updated 6/26/2008 11:28:36 AM ET 2008-06-26T15:28:36

Guest: Joan Walsh, Bob Herbert, Peter Hart, Reihan Salam, Michelle Bernard, Todd Harris, Steve McMahon, Chuck Todd, Margaret Brennan

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Nader raids Obama.  Barack calls Ralph inflammatory.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HANDBALL.  Move over, Charlie Black, here comes Ralph Nader.  We‘ve spent a week talking about Charlie Black‘s unfortunate comment that a terrorist attack could help his candidate, John McCain.  Now along comes Ralph Nader saying that Barack Obama has said little in his campaign about helping poor African-Americans because he wants to, quote—and this is Nader‘s words—“talk white.”

Here‘s part of what Nader had to say.  Quote, “He wants to appeal to white guilt.  You appeal to white guilt by not coming on as black is beautiful, black is powerful.  And they love it.  Whites just eat it up,” close quote.

Is there a trace of truth to what Ralph Nader has said?  And what‘s the Obama campaign have to say about that?

And speaking of that—Charlie Black and his terrorist attack comment

Is he right?  Should John McCain benefit, would he, because he‘s been seen as stronger on terrorism, or would voters blame the Republican Party if we‘re hit again for not keeping America safe?  We‘ll put that—in fact, we‘ll put both questions to our strategists, one Democrat and one Republican, let them duke it out.

Also, you can say you weren‘t convinced by that “Newsweek” poll that showed Obama ahead by 15 points.  Well, try this new Los Angeles Bloomberg poll, which shows Obama up by 12.  Is Obama really pulling away, or should we all be reminding ourselves of Michael Dukakis 20 years ago and his double-digit lead?  By the way, we have a late-breaking poll showing them absolutely even at 45 percent in the Gallup tracking poll.

Also, exactly how hard will Bill Clinton campaign for Barack Obama this fall?  That and a lot more in today‘s “Politics Fix.”  And guess which candidate‘s picture appears again on the cover of the “Rolling Stone”?  That‘s coming up on the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”  I think you can guess about that one.

But first, Ralph Nader‘s interview with a Rocky Mountain newspaper.  Joan Walsh is Salon‘s editor-in-chief and Bob Herbert is, of course, a column for “The New York Times.”

Lady and gentleman, let‘s listen to what Ralph Nader said to “The Rocky Mountain News.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RALPH NADER, INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  There‘s only one thing different about Barack Obama when it comes to being a Democratic presidential candidate, he‘s half African-American.  Whether that will make any difference, I don‘t know.  I haven‘t heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos, payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead, you know.  What‘s keeping him from doing that?  Is it because he wants to talk white, he doesn‘t want to appear like Jesse Jackson?  We‘ll see all that play out in the next few months, and if he gets elected, afterwards.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s in addition to what I quoted to you earlier about him saying that Obama is appealing to white guilt.  Now, here‘s Senator Obama responding late today to what Nader had to say.  This is in a news conference late today in Chicago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  First of all, what‘s clear is Ralph Nader hasn‘t been paying attention to my speeches because all the issues that he talked about, whether it‘s predatory lending or the housing foreclosure crisis or what have you, are issues that the traveling press can tell you I‘ve devoted multiple speeches, town hall meetings to throughout this campaign.

Ralph Nader is trying to get attention.  He‘s become a perennial political candidate.  I think it‘s a shame because if you look at his legacy in terms of consumer protections, it‘s an extraordinary one.  But at this point, he‘s somebody who‘s trying to get attention and whose campaign hasn‘t gotten any traction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Joan Walsh, what do you make of this back-and-forth?  Are we gaining anything from this whatever you want to call it?  Whatever you‘re going to call it...

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  No, we aren‘t.

MATTHEWS:  ... by the way—I don‘t know what you‘d call it.  What do we gain by Ralph Nader, who‘s respected over the years, not so much beloved by Democrats lately—respected over the years as a critic of our corporate laws in this country, the behavior of American corporations, social injustice, et cetera, basically attacking the first African-American who has a shot of winning the presidency for not being black enough?  I mean, what‘s this about?

WALSH:  We gain a real sense of shame and embarrassment and disappointment.  That‘s what we gain, sadly, Chris, and we don‘t really need it.  I mean, I was going to say what Barack Obama himself said.  I think it‘s sad.  I think that Ralph Nader should be remembered for a legacy of consumer protection.  But instead, he‘s really developing a legacy of first a kind of political narcissism, where he attacks Democrats and hurts Democrats.  And now I don‘t think that racism is too strong a word for what he said.  We throw that around too often.  We should be careful.  But to say there‘s a black way and a white way of speaking is awful, and to say there are black issues and white issues.

I care deeply about urban poverty.  I spent my career working on writing about those issues.  So has Bob Herbert.  One of is white, one of us is black.  Both of us are correct to do that.  So it‘s offensive.  How many people is he going to offend, white people, black people, you know, John McCain, John Edwards, who was a great candidate on poverty?  It‘s ridiculous.  I‘ll stop and let Bob talk.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Your take, Bob?

BOB HERBERT, “NEW YORK TIMES” COLUMNIST:  I agree completely.  It‘s a lousy, reprehensible comment.  It doesn‘t advance the campaign at all.  Ralph, like so many people, are enveloped in this racial haze, where you look at someone like Barack Obama and all you can see is a black person.  You can‘t get past his skin tone.  And it‘s really a shame.  It‘s pathetic.

And I think it‘s interesting that in this campaign, one of the big divides—I‘ve written about this, and others have, as well—is the generational divide.  And whether one is for or against Barack Obama, it seems to me that people over a certain age are much more likely to be obsessed with this race issue than people below a certain age.  Now, I don‘t know what the cut-off point is, but from going around the country talking to people, it seems real to me.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that certainly has shown up.  You know, Bob and Joan, we‘ve looked at all the polling.  We‘ve learned about polling.  Certainly, four years of college tends to make a person more open to a Barack Obama presidency than not.  We also know, according to age, that there‘s a real break-off there.  Younger men and women are more likely to be for Barack Obama, no matter what group they come from.

But what‘s going on here?  Joan, you first.  It seems like there‘s a pattern here now, you know, people running around the other day saying that he doesn‘t go to mosques, you know...

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... and now we have people saying he‘s not black.  Is this a game of Catch-22?  Let‘s get him to do something he‘s not doing because he believes, whatever that he‘s doing is working.  So let‘s get him to do something that‘s not working so we can screw the guy.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Am I being too political here to think that...

WALSH:  You said that.

MATTHEWS:  ... there‘s mayhem and mischief afoot here by both Nader and by the people that were involved in that piece in “The Times” the other day?

WALSH:  Well, honestly, if you want to raise that, I would handle these things separately, Chris.  I thought that Keith Ellison‘s criticisms, I think those are fair criticisms.  And I think, you know, Democrats have to be careful not to just anoint Barack Obama as the savior and say he‘s beyond criticism.  He can be criticized, and I think it is a little bit disturbing that he‘s so—he‘s being so careful and can‘t simply say, It‘s perfectly fine and wonderful to be a Muslim.  But let‘s push that aside.

I‘m going to give Nader a slight benefit of the doubt partly because of the age thing.  And listening to that clip with you and Bob, he sounds out of it.

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH:  He sounds genuinely like a doddering old guy...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

WALSH:  ... who‘s not used to talking about race.  So you know, I think they‘re different, but it‘s politically damaging to Nader.

MATTHEWS:  I just wonder whether critics won‘t be happy, Bob, until he‘s standing in a mosque, wearing a fez and attacking—calling for structural change in the American economy, like somebody from—Mario Savio or somebody from the ‘60s.

(CROSSTALK)

HERBERT:  I think that these are two separate issues.  I think that...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, you do?  OK.

HERBERT:  Yes.  I think that the Obama camp, or certainly Barack, probably understands that this mosque thing has been an unfortunate development, and the two women who were kept out of the picture, for example.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

HERBERT:  I think that‘s a legitimate issue to pursue.  It‘s separate and apart from looking at the guy and being unable to see past the color of his skin, which is where Nader seems to be coming from, and this idea that, you know, he‘s trying to talk white, which is just a sick way of expressing I don‘t even know what.

So this is a historic year, a historic election season.  It would be ridiculous to pretend that the race issue is not a significant issue, but it‘s important for us...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

HERBERT:  ... in the media to know how to talk about it and to make a distinction between those issues that are legitimate and those issues which are just disgusting.

MATTHEWS:  Well, both of you, here‘s Ralph Nader today, or actually, in this interview with the Rocky Mountain newspaper, saying, quote—he‘s talking about Barack Obama.  This is Ralph Nader.  Quote, “He wants to show that he is not a threatening—a political threatening—another politically-threatening African-American politician.  He wants to appeal to white guilt.  You appeal to white guilt not by coming on as a black is beautiful, black is powerful.  Basically, he‘s coming on as someone who is not going to threaten the white power structure, whether it‘s corporate or whether it‘s simply oligarchic, and they love it.  Whites just eat it up.”

OK, the corporate—the white power structure, the corporate oligarchy—these are terms of ideology here.  And I wonder if Nader isn‘t asking Barack Obama or anyone else to join him in his ideological critique of American life, Bob.

HERBERT:  Look, as Barack said, Nader is not getting any traction.  He‘s been pounding these issues separate and apart from the race haze that‘s enveloped him.  He‘s been pounding these issues for years, and in terms of his political fortunes, it just hasn‘t been working.  I frankly think that he‘s getting too much attention.  I don‘t know if that was his intent in making these comments.  It may not have been.  I don‘t want to address the guy‘s motives.  But I don‘t think that these are important comments, and I don‘t think that his is an important candidacy, and I no longer think that Ralph Nader is an important guy.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, here are the numbers, Joan.  He got 2.7 percent of the vote back in 2000.  Of course, as we all remember well, 97,000 votes in Florida.  When he ran as an independent—not as a Green Party candidate but as an independent—back in 2004, four years ago, he got .4 percent.  So he‘s clearly going down.

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  However, that said, in “The LA Times” poll that came out today, he‘s running 4 percent.  That‘s significant.

WALSH:  It is significant.  But I remember...

MATTHEWS:  Nationwide.

WALSH:  I remember back in 2004 and even in 2000, he was polling much higher earlier in the campaign season, Chris.  So those numbers are going to decline.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

WALSH:  I would assume they‘ll come in roughly where they were in 2004.

MATTHEWS:  Well, in all fairness, as Bob pointed out, he has made the same kind of critique of all the other Democrats who‘ve been running for president lately.  They‘re not significantly hard-line in their criticism of the corporate role in America.

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  They‘re not lefty enough, if you will.  Anyway, fair enough.  But he‘s now gone on and got into the ethnic issue, which is always troubling in American discourse, as we all know.

HERBERT:  And he got himself on television, Chris.

WALSH:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Well—yes, well, here we are.

WALSH:  Here we are.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s the business we have chosen.  At least in my case!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Bob.  Thank you, Joan Walsh.

Coming up: Another new poll shows Barack Obama with a double-digit lead over McCain.  Just remember, these polls are all over the place.  The Gallup‘s got them even-steven at 45.  You got the LA Times,” the Bloomberg -- these polls all over the place.  Is this Obama‘s bounce that we‘re seeing in some of these polls?  Can he keep it up—that bounce, rather?  And what about that Gallup daily tracking poll?  Ain‘t no bounce there, flat as a sidewalk.  We‘ll ask NBC News political director Chuck Todd and pollster Peter Hart, both of them, what‘s going on in the polling.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  National polls show Barack Obama‘s lead growing over John McCain.  At least, some of the polls do.  With four months until election day, can Barack actually hold onto that lead that‘s showing him ahead in so many polls?

Peter Hart is a Democratic pollster.  He‘s part of the big “Wall Street Journal”/NBC poll every month.  Chuck Todd is our own political director, of course.  Two experts, the best we‘ve got.

Let‘s take a look at some numbers here.  Gentlemen, Barack Obama up by 12 points right now in the new “LA Times” poll.  Do you buy that, Chuck?  Is he really ahead by 12, or is that too divergent from other polls?

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Well, no.  I think what—what I look at is sort of how the party ID sample breaks down.  And this is a—what you see here is that what—this is how it matches other polls.  You‘re seeing Republican voters less inclined to call themselves Republicans.  For instance, in this poll, John McCain is down 12 points but winning independents.  Why?  Because more Republican voters don‘t want to say they‘re Republican, so they‘re saying they‘re independent.  And more independent—Democratic-leaning independents are saying, Hey, I don‘t mind being called a Democrat right now.

So you‘re looking at that and you say, This is just an enthusiasm gap.  Maybe it‘s not 12.  Maybe it‘s 8.  You know, maybe it‘s not 15.  But it‘s a lead.  And we know that the low end is 6, the high end is 15.  Even if you decide it‘s somewhere in the middle, this “LA Times”...

MATTHEWS:  Why would it matter whether a person identified themselves by party in terms of the polling results?

TODD:  Well, first of all, I think it just tells you enthusiasm.  If you want to be identified with the party you‘re going to vote for...

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s a—look at this...

TODD:  That‘s a big deal.

MATTHEWS:  Peter Hart, this is a fascinating number.  I love this number.  Look at the “enthusiasm gap,” as it‘s called -- 81 percent of Obama voters, that‘s four out of five, said they‘re enthusiastic to vote for him.  That‘s the people who say they‘re for him are thrilled to vote for him.  Just 45 percent of McCain‘s voters are thrilled to vote for him and 51 percent, a somewhat small majority, are not enthusiastic about this guy.  What‘s that mean in terms of getting to the polls on time?

PETER HART, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER:  Well, obviously, getting to the polls on time.  And you go back to the MSNBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll, which you know, and there we had had a 2-to-1 gap between Democrats and Republicans, between Obama and McCain.  Much more likely among Obama voters to be serious, interested and involved.

And what this comes down to is Obama has a tremendous environment to run in, and he started out with the lead.  But look, we‘ve been there before.  You‘ve been there before, Chris.  And we know the Democrats often start out with this June or July jump, and then they go into the September sag.

MATTHEWS:  I remember a guy named Michael Dukakis, who—remember our old friend, David Nyhan?  I was at a bar with him in Louisiana during that Republican convention—This guy‘s going to win, you know?  And he lost by what, 8?  A 25-point turnaround.  I mean, everybody thought...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  But how did they beat Dukakis?   How did they beat Dukakis?  he wasn‘t one of us.  They turned Dukakis into an elite...

MATTHEWS:  A foreigner.  They de-Americanized him.

TODD:  Yes, into an elitist, into somebody who...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s jump ahead...

TODD:  And guess what they‘re trying to do to Obama?

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s get ahead to your focus group in York

Pennsylvania.  Is it working?  Is this insidious effort by the other side - let‘s say it‘s being done by third parties—to turn this guy into somewhat foreign, Barack Hussein Obama.  Who is this guy?  Is he a Muslim?  Is he different?  Is he one of us?  How is that working?

HART:  Two different things coming out of York, Pennsylvania.  Hard—you know it, small town, hardscrabble times, difficult, et cetera.  You look and what‘s happened here is Republicans who should be supporting John McCain are on the fence.  Two women that we talked to, both of whom should be there, one on values, one on the war, splitting away from John McCain.

Second thing that‘s happening here is the question of race and the question of foreign.  They don‘t know Barack Obama well enough.  So there were some voters in there who very definitely said, I don‘t know how American he is.  And when we said, Who should carry the flag, between John McCain and Barack Obama, in the Olympics...

MATTHEWS:  In the Olympics.

HART:  ... and 11 out of 12 told us it should be John McCain.

MATTHEWS:  But isn‘t that a question of his war service more than his politics?

HART:  Well, sure it is, but it‘s also the gap because these people say, Look, I think America is not well respected around the world, and I care about that and that makes a difference.  They said that in the—but they don‘t yet see the advantage of Barack Obama as a diplomat to the world and then...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do they know how well he‘s liked outside the country?

HART:  He hasn‘t done it.  He hasn‘t gone abroad. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HART:  If he goes abroad, it changes the whole equation.  I mean, it‘s Barack Obama‘s election to win. 

MATTHEWS:  Wasn‘t there somebody in your focus group that said that he he had had something about his name?  He said, I can‘t—he said, Obama is too much like Osama?  It‘s one-letter different.

HART:  Yes, that was one person. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Tell me about this guy.

HART:  Well, he was an outlier.  He actually was for Hillary Clinton, but everybody else who was for Hillary turns into an Obama supporter. 

This person had problems in terms of...

MATTHEWS:  Ethnically. 

HART:  Yes, ethnically.  And he really was an outlier.  But is that part of it?  Yes. 

But I think, more importantly than anything else, they need to get some meat on the bones, not in terms only of the bio only, but in terms of economics and where we‘re at. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe these polls betray or don‘t betray ethnic or racial prejudice? 

When we look at a poll like this—let‘s take a look at this one.  The latest Gallup poll, daily tracking poll, has them both tied at 45 among registered voters.  By the way, that‘s not the best thing.  Registered voters is not likely voters.  But...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  Actually, I disagree.  I think registered voters is the way to go right now.

MATTHEWS:  You think so.  Because?

TODD:  I think because we don‘t know.  This could be a giant turnout election. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Great.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  Don‘t try to do likely voters.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s go with that.  Let‘s assume the universe is correct, the sample is correct.  Is this likely to reveal people who say they‘re going to vote for him, but don‘t vote for him for ethnic reasons? 

TODD:  No, I think—I learned a lot in the Tennessee Senate race that Harold Ford was in two years ago, in that the polls and the result matched.  It was what it was.  He lost by three.  He was down about three or four a lot of the time in that.

So, I think that tells you, I think people are comfortable either saying that they have gotten over race as an issue, or they‘re comfortable telling a pollster, yes, I‘m not voting for that person because of their race.  So, I think that we have gotten past it a little bit. 

Look, there‘s going to be pockets.  There‘s going to be the occasional guy that shows up at Peter‘s focus groups and tries to make a stink.  But I think—I think polling is finding it.  I don‘t think we are going to see this hidden—this hidden race thing, a la the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Why do you think the polls are so divergent, double-digit victory for Barack foretold here by “The L.A. Times,” polled by the “Newsweek” poll, and then you get to the daily tracking poll by Gallup, the most famous poll, and they‘re dead even?  How can it be that different? 

HART:  Well, it‘s—I find it hard to say there would be that much divergence. 

But one of things, I think you have trouble with daily tracking polling, because, essentially, it‘s like a windshield wiper.  You‘re taking out the old data and you‘re putting in new data.  And you can have abnormalities. 

MATTHEWS:  But it‘s been fairly consistently convergent.  The Gallup - if you look at the chart, it shows it basically even.  It crosses, but it‘s there. 

TODD:  But you can actually track it.  But you know, from Thursday to Sunday, does really well in the Gallup tracking, right?  I think so.  And I think we have found, Mondays and Wednesdays, he does terribly. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s because it gets closer to voting in primaries.  People are rethinking themselves. 

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  No, no, no.  I‘m talking about days of the week now that you can actually say, oh, well, that must be Wednesday data.  I mean, you can literally now see it that way. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are people more daring later in the week, and they lose their guts coming into the week?  What is going on here?

(LAUGHTER)

HART:  How about the sample size and picking up certain people on the weekend that you can‘t find during the weekdays?  So, that can all be part of it.  But I think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Are liberals home Friday night? 

HART:  I don‘t think so, Chris. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  But Republicans will swear to you that Republicans aren‘t home on Friday nights, right?

(CROSSTALK)

HART:  That‘s what they have been trying to say for years. 

MATTHEWS:  I love those polls. 

Do you believe in polls? 

(LAUGHTER)

HART:  You know, Chris, just this one time, I‘m going to answer yes for you. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe in polls? 

TODD:  I think it‘s becoming—yes, but I think it‘s becoming harder. 

I think the best pollsters have a harder time getting good new numbers. 

MATTHEWS:  I heard some people just will not return calls.  They don‘t want to answer the questions.  They‘re very attitudinal.  People just get tough.  The hell with you.  I‘m not telling you where I‘m voting.  It‘s too personal. 

HART:  There are a lot of difficulties with polling. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HART:  But, in the end of the day, it gets a better sense of where we are and what is happening.  So, I have got to stick with polling.  Is that OK, Chris? 

MATTHEWS:  I know.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Asking a milkman if milk is healthy for you. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Peter Hart, pollster, Chuck Todd, political expert.

Up next:  So, who‘s got the picture—actually, who has got his picture on the cover of the new “Rolling Stone”?  I think you can guess.  Oh, you can figure this one out.  The “Sideshow” is straight ahead.  Let‘s see who on the cover of the “Rolling Stone.”

Listen to that music.  It‘s all about that. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

Well, Barack Obama has landed once again on the cover of the “Rolling Stone.”  It‘s his second time.  Here he was looking rather angelically back in late March with the headline, “A New Hope.”  And here he is on the newest cover, no headline this time, but note that flag pin on his lapel.  The story inside offers insight on Obama‘s musical taste buds. 

His iPod, for example, has a playlist which includes Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and the rapper Jay-Z. 

Something tells me that that flag pin phone will have more thrust with the paparazzi than Obama‘s playlist. 

Well, it‘s no surprise that plenty of people in San Francisco want to see George W. Bush gone.  It is surprising that some of them want to treat him like garbage—or sewage, rather.  A group called the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco wants to put President Bush‘s name on one of the city‘s sewer plants.  That‘s the plant there in the picture. 

Here‘s one of the commission members rallying support on the streets of San Francisco.  City officials tell “The San Francisco Chronicle” that they get the joke, but don‘t want to go along with it.  A spokesman said it would give the sewer works a bad name. 

Now it‘s time for “Name That Veep.”  Some people think John McCain needs a running mate who is notably younger than he is.  This candidate certainly fits this bill.  Just last year, he was elected governor of his state at just 36 years of age.  Before that, he was elected to two terms in the U.S. Congress.  And, prior to that, he ran his state‘s university system at the age of only 30. 

Well, today, “The Wall Street Journal” describes the governor, whose family came here from India, as having—quote—“a fresh face, conservative credentials, and a reformist streak.”

So, who is this young man with the impressive resume?  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.  And there he is. 

And finally tonight, the HARDBALL “Big Number.”

Barack Obama is expected to raise a ton of campaign cash after rejecting public financing of his campaign.  He will have no trouble spending it, of course, on pricey television time. 

And now there‘s a new place for him to spend that money.  “Advertising Age” reports that MTV now, for the first time ever, will allow political advertisements on its network, which has got to be music to Obama‘s ears.  So, how long did MTV go without running any political commercials whatsoever?  Twenty-seven years.  Tonight‘s HARDBALL “Big Number”: 27 years since MTV first went on the air, 27 years without political ads on MTV, until now.  After 27 years, MTV has joined the political party -- 27, tonight‘s HARDBALL “Big Number.” 

Up next:  When McCain aide Charlie Black said McCain would benefit politically from a terror attack right before the election, was he actually telling the truth?  Or would another attack on President Bush‘s watch hurt McCain‘s chances?  We will put that question to the strategists, one Democrat and one Republican.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

A post-Fed-decision rally fizzled, but stocks did close higher, not by much, though, with the Dow gaining just four points, the S&P 500 up by more than 7.  The Nasdaq, though, climbed 33 points. 

As expected, the Federal Reserve held the key interest rate steady.  It also cited a heightened risk of inflation, which could lead to rate increases beyond the current 2 percent.  Oil prices fell on an unexpected rise in inventory.  Crude dropped $2.59, closing at $134.41 a barrel.  And sales of new homes fell in May for the sixth time in seven months.  Prices also continue to drop. 

And some major earnings news after the closing bell today—Oracle reported better-than-expected quarter—quarterly earnings.  Shares initially rose during the trading session, but, in this after-hours session, they‘re now dropping fairly significantly. 

Meantime, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion reported earnings that were a penny short of analyst estimates.  Shares are down 8 percent after-hours. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

And here we go again.  When John McCain senior campaign adviser Charles Black said a terrorist attack would be a big advantage for McCain heading into the election, was he right?  Would McCain benefit, or would voters blame Republicans for failing to keep them safe?

Let‘s turn now to the experts, the strategists.  Steve McMahon is a Democratic media consultant.  And Republican strategist Todd Harris is a former McCain spokesman.  They actually are political strategists, the aforementioned gentlemen.  They are the real thing. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you.  We‘re going to do Nader and then we‘re going to—I mean, we‘re going to do Charlie Black, and then we‘re going to Nader. 

Charlie Black‘s war, let‘s start with that, Todd.  Was that smart to come out and tell “Fortune” magazine the other day that, if we get a big boom-boom in this country, people get killed, that somehow that is going to help his candidate?  Was that a good move? 

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  No.  It‘s a no-brainer. 

It was not smart for two reasons.  One, it‘s just unseemly to say.  But, two, I have talked to Republicans across this town, very, very smart strategists, actual strategists.  And there‘s not even consensus that it‘s accurate.  You know, you could argue it either way, that it would help him and that it would hurt him. 

MATTHEWS:  We argued about it all the time back here, but—because we don‘t know. 

HARRIS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  But there is—there is an element of perceived truth, in that the Republicans benefit from the terrorist fear. 

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, there are polling numbers show that, if people are picking a candidate who they think can keep them safe from terrorism, Senator McCain has a big advantage.  I happen to think that that‘s because Senator Obama hasn‘t made the case yet that he is that candidate.  And I think he will close that gap.  But, right now, there‘s no question...

MATTHEWS:  Well, then Charlie Black is right.  An attack would be good for McCain, because it would show his strength, because we need a guy who can defend us.

MCMAHON:  Well, I think you can argue it both ways. 

What Charlie Black probably is right about is that, to the extent that people are making a choice based on who they think will keep them safe against terrorism, right now, John McCain has an advantage.  Should he have said it ?  No.  He‘s acknowledged that.  He‘s apologized for it.  It was not a smart thing to say.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at some numbers here.

A new Gallup poll asked voters which candidate would do better on certain issues.  And McCain‘s only advantage is terrorism, where he‘s up—look at that—you have to go down to the bottom of that column, past health care, economy, energy, gas prices, Iraq war, which is tied, down to, as we showed you yesterday, a big 19-point advantage for him on the issue of terrorism.

A new “L.A. Times”/Bloomberg poll out today has McCain with a 17-point lead on the issue of terrorism. 

So, that verifies it pretty much.  We all agree.  McCain wins on the issue, the issue.  As for the phenomena of an actual terrorist attack, let‘s take a look back to 2004, when, on the eve of that election that John Kerry lost by Ohio, basically, the last election of the president, after that, there was—during that Friday, remember that Friday before, --

Obama put out a tape which one—one of these many warnings. 

Here is what McCain said about it.  He said—quote—“I think it‘s very helpful to President Bush,” the release of that tape right before the 2004 election.  “It focuses America‘s attention on the war on terrorism.  I‘m not sure if it was intentional or not, but I think it does have an effect.”

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I love it.  He‘s not sure whether it was intended to help his own candidate or not, but he is saying there that he thinks it helped to have us reminded of terrorism on the eve of a presidential election, helpful to the Republican candidate. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Therefore, it‘s fair to assume that Charlie Black, this past interview, was saying basically what he heard his candidate say before. 

MCMAHON:  I think it‘s safe to say that.  I think it‘s safe to say that Charlie Black was reflecting the view of many people in Washington.

And I think Todd‘s right, which is something I don‘t say very often. 

(LAUGHTER)

MCMAHON:  So, I will say it one more—Todd is right, that you can argue this thing both ways.

But there‘s no question—and those numbers showed—that, on the issue of terrorism and who will keep us safe from terrorist attacks, right now, John McCain has a pretty significant advantage. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is there anything we might expect the Bush administration to do between now and Election Day to let—make us look stronger, to raise the threat level higher, that would be politically legitimate? 

For example, I don‘t think putting up a big code red or anything would be legitimate.  We can agree on that.  That is misusing the authority of the president to warn us against danger. 

MCMAHON:  Which, by the way, they did, the Bush administration did. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not arguing they did it for political reasons?

MCMAHON:  Oh, you don‘t think? 

MATTHEWS:  You think?  I‘m asking you.

MCMAHON:  Yes, I do.  I think they did it for political reasons, absolutely. 

HARRIS:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get back to what we think could be legitimate.  Is there anything this administration can do between now and November to help John McCain win on the terrorism issue? 

HARRIS:  I think that it—look, if I‘m sitting over at the McCain campaign, there‘s absolutely nothing I want the Bush administration do to be grabbing headlines between now and November.  It is incumbent upon Senator McCain to seize the mantle, the future of the Republican Party. 

MATTHEWS:  No October surprise? 

HARRIS:  No. 

Campaigns—campaigns don‘t like...

MATTHEWS:  Do you fear one?  Do you fear one, Steve McMahon?

MCMAHON:  Well, listen, I think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Something dramatic that shows we‘re safer, something that catches the bad guys, something that exposes the danger, that helps put the focus on terrorism? 

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  I think Senator McCain was right in November of 2004 when he said that the Osama bin Laden probably helped the president. 

I was a strategist actually in the Howard Dean campaign when Saddam Hussein was pulled out of the hole, and Howard Dean said what turned out to be accurate and correct, it doesn‘t make us any safer.  But I remember the impact it had on the campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  Catching Saddam Hussein wasn‘t good for America? 

MCMAHON:  It was true.  It was true.  As you know, Howard writes all of his own lines. 

MATTHEWS:  Being right isn‘t good enough, as I‘ve learned to my sorrow.  You have to be right and politic.  Yes?

HARRIS:  Just on the whole October surprise in ‘04, that could have gone either way as well.  What a great reminder that at that point, about a year and a half of the Iraq war, that they still hadn‘t caught Osama bin Laden.  Yet it cut that way for President Bush.  I think it just as easily could have reminded everybody that bin Laden was still out there and it could have cut for John Kerry.  The point is, you just never know. 

MATTHEWS:  Bottom line, what‘s Ralph Nader up to in trashing Barack Obama, a fellow liberal, you would think, for not being black enough or using white guilt, the whole routine? 

MCMAHON:  It is kind of an odd thing when a white guy is saying that the black guy isn‘t black enough and therefore, you should vote for the white guy.  I have no idea what he‘s up you to.  I think he‘s probably trying to get a little bit of attention, trying to get a little bit of traction.  He‘s not getting it.  And it‘s frankly unbecoming of Ralph Nader, who has such a great legacy. 

MATTHEWS:  I used to work for the guy years ago.  He‘s been a great man over years.  I don‘t understand.  Was it fair for Barack Obama to accuse him of being a perennial candidate, basically trashing him as a desperate alternative who isn‘t going to get any publicity unless he goes after the big guys? 

HARRIS:  He is a perennial candidate who won‘t get any publicity unless he goes after the big guys.  I‘m actually—

MCMAHON:  Publicity, though, Todd, as you know, is to engage Barack Obama.  So I actually think the Obama campaign made a mistake by going after him.  They should have ignored him. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s running four percent in the polls right now, according to “LA Times.”  Will he go up or down, in terms of his percentage in the poll, because of this attack on Barack? 

HARRIS:  Now, sadly, I‘m afraid he‘s going to go down. 

MATTHEWS:  Go down? 

MCMAHON:  He‘s going to go down.

MATTHEWS:  OK, you both agree.  Sadly, happily. 

HARRIS:  I‘m now a Nader donor though.  I‘m sending him money. 

MATTHEWS:  I know, keep him pumped up.  Anyway, Steve McMahon (INAUDIBLE) -- just kidding, Ralph.  You know me and you.  Anyway, Todd Harris, Steve McMahon. 

Up next, after a look warm endorsement yesterday made by his spokesman, how much will Bill really go out and help Barack Obama on the campaign trail?  It‘s still a live question; will Bill help Hill help Barack?  That‘s the big question.  That‘s next in the politics fix. 

And all week we‘ve been asking you, our viewers, to text message us your thoughts on the following question—this is a will question, not should he—will Barack Obama chose Hillary Clinton to be his running mate?  Here are the results, 70 percent say Obama will not chose Hillary Clinton as his running mate, 30 percent say he will.  Seventy percent, seven out of ten, say he will not pick her.  We‘ll be right back.  This is HARDBALL—you learn stuff here—only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the politics fix.  Let‘s bring in the round table, MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard and the “Atlantic Magazine‘s” Reihan Salam, whose new book is called “Grand New Party.”  What‘s your book about? 

REIHAN SALAM, “THE ATLANTIC”:  It‘s about the white working class and about how the Republican party needs to win them back. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s an argument that‘s well made and well needed.  For the Democrats, let‘s talk about something Ralph Nader said to the “Rocky Mountain News,” which is causing quite an uproar. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NADER:  There‘s only one thing different about Barack Obama when it comes to being a Democratic presidential candidate.  He‘s half African-American.  Whether that will make any difference, I don‘t know.  I haven‘t heard him have a strong crack down on economic exploitation in the ghettos, payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead, you know. 

What‘s keeping him from doing that?  Is it because he wants to talk white?  He doesn‘t want to appear like Jesse Jackson?  We‘ll see all of that play out if the next few months, and if he gets elected afterwards. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Again, he went further in the part of the interview that wasn‘t picked up on the videotape.  Let‘s listen to the rest of it.  This is the interview that didn‘t get quoted, quote—this is Barack Obama being described by Ralph Nader—quote, “he wants to show that he is not a threatening, a politically threatening—another politically threatening African American politician.  He wants to appeal to white guilt.  You appeal to white guilt by not coming on as a black is beautiful, black is powerful.  Basically, he‘s coming on as someone who is not going to threaten the white power structure, whether it‘s corporate or whether it‘s simply oligarchic.  They love it.  Whites just eat it up.”

He certainly laid it on thick there.  Ralph Nader on the non-ethnic politics of Barack Obama.  What do you make of that? 

MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think the best way to characterize Ralph Nader‘s statements today is verbal vomit.  I could not believe it.  I want to keep hearing it over and over again.  He is putting him in the black box and it‘s like this is the only thing that—if you are black, you must care only about these issues.  And if you‘re a black person, and oh, my god, you don‘t speak ebonics, what a shock, you‘re trying to be white.  Instead of, he was raised properly.  He has a good education, and he speaks no differently than anybody else.  I find the whole thing sickening.   

MATTHEWS:  My buddy?   

SALAM:  I think that Ralph Nader is a clown.  I think he‘s been a clown for an incredibly long time.  That hasn‘t changed.  And I think that the idea that Ralph Nader is going to give Barack Obama lessons on how to be black is fascinating to me. 

MATTHEWS:  Just to give him a shot here, is Ralph Nader criticizing what we used to consider the liberal party, criticizing its failure to take the left view on corporate injustice, on social injustice, on the things that people on the left used to rail against, whether it‘s exploitation of labor, exploitation of poor people in the urban areas?  Isn‘t that a case to be made against the left party, or are we just going to admit the Democratic party is not the left party? 

SALAM:  I‘m a Republican, but Barack Obama has a chance to win a very big victory.  The way he does that is by reaching out to the biggest possible audience.  And the way to do that is to connect to the concerns of the working class and the middle class.  That‘s why, you know—

MATTHEWS:  Working and middle, not the impoverished. 

SALAM:  Look, you definitely need to address the concerns of the most impoverished by trying to include them in the mainstream economy.  But the way that Obama‘s talking is a way that‘s trying to weave together the needs of the very poor, as well as the working class.  That‘s effective.  That‘s something Republicans need to learn from. 

MATTHEWS:  I want you to respond to what Obama said.  Here‘s Senator Obama late this afternoon responding to what Nader had to say.  This very late today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  First of all, what‘s clear is Ralph Nader hasn‘t been paying to my speeches, because all the issues that he talked about, whether it‘s predatory lending or the housing foreclosure crisis or what have you are issues that the traveling press can tell you I‘ve devoted multiple speeches, town hall meetings to throughout this campaign. 

Ralph Nader is trying to get attention.  He‘s become a perennial political candidate.  I think it‘s a shame because if you look at his legacy in terms of consumer protections, it‘s an extraordinary one.  But at this point, he‘s somebody who‘s trying to get attention and whose campaign hasn‘t gotten any traction. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that will rattle the cage. 

BERNARD:  I tell you, incredibly charitable.  A lot more charitable than I would be. 

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t you like the way he sort of thinks before he talks? 

BERNARD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘ve got to learn from that guy.  We‘ll be right back with the round table for more of the politics fix.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with a round table with a hot question.  First of all, let‘s take a look at a couple of SOT, sounds on tape.  Here is Hillary Clinton today campaigning for Senator Obama.  She‘s out there. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  I‘m going to be campaigning on Friday, and my husband is in Europe right now.  He‘s attending President Mandela‘s 90th birthday party today in London.  And there will be a lot of work for all of us as Democrats to do, including him.  He has said he will do whatever he can and whatever he‘s asked. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s Senator Obama talking about Hillary Clinton campaigning for him. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I want her campaigning as much as she can.  She is a terrific campaigner.  She, I think, inspired millions of people.  And so she can be an extraordinarily effective surrogate for me.  Obviously, it‘ll be constrained by her schedule, but I‘m looking forward to campaigning vigorously with her.  I think we‘ll have—I think we will have a terrific time together in New Hampshire.  And I think that she will be very effective all the way through November. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t exactly hear the wedding bells.  Am I missing something here? 

BERNARD:  Did you notice the emphasis he sort of places on she will be an effective surrogate for me.  That‘s his way of saying, remember, I‘m number one.  She‘s number two.  She‘s not VP.  She‘s working for me. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you sense the embrace there?  Do you feel it?  Do you feel the love, not the love but the embrace?  Are they getting together, those two kids?  Are they going to win this thing together, or is there a minuet going on about money, sort of the opposite of a prenup?  Maybe it is a prenup.  Trying to figure out, you‘re going to pay for my debt, and you‘re going to do this, and then I‘ll start dancing with you.  But I‘m not dancing with you until you did it.  Is that going on here? 

SALAM:  I think the Clinton family has an agenda.  They have a plan. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it for Barack to be the next president, the Clintons to be the next Democratic president? 

SALAM:  That‘s a tough call.  My hope for Barack Obama is that Hillary Clinton has an agenda that is to become governor of the state of New York or something like that.  In that case, helping Obama win is going to help.  I worry that—as a Republican, I‘m on the sidelines and there is some humor to watching this.  But I just think the Clintons have become so toxic in our public life, and I also think that Barack Obama needs the supporters that flock to Hillary Clinton, who connected with her on a gut level.  So it‘s very hard for me to see how this will play out. 

From the Clintons‘ perspective, there are a lot of different scenarios that end up working out well for them, including a scenario where Obama loses. 

MATTHEWS:  Are they holding those people hostage in places like Pennsylvania, working women who voted for Hillary?  Is Hillary holding them hostage, saying, I‘ll release them to you when you play ball with me?  My campaign owes me 12 million dollars.  I‘d like it back.  My campaign owes a lot of money to vendors.  I‘d like you to pay that.  When you do all that, I‘ll like you. 

BERNARD:  It‘s possible, but—

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just wondering, when are they going to get out there on the road?  They‘re having a meeting Thursday night, the money people.  That‘s tomorrow night, somewhere in Washington.  They‘re all going to get together, the money people, and hash this thing out.  This is like one of those prearranged marriages in some other culture.  People argue about I want to give you three hens and two geese.  If you don‘t give me three hens and two geese, she‘s not going to like you. 

BERNARD:  Yes.  I don‘t think she‘s ever really going to like him.  She might like him more if all of her campaign debt gets paid off.  But I think there‘s a 2012 strategy  here.  I think that when President Clinton says I‘ll do whatever I‘m asked, it‘s possible that he‘s hinting that he‘s not going to be asked to do anything.  Maybe he knows that. 

MATTHEWS:  This is a very troubling marriage.  What do you make of this? 

SALAM:  I think the Clinton‘s have a great life.  They have—

MATTHEWS:  He‘s heading over to the most famous man in the world for his birthday party. 

SALAM:  Hanging out with magnates.

MATTHEWS:  By the way, who does he least wish will get the invitation next time to that birthday party with Mandela?  He‘s afraid Barack Obama will get the invitation.  These guys are competing for leading Democratic leader of the world.  Right?

SALAM:  Yes.

BERNARD:  And legacy.  Bill Clinton as the former Democratic president, two terms, wants his legacy to be the greatest Democratic president we have had in this century. 

MATTHEWS:  So when the people in Nairobi say who would you most like to have come to give a speech over here at a big soccer stadium, right, would you rather have Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, you don‘t think Bill Clinton knows that competition is going on?  You‘re grimacing.   

SALAM:  I hope he‘s bigger than that. 

MATTHEWS:  Who?

SALAM:  Bill Clinton.  I don‘t know. 

BERNARD:  The man who said, of course he won South Carolina, he‘s like Jesse Jackson, I don‘t think he‘s bigger than that.  I don‘t think people will forget that.  I don‘t think he‘s bigger than that. 

MATTHEWS:  Reihan Salam, you write for “Atlantic Magazine.”  You used to be one of my producers, and you‘ve come so far. 

SALAM:  You‘re my—

MATTHEWS:  It‘s great.  Let me ask you one more question.  Who made the biggest faux pas this week, Charlie Black—I was thinking of calling it Charlie Black‘s war—talking about his candidate benefiting from a lethal explosion right before the election, which may or may not be true, but it was probably not good to say it, or Ralph Nader saying that this fellow, Barack Obama, is not running a black campaign? 

BERNARD:  Ralph Nader, I think, is in the tank this week, much worse. 

SALAM:  I think Ralph Nader.  The nail is in the coffin.  He‘s dead. 

MATTHEWS:  A little subtle, but well said.  Michelle Bernard, Reihan Salam of “Atlantic Magazine.”  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right 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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