Guests: Rebecca Jarvis, Chris Matthews, Tucker Carlson, Mike Barnicle, Michael Smerconish, Ed Schultz, Jill Zuckman, Michelle Bernard, Jonathan Capehart, Willie Brown, Hilary Rosen
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Did John McCain really tell some Hollywood types he didn‘t vote for George Bush back in 2000? Intriguing question.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. Does it all come down to black and white? Barack Obama‘s been winning the black vote, Hillary Clinton has been winning the white vote, and some say they heard the dog whistle of racial politics when Hillary Clinton made this comment after the North Carolina and Indiana primaries.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There was just
an AP article posted that found how Senator Obama‘s support among working -
hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how the, you know, whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Hard-working white Americans. Well, today, former Democratic candidate John Edwards suggested on “MORNING JOE”—that‘s on this network, of course—that that kind of talk from Hillary Clinton isn‘t helpful. Is Hillary playing racial politics in that kind of language, or is she just—did she just state a fact?
Meanwhile, listen carefully. That sound you hear is the slow falling of electoral delegates, of superdelegates, to Barack Obama. Seven more came aboard today. So Obama, way ahead in elected delegates, now trails Hillary Clinton by only 4-and-a-half superdelegates. It didn‘t help matters for Clinton when her long-time supporter, U.S. Congressman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, called Obama today the presumptive nominee of his party. Does Hillary have an exit strategy at this point?
And party politics. We‘ve heard this one before, but there‘s a nasty
little story that‘s resurfaced in today‘s “New York Times” that John McCain
didn‘t vote for George W. Bush in 2000. At least, he said he didn‘t. Wait
that was the story. Wait until you hear McCain‘s response to that little baby, that sugar plum of news, and about the way the McCain and Obama campaigns were going at each other today. That‘s another story tonight. We‘ll have a lot about that. And you‘ll have no doubt about who John McCain thinks will be the Democratic nominee based upon who he‘s blasting these days.
And should Hillary Clinton become Obama‘s running mate, if and when he wins the nomination? Not according to Ted Kennedy. He left no doubt whatsoever about where he stands on whether Hillary Clinton ought to be on that ticket or not. And by the way, the blow the suspense, he doesn‘t think she‘s worthy to be on the ticket. What an amazing statement he made, doesn‘t think she appeals to the noble aspirations that are required to be consistent with those that are inspiring those people voting for Barack Obama. Anyway, we‘ll have more on that and more in the “Politics Fix,” a lot more tonight.
And will Al Gore be the next secretary of state? Well, wait for that one in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”
But first: What‘s Hillary Clinton saying when she‘s says Obama‘s not winning white voters? MSNBC senior campaign correspondent Tucker Carlson and former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, one of the smartest guys in politics ever is on our program tonight. Mayor Brown, thank you.
Let‘s listen both, all of us, to what Senator Clinton said to “USA Today.” It‘s on tape. We can listen for ourselves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: There was an AP article posted that found how Senator Obama‘s support among working—hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how the, you know, whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me, and in independents, I was running even with him and doing even better with Democratic-leading independents. I have a much broader base to built a winning coalition on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So I‘m trying to get this straight. Are hard-working Americans white, or are whites all hard-working Americans? It was an unusual juxtaposition of adjectives there. Mayor—Mayor, what do you think of this, Mayor Brown, Hillary Clinton—so maybe it‘s just awkward English, maybe it‘s truth telling, maybe it‘s the dog whistle of ethnic politics. What do you think?
WILLIE BROWN, FORMER SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: Well, I think it was just an unfortunate combination of words. I‘m sure that Hillary Clinton is not a racist, by any stretch of the imagination. But those words, Chris, clearly leaves her in the position where she is now saying, one, that hard-working Americans are white people, and number two, that hard-working American white people won‘t vote for a black.
You can‘t do that. You can‘t say that. You can‘t use the words that might be interpreted that way. I personally don‘t interpret them that way, based on what she said, but it‘s out there and it‘s going to be dealt with. And let me tell you, I think the Obama campaign is smart. You can‘t get a peep out of any one of them about this statement. This statement is going to have to be dealt with by Hillary Clinton and Hillary Clinton alone.
MATTHEWS: You know, the interesting thing, Mayor Brown, you‘ve had your career based upon getting white votes, right? You never had any problem, have you?
BROWN: Let me tell something. There‘s no district in which I‘ve ever been a candidate that I didn‘t have to reply upon something other than brothers and sisters. As a matter of fact, Chris, the maximum number of—percentage-wise on my candidacy has always been about 8 to 10 percent African-Americans, period. Let me tell you, the world is out there. It is to be taken by quality, attractive, interesting, creative candidates, and race becomes secondary with a sufficient number of people to allow you to win. Hillary Clinton knows that. And the sooner she begins to say that, the sooner her ship is going to start sailing in a better direction.
MATTHEWS: You, sir, have just earned a book reference. What‘s the name of your latest book?
BROWN: “Basic Brown.”
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. “Basic Brown.” You want to get that kind of brains in a book, go get that book. This guy‘s sold a billion of them. Wherever you go, Mayor, you sells the books by the thousands. I know that.
But maybe we can sell some for where you aren‘t going to be.
Let me ask you, Tucker, to weigh in on this one. You‘re chuckling.
You‘re smiling that serene smile of yours.
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE) Can we be totally honest?
MATTHEWS: Well, I think that‘d be interesting.
CARLSON: Let‘s do it. Any...
CARLSON: Any time you use the phrase “white people” in a positive context, it‘s uncomfortable. It‘s a social...
MATTHEWS: In a positive...
CARLSON: If Hillary were to come out and say, I like white people—whoa! You can‘t say—just using the phrase alone is enough to make your palms sweat...
CARLSON: ... in contemporary America. She‘s telling the truth, by the way. Nobody is uncomfortable when Barack Obama wins over 90 percent of the black vote. Doesn‘t make him a bigot for doing that. The truth is, in my view—and far be it from me to defend Hillary, but I am because I think it‘s true. She is winning working-class white voters on cultural, not racial, grounds. They think Barack Obama‘s an elitist. She‘s posited herself...
MATTHEWS: Do you think so?
CARLSON: I do think so. And by the way...
CARLSON: ... I think that this “hard-working” thing, that‘s a common Democratic trope. It‘s very annoying. The idea is anybody who makes under 50 grand works hard. Anybody who makes over that is lazy. That‘s infuriating, but it‘s not racial.
MATTHEWS: Suppose Barack Obama had said she can‘t get hard-working black voters? Suppose he just said that.
MATTHEWS: I‘m just asking! What would be that—what would be that statement? What would be...
CARLSON: No, we wouldn‘t be—we wouldn‘t be...
MATTHEWS: I‘m just asking...
MATTHEWS: I‘m just asking, what would have been the reaction if he had said she can‘t get black voters, she can‘t get hard-working voters, I mean black voters?
CARLSON: I think—I think people would say, you know, there‘s no reason to say it because you‘re already getting 90 percent of the vote! But it‘s true! And truth is a defense, even with Hillary Clinton.
MATTHEWS: Mayor, do you buy that?
BROWN: Let me wade in. Can I wade in for a moment? You can‘t use the term “hard-working” and make people think it only applies to white people. Hard-working applies to any person who‘s out there hard working, and race is not an indicator of hard working.
CARLSON: Well, of course not.
BROWN: I love hard working. That‘s how I got to be...
MATTHEWS: OK, let me...
BROWN: ... where I am.
MATTHEWS: Can I weigh in on this, myself, since I‘m the moderator? You get up in D.C. at 6:00 o‘clock in the morning, you know who‘s waiting to catch the bus to go to work? Black people. They‘re up earlier than anybody else, going to work for longer hours. Of course, that‘s an absurd argument, only white people work. But is Hillary Clinton a political neophyte to use that phrase, or she know what she was doing as she heads into north—into West Virginia and Kentucky, Mayor?
BROWN: I don‘t think so. I think it was just a slip of the tongue. We politicians invariably misstate and misstep. Hillary Clinton—this is not the first time Hillary Clinton has misstated or misstepped, not the first time Barack Obama has misstepped and misstated. And that‘ll happen quite often. It just becomes a colossal problem when it becomes one that is tinged with racism.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s move on. I think the question, as Jesse Jackson would say, is moot at this point...
CARLSON: Let me just point out one thing. If you think Hillary Clinton, who almost never makes missteps, is in trouble now, imagine what‘s going to happen with John McCain in the general. Imagine how many times he‘s going to say things inadvertently and get in trouble like this, I think unfairly.
MATTHEWS: Well, we‘re going to talk about that later. Did he say to a bunch of Hollywood types when he was out...
CARLSON: No, but I mean on the sort of race...
MATTHEWS: ... he didn‘t vote for Bush? Let me ask you this question. You first, Tucker, this time. It‘s hard to figure out. We‘re in that weird, murky part of politics, which I absolutely love. I think it‘s the sweet spot...
CARLSON: Oh, definitely.
MATTHEWS: ... right, because none of us can figure out what‘s going on, none of us. We don‘t know whether Hillary Clinton is gunning for VP, she‘s gunning for president, ultimately, still in the hunt, or she‘s just trying to make life difficult for Barack and make sure he doesn‘t win the general. There‘s a lot of interpretations as to what she‘s doing now. Is she just trying to force herself on the ticket, or is she trying to make sure the ticket doesn‘t win, or is she building up an “I told you so” agenda that come December, when the election‘s over and perhaps Barack loses the general by a squeaker, she can say, You didn‘t listen to me, this guy had problems?
CARLSON: I‘m not sure she has any idea what she‘s doing. I‘m not sure she has a plan, at this point. We know she‘s not going for a later election because Democrats don‘t play that way. You lose once, you‘re out. It doesn‘t happen like in the Republican Party...
MATTHEWS: Clintons always come back.
CARLSON: It has never happened since Adlai Stevenson, that that‘s happened. The John McCain scenario, where you build up a base but lose in the end, then come back in eight years—it‘s not going to happen with Hillary, and she gets that...
MATTHEWS: Why is that true of Democrats?
CARLSON: I don‘t know why. But it‘s—where‘s Mike Dukakis today?
You don‘t even have him on your show. I mean, he‘s never around. He has -
John Kerry is a figure of contempt in the Democratic Party, unfairly, I would argue. It‘s what Democrats...
CARLSON: Democrats are like that. But I personally think she doesn‘t know what she wants, but she knows that having a constituency never hurts when you‘re negotiating for whatever it is you want in the end.
MATTHEWS: How many times did Nixon run? I mean, the Republicans forgave him for losing. They forgave...
CARLSON: The Democrats don‘t forgive.
MATTHEWS: I see. I see. It‘s the difference in the party. Do you buy that, Mayor, that there‘s a difference between Democrats and Republicans about shooting their wounded?
BROWN: I do. I think that Democrats are reflective of how Tucker just described them. They do tend to reject a loser. We just don‘t hang with losers. But on the question of Hillary, I really believe...
MATTHEWS: ... a lot of losers, too!
BROWN: I really believe Hillary and Bill Clinton are firmly of the opinion that Barack Obama has not yet proven to them that he is qualified to be the president. I think they are sincere when they say that.
BROWN: Now, I don‘t think she‘s posturing to come around. I think she knows Barack has great qualities, et cetera, but being on the scene less than four full years...
BROWN: ... she is fully of the opinion that, at best, he should be a vice presidential candidate, not a presidential candidate. I think, however, Chris, she‘s going to come to the reality of the numbers, and when she does, it will not be, I want to be vice president. It will be, How can I influence your administration to more appropriately reflect the dinosaurs that I represent, the old-party warriors that I represent as we move forward together?
MATTHEWS: You are an interesting fellow. Mayor Willie Brown, the book is called “Basic Brown.” Thank you, sir. As always, you—it‘s amazing. I love to hear it. Anyway, Tucker, you‘re a hard man to figure out.
Coming up: What‘s Hillary Clinton‘s game? What‘s her plan? Let‘s get to the specifics. Is she working on some particular goal between now and mid-June? In the next three weeks, what is she up to? Because I can‘t figure it out. I am mystified as to what she‘s up to. Is this just what we call preignition in a car, you turn the key off and the car won‘t go off, or is there something bigger at stake here, something more afoot? Hillary‘s still working for this thing. We got to find out what the thing is.
We‘ll be right back with more.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Barack Obama picked up seven new superdelegates today, and U.S. Congressman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, a long-time Clinton supporter—in fact, he worked at the Clinton White House—said Obama is now the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party. Well, Clinton has threatened to stay in the race until a nominee is actually named. Is she devising an exit strategy even as we speak?
Hilary Rosen is a Clinton supporter. We‘ve known that. She‘s also the political director of the Huffingtonpost. And Mike Barnicle is an MSNBC political analyst.
Let me go to Hilary. You know Hillary.
HILARY ROSEN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: Yes.
MATTHEWS: You know Hillary.
ROSEN: I do.
MATTHEWS: You like Hillary.
ROSEN: I do like Hillary.
MATTHEWS: You‘re Hillary‘s friend.
ROSEN: I‘m Hillary‘s friend.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you...
MATTHEWS: What‘s Hillary up to?
ROSEN: I have no idea.
MATTHEWS: Right now.
ROSEN: I haven‘t talked to her in weeks. And I think this is one of those times where candidates keep their views and feelings really close to the vest. I can tell you that her campaign is, you know, in full election mode.
MATTHEWS: Everybody‘s getting paid?
ROSEN: They‘re scheduling events.
MATTHEWS: Everybody getting paid?
ROSEN: They‘re getting paid. They‘re cranking out...
MATTHEWS: Those huge salaries people get in that campaign are getting paid?
ROSEN: People seem to be getting paid. Everyone‘s sticking around. And more importantly, I think, for what we‘re thinking about, her folks are up on the Hill today, making this argument that of the 20 toss-up races that the House Democrats have in this next election, Hillary‘s won 15 of those districts. And so she‘s trying out different arguments...
ROSEN: ... superdelegates.
MATTHEWS: Oh, we heard the Puerto Rican argument last night, that if she can win the Puerto Rican popular vote and that carries her over Barack Obama, she ought to be the nominee.
MATTHEWS: I mean, I heard that—Wolfson was sitting right there and made the case.
ROSEN: Yes. Well...
MATTHEWS: Well, you guys are original!
ROSEN: I‘m not sure that the speaker‘s (ph) as worried about Puerto Rico, but...
MATTHEWS: I tell you, it‘s the only sport in which you get a new scorecard every inning, a brand-new way—first of all, it was going to be elected delegates, then it‘s superdelegates, then it‘s popular vote, then it‘s votes in states that were knocked out of the competition, Florida and Michigan, those votes you—I mean, my God, how many mulligans can this guy take?
ROSEN: Look, ultimately, there‘s only—you know, the rules are going to be the rules, right? We all know that. And I think, ultimately, the Clintons understand that the rules are going to be the rules. But there still are a significant amount of uncommitted superdelegates.
ROSEN: And they have every right to try and convince them. This is kind of their biggest argument, and I think, frankly, their best argument at this point, which is those districts where she wins that were, you know, Republican and independent districts.
MATTHEWS: The last argument‘s always the best argument. Here‘s one -
here‘s former president Bill Clinton today. I didn‘t even know what he said, but I‘m going to see it with you. Here he is, Bill Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She can win the popular vote. She is clearly the most electable, according to all the national polls. And between now and August, the superdelegates are going to have to think long and hard about how badly they want to win. If she‘s clearly the most electable, with positions that people are finally focusing on, the real difference is, I think she‘s got a real shot at this. And let me just tell you something. All those folks that are telling you on television that she can‘t win, they weren‘t for her in the beginning. Don‘t you forget that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: They were what? What was that?
ROSEN: Not for her.
MATTHEWS: Oh, I -- (INAUDIBLE) but you know, that list of people he mentioned was every major television broadcast news journalist in the business said that she‘s—Rahm Emanuel said it, you know. They‘re all saying it. I don‘t know who he‘s trying to single out. I guess he‘s trying to do something here politically.
You know, Mike, every time he puts that finger up...
ROSEN: I was just thinking the same thing!
MATTHEWS: ... every time he wags that finger...
MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
MATTHEWS: ... he‘s in trouble on the facts.
MATTHEWS: In fact, I just wonder what he‘s talking about right now. But go ahead. He‘s allowed to do what he wants. He‘s the former president, but...
MATTHEWS: ... that finger has not got a good track record, you know, as I remember from the Roosevelt Room.
BARNICLE: Well, you know, I think that‘s part of the issue that we‘re dealing with here. We‘re talking about, you know, her exit strategy. I think part of her—she‘s shell-shocked. She‘s in a daze. She can‘t believe that this has happened to her. And I think the two of them campaigning together, campaigning separately, are enshrouded in basically 16 years of their own incumbency, eight years in the White House, eight years preparing for her to run for this office, the White House, that she thought she was entitled to. And I think they‘ve come to the conclusion that this is her one and only shot at it. This is it, not 2012, this is it. And they‘re going to do whatever they have to do for as long as they have to do it in order to get her there.
MATTHEWS: You are amazing! How do you know that, Michael? I mean, how do you know? Because I‘m not being sarcastic, I want to know how you know that Hillary knows that this is not the...
BARNICLE: I—I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: ... this is her last—I always thought the Clintons come back, that they‘re like that rubber thing. You knock it down, it keeps coming back up again, that he came back after he got beaten for Congress. He won attorney general. He gotten beaten as elected—reelected for governor. He comes back. He gave the lousiest speech in ‘88 at the convention. He went on “Johnny Carson.”
MATTHEWS: He gets knocked out in ‘94, comes back in ‘96. I mean, he always comes back. What do you mean?
BARNICLE: You—you just sense it, Chris, out there. You just sense that the shade is being drawn on a whole political era that has involved the Clintons in public life...
MATTHEWS: Maybe you‘re right.
BARNICLE: ... on the public stage, both in the White House and—and center left to the White House, what, getting ready to go back to the White House.
MATTHEWS: Hilary, last word.
BARNICLE: I don‘t know anything. I—you just sense it.
MATTHEWS: I hear you.
I don‘t think this is about Bill Clinton. I think it‘s about Hillary Clinton. And I think that Hillary Clinton in many cases has just had her best couple of months ever in her...
MATTHEWS: Will she run again if she loses this time?
ROSEN: And, so, I don‘t think that she‘s thinking that this is, you know, her last shot at anything.
MATTHEWS: So, it‘s 1-1 at the foul line?
ROSEN: I think they‘re trying to figure out whether this is really over or not.
MATTHEWS: So, you‘re leaving open the possibility she‘s back again, four more years?
ROSEN: Well, she‘s going to be a significant figure in the Democratic Party and in American politics, no matter what.
MATTHEWS: They all say that. Come on, Hilary.
MATTHEWS: Call her up and ask her.
Anyway, Hilary Rosen, close personal friend of Hillary Clinton...
MATTHEWS: ... and Mike Barnicle, a man on his own, out there all alone.
Up next: The votes may not be mounting up for Hillary Clinton, but the jokes are. And the late-night comics are hitting her hard. We will hear the latest and the nastiest from Jay and Dave—next in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Love that merry-go-round.
Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.
Time for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”rMD-BO_
Well, the longer Hillary Clinton stays in this race for the Democratic nomination, the tougher the late-night jokes are getting.
Let‘s listen up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”)
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”: Hillary Clinton, by the way—and, my gosh, I mean, talk about a fighter, is a fighter, and—but too bad her campaign is running out of money. That‘s right. And it‘s very expensive. And they‘re not paying their bills.
As a matter of fact, today—and this is very sad—a collection agency repoed her pantsuit.
LETTERMAN: Hillary Clinton barely won my home state of Indiana. And she lost in the state of North Carolina. But here‘s the good news. She has a substantial lead in the state of denial.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LETTERMAN: Thank you so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I think she can take it.
And, boy, she can give it out, too. And she‘s the one candidate still in the race—believe it or not—who‘s getting better liked, according to the favorability ratings, the longer she stays in this race.
The luck of the Irish—Barack Obama‘s getting a boost from an Irish band called Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys, who are praising Obama‘s Irishness, based on a report last year that one of his ancestors emigrated from Ireland in 1850, right in the middle of the potato famine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): O‘Leary, O‘Reilly, O‘Hare and O‘Hara, there‘s no one as Irish as Barack Obama. You don‘t believe it, I hear you say. Barack‘s as Irish as was JFK. He‘s as Irish as bacon and cabbages, too. He‘s Hawaiian, he‘s Kenyan, American, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Am I crazy, or is the production value higher on those Obama tapes?
Anyway, so, who do we put apostrophe—do we put an apostrophe between the O. in Obama‘s name and the Bama part?
Anyway, don‘t look for Al Gore as the next secretary of state of head of the EPA or any other big job in the next administration. The former V.P., vice president, and Nobel laureate said in a report out today that he won‘t accept a Cabinet position, regardless of who wins the presidency.
Well, you know, I don‘t believe it. I think Gore would make a fabulous secretary of state and he would take a job in a second. What smart and good American wouldn‘t? It‘s a fabulous job. It may be the best job in the world.
And now it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number.”
If raising cash is a sign of a campaign‘s health, Hillary Clinton‘s is ailing, to say the least. Remember what happened right after Hillary won the Pennsylvania primary on April 22? Her campaign was quick to boast of pulling in a quick $10 million online. It showed she was back, right?
Not this time. According to one of her national finance chairs, Clinton only raked in $1 million after North Carolina and Indiana. So, what is the total difference in Clinton fund-raising after Pennsylvania vs. after North Carolina and Indiana? Negative $9 million—tonight‘s not-so-big number.
Up next: With Barack Obama moving closer to winning the Democratic nomination, he is turning his sights on John McCain. We will take a look at the new Obama/McCain fight, the one we may be seeing in the general election.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
REBECCA JARVIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I am Rebecca Jarvis with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks falling, as oil prices hit new heights—the Dow Jones industrials tumbling almost 121 points, the S&P 500 down nine, the Nasdaq down more than five points. All three major indices were down for the week, the first weekly drop in a month.
Meantime, oil climbed above $126 a barrel for the first time ever and settled at a record closing high for a fifth straight day. Crude finished at $125.96 a barrel, up $2.27 for the day.
Meantime, AAA says the nationwide average for regular unleaded gas jumped two-and-a-half cents overnight, to a record $3.67 a gallon.
And Citigroup says it plans to shut about $400 billion in assets over the next two to three years to become more efficient and profitable. Citi has been hit hard by the subprime mortgage meltdown, reporting more than $45 billion in losses.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We‘re getting a glimpse into what an Obama/McCain contest in the general election might look like. And it‘s going be to be about age, apparently, and race. They appear to be on the bill.
Joining us right now, radio talk show hosts Michael Smerconish and Ed Schultz.
Thank you, Michael. Or your new name is, what, Smirk? Is that what Gregory calls you?
MATTHEWS: I have got to get up to date here.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s talk about this hot one, because I have been waiting for this stuff to really start.
McCain was asked today, apparently, if Barack Obama‘s suggestion that he‘s losing his bearings offended him. Here‘s the Q&A. Let‘s listen up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Do you take offense to Obama‘s comments that you‘re—quote—“losing your bearings?” And the bigger issue, do you...
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I ignore it. I don‘t take offense to it.
QUESTION: And do you feel that your age is a legitimate issue in this campaign?
MCCAIN: Every issue that the American people want to be an issue and it‘s part of their discussions, it‘s fine with me. It‘s fine with me.
Just as the Reverend Wright‘s remarks, I don‘t believe that Senator Obama shares his views in any way, but he has said that it‘s a legitimate topic of discussion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, a McCain campaign adviser reacted to Obama‘s suggestion that McCain was losing his bearings with a sharply worded memo.
Here‘s an excerpt of the memo. It‘s from Mark Salter, who has been with McCain forever: “First, let us be clear about the nature of Senator Obama‘s attack today. He used the words ‘losing his bearings‘ intentionally, a not particularly clever way of raising John McCain‘s age as an issue.”
Well, first of all, Michael, do you believe that Obama was taking a shot at McCain‘s age or simply whacking him for trying to connect him up with—with Hamas, which I think was the original conversation?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I thought it was tit for tat.
And let me get this straight. Like, now, we are so damn sensitive, you can‘t use the word “bearings” when we‘re selecting a president of the United States? This is the most muzzled presidential campaign in my lifetime.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s go all the way. Was he saying losing his marbles? What are we talking about here? Are we saying early onset?
SMERCONISH: Oh, hey, hey, Chris, Chris, man...
MATTHEWS: What‘s the reference, do you think, here?
SMERCONISH: You‘re not allowed to say marbles.
Joe Biden used “storybook” to describe Barack Obama. People went bat-“blank.”
Bill Clinton says “fairy tale,” people get all upset. We‘re electing a president of the United States. This is tame. You know what a Philly mayor‘s race is like? It makes this stuff look like patsies.
MATTHEWS: I think I moderated one of those—I moderated one of those debated, as you know.
Let‘s go to Ed Schultz.
Do you agree with this rough-and-tumble Smerconish view of the presidential ground rules?
ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I think, if both of them are going to be talking about one another like this, I guess all Senate etiquette is out the window, and the campaign is on.
Yes, I—I think that Michael is right on this. They could probably allow it to toughen it up a little bit. But the key here is, is that Barack Obama was not going after John McCain‘s age. He was going after his policy.
And I think it‘s dangerous territory for John McCain to be trying to connect Barack Obama with Hamas, because both candidates have got the exact same position on that terrorist organization. They are listed as a terrorist state. Neither candidate wants to negotiate with them. And I really think that McCain was over the top by suggesting that there‘s some buddy-buddy relationship between Hamas and Barack Obama.
MATTHEWS: But didn‘t somebody in Hamas say he was rooting for Barack?
Isn‘t that how that thing started?
SCHULTZ: So what? I mean, there might be somebody in the KKK rooting for John McCain. I mean, what does that mean?
I mean, I really that, for John McCain to bring this up and try to make that connection, that that‘s a bad way to connect it to terrorism, and I think it‘s going to backfire on him.
MATTHEWS: Do you agree with that, Michael, that he shouldn‘t have connected backwards from Hamas to Barack, suggesting that Barack liked Hamas because some clown in Hamas said something about him?
SMERCONISH: Yes, I do.
To the extent that Senators Obama and McCain have a different view relative to Hamas, I‘m unaware of what it is. And you can‘t hold these two responsible for every knucklehead who emerges and says—you know, what if David Duke comes out, to take Ed‘s point, and endorses one of these candidates? I‘m not hold that individual accountable.
OK, what I think here is going on—check me, gentlemen. You know the game as well as I do. And this is the game part of the political election. Did John McCain purposely raise the issue of age now, so that it can be put asleep between now and November? Does he think he can deal with it now by saying, oh, you‘re calling me old, huh?
SMERCONISH: Well, I will answer it by saying...
SCHULTZ: Well, he‘s not...
SMERCONISH: ... that I think that age is going to be a strong suit.
In other words, I think is going to be an issue where it‘s going to be inexperience, according to the McCain folks, and they‘re going to welcome, I think, any inspection of his extensive record, we will put it.
MATTHEWS: Ah. So, this is Ronald Reagan‘s voice coming back.
MATTHEWS: “I will not use my opponent‘s immaturity against him.”
MATTHEWS: Is that the game being played here, Ed?
SCHULTZ: Well, it might be.
But the fact is, Barack Obama is going to come back and hit him and say, look, Washington experience is not what the American people want right now. They want change, and he can bring change better than John McCain can.
SCHULTZ: And this really is what this focal-point issue is going to be all about.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s get to the funniest story of the night. I think it‘s the best.
Today, McCain was asked about reports he said he did not vote for Bush back in 2000. Here‘s Senator McCain‘s response to that question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I voted, campaigned, for, worked as hard as I could for President Bush‘s election in 2000 and 2004. I voted for President Bush. I said so at the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s not exactly a response.
Let me ask you about this, Michael. The charge was made by Richard Schiff, who used to play on “The West Wing,” and Bradley Whitford, who was on “The West Wing,” and Arianna Huffington, who runs “The Huffington Post.”
All three of them claim, say that they heard John McCain back at a party at Candice Bergen‘s house back, I guess, around the time of it, or a little later, that he did not vote for President Bush in 2000.
He now says that he did, but he isn‘t quite denying what—about what he said to those people. That may be a distinction without a difference. But what do you make of all this? Was he cozying up to the Hollywood crowd?
SMERCONISH: Look, I—I don‘t get invited out anywhere. You do, Chris. So, you...
MATTHEWS: But you—you can extrapolate, can‘t you, from your social own minimal life to the larger...
SMERCONISH: I will be grilling burgers in an hour in Philly.
But let me ask you something. Isn‘t this a violation of the dinner code? Isn‘t this like a hooker who gives up a john? I mean, isn‘t there some impropriety here?
MATTHEWS: I used to love—I used to love that rule, that, when you‘re having fun...
MATTHEWS: ... with each other, you weren‘t sitting there with radios, you weren‘t quoting them, you weren‘t going to screw them in the morning.
MATTHEWS: I mean, that‘s the world I like to live in. But I have learned, everything you said can be used against you.
Ed, do you believe he said to his new Hollywood friends he didn‘t vote for Bush?
SCHULTZ: Well, no shot at—not shot at his age here, Chris, but can he remember who he voted for, OK?
MATTHEWS: Oh, come on.
SMERCONISH: I mean, come on.
MATTHEWS: That is so cheap.
SMERCONISH: Come on.
SCHULTZ: I can‘t pass it up. I just—I just can‘t pass that one up.
Here‘s the key. The American people don‘t care who...
MATTHEWS: I—you can remember everybody—let me ask you, Ed Schultz. Can you remember everybody you have ever voted for, all the presidential candidates? I‘m sure you can.
SCHULTZ: Yes, I can. Absolutely, I can. I can remember everybody I voted for.
MATTHEWS: And I‘m sure you can remember all the senators you ever voted for, all the governors.
Well, why do you think John McCain can‘t?
SCHULTZ: Well, I don‘t know why he can‘t. But I find it interesting there‘s three people that are willing to say that he didn‘t vote for George Bush. Here‘s the key, Chris.
MATTHEWS: No, he said he didn‘t.
MATTHEWS: ... distinction. He told them he didn‘t.
SCHULTZ: McCain still has the policy of George W. Bush.
MATTHEWS: All right.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Chris, I would think no less of him if he didn‘t vote for Bush, given what the Bush folks put him through in the year 2000.
If John McCain said, hell, no, I didn‘t vote for him, I don‘t think any worse of the man. In fact, I think he‘s more of a—the maverick that I hope that he is.
MATTHEWS: So, you think this might be brilliant positioning, John McCain did not vote for George Bush headline?
SMERCONISH: Could be.
MATTHEWS: Good show. Put it on the bumper sticker. This will make him a better—it‘s not four more years. This is a break with the past. This is the change you have been waiting for.
MATTHEWS: His name is John McCain.
SCHULTZ: No, he‘s still going to do Iraq the same way Bush did. He‘s still going to do Iraq the same way Bush did, so, there‘s no change. That‘s what the American people are going to look at.
MATTHEWS: Damn it. Damn it, Ed Schultz. Here it is, Friday afternoon, and I‘m trying to have some fun. And, every time, you talk like you‘re on National Public Radio.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t want another somber, serious thought out of you in the next three seconds, OK?
MATTHEWS: My God—I‘m talking about the most inconsequential story in the world and you‘re turning it into something like this is Washington. The nation‘s capital.
Look, let me go back to somebody knows what a sense of humor is. Michael Smerconish, isn‘t it funny that John McCain, at the moment, he‘s trying to prove his lovey-dovey connection to George Bush gets outed as a guy who voted against him.
SMERCONISH: I think it‘s hysterical. I think the net effect is, it helps John McCain. And I think those who are spinning it think it bodes poorly for him. It doesn‘t. If two people go out and have a cocktail and talk politics, it‘s off limits. That‘s the way it ought to be.
MATTHEWS: That‘s the way it ought to be. Let‘s go to McCain here. Here‘s John McCain. Here he is in an ad featuring his mom for Mother‘s Day. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was the sweetest, nicest child I‘ve ever known. I think he‘ll make a wonderful president. He‘s not perfect. Did I say that?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He doesn‘t pay enough attention to his mother.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I‘m happy. I have no complaints.
MATTHEWS: This is Bartles & James? What do we make of this ad? Ed, first, Schultz, you can have fun. It‘s Friday afternoon. That ad‘s called “Johnny‘s Mom.” Are we ready for it?
SCHULTZ: I thought they were maybe auditioning for heehaw for a moment, going to resurrect that show. I mean, if McCain‘s got a sense of humor, that‘s fine. Because he has to show that, there‘s a lot of people who thinks he‘s got a short fuse. So there‘s a little tactic being played here.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t miss a chance to kneecap, do you? Let‘s go back to Michael for a lighter note there.
SCHULTZ: I‘m a hard man.
MATTHEWS: From the Dakotas, from the Missouri breaks out there. Let me go the Michael, it‘s funny, his mother‘s attractive, bright, brilliant and still standing at 96. It‘s quite an ad for his genes, there‘s no doubt about it.
SMERCONISH: You just took the word out of my mouth. This guy‘s been dealt a golden hand in terms of the genetic composition of the McCains. And I think it just so offsets that issue of him being too old. Ninety six more for her and him.
MATTHEWS: Happy Mother‘s Day to Mrs. McCain. And I‘m sure you‘ll all be happy with your wives this weekend and lighten up, Ed.
Michael Smerconish, Smerc. Is Gregory now George W. Bush and gives out nicknames?
SMERCONISH: You‘ve called me a lot worse, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next, the politics fix. After a bad week, how many more weeks will Hillary Clinton be able to stand in this race? Is she going to number two on the ticket? That‘s one of the questions we‘ll get into. I‘m not so sure. Ted Kennedy doesn‘t think she‘s appropriate for the ticket. This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and the “Politics Fix.” Tonight‘s round table, the “Chicago Tribune‘s” Jill Zuckman. MSNBC political analyst, Michelle Bernard. Also with Independent Women‘s Voice. Did I say that with enough tenor? And Jonathan Capehart of the “Washington Post.” Ladies and gentlemen, let me start with this. This came out today. We‘re looking at this.
Ted Kennedy said an Bloomberg Television‘s “Political Counter (ph) with Al Hunt”, it‘s going to be aired this weekend, quote, “I don‘t think it‘s possible,” this is Ted Kennedy talking about whether Barack might put Hillary Clinton on the ticket. Obama should choose a running mate, quote, “who is in tune with his appeal for the nobler aspirations of the American people.” Quote, this is Kennedy, again. “If we had real leadership as we go with Barack Obama in the number two spot as well, it would be enormously helpful.”
Jill Zuckman, it sounds like she doesn‘t make the cut in terms of aspiration, in terms of nobility, whatever.
JILL ZUCKMAN, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: It sounds like it.
MATTHEWS: And then he put out a statement, or his staff did. This is somewhat qualifying. “Senator Kennedy thinks Senator Clinton is more than qualified to be vice president, doesn‘t think it‘s likely given the tenor of the campaign in recent weeks.” It‘s not exactly a contradiction in what he said but it‘s certainly meant to change the subject.
ZUCKMAN: I think what Senator Kennedy said is a almost like the pope giving his blessing to Senator Obama to do he wants to do. It provides cover and prevents pressure on Senator Obama.
MATTHEWS: It‘s strategic.
ZUCKMAN: I‘m not saying they planned it. I think it‘s helpful.
MATTHEWS: Is it good politics to say I‘m going to give this guy cover, I‘m going to be his blocking back. I‘m going to take the heat for rejecting Hillary, I‘ll reject her.
MICHELLE BERNARD, INDEPENDENT WOMEN‘S VOICE: I think it‘s strategy. But also it‘s what people are thinking. She has not shown a lot of grace under fire this week. Tuesday night when she gave her acceptance speech, whatever you want to call the speech she gave after getting trounced in North Carolina and barely winning Indiana, Barack Obama gives this very graceful speech, Senator Clinton sits back and acts like none of it happened. None of the, I congratulate Barack Obama for what he‘s done. She has not shown grace under fire this week. People are talking about it.
MATTHEWS: Are you taking an injection of Obamiac Juice? You are so pro-Obama. I mean, not that there‘s anything wrong with it. Aren‘t you sort of a Republican? Anyway, Jonathan, it‘s interesting that Kennedy—who‘s laughing? Somebody on this show, or somebody nearby?
JONATHAN CAPEHART, “WASHINGTON POST”: It‘s me, the guy in the icebox.
MATTHEWS: OK. Don‘t chill too long. What about Ted Kennedy weighing in here and saying she doesn‘t make the cut?
CAPEHART: Well, I mean, you know, giving the tenor and the tone of the campaign, it‘s not surprising there might be hard feelings between the two principles. I do agree, I think it was Michelle who just said that people are talking about whether she should be, or whether it‘s probably not a good idea for Senator Clinton to be on a ticket with Senator Obama as the VP. One theory out there I thought was very interesting was taking someone, a very prominent supporter of Senator Clinton‘s and making a person the number two on the ticket as a way of appealing to Senator Clinton.
MATTHEWS: I‘ve been pushing that line for months. Somebody like Strickland, or Eddie Rendell .
ZUCKMAN: Or Evan Bayh.
MATTHEWS: Or one of her surrogates in a big industrial state she needs to cover to cover. Here‘s Senator Obama talking for himself today, when somebody asked him about having Senator Clinton about his vice presidential running mate. The very point we‘re on today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Were you put up to that by one of those reporters back there? Did you guys get to him? Who was that? Until I‘m the nominee, I don‘t want to speculate on running mates. I will say that she has shown herself to be an extraordinary candidate. And an extraordinary public servant. She is hard working, she is tough, she is very smart, and so I think she‘d be on anybody‘s list, a short list of vice presidential candidates. But beyond that, you know, I don‘t want to offer an opinion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, that Alan Alda approach of his, the support of feminism of him hasn‘t gotten him much grace from her.
BERNARD: What I was about to say, not being pro-Obama, is that was graceful. Can anybody sitting here today really imagine her saying the same thing if the roles were reversed?
MATTHEWS: It‘s not getting him any positive smile in return.
BERNARD: Good politics.
ZUCKMAN: There have been debates where she‘s said nice things about him. Let‘s face it, she‘s been the underdog the last few weeks. She‘s fighting for everything she‘s got. I think that what Senator Obama did today with those words was leave himself room to make a decision. Because stranger things have been known to happen. Remember President Kennedy and LBJ. No one thought that would ever happen.
CAPEHART: You know, what, Chris, there‘s another thing at work here. All those nice words are meant to keep him in good stead with Senator Clinton‘s supporters. He‘s going to need all those folks who voted for her to come out to the polls and vote for him in the fall. So this is all part of the charm offensive that we‘ve been hearing about since Tuesday.
MATTHEWS: So he‘s pretending to nice to her so he can be nice to her people. We‘ll be right back with the roundtable and more political assessment here. We‘re going to talk about the fight between Obama and McCain. Let‘s talk about this age thing. We knew this was going to come up. He‘s in his 70s. Barack‘s in his 40s. Is this about age? It looks like it already started. Somebody ripped the scab off. This is HARDBALL only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with our roundtable for more of the “Politics Fix.” Jill Zuckman sits before me ready to go to war here. Apparently to shorten this up, John McCain said he didn‘t mind, or didn‘t mind that Barack Obama said he‘s losing his bearings. He wants to fight about age, who do you make of that.
ZUCKMAN: Sometimes a banana is just a banana. When you say losing your bearings, the campaign went right to age and fired back and said Obama is attacking his age. The first thing that came to my mind was a suggestion that of his mental stability which was an issue in the 2000 race. There was a whisper campaign suggesting his years as a POW had left him unbalanced or unhinged, and when I heard bearings, that‘s what came to my mind.
MATTHEWS: Do you think Barack Obama was saying he lost his marbles or bearings?
ZUCKMAN: I don‘t know. As I said, maybe he just meant what he said he was upset with what McCain said about Hamas. Maybe he didn‘t mean anything more by it. I can‘t read his mind.
MATTHEWS: What do you think, Jonathan? What‘s this conversation about when one guy accuses another guy of losing his bearings, the other guy fires back with the suggestion the other guy had just shot him for his age?
CAPEHART: Will, you know, it could have been what started out as a slip became something that the McCain campaign could use. I mean, who knows. Maybe Senator Obama meant exactly what he said, but maybe the McCain campaign saw an opening to deal with an issue head on. I mean, age is going to be an issue. So why run from it?
BERNARD: I‘m with Jonathan. I think it was a preemptive strike. It‘s going to be an issue. Barack Obama looks like he‘s going a be the Democratic nominee. When they stand up and see their debate together, you see a young, good looking youthful guy and a man who is older, shorter. I mean, there are going to be a lot of issues. Why not deal with it now and get it out of the way?
MATTHEWS: You‘re getting on the cosmetics of the age. But you‘re on something. You are suggesting you have problems when it comes to John McCain‘s stability. You were seeking out this topic, Jill. What do you have to report here?
What do you have to report here?
ZUCKMAN: All I‘m saying is Republicans raised in 2000.
MATTHEWS: What did they say?
ZUCKMAN: It was a whisper campaign. And they suggested that his time as a POW had kind of left him with a short fuse, he became irrational. You couldn‘t trust him. All that stuff. I‘m not saying it. I didn‘t hear age when I heard the comment.
MATTHEWS: I had another interpretation altogether. I thought what Barack was saying and I have no idea this was true but since it had to do with McCain‘s claim that he was the Hamas candidate for president because some character from Hamas over the in the Middle East said something about they wanted Barack to win, therefore they bounced it to Barack is on the side of Hamas. He said the guy must be losing his bearings. Because he‘s off the Straight Talk Express.
This isn‘t the straight talk we‘re used from John McCain to in legendary terms. He‘s taking a stupid shot about a guy‘s patriotism or reliability when it‘s obviously not fair. He‘s losing his bearings in terms of morality.
ZUCKMAN: I don‘t think he was saying Obama is for Hamas. He was saying Hamas said they‘re for Obama. What is Obama that Hamas likes? That‘s a different thing.
BERNARD: And it is off the Straight Talk Express. Because it‘s Barack Hussein Obama. It‘s going back to scare tactics and if that‘s what Senator McCain was getting at, not the smartest strategy for the Straight Talk Express.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t think we‘re helping it much. We‘re focusing on the lowest form which is age. Who was hanging out the Hollywood crowd? But I‘ll tell you, the dangerous thing, whether it‘s San Francisco or it‘s Los Angeles because you start to play for them. I wouldn‘t be surprised if John McCain was being cute with that crowd, Candace Bergen, Richard Schiff and the other fellow, trying to pretend he was one of them and trying to suggest he would not vote for Bush either.
Jill Zuckman, Michelle Bernard and Jonathan Capehart. Join us again Monday night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL and remember, Sunday is Mother‘s Day. Make sure you do something nice, I suppose. From all of us at HARDBALL, happy Mother‘s Day to your mothers out there. I‘ve taken care, Cathy got the flowers.
Now time for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE with David Gregory.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Watch Hardball each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET