks not on number one, Hillary Clinton, but on number two.  Why?  Obama was able to hit back from a defensive position, which is the best kind, of course.  Let‘s take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  I do not believe people running for president should engage in hypotheticals.  And it may well be that the strategy we have to pursue on the basis of actionable intelligence—but remember, we have had some real difficult experiences with actionable intelligence—might lead to certain action.  But I think it is a very big mistake to telegraph that and to destabilize the Musharraf regime, which is fighting for its life against the Islamic extremists who are in bed with al Qaeda and Taliban.

Remember, Pakistan has nuclear weapons.  The last thing we want is to have al Qaeda like followers in charge of Pakistan and have access to nuclear weapons.  You can think big, but remember, you should not always say everything you think if you are running for president, because it has consequences across the world.  We don‘t need that right now.

(BOOING)

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  I owe Senator Dodd a response.  Your name was invoked in several of these answers.  Please take 30 seconds here. 

SEN. CHRIS DODD ®, CONNECTICUT:  I just want to say—and Barack, I certainly said, look, I made a mistake in that vote in 2002.  I don‘t deny that.  But when you make a mistake, as you will on something like this—I think if I had the courage—I made a mistake on the vote in 2002 -- if you make a mistake today, you ought to stand up and say so. 

It was a mistake, in my view, to suggest somehow that going in unilaterally here into Pakistan was somehow in our interest.  That I think is dangerous.  I don‘t retreat from that at all. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, Senator Obama, 30 seconds. 

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS:  I did not say we would immediately go in unilaterally.  What I said was that we have to work with Musharraf, because the biggest threat to American security right now are in the northwest provinces of Pakistan.  And that we should continue to give him military aid contingent on him doing something about that. 

But the fact of the matter is that when we don‘t talk to the American people—we are debating the most important foreign policy issues that we face.  The American people have a right to know.  It is not just Washington insiders that are part of the debate that has to take place with respect to how we are going to shift our foreign policy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Holly Bailey, it seems to me we have an interesting fire fight going on there.  Instead of going after the front runner, Hillary, it seems like they‘re all going after Senator Obama.  Why?

HOLLY BAILEY, “NEWSWEEK”:  I think part of this is old versus new. 

This is the old guard.  Part of it also—

MATTHEWS:  So well said.  The establishment does not like the challenger. 

BAILEY:  Yes, exactly.  But, you know, Hillary Clinton has been really scoring high in the polls.  She has moved higher in the polls since she started attacking Barack‘s experience.  So I think part of that is people are starting to want to get in on the action here, the other candidates. 

MATTHEWS:  They want a piece of him. 

BAILEY:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go over to Amanda.  Is that true?  Is this just picking on a guy who is down a bit? 

AMANDA CARPENTER, TOWNHALL.COM:  I think Barack Obama really gave Hillary Clinton a softball to knock out of the park when he put forth this foreign policy that essentially says we are going to invade our allies and talk to our enemies.  She scored on this.  I think that is why she is coming up in the polls right now. 

MATTHEWS:  You think if you were president, or anyone you like were president, that they would actually let Musharraf say, I know you know where bin Laden is, but you can‘t hit him.  Do you think we‘d actually—

According to Joe Biden, that would be illegal for a president to miss that opportunity. 

Do you think any president would say, you know, I have to bow to Mr.  Musharraf‘s interest here.  I‘m not going to attack bin Laden?  Do you really think that‘s what they would do?

CARPENTER:  No, I don‘t think it‘s what they would do.  But I think it is interesting what you‘re seeing with Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden and Chris Dodd.  They‘re are clearly trying to form some kind of an alliance here. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, why?

CARPENTER:  I think they see that they have a really tough road ahead in the Senate coming up in September.  Joe Biden has been fairly practical on the Democratic side in terms of foreign policy, saying we can‘t just ease out of Iraq right now.  Clinton sees this.  They are going to have a lot of trouble to contend with the liberal base when General Petraeus testifies to Congress in September. 

MATTHEWS:  So you think they are all positioning themselves in the center now right now?

CARPENTER:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Michael? 

MICHAEL CROWLEY, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”:  It is true.  The liberal base—

A lot of anti-war activists just think the problem is—you look at Congress‘s approval ratings—did you see that poll?  Three percent of the public said Congress is handling the war right.  A lot of that is because the Democrat base—a lot of them feel not that the Democrats are on our side, trying to end the war, but the Democrats are part of the problem.  You are funding the war. 

So there is a divide between the establishment versus the outsiders.  And there‘s a feeling that even nominally good Democrats, like Joe Biden, are part of the problem. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what we—I lived through the ‘60s.  That is what a lot of the left thought about liberals, people like Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale; they were part of the problem.  They saw them as defenders of the status quo in the war. 

CROWLEY:  Yes, I went to an anti-war rally that they had when they stayed up all night in the Senate, and there were hecklers in the crowd.  They were jeering the Democrats.  A lot of people are really impatient. 

MATTHEWS:  Is the question—why are Biden and Chris Dodd, all the regulars—as you say, the old regime, who ever said that—Holly said that, the old regime—why aren‘t they trying to pander to the anti-war crowd?  They‘re the ones that are going to be voting in these primaries.   

(CROSS TALK)

CROWLEY:  Biden was famous for auditioning for Secretary of State during the Kerry campaign and there are some who might argue that is happening again.  Maybe Dodd is doing something similar.  That would be a cynical interpretation.   

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s fair.  It is called kissing up to Hillary.  We‘ll be right back with the panel.  You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘re back with Michael Crowley of the “New Republican,” Town Hall‘s Amanda Carpenter and “Newsweek‘s” Holly Bailey.  Let me go to Michael Crowley to start things off here.  Do you have a sense that a lot of these guys have thrown in the towel? 

There is one candidate who is a woman.  She is almost 50 percent right now against the entire field of other candidates.  It looks to me like they are saying I want to be number two or else knock—what are they up to?  Are they trying to knock off the number two guy, Obama, or are they trying to audition for VP or secretary of state? 

CROWLEY:  The good news for them is two are consistent.  So maybe you say look, she has been formidable.  I would hate to be running against her because she seems to get stronger and stronger and never misses a step.  But what you can do is say my only hope is to become the alternative to her.  You don‘t have to attack her to do that.   If that doesn‘t work, and you don‘t get there, you just change your strategy and say bring me in your administration.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think is going on, Michael?  Are they running for VP, secretary of state or just to knock off Obama?   

CROWLEY:  I think different people are doing different things.  I think in general there‘s a feeling—Each guy has a different motive.  But I think Biden wants secretary of state.  Dodd may also want the same thing.  I would be surprised if Dodd or Biden thought they were going to be her number two.  I don‘t see that.

MATTHEWS:  The guy who is caught off guard here and almost irrelevant is Edwards.  He just keeps slipping through the cracks.  He is not the avant guard candidate.  He‘s not the Bobby Kennedy, like Obama.  He‘s not the establishment candidate like Hillary.  He‘s just there.

CARPENTER:  Yes, I think he is trying desperately, almost like a little kid, hey, remember me.  What about the lobbyist money.  He brought that up at Yearly Kos and again in the debate last night.  He is really kind of stealing Obama‘s territory on the lobbyist money, trying to own that and make it his in bringing it up every chance he can. 

MATTHEWS:  Here is a tough question, Holly, is Barack Obama the dog in the manger, meaning the person who stands there and prevents somebody who can really take on Hillary from getting into second place?  Is he her best friend really, because he can‘t catch her? 

BAILEY:  I think on one hand, sure.  But at the same time, you know, if we look at the field, it is hard to see who would be getting his support if he weren‘t in the race.  I think a lot of people who are supporting Obama would probably shift to Hillary.  But that‘s just a guess.

MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re right.  I guess I‘m thinking if Ed Rendell were in the race, the governor of Pennsylvania, or if Al Gore were in the race or someone else whose a good heavy weight to be running.  But I do see a lot of second tier candidates here. 

But I don‘t see a big beefy alternative to Hillary Clinton, a big guy.  You know what I mean?  An every way big guy.  I don‘t see one out there.  I see a lot of slight, skinny, second and third candidates. 

CROWLEY:  Richardson‘s kind of beefy.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll talk about Richardson later.  Thank you Michael Crowley, Amanda Carpenter—Richardson‘s a fine public servant.  But I don‘t see it connecting yet.—and Holly Bailey—thank you from “Newsweek.”  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now it is time for “TUCKER.”

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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