updated 10/24/2007 2:17:19 PM ET 2007-10-24T18:17:19

Guest: Ed Rendell, Stephanie Miller, Kevin Miller, Tony Perkins, Stephen

Moore, Ed Rendell, Jennifer Senior, Howard Kurtz

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Will the last person out of Secaucus please turn out the lights?

What’s worse, taunting America’s dangerous enemies to “Bring it on” or saying Bush wants American soldiers to die for his amusement?

Let’s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I’m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  We’re from LA tonight.  Later, I’ll be on the HBO “Real Time With Bill Maher.”

The top story tonight: courting conservatives in the battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.  The GOP candidates will be fighting for the faithful at a values summit in Washington, but some Christian conservatives throw stones at Giuliani, Thompson, McCain and Romney.  So will Republicans unite and pick a candidate that can beat Hillary, or will millions of social conservatives simply sit this one out?

Our second story tonight: We’ll talk to the governor of Pennsylvania about Rudy, beating Rudy with his own road map.

Plus, Congressman Pete Stark’s remarks have Republicans raising hell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  But remember this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The American people are beginning to understand.  This—this—this—this—this crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while.

There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there.  My answer is, bring ‘em on.  We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.

States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Whose remarks are worse, Congressman Pete Stark’s or President Bush’s?  That’s our HARDBALL debate tonight.

But we begin tonight with HARDBALL’s David Shuster with this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  After months of frustration with Republican frontrunners, today a powerful group of religious and cultural conservatives began a crucial two-day summit meeting in Washington.  The first candidate to speak was John McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I’m a conservative Republican, and proud of it.  I’ll match my record of defending conservative principles against any other candidate in this race.

SHUSTER:  National polls suggest Rudy Giuliani is the GOP’s best chance in a general election against Hillary Clinton, but Giuliani is at odds with that Republican Party’s heart on gun control, gay rights and abortion.  And today McCain urged social conservatives to hold firm.

MCCAIN:  Wisdom suggests that we should be willing to give an unborn child the same chance that our parents gave us, but it takes courage in this political climate to insist on the protection of unborn children, who can’t vote, have no choice...

SHUSTER:  And in a shot at Mitt Romney, who used to be pro-choice, McCain added...

MCCAIN:  Need only examine my public record to know that I won’t change my position.

SHUSTER:  For his part, Mitt Romney is trying to convince social conservatives that his pro-life positions now will hold.  In excerpts released ahead of his speech tonight, Romney says, quote, “I am pro-family on every level, from personal to political.”  Romney also takes a shot at Giuliani, lumping him with the Democratic frontrunner.  Quote, “We’re not going to beat Hillary Clinton by acting like Hillary Clinton.”

Giuliani is not scheduled to speak to the “values voters” conference until tomorrow, but earlier this week, he declared...

RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, FMR NYC MAYOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Maybe one of the reasons that I’m doing as well as I am among that group of voters is I go to them and I’m honest with them and I tell them we don’t agree about everything.  They know the one or two areas in which we disagree.  Then I emphasize the areas where we do agree.  And then I ask them to make their own evaluation of that.

SHUSTER:  So far, the evaluations have been mixed.  Despite Giuliani’s national popularity in the polls on electability, many conservatives don’t trust him.  When asked about Giuliani’s pledge to name strict constructionist judges, Richard Land, one of the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, said, quote, “He also promised two previous wives that he would love, honor and cherish them until death do us part.”

Some conservatives have been holding out hope for Fred Thompson, who has Giuliani’s national name recognition and star appeal.  Today Thompson said that in the first hour of his presidency...

FRED THOMPSON (R-TN), FMR SENATOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I will go into the Oval Office and close the door and pray for the wisdom to know what was right, and I would pray for the strength to do what is right.

SHUSTER:  But last month, Thompson said he doesn’t regularly attend church.  Furthermore, he once lobbied for an abortion rights group.  And conservative leader James Dobson said last month Thompson, quote, “couldn’t talk his way out of a paper bag.”

All of this has left “values voters” frustrated.  Sam Brownback was one of the most conservative candidates in the race.  Today, having difficulty fund-raising, Brownback dropped out, though he said he’s certain the Republican Party will have a pro-life nominee, not Giuliani.

With Brownback gone, that may leave the conservative torch to former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist minister.  His popularity is surging in the first caucus state of Iowa, and Huckabee believes national Republican support for Giuliani is soft.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R-AR), FMR GOVERNOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I don’t think the party has changed.  I don’t think the party has really focused in on the candidates and the issues and where they stand.  As they do, I think that you’re going to see what you are seeing, and that is that my poll numbers continue to go up.  And despite being incredibly outspent by other people, nobody’s getting the kind of mileage that we are.

SHUSTER (on camera):  Huckabee will try to add fuel to his run in a speech to the “values voters” conference tomorrow.  Rudy Giuliani will also speak tomorrow as social conservatives contemplate how to sustain their values agenda while also being as competitive as possible in next year’s election.

I’m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.

Tony Perkins, of course, is the president of the Family Research Council.  He’s with us often.  And Stephen Moore is a “Wall Street Journal” editorial board member.  Thank you, gentlemen, for joining us.

Let me ask you, Tony, the question.  I always say to my wife that the enemy—that the perfect is the enemy of the good because a lot of people are perfectionists.  Are you on this issue of having the right candidate for the “values” questions?

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL:  No, Chris.  I think what’s happening is the process is continuing.  There are so many candidates in the race that have attractive qualities.  People are attracted to one or to the other.  And they’ve not yet made their decision.  I think after this weekend, we may see people gravitating toward two or three of those candidates and pushing them forward.

Having said that, though, I do think there’s a line which conservatives—pro-life conservatives are saying they will not cross, and that is the line of supporting a pro-abortion rights candidate.

MATTHEWS:  So you believe it’s a litmus test issue?  If you’re not for outlawing Roe v. Wade, outlawing—basically passing a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion in this country, you can’t support that fellow, that person.

PERKINS:  If someone is in support of the legalization of abortion through the support of Roe v. Wade, they would not have the support of pro-life conservatives, the vast majority of them.

MATTHEWS:  Steve Moore, what I’m impressed by is the fact that people that go to church once a week, regular church attenders, now support Giuliani—at least, a plurality support Giuliani.  How do we figure that one out, given what Tony said?

STEPHEN MOORE, “WALL STREET JOURNAL” EDITORIAL BOARD:  Well, I think there’s no question that the single biggest issue to a lot of conservative voters and even “values voters” is the war on terrorism and national security issues.  And that’s the one thing that Rudy really has going for him, especially when you stack him up against Hillary Clinton.

I think if it comes down to who is going to be the best commander-in-chief, a lot of conservatives like Rudy’s chances in that area.  Also, don’t forget, Chris, that Rudy has a very good fiscal conservative record.  When he was mayor of New York, he really turned that city around.  He cut taxes.  So he has a pretty good story to tell.

But the bottom line is, if people like Tony Perkins and other social conservatives will not support Rudy, should he win the nomination, there is almost no way that a Republican can win against Hillary.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Tony.  I mean, we’re not picking our favorite among the 12 Apostles here.  Each one of these candidates has an interesting fact about them that may cause trouble with evangelical voters like yourself.  For example, Thompson.  You know, he says, I don’t go to church very often.  Giuliani says, I don’t go to church very often.  What do you make of that?

PERKINS:  Well, as you said, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  We’re talking about people that go to church deciding who they like.  Do they only like people that join them in church?

PERKINS:  No, and it’s not—as you mentioned, we’re not trying to find the perfect candidate.  We’re simply trying to find the candidate that best lines up with our values.  And I would take issue with the fact that church-going folks support—a plurality of them support Giuliani.  If you look down in the polls, they actually do not know where he stands on the life issues.  They do admire, as I do, his strong stand on defense because that is a moral issue.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I’ve got a Gallup poll that points out that those people—that he’s leading among conservative Republicans, among people who attend church weekly, among Protestant Christians, among Catholics, among all the categories.

PERKINS:  But there was a Pew Research poll just a couple of weeks ago that showed that only a third of those folks that are supporting him actually know his stance on the key social issues like abortion.  You still have 70 percent of evangelical conservative voters uncommitted in this race.  You can’t win the presidency on 30 percent of the social conservative vote.

MOORE:  Tony is exactly right on that.  You know, I think if there were a “none of the above” candidate—there is still a lot of widespread dissatisfaction on the right with any of these candidates.  I hear from conservatives all the time saying, Where is the Ronald Reagan in this field?

Now, the crucial point is this, though.  If Republicans can hold together the Ronald Reagan coalition—and that is the social conservatives, the economic conservatives and the pro-national security voters—they will win.  They can beat Hillary.  But if that coalition cracks up, then there is almost no way that Republicans can win.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let’s get to the reality check here.  We have among the frontrunners, if you look at the national polling, let’s look at these gentlemen—Giuliani, Thompson, McCain and Romney.  Of those four, is anyone capable of saying, I’m pretty good in the Bible Belt, I’m pretty good among evangelicals?  You first, Tony.  Does any one of them look like they’re close to where they have to be?

PERKINS:  I think so.  And I think after this weekend, with the straw poll at the “values voters” summit, you’ll see two, maybe three of those emerge with folks beginning to coalesce around them.

But I think Stephen’s point is absolutely correct.  In order to win, the Republicans must bring together the three key elements of the conservative movement.  And what we’ve been doing in holding back is looking for a candidate who’s not only right on our issues but is also right on the fiscal issues and acceptable to our foreign policy conservatives, as well.

MATTHEWS:  Could a Mormon who is a practicing, believing Mormon, a faithful Mormon, pass muster with your standards, Tony?

PERKINS:  I think so.  I think when—it is an issue.  People are working their way through it.  First they had to work their way through his transition on the issues.  Was it genuine?  I personally believe it was genuine.  I believe that’s the position he holds.  I believe it’s the positions—those positions he will hold, you know, if he’s president.

MOORE:  Chris, I really think the reason that Romney isn’t doing better in the polls doesn’t have a lot to do with his Mormonism.  I think it’s just this issue of his authenticity on issues.  There’s just a lot of concern among conservatives that he takes one position one day on an issue and another on a different day.  And that’s something, especially in this day and age where people are kind of sick and tired of politicians.  They want somebody who holds firm.

Now, there’s one piece of good news in this whole story, though.  And that is the one person who can really reunify the Republican Party is the Democratic nominee because the one thing that all factions of the Republican Party agree on is that Hillary would be a disaster.  She could be the one person who glues this coalition back together.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about that, Tony.  If it’s October 15 and we’re watching the debates and they seem to be evenly matched, if it’s Hillary and a Republican, if it looks like this will be a close election in the polling, do you believe that people will stay at home and say, You know, I don’t want Hillary to be president, but I don’t want to put my fingerprints on one of these people I don’t agree with on some of these values issues becoming the next president?

PERKINS:  And it’s not just some value issue disagreement.  I think the only issue that is a deal breaker is the life or the marriage issue.  I think that is a line that many social conservatives are not willing to cross.

MATTHEWS:  Can you crack that—can you coalition that together?  Could you put a Giuliani together with a Thompson or with a Rick Perry and make that work, where it looks more like a pro-life ticket?

MOORE:  I don’t think so, Chris.  I think what you’ll see is a repeat of November 2006, where you had a depressed base among the Republicans because of the scandals.  And they did turn out to vote, but they did not have enthusiasm.  They did not draw the independent-leaning or the Republican-leaning independents to vote.  The left will be exercised.  They will draw the independents out, and I think it’s the ticket for Hillary Clinton to the White House.

MATTHEWS:  Let me suggest something to you, Steve.  You haven’t been on the show in a while, but Tony has.  Suppose something weird happens.  Suppose, in the effort of trying to find Christian perfection, religious values perfection...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I’m all for that.

MATTHEWS:  ... a lot of people pick Huckabee in Iowa.  He comes in first in Iowa, blowing away Romney and a couple of the others.  But you know, Giuliani and McCain come in fourth and fifth.  But it doesn’t hurt Giuliani because Huckabee’s one of them.  What it does is it blows away a Romney, allowing Giuliani to win in New Hampshire and going on to big state victory.  So the irony, in an effort to find religious perfection, it may well be that the “values voters” give it to Giuliani.

MOORE:  Well, I—here’s how I see this race unfolding.  I mean, you’ve really put your finger on the issue.  There’s no question the big frontrunner is Rudy Giuliani.  But there is going to be a moment in this race when voters on the conservative Republican side say they want to look at an alternative.  And the big question is, Who is that going to be?  And we don’t know right now.  Romney was looking like he was going to be the one.  You know, what they want to do is make it a one-on-one race between Giuliani and whoever the conservative is.

Now, you’re right.  Who knows, you might have a Huckabee that emerges as that person.  I happen to think right now John McCain is coming on.  I’m calling him the comeback kid.  And you know, actually, the interesting thing about John McCain that a lot of people don’t know about, his social conservative record is very strong.

MATTHEWS:  I know what you—you know, I figured out you two guys. 

Steve, you want it to be McCain or Giuliani, don’t you.

MOORE:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  And you, Tony...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I don’t care what you say, Tony, because you can’t take sides yet.  But you seem to be open to the idea of a President Romney.

PERKINS:  I do.  I mea, I...

MOORE:  I am, too.

PERKINS:  As I said, there’s only one line I will not cross and that is supporting a pro-abortion rights candidate.  I mean, I think there are some quality candidates here.  I think we’ll see in the days in the very near future some of these candidates beginning to emerge with social conservative support.  And they will succeed if it is someone who can bring together not only the fiscal conservatives, foreign policy conservatives but the social conservatives.  That is the recipe for success with Republicans.

MOORE:  If it’s Romney or McCain or Giuliani, I like Republicans’ chances in 2008 because I’ve always said the five most dangerous words in the English language are Hillary Clinton commander-in-chief.

MATTHEWS:  I think we’ll be hearing that word from you around October of next year.  By the way, gentlemen, I think we’re right on the San Andreas fault of American culture and politics tonight.  I’m glad we were talking about this.  Thank you both for coming here.  This is the issue that may decide the whole thing.  Thank you, Tony Perkins, as always.

PERKINS:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Stephen More, for joining us.

MOORE:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Let’s look at a poll from Pennsylvania.  Rudy Giuliani trails Hillary Clinton in that big Northeastern state, but it’s very, very tight.  If Rudy’s the nominee, can he win the White House by winning states in the Northeast like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, states that George Bush could never have won?  Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell’s coming up next for the “stop Rudy strategy,” should it be needed.

You’re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI:  The difference between me and the Democratic candidates is I’ve actually run something.  I mean, they’ve never run anything.  Did you ever think about that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  If Rudy Giuliani does get the Republican nomination, could his Gotham grit win over urban and suburban voters in the Northeast, states like New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania?  Would he force Democrats to fight on their own turf?

Ed Rendell is in his second term as governor of Pennsylvania.  He was also once chairman of the Democratic National Committee.  Governor Rendell, I see you as probably the perfect person to talk to tonight about the Rudy threat to the Democrats.  How could the Democrats meet it, if he were the nominee?

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  Well, first of all, he would certainly be a difficult candidate in Pennsylvania, the most difficult. 

But I think, in his effort to obtain the nomination, Chris, Mayor Giuliani has made some fatal mistakes, first and foremost, going down the line with President Bush on Iraq. 

For our voters, Democratic voters, independent voters in Pennsylvania, that’s going to be the number-one issue.  And Rudy Giuliani is lockstep and barrel with President Bush.  I think that’s fatal flaw number one. 

Fatal flaw number two, unlike Arlen Specter and many other progressive and moderate Republicans, Rudy Giuliani stayed with President Bush on SCHIP, said the president was right to veto SCHIP.  That’s an opinion shared by very few Democrats or independents or moderate Republicans in the Philadelphia suburbs. 

And, number three, by pronouncing himself ready to appoint strict constructionalist judges, that was a code message which moderate Republicans and independents who care about a woman’s right to choose are going to interpret real clearly once it’s laid out for them. 

So, I think he has, essentially, in trying to win the nomination, made three mistakes that I think make it almost impossible for him to carry Pennsylvania, not just against Hillary Clinton, but against any leading Democrat. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that’s pretty shrewd.  In other words, you say he has bartered away...

RENDELL:  Bartered away.

MATTHEWS:  ... his general election votes for his primary votes. 

RENDELL:  If he had said, look, we made a mistake in Iraq, we have got to engage the world community, we have got to do better than the present administration, if he had come out with Arlen Specter and Orrin Hatch and Senator Grassley and said, SCHIP should be funded fully, so every child can get in it, if he had done those things, and if he had stuck by his belief that a woman has a right to choose, and say that that belief would be reflected in an appointment of balanced judges, then I think he could have had an excellent had chance of carrying Pennsylvania against any Democrat. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me turn this over.

RENDELL:  But I think he’s off the reservation. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me turn it over to...

RENDELL:  I’m ready to go. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, let’s turn it over to the—you know the candidates have a way of focusing on the issues they want to focus on and off the ones they don’t want to focus on. 

Rudy focuses on crime in Philadelphia. He focuses on the murder rates in the big cities like Baltimore and Philly.  He focuses on terrorism.  He talks to the Jewish community in ways that Republicans aren’t often able to do it.  He focuses on them, as an ethnic guy from a big city.  What are his strengths?  Can you admit them or not? 

RENDELL:  Oh, no, he—he—there are still some very attractive things about Rudy Giuliani.  There’s no question about it. 

But I think he’s going to face an electorate here where, just as your previous guest said, the evangelicals are going to be dispirited, and maybe not come out to vote at all, and the Democrat and independent and Democrat-leaning voters are going to be really fired up because of Iraq. 

Now, of course, Rudy Giuliani has strengths.  But so does John McCain.  I think John McCain, arguably more conservative than Rudy Giuliani on a number of things, I think John McCain runs fairly well in Pennsylvania, too. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

RENDELL:  I just think that these Republicans—and Mitt Romney would have been a great candidate, based on his record as governor of Massachusetts in Pennsylvania.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but he ain’t that guy anymore. 

RENDELL:  He ain’t that guy anymore. 

(LAUGHTER)

RENDELL:  He’s gone. 

(LAUGHTER)

RENDELL:  I mean, I would advise Mitt—and he’s a friend of mine—don’t spend a day in Pennsylvania.  Go somewhere else.  Go somewhere else. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you.  I know you were governors together. 

Let me ask you a closer-to-home question.

RENDELL:  I like him very much. 

MATTHEWS:  The way I hear that the rumblings—not the rumblings, maybe just the smell or the scent coming out of the Hillary campaign is, they’re focusing on the Midwest, those softer states like Iowa, Minnesota, states that could go either way.  And she might pick somebody like, you know, Birch Bayh’s kid out there...

RENDELL:  Evan Bayh.

MATTHEWS:  ... Evan Bayh.  She might pick somebody like Strickland or Vilsack or something.

RENDELL:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  But isn’t her greater opportunity or need to defend her situation—if she’s up against Rudy, doesn’t she have to defend New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio?  Doesn’t she have to have an East Coast strategy to put her strength up? 

RENDELL:  I would have said so, again, pre-the Giuliani conversion. 

Everyone is focusing on the Romney conversion. 

Mayor Giuliani is a pretty much solid, rock-ribbed Republican on most issues.  And I think he’s blown his chances to be competitive in the Northeast.  I really do.

I mean, I can’t wait to campaign and tell the Philadelphia suburbs that this is a guy who agrees with President Bush’s Iraq strategy...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

RENDELL:  ... that this is a guy who agrees with President Bush’s veto of SCHIP.  This is a guy who will appoint strict constructionalist judges, like Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia?  I mean, let me at him.  I’m ready to go. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, speaking of at that, let me at him, I have been urging in my own brain the idea of you for her running mate, because...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  No, I think she needs a big, beefy, ruddy, regular guy, you know, a Brian Dennehy sort.

RENDELL:  Brian Dennehy.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  A real regular guy.  She doesn’t need some sort of skinny guy from the Midwest.  She needs a real guy, you know?

You ready? 

RENDELL:  Well, I—I think I qualify on the big and beefy side. 

(LAUGHTER)

RENDELL:  But, no, I think Hillary—I would actually add one name to the mix, although he’s probably now running for Senate.  I would love to see Hillary run with Mark Warner, one of the brightest...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, that would be great.

RENDELL:  ... people in the world.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

RENDELL:  And Mark Warner would, I think, make Virginia a blue state. 

MATTHEWS:  Could do.  I agree with you.  Northern Virginia is definitely in that—it’s very much...

RENDELL:  Virginia is...

(CROSSTALK)

RENDELL:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... like the suburbs of Philly, very much like that. 

Interesting, always, talking politics with Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, a blue state that he says will remain so. 

Up next:  Hillary Clinton wants you to eat your carrots.  The hot political headlines are coming up next. 

You’re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL with some political news. 

Here’s what Hillary just said about—here it comes—overeating—quote—“People now eat all day long.  People walk down the street.  They eat in their cars.  They eat everywhere.  I think we can use some carrots and maybe a few sticks to help people understand what they are doing to themselves.”

So, eat your carrots, America. 

“The Los Angeles Times” reports today that Hillary has raised unprecedented amounts of money from poor Chinatown residents—quote—

“Dishwashers, waiters and others whose jobs and dilapidated home addresses

seem to make them unpromising targets for political fund-raisers are

pouring $1,000 and $2,000 contributions into Clinton’s campaign treasury” -

quote.

The report goes on to say that many of the donors, some of whom don’t even vote, felt pressured to give because leaders in neighborhood associations told them to. 

Well, while she shovels in money in one door, she shovels out the federal money in another.  Republicans in Congress have just succeeded in killing an earmark proposed by Senator Clinton and New York’s Chuck Schumer.  It would have provided $1 million for a Woodstock museum in Upstate New York. 

Arizona Senator Jon Kyl said—quote—“With all the pressing needs facing our country today, from entitlement reform to children’s health care to the war in Iraq, the idea that the federal government should fund a museum that celebrates a 38-year-old concert is simply absurd.”

And Mississippi’s Trent Lott added—quote—“They had a hippie fest there.  And it just seems like a highly questionable place to be putting a million bucks, especially taxpayer dollars.”

well, I say Woodstock nation shouldn’t be asking for pig’s money. 

Despite his Carolina roots, John Edwards is having a tough time in South Carolina, even though he won that primary in 2004.  He’s now trailing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama down there. 

An American Research Group poll shows him down from—catch this—he was 30 percent in May.  Now Edwards is down to 7 percent in South Carolina today. 

Anyway, “TIME” magazine reports that voters don’t see Edwards as one of them anymore.  One voter who actually does support Edwards told the magazine—quote—“He’s in a whole other league than me.”  Taking a jab at Edwards’ penchant for expensive haircuts, he pointed to his own hair and added, “This one is eight bucks.”

Remember Rush Limbaugh’s “phony soldiers” comment?  In the wake of

that fight, Democratic senators sent a letter to the head of Clear Channel

that’s the boss there—criticizing Limbaugh. 

Rush then took that letter and put it up on eBay, where today it sold for $2.1 million.  The money goes to a charity that provides aid to the children of fallen soldiers. 

Finally, I wrote a piece today in “The Boston Globe” about something I observed during our last presidential debate out in Michigan—quote—

“What grabbed me was how differently they all behaved when the lights dimmed for CNBC and MSNBC during the commercials.  They actually looked like they had come to enjoy one another’s company.”

It’s true.  It’s true. 

Up next, tough talk on the House floor by Democratic Congressman Pete Stark has Republicans crying foul. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Is that comment worse than when President Bush said—quote—“Bring ‘em on?”

That’s our HARDBALL debate—next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I am Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

A wave of worry about U.S. growth infecting the financial markets today, causing a sell-off on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average off 366 points, losing almost 4 percent of value on the day.  The S&P 500 fell 39 points, the Nasdaq down 74 points, more than 2 percent of its value. 

Ironically, the sell-off came on the 20th anniversary of the Black Monday crash, when the Dow plunged 508 points.  Back then, that accounted for a 23 percent drop.  Today’s drop in the Dow was 4 percent. 

It came amid a perfect storm of lackluster corporate earnings, credit concerns, and surging oil prices.  On the day, the Dow is down more than 2 percent, 4 percent on the week.  Crude oil trading at a record high of $90 a barrel today, before closing at $88.60 a barrel, down 87 cents for the day. 

Amid the corporate news hurting stocks, Caterpillar lowered its earnings estimates for the year and issued a weak 2008 outlook, citing weak U.S. growth. 

And Wachovia reported, its earnings dropped 10 percent, largely because of bad loans. 

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

HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STARK:  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. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was U.S. Congressman Pete Stark of California.  And those comments kicked off a flood of Republican criticism, including from House Minority Leader John Boehner, who said Stark should apologize. 

So, we wanted to compare Stark’s words with some well-known and controversial lines spoken by President Bush. 

Let’s take a listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there.  My answer is, bring ‘em on.  We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Or this from the 2002 State of the Union. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2002)

BUSH:  States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Or this reference to the war on terror which enraged many Muslims. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  And the American people are beginning to understand.  Now, this

this—this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And, so, HARDBALL debate tonight unfolds.  Whose comments are worse? 

Stephanie Miller is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host.  And Kevin Miller is also a radio talk show host. 

Stephanie, make your case.  President Bush’s remarks, you say, are worse than those of the congressman?

STEPHANIE MILLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Chris, first of all, who died from Mr. Stark’s comments?  Anybody?  How many people died from a president saying, bring it on?  They brought it on, didn’t they? 

How about when he made the joke about he couldn’t find any weapons of mass destruction under his desk? 

I know people that have lost loved ones in Iraq looking for his fictional weapons of mass destruction.  They didn’t find it funny. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to you.

What do you think of that, my friend? 

(LAUGHTER)

Well, Chris, I will say this. 

KEVIN MILLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, Chris, I will say this.  I think the president’s comments were great.  The nation rallied behind them. 

And this congressman, somebody should be responsible.  Whether it’s Nancy Pelosi or any other Democrat, should pass a resolution censuring Congressman Stark.  These were irresponsible comments, at a time of war, really aiding and abetting the enemies of the United States.  He should be ashamed of himself. 

MATTHEWS:  Stephanie. 

S. MILLER:  Oh, Chris, please. 

You know what?  I have gone on record.  I have said, “for his amusement,” I agreed with everything he said right up to that.  He went over the line on saying “for his amusement.”

But I have got to tell you, 98 percent of the callers to my show this morning were saying, you go, Mr. Stark. 

This is what people are saying privately, Chris.  People are angry in this country that we absolutely are going to spend a trillion dollars of taxpayer money in Iraq, and we can’t help poor kids in our own country?  People are angry.  And I tell you, what they’re saying privately is a lot worse than what Congressman Stark said publicly. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you—let me ask you about this question of whether this  is really bad.  What do you think that Stark should say, Steve? 

I mean Kevin.  I’m sorry. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Kevin.

K. MILLER:  No problem.  No problem, Chris. 

I think, if he has some problems, why doesn’t he address these privately with the Democratic leadership?  Look, we had this great election, where the Democrats were supposed to have the will of the people to end the war.  They have been inept, Congress at an all-time ratings low.  People don’t believe the Democrats.  They don’t believe the Republicans. 

And this just adds to the futility. 

You know, at KDK in Pittsburgh, we have a lot of people that support the president and say, look, the situation isn’t perfect, but, by gosh, let’s not—let’s not air our dirty laundry in public.  If we have got a problem, let’s deal with it privately, not embarrass the president.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of the comments where the president taunted the enemy and said, bring ‘em on?  Do you think that was good for the soldiers, to have our enemy sort of have their cage rattled by the president of the United States, or calling the enemy the evil ones, and the whole works of calling them crusaders, our people crusaders?

Do you think that stirred up some Islamic hatred against the United States, or not? 

K. MILLER:  Is that to me, Chris? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, Kevin. 

K. MILLER:  You know something; I’ve been to Iraq.  I’ve been to Ballad.  The story isn’t getting out.  You know something, they hate us, so why not bring it on? 

MATTHEWS:  Who is they? 

K. MILLER:  Al Qaeda, the people that are attacking us, the Iranians. 

Look, the situation here, Chris, is people don’t like us.  You have crazy Mahmoud in Iran saying that he’s going to blow us up one minute and the next.  Then you’ve got the people in North Korea.  You’ve got the Syrians talking out of both sides of their mouth.

MATTHEWS:  There’s a billion Islamic people.  What percentage of them do you think hate is? 

K. MILLER:  We’re talking about the situation—we’re talking about the enemies. 

MATTHEWS:  You say they.  I love it when people say they.  What do you mean?  Who hates us? 

K. MILLER:  The people that are attacking us. 

MATTHEWS:  We know that.  But what community are they coming from?  I mean, not everybody that hates you is shooting at you.  Who are the people that hate us? 

K. MILLER:  All you have to do is look at the papers, look at the press releases, look at the people in Iran, the leadership in Iran, the mullahs; they’ve hated us for years. 

MATTHEWS:  What percentage of the Islamic world hates us do you think? 

K. MILLER:  I don’t know. 

MATTHEWS:  You’re saying they.  You ought to know.  Do you think it’s gone up or down in the last five, seven years? 

K. MILLER:  I think obviously it’s gone up, because instead of being what we were with Clinton, which was a push over, we’ve decided to stick up for ourselves and have the Bush doctrine, and pretty much say, we’re calling you out; let’s bring it out.  I think the American people like that in the president. 

MATTHEWS:  Calling you out? 

S. MILLER:  Seventy five percent of the American people say no, Kevin. 

But, you know, I mean, come on, look at the polls.  He’s at 24 percent approval rating.  Chris, what do you think could have caused them to hate us?  I don’t know, maybe bombing a Muslim country that was no threat to us that had no weapons of mass destruction, and then taunting them with bring it on?  Do you think that has anything to do with it? 

That would be horrible to have Bill Clinton’s peace and prosperity and the surplus back, wouldn’t it? 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you—let’s go back to Stephanie.  You said a minute ago you think Pete shouldn’t do anything about this comment that he wants soldiers to die for his amusement.  What would you do—what would you tell Pete Stark to do in this?  Should he apologize to the president or not? 

S. MILLER:  No, when the president apologizes for taking us to war on faulty intelligence and lies and for the amount of people that got killed because of that, then Congressman Stark should apologize.  Absolutely what he says went over the line and it gives you guys, the Republicans, an issue, and other right wing tools like you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Like—I’m a right wing tool? 

K. MILLER:  Wow. 

S. MILLER:  You must be doing your job because I heard someone on Fox call you a liberal yesterday.  So I guess you must be doing your job.  To me it fills the news cycles with this instead of Iraq.  Right?  Which is the real issue.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, didn’t we invite you on to talk about this? 

S. MILLER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Why did you come on if you don’t want to talk about it? 

S. MILLER:  I do want to talk about this.  My point is that this has become the issue now, Congressman Stark, not—

MATTHEWS:  Look, Stephanie, if you don’t want to talk about something, it’s a free country.  But don’t come on and say you don’t want to talk about what you’re talking about.  It’s contradictory. 

S. MILLER:  No, I said the point is that—

MATTHEWS:  I’m a right wing tool.  That adds to the cacophony. 

S. MILLER:  I was kidding. 

MATTHEWS:  I can’t tell you.  You seemed so serious.  Are you serious? 

S. MILLER:  I was kidding.  My point is that I think the issue he was trying to make is very valid, that because we are spending so much money in Iraq, we don’t have money for poor kids in America.  So what happens is then they hand the Republicans and the media an issue.  And now this is the issue is what Pete Stark said. 

MATTHEWS:  You’re not the only one that calls me a right wing tool. 

By the way, Media Matters does it every day of the week. 

S. MILLER:  I know. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Kevin, what do you think should come about of this whole thing?  Should Pete Stark apologize to the president?  That’s the one he insulted.

K. MILLER:  Chris, I want you and everyone else to ask fellow Democrats if they would support a Congressional censure—

MATTHEWS:  Censure? 

K. MILLER:  Yes, censure, why not, condemning his acts.  Do they approve of it?  Censure him. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean like for having sex with an underage page, that kind of thing?  This is on that level? 

K. MILLER:  Yes, it is.  At a time of war, certainly it is.  Chris, the idea that people care about Iraq and they want Congress to do it—yes, that’s why the Democrat are at 11 percent.  The president may be at 24 percent but Congress is at an all time low.  Nobody trusts the Democrats.  We’re on an even plane.  

MATTHEWS:  I thought that people don’t like the Democrats because the Republicans don’t like Democrats and the Democrat voters are upset with the Democrats for not ending the war. 

K. MILLER:  Well, if that’s the case, then how come—

MATTHEWS:  What possible calculation could you make except for that? 

K. MILLER:  Wait a minute, Chris.  If that’s the case, why can’t they override a veto?  Why can’t they override a veto?

MATTHEWS:  Because they don’t have enough votes. 

K. MILLER:  If that’s the will of the American people, let’s hear from the American people.  It’s not the will of the American people.  They’re not backing the Democrats. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it takes two-thirds plus one to override a veto. 

K. MILLER:  Right -- 

MATTHEWS:  Democrats don’t control two-thirds of the Congress. 

K. MILLER:  Right, as Stephanie said, 74 percent of Americans are against this war.  They’ve got to  --

MATTHEWS:  This is a little Friday crazy here.  Last thought, Stephanie, I want to offer you that on behalf of the right wing. 

S. MILLER:  You want to what? 

MATTHEWS:  Offer you the last word on behalf of the right wing. 

S. MILLER:  Thank you.  You know, I think that the numbers show themselves, Chris; 75 percent of the American people are against this war, against this president, and absolutely feel the same way Congressman Stark did.  There’s a lot of high emotion out there, particularly yesterday over all of this.  Did he choose his words wisely, no.  But, you know, I’d like to see a little more passion from our Congressmen more often like that, wouldn’t you? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but I don’t like his words either.  I agree with all of you, I think his words were wrong.  I disagree with the president on some of these policies, in fact going into Iraq in the first place, and questioned the whole thing.  But I don’t think he’s ever wanted to hurt an American in his life.  I don’t think he’s an evil guy or anything. 

Anyway, thank you, Stephanie Miller.  Thank you, Kevin Miller. 

Up next, who’s the right candidate for the Christian right?  Will they be forced to go with Rudy just to keep Hillary from winning?  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  In our Round table, Chuck Todd is NBC’s political director.  Howard Kurtz is the author of the new book “Reality Show, Inside the Last Great Television News War,” and Jennifer Senior is with “New York Magazine.” 

Let’s go to chuck.  Who’s the next to drop out of the race?  Let’s talk about on the Republican side.  We lost Brownback.  Who do you think is the likely next fallout? 

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  What’s your line?  We have basically three tiers of candidates.  We have the definite sort of first tier of Romney and Giuliani and McCain—excuse me, Romney, Giuliani and Thompson.  Then you have McCain and Huckabee, who both are doing well in the polls but don’t have a lot of resources.  Then you have these other guys, Tancredo and Hunter.  I guess how long are they going to get the free air time. 

I think that’s where you’ve got to ask yourself is how long can those guys keep doing this and not showing progress. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you hear word, Howie, that there may be an effort by the networks—I haven’t heard it—to try to narrow this field so the voters can focus on the real front runners. 

HOWARD KURTZ, AUTHOR, “REALITY SHOW”:  That’s already happening.  You look at the TV coverage; when was the last time you saw Tom Tancredo or Duncan Hunter on the network evening news?  On the Democrat side, it’s Hillary, Hillary, Hillary, a little Obama.  On the Republican side, it’s Rudy, Romney.  Thompson obviously got a lot of attention when he came out.

I think the first in the Republican side to drop out is Stephen Colbert.  I’m not sure he’s going to make it all the way to South Carolina. 

MATTHEWS:  But he’s making it probably to a best seller.  Let me go to Jennifer, what do you hear?  I guess there’s people like Duncan Hunter and Tancredo and Ron Paul; they’re going to have a hard time getting into the winner’s circle here. 

JENNIFER SENIOR, “NEW YORK MAGAZINE”:  They’re free loaders.  This is wonderful for their careers in some other way, I’m sure.  It’s terrific.  But at some point somebody is going to see that they’re of marginal value in this particular discussion, I think. 

MATTHEWS:  Chuck, have you heard anything about trying to set up real debates among the real front runners of the Democrat side, maybe going as far down as Richardson, but trying to get a corral of three or four, even two, so that the American people can focus on the real choices coming up in Iowa and New Hampshire. 

TODD:  Can I plead the fifth on this one, Chris?  I feel like you’re putting me in a position of talking about this stuff on the air.  Look, I think there’s always a desire to try to have as many of the more reasonable likely nominees in a smaller setting with—so that you can have a real debate between these folks.  I’ve talked to a lot of the campaigns who say to me—and they say to me on background, hey, they’d love if the field were just four or five candidates. 

MATTHEWS:  Would Hillary really like it narrowed. 

TODD:  This is the front runners that say it.  When you start saying, OK, fine, we’ll do it.  Will you back us up?  They won’t back us.  You know, it’s a game and none of them really want to see the field narrowed. 

KURTZ:  The problem, Chris, is that none of the networks have the nerve to do it.  Obviously, to put the three or four top tier candidates on a stage, limited to somebody who might plausibly occupy the Oval Office would be a great service to the American people, but they would take a lot of heat for who they decide to exclude, and network executives are scared of doing that. 

KURTZ:  Wait until the Ron Paul people shut down your e-mail server. 

MATTHEWS:  Howie, you know the law here.  There’s no fairness doctrine, equal time requirement that stops them from doing it.  Right?

KURTZ:  Absolutely not.  It’s just simply a fear of the backlash and there would be a considerable backlash. 

MATTHEWS:  Jennifer, would it be good for the country?  How about a value judgment from you, dear?  Would it be good for the country to narrow this field so we could actually get our eyes focussed on the three or four people who have a good shot.

SENIOR:  I just actually called them free loaders on television, about which I feel slightly bad.  But at the same time, I think one has to wonder at a certain point whether this is a constructive way to keep defusing the conversation. 

MATTHEWS:  I’ll tell you, Rudy Giuliani wants to bring Ron Paul into every debate for the rest of his life, because he does this alley-oop play.  Every time Ron Paul gives the Libertarian, anti-neo-conservative argument, Rudy says what about 9/11 and gets the home run again.  We’ll be right back with the round table.  You’re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We’re here with the round table, back on Friday night, crazy Friday night.  Here’s what Hillary Clinton said just today over the question of over-eating in America; quote, “people now eat all day long.  People walk down the street.  They eat in their cars.  They eat everywhere.  I think we could use some carrots and maybe a few sticks to help people understand what they’re doing to themselves.”

Howie Kurtz, an interesting commentary by Hillary Clinton.  What do you make of it?

KURTZ:  Chris, in my book “Reality Show” I talk about how much more air time Hillary Clinton gets than almost any other candidate.  There’s this fascination with her because she’s a Clinton and she’s a former first lady and all of that.  I don’t know that it’s in her interest to be seen as some sort of national nanny, telling us what to eat, particularly when her husband was famous for going to McDonald’s when he was president. 

I have funny feeling that that may make it’s way into some RNC attack e-mails. 

MATTHEWS:  Stephanie?  I mean, Jennifer. 

SENIOR:  I was going to say, of course, her husband right now has made childhood obesity a big issue.  I was hearing that, and feeling slightly as if she might have been a ventriloquized (sic) a bit.  Or the other thing I was thinking is that it’s a lot like her husband’s pension for tiny issues like school uniforms and things. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Chuck, I think she has case here, but she better be careful politically, because people are overweight.  Most people are.  But when I was growing up, you go to the beach all day and at night you go up to the boardwalk at Ocean City, New Jersey.  Now people go to the boardwalk at noon.  They go for the funnel cake and the pizza and they start eating around noon and eat all day, right into the night. 

There’s no more sweatshirt shops on the boardwalk.  There’s no more clothing shops or knick-knacks.  It’s all food. 

TODD:  I tell you though, these nanny issues, at some point there’s going to be a public outcry to say, stop.  Smoking; can you smoke in public now, can you—they’ve banned them in restaurants.  You do wonder how far our politicians are going to go with these outlaws, with these bans, whether it’s we’re going to start with the trans fat, banning trans fat?  Are we going to start seeing carbohydrate taxes or whatever like that? 

So I do think that the candidates are walking a fine line here on the nanny issue. 

SENIOR:  I don’t think she’s going to try to legislate this.  It’s not like she’s going to go from universal health care to carrots. 

KURTZ:  But it goes beyond legislating.  When people make decision about president, they make decision about who they want coming into their living rooms for four years.  You don’t—I agree, it would great if everybody ate a healthy diet.  You don’t would be to be perceived as somebody who is going to be lecturing folks. 

MATTHEWS:  I’m with you, Howie.  I think a lot of people pick a president they figure would sort of like them if they knew them.  And if you are overweight or have a problem with your diet—and I certainly did for years—you may figure Hillary doesn’t like people like me.  She’s looking down on me.  What do you think?  Howie, she’s looking down on me, that woman.  She thinks she’s better than me. 

KURTZ:  I think if anybody is going to win the obesity vote, it’s going to be Mike Huckabee, who lost, what, 100 pounds and went on this crash diet.  That should be his issue.  Hillary is stealing his issue.

MATTHEWS:  The zeal of the convert.  My last question to you, Chuck, suppose this happens what I talked about earlier on this show; Huckabee wins in Iowa, knocks off Romney.  That gives Rudy a clear shot.  It gets McCain back in the game, because it knocks down Romney.  Right?

TODD:  If Huckabee wins Iowa, that’s a big deal.  That’s a big deal. 

So you all of a sudden have to deal Huckabee into this game.  So I wouldn’t

I think if—this thing is some combination of Rudy, Romney and some wild card.  Is it Thompson, Huckabee, or is it McCain?  I think we’re trying to figure out which one of those three are going to be the wild card. 

MATTHEWS:  Have nice weekend everybody, Chuck, Howard and Jeniffer. 

Right now it’s time for “TUCKER.”

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