updated 12/12/2007 4:36:38 PM ET 2007-12-12T21:36:38

Guests: Shelby Steele, Michael Eric Dyson, Melinda Henneberger, Margaret Carlson, Ryan Lizza, Chris Cillizza, Margaret Brennan, Maureen Faulkner

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  A “Newsweek” poll just out tonight shows that Hillary and Obama are locked in a deadlock out in Iowa, as Huckabee leaps to commanding lead over Romney in Iowa.  Rock your socks.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Breaking news, I said.  A “Newsweek” poll just out tonight shows Mike Huckabee is stampeding ahead of Mitt Romney out in Iowa and also ahead of all the other challengers out in that caucus state.  The numbers say it all—catch these numbers—Huckabee leading the field right now, tonight, Friday night, at 39 percent.  That‘s a big number out there in a wide field.  Romney is down to 17 -- 39 to 17, 22-point spread.

Now, look at this.  Two months ago, Romney led the pack with 25 percent.  Romney was on top with 25.  Romney‘s down to the teens.  Huckabee was down at 6 two months ago.  Look where he is right now, 22 points ahead.

More on the “Newsweek” poll later in the program, and also the numbers on the Democrats, where you see a real lock between Hillary and Obama right now in that key state.

But first, the power of O.  This weekend, Oprah Winfrey hits the campaign trail for Barack Obama, with stops in the hot states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.  Oprah can deliver ratings, as we all know, and turn books into best-sellers.  Well, can the media powerhouse herself deliver votes and money for Hillary‘s top Democratic challenger?  That‘s the question.  Will Obama‘s—will Oprah‘s endorsement really help Obama?  More on the double O‘s in ‘07 in a moment.

And is sisterhood powerful?  In the 1960s, liberal women fought for equal rights.  So why are so many of these women turned off to Hillary?

And President Bush didn‘t know the big number yet today, so we‘ll give it to you and to him tonight.  The HARDBALL big number will be revealed later in the show.

Plus, 26 years ago, a Philadelphia policeman was killed in cold blood.  A former Black Panther is convicted and sentenced to death.  That‘s 26 years ago, but remains a political cause.  What‘s with our political system?  What‘s with our society?  We‘ll fight through the firestorm of this debate and talk to the policeman‘s widow, Maureen Faulkner, who‘s also the author of a new book, “Murdered by Mumia.”

Finally, we‘ve got your Friday fix this week on Oprah and religious war over there in the Republican Party.

But we begin with HARDBALL‘s David Shuster and his report on Oprah and Obama‘s big political road trip.

(Begin videotape)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  She has an engaging approach and a winning style.

OPRAH WINFREY, TELEVISION TALK SHOW HOST:  The boots are $120, the crochet boots.  Audience, kick up your heels because you‘re going home with them!

SHUSTER:  And for years, Oprah Winfrey has been the most successful and highest-paid personality on television.  She is also one of the most influential.

WINFREY:  I want you to feast your eyes on this!

SHUSTER:  According to publishers, getting mentioned by Oprah usually means an author can expect a million additional book sales.  John Steinbeck‘s “East of Eden” was first published 55 years ago.  After a mention by Oprah, the classic again topped the best-seller list.  And Oprah‘s recent praise of a skin care product and even a blood orange sorbet prompted sales of both to spike 10-fold in one week.

Sen. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Oprah, you‘re my girl.

Winfrey:  ok.

MATTHEWS:  Oprah has been supporting Barack Obama for two years, and the news that the entertainment star will be campaigning for Obama this weekend in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina has already had an immediate effect.  Interest has been huge, so huge that the Obama campaign was forced to change venues in South Carolina from a basketball arena that can seat 18,000 people to this, the stadium that is home to the University of South Carolina football team.  The seating capacity is over 80,000.

Endorsements have long been used to get voters to hear a candidate‘s campaign speech.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I want to introduce Teresa Heinz Kerry and my fellow Democratic guitar player and next president of the United States, John Kerry!

SHUSTER:  But on their own, a celebrity appearance usually does not translate into votes.

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Look, that‘s always the fear any time you use these celebrity endorsements.  But if you‘re using them to attract a bigger crowd, people you haven‘t spoken to yet, and you even just get 10 percent of these folks to take a listen, you know, and then another 50 percent of those 10 percent to possibly show up and caucus on your behalf, that‘s a huge deal.

SHUSTER:  In central Iowa alone, Oprah averages 40,000 viewers every day.  It‘s a larger audience than most network primetime programs viewed in the state.  Oprah‘s core audience tends to consist of older white women.  It‘s also the demographic that describes Iowa‘s most reliable caucus goers. 

What‘s more, it‘s a group the Clinton campaign is counting on.

TODD:  I think the thing that the Oprah endorsement does in Clinton world is it makes them hold their breath.  I mean, their base of support has been blue-collar women, women over 50, working women.  Well, this is Oprah‘s base.  And if Oprah can make even a third of her base viewing audience start taking a look at Obama, that becomes a huge problem for Clinton, particularly in Iowa.

SHUSTER (on camera):  Oprah Winfrey has never endorsed a presidential candidate before.  And while it‘s Barack Obama who will ultimately have to close the deal with voters, Winfrey brings something new to the world of campaign politics, an entertainment star whose recommendations millions of Americans already rely on and trust.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in New York.

(End videotape)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.  So will the Oprah Obama endorsement translate into actual votes?  Shelby Steele‘s author of “A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can‘t Win,” and Michael Eric Dyson is a Georgetown University professor of African-American studies and a supporter of Barack Obama.

Professor Steele, you first.  Why can‘t this help?

SHELBY STEELE, AUTHOR, “A BOUND MAN”:  It can‘t help because I think she brings to Obama—it can‘t help much.  It may help a little, but it won‘t help that much because she brings to Obama something he already has.  They‘re both what I call bargainers.  They give white America the benefit of the doubt.  Whites respond with gratitude.  There‘s a reciprocity between a figure like this and white America.

And I think Obama has come about as far as he can with that reciprocity.  And Oprah will certainly add something to it, but I don‘t think enough to really break through and knock off Hillary Clinton.  In order to do that, Barack Obama is going to have to tell us what he really believes.  When he says change, he‘s going to have to specify what change is in order to break through the ceiling that I think he‘s stuck at right now.  And...

(Crosstalk)

MATTHEWS:  Are you talking about a black ceiling or a white ceiling, sir?  Are you saying he has a ceiling among African-American voters or among white voters or everybody or what?

STEELE:  No, whites.  Whites.  Whites.

MATTHEWS:  All right.  OK.

STEELE:  Entirely whites.

(Crosstalk)

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Michael Eric Dyson, sir.

Michael eric dyson, georgetown univ., Obama supporter:  yes.  Well, look, i‘d love to be in barack obama‘s position.  Oprah giving me an endorsement, there‘s no down side to that.  I think that professor steele is caught in a vicious lens that reduces it to race, racializes this reality, when, indeed, the interesting thing about obama and about oprah is that they challenge some of these racial paradigms, at the same time as they embrace the hopefulness and the transcendence that are betoken (ph) in people accepting them.

You can‘t have it both ways.  You can‘t say that, on the one hand, there‘s a sign that white America has moved toward at least broadening its perspective to potentially accept and embrace a figure like Obama, and certainly as they‘ve done with Oprah, and then at the same time, belabor that point or at least bemoan it.

I think that Oprah Winfrey is the most incredibly powerful global figure, who brings more than the magic entertainment, she brings a kind of legitimacy and authenticity that her viewers look to her for.  So they‘re not just buying a product.  She‘s not trying to sell Obama, she‘s trying to tell America about why...

(Crosstalk)

Matthews:  ... The great cynic‘s question?  It was stalin, josef stalin, who said, how many divisions does the pope have?

Dyson:  right.

MATTHEWS:  OK, how many divisions, how many precincts, how many votes does Oprah Winfrey have?

DYSON:  I think—look, this is what Oprah does.  Oprah...

MATTHEWS:  No, no.  I‘m talking about numbers.  The Iowa caucus is January 3rd.

Dyson:  right.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve got the New Hampshire primary.  Then the following Tuesday, we‘ve got South Carolina.  What can she do for him on election day?

DYSON:  Well, this is what she can do.  First of all, by bringing those people out—as your reporter said, if she brings out and he gets tapped into at least 10 percent of the people who have been brought to the arena as a result of Oprah‘s presence there, for whatever reason, and then he‘s able to convince them, persuade them or at least engage them, Oprah has delivered a enormous bounty.  That bounty is 10 percent...

Matthews:  well...

(Crosstalk)

MATTHEWS:  Will she do that?

DYSON:  I think she potentially can.  I think that Oprah‘s presence there makes a huge difference because people understand she‘s not trying to sell him as a product, she‘s trying to talk about the vision that has enabled her to move for the first time into the political arena and into presidential politics stand behind this man...

(Crosstalk)

MATTHEWS:  Professor Steele, let me ask you...

(Crosstalk)

Matthews:  ... The same question, to keep it balanced here.  Do you believe that she can deliver numbers of people that would normally not show up in iowa, new hampshire, and especially in south carolina, where half the democratic vote is african-american?

STEELE:  I think she will absolutely bring out people.  I think these will be great occasions.  We‘ll talk about them for a week or two, and then we‘ll get back to the business of politics.  She cannot solve Barack Obama‘s problem.  He has to tell us who he is, what direction he wants to take the country.  Oprah simply cannot do that for him.  But there‘s going to be a lot of fireworks in the meantime.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think Hillary Clinton will do a better job getting votes than Barack Obama as we proceed through this process?

STEELE:  Because she‘s got a much better political machine.  Also, she‘s doing very well with the black vote because she identifies with people like Al Sharpton.  She identifies with people who black Americans are very comfortable with.  In many ways, she‘s blacker than Barack Obama is.  His primary appeal is still with whites.

(Crosstalk)

DYSON:  Yes, I think what‘s interesting—Professor Steele is making an intriguing point in terms of blackness as not being tied to pigment or to biology.  But what‘s interesting is that Barack Obama has two black daughters, he has a black wife, he lives on the black South Side of Chicago and has a constituency of black people who thrust him into political prominence to begin with.  So while I...

(Crosstalk)

STEELE:  Then why doesn‘t he have all the black vote?

Dyson:  ... Point about race—but you don‘t have to have all the black vote.  Black people have never been unimical (ph) or in one sense voting as a bloc.

(Crosstalk)

MATTHEWS:  I want to try something completely non-ethnic, completely non-sociological.  It‘s just my betting tendency.  Professor Steele, I don‘t know you as well as I know Michael, but let me ask you this.  If you‘re black and you‘ve seen American history, you‘ve seen how black candidates have fared, and some of them, like Tom Bradley, were supposed to win the governorship of California twice, and white voters didn‘t vote the way they told the pollsters.  Or you see Doug Wilder squeaking in in Virginia, when he should have won by 13 points.  You know, you see Harold Ford do pretty well.

Now you see this guy winning in the polling.  Do you think some black voters will tend to shift towards Obama as they see him picking up speed because they don‘t want to feel they‘re wasting votes?

STEELE:  I think they will.  I think—I think that he will—I think that this is a rare opportunity for black Americans.  And when we really get down to the wire, I think—I believe Barack Obama is going to pick up a good bit of the black vote, the issue of racial loyalty there.  We don‘t—we, as blacks, have never had this kind of an opportunity before.  So I think he‘s going to take some of that vote.

But again, I think his biggest problem is that he doesn‘t—and that he—he could do much better, let‘s put it that way, if he would specify and say what convictions does he have, what—is there some—is there a philosophical or ideological framework that he works with?

(Crosstalk)

DYSON:  Yes, I think that‘s an interesting point.  I think that Barack Obama...

STEELE:  You need to give people a reason, black or white, to vote for you.

DYSON:  Right.  He‘s been—I think he‘s been definitely preoccupied with trying to articulate what his vision is.  And his point is this, that, I am rooted in but not restricted by my blackness or my race.  I am appreciative of and proud of my African-American heritage, or African heritage, but I will not be restricted in terms of my vision about what America is.

Black people understand that in order to be a president, you have to be bifocal.  You have to look at black America intently and intensely and deal with your identity politics there, but you‘ve also got to transcend that and look toward the broader mainstream of American society and say, We don‘t have to give up one for the other.

And I think Barack Obama presents the first real chance that black Americans will be able to embrace a figure who identifies with them but also understands the nature of the political game to be played in America...

(Crosstalk)

Dyson:  ... Because black america alone cannot put him into office.

STEELE:  Here‘s the thing, Michael.  If you stand up tomorrow and ask Obama what‘s his position on school vouchers, what‘s his position on racial preferences, what‘s his position on when we ought to go to war and when we should not go to war, those are the kinds of answers that we need from him.  And when he starts to give those answers, he‘s going to reveal an ideological orientation, and people are going to be aware of it and they‘re look at that.

Dyson:  well, i...

(Crosstalk)

STEELE:  Just a minute.

DYSON:  I don‘t think he lacks any answers to those.

STEELE:  One of the reasons he‘s so successful now—one of the reasons he has gotten successful is the same reason Oprah is successful.  Neither one of them tells us what they really think.

Matthews:  yes.

STEELE:  Neither one of them...

Dyson:  well...

Steele:  ... Gives us any hint...

MATTHEWS:  Can I ask you...

(Crosstalk)

Steele:  ... Of their ideological point of view.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a somewhat less deep point, a shallower point, but it‘s what I deal with on this show.  Professor Steele first.  A week from now, when we get the first polling results in, will Oprah have given Barack a bump in the big three states we‘re talking about and nationally or not?

STEELE:  Yes, I think she may give him a slight bump.  I think so.

DYSON:  I think she‘ll give him a huge bump.

(Crosstalk)

MATTHEWS:  Five points?  Five points?

DYSON:  I think she‘ll give him at least that.  But not only a bump, but here‘s the point.  Oprah does tell us every day who she is.  She reveals it more clearly and articulately than anybody.  I think Barack Obama has taken a page, if he has done so...

STEELE:  Oprah‘s been around 20-some years.

(Crosstalk)

Dyson:  ... Bill clinton to say, look, bill clinton has—you know, the triangulation (inaudible) i think that barack obama has said, this is clearly who i am.  I‘m a moderate democrat who‘s serious about the politics of transformation in america.  And i think that‘s what he is.

MATTHEWS:  Let me just tell you, as somebody who‘s watched this thing, as a white guy.  I watched Oprah come on television when she first came on.  I heard there‘s this black woman up in Baltimore who was in the movie “Color Purple” as an actress, who‘s going to take on Phil Donahue.  And I go, Oh, yes, right.  Look what she‘s done.

DYSON:  Yes, right.

MATTHEWS:  She‘s bigger than—Phil‘s been great.  She‘s bigger than he‘s ever been.  She‘s huge.

Dyson:  right.

MATTHEWS:  So underestimating her is a danger.

DYSON:  Well, tapping into...

(Crosstalk)

MATTHEWS:  This woman is a protean figure in our life.

(Crosstalk)

Dyson:  ... That oprah winfrey has been extraordinarily capable...

Matthews:  right.

Dyson:  ... Of tapping into, and i think barack obama...

MATTHEWS:  Professor Steele, last word to you.

(Crosstalk)

Steele:  ok.  One of the reasons she is successful is because she is invisible.  We don‘t know who oprah really is.  Bill cosby was also a bargainer and famous.  He began to tell us what his real convictions were.  He began to stand by them.  And he also simultaneously lost that iconic status.  He does not sell jell-o anymore.

DYSON:  I think it‘s clear who Oprah is.  I think it‘s clear who Obama is.  And I think, together they‘re a powerful combination whose persona will, I think, affect and transcend American politics.

(Crosstalk)

MATTHEWS:  This is very big debate, America.  Let‘s talk about it again.  Professor Steele, good luck with your book, “A Bound Man.”

STEELE:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s out there now.  It‘s very interesting because it gets to the heart of what I always call the San Andreas fault of American life, which is unfortunately race.  Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown University, who is now busy away on another major volume for our attention.  You‘ll be here to talk about it.

Coming up: They‘re feminists who fought on the front lines.  They burned their bras for equal rights.  But now there‘s a lot of them that keep giving you quizzical answers when you ask them, Do you like Hillary?  Let‘s get back and talk about that.  What is the thing with educated women from the ‘60s who have this problem or this quizzical thing about Hillary, not all of them, about half of them.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(Commercial break)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and my favorite subject, gender politics.  Hillary Clinton brags that she‘s been out there—I love that word—“fighting” for 35 years, but her biggest fight may well be to win over successful Baby Boomer women, people just like her.

Melinda Henneberger is a contributing editor for Slate.com.  She‘s the author of “If They Only Listened to Us: What Women Voters Want Politicians to Hear.”  By the way, what do they want us—what do they want you to hear?

MELINDA HENNEBERGER, AUTHOR, “IF THEY ONLY LISTENED TO US”:  They just want everything.

(Laughter)

HENNEBERGER:  What they really want in a candidate most of all, they say, is someone they can trust, who‘s authentic, who‘s sincere, who they believe.  Not every...

MATTHEWS:  Is that hurting Hillary?

(Crosstalk)

HENNEBERGER:  Very much so.  That‘s the number one knock against her among women I talked to, is, I‘m just not sure she believes what she‘s saying.  It‘s not only that I‘m not sure I agree with her, but I‘m not sure she agrees with her.

MATTHEWS:  Do they think the marriage is, like, unusual?

HENNEBERGER:  I don‘t know about that.

MATTHEWS:  What do they think?

HENNEBERGER:  I think the marriage is only part of it. 

I think it‘s—you know, these lefty women have trouble with Hillary on the issues and on an intuitive basis, that, you know, what I just said about the sincerity.  As far as the marriage goes, I think, you know, someone in your earlier segment said, is Barack black enough?  Maybe Hillary is blacker than Barack. 

I hear women saying maybe either Barack or Edwards is more of a feminist than Hillary.  Is not, is she woman enough, as in, is she conventional enough?  On the contrary, it‘s, what kind of feminist enables her husband in taking advantage of vulnerable women, women who don‘t have a Ph.D, women who don‘t have a lot of power?

And that doesn‘t make them rule her out or hate her, but I think it doesn‘t make her the first choice. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s watch Hillary in action.  And then you can talk about her.

Here‘s Hillary Clinton out there in August.  This was at that labor debate out that Keith Olbermann moderated. 

Let‘s watch. 

(Begin video clip)

Sen. Hillary rodham clinton (d-ny), presidential candidate:  i will say that, for 15 years, i have stood up against the right-wing machine, and i have come out stronger.  So, if you want a winner who knows how to take them on, i‘m your girl. 

(Cheering and applause) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)                       MATTHEWS:  So, what‘s wrong with that?  I liked that myself.  I‘m not a woman, but I like that Hillary.  She‘s sort of a Cat Ballou character, taking on the bad guys.  What‘s wrong with that? 

HENNEBERGER:  Nothing is wrong with that.  I like that Hillary, too.  And I think a lot of women did.  I think that, when Hillary is attacked for playing the gender card, she does very well.  It‘s best when played subtly, but the moment that she‘s attacked or called on playing it...

Matthews:  right. 

Henneberger:  ... Then she hits it out of the park. 

Matthews:  ok. 

Let‘s look at a series of Hillary‘s more recently, after she took that fall in Philadelphia in that debate about five weeks ago, when things haven‘t been going so well.  Let‘s take a look at the—her statement up at Wellesley and then the other statements. 

(Begin video clip)

CLINTON:  In so many ways, this all-women‘s college prepared me to compete in the all-boys club of presidential politics. 

(Cheering and applause) 

CLINTON:  You know, we‘re Democrats, and we‘re trying to nominate the very best person we can to win.  And I don‘t mind taking hits on my record, on issues.  But, when somebody starts throwing mud, at least we can hope that it‘s that both accurate and not right out of the Republican playbook. 

CAMPBELL BROWN, CO-MODERATOR:  But, Senator, if I can just ask you, what did you mean at Wellesley when you referred to the “boys club”?

Clinton:  campbell...

(Laughter)

BROWN:  Just curious.

CLINTON:  Well, it is clear, I think, from women‘s experiences that from time to time, there may be some impediments. 

(End video clip)

Matthews:  well, melinda?

HENNEBERGER:  Great line.  She really did hit that out of the park. 

But women don‘t want to be guilted into supporting her on the basis of gender.  Yes, it‘s a plus, but it doesn‘t make it a given.  And the more pressure there is to say, you‘re a woman, she‘s a woman, thus, she must be your candidate, that‘s no more of an automatic than it is for an African-American to be told, Barack‘s black, so you must support him. 

And, so, I think that those overt gender-based appeals really tend to backfire. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s wrong with that?  If I were black, I would vote for Barack.  Barack.  What‘s wrong with that?  What‘s wrong with loyalty? 

HENNEBERGER:  There‘s nothing wrong with loyalty.

(Crosstalk)

Matthews:  ... 200 years of oppression in this country and being messed on and ignored, and not have a chance to have a guy from your crowd elected president, and you finally got a real shot.  Of course, you vote for the guy.  What would be wrong with that? 

HENNEBERGER:  Maybe you don‘t if you don‘t agree with that person on the issues.  I think that the thing for these...

(Crosstalk)

Matthews:  ok.  You have to tell me this.  What—if you had to write it down or say it, what is this problem with college-educated women, white women, if you will, with hillary?  Give me a real hard argument against hillary. 

HENNEBERGER:  When you‘re talking about her on the issues, for the women in question, they say, we don‘t agree with her on the war.  We don‘t agree with her on immigration. 

Matthews:  ok.  You got to me.  So, the war. 

(Crosstalk)

HENNEBERGER:  We don‘t—if you read Sally Smith ‘s new book on the marriage, you learn that it was Hillary‘s idea to shred the safety net.  It was Hillary, not Bill Clinton, who really pushed him to do away with entitlements for poor women. 

If you don‘t agree with her on the issues...                  MATTHEWS:  I see.

Henneberger:  ... Why would she be your candidate, simply because...

MATTHEWS:  So, she‘s not the woman that a lot of Republicans and conservatives hate. 

HENNEBERGER:  Absolutely not. 

MATTHEWS:  This is the great irony.  She‘s not the lefty.

HENNEBERGER:  Not at all.  And I think that, more than anything, it‘s on that basis, on issues.

MATTHEWS:  So, she‘s getting caught in a crossfire.  The right think she‘s on the left.  The left think she‘s on the right.  Is that right? 

HENNEBERGER:  These left—yes.  These left-leaning—and some of that is her.  Some of that—it‘s only...

MATTHEWS:  That sounds like my predicament sometimes.

(Laughter)

HENNEBERGER:  Some of that is only personal. 

Some of that...

MATTHEWS:  I get hit like that.

(Crosstalk)

MATTHEWS:  But somebody is wrong, Melinda.  Who is wrong.  You‘re the reporter.  Is the left wrong about Hillary or is the right wrong about Hillary? 

HENNEBERGER:  I think that Hillary has couched her views in ways that leave them open to interpretation.  And this is part of the fallout from that.

MATTHEWS:  So, she‘s a politician.  But she‘s not a successful politician.  Yet, she‘s leading in all the national polls. 

HENNEBERGER:  I think, if she were a man, she would be doing much less well.  So, I do think that gender is nothing but a plus for her.  But...

Matthews:  ok.

Last question.  I‘m sorry.  Last—will Oprah be able to turn older white women against Hillary? 

HENNEBERGER:  I think that Oprah is kind of a chicken soup endorsement.  It can‘t hurt and it can—it might help. 

I—I think that it can only be good for him.  I see no downside in it.  And I think that some men tend to discount the power of Oprah.  I‘m not sure she can sell a presidential candidate, but she comes across as the everywoman.  This is not like having Spielberg come out for her—for Barack. 

Matthews:  ok.  Here‘s what i think. 

(Crosstalk)

MATTHEWS:  But we will know a week from now, when we look at the polls, because we‘re numbers-driven around here. 

Melinda Henneberger, one of the greats, with Slate.

Up next:  President Bush tries to help people with mortgage problems.  The trouble is, he gives out the wrong phone number.  And that‘s our “Big Number” tonight. 

You know, when you‘re president of the United States, and you give people a public service number to call up, get it right. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(Commercial break)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Let‘s take a look at what else is new out there. 

Remember that old Clinton friend Gennifer Flowers, Gennifer with a G.?  Well, she‘s back in the news.  She tells the Associated Press that she might vote for Hillary, who she once sued for defamation. 

Gennifer Flowers says—quote—“I can‘t help but want to support my own gender.”

Didn‘t she say she spent 12 years supporting that other gender? 

Hey, some more grist for the anti-Rudy mill—today‘s “New York Daily News” headline reads—quote—“Driving Ms. Judy”—new questions over old security for Rudy‘s girlfriend.  Well, Giuliani aides admit to the newspaper that Nathan got police protection—quote—“sporadically”—close quote—before December 2000.  That was the previously acknowledged beginning of her taxpayer-funded detail.

Rudy is on “Meet the Press” Sunday, by the way.  This might come up.

And, finally, tonight‘s big HARDBALL number.  As squabbling continues over how to fix, actually fix, America‘s mortgage problem, President Bush set out Thursday, yesterday, to ease fears.  He set up a special telephone line, where you can go to get information on how to deal with your mortgage problems. 

Here it is. 

(Begin video clip)

George w. Bush, president of the united states:  and i have a message for every homeowner worried about rising mortgage payments:  the best you can do for your family is to call 1-800-995-hope (sic).  That is 1-800-995-hope (sic).

(End video clip)

MATTHEWS:  The trouble is, when you call that number, you get someone‘s voice mail at something called the Freedom Christian Academy down in Texas. 

Well, not long after the president spoke, the White House did issue an e-mail that read—quote—“Correction the president‘s remarks.  The real toll-number, phone number, for the Hope Now hot line is 1-888-995-HOPE. 

And that‘s tonight‘s HARDBALL “Big Number,” the real one for calling for help on your mortgage, 1-888-995-HOPE.  That‘s the correct number to call for help on overdue mortgages from the president of the United States. 

Hey, look, it can help. 

Up next:  Twenty-six years after her husband was murdered, Maureen Faulkner is fighting back against those who want to release his convicted killer, Mumia Abu-Jamal.  She‘s coming to HARDBALL next. 

You‘re watching it, HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(Commercial break)

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

Stocks close little changed after two big days of big gains.  The Dow Jones industrial average closed on Friday up just five points.  The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq down by just about three points. 

The economy created a better-than-expected 94,000 jobs in November.  And the nation‘s unemployment rate held steady at 4.7 percent, and that helped stocks today.  With those jobs number, Federal Reserve policy-makers are now widely expected to cut interest rates a modest quarter-of-a-point when they meet next Tuesday.  The jobs data dampened hopes for a sharp half-point cut. 

And consumer sentiment fell for the third straight month.  The University of Michigan‘s index dropped to its second lowest level in 15 years.  And oil prices resumed their steep slide.  Crude oil fell $1.95 in New York‘s trading session closing at $88.28 a barrel.                       That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Murder in some American cities, like Philadelphia, is out of control.  In Philadelphia, there‘s been more than a murder a day this year, 369 murders so far in 2007.  Last year‘s total in my hometown was 406 killings.  And, nationally, police officers themselves are being targeted at an alarming rate.  This year, 65 police officers have been killed by gunfire, with one killed and five wounded just in Philadelphia just in the last two months. 

There‘s something ghastly about the murder of those who put their lives on the line to protect us.  And what about someone who was tried, convict and sentenced to death for killing a police officer 25 years ago, but who has become a political cause celebre? 

That‘s the case of Philadelphia police officer Danny Faulkner, who was killed in December of 1981.  Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted a year later, but remains at the center of the loud and vocal free-Mumia campaign. 

Maureen Faulkner is the widow of slain police officer Danny Faulkner.  She‘s the co-author with Philadelphia‘s Michael Smerconish, who is often on this program, of the new book “Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Loss, Pain, and Injustice.” 

Maureen, thank you very much for coming on the program tonight. 

I want you to just describe, because police killings and shootings, I know in Philadelphia, there have been 70 people this year who have drawn guns on police officers, in the town where you lived, where your husband died doing his job, in the middle of the night in a tough part of town.

Tell us what happened to your husband and then proceed with the story of this strange kind of justice we have in this country. 

MAUREEN FAULKNER, WIDOW OF MURDERED POLICE OFFICER:  Well, Chris, on December 9, 1981, my husband was murdered at 13th and Locust Street. 

He observed a car going down the street the wrong way.  The driver got out of the car, punched my husband in the face.  There was an altercation.  My husband turned him around.  And a man by the name of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was the driver‘s brother, shot my husband in the back, and my husband fell to the ground.  He lost his gun. 

And Mumia Abu-Jamal stood over here—him and emptied his gun into his face, leaned down, and shot him point blank between the eyes. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the—has there ever been a defense by Mr. Jamal?  Did he ever deny doing it in a sense—did he ever describe what happened that night in court or anywhere else? 

Faulkner:  no.

Mumia Abu-Jamal and William Cook, his brother, were both there at the scene of my husband‘s murder.  And neither of them have ever once said what happened the night my husband was murdered.  They have kept their silence for the past 26 years.  On December 9, it will be 26 years I lost my husband. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of why they wouldn‘t come forward?  I mean, they have this big national campaign on their behalf around the world, in fact, an international campaign, with a lot of celebrities.  They got a street named after Mr. Jamal in France. 

You have got all kinds of Hollywood stars, like Ed Asner and Mike Farrell, behind his case.  Yet, he‘s never told them the truth of what happened.  What do you make of that?  Or the way—the truth he would tell it, I should say. 

FAULKNER:  I feel that these celebrities do not care to know the truth the night my husband was murdered.  They have their own agendas. 

Some of them are against capital punishment.  My husband was so young and brutally murdered right before Christmas.  And I have talked to Mike Farrell.  And I have asked Mike Farrell.  He thinks that Mumia Abu-Jamal did not deserve—a fair trial, that he should be freed.  Yet, he‘s never even read the court transcripts. 

And this is why I have written this book.  This book tells the truth of the night my husband was murdered, and the facts of the case, and about my life, and what has gone on over 26 years of Mumia Abu-Jamal...

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this question, maybe it‘s obvious, but you know when you get on a subway at night in a tough part of town, or any tough part of town, you get in bus situation, waiting for a bus at night, you do like to see a police car drive by once in a while.  You do like to see an officer come by on the subway when we‘re down there at night.  You like to be protected.  We‘re not supposed to be carrying guns.  We have to be protected by somebody.

Yet, it seems to me, there‘s a lot more sympathy for the guy accused here, the guy who is convicted and sentenced here, from the big shots of this country than there is for the little guy trying to do his job in the middle of a night in a city like Philly. 

FAULKNER:  That‘s absolutely—

MATTHEWS:  Why is there no sympathy for the working who is making a working guy‘s salary, risking his life every night and there‘s sympathy for a guy that may well have committed this crime?  Even the people on his side figure he may well have done it, so why is the sympathy over there, rather than for him?   

FAULKNER:  I don‘t know, Chris.  I think America needs to wake up and know that police officers throughout America are there to protect them.  The police community are a great community.  They‘ve always been so supportive of me.  And it‘s just a disgrace that people support murderers and make murderers into cause celebs, as they have—Mumia Bull Jamal (ph).  It‘s been a long 20 years for me. 

I want to let you know the book Michael Smerconish and I have written, 100 percent of the proceeds are going for the children of Philadelphia who have lost their parents to murder. 

MATTHEWS:  I want to end this right now, except I want you to give us one sense, what is the justice system doing right now?  What‘s the third circuit doing in Pennsylvania right now? 

FAULKNER:  I‘m waiting to hear if Mumia Bull Jamal will receive a new sentencing hearing, once again. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Good luck with your book, because I think it‘s an important book.  I hope the proceeds go to where the kids need it.  Up next, it‘s Friday and it‘s time for the Friday fix.  What is Mike Huckabee up to?  This guy—has he reached his peek or is he still zooming?  Late this afternoon, these numbers are unbelievable.  He‘s got a 22-point advantage over Romney out in Iowa.  We‘re going come back and talk about this incredible surge for the man who bills himself the Christian leader in this country.  Is that good for the country, to have a candidate identified with such a sectarian way, as to say I‘m a leader of a religion? 

And will Oprah really turn things around for Obama?  Can she make him a true contender against Hillary as we get into the big primary states.  The Friday fix; two big stories coming back on HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(Commercial break)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time now for the Friday fix with the round table.  By that I mean lots of politics to end the week.  Margaret Carlson is a columnist for “Bloomberg News.”  Ryan Lizza is with the “New Yorker” Magazine.  And Chris Cillizza is with thewashingtonpost.com. 

Here‘s the brand new numbers tonight.  We got them right.  The brand new “Newsweek” numbers, which have just disappeared from my teleprompter.  Here they are -- 39, look at this number out west in Iowa -- 39 percent Huckabee, 17 Romney, Giuliani was down there in third, no change there. 

But look at this.  Guys, what do you make of this, Margaret?  This guy, has he gotten every single evangelical now that we know, 39 percent? 

MARGARET CARLSON, “BLOOMBERG NEWS”:  Yes, all of them.  I don‘t think Romney brought back that many yesterday.  Huckabee is now going to be taken seriously as a candidate in time for him to be knocked down by different things like this murder and rapist who was released and some other things.  In his ad, he says he wants to be defined by his religion.  He goes further and further in injecting religion. 

MATTHEWS:  Here is what Mr. Huckabee said at Liberty University.  Of course, we know where that is.  When asked about his rise in the polls.  Let‘s take a listen. 

(Begin video clip)

MIKE HUCKABEE ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Yes, sir? 

DANIEL WEBB, STUDENT:  I‘m Daniel Webb, and I‘m not a government student.  But Mr. President—I mean, Governor Huckabee—

HUCKABEE:  I liked the sound of that.  Go ahead. 

WEBB:  Freudian slip.  Recent polls show you surging in many states, including Iowa, where you‘re statistically tied with Mitt Romney, as well as Florida, where you‘re second place, and Texas.  What do you attribute this surge to? 

HUCKABEE:  There‘s only one explanation for it.  It‘s not a human one.  It‘s the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people.  And that‘s the only way that our campaign could be doing what it‘s doing.  I‘m not being facetious nor am I trying to be trite.  There literally are thousands of people across this country who are praying that a little will become much.  And it has. 

It defies all explanation.  It has confounded the pundits.  I‘m enjoying every minute of their trying to figure it out.  Until they look at it from—just experience beyond human, they‘ll never figure it out.  And that‘s probably just as well.  That‘s honestly why it‘s happening. 

(End video clip)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was a divine explanation.  I guess we‘re not used to it here in the punditry world. 

RYAN LIZZA, “THE NEW YORKER”:  I hope Governor Huckabee will forgive me for not agreeing with him on this.  Look, there‘s a reason he‘s surging here.  The field is unsettled and there are voters out there who are still unhappy with the top tier people.  This guy comes into the debates; he is impressive.  He speaks well.  There‘s this interdenominational battle going on between Baptist and Mormons.  So he‘s picked up some support. 

But this is like the Thompson phenomenon.  It‘s a first blush.  People are seeing Huckabee all of a sudden. 

MATTHEWS:  But what do you think of his claim that god is pushing his candidacy? 

LIZZA:  It‘s insane.  It‘s ridiculous. 

MATTHEWS:  Chris Cillizza, I have to say, I was kind of amazed by that.  I know he‘s been selling himself as the Christian leader, but to say he‘s god‘s choice.  He just said that.  There‘s no other way to read it.  By the way, he said it at Jerry Falwell‘s community down there.  He knew who he was talking to. 

CHRIS CILLIZZA, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  First of all, let me say, I don‘t think it‘s ever a smart strategy to compare yourself to Jesus.  That‘s a tough—you sort of fall down when you compare your campaign to the loaves and fishes.  I always think you may find yourself wanting.  But I do think that the one thing that‘s a constant strain throughout this Huckabee candidacy is he feels comfortable in his own skin.  He says things.  He sounds genuine and people believe him. 

I think this is in keeping with this.  Whether you agree with him or not, if you look at Giuliani, if you look at Romney, if you look at Thompson even, I think a the lot of people feel like they‘re saying things to get elected and they believe—I‘m not saying this is true—but they believe that Mike Huckabee is saying what he honestly believes.  And we know authenticity and being genuine is so important. 

MATTHEWS:  i‘ve got to push the pause button. 

(Cross talk)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s push the pause button on that.  One of the knocks against our current president is that he has a Messianic notion of himself, that god had something to do with his choice to go to war in Iraq, that he‘s almost a crusader in the modern sense.  He‘s doing the lord—is that our correction method here, to go to Huckabee, who seems to be more blatant about saying he‘s god‘s messenger. 

LIZZA:  My sense is out there there‘s an appetite for a little bit of humility.  People who hope they‘re on god‘s side, not who believe god is on their side. 

MATTHEWS:  Is the Shia wing of the Republican party going to win this thing?   

LIZZA:  I don‘t want to—

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t it the Shia against Sunni.  Isn‘t Rudy going to have to be the Sunni guy in the comeback here?

LIZZA:  I don‘t think it‘s a done deal.  He‘s just starting—Op-O is just starting to come out.  He‘s just starting to get his record looked over.  And you know, it‘s going to be—

MATTHEWS:  He may not peak too soon.  Here he is heading into South Carolina, which is several choices down the road here, leading that latest poll we‘ve got out there.  Margaret, this guy is rolling it up in that part of the Republican party, which is evangelical, rural, and likes a man who is fundamentalist about evolution, who is for second amendment rights, to fight our government if necessary.  This is the full performance here. 

CARLSON:  I agree with Ryan.  Up until now, he hasn‘t been tested. 

The debates did not test Mike Huckabee. 

MATTHEWS:  Who is going to challenge his reading of the Bible. 

CARLSON:  He‘s going to be challenged now because now he looks like a serious candidate. 

MATTHEWS:  Who is going to challenge him.  The liberal press isn‘t going to do it?  Is Rudy Giuliani going to say this is too much Christianity in this campaign. 

LIZZA:  Chris, the liberal press is going to do it.  They‘re the first ones to be sort of freaked out when someone --  

MATTHEWS:  Chris, who do you think is going to challenge this man on his overt claim to being the Christian candidate? 

CILLIZZA:  I tell you who‘s not going to do it and that‘s Rudy Giuliani, in my opinion.  I think Rudy Giuliani‘s campaign is sitting back and is very happy.  Remember, this Huckabee surge has nicely moved—not totally, but largely moved all the stories about Rudy and Judith Nathan out of the headlines.  And, remember that Mike Huckabee is taking away voters from Mitt Romney in Iowa.  Rudy Giuliani was never going to win Iowa. 

So if Mike Huckabee can win Iowa, guess who suddenly looks a lot better in New Hampshire, Rudy Giuliani.   

MATTHEWS:  So Rudy makes the playoffs against the winner of the Romney-Huckabee bake off? 

CILLIZZA:  You can bet that if you ask them privately if they would like to run in states beyond New Hampshire and South Carolina against either Romney or Huckabee, the Giuliani, if they‘re being honest with you, would tell you Mike Huckabee, Mike Huckabee, Mike Huckabee. 

MATTHEWS:  I could see Mike Huckabee campaigning door to door in Broward County down on the Gold Coast.  Can‘t you guys.  Wouldn‘t that be great?  We‘ll be right back with the Friday Fix, and brand new polls for the Democrats.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(Commercial break)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the round table for the Friday fix.  Let‘s talk about the Democrats.  A brand new “Newsweek” poll has Obama now in the lead out in Iowa—I‘m sorry, 35 to 29 over Hillary Clinton.  What do you make of that? 

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s been his two weeks.  Hillary doesn‘t look good when she‘s playing defense or going negative.  The Kindergarten thing—

MATTHEWS:  Going after what he said when he was five. 

CARLSON:  This is not good territory for anybody.  And now he—Obama has a chance to really unwind it with Oprah.  Ryan and I were talking earlier, Obama tends to tamp down a crowd.  He doesn‘t want the rock star thing.  But when Oprah is there and they‘re in a football stadium, I think Obama is really going to move people. 

MATTHEWS:  Give one of those J.J. speeches again. 

Carlson:  yes. 

LIZZA:  I don‘t know what‘s driving the poll, but I will say the last two weeks have taught us one thing—one of the big questions about Obama is can this guy take a punch?  What happens when Hillary actually starts attacking him?  He‘s done pretty well.  So if you‘re a Democrat out there saying, I‘m a little worried about sending Obama to a general election, because of what Republicans might do to him?  You might sit back and say, you know what, he‘s weathered his first storm from the Hillary campaign, and he looks better than they do.  So he‘s passed the first crucial test. 

CILLIZZA:  I was going to say, I was out in Iowa this past weekend, and i‘ve been somewhat critical of Obama on the campaign trail, in that I thought he missed moments, in that he‘s not as savvy a political campaigner.  Some would say that makes him a better human being.  But he‘s not as savvy a political campaigner as some. 

I was out at a forum.  It was called the Heartland Forum.  It was in the middle of a snowy afternoon in Des Moines.  An African American girl came up, about 10 years old.  Her mother told a story about how she was about to lose her eye sight, but the SCHIP program had saved it.  She said she wanted to meet Obama.  She walks across the stage.  Obama bends down and whispers in her ear for ten or 15 seconds. 

It just showed me this guy now gets it.  He is in his stride.  He now has a feeling for the moment, for the visual, all of those things.  It typified to me that I think he is in his moment now.  That‘s not to say he will win, but I think he is certainly comfortable in his own skin on the campaign trail these days. 

MATTHEWS:  I know just what you mean.  He is in the groove.  Down in South Carolina, catch this—these numbers keep coming in now.  It‘s like election night tonight.  Catch this one.  Obama is in the lead in South Carolina way ahead of schedule. 

LIZZA:  The other thing is this is proving is the Obama people always said we don‘t care about the national polls.  We don‘t care about the national polls.  It‘s all about at the end you‘ll see us increasing in the state polls, and then you‘ll see the national polls start to creep up.  The whole game is at the end.  Everything changes at the end.  And it starting to happen.  People are starting to pay attention now. 

MATTHEWS:  Margaret, my dear, we‘ve been friends forever.  What is the Hillary thing?  Was all this build up and all those early numbers for her just name ID? 

CARLSON:  A lot of it‘s name ID, a lot of it is the Clinton machine, a lot of it is if you are not with me now, you can never be with me, you are dead to me. 

MATTHEWS:  So they intimidated a lot of people into being with her.  When I meet people, unless they‘re actually working in her campaign, they give me that quizzical look. 

CARLSON:  Well, there is that divide among women, as you brought up before, the college-educated versus the other.  I think on the college educated, it‘s that Hillary is not authentic.  If Mike Huckabee has a certain authenticity in the Arkansas Baptist preacher thing, Hillary does not have that.  That‘s just missing. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s from you, too.  Margaret Carlson, Ryan Lizza, Chris Cillizza, join us again Monday at 5:00 and 7:00 eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”

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

END   

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