updated 6/11/2008 12:35:48 PM ET 2008-06-11T16:35:48

Guests:  Pat Buchanan, John Harwood, Jill Zuckman, Joan Walsh, Heidi Harris, E. Steven Collins, Michael Crowley, Jill Zuckman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Say you‘re on this big, comfortable ocean liner, and it‘s starting to sink.  Do you board the little lifeboat or stay on the big ship with the lights still shining, the band still playing?  You‘re the American voter.  The year is 2008.  And you‘ve got to November to decide.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  Game on.  John McCain and Barack Obama agreed on two things today: the economy‘s in trouble, and if the other guy‘s elected president, it‘ll only get worse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Under Senator Obama‘s tax plan, Americans of every background would see their taxes rise seniors, parents, small business owners, and just about everyone who has even a modest investment in the market.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Now, I‘ve said that John McCain is running to serve out a third Bush term.  But the truth is, when it comes to taxes, that‘s not being fair to George Bush.  Senator McCain wants to add $300 billion more in tax breaks and loopholes for big corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and he hasn‘t even explained how to pay for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So who would you rather be this election, the one defending the way things are or the guy selling change, the in candidate or the out candidate?

Also, gas pains.  Gas is $4 a gallon right now.  Somebody should tell the White House that voters have been known to punish the party in the White House for such things.  President Bush and Vice President Cheney are oil patch guys, as everyone knows, who promised us that the Iraq war would pay for itself in oil, in fact, give us cheaper gasoline prices.  Well, it didn‘t.  So will John McCain pay a political price for the high cost of gasoline?

And Barack Obama may have beaten Hillary Clinton, but he‘s not done with her.  Will Obama use her in the older (ph) states where she beat him badly?  And will he use Bill Clinton at all?  Plus, in the “Politics Fix” tonight, remember this little sugar plum from Brian Williams‘s interview with John McCain last night?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Senator Obama says that I‘m running for a Bush‘s third term. 

It seems to me he‘s running for Jimmy Carter‘s second.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Will that strategy work, or are there too few voters out there, especially young ones, who even remember Carter?

And in the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight, why Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central is having such a hard time saying good-bye, or au revoir, in his case, to Hillary Clinton.

But we begin tonight with change versus security, you might say, or the memory of security.  Pat Buchanan‘s an MSNBC political analyst.  John Harwood is CNBC chief Washington correspondent.  He‘s also with “The New York Times.”  And Salon‘s Joan Walsh joins us from San Francisco.

Let‘s say we‘re on the Titanic, as I said, and you know it was sinking.  Some people are jumping off the huge ocean liner and getting into lifeboats that are bobbing out there in the cold, dark ocean.  You look around at the Titanic.  The lights are still on.  The music‘s still playing.  The ship‘s still above water.  It seems secure.  You‘ve been comfortable there before.  Do you stay on the Titanic, knowing it might sink, or do you get into that crowded lifeboat and take a chance with the unknown dangers of the ocean at night?

That‘s what a lot of people feel about this election right now.  It‘s future change versus past security.  Barack Obama, a young, little known candidate, is all about change.  John McCain, a familiar member of the Washington establishment, is defined by his hawkish views on national security.  Tonight, we‘re going to take a look at the decision in ‘08.  And joining us right now, is Pat Buchanan and Joan Walsh and John Harwood.

So Pat, you‘re first.  That‘s a big decision.  You got to decide to get out of the big boat that‘s sinking...

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... and get in the little boat or stay there.

BUCHANAN:  I think you stay on the big boat and go on down with it, Chris.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what you did with Nixon!

MATTHEWS:  You never...

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  Oh, boy!

BUCHANAN:  Look, what Barack offers is—you‘re right, he offers freshness, youth, change, but also risk.

MATTHEWS:  And deliverance.

BUCHANAN:  And—well, and—yes.  But what he doesn‘t offer right now is reassurance.  McCain has done a smart thing here.  If you‘re talking gasoline prices or housing foreclosures, the economy, Nixon/Cheney, it‘s 80-10 get rid of him.  McCain turns it around and says, The issue here is Barack Obama‘s going to try to solve our economic problems by raising taxes on Social Security folks...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  ... capital gains tax, you got a small investment, he‘s going to double those, taxes on the most successful in the country.  You don‘t do that in a recession.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

BUCHANAN:  That‘s a good 50/50 argument.

MATTHEWS:  It seems to me, Joan, that in every election, you‘ve got to decide between two blue plate specials.  You walk into the restaurant, there‘s two meals on the menu.  In this case, John McCain and the other side is Barack Obama.  You can‘t order ham and eggs.  You got to choose one of these two exotica, these two characters you‘ve got to choose from.  One guy‘s got $5 gas.  He‘s got a recession.  He‘s got a weak dollar.  He‘s got a war in Iraq, and he wants one in Iran, if he has to.  The other guy says something different.  What‘s the choice?  What‘s the better plate to be selling tonight?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  I think the better plate is the Barack Obama special.  I think, you know, Obama is too smart to let this election be framed as merely change versus security because of course people want security.  What I think his campaign sees is that change equals security and that the change he‘s promising is more likely to bring us back to a kind of security that we don‘t have.

I mean, as you‘ve said, Chris, we‘ve got to war in Iraq that made us less secure.  We‘ve got a coming, perhaps, war with Iran that will make us less secure.  And on the economic front, from housing prices to foreclosure rates to the job drop last week, you know, there‘s no security in sight.  So he has managed to marry his message of change with a kind of progress, and I think people are going to join him in the boat and row with him, frankly.

MATTHEWS:  John, when people look at John McCain, do they look at security or do they look at familiarity?  What do they really see there?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC, “NEW YORK TIMES”:  Well, I think with John McCain

he doesn‘t fit the—our political types quite as neatly as some other potential nominees might have.  I think they see somebody who sort of shines through as a maverick, a hero, the whole Vietnam war hero thing.  I think people haven‘t quite gotten a fix, Chris, on exactly what he would mean economically.  On Iraq, he certainly has the national security bona fides in a broad sense, but the Iraq war is also unpopular.  So there are a lot of cross currents there.

MATTHEWS:  How does he run against a $3 billion-a-year war—a $3 billion-a-week war, a fiscal situation which has gone from something like a $5 trillion surplus projection to a $3 trillion deficit projection, a weakened dollar, dramatically weakened, a recession which is now official, according to “Newsweek”—maybe not in terms of two quarters of declining growth.  But it seems to me—how does he say, I‘m not with this party, I‘m not with this president, I‘m not with this economy, and yet run on the Republican label?  How does he do that?

HARWOOD:  Exactly.  That‘s what‘s difficult.  But let me clarify, first of all, are we in the diner now or are we on the ocean liner?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I like the ocean liner better, but I like the diner, too. 

You choose.

HARWOOD:  OK.  Well, it‘s both good imagery.  Look, John McCain has a more complicated task because he‘s got to try to discredit Barack Obama but also say he‘s not going to be like George Bush, either.  And I think the difficulty of his task is highlighted by—you look at the examples.  Barack Obama is saying John McCain would be George Bush‘s third term, and McCain comes back with Jimmy Carter.  Well, you know, there are a lot of voters out there saying, And who was Jimmy Carter exactly?

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH:  Right.

HARWOOD:  I don‘t remember that.

MATTHEWS:  I know.

HARWOOD:  It‘s a long—a lot of water under the dam since Jimmy Carter was president.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... Pat, 28 years ago...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... Jimmy Carter left office.

BUCHANAN:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m trying to think about people—somebody said you have to be...

BUCHANAN:  Forty-five to fifty...

MATTHEWS:  ... have to be 50...

BUCHANAN:  ... to really...

MATTHEWS:  You got to be 50, at least, to have even remembered voting for the guy.

BUCHANAN:  Exactly.  I don‘t think that‘s McCain‘s (INAUDIBLE)  The best thing the Republicans have going for them, Look, things are bad—you don‘t have to go into how bad they are—but this guy is too much...

MATTHEWS:  OK, go negative, then.

BUCHANAN:  ... as Bill Clinton said, a roll of the dice.

MATTHEWS:  So you run negative.

BUCHANAN:  I‘m saying define him as outside the mainstream socially, culturally, on taxes...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

BUCHANAN:  ... on foreign policy, too big a risk to take.

WALSH:  But I think...

MATTHEWS:  History shows, Joan, that people...

WALSH:  ... that‘s going to be very hard...

MATTHEWS:  ... vote against bad things they know and take a chance on things they don‘t know.  This is a bad time to be running with what‘s on the table.

WALSH:  Yes, John McCain is a brave man, we know that, because he‘s trying to run on the Bush economy and the Bush war.  That‘s very brave, but I don‘t think it‘s going to work.  And you know, I watched a lot of John Harwood‘s interview with Barack Obama on the economy, and what struck me about Obama, and what I think is going to serve him so well, is that he‘s so calm, so measured.  He is not an ideological fellow.  He is going to look at what the conditions require.  He‘s going to adjust.  Now he‘s—you know, he‘s sounding more pro-free trade.

BUCHANAN:  But Joan...

WALSH:  And I think people are going to trust that.

BUCHANAN:  Joan, let me tell you the problem with that...

WALSH:  Sure, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me tell you the problem with that.  He‘s exactly right.  To me, he‘s a sort reassuring Main Street, easy-going guy.  He showed that again and again and again in the debates...

WALSH:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  ... but he kept going down longer the campaign went on.  Why?  Why didn‘t the Democrats rally to their nominee?  Why did they stay with Hillary and rally to Hillary, even though he comes off just as she describes?  I don‘t have an answer to that question, Chris.

WALSH:  Well...

HARWOOD:  Hey, Pat...

WALSH:  But I think my answer would be...

HARWOOD:  Pat, didn‘t he win the nomination?

BUCHANAN:  Pardon?

WALSH:  May I answer that, though, because...

HARWOOD:  Didn‘t he just win the nomination?

BUCHANAN:  Yes, he lost the last four rounds.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think—what about that question, Joan?

WALSH:  And I think Hillary...

MATTHEWS:  Why did—why did Hillary Clinton—I don‘t think it‘s all gender.  I think gender was part of it, in the sense of gender injustice.  But it seemed to be a lot of guys voted for Barack Obama in those—in that stretch all the way—well, it started in Ohio.

WALSH:  Right.  He hit a bad patch.  And I would argue that it‘s because Hillary Clinton was a better candidate in that period and was really connecting with those voters.  But lucky Barack Obama, he doesn‘t have to run against Hillary Clinton anymore.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

HARWOOD:  Exactly!

WALSH:  He‘s running against John McCain, who...

MATTHEWS:  Could it be, John...

WALSH:  ... I don‘t think is going a make that same appeal.

HARWOOD:  Chris, we‘re in a whole new ball game now.  This is a partisan fight now.  It‘s not one popular Democrat against the other popular Democrat.  We‘ll see.  If Pat‘s right and if these working class voters do have a lot of misgivings about Barack Obama, John McCain will do a lot better in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania than...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

(CROSSTALK)

HARWOOD:  ... I‘m not sure that‘s the case.

BUCHANAN:  The question is was it pro-Hillary?  I think is a lot of it was.  Or is it resistance to Obama in the Democratic Party, to the certain nominee of that party ever since almost February?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BUCHANAN:  So that‘s the question.  John and I—I think he framed it exactly right.  If it‘s resistance and they can move to McCain, who is a non—who‘s a maverick, then Obama‘s got a problem.  If it‘s because it‘s pro-Hillary, Obama‘s got an opening.

MATTHEWS:  Remember Hillary ran on a couple of particular things, foreclosure relief and a gas tax break on gas taxes.  Remember?  Particular promises to people in need, desperate need.

BUCHANAN:  But also...

MATTHEWS:  Wasn‘t that a plus?

BUCHANAN:  But it was also culturally and socially, I‘m one of you.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BUCHANAN:  And she did that...

MATTHEWS:  I know she did.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think she did that very well.  Joan, last thought here.  Is there an opportunity for John—for McCain—for Barack Obama to play Hillary from now to November?  Play Hillary, just as simple as that, be an economic Democrat.

WALSH:  Be an economic Democrat?  Absolutely.  I think there‘s an opportunity.  I think the—I think it‘s terrific that the first thing he did out of the gate at the end of last week was announce that he was going on this economy tour and he‘s trying to connect with voters about their, you know, kitchen table issues that she did better at.  So I think that was evidence that he learned from some of the hard knocks at the end of the campaign and knew that that was the footing that he needed to find as he started out, again, you know, finally the nominee.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Either it‘s a blue plate special against another blue plate special or it‘s the Titanic.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m going back, John, to the Titanic...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... because I think a lot of people stayed on that Titanic and went down because they didn‘t like the looks of those lifeboats.  Anyway, thank you, Pat Buchanan...

WALSH:  They didn‘t have enough lifeboats.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Joan, I know you‘d come out with something anti-capitalist at this point.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  But you‘re right.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH:  Obama has plenty of lifeboats.

MATTHEWS:  They had deck chairs but no life jackets.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Pat Buchanan.  Thank you, John Harwood. 

Thank you, Joan Walsh.

WALSH:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Coming up: Pain in the gas?  Why aren‘t the Democrats—who wrote that one?  That wasn‘t me!  Why are—I didn‘t catch that one.  Why aren‘t the Democrats just paddling the Republicans on the high cost of gasoline every day?  That‘s my question.  Just demagogue it.  That‘s what your crowd did in ‘80!

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  If you drive a car, you know that energy prices seem like they‘re out of control right now.  It was never supposed to be this way in the Bush/Cheney administration, and that was the word, big war, cheaper gas.  And the impact on the 2008 race could be huge.  HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Today, the average price for gasoline went up again to more than $4.03 a gallon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s unbelievable.  I‘m filling it up twice a week at 100 bucks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The prices have been slowly increasing, and now they‘re just getting out of control.

SHUSTER:  The $4 a mark for gasoline is another blow to the legacy of President Bush, a former oil man who just five months ago scoffed at predictions prices would reach this high.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You‘re predicting $4-a-gallon gas?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A number of analysts are predicting $4-a-gallon gasoline this spring when they reformulate.

BUSH:  That‘s interesting.  I hadn‘t heard that.

SHUSTER:  Energy policy was supposed to be President Bush‘s strength.  While running for president in 2000, he spoke of his industry experience and declared that if oil supplies got tight, he would get countries in the Mideast to, quote, “open up the spigot.”  And Vice President Cheney, who ran energy giant Halliburton before joining Bush, was so confident of his expertise that he led an energy task for in second and dismissed all criticisms.

But gas prices today are more than twice what they were when President Bush and Vice President Cheney took office.  Adjusted for inflation, that price today would be $1.86.  President Bush insists Congress has failed to do its part to open up the spigot here at home.

BUSH:  I proposed to the Congress that they open up ANWR, open up the continental shelf, and give this country a chance to help us through this difficult period by finding more supplies of crude oil which will take the pressure off the price of gasoline.

SHUSTER:  The president has been urging drilling in ANWR since he took office.  But even if Congress allowed drilling now, experts say the pressure wouldn‘t be taken off gas prices for at least five years.

Voter anger over rising fuel prices could be a big problem for John McCain.  On top of being tied politically, to President Bush, McCain is proposing tax breaks for energy corporations.  McCain says they will help the companies invest in crucial research that could locate new energy sources and lower prices.  And today, McCain attacked Barack Obama for proposing new taxes on corporations and individuals.

MCCAIN:  Under Senator Obama‘s tax plan, Americans of every background would see their taxes rise—seniors, parents, small business owners, and just about everyone who has even a modest investment in the market.

SHUSTER:  But Obama meanwhile is hitting back at McCain with this.

OBAMA:  When we‘re paying more than $4 a gallon for gas, the man who rails against government spending wants to spend $1.2 billion on a tax break for ExxonMobil.  That isn‘t just irresponsible, it‘s outrageous!

SHUSTER (on camera):  Both campaigns acknowledge that some key factors, including global oil demand, are beyond America‘s control.  But the gasoline debate is not about to go away, in part because analysts say gas prices this summer are going to keep rising.

I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, David Shuster.  E. Steven Collins is a radio talk show host for WRNB in Philadelphia, and Heidi Harris is a radio talk show host for KDWN in Las Vegas.

Heidi, thank you for joining us.  Are you better off than you were eight years ago?

HEIDI HARRIS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  The old Ronald Reagan question.

HARRIS:  Well, in what way?  I mean, I‘m making more money than I made eight months ago, but it cost me $75 to fill up my SUV today, so I‘m not real happy about that.

MATTHEWS:  How about you, E. Steven?  Are you better off than you were eight years ago?  Because I think the Democrats ought to learn how the Republicans run for office one of these days.  They tend to win more presidential elections by keeping it simple.

E. STEVEN COLLINS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  That‘s the whole point.  That‘s what you‘ve got to do.  You know, your average at $4.03 a gallon may be the national average, but here on the East Coast, where temperatures are soaring to 100 degrees, it‘s costing us about $4.45, $4.50 to fill up.  We‘re looking down (ph) at $5 a gallon.  Soon, I hate to say it, Chris, $6 a gallon.  Am I better off today?  Come on.  Think about it. 

COLLINS:  Four years ago, eight years ago, it wasn‘t there.

MATTHEWS:  Where is it $6?  E. Steven, where do you pay six bucks? 

Where do you do that?

COLLINS:  No, you—I‘m saying we‘re not paying it now, but you can see it‘s not that far away.  And how are people that are losing their homes we saw the job numbers last week. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Yes. 

COLLINS:  It‘s a serious situation now. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s talk politics here.

You know, Heidi, it seems to me that you have got two guys from the oil industry here.  One guy has got a golden parachute from Halliburton he‘s still benefiting from.  The other guy that was into, I guess, dusters were his speciality, they both are in the oil business.  The president‘s caught in a press conference recently, saying, oh, that‘s interesting.  I didn‘t know it was $4 a gallon. 

It‘s almost like Katrina, and we‘re all in Katrina.  How do you defend that, just politically, to be out for lunch and to be facing huge prices like this? 

HARRIS:  Why is it President Bush‘s fault that gas is $4 a gallon? 

I‘m wondering why...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Because he‘s the president of the United States.  And people blame the people in power when things go wrong. 

HARRIS:  Yes, but the Democrats won‘t let us drill.  We could be energy-independent, and the Democrats will not allow it.  That‘s why gas is so expensive.

MATTHEWS:  Is it?

COLLINS:  That‘s not really what the problem is. 

HARRIS:  Yes, it is.

COLLINS:  The problem is, there is no energy process under the Bush administration. 

And I haven‘t heard Senator McCain articulating a clear—look, Barack Obama has said, first of all, here is an honest answer.  We have problems.  We have to move away from the dependency, number one.

Number two, we have to make some investments in American auto manufacturing, so that we can leader our away from how much we‘re spending for fill-ups at the gas tank.  If we don‘t begin to do it, we‘re only going to be in the same problem.  This is not a Democratic problem.  This a Republican problem caused largely by—by our president and vice president. 

HARRIS:  No, no, no. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Heidi, when the president came in, he didn‘t blame—I‘m sorry—when the president came in, he talked about opening up the gas spigot because of the family‘s long-term relationship going back to...

HARRIS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  What was it called?  They had an old relationship.  The Zapata oil company was the old man‘s business.  The son was an oilman.  They had a great relationship with Saudi. 

We were talked about—we were told by Larry Lindsey that the war would bring us cheaper gas, a better supply of oil and cheaper gas.  We were told by Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, that the oil would pay for the reconstruction of Iraq, which is costing us $3 billion a week. 

COLLINS:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  These promises, promise, promises.  Nobody ever said when they ran for office, if only we could go into the Arctic Wilderness.  By the way, that‘s an open question.  I‘m not taking a position on that.

I‘m just saying, President Bush never said we were never going to pay higher gas if we didn‘t go into the Arctic Wilderness.  He said he could deliver cheaper gas if he got elected.  He hasn‘t.

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS:  George Bush also said that he could help increase the Saudi production after his visit a few weeks ago.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

COLLINS:  Didn‘t happen.  It‘s another one of his unmet promises. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead, Heidi.

HARRIS:  Listen, if Barack Obama wants to reduce our dependence by, what, forcing us to drive electric cars, why don‘t we start with drilling?  We could reduce our dependence as quickly as we could get more drilling in America.  That‘s the first answer. 

Would I drive an electric car?  Of course I would.  But, in the meanwhile, we need to call their bluff and prove that we can drill our own oil, which will force them to react and go, uh-oh, wait a minute.  America might not be able to be held captive anymore.  And they might drop the price just by—out of fear that we might be able to be energy-independent.  That‘s what we need to do.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are you old enough to remember the 1980 race?  I remember it quite well.  I was working in the White House.

HARRIS:  Oh, thank you for that. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I just remember how brilliant Reagan was and his people, like Jimmy Baker.  They just blamed Carter for everything that was wrong in the world. 

HARRIS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  If inflation was going on because of the commodity price spike in the world, it was Carter‘s fault.  Everything was Carter‘s fault.  The inflation was his fault.  The interest rates were his fault.  The Iranian hostage crisis was his fault.

Don‘t you think the Democrats are stupid not to play that game? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Heidi first.  Heidi first, because she‘s tough. 

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS:  Well, I think it‘s true that Jimmy Carter was at fault for all of those things. 

But, secondly, of course...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS:  It‘s politics, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.

HARRIS:  That‘s how it is.  You always blame the party in power. 

That‘s the way it goes. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

HARRIS:  And that‘s for the voters to discern what the truth is. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you think about this time around?  Is what‘s good for the goose good for the gander?  Is it good for the Democrats to simply that almost know-nothing demagoguery of blaming everything on the incumbent?  Does that make sense?

COLLINS:  Well, it might be good for the Democrats, Chris, but you know as well as I do, from the very beginning, Barack Obama has been honest, straightforward, and he doesn‘t play those games with this. 

He has said clearly...

MATTHEWS:  Well, should he?

COLLINS:  ... forget about short-term discussion.  What we need to do is have a long-term solution. 

MATTHEWS:  This ain‘t horseshoes, E. Steven.  You don‘t get—you don‘t win with a leaner.  You actually got to get the ringer.  You have got to win.  If he comes in close because he loses...

COLLINS:  But you have got to have a good plan.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

COLLINS:  He has some very good plans, if you look at his energy plan. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Heidi, what‘s it like out there in Vegas with these gas -- 

I hear where people have to drive long distances, unlike back here in the East, where people may not have to drive 100 miles.  Out there, it‘s a killer. 

HARRIS:  Well, it‘s hard.  It‘s hard on Vegas, because drive up from California.  That‘s up 300 miles, depending on what part of California you go to.  And that costs a lot of money.  It‘s getting to be a real issue for some people.  It‘s a lot of money.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

So, you going to vote Democrat this time to get cheaper gas? 

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS:  You know, listen, Harry Reid promised, when the Democrats took over the Senate, we would have all kinds of things better.  And guess what?  It hasn‘t happened.  So, no, I‘m not going to do it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Blame it on the man from Searchlight, Nevada. 

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS:  Oh, no, no, no.  You know what I call Harry?  I call Harry—he calls himself Harry Reid.  His dad was a hard rock miner.  His mom took in a little wash.

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

HARRIS:  That‘s what his mantra has always been.

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Thank you, E. Steven.

Thank you, Heidi, for rubbing it in. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Up next on the HARDBALL “Sideshow”:  Guess who‘s going to hold his own convention, his own Republican Convention in the Twin Cities?  Another Republican. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.

Time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

Hillary Clinton‘s supporters are not the only ones having trouble letting go.  Take a look at Comedy Central‘s Stephen Colbert last night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE COLBERT REPORT”)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, “THE COLBERT REPORT”:  This weekend, Hillary Clinton dropped out of the Democratic race.  I have lost my best frenemy. 

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT:  I just want to feel something, anything. 

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT:  Nothing.  Nothing. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  No more Hillary?  No more Bill?  No more Bill and Hillary? 

It‘s hard to believe.  And I don‘t. 

Will we be seeing dueling Republican Conventions this summer?  Well, GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul has still not endorsed John McCain for president.  And now he‘s taking it one step further.  “The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,” a very much conservative newspaper, reports that Paul has booked an arena in Minneapolis for a mini-convention just days before McCain is set to accept his nomination in St. Paul. 

What‘s this, twin conventions in the Twin Cities? 

And now it‘s time for a new segment we‘re calling “Name That Veep.” 

While Obama and McCain have remained closed-mouth about their true close-to-the-heart potential picks, that hasn‘t stopped everyone under the sun from offering their own ideas about who should be sharing the ticket. 

Today, “Washington Post” columnist, E.J. Dionne offers his own pick for the Democrats, writing—quote—“The general reason, the central reason to pick this person is the message the choice would send about Obama‘s readiness to contest national security issues and his understanding that fixing American foreign policy must be one of the next president‘s highest priorities”—close quote. 

So, who is this foreign policy hot shot?  Delaware Senator Joe Biden is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and where he has shown himself more than willing, especially of late, to take on McCain on hot questions of peace and war.  My suggestion?  Put some money on Biden.  I‘m with Dionne. 

And now it‘s time for tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

McCain has had to tough balancing act this year in trying to distance himself from the president‘s policies, while still winning over Republican loyalists, Bush loyalists.  So, what is it?  Is he a Bush guy?  Or isn‘t he a Bush guy?  Well, it looks like the president‘s contributors have made their verdict.

According to “The Congressional Quarterly,” of the donors who maxed out, gave the most they could to President Bush during the last election, how many have given to McCain?  Just 8 percent.  Just one out of 12 of President Bush‘s biggest backers have gotten behind McCain in the last Federal Election Commission report, a statistic that could spell trouble for McCain‘s presidential bid.  Eight percent of the Bush contributors, that‘s how many have given to John McCain—tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next:  How will Barack Obama use the Clintons, Hillary and Bill?  And how are they going to use them?  Great question coming up.  It‘s not just winning the love of the Clintons, winning their support and their alliance.  It‘s how to put the thing together.  And that‘s what we‘re going to talk about in just a minute. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.” 

Stocks closing mixed for a second straight day, the Dow Jones industrials picking up nine points, while the S&P 500 shed three points, and the Nasdaq lost 10.  Oil prices retreating again today, falling $3.04 today, closing in New York at $131.31 a barrel, that as the dollar rebounded and two big forecasters lowered their outlook for global demand. 

The strengthening dollar follows comments from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, which raised speculation about higher interest rates.  Bernanke said the risk of a significant economic downturn has diminished, and that the Fed will react—quote—“strongly to inflation pressures.”

And the nation‘s trade deficit soared in April to the highest level in 13 months.  An improvement in exports was swamped by record-high levels of imported oil. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The Clintons, Bill and Hillary, have been the face of the Democratic Party, in one way or another, since at least 1992.  Now that Obama has won the Democratic nomination, how will the Clintons, both of them, be most effectively used to help him win the presidency? 

Hilary Rosen is political director of the blog HuffingtonPost.com. 

And Willie Brown is the late—I‘m not sure—you‘re not the late, great

the former mayor of San Francisco. 

(LAUGHTER)

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  The always great.

MATTHEWS:  Mayor—Mayor Brown, I‘m sorry about that miscue.

You have some ideas.  You are ready to lay out the itinerary, in fact, of how to use—start with your first leg of this trip.  What‘s the original—what‘s the first target of Hillary Clinton? 

WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO:  Well, I think Hillary Clinton has to, on Barack Obama‘s behalf, at his request, go back and do exactly what she was doing for herself with that constituency that she described by one of her terms she previously described it. 

And it would be in those states where she really took Obama apart.  And I think, if she did that, she did it effectively in California, Hispanics being the anchor tenet, in Nevada, Hispanics, again, being very much involved, New Mexico, Arizona.  She could do really wondrous in four or five states of which she really did a great job, including Florida. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s an amazing first—in terms of the triage, Hilary Rosen, the mayor points out first, best thing that she can do is go out and hit the Hispanic community, where Barack has had a huge problem. 

ROSEN:  And, you know, she really worked that community all the way through this campaign. 

The critical piece, though, for Hillary Clinton, I think, right now—and both Clintons will be good in—in the Hispanic community—the women‘s community.  And maybe it‘s unfair to put all of these constituencies on Hillary Clinton‘s back, but these are her voters.  Twenty million women were—did not vote in the last election in 2004.  Twenty million voting-age eligible women did not vote.  That alone can swing this thing. 

Women will make up 52 percent of the voting population in this election.  Hillary Clinton had a grand sweep of older women voters.  Those are historically swing voters.  Women have to come back into this campaign for Barack Obama in key states like western Pennsylvania, and Ohio.  And Florida, I‘m not so sure.  I might not spend that much energy in Florida, if I were the Obama campaign, but, clearly, in western Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and Michigan. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Mr. Mayor, about Bill Clinton. 

Bill Clinton had a mixed message—a mixed success in this campaign.  His was—his comments taken out of context, whatever, were whacked—he was whacked for a couple of times.  He did a lot of rural campaigning in white areas of the South, of North Carolina.  He did a lot of that with better effect in Pennsylvania. 

How would you use the former president?

BROWN:  I would keep him literally on the wagon trail.  I wouldn‘t let him show up any place where the television camera or a reporter that he can shake his finger in the face of. 

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN:  I would keep him talking across the Cracker Barrel, in the general stores, and all those places where they clearly love Bill Clinton. 

I would have him squirrel hunting.  I would have him doing all the things that he does so naturally, but all on behalf of Barack Obama.  And I would make sure he does it in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania. 

I mean, Bill, he just could be so effective.  And, by the way, Chris, one thing I didn‘t tell you, if Obama is smart enough to take Sam Nunn as his running mate, Georgia becomes a distinct possibility, replacing some of those states he might lose. 

Finally, I‘d leave Bill Clinton in Michigan.  And I would make sure that he went virtually door to door.  In that process he would be used most appropriately.  He would never be quoted or misquoted. 

MATTHEWS:  I love this.  You know—is there a town small enough, Hillary Rosen—I know there‘s towns without Starbucks and maybe some without Dunkin‘ Donuts.  Is from there a town in this country that doesn‘t have somebody with a cell phone? 

ROSEN:  You can get a camera in the Cracker Barrel.  I think Willie‘s absolutely right, he‘s got to go door to door in rural America.  You know, the so-called Reagan Democrats that he brought back into the Democratic party with his strong economic message.  And if there‘s one thing I think Barack Obama‘s going to need—and that‘s why I don‘t personally believe he‘s going it to try and keep Bill Clinton down in this campaign.  He‘s going to stand right beside him.  He has to remind those working class Democrats of the good times of the Clinton years. 

If he‘s going to convince people he can steward the economy, he has to be next to the people who stewarded it successfully before.  That‘s why I think this stuff about Clinton I think is going to heal what some of the rifts are in the African-American community.  The president knows he has some work to do there.  I don‘t think Obama is going a be afraid at all to use him wherever he can to deliver that economic strength message. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what‘s wacky, Mr. Mayor?  Go ahead, Mr. Mayor, your thoughts? 

BROWN:  With all due respect, I don‘t think he has a problem in the African-American community.  They clearly understood, and they understand and we understand that Bill Clinton was simply looking out for his wife.  That‘s one thing we respect, a cat who looks out for his old lady.  That‘s all Bill Clinton was doing. 

ROSEN:  I think that‘s right.  Why do you want to keep him in the Cracker Barrel?  Let him out and roam free. 

BROWN:  Obama, ordinarily and actually, already has everything he needs and he is going to get in the African-American community.  He doesn‘t have to invest any time or effort.  He‘s got more surrogates out there than there are African-Americans.  So he‘s OK there. 

Where we needs Bill Clinton—let me tell you, if I‘m John McCain, I wouldn‘t want Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Obama wandering around in any state in this union.  There‘s no way I would challenge those three magnetic, charismatic personalities in a way that would be of benefit to me.  I wouldn‘t want that to happen.  Obama‘s got to make it happen.  When that happens, it‘s going a be three to nothing. 

MATTHEWS:  If you‘re going to run against the economy of the last eight years by saying are you better off than you were eight years ago, the great example, the case study is to bring Bill Clinton around, and say look, remember how things were better.  I never understand why Al Gore didn‘t brag about the economy in 2000.  Democrats are bragging about that economy now.  But they weren‘t in 2000.  Doesn‘t make sense. 

Hillary Rosen, thank you.  The great Willie Brown, sir, thank you for joining us. 

Up next, the politics fix; can John McCain really make this idea of Barack Obama as the new Jimmy Carter?  Is that going to work?  And it‘s the big question of the Democratic party, would selecting Hillary Clinton as his running mate really help Barack Obama win the presidency or should he just campaign with her?  You can vote on that one on the MSNBC text survey, using your cell phone.  Text one for yes, it would help having Hillary on the ticket.  Two, it would not actually help to put her on the ticket.  Number two for not being good with number two, at 622-639.  Standard text messaging rates apply.  You can vote all week.  The final results will be released on Friday‘s edition of HARDBALL.  We might give you an interim look at it throughout the week.

This HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  We‘ve got to get spending under control and become independent of foreign oil.  Senator Obama says I‘m running far Bush‘s third term.  It seems to me he‘s running for Jimmy Carter‘s second. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix.  Tonight‘s round table, Jill Zuckman of the “Chicago Tribune,” Michael Crowley of the “New Republic Magazine,” and MSNBC senior campaign correspondent, Tucker Carlson.  We‘ve got everything here tonight.  What a nice, diverse group. 

Let‘s talk about this amazing decision.  I don‘t like it.  But it‘s an amazing decision.  Tucker, you first, because You always surprise me, colleague, and that is, was it smart to say, this isn‘t about continuing the policies of George W. Bush; it‘s about whether to return to the policies of Jimmy Carter.  Is that a smart switcheroo? 

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC SENIOR CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT:  It‘s resonant for people over a certain age.  For a lot of people though, Jimmy Carter invokes images of Habitat for Humanity and hammer swinging, where controversy is about his latest book.  I think Jimmy Carter may be a figure of history for a lot of people. 

It seems to me McCain would be better served tying Democrats, and Obama in particular, to their long time suggestion about raising gasoline taxes.  If you can‘t make political hay about high gas prices, both sides, and you‘re not even trying, you know, you need to go into another business.  That‘s politics 101. 

MATTHEWS:  So go back to Gore and the BTU tax or the Carbon tax, right? 

CARLSON:  Or the long time suggestions of Democrats that we need to raise taxes, and in Europe they pay 15 dollars a gallon.  Why are we complaining?  Gasoline is actually cheaper than Perrier by the gallon, or whatever. 

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s a lot, like nine. 

CARLSON:  Or 10, whatever. 

MATTHEWS:  I get your point.  It‘s a way to ration it. 

JILL ZUCKMAN, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  The reason I like the Carter second term theme, just as an attack mechanism, is because it does appeal to voters of a certain age.  I mean, it means something to them. 

MATTHEWS:  Carter again?  Let‘s go back and kill him one more time. 

ZUCKMAN:  Those are the people who go to vote.  The 20 somethings, they don‘t care about him.  The older people—just remember what—all those horrible things that happened during Carter‘s term. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Michael, you‘re younger.  I‘ve got to tell you something, all through the ‘60s, the Democrats were still running against Hoover.  28 years before that, they were dragging that carcass out again and beating the hell out of it again.  Will it work this time for the R‘s? 

MICHAEL CROWLEY, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”:  Well, look, this goes back to what so much of this campaign is decided on; do younger voters come out?  In a way, it‘s almost besides the point.  If the younger voters come out and vote, if Obama-mania is sustained into the fall among these new voters who are coming into the system, that‘s likely do put Obama over the top.  These people don‘t know who Carter is.  It‘s not going a be an issue. 

If they don‘t come out, older voters are more likely to go to McCain anyway.  I think it‘s sort of besides the point.  It‘s going to be a question of the enthusiasm among younger voters, regardless. 

MATTHEWS:  I think he could come out against the evils of Fluoridation.  What do you mink think, Tucker?  

CARLSON:  I‘ve got a problem with Fluoridation.  Sorry, I‘m revealing too much.  McCain will—I would like to see McCain strike a more conservative pose.  He‘s not comfortable doing that.  McCain is one of those politicians—I‘m not carrying water for him, just telling the truth.  She‘s not good at posing.  He‘s not a good phony.  He has to be who he is or he doesn‘t do a good job at it.  I don‘t think he can successfully run far to the right of where he naturally is. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the problem, because you‘ve got a guy running on the Republican platform, running as the successor to President Bush, running to continue his war policy, basically, with nuance, and perhaps even projecting further it into Iran, and then claiming he‘s something else.

CROWLEY:  Well, right.  The biggest problem is that he has to distance himself from Bush to appeal to voters who are beyond the Republican base.  But the conflicting problem he has is he wants to talk about foreign policy to prove that he can be commander in chief, and he has the toughness and experience that Obama lacks.  Foreign policy is his strong issue area.  That‘s what brings him back into unity with Bush policies in Iraq and Iran. 

Those things exist in tension. 

ZUCKMAN:  Except for the fact that he disagreed with President Bush and the way they approach the Iraq war.  Roll your eyes. 

MATTHEWS:  I am rolling my eyes because a war is a war.  Let me ask you this, when those pro-choice Republicans in the country find out this guy really is pro-life, and he will take that position, that he wants to get rid of abortion rights completely, he‘s going a lose a lot of moderate Republicans. 

ZUCKMAN:  It‘s not that he will take that position, it‘s that he‘s taken that position for 24 years.  It hasn‘t been discussed.  He—he doesn‘t talk about the issue.  He is not passionate about it. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s going to be forced to.  People like Tony Perkins, who was here the other day—remember the guy in the Psycho?  Just kidding.  He‘s going to make him talk.  Those religious right people are going to make him sign the book. 

We‘ll be right back with the round table for more of the politics fix.  We‘re going to talk about the swirl going on the Democratic side especially, swirl of emotions about this still unresolved question of loyalty in the Democratic party.  If you‘re a Hillary person, are you ready to join the army of Barack Woman?  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the round table, the politics fix.  I just think this, Jill, still in the air in this country is the swirl of emotions in the Democratic party, mainly the Democratic party—so recently, this civil war in the Democratic party. 

ZUCKMAN:  It was incredibly bitter.  It has not let go yet.  It‘s not like she can say, OK, go support Obama now, and it‘s going to automatically happen.  I had a woman Saturday night, an older woman who supported Hillary, say to me, I don‘t know what I‘m going to do.  I don‘t know what I‘m going to do.  As she walked away, my friend said, there goes Florida.  I think there are a lot of people out there who are still feeling hurt.  I think it‘s going to take time. 

MATTHEWS:  You heard Hillary Rosen say that, forget Florida. 

ZUCKMAN:  Oh, no, I didn‘t. 

MATTHEWS:  She already said that.  Let me ask you, Michael, this question—it‘s almost like the Irish, the Protestants and the Catholics, the war‘s over, but the attitude isn‘t. 

CROWLEY:  That‘s true.  That‘s how it feels now.  I think five months, it‘s a long time.  There‘s going to be a lot of water on the bridge.  You‘re already starting to see—Just on my way over saw the Center for American Progress doing a press call, Ellen Malcolm of Emily‘s List, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a prominent Hillary Clinton supporter, press conference on John McCain‘s record on women‘s issues.  You‘re going to hear the word Supreme Court, Supreme Court, Supreme Court. 

MATTHEWS:  Ellen Malcolm is out there already.  Good to see her engaged again. 

CROWLEY:  It‘s not an Obama campaign event, Center for American Progress.  But the issue is John McCain‘s record on women.  They‘re not going to be saying positive things. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s faster than I thought.  You know, Tucker?  That‘s a fast retrieval of the opposition forces there. 

CARLSON:  It is, but Ellen Malcolm is an ideologue who is focused on the issue of abortion.  There are a number of Hillary supporters like that, well-educated, urban Hillary feminist.  They will, I think, go to Obama as a group.  In the end, they have nothing in common with John McCain. 

Those aren‘t the voters the Obama people have to be worried about.  It‘s the working class voters of West Virginia and Kentucky and their counter-parts in a bunch of states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, who didn‘t vote for Obama for other reasons.  That‘s the problem.  They are not ideologues.  They‘re not going to vote for the Democrat axiomatically.  In fact, a lot of them said they are not voting for Obama, period.  Those are the voters you need to watch and he needs to win. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there anything he can do, in terms of is he too University of Chicago or too south side Chicago for those people?  Which way is he going too far? 

CARLSON:  He needs to announce he‘s going to end affirmative action.  Everybody knows it‘s unfair.  He‘s the one guy who can end it.  He can do it with honor.  He can do it in a way that people will understand.  He will win in a landslide if he were to do that.  That would be change.  That would be bold.  It‘s been 40 years.  People understand it‘s time to end it. 

ZUCKMAN:  Chris, in talking to the Obama campaign, they know that they need to bring those woman voters, the ones who were so close to Hillary Clinton.  There plan is to talk about McCain‘s record.  They feel that those women, the more they hear about where McCain stands on abortion, on equal pay, on the Supreme Court nominations, then those women will come to Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  So their militancy in their support for Hillary could lead them to vote for Barack, the guy they oppose. 

ZUCKMAN:  That‘s what the Obama campaign believes.  They believe that all these voters need to do is learn where McCain stands and they will have no place else to go but Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  Michael?

CROWLEY:  I also think the power of Hillary herself coming out and doing this over and over, saying the stakes are too high.  It‘s like her speech on Saturday, we have to put the past behind us.  There are higher stakes now. 

MATTHEWS:  Nothing is more powerful than to watch her do it. 

CROWLEY:  They will be on stage together soon.

MATTHEWS:  I agree with Mayor Brown; if Bill Clinton stands next to Barack Obama, physically shares space with him for months, that‘s a powerful emotive force.  Thank you.  Did I say something sophisticated there, emotive force?  Anyway, Jill Zuckman, Michael Crowley, Tucker Carlson.

Join us again tomorrow night for more HARDBALL.  Now, it‘s 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.

END   

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