updated 3/14/2008 1:14:13 PM ET 2008-03-14T17:14:13

Guests: Ed Schultz, Michael Smerconish, Jim Downey, Eugene Robinson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Robert Wexler

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Are the Democrats tearing each other apart? 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Is the Democratic Party being driven to divorce?  Is it threatened to be split apart part, black versus white and men versus older women?  Last night at a conference of African-American newspaper editors, Senator Hillary Clinton repudiated racially-charged comments by her finance campaign adviser, Geraldine Ferraro, and also addressed remarks made by her husband, Bill Clinton, after the South Carolina primary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You know, I am sorry if anyone was offended.  It was certainly not meant in any way to be offensive.  And I think that we can be proud of both Jesse Jackson and Senator Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  More on the Democrats and the forces that may be pulling them apart in a moment.

Also: Talk about not being able to get your act together, what are the Democrats going to do about Florida and Michigan?  Senator Clinton wants the original vote in Florida to count or to hold new elections.  Obama says he‘s against a mail-in vote.  So what now?  And how do Democrats avoid angering voters in two states critical to them winning in November?

And we‘re going to have a little fun tonight.  As you know, NBC‘s “Saturday Night Live” has been in the spotlight this political season.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Mr. President, what can I do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The CIA just confirmed that Iran has completed a nuclear device.  It looks like the Russians, the North Koreans and Hugo Chavez have been helping them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I was afraid of that.  When did this start?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Apparently, the day I was sworn in.  Those mother-(DELETED)  I trusted them!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Is “SNL” tilting towards Senator Clinton, or is it just an equal opportunity insulter, a non-partisan laugh machine?  We‘ll talk to one of the show‘s veteran writers.  And I promise you this, you‘ll know a lot of the skits that he‘s written.

But tonight, race and sex dominate the national debate on the 2008 presidential contest.  We begin with radio talk show hosts Ed Schultz and Michael Smerconish.  Gentlemen, I want you to listen to what Senator Clinton said yesterday when asked about Geraldine Ferraro‘s comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Have you done enough to send the message that these kinds of insensitive comments will not be tolerated?

CLINTON:  Well, I said yesterday that I rejected what she said.  And I certainly do repudiate it and regret deeply that, you know, it was said.  Obviously, she doesn‘t speak for the campaign.  She doesn‘t speak for any of my positions.  And she has resigned from being a member of my very large finance committee.

You know, both Senator Obama and I have throughout this campaign have had to take occasion to remind our supporters and our staffs that we want to run this campaign based on our issue differences, our records, our qualifications, our experience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s Senator Obama today talking about the race issue in this campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Race and gender issues are very powerful in our society.  They‘ve been an organizing principle for our politics since the earliest days of this country.  And so you know, it would be naive for me to think that we could just brush them aside.  And I know that sometimes Senator Clinton and others accuse me of being naive, but I‘m not naive enough to think that we‘re going to solve the country‘s racial problems and some of these other divisions in the span of six months or a year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Ed Schultz, do you think there‘s been a pattern from the Clinton administration of trying to raise—Clinton campaign here of trying to raise the racial issue, trying to ghettoize Barack Obama in this campaign?  Has it been a pattern or a bunch of stray bullets or stray shots that really don‘t add up to anything coherent?

ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Why do they have to keep apologizing?  Why do they have to keep explaining themselves?  Think about all the advocacy work that Hillary Clinton has done in her career, and now it‘s down to this.  She‘s apologizing to the black community, and now she‘s disavowing herself by one of the best long-time Democrats you find in Geraldine Ferraro, who‘s been through the vetting process.  This is the house burning down!

MATTHEWS:  Are they doing it on purpose?

SCHULTZ:  I don‘t know if they‘re doing it on purpose.  But the fact is, they‘re not disciplining themselves so this kind of stuff doesn‘t happen.  Look, black folks are going to vote for Obama.  Catholics voted for Kennedy.  Evangelicals voted for Bush.  And older white women are going to vote for Hillary Clinton.  But doesn‘t mean that you‘re going to be able to prop yourself up as a candidate to show, Hey, I‘m better than him or he‘s better than me just based on who‘s voting for them.

I think that the Clintons need to reel things off.  I said on your program a month ago, Bill, you got to get off the campaign trail.  It‘s not about you, it‘s about her.  And here we are again.  We‘re back at another surrogate causing problems.  Notice how Hillary said, See, it‘s happened in his camp, too.  He had to do it the other day.

MATTHEWS:  Is it fair, Michael, to connect the dots between Bill Clinton, Billy Shaheen, Bob Johnson, et cetera, et cetera, Mark Penn, their various comments which have been taken by the other side and some outsiders as being an attempt to, quote, “ghettoize” Barack Obama?  Is that fair or just a bunch of kaleidoscopic events that aren‘t related?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Kaleidoscopic events that are not related, to answer it according to your question.  Look, Chris, we‘re so muzzled, to use the title of one of my books.  People are so damn timid.  I think this is all, frankly, fair game.  I mean, the conversation that Geraldine Ferraro has ignited in this nation aboveboard is what I hear at the water cooler.  And I think Americans can handle this conversation.  I think...

MATTHEWS:  Which is it?

SMERCONISH:  I don‘t think it‘s inherently racist to say, You know, I think Barack Obama benefits from the fact that he‘s an African-American.  Similarly, I don‘t think that it‘s unfair for folks to question and discuss aloud whether Hillary gets a bump because she‘s a female.  I mean, the comment about a “monster” or the Ken Starr reference and so forth, everybody‘s so horrified and scared of the campaign.  Let‘s have an intelligent discourse, and it‘s OK to include these elements.  That‘s my view.

MATTHEWS:  When did blacks achieve their racial supremacy in this country?  I may have missed that event.  When did it become better to be black than white in terms of American national politics, since we‘ve never elected a black president, vice president, or very few states, including Pennsylvania, have gone ever gone statewide for a black candidate in a top office?  When did it become a plus to be black?

SMERCONISH:  If you‘re ask me for the argument that says that Barack Obama benefits from being an African-American, I‘m happy to make it.  He draws 91 percent of the African-American vote, so he steps in with a significant voting bloc.  He was invited to deliver that speech at the Democratic national convention, and it was a hell of a speech and he‘s a great speaker.  But I believe he was probably benefited in giving that invitation because the party wanted to put that face on the Democratic Party at that time.

I am surrounded where I live in suburban Philadelphia by white liberals anxious to vote for an African-American.  And so for the aforementioned reasons, I say, yes, there‘s a credible argument to be made that he benefits from being an African-American.

Now, the way to deal with this if you‘re Barack Obama is exactly what he did on the “Today” show, with humor and very deftly to say, Wait a minute, I don‘t think in the blue book it says you want a name Barack Obama to be running for president and be African-American.

We can handle this kind of discussion.  Let‘s stop playing the race card, the sex card, I‘m so offended, I‘m filing a lawsuit.  My God, get over it!

SCHULTZ:  Well, when did Barack Obama get lucky?  It‘s just not the fact that she pointed out that he‘s a minority.  But when did he get lucky?  Did he get lucky when his dad left when he was 2 years old?  Did he get lucky to just get named to “The Harvard Law Review” the way—I mean, all of his accomplishments...

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about the particular point Michael raises, which I think Ferraro made in the midst of all this controversy, which is people like the concept of someone, a background African and American, who can bring the country together?  That concept itself is very appealing to a lot of white people and black people.  What‘s wrong with her saying that?

SCHULTZ:  Well, there‘s nothing wrong with her saying it.  But to say the guy‘s lucky?  How is he lucky?  Is he—can you pick your parents today?  Can you pick your situation...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... argument that there are a lot of people—he points to me, and I fair enough accepted that—who are delighted at the prospect we can find any way to get past the racial divide in this country.

SCHULTZ:  It‘s part of the vetting process.  I get all of that.  But here‘s what the problem is.  They can‘t get to him on the issues, so they continually have their surrogates going out there and bringing up...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You didn‘t say that three minutes ago.  I said, Is there a pattern with an attempt to ghettoize him?

SCHULTZ:  There is undoubtedly a pattern in the Clinton camp because they haven‘t been able to reel it in.  If they can‘t discipline themselves, then it only leads to the conclusion.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re getting a little...

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ:  No, I‘m not waffling.

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that Bill Clinton was designated the job of saying he‘s just another Jesse Jackson marginal candidate?  Was Billy Shaheen given authority to bring up the drug issue?  Was Bob Johnson given authority to bring up the drug issue?  Was Mark Penn supposed to say the word “cocaine” a couple times on this show?  Is this all put together as a strategy in a back room?

SCHULTZ:  You just made my point.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking you.

SCHULTZ:  They‘re undisciplined.  This is why the Clinton...

MATTHEWS:  Are they disciplined or undisciplined?

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ:  They are undisciplined.

MATTHEWS:  So they weren‘t told to do this.

SCHULTZ:  You mean to tell me that after they...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking!  I ask the questions!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You sit over there and answer them!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Was it a strategy or not?

SCHULTZ:  After they had a few faux pas and paying millions of dollars to consultants, they couldn‘t still reel in the campaign and get on track.  That‘s the key.  And that‘s a question of leadership.  If you can‘t lead your own campaign and you can‘t discipline your own campaign, how are you going to run the country?

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask Michael...

SCHULTZ:  Chris!  Chris!

MATTHEWS:  Michael, Michael, I need to ask you about...

SMERCONISH:  Oh, let me in on this!

MATTHEWS:  ... the Democratic Party.  Here‘s my question for the Democratic Party moving forward.  You know, a lot of people would like to see this to be a really good election next fall and have the opportunity for change.  The voters could decide whether they want to go with a maverick Republican or they want to go with a Democrat, either the more moderate Hillary or a little more of a change candidate, Barack Obama.  We know the options.  Big change, smaller change, hardly any change, somewhat of a maverick change.  We know the nuances.  We‘ll know more in November.

But if this campaign gets blown up over ethnic or gender issues, there won‘t really be a real honest vote on the issues of whether we should change the policy or not.  That‘s what I‘m concerned about.  Will African-Americans be so outraged and young people so turned off by Barack Obama not getting this nomination he seems headed toward that they‘ll raise hell, and worse yet, stay home in November?

SMERCONISH:  Yes.  In a word, absolutely yes.  If the African-American community, and if white liberals, the aforementioned folks that I described who are my neighbors—if they think that Barack Obama leads...

MATTHEWS:  The good people of the Philadelphia metropolitan area, you mean.

SMERCONISH:  The people who are going to call the shot in the April 22 Pennsylvania primary, as you well know.  And Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Montgomery County and Bucks County and Delaware and Chester, I know.

SMERCONISH:  Yes.  And if those folks believe that Barack Obama led the delegate count and the popular vote count and he walks out of that convention anything less than the Democratic nominee, they will believe that he was shafted and they will stay home.  That‘s my prediction.

MATTHEWS:  OK, another question to you, as well, Michael.  What happens when Barack Obama wins, some argue because he has the right concept, he fits the uniform, he‘s African-American, he comes from an interesting background, he fits the uniform—that‘s the argument that Geraldine Ferraro made, he fits the uniform this year, which is the concept which is being black, which apparently she says is cool this year—OK.  Will older women, one of whom got me last night at this Irish event—will they be so embittered by this, saying the guys put it together and the guys gave it to him, rather than her?  Will that be the case come November and December?

SMERCONISH:  I doubt it.  And there‘s so much time left on the clock that I think that this argument that he‘s an empty suit is going to get tested and proven false.  I just finished and have spent all week long reading to my radio audience excerpts from “Dreams From My Father,” Barack Obama‘s first book, and I‘m telling your audience on HARDBALL, if you want to know what makes this guy tick, forget the grandiose, high-falutin‘ speeches, this is the real deal.  And people can make up their own minds, but it‘s going to get totally fleshed out.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s unique because he‘s a politician, and not since U.S.

Grant has a politician written his own book.

SMERCONISH:  Exactly.  And that is refreshing.

MATTHEWS:  Your thoughts here?  Did you read the book?

SCHULTZ:  No, I didn‘t read the book.

MATTHEWS:  Once you read it, you have a different take.  It‘s almost like Mark Twain.  It‘s so American, it‘s so textured, it‘s so almost sounding like great fiction because it reads like us.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... that the right word, picaresque?

SMERCONISH:  Chris?  Chris?  May I respond to that?

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s got that quality.  Yes?

SMERCONISH:  If his background were like mine, you know, Eastern European, Yugoslavian, Ukrainian, Italian, and the facts were otherwise the same, people would look at this and they‘d say, My God, what an embodiment of the American dream.  And I think superficially, instead, because his father was a Kenyan tribesman, they look at and it they‘re not quite sure how to accept this information.  It is the embodiment of the American dream.  You got to read this book!

SCHULTZ:  I‘ll read it.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s Ellis Island/black, which is the best combination you can be in this country, an immigrant and a minority, right, Michael?

SMERCONISH:  Yes.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Is that what you said?  That‘s the unique advantage he does have politically.  I agree the concept sells with a lot of people.

SCHULTZ:  Yes, and if you want to talk about race again, just remember Barack Obama still leads John McCain in Iowa and in North Dakota, some of the most...

MATTHEWS:  And he‘s marginally better off in Pennsylvania right now, although they‘re both having a tough time catching up to the resilient John McCain in Pennsylvania.  Anyway, Ed Schultz, as always sir, Michael Smerconish, my compadre.

Coming up: “Saturday Night Live” has always poked fun at presidential campaigns, but this year some are saying the show is in the tank for Hillary Clinton.  Is “SNL” pro-Hillary or just pro-funny?  We‘ll ask the show‘s top political sketch writer, James Downey.  He‘s going to come on.  I think he writes the stuff that I‘ve been in over the years.

Anyway, you‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, my God!  I am so (DELETED)  What do I do, Hillary?  What do I do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Mr. President, you can start by getting ahold of yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I can‘t!  Don‘t you see that I‘m in a panic, a blind, unreasoning, inexperienced panic!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Can I say something here?  Maybe it‘s just me, but once again, it seems as though, A, I‘m getting the tougher questions.  And B, with me, the overall tone is more hostile.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Ha!  Welcome to HARDBALL.  That, of course, was one of the recent political sketches on “Saturday Night Live.”  Not only are these sketches getting a lot of attention this season, Hillary Clinton herself is even talking about them, become her talking points.  Is Hillary getting a boost from “SNL”?  Here to talk about it is longtime “SNL” writer Jim Downey, who actually wrote the recent political sketches.

Jim, three weeks in a row, you‘ve guys have gone down for Hillary.  Three weeks in a row, pro-Hillary sketches.  You‘re making Barack Obama look like a black Don Knotts!

JIM DOWNEY, WRITER, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”:  First of all, I would argue that the first two were more taking a slight shot at Hillary and a heavier one at the media.  And then last week‘s was making fun of Hillary‘s 3:00 AM phone call ad.  Now...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

DOWNEY:  ... I‘m not saying that people couldn‘t misinterpret it, but I don‘t think they could if they listened to the whole thing.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s let the buyer have his remorse or not remorse.  Here‘s an “SNL” sketch hitting at the media‘s love for Obama, followed by Hillary Clinton‘s real-life response.  The actual—this isn‘t Amy Poehler in this second one, this is herself, Senator Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Senator Obama, are you comfortable?  Is there anything we can get for you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  Thank you.  I‘m fine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  John King, a follow-up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Senator Obama, a minute ago, Jorge Ramos asked if there was anything we could get you, and you said, quote, “No, thank you.  I‘m fine.”  My question is, Are you sure?  Because, you know, it‘s really no trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m quite sure.  Thank you, though.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  Well, can I just point out that in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time.  And I don‘t mind.  I—you know, I‘ll be happy to field them, but I do find it curious.  And if anybody saw “Saturday Night Live,” you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he‘s comfortable and needs another pillow.  I just find it kind of curious that I keep getting the first question on all of these issues.  But I‘m happy to answer it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And that went over like a lead balloon.  Let me ask you this, Jim.  You‘re a better writer than her writers.  I mean, it seems to me most people want to get the football first.  They want to be first up.  They want to get the ball when they jump for it in the NBA or in college basketball.  You go for the answer?  Why would she say out of nowhere, I don‘t like getting the first question all the time?  That‘s not really a question for you, though, is it.

DOWNEY:  Well, I will—I will answer it, though.

(LAUGHTER)

DOWNEY:  I have to say that that struck me as kind of—it‘s not self-evident that getting the first—getting the question first is a bad thing to most people. 

If you follow this sort of thing, though, it‘s better to get to hang back, like if there‘s nine candidates on stage saying—they say, what‘s your favorite book, and the first guy says, you know, “The Da Vinci Code,” and then the fifth guy gets to go, oh, I will say the Bible, and that will probably get...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re right.

DOWNEY:  ... me a few more votes.

I mean, it is an advantage to go later.  But it‘s certainly not so obvious to people that they‘re instantly going to be on her side.  I think that sort of mystified people. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that—when you—did you write that piece for Amy Poehler, and, who was it, who played—oh, Tina Fey, of course—the about she—one of them said, bitches are the new black? 

DOWNEY:  No, that—that—I believe it was Tina, and she might have

someone else might have worked on it with her.  But...

MATTHEWS:  What did you think of that line?  That‘s sort of self-incriminating, to say that‘s what you are, you know, to use that terrible word on yourself.

DOWNEY:  Well, but I think it was like a girl power kind of celebrating their self-actualization thing. 

And I also didn‘t think that it—I know this is a tougher thing to sell than the debate thing, in a way, but I think that that wasn‘t even necessarily to be viewed as a straight editorial endorsement.  Tina Fey was sort of doing an attitude piece about—about being—about girl power. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DOWNEY:  And I agree most people sort of interpreted that as a straight-up endorsement...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s Senator Clinton‘s cameo on “SNL” with Amy Poehler, the—the woman, the great comedian who—who does her, if you will. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)   

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I simply adore Amy‘s impression of me. 

AMY POEHLER, ACTRESS:  Oh, well, my ears are ringing. 

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE) 

CLINTON:  How are you? 

POEHLER:  Good.  Thank you. 

CLINTON:  Well, I‘m...

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  I‘m glad to be here.  Thanks for having me. 

POEHLER:  Oh, I—oh, yes, thank you for coming.  I love your outfit. 

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  Well, I love your outfit. 

POEHLER:  Why, I thank you. 

CLINTON:  But I do want the earrings back. 

POEHLER:  Oh, OK.  

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  Do I really laugh like that? 

POEHLER:  Oh.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

POEHLER:  So, how‘s the campaign going? 

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON:  Oh, the campaign it‘s going very well, very, very well. 

POEHLER:  Great. 

CLINTON:  Why?  What have you heard? 

POEHLER:  Nothing. 

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  Oh. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Were you surprised, Jim, that Senator Clinton decided to use the treatment she‘s gotten on “SNL” in fact to knock on the press for being too nice to Barack as her sort of talking points in the debates and henceforth since then? 

DOWNEY:  Well, I mean, I—I‘m—you‘re more aware of what she does on—on the campaign trail perhaps than I would be. 

I guess, after I saw some of the reaction, you know, when she mentioned it in the debate, obviously, she thinks that it was like a third party making her case, so that she‘s not—it‘s not coming from an interested party. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, here—here‘s your most amazing one.  I have to tell you, I watch every Saturday night.  The only thing I don‘t like about “SNL” is it means Sunday is coming, which means Monday is coming.  You know, it just means my weekend has begun to be over at 11:30 Saturday night. 

DOWNEY:  We‘re working on that. 

MATTHEWS:  But I love this stuff.  And maybe you can change the schedule of the week.

But here you are with what is called the cold open in television.  It‘s when you just go right on before a commercial.  It‘s always one of the most stunning parts of the show, if not the best part of the material. 

Here it is, the “SNL” parador—parody—it‘s not parador—of the 3:00 a.m. Clinton commercial. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)   

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Somewhere in the nation‘s capital, a phone is ringing.  Your vote will decide who answers that call. 

POEHLER:  Hello? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  Senator Clinton, I have President Obama on the line.

POEHLER:  I‘ll take it.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Uh, Hillary, I‘m sorry to call this late again, but I need your help.

POEHLER:  Mr. President, what can I do?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  The CIA just confirmed that Iran has completed a nuclear device.  It looks like the Russians, the North Koreans and Hugo Chavez have been helping them.

POEHLER:  I was afraid of that.  When did this start?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Apparently, the day I was sworn in.  Those mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED)!  Those (EXPLETIVE DELETED)!  I trusted them.  I gave them my complete, total trust.  And they (EXPLETIVE DELETED) lied to me.

POEHLER:  Mr. President...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Oh my god.  I am so (EXPLETIVE DELETED)!  What do I do, Hillary?  What do I do?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you killed him there. Jim.  You killed him.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, he looks like this guy who got the wrong job, way over his head, scared to death, and Hillary is this in-control woman who knows exactly what‘s coming.  She‘s prophetic, brilliant, in control, calm.  She does have a bad makeup thing going on there, but this helps her, doesn‘t it? 

DOWNEY:  Oh, but what—no, no, what I‘m saying—the top of ad led with a disclaimer, “I‘m Hillary Clinton and I approve this.”

MATTHEWS:  I know.

DOWNEY:  What did I have, “misleading and deceitful ad” or something.

(CROSSTALK)

DOWNEY:  Then you go into the piece.  Then it comes out and she announces that she has to read some—for legal reasons, she has to point out that there‘s no evidence that Senator Obama has ever done—and then she proceeds to rattle off three things he‘s shown as doing in the piece. 

So, the idea was that it was—it was a—it was a parody of what—

what at least I thought was a little—a little over-the-top and

unjustified ad that—that suggested...

MATTHEWS:  OK, Orson Welles, because this is what Orson Welles got into trouble with.  He said, the world was—I think, it was just a parody.  And he sets up the hour by saying, this is just a showpiece, the show business.  People are jumping out of windows because they thought the world was ending. 

So, you have done this thing.  It is so well written that a lot of people are going to see this and say, my God if he gets elected president, he will be Don Knotts in the middle of the night, scared to death.

DOWNEY:  Well, I...

MATTHEWS:  Unintended consequences, sir. 

DOWNEY:  They‘re the funnest kind, aren‘t they? 

MATTHEWS:  I know.  You‘re great.  I so much worship your work, sir. 

DOWNEY:  Oh, thank you.

MATTHEWS:  I love it, what you do.  Thank you. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s so great, my favorite show, “Saturday Night Live.”  It is my favorite show, regardless of what political position your show takes. 

Anyway, thank you, Jim Downey, for coming on HARDBALL.

DOWNEY:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Up—up next:  Florida and Michigan figure out whether to hold makeup—like they‘re going to get together—primaries.  We are going to compare what the candidates, Clinton and Obama, are saying about that vs. what they have said in the past, not entirely consistent, by the way. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

So, what else is happening in politics out there? 

Well, 75 years ago, Franklin Delano Roosevelt connected with the country using fireside chats like this one. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I tell you the blunt fact that the German submarine fired first upon this American destroyer, Greer, without warning and with deliberate design to sink her. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Now, Harry Reid of the U.S. Senate is trying to pull it off, digital-style.  Here he is showing off his new fireside podcast.  Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  It‘s seems we all have come from here with Roosevelt‘s fireside chats, even though there are not many people who are still around that watched the fireside chats.  This is the 75th anniversary of the first one that he held. 

It‘s exciting to think that something as simple as what he did had such a lasting impact. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  It reminds me of what one critic said about the late Senator Scoop Jackson when he failed to light up the screen when he ran for president:  Scoop Jackson gave a fireside chat, and the fire went out. 

Now to the where-you-sit-is-where-you-stand department, first, Senator Clinton.  When it comes to Michigan and Florida, here‘s what Senator Clinton said this week. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON:  The results of those primaries were fair, and they should be honored.  Over the last few weeks, there‘s been a lot of discussion about what we should do to ensure that the voters in Florida and Michigan are counted.  Well, in my view, there are two options: honor the results or hold new primary elections. 

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Want to hear something completely different? 

Here‘s what Senator Clinton said before the Michigan primary, when Obama‘s name did not appear on the ballot. 

Back then, she said—quote—“It‘s clear this election they‘re having is not going to count for anything.”

Now she‘s saying it‘s her primary option.  So, at one point, she said it was clear it wouldn‘t count.  And now she‘s said it‘s option number one, count what happened. 

Now to Senator Obama.  When asked this week whether he supports a mail-in election in Florida, Obama was far from enthusiastic—quote—

“Well, I think there‘s some concerns in terms of making sure that whatever we do is fair and that votes are properly counted and the logistics make sense.”

Well, that wasn‘t his concern a while ago, and certainly not when he came out against—when he came out in favor of mail-in votes, as one of three co-sponsors of a bill in the United States Senate for mail-in votes last year. 

That bill, by the way, quoted as follows—quote—“Vote by mail allows voters to educate themselves, because they receive ballots well before Election Day, which provides them with ample time to research issues, study ballots, and deliberate in a way that is not possible at a polling place.  Vote by mail is accurate.  At least two studies comparing voting technologies show that absentee voting methods, including vote-by-mail systems, result in a more accurate vote count.”

Well, we‘re keeping tabs here on consistency. 

And now it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number” tonight.  It‘s a sad one, in my opinion. 

A couple days ago, we brought you these vile attacks against Barack Obama from Iowa Congressman Steve King. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE KING ®, IOWA:  When you think about the optics of a Barack Obama potentially getting elected president of the United States, and, I mean, what does it look like to the rest of the world?  What does it look like to the world of Islam? 

And I will tell you that, if he is elected president, then the—the radical Islamists, the—the al Qaeda and the radical Islamists and their supporters will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11, because they will—they will declare victory in this war on terror. 

Additionally, it does matter—his middle name does matter.  It matters because they read meaning that into that.  And the rest of the world, it has a special meaning to them.  They will be dancing in the streets because of his middle name.  They will be dancing in the streets because of who his father was and because of his posture that says pull out of the Middle East and pull out of the conflict. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, if you think propaganda doesn‘t work like that, listen to this. 

Unfortunately, this insinuation that Obama is a Muslim, a move intended to scare scaring voters, obviously, could actually be working.  According to the brand-new MSNBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll, what percentage of Americans actually think Barack Obama is, in fact, a Muslim?  Thirteen percent.  That‘s the success rate of the propaganda, more of that.

More than one of every 10 voters incorrectly believes that Obama is a Muslim.  Setting the record straight, he‘s a Christian—tonight‘s “Big Number,” 13 have been fooled by that kind of propaganda from people like Steve King. 

And, by the way, he‘s not the great writer. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Will a drawn-out fight for the nomination between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton do more harm than good to the Democratic Party they‘re both members of?  “The Politics Fix” is next.   

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Mary Thompson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks ending a turbulent day higher, the Dow Jones industrial average gaining 35 points, the S&P 500 up six, and the Nasdaq up 19.  Stocks erased heavy losses earlier today, after Standard & Poor‘s said an end is in sight to the subprime mortgage write-downs by the U.S.‘ big financial institutions. 

Hurting stocks today, though, word retail sales fell last month by a larger-than-expected six-tenths of a percent. 

Oil gained 41 cents in New York and closed at yet another record high of $110.33 a barrel. 

In the meantime, bad news for jewelry shoppers.  Gold hit $1,000 an ounce for the first time, before closing at $992.30 an ounce.  Gold is up nearly 20 percent this year, after rising more than 30 percent last year. 

And Chrysler says it will shut down operations for two weeks in July to save money.  Workers who take the time as regular vacation will get paid. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and “The Politics Fix.” 

Tonight‘s roundtable, Eugene Robinson of “The Washington Post,” Deborah Mathis of BlackAmericaWeb.com, and Jill Zuckman of “The Chicago Tribune.” 

The question here is on the table.  We don‘t like it there, but it sits there, looking at us. 

Gene, I want you to start. 

Why was Hillary Clinton, in the last several days, so slow to separate herself, as we say in football, to try to achieve separation from Geraldine Ferraro and her remarks about the fact that Barack Obama only sits where he does, at the top of the polls, at the top of the Democrats‘ delegate count, popular vote, and state victories, because he‘s black? 

EUGENE ROBINSON, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: 

Well, let‘s give the charitable explanation and the uncharitable. 

The charitable is that Geraldine Ferraro is kind of an icon of the feminist movement.  She was a real pioneer.  And, you know, it—it must be difficult for Hillary Clinton and many of her supporters to—you know, to establish that sort of distance from Ferraro. 

That‘s the charitable explanation. 

The uncharitable is that it was not a bad thing, from the Clinton campaign‘s point of view, to have this impression out there.  I mean, it‘s not...

MATTHEWS:  That...

ROBINSON:  It would not—it would not be the first time that the Clinton campaign has tried to marginalize Barack Obama as the black candidate in the race, and not a candidate who speaks, you know, for the whole party. 

MATHIS:  I think the point is that the Clinton campaign is interested in marginalizing Barack Obama however they can.  If race is part of it, so be it. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the other way to do it? 

MATHIS:  Experience, age, seasoning, all of those things, connections to the political establishment, a lot of different ways.  Anyway that he can appear to be not ready or not fit or not qualified. 

MATTHEWS:  They are portraying him as if he‘s one of the things that comes out of a Pez dispenser.  As long as it was black, it was going to win.  The next one is black and it‘s going to win.  It‘s the concept that sold.  That‘s what Geraldine said.  It‘s the concept of being black that sells.   

MATHIS:  As Gene said, Hillary Clinton has—like a lot of women, feel some kind of respect and reverence for Geraldine Ferraro.  And after all, she did sign on to her campaign to help raise funds.  So, you don‘t want to completely slap somebody silly with that.  But she knew at the same time she had to distance herself from it. 

MATTHEWS:  She should have the way that the Clintons slapped Samantha Power and sent her running, kicked away one of the most top professional foreign policy experts in the country.  What‘s the word, shunned her, sent her away in banishment, but in this case—

MATHIS:  I wish she had.  I wish she had done that to Geraldine Ferraro.  But I‘m telling you, speaking in Hillary Clinton‘s head now why she didn‘t do it. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you with Gene on the first or second interpretation? 

MATHIS:  I think both apply.  They aren‘t mutually exclusive. 

MATTHEWS:  She didn‘t want to be too nasty toward and they also thought they benefit from it. 

MATHIS:  Absolutely.   

MATTHEWS:  Jill?

ZUCKMAN:  I think we saw this starting in South Carolina, that the Clinton campaign intentionally was trying to paint Senator Obama as the black candidate for president. 

MATTHEWS:  Is this a Mark Penn thing?  Is this a psychological warfare they‘re fighting to convince whites that this guy‘s hot because he‘s black? 

ZUCKMAN:  I think he‘s hot because he‘s hot.  It may be true if he were a white candidate who had only been in the United States Senate for two years that he wouldn‘t go anywhere.  But there‘s something about what Obama has that appeals to a broad spectrum of the American public. 

MATHIS:  But the Clintons really do play the hardest of HARDBALL and they believe by in any means necessary, so in whatever ways you can take him down and you can neutralize or make your opponent appear effete, you go for it. 

MATTHEWS:  Do we have a sound on tape of Obama responding to this?  I think we do. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Race and gender issues are very powerful in our society.  They‘re—they‘ve been an organizing principle for our politics since the earliest days of this country.  And so, you know, it would be naive for me to think that we could just brush them aside.  And I know that sometimes Senator Clinton and others accuse me of being naive, but I‘m not naive enough to think that we‘re going to solve the country‘s racial problems and some of these other divisions in the span of six months or a year. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, Gene, that was almost out of the Brooks‘ Brothers

style book, you know, one of the books they have in the shelves when you go

in to buy a pair of clothes or something.  Organizing principle, Jim Crow -

-

ROBINSON:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Left a literacy test, poll taxes, outright discrimination, denial of the right to vote along racial lines, and he‘s says that‘s one of the organizing principles. 

ROBINSON:  Right.  Well, that‘s—

MATTHEWS:  The most elegant way to describe something that‘s pretty bad I‘ve heard. 

ROBINSON:  Yes, that‘s an extreme example of the very kind of cool way Obama has tried to play race in this whole campaign.  If you notice, after the—in the wake of the Ferraro eruption, for example, he was very clear to say that—that he felt it was offensive, but he didn‘t come out and say it was racist.  And he‘s very, very careful to—you know, to avoid—

I think he sees that as falling into a trap and getting into a discussion on a level that‘s not—not helpful to him as he tries to have this very broad appeal to a cross-section of voters. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re right.  Thank you very much for that.  We‘ll get back—we‘ll come right back.  We have a little more time. 

We‘ll be right back with the round table to talk about this tricky situation for both Senator Clinton—well, it may be tricky, it may be purposeful.  We‘ll find out in the days ahead, perhaps.  But certainly it‘s tricky to play defense on this kind of a thing. 

And later, the fight over what to do about Florida‘s delegates?  We may not get to that tonight.  By the way, nobody‘s getting to that, because nobody has a solution yet to Florida.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the politics fix, talking about this very tricky question; I want to ask you, Deborah, how does Barack Obama deal with it if there‘s an attempt to marginalize him ethnically? 

MATHIS:  Well, I think he‘s been dealing with it quite well by kind of ridiculing the whole theory, you know, that he‘s so lucky to be a black man, and if he weren‘t that will lucky, he probably wouldn‘t be here right now.  That is prima faci ridiculous. 

MATTHEWS:  Except, let me try to find the kernel of truth in what she said.  She wasn‘t saying it‘s cool to be black in a country that has never elected a black president or vice president or a very rarely a senator or a governorship, very rarely in 300 years of doing this.  She‘s talking about the fact there‘s something embracing going on about the idea of Barack Obama, the concept of him. 

MATHIS:  I hear that.  And there is something that—that is one, I think, right now, for timing purposes, that does work to his benefit in some corners.  It also works against him in some corners.  It may level out for all I know.  Here‘s the other—but, Chris, may I just say this, to keep it from sounding as if Geraldine Ferraro were being—had some sanguine point to make about this, why did she say it with derision.  Why did she say it with derision? 

MATTHEWS:  She‘s ticked off.  I think that‘s fair enough.  By the way, that‘s coming, Jill, the older woman, the older white woman—if blacks and young people were upset at what looks to be the theft of a nomination at some point from Barack Obama, they‘ll be angry.  What happened to the older women?  I bumped into one last night.  I couldn‘t get away from her.  She was just hitting me; you people in the media, you‘re all for Barack.  It was strong language.  I have to listen to it.  Of course, I had a comment in return. 

ZUCKMAN:  The Clinton campaign would be happy to have this be a debate about race every single day, remind voters that Barack Obama is a black man.  Senator Obama doesn‘t want to be talking about race every day.  He wants to be talking about other things. 

MATTHEWS:  Gene, what it‘s say, it takes two to tango?  It only takes one to start a fight?  I forget the whole phrase is.  The truth is, if someone is fighting with you, they are fighting with you.  Can Barack Obama call a truce on the ethnic front or is it just going to be up to the Clintons to decide when this fight ends if it going on for a purpose?

ROBINSON:  I don‘t see how you can stop them from raising this issue if they want to keep raising it.  And, you know, I mean, I think—you know, from his campaign‘s point of view, I think they‘ve done fairly well, or they must feel they‘ve done fairly well in responding to it, but they can‘t control what the Clinton campaign does.  And, you know, he can throw out some surrogates maybe. 

But what could he possibly do?  Could he go after her on gender?  That wouldn‘t be a good idea, as you pointed out.  So, he‘s going to have to continue to deal with it.  And, you know, he can go hot.  He can go cool.  I think cool is probably a more promising strategy. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think his biggest challenge is change the subject and start talking about jobs in Pennsylvania and how to take some of that war money and bring it home to pay for the Medicaid bills of these people who have long-term care problems and keep their security—Social Security and keep their Medicare bills paid, and tell people that‘s the price of an expensive war. 

Bring it home, Obama!  If I were running his campaign.  I‘m clearly not because he keeps talking big picture.  He talks the war and he talks these concepts, and the average guy or woman who has to pay the bill wants to know what‘s in it for them.  That‘s how politics works in Pennsylvania.  It certainly—

ZUCKMAN:  They‘ve got six weeks to knock on every door in Pennsylvania, to go to every county and every corner of the state, and I—that‘s a lot of time. 

MATTHEWS:  If it‘s a college kid with stars in their eyes, it‘s not going to turn on the regular person, is it? 

ZUCKMAN:  There may be plenty of college kids who they have mobilized to help them, but obviously he has to talk to working-class people in Pennsylvania. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

MATHIS:  I think he can do that.  If I were Barack Obama right now, if they brought up the race thing one more time, after I‘ve dealt with it, I‘d say, look, you know, if you have a problem with race, good luck.  Hope you get it worked out.  I‘ve got to move on and deal with some of America‘s problems right now. 

MATTHEWS:  His best line is if you work, you shouldn‘t be poor.  Best line of the year.  If you work, you shouldn‘t be poor.  I‘d like to stick to that one. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Gene.  Thank you very much, Deborah.  Thank you, Jill.  

We‘ll be back with more of the show.  We‘re going to have a couple of Congressman people in just a minute who disagree.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The Florida Democratic party is pushing for a do-over primary with mail-in ballots, but all the state‘s House Democrats in the U.S. Congress, including the Clinton and Obama supporters in the Congress, oppose a mail-in campaign or any makeup primary.  Should Florida‘s Democratic delegation be seated as is, even though none of the candidates campaigned there?  And if so, how should it work? 

We are joined by two members of Florida‘s House delegation, U.S.  Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is a Hillary supporter, and U.S. Congressman Robert Wexler, who supports Obama.  Let me go to the toughest question of the night to Congressman Wexler; can Barack Obama win Florida in November, should he be the nominee, if the delegation is not seated? 

REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), FLORIDA:  I think Senator Barack Obama can win Florida in November.  I also think the senator—

MATTHEWS:  If the delegation isn‘t seated? 

WEXLER:  Yes.  I think that Senator Obama and Senator Clinton can win Florida in November under any set of circumstances.  But I‘m not naive.  We have a sense of urgency amongst the Florida delegation, both Clinton and Obama supporters.  And that sense of urgency is we want to go into November united.  And in order to do that, we must seat the Florida delegation in full.  And we can‘t have a mail-in primary that creates all kinds of fiasco, which will actually present us with two contested elections rather than one. 

That‘s why we are proposing now that both Clinton and Obama supporters get together, we try to moderate the positions, so that we can get the Florida delegation seated with a reasonable resolution. 

MATTHEWS:  That sets it up for you, Congresswoman, what is the way to find common ground here?  Is there a way? 

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA:  There is a way.  We were able to issue a joint statement the other night that unequivocally stated that our House members on the Democratic side in Florida are opposed to a mail in ballot, but that we are unified in making sure that delegation gets seated at the convention. 

The only place that I differ with Robert with what he just said is that I don‘t think—I think it would potentially jeopardize our ability to win Florida if the Democratic party sends a message to Florida voters that their votes don‘t matter. 

So we do need to make sure we get a resolution to this.  I agree with Robert that we have to get campaigns out of their respective corners.  We‘ve come out of our respective corners.  We‘ve got to come together and find a solution. 

MATTHEWS:  Since none of the candidates campaigned down there, why don‘t you simply take the Real Clear Politics Average of the polls in Florida, and divvy up the delegates by proportion as they appear in all the polls put together.  In other words, all the polls together, take the average and divide up the delegates that way. 

SCHULTZ:  Chris, that‘s meaningless. 

MATTHEWS:  It is?

SCHULTZ:  It is.  You can‘t just take it based on a poll.  It has to -

in my opinion, you have to at least in part base it on the votes that were cast.  And that way we can have—we have a delegation that‘s already been selected.  We can‘t select a different delegation.  We have to make sure we have some fairness and some compromise here, and that‘s what we‘re working together to try to find. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the timing here, Congressman?  When are you going to be able to do this?  After all the other primaries and caucuses are done so we know whether these are going to be decisive or not, in terms of the total? 

WEXLER:  The sooner the better.  We ought to provide a sense of urgency both to the Obama and Clinton campaigns that the Florida situation needs to be resolved immediately, where Florida is fully represented at that convention.  It is critical for our success. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry, we‘re so short tonight.  I‘m sorry you had the roll call.  Thank you for coming on, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Congressman Robert Wexler.  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.

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