updated 10/19/2007 11:38:47 AM ET 2007-10-19T15:38:47

Guests: Mike Murphy, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Jim Moran, Nancy Skinner,

Mark Williams, Jan Schakowsky, Ezra Klein, Matt Cooper

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  So why won‘t Democrats fight the war?  And should schools give birth control pills to 11-year-olds?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  The big story tonight: Just 10 campaign weeks now to Iowa, and the 2008 candidates have begun the debate.  Our second story: Why won‘t the Democrats fight?  They were elected to stop the war.  Why have they stopped?  Plus: Should schools give birth control pills to 11-year-olds?  That‘s tonight‘s HARDBALL debate.

We begin with HARDBALL‘s David Shuster and this report.


DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  After months of jabs and shadow boxing, the top two presidential candidates in both parties have finally taken the gloves off.  On the Democratic side, Barack Obama is now hammering Hillary Clinton over the Iraq war, charging that she only wants to tinker with the president‘s policy instead of throwing it out.

Sen. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If you think that the problem is just that George Bush executed poorly, our basic foreign policy, then the fact Hillary supported the war from the start (INAUDIBLE) it‘s a matter of bad execution.

SHUSTER:  In the Republican battle, Mitt Romney is under attack.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, FMR NYC MAYOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You don‘t twist yourself up into a little pretzel and change your positions and you try to become a different person.

SHUSTER:  The escalation in the 2008 debate now has to do with timing. 

There are just 77 days until the 2008 voting begins with the Iowa caucuses.  And when you look at the calendar, the crunch becomes more clear.  Take away four days for Thanksgiving weekend and another few days for the Christmas holiday, and the candidates have about 10 weeks to make their case and define their opponents before the voters start weighing in.

Last night on the “Tonight” show, Obama joked about being an eighth cousin of Dick Cheney.

OBAMA:  I am OK with it.  Now, you know, the—now, I don‘t want to be invited to the family hunting party.

SHUSTER:  Then Obama took his own shot at Hillary Clinton.

JAY LENO, HOST:  Hillary appears to be a shoe-in, is what they say. 

How discouraging is that?

OBAMA:  Oh, it‘s not discouraging.  You know, the...


OBAMA:  Hillary is not the first politician in Washington to declare “mission accomplished” a little too soon.

LENO:  Right.  Right.


OBAMA:  You know?

SHUSTER:  John Edwards is also pounding Clinton, accusing her of basking in her frontrunner status too soon.

JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Did I miss something?  I mean, did we already have the Iowa caucus and I was asleep when it happened?  Did we already have the New Hampshire primary?

SHUSTER:  As for the Republicans, in the midst of their tax cut battles, most of the GOP candidates are also now trying to outdo each other in their attacks on Clinton.

GIULIANI:  She‘s never run a city.  She‘s never run a state.  She‘s never run a business.  She‘s never met a payroll.

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  In my opinion, Hillary Clinton takes her—her—well, her guidepost from the Europe of old—big government, Big Brother, big taxes.

SHUSTER:  Fred Thompson‘s way of attacking Romney and Rudy Giuliani is to highlight their record on social issues, but he‘s also taking aim at the obsession over Clinton.

FRED THOMPSON (R-TN), FMR SENATOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I don‘t think we need to worry as much about Hillary Clinton as we need to worry about ourselves.

SHUSTER:  For her part, Clinton is playing her ace in the hole, gender.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Now, I‘ve noticed that the last couple of weeks, I‘ve been getting a lot of attention from the men in this race.  And then a good friend of mine said, You know, when you get to be our age, having that much attention from all these men...


SHUSTER (on camera):  One of the men now hitting Clinton the most is Democrat Barack Obama.  And perhaps sensing that Clinton or somebody else may soon strike back, Obama has now hired a rapid response director.  Eleven weeks to go, and all the campaigns are now locked and loaded.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.  Mike Murphy is a Republican consultant.  Michael, thank you for joining us.  I want you on as an expert, and I need you.  What is starting to happen in this campaign?  Finally, Barack Obama, even on Jay Leno‘s show, is starting to zero in on the differences between him and Hillary.  Why now?

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT:  Well, he‘s going to catch up now, I think.  I mean, the whole race is going to be Iowa to start out this domino chain of compressed primaries.  And unlike these national polls, which I think are highly overrated because they only—maybe 12 out of every 100 people they poll are from the January states that drive the process.  In Iowa, it‘s a pretty close race.  Obama‘s in striking distance, 7, 8, 9 points behind her.

We‘re at the point now, 10 weeks out, where the voters, who really count, are starting to tune in, and it‘s time to start drawing differences.  So Barack is doing what anybody in second place does, he‘s putting the target on the frontrunner.

MATTHEWS:  The way I‘m counting it, not counting Christmas and the holidays and Thanksgiving, even, it‘s really 10 weeks of campaigning left.  Is that enough time for Barack to overtake Hillary?

MURPHY:  I think more than enough.  I‘m one of the few who actually thinks he‘s going to beat her for the nomination.  You see, in a primary, the vote moves in the big late tide.  A lot of the action in the last presidential primary in Iowa, with John Kerry, John Edwards and Howard Dean, happened in the last 20 days.  So even though 10 weeks, for those of us junkies who‘ve been following this thing for two years, seems like a short time, in voter-world, it‘s a pretty long time.

And I think the last four weeks are going to be where a lot of the sparks are, but this is definitely the ramp-up.  He‘s got more than enough time to catch her.  And if he beats her, Barack‘s edge, unlike the Gary Harts of before, who might beat a frontrunner early, is he has the kind of money in the bank to run the table.  For every buck of primary money Hillary, he‘s got about 90 cents.  And if he can keep fund-raising and maintain that kind of money muscle, if he can trip her in Iowa, which won‘t be easy, I think he can really go to the show.

MATTHEWS:  You know, he‘s doing what we should be doing in journalism, which is sharpening the issues, explaining exactly what the differences between the two candidates.  He‘s finally done it, I think, when he says, Hillary wants to refine the Bush policy, I want to dump it.  I‘m totally against this war in Iraq.  She wants to correct how we went in there, how many troops we had.  I‘m challenging the fundamental question, Should we have gone to Iraq?  Why are we there?

MURPHY:  Yes, you know, as you know, Chris, it‘s a classic Democratic primary.  And while the issues that kind of our pals and the elite all like, which is who‘s more presidential, who has more experience, now that it‘s at the voter level, the big cutting issues—and in the Democratic primary, no doubt Iraq is a big cutting issue—come into play.  And that‘s where I think Obama, if he does it right—he has to watch kind of the technique of his attack or she‘ll go into her kind of mode—I mean, as tough as she is, she‘s clearly the anti-giglet (ph) in this campaign—very serious woman—but if, you know, she goes into that kind of Hillary victimization mode, she‘ll hurt Obama.  So he‘s got to be careful how he does it, but he definitely has an issue that‘ll really hurt her, I think, in the Iowa caucus and the other early primaries.

MATTHEWS:  What about when she does this sort of awkward, I think, or highly rehearsed, Us girls have to get together and circle the wagons against those men?  Is that attractive to women voters or not?

MURPHY:  Yes, I—well, you know, it‘s interesting.  Historically, when women—I‘ve run campaigns for and against women in executive jobs, governorships.  And often, the hardest voter they have to get when they‘re running for an executive job is other women because there‘s a lot of complicated psychology.  And I think the best advice Hillary...

MATTHEWS:  OK, we have a sound problem here.

Let‘s go to Howard Fineman up in New Hampshire.  He‘s in Manchester, New Hampshire, right now.  Howard, let‘s pick up on what Mike Murphy was saying there.  Why do you think, finally, after all the dribbing and drabbing, that Barack Obama is sharpening the issue between him and Hillary?

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, Barack Obama has to do it now, Chris, because he is in danger of falling too far behind to catch up, even under the scenario that Mike Murphy lays out, which I do think is possible.  Here in New Hampshire, there‘s a lot of indecision.  This is a state that decides late.  I think if, in fact, they keep to the schedule that they had, which I think ultimately they will, New Hampshire is going to follow four or five days after Iowa, it‘s going to be the last place, potentially, for Obama to stop her or to actually catapult himself to the front because almost half the voters here in New Hampshire, Chris, are registered undecided, undeclared.  And those are the people that Obama is going to have a chance to get because those are anti-war people.

New Hampshire is a fascinating state.  The independents are anti-war perhaps more than any other group here, and they also sort of would like to see a new kind of politics.  So that‘s got to be his hope here.  But if he‘s going to activate them, he‘s got to do it.  He‘s got to engage now.  He doesn‘t have much time.  He really doesn‘t have much time in functional terms.  He‘s got to get at it.

MATTHEWS:  If he makes this question in this primary session the war, can he win?

FINEMAN:  I think that‘s the way he‘s got to win because that‘s the thread he has to pull to unravel everything else about the way politics is conducted here.  He can‘t make it an abstract matter of political science, that we need to conduct politics in a new and better way.  That sounds great.  It‘s meaningless to too many people.  He‘s got to make it concrete about the war, about the deaths from the war, about the spending in the war.

I‘m here in New Hampshire looking at this situation.  These are people who are close with the nickel in New Hampshire, Chris.  In addition to worrying about the death and blood and treasure here, they‘re worried about a trillion dollars having been spent over there.  That‘s a real issue for these people.

But he‘s got to get specific and he‘s got to get tough.  I heard David Shuster saying that they‘ve hired a rapid response team.  I think they need a rapid offense team right now because there‘s no sense trying to be the good guy in the race anymore.

Now, some people say, if you get that way with Hillary, you‘re going to lose either because of the victimization thing that Mike Murphy was talking about or because they‘re just too tough.  Well, Obama‘s got no choice at this point.  Neither do John Edwards or anybody else.  All anybody is talking up here in New Hampshire about is Hillary Clinton, by the way.

MATTHEWS:  What does the Republican side look like right now?  It looks to me like nothing Rudy Giuliani would like more than have Mike Huckabee come out of nowhere and win in Iowa, which would cover Rudy‘s fourth or fifth place finish out there.  Then he goes to New Hampshire and walks away with it because Romney‘s been brutally and mortally wounded by then.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  It‘s basically—you know, John McCain‘s still a factor here.  The libertarian, Ron Paul, mark my words, is going to be a factor here before it‘s all over because he fits a certain part of New Hampshire independent thinking.  But it‘s basically Romney and Rudy.

And you‘re right, Rudy‘s got to have the breaks to go right to win it here.  It‘s a four-way race here right now, at least, Chris.  I‘ve never seen the Republicans so divided.  It‘s almost sort of like the political equivalent of entropy.  Nobody is running away with it.  There‘s no clear frontrunner.  Whereas on the Democrat side, it‘s basically, Can anybody stop Hillary?  That‘s where we are right now.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go back to the Democrats.  That seems to be the exciting race right now.  Do you think, having watched Barack Obama all these months, that he—you know how they say in racing you start your kick at the end?  Do you think he chose to start the kick now, the 17th or the 16th of October yesterday, or he‘s just been forced into it against his own instincts?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think part of the problem is he was such a sensation in the summer.  I was looking at the polls just recently.  I mean, he was practically neck and neck with Hillary in the national polls in the summer.  He has an unbelievable number of people in the field.  Here in New Hampshire, he‘s got 12 field offices.  In Iowa, he‘s got 30 field offices.  He‘s got 90 paid staffers here.  They‘re out there knocking on doors, canvassing and so on.

But he needs to ignite that.  He needs to set that fire cracker off somehow with his own message, in his own fervency, and he‘s got to be clear and sharp to make all of that work by field staff and all the money and effort that they‘ve spent here worthwhile.  And it hasn‘t quite—I don‘t see a jelling yet.  All the Obama people here are telling me, You just wait, it‘s going to happen, it‘s going to happen, it‘s going to happen.  It‘s got to start happening pretty soon.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I‘ve notice he‘s not wearing a tie.  We‘re looking at some stock footage here.  But you know, I watched him on Leno last night.  I watched him again today.  He‘s not wearing coat and tie.  He looks better in sort of casual clothes.  Is that the theme?  Is that sort of part of the “get tough” look?

FINEMAN:  No, that‘s who he‘s been all along, really.  I mean, the message of that is, I‘m not yesterday‘s politician, I‘m tomorrow‘s politician.  The problem with making that stick is that Hillary, as a woman, can implicitly make the same argument.


FINEMAN:  And it‘s fascinating to talk to people up here.  That‘s the way they find it.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Howard Fineman, chief analyst for


FINEMAN:  You‘re welcome.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go right back to Mike Murphy, back to you, sir. 

Your final thoughts.  Can Barack catch Hillary?

MURPHY:  Yes, I think so.  I think it‘s even money for the nomination.  I really do.  I‘m short Hillary.  I think he‘s the change candidate and she‘s not.  He‘s got money.  But I agree with Howard, he‘s got to spark all that gasoline.  He‘s got to have the moment.  He has enough time to do it, but the clock is starting to tick.

MATTHEWS:  You know what he ought to do...


MATTHEWS:  ... old Jack Kennedy movies and watch how Kennedy did it because Jack Kennedy actually campaigned and engaged his opponents.  He didn‘t just look pretty and stand back.  Anyway, thank you very much, Mike Murphy.

The latest polls show that while the president‘s approval rating is hitting record lows, Congress‘s approval is in the same low territory because it won‘t do what it was elected to do, and we know what that was.  Take a look at these numbers.  Why aren‘t the Democrats in Congress behaving like a real opposition?  Why don‘t they take on this president on the war?  We‘re going to talk about that next with a couple of Congresspeople.

And later: Barack Obama has ratcheted up his attacks on Hillary. 

Check out what he said about Bill.


OBAMA:  If there‘s a debate between Michelle and Bill, you know, I‘m putting my money on—on my girl.


LENO:  You‘d leave your wife alone with Bill Clinton, would you?


LENO:  You want to rethink that?

OBAMA:  Michelle can handle herself.


MATTHEWS:  Lots more hot political headlines coming up on HARDBALL. 

You‘re watching it, only on MSNBC.



GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We‘re finding common ground on Iraq.  We‘re—I recognize people in Congress who say we shouldn‘t have been there in the first place, but it sound to me as if the debate has shifted, that David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker‘s testimony made a difference to a lot of members.  I hope we continue to find ground by making sure our troops get funded.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Democrats won control of Congress a year ago with promises to end the Iraq war.  So why aren‘t Democrats trying to stop this war?

With us now, two Democratic House members, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Jim Moran of Virginia.  Congresswoman Schakowsky, you‘re against the war.  Why does it seem like the Democratic Party isn‘t doing the job of ending this war?

REP. JANICE SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS:  Well, I think that we have done quite a bit, but I agree with the frustration that‘s being felt out there.  You know, I don‘t know that the American people expect us to win every battle, but what they do expect is that we‘re going to stand up and fight.  As someone who has started the—one of the founders of the Out of Iraq Caucus, as someone who has signed a letter to the president that I‘m not voting for any more money unless it‘s connected to a withdrawal from Iraq, I want to see more action in the Congress, too.  And I‘m trying to convince my colleagues and our leadership that putting up the fight is something that our—not only our constituents want, but something that we need to do for our young troops that are over there.

MATTHEWS:  You know, Congresswoman, I know you‘re against the war, but I don‘t hear your answer.  Do you believe the Democratic leadership is doing the job of bringing this debate to the American people?  Where are the C-Spans?  Where are the special orders?  Where are the Fulbright hearings?  Where are the Pentagon papers?  Where‘s the demand night after night for a vote on the war?  It seems like you try to be against the war and then you fade back into the woodwork for a couple months at a time.

SCHAKOWSKY:  OK, if you want the answer, I think that we‘re not doing enough, that we‘re not.  Though we‘ve had over 162 oversight hearings, we need to do more.  We need to do something every day.  We need to be fighting.  But even today, when we tried to override the veto of the SCHIP bill, we connected that back to the war, $10 billion a month in Iraq for the war and $7 billion for one year for 10 million children.


SCHAKOWSKY:  We‘re trying to make those comparisons.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me tell you what the American public thinks -- 11 percent think you‘re doing a good job.

Let‘s go to Congressman Moran.  Congressman Moran, how do you deal with the fact that 11 percent, about half what the president‘s getting in approval right now, or less, think the Congress is doing a good job?  My hunch is the Republicans don‘t like it because you‘re Democrats.  The Democrats don‘t like it because you‘re not stopping the war.  That adds up to almost 100 percent that don‘t like you.

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA:  You‘re absolutely right, and I sense that frustration.  If I wasn‘t in the Congress, I would vote the same way on polls that the American people are.  I do think it‘s explainable.  I‘m not sure it‘s justifiable.  We were given a mandate in November of 2006, and we haven‘t fulfilled that mandate.  It‘s terribly frustrated.  I know Speaker Pelosi is doing everything she can, but we barely get 218 votes in the House.  It goes over to the Senate, and it dies.


MORAN:  ... and, you know, because we need 60 votes.  We don‘t have 60 votes.  We don‘t even have a majority because Senator Lieberman always votes against ending the war.  And so we—it‘s basically 50-50 in the Senate when we need 60.  I mean, that‘s the explanation.  But how do we justify not getting out of this war?  I don‘t think we can. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Congressman, back in the ‘60s, as you recall, Fulbright from Arkansas used to hold hearings.  And everybody understood, at the end of the hearings, what the war was all about, how we got into it, how we got stuck. 

Newt Gingrich, whatever you say about him as a Democrat, as a Republican, he used the special orders every night.  He had hearings.  He had people on the floor every night, even when there was nobody else in the chamber, speaking up, speaking up, speaking up.  I don‘t sense that urgency on the part the Democratic majority.  Do you?

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS:  Well, in fact, many of us who have been against the war from the start have been going down to the floor on a regular basis. 

We just had successful hearings, I think, on Blackwater and the use of private contractors.  And I think that we‘re going to see an end to the use of Blackwater, for example, in Iraq. 

But I couldn‘t agree with you more.  I think that we do need to step it up.  And I think that we need to do absolutely everything we can, despite the—the Republicans in the Senate and the president ready to veto.  And, so, I‘m with the American people on this. 

MATTHEWS:  Jim, Congressman, are the Democratic leadership afraid that you have more hawkish members of the caucus than we know about?  Are the contributing base of the Democratic Party a bit more hawkish than the rest of the party?  Is the party afraid of the McGovernite tag?  What is it—what is it—what fear stalks the Democrats and prevents them from saying what they told the voters they would do last November? 

MORAN:  We‘re in a transitional period, Chris.  And many of the freshmen that we brought on were elected in marginal districts, which means they‘re—they are roughly 50 percent Republican—or, actually, now, I think they may be 30 percent Republican, 30 Democrat, and the rest are independents in the middle. 

And, you know, the leadership is trying to play it safe.  There‘s a lot that comes with the majority.  And some of the polls show that, if we push too hard in these districts, we‘re going to lose some of these members.  I‘m not so sure that‘s going to be the case when we get closer to November of 2008.

The country has turned against this war.  We need to reflect that in where we show our priorities on the floor, but we also need to do things like State Children‘s Health Insurance Program.  That is important to people. 

MATTHEWS:  I understand.

MORAN:  You know, there are other things that need to go on. 

MATTHEWS:  But, Congressman...

MORAN:  The problem is, we can‘t fund them if we continue this war.


MATTHEWS:  But, Congresswoman Schakowsky, let me ask you this.

SCHAKOWSKY:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Not a single Democrat in the House of Representatives lost his or her seat last year on the war issue.


MATTHEWS:  That would seem to be a pretty good leading indicator that this issue is politically safe, and, if you believe in the cause against the war, morally right. 


MATTHEWS:  If you put together the morality of this issue and you put together the politics, that would suggest the need for zesty action, not caution. 

SCHAKOWSKY:  Actually—actually, I would go even further than that, Chris. 

I would say that the main reason that the Democrats won the majority in the House and in the Senate was that they wanted to see a new direction in Iraq.  They wanted this war to be over.  The American people are done with this war.  They‘re looking at it in the rearview mirror already, and they can‘t understand why the Congress isn‘t doing more to end it. 

There are these realistic obstacles.  But that doesn‘t mean that we shouldn‘t stand up every day and say, this war must come to an end, do everything we can to—to end it.  So, I would say, we won the election because of that. 

MATTHEWS:  Some people think, Congressman Moran, that the Democratic Caucus is secretly waiting for a nominee to come, whether Hillary Clinton or certainly Barack Obama or John Edwards or Bill Richardson, someone to come forward next January and lead the way on the issue of the war. 

Is the Congress waiting on the nominee? 

MORAN:  I don‘t think they‘re waiting, Chris. 

But you know better than most people that you need someone with the bully pulpit, who can command the country‘s attention.  So, I do think that the Democratic nominee is really going to set both the pace and the direction of the Democratic Party vis-a-vis the war.  And I do think that‘s going to be the—the deciding issue. 

And I—I think the Democratic nominee is going to be elected.  But, clearly, we need a single voice.  And, as hard as Nancy is trying and Harry Reid, the reality is that that‘s not where the focus is placed.  It‘s on the presidential election. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MORAN:  There‘s going to be a national referendum in November of 2008. 

I‘m convinced we‘re going to win it. 

The—the issue is, then, what do we do?  And if we are not out by 2009, out of Iraq, free and clear, then I think we will have failed—not fulfilled our mandate.  I think we will have failed the people‘s expectations. 

But I fully expect we are going to be out of there as soon as a Democratic president takes office. 

MATTHEWS:  Well...

SCHAKOWSKY:  You know, and this—and this president is perfectly capable of orchestrating a dog-and-pony show with Petraeus and Crocker.

It‘s Petraeus who told me, in Iraq, we would be there for nine to—nine to 10 years.  So, it‘s still this president‘s war.  And he still has the—the loudest megaphone on the block here.  And, sometimes, you don‘t, I think, hear the press conferences that we have and the motions that we have. 

But we‘re going to—we do need to step it up, dial it up, and fight more against—fight harder to end this war. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, just as—you know, as Jim Webb, the senator from Virginia, said, people don‘t mind people taking any position, as long as it‘s not the fetal position. 


MATTHEWS:  And I hope both sides get their act together. 

Thank you very much, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois...

SCHAKOWSKY:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  ... and Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia. 

Up next:  Senator Obama steps up the attacks on Hillary, this time with Jay Leno. 

Let‘s watch. 



the first politician...


OBAMA:  ... in Washington to declare mission accomplished a little too soon. 

LENO:  Right.  Right. 




MATTHEWS:  Well, can Obama catch Hillary?  The political headlines coming up next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Big news from the Lone Star State.  Texas Governor Rick Perry today endorsed New York‘s Rudy Giuliani.  He said he‘s the person who can lead America with clarity. 

That‘s what I began hearing several years ago, that Southerners look to Giuliani as a leader.  And Republicans, as we all know, love leaders.  Watch for Rudy to surprise the pundits and pull pretty good numbers down in Dixie. 

“The Houston Chronicle” reports today that Ron Paul, the anti-war Republican congressman running for president, has received more campaign contributions from donors affiliated with the military than any other candidate.  What an irony.  He‘s the guy who calls the Iraq war a terrible mistake. 

Republican Senator Sam Brownback is dropping out of the presidential race tomorrow in Topeka, Kansas.  That‘s one less Republican up on the stage during the next debate. 

Here‘s Barack Obama on “Jay Leno” sizing up the Bill factor. 


OBAMA:  There‘s no doubt that that helps Hillary‘s campaign...

LENO:  Right. 

OBAMA:  ... particularly among Democrats.  Bill Clinton is very popular.  He‘s a great strategist.  He‘s very smart when it comes when to the politics of the Democratic Party.  And there are a lot of chits out. 

You know, you—people—you develop a lot of relationships when you‘re president.  So, that‘s part of the challenge that we have to face, is making sure that people know me...

LENO:  Right. 

OBAMA:  ... as well as they know her and as well as they know Bill. 

And—although Michelle, my wife, is no slouch. 


MATTHEWS:  And here he is hitting Hillary‘s sense of having locked the whole thing up. 


LENO:  You watch the pundits and the polls.  Hillary appears to be a shoo-in, is what they say.  How discouraging is that? 

OBAMA:  Oh, it‘s not discouraging.  You know, the—Hillary...

LENO:  It‘s got to be a little bit discouraging. 

OBAMA:  Hillary is not the—the first politician...

LENO:  Yes. 

OBAMA:  ... in Washington to declare mission accomplished a little too soon. 

LENO:  Right.  Right. 




MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes. 

And do you remember Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who got sent

to prison for bribery?  Well, catch this.  The Associated Press reports

that a prostitute testifying at a related bribery case said that Cunningham

quote—“fed her grapes” as she sat naked in a hot tub. 

What is this, Caligula goes to Congress?

Up next, a real hot debate about what kind of country we want to live in?  Should middle schools provide birth control pills to 11-year-olds without parental consent?  That‘s what a Maine school is doing. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The ramifications of what you are considering is mind-boggling to me.  I just can‘t believe we would be this irresponsible. 


MATTHEWS:  That‘s birth control pills for middle-schoolers.  It‘s our HARDBALL debate tonight, and it‘s coming up next. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.   


BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Bertha Coombs with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks closed little changed on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial losing three points, the S&P 500 dropping a single point, and the Nasdaq gaining six. 

After the closing bell, Google reported, its third-quarter profits soared 46 percent, earnings easily beating analysts‘ estimates.  Meantime, computer chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices reported its fourth straight quarterly loss. 

Stocks were hurt in the morning when Bank of America reported its quarterly earnings fell 32 percent. 

Oil also weighing on the markets, trading near $90 a barrel, before settling at a record-high close of $89.47 a barrel, up $2.07 on the day. 

Employment data was weaker than expected, with first-time jobless claims shooting up by the largest amount since early February. 

And the index of leading economic indicators rose a weaker-than-expected three-tenths-of-a-percent.  But investors took that as another reason that the Fed might cut interest rates later this month. 

That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

A middle school in Maine has decided to make birth control pills available to girls as young as 11 years old without parental consent.  Right or wrong?  That‘s our debate tonight. 

But, first, here‘s NBC‘s Ron Allen with the setup package. 


RON ALLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Portland, Maine‘s school board failed a storm of anger. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The ramifications of what you are considering is mind-boggling to me.  I just can‘t believe we would be this irresponsible. 

ALLEN:  Anger over a proposal to make birth control pills and patches available at one of the city‘s middle schools.  And what made many people even more upset is that, while students need parental permission to use the clinic, the services students would receive like birth control pills would remain confidential. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s way too easy to bypass the parents.  And—and I‘m, frankly, appalled that the school board would address something like this. 

ALLEN:  It was the idea of the school‘s lead nurse, Amanda Rowe, after five students said they had been sexually active, students who Rowe says often don‘t have responsible adults in their lives or other health centers where they can go. 

AMANDA ROWE, SCHOOL NURSE:  It‘s a very small number of students, but it‘s a number, a small number of students who might leave school or have their lives ruined forever with an early pregnancy. 

ALLEN:  In fact, in one study, 13 percent of Maine‘s middle school students said they had, had intercourse. 

And at the King school, condoms have been available for several years. 

Having their school in the spotlight has a lot of students uncomfortable. 

ELIZA LAMBERT, 7TH GRADER:  It‘s just something that, even with parents, they don‘t want to talk about it. 

ALLEN:  Parents are divided. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t think that the sexual practices of young teens are really the school‘s business. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If they‘re going to be getting the services here at the school, it also means that they‘re going to be getting a really good education. 

ALLEN:  Finally, after hours of passion and debate, the board voted. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Peter Eglinton (ph)?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Ben Nicklejohn (ph)? 


ALLEN:  With seven in favor and two opposed, birth control pills will be available at King Middle School, where the board said reality should no longer be ignored. 

Ron Allen, NBC News, New York.


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Ron Allen.

So, this is the HARDBALL debate tonight.  It will be a brief, but hot one.  The middle school students get birth control.  Should they?

Radio talk show host Mark Williams is joining us.  He says no.  Nancy Skinner, a former radio talk show, who is now a congressional candidate for Michigan‘s 9th District, says yes. 

I want to ask you, Nancy, make your case that kids of this age, 11 to 13, should have birth control pills...


MATTHEWS:  ... paid for by the school, issued without parents‘ approval. 

SKINNER:  No, that is not what I said. 

When they‘re that young, I said they have to have parental consent, obviously, because these are hormones.  I didn‘t say that. 

But, generally, what I will say is that...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the school‘s policy.  Then you disagree with it? 

SKINNER:  Yes, that young, absolutely. 

But, you know, you‘re looking at this, the other side, from this “Pleasantville” sort of reality. 

And—and the reality is, you have kids in school, babies having babies.  And the idea that we do have comprehensive sexual education, Chris, in schools is proven.  It reduces pregnancies and diseases.  And, so, we have to have that, and contraceptives as well.  We have the highest case of unwed pregnancies in the Western world because of the lack of education.  So, education, absolutely. 

But I don‘t think—I think 11 is too young.  Parents should be involved.  You can‘t give hormones to 11-year-old girls without their parents knowing it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, wait a minute.  This doesn‘t make sense.  I want to get your view clear here.

The parents have to approve it.  Well, if the parents know about the birth control pills being given to 11-year-olds, shouldn‘t they be the ones to pay for the pills and give them to the kids?  The only reason the school should be giving them, it seems to me, if there‘s any argument here, it‘s the kids don‘t want to confront their parents with a request for birth control pills. 

But you‘re saying, the parents get involved and then the school pays for the pills? 

SKINNER:  Well, you know...

MATTHEWS:  That doesn‘t make sense. 

SKINNER:  You know, I‘m just saying they have to have notification. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, wait a minute.


MATTHEWS:  Do you think the school should pay for birth control pills that parents authorize? 

SKINNER:  What I‘m saying is that, you know, you have to—you have to make sure kids have all the education and the contraceptives that they need. 

When you get into that age—and parents should have a say in what‘s happening with their children at that age.  I do think there is an age, 16, older, where—where some kids can‘t—their parents won‘t allow them access to that.  They‘re still going to have sex.  And then, we, as society, pay the price for that.  See, that‘s the thing.

MATTHEWS:  Your position is that 11-year-old kids, girls, should get birth control pills from the school, paid for by the school district, if their parents say yes?  That‘s your position. 

SKINNER:  That wasn‘t how it was presented to me.  This isn‘t about who is paying for birth control pills.  It‘s about the idea that we have a responsibility as a society for parents—families that aren‘t intact families, Chris, that don‘t have two parents, where one stays home and is able to talk to them about sex.  How do we take care of those kids who are having babies?  And we‘re paying for those babies and those kids are not going to live a normal life.  We as society pay the price.


WILLIAMS:  I took the time to look in to this, Chris.  And I found out that at the King Middle School last year, exactly 134 children availed themselves of health services.  Exactly five of those children admitted to being sexually active.  Aside from the fact that Maine state law requires their interaction with that health facility, including birth control pills, to be kept from the parents, I maintain that that nurse should be charged with criminal neglect.  All she needed to do to address that problem was pick up the phone and call social services.  I promise you, if an 11-year-old child is sexually active, there‘s a lot more going on inside that home that needs to be looked at. 

And if you want to protect that child, you don‘t hand them a birth control pill.  The larger picture is we are undermining the other 129 responsible families who have a handle on what their children are doing and other parents who are trying to raise their children.  We undermine them by appealing to the lowest common denominator.  Those families, those parents that drop stray puppies like wolves in the wild, and just set them loose in the streets.  We need to reinforce parents who act responsibly. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Mark, what do you make of the fact that there were like seven pregnancies in that school district of kids of this age.  What do you do about that?  Kids already pregnant? 

WILLIAMS:  That tells me that school nurse has a lot of calls to make to social services before she starts enabling more children to get involved with sex.  The problem is, nobody‘s attacking the problem.  Nobody looks at this and says, hey, kids are having sex, how do we stop this?  How do we prevent this?  How do we bring this under control.  Not air drop a bunch of pills on them. 

This removes the consequences.  Right now a child facing a choice to have sex has, on the one hand, mom may find out, I might get pregnant, might get an STD.  On the other hand we‘re taking away that consequence.  We‘ll make it easy; you want to have sex, go have sex.  Here‘s a pill. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you Nancy Skinner, what‘s too young to give a kid a pill for birth control?  What‘s too young?

SKINNER:  I think everyone is focused on this because it‘s a hot button.  I think certainly 11.  There‘s an argument now that birth control pills aren‘t great for women because of all the estrogen.  But the larger issue—I‘m going back to Mark‘s point here that you wait until after the fact and make some phone calls.  We have to realize there are 30 million people in poverty.  Everybody doesn‘t have the perfect family and we have to educate. 

Education is always good.  We‘ve proven that time and time again.  That‘s how you stop kids from having sex.  You educate them about the consequences, just like we educate them if you drink diet pop, you‘re going to get fat.  That is the solution here.

MATTHEWS:  What about issuing pills.  That‘s not educating.  That‘s issuing pills.  Do you think that‘s a good policy? 

SKINNER:  No, I think at a certain age, young girls, 16 years old, who know they‘re going to get sexually active, have to have some ability to make sure they don‘t get pregnant and also, more importantly, the STDS as well.  So we have to educate them about that.  That‘s always the solution, Chris. 

WILLIAMS:  How do you enable education by hiding this from the parents?  And when a child—when a girl gets to 16, her options just multiply.  You‘ve got your family planning clinic.  The boys, they can stop by any one of the half a dozen pharmacies and supermarkets they pass on the way to school and buy a box of condoms. 

MATTHEWS:  I think we have reached the point where the viewers can make up their minds on this baby.  Apparently, by the way, that school board up there decided seven to two to go along with the nurse and issue the pills without parental consent to kids 11 to 13.  So, Mark, you may have won the argument here.  But you didn‘t win it up in Maine. 

Thank you Mark Williams.  Thank you Nancy Skinner.  The round table is coming up next.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.



REP. PETE STARK (D), CALIFORNIA:  You don‘t have money to fund the war or children, but you‘re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president‘s amusement. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL from San Francisco.  Let‘s get right to our round table.  Carla Marinucci (ph )is with the “San Francisco Chronicle.  Ezra Klein is with the “American Prospect.”  And Matt Cooper is with “Conde Nast Portfolio.”  Matt, there you heard Pete Stark, who comes from the Bay Area out here.  His voice is a little sharper than those you hear on the House floor.  Why do you believe the Democratic party has been so muffled in its attempt to end this war? 

MATT COOPER, “CONDE NAST PORTFOLIO”:  I guess if you take them at their words, they don‘t have the votes to end the war.  So they‘re not going to schedule vote after vote after vote if they‘re going to keep losing.  I‘m not sure that‘s totally the wrong strategy.  The fact is they don‘t have the muscle to end it right now. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the voice?  It seems to me the experience of the Vietnam War and the experience of the Republican opposition under Newt Gingrich was if you don‘t have the chamber‘s control, you can at least use the microphones.  You can at least hold hearings.  In this case they have the power of subpoena.  They could hold hearings like Fulbright did in the Vietnam Era.  They could initiate perhaps a Pentagon papers. 

Instead they seem to take one defeat after another and sort of say, OK, we‘ll be quiet now. 

COOPER:  I think that‘s fair.  I think they could do more and certainly all these contracting scandals that you keep hearing about in the papers; they could do more with that.  They probably should. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s go to Ezra.  Your thoughts on how well the Democrats have voiced the opposition to the war that they got elected on. 

EZRA KLEIN, “THE AMERICAN PROSPECT”:  I would love to see them do a better job, but to some degree I agree with Matt.  I don‘t think there‘s a whole lot they can do actually substantively.  Today at the press conference Bush gave he said Democrats and I found common ground on Iraq.  To some degree he‘s right.  There‘s an agreement.  He won‘t leave and they won‘t make him. 

That‘s partially because they can‘t make him and partially because they look at the polling and it shows that the people don‘t want to see the funding cut off for the troops.  So they‘re not going to go there and lose what‘s at the moment a fairly tenuous majority. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you say to the voters if you‘re a Democrat?  What do you say if you had to explain it at a forum somewhere to people who voted Democrat last November to end the war?  How do you explain our system to them? 

KLEIN:  It‘s hard to run over the president on an issue like war.  It‘s hard when you can‘t—today the Democrats couldn‘t pass health care for children.  They couldn‘t over ride a presidential veto to expand health care to 10 million children at a cost of 35 billion over ten years.  If they can‘t do that, how can they overcome the Republicans on what the Republicans see as a more popular issue for them and one that‘s much, much dearer to their hearts than depriving children of health care. 

MATTHEWS:  I have to ask Matt about this interesting debate we just had.  Did you catch this debate over Maine and having birth control pills issued by schools to middle school kids?  I don‘t know how old your kids are, but they‘re 11 years old and they‘re getting birth control pills issued with the approval now of the school board to kids the age that you join the Girl Scouts.  I mean, I‘m serious, 11 years old.  What do we make of this?  Is this just political correctness gone wild?  What is it? 

COOPER:  You can either get the thin mints or the estrogen.  Look, I have a nine-year-old boy.  The idea of him picking up condoms at school in a couple of years seems bizarre to me.  But, you know, look, it‘s the beauty of federalism and it‘s local control of these school boards.  If they didn‘t like this vote up in Portland, Maine, they‘re free to vote the school board out. 

MATTHEWS:  Fair enough, I guess.  Ezra, I guess that‘s the laboratory of the states theory, the old Neil whatever his name is theory—Neil Lewis.  Is that what we get up here, just another interesting experiment in local government? 

KLEIN:  I think this is being blown out of proportion.  Number one, I think 11 is catching a lot of attention.  But it‘s 11 to 13.  It‘s a middle school.  Number two, kids, boys have been able to get condoms at that health center since 2000.  It‘s only when we move to women—or to girls that suddenly everyone gets really, really upset. 

MATTHEWS:  No, I want to ask you this: do you think school districts should pay for birth control pills for kids 11 years old, just issue them like that without the parents or doctors or anybody, just issue birth control pills? 

KLEIN:  I have trouble believing that at this point the parents who have to sign the slip to let their kids use this health service system don‘t know that their kids can get birth control within it.  I don‘t think this is so much without the parents‘ knowledge.  But once you‘re in, you have patient/doctor confidentiality once you‘re in the system.  That seems like something we want to think a little bit harder about before we dismantle. 

For the kids who have a good relationship with their parents, this doesn‘t affect them. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re all for it?  You think this is a healthy thing to have school boards issue birth control to 11-year-olds?  That‘s the issue here, without parental consent or knowledge? 

KLEIN:  I think it has parental knowledge at this point. 

MATTHEWS:  No, they don‘t have to sign to get the pills or anything like that.

KLEIN:  But they have to sign to get into the system where they get it.  There‘s nobody in Maine who doesn‘t know. 

MATTHEWS:  No, to get their teeth checked and get their shots, perhaps, and checked for basic health.  But they don‘t know—this whole thing about sexual behavior and pills is totally secret at this point, according to the school board‘s decision. 

KLEIN:  Sure, I don‘t want 11-year-olds having sex and going and getting pills.  But I wouldn‘t say I think it should be denied to 13-year-olds and kids at that school because of it. 

MATTHEWS:  You think they should issue the pills? 

KLEIN:  Sure. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  I like direct thinking here.  We‘ll be right back with the round table.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the round table.  We‘re back with Ezra Klein of “The America Prospect,” Matt Cooper of “Conde Nast Portfolio,” and Carla Marinucchi with the “San Francisco Chronicle.” 

Let me start with Matt.  It seems to me that we thought—at least a lot of people hoped on the administration side that the whole CIA leak case would die with the commuting of the sentence of Scooter Libby, the vice president‘s chief of staff, who had pled not guilty, but had been convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice, but had refused to testify in the trial.  Then the president commuted his criminal conviction—that that would put the thing out of the table. 

Now Valerie Wilson, Valerie Plame, is coming out with her book on Monday, and she‘s making all kinds of claims.  Is this going to rip the scab off the Scooter Libby case? 

COOPER:  Well, she‘ll get a big pop out of it, Chris.  She was kind of the Greta Garbo of this for the whole time.  Everyone is talking about her and she didn‘t speak.  And, you know, we‘ll see what she has to say.  But I don‘t think it will become a big political debate again. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Carla Marinucci because it seems to me the administration benefited.  We don‘t have Carla.  Let me go to Ezra.  It seems to me the administration benefited from the president‘s relatively swift move in commuting this sentence.  It sort of erased the—at least the apparent criminality of the behavior by the vice president‘s chief of staff.  Is this going to bring it back up again, the criminality? 

KLEIN:  I think it will bring it up a bit.  I think there will be somewhat less determination behind it.  There‘s nothing that can be done to these guys anymore.  They‘re so close to the end of the term, the 2008 election is so near, I think the energy had a lot to do with blunting the damage it could do.  Now that they‘re on their way out anyway, I think there will be somewhat less effort put into that and more into things like S-CHIP, ending the Iraq war, trying to win the 2008 election. 

I think with Bush it‘s a factor of Bush becoming a lame duck, yesterday‘s new. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think the president was so successful in

avoiding any kind of personal responsibility in the leak case?  He said he

was going to deal with anybody who was found to have leaked and then we

discovered a number people like Rove and certainly Scooter himself, others

Armitage had leaked, if you will.  Yet, after they were discovered to have leaked, the president‘s basically only step was to commute his sentence.  That‘s all he did to take care of the matter. 

How does the president cleverly slip away from this and basically clear his VP as well as Scooter? 

KLEIN:  I think the president figured out that if they can‘t actually arrest you, if they can‘t get you on anything specific, that he can do whatever he wants.  I think this has been an extraordinary demonstration of the actual power of executive privilege in this country.  And it‘s actually worrying from a Democratic stand point, the degree to which he‘s been able to get away from it simply by using the powers of the office to shut down the investigation. 

He dealt with them.  He commuted the sentence.  There‘s nothing, as it turned out, that people could do to him.  It was really a remarkably—a remarkably scary thing, I thought. 

COOPER:  And let‘s not forget, Chris, it could have gone a different way.  Karl Rove went back to that Grand Jury five times.  I think we know from Michael Isikoff‘s book and others that he was pretty close to charging Rove with a crime.  Had that happened, this would have been a nuclear event. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree very much.  Thank you very much Ezra Klein.  Thank you Matt Cooper.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”



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