updated 6/27/2008 10:35:58 AM ET 2008-06-27T14:35:58

Guests:  Pete Williams, Wayne LaPierre, Pete Helmke, Deroy Murdock, Michael Smerconish,  Jeff Zeleny, Clarence Page, Ryan Lizza, Dominic Carter, Jill Zuckman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  And welcome to HARDBALL.  There are probably no words in the U.S. Constitution that have sparked more debate in recent decades than those in the 2nd Amendment.  Quote, “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  Well, today the Supreme Court settled the issue.  The Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects an individual‘s right to have a gun unconnected with service in a militia.  In other words, you have right to have a gun.  But it also said that gun laws can be constitutional.

So where does this new 5-to-4 decision leave things?  And how will it affect the presidential election?  We‘ll talk to people with strong opinions, and there are strong opinions, on both sides of the gun issue.

Also, Obama and Hillary together again for the first time.  Obama meets with Hillary and her top fund-raisers tonight here in Washington.  Then tomorrow, as we said here yesterday, they get together in Unity, New Hampshire.  Why hasn‘t Bill Clinton shown more enthusiasm for Obama?  Why hasn‘t Obama done more to woo the Hillary people?  And can the two rivals ultimately find unity in Unity?

Plus, how bad is the damage to the Republican brand name these days?  How bad?  Well, so bad that Republican senator Gordon Smith of Oregon is running for reelection touting his work—get this—with Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Who says Gordon Smith helped lead the fight for better gas mileage and a cleaner environment?  Barack Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, add to that four new battleground state polls that have some pretty sobering news for John McCain today and you can see how rough the landscape is for Republicans this year.

And see if you can guess which presidential candidate this time says America is ready for a president with a mustache.  We‘ll have that on the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

But, first, the U.S. Supreme Court affirms the right to bear arms.  We begin with NBC justice correspondent Pete Williams at the Supreme Court.  Pete, we‘ve been arguing this since grade school, since I can remember.  Do you have the right to bear arms, or do you simply have the right to bear arms so you can join a militia?  What‘s the ruling?

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, the Supreme Court went through those 27 words that you just read, Chris, and said, If you look at what the Founders had in mind when they wrote the Constitution, what they said about the right to bear arms, if you look at what Congress did after the  Constitution was enacted, after the Civil War even, when Congress was alarmed about the fact that newly freed slaves were not being given the right to own guns—put that all together, and clearly, the Supreme Court said, it is an individual right to own a gun, that the preamble, that first phrase about well-regulated militia, just lists one reason for the right to own a gun but not the only reason.  And that‘s the conclusion the Supreme Court reached.

Important because the Supreme Court said if it is an individual right, then that greatly restricts the ability of cities to impose restrictions on gun ownership.  And that was the fatal blow for the D.C. ordinance here today, the strictest handgun ban in the nation.  The Supreme Court said you have to be able to have a gun in your home for self-defense.

MATTHEWS:  And the D.C. law said, according to the case that was fought here, that a fellow could not get a license to register a gun even to keep in his house.

WILLIAMS:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  And the Court ruled, Yes, you can.  This guy‘s going to get a license because the Court says that‘s a constitutional right.

WILLIAMS:  Yes.  Now, key point you just made—license.  The Court implies that it‘s still constitutional to require you to get a license and register your gun.  That may be grounds for further legal action.  They didn‘t definitively rule on that.  They just sort of assumed that was the case today.

But they also said that—the specific part of this that was so much a problem for the District was what kind of guns it banned and where.  A handgun, which the Supreme Court said today is the quintessential self-defense weapon, and in the home, where the Court said the need to defend yourself, your property and your family is at its highest—Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion, said, with a handgun, you could hold your gun on the burglar and dial the cops with the other hand, whereas if you have a rifle, it takes two hands.

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  OK, thank you very much.  By the way, where is this headed, do you think?  Can we project right now...

WILLIAMS:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  ... just based on the Court ruling, what this means to gun ownership rights?

WILLIAMS:  Well, first of all, you‘ll be able to have a gun at home in the District.  Secondly, the NRA says now it‘s going to launch challenges almost immediately to similar laws that have similar gun restrictions in Chicago and some of its suburbs, in San Francisco.  And the NRA even says, Chris, today that it may try—it may attack some laws requiring background checks.  That‘s going a be an interesting one because the Court said today that it‘s perfectly legitimate for the government to say you can‘t have a gun if you‘re a felon, you can‘t have a gun if you‘re mentally retarded.  So a question for the NRA.  How do you find that out if you can‘t have background checks?

But all that to be determined by further court battles.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Pete Williams.  The Wayne LaPierre is the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association.  And Paul Helmke‘s the president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Wayne, you‘ve been here a lot before.  It‘s good to have you back. 

Let me ask you this.  Where are you headed now?

WAYNE LAPIERRE, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION:  You know, it‘s a great moment in American history.  I mean, it‘s—we‘ve always believed this is an individual right.  The Founding Fathers wrote this individual right.  And now the Court has acknowledged that.  It‘s an individual right.

What that mean is an individual right, 2nd Amendment, is now a real part of American constitutional law.  But what that means is individuals all over the country have to have equal access to this.  You can‘t say, Hey, individuals in America, you have a right, but it doesn‘t apply to you.  So we‘re going to make sure, step by step, that every American citizen has equal access to...

MATTHEWS:  What cities now deny you the right to register—get a registered gun, a handgun in your house.

LAPIERRE:  The cities that are immediately to be looked at are Morton Grove, Illinois, Oak Park, Illinois, Wilmette (ph), San Francisco, where they ban you if you live in public housing from protecting yourself with any type of firearm.

MATTHEWS:  What about Chicago?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Can you own a handgun and live in an apartment in Chicago?

LAPIERRE:  No, you can‘t.  And that‘s another one we‘re looking at. 

We plan on immediately challenging those laws.  This is a monumental day.  It‘s a monumental victory for the 2nd Amendment and individual rights in this country and also the right of self-protection.  And all good people have the right to protect themselves from the bad people.

MATTHEWS:  Paul, this is a loss for you, the side of gun control, because gun control people, liberals generally, have been arguing since I was in grade school that you really don‘t have a right to own a gun.  You have a right to join a militia.  And therefore, you need a gun to join a militia.  What‘s your belief in this?  Did you lose the big fight here?

PAUL HELMKE, BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE:  We‘re disappointed in the Court ruling obviously.  And we think they got it wrong.  It was a close call, five votes to four votes, and a lot of good arguments on the other side.  The last time the Court looked at this was 1939.  They said militia view (ph) at that time.  So we kind of felt they should have read all 27 words, not just the last 14.  They should have looked at what was rejected in 1791...

MATTHEWS:  What about the original...

HELMKE:  Thy should have followed precedent...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... just to get to the history here, for the history buffs here, and rights buffs.  We‘re all rights buffs.  What‘s wrong with the Court ruling the original intent here was clear, that state constitutions written before the U.S. Constitution did (ph) provide for a clear right to own a gun, with no reference to militias.  Therefore, their argument was, the original intent of our Founders in Philadelphia was to write a gun rights law, per se.  What do you think of that?

HELMKE:  Our response is, they could have looked at those state constitutions and written a federal constitution to do the same thing that the state constitutions clearly did.  They rejected that.  In fact, our theory was—and since rejected, so we‘re talking history at this stage—that what the states were concerned about is a strong federal government, a strong federal army.  They want to have the state militias as a counterbalance to that.

MATTHEWS:  So you still are sticking with this militia argument.

HELMKE:  It‘s—I‘m not...

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t believe we have an individual right to own a gun.

HELMKE:  Well, the Supreme Court ruled and that‘s the law of the land.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Great.  That‘s interesting because a lot of people never stop with that.  But now we have the Supreme Court...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... everybody watching right now knows you have right to own a gun now- reasonable restrictions.  You don‘t believe that all gun laws are unconstitutional, do you?

LAPIERRE:  We‘ve always supported behavioral restrictions, felons with guns, drug dealers with guns, violent gang members...

MATTHEWS:  But can you walk down...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Can you walk down Broadway with a bazooka?  Do you think that‘s a right to bear arms?

LAPIERRE:  Bazookas aren‘t covered by the 2nd Amendment.

MATTHEWS:  OK, how about a tommy gun?

LAPIERRE:  That‘s just to scare people.  I mean...

MATTHEWS:  Should you be allowed to walk down Broadway with a tommy gun?

LAPIERRE:  They‘ve been highly restricted since the ‘30s, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think?

LAPIERRE:  I mean, you‘re trying to scare people!

(CROSSTALK)

LAPIERRE:  ... individual rights on firearms...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s your position, as the NRA, about the right to bear arms?  What is the limit on it?

LAPIERRE:  Traditional-type firearms that American public has always -

rifles, shotguns, handguns.  Those are what was covered under this case today...

(CROSSTALK)

LAPIERRE:  All 50-caliber is, is another caliber.

MATTHEWS:  Semiautomatics?

LAPIERRE:  There‘s no difference.  Semiautomatics are quintessential firearms, just like handguns, owned by citizens all over this country.

(CROSSTALK)

HELMKE:  You‘re talking about fully automatic...

MATTHEWS:  No, I know.  Dit-dit-dit-dit-dit is semiautomatic.  You have to...

LAPIERRE:  Yes, pull the trigger...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not talking about a burp gun.

LAPIERRE:  It‘s about as mainstream a firearm as you can get...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking.

LAPIERRE:  ... in this country.

MATTHEWS:  You get so fiery about this.  You won today.

LAPIERRE:  Hey—hey, but...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking.

LAPIERRE:  They‘re still going to try to put all kinds of restrictions in the place of the honest citizen, and we‘re going to fight this out...

MATTHEWS:  OK, what...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You‘re in an apartment in New York, a tough neighborhood, OK?

HELMKE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  There‘s crime in the neighborhood, high crime neighborhood.  What‘s wrong with having a handgun in your apartment so nobody‘s going to come in your front door?

HELMKE:  Right.  Court‘s basically said that that‘s going to be allowed.  I mean, one of the things that Justice Scalia did, honed in on, is the right to a gun for self-defense in your own home.  So that would probably be allowed under—under this reading of the 2nd Amendment.  The real issue here, though, is where you draw the line.  If...

MATTHEWS:  OK, right to carry.  Let‘s go to the tricky one.  You‘re a single woman, a single male, walking home at night.  You come into a—you have—you live alone in an apartment, which is in a tricky neighborhood.  There are neighborhoods in Washington like that, wherever, tricky neighborhoods, where there‘s not high crime, but there‘s some crime.  You don‘t feel comfortable going home late from work at night unless you got a gun in your pocket.  Where are you on that?

HELMKE:  Right to carry states are 48 of the 50 states right now.  I mean, that‘s a battle that‘s been talked about.  If there are clear restrictions...

(CROSSTALK)

HELMKE:  Are there clear restrictions on people and to make sure they know what they‘re doing when they get the gun, that they pass the background checks, that the local police have signed off on it, that‘s something that doesn‘t cause that many problems.  The problem here is we make it too easy for dangerous people to get guns.  It‘s—we have too few gun laws out there.  I think I‘m willing to say mission accomplished to Wayne.  You guys can start doing gun training...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the crime rate—what‘s the violent crime rate of NRA members?

HELMKE:  Beats me.  They don‘t...

MATTHEWS:  I bet it‘s zero.

(CROSSTALK)

LAPIERRE:  ... law-abiding people it is, but what we‘re not doing is we‘re not prosecuting still...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

LAPIERRE:  ... violent felons with guns, drug dealers, gang members with guns...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

LAPIERRE:  ... and that‘s what would stop crime.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to the tricky question...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We have a presidential election, which we talk about almost every night, and now we‘re going to do it again.  Let‘s take a look at what Barack Obama said several months ago at a San Francisco fund-raiser.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing‘s replaced them.  And they fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, and each successive administration said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate, and they have not.  And it‘s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren‘t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So you have the unholy trinity the failure of federal government has led to, guns, religion and antipathy towards different people.  Put it together, Barack Obama‘s statement to an elite group in San Francisco, the gun-loving, gun support, gun-right lovers are really people who‘ve been embittered by the failure of government.

LAPIERRE:  You know, when he said that, my initial reaction was I thought that‘s a peek at how the elites really view the rest of us.  I mean, Mr. Obama, too—in Illinois, when there was a home owner in his home that saved his life and family with a firearm, one of those towns I‘m talking about we‘re going to bring suit at, they wanted to prosecute...

MATTHEWS:  Is that Wilmette?

LAPIERRE:  Yes, Wilmette.  They wanted to prosecute the home owner. 

The criminal had 30...

MATTHEWS:  Wilmette‘s the home of Charlton Heston?

LAPIERRE:  Somewhere up there.  There was...

MATTHEWS:  He went to New Trier (ph) high school with my father-in-law.  Go ahead.

LAPIERRE:  Yes, he‘s a Michigan guy.  You know, went to Hollywood...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... grew up in Illinois.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... Charlton Heston history.

LAPIERRE:  The homeowner had—the criminal had 30 arrests and suspensions and he was on the street, terrorized that home owner.  Went before the Illinois legislature.  They said, Don‘t prosecute the guy.  Obama voted to prosecute Hale Demar (ph), the home owner.

MATTHEWS:  For self-defense.

LAPIERRE:  For self-defense in the home.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know this case.  I hate to have these weird cases thrown at me.  I know there‘s more to it than that.

LAPIERRE:  No, there‘s not.

(CROSSTALK)

LAPIERRE:  Well, Wilmette—the home owner legally had a gun.  Then they enacted your ban.  The home owner kept the gun...

HELMKE:  We don‘t push bans and we haven‘t pushed bans.

LAPIERRE:  Oh!

HELMKE:  And really, what this whole issue comes down to in the presidential race, I think this is—there‘s some positive things here for people that are for common sense gun controls.  The Court has now taken off the extremes.  The extreme of the gun ban, the slippery slope that Wayne always argues about, that‘s gone.  The extreme on the other side, of any gun, anywhere, anytime, any place, that‘s off the table.  We‘re in the middle of the road.  That‘s where we want to be, and I think that‘s going to help politicians...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) Let‘s go to what McCain said.  We got to do the politics here.  Here‘s what Senator McCain said today when asked about the Obama campaign calling the handgun bill—ban, actually, in D.C.—last year, they called the D.C. ban on handguns, which was overruled today, constitutional.  So Barack Obama had sided with what he thought was the constitutionality of the D.C. law, which prevented you from holding a handgun in your own home unless you had the gun taken apart with no bullets in it and basically useless in self-defense.  The Obama campaign today said through a spokesman that that comment by the candidate was “inartful.”  And here‘s what they said today about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  All I can say is it‘s one in a long serious of reversals of position.  In a few days, he‘s gone from opposing nuclear power to not a proponent to willing to explore.  I fully anticipate—you know, whether it be on his pledge on public financing or his position on the 2nd Amendment or any other issues, he is changing his positions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Paul, looks like John McCain‘s happy with the decision today.  There he is in a mirthful mood.  So he clearly thinks...

HELMKE:  He is smiling.

MATTHEWS:  ... the other guy‘s pinned.  He thinks he‘s caught the other guy straddling the issue, being for and against the D.C. law.  Is he right?  Is McCain happy here for good reason?

HELMKE:  McCain‘s happy, but I think he‘s reading the politics wrong.  I think, really, as I was saying, this is taking away the slippery slope argument.  It‘s taking the “anything goes” argument.  I think before the earlier ruling in this case from the appellate court, the law of the land was militia.

MATTHEWS:  OK, now...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I will now go and cause trouble here.  Is Paul right, the fact that the Court set a ruling here and said you do have a constitutional right to own a gun, basic, per se right, it is in the Constitution as much as a woman‘s right to choose or whatever you want to call it, freedom of speech, anything else that‘s delineated—doesn‘t that take away the fearfulness of a lot of NRA members and other people in this country that the black helicopters are coming to take away their guns? Doesn‘t that take away that fear factor?

LAPIERRE:  This is still going to be a fight, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  You still think the black helicopters are coming?

LAPIERRE:  I‘ll tell you what...

MATTHEWS:  No, really, I mean, he raised a good point.

LAPIERRE:  They were for the collective rights.  They were for the ban.  They lost on that.

MATTHEWS:  Who won?

LAPIERRE:  But they‘re still in favor of putting all kinds of obstacles in the way of law-abiding...

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree that the federal government is not now coming to take away people‘s guns?

LAPIERRE:  I think we still got a fight on our hand.  I mean, take New York City, OK?  The celebrities, the rich, the famous, they get these permits under all these licenses and permits systems.  The average guy in Queens, when he tries to do it, they tell him, Hey, you‘re flat out of luck.  Now, I think that law‘s capricious.  This Supreme Court case...

MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re going to win that argument.

LAPIERRE:  I think we are, too.

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) fear right now.  Looks to me like you‘ve got a 5-4 Court right now.  And if Republicans win again, you may have a 6-3 Court, a 7-2 Court, which is very pro-2nd Amendment.  It looks to me your lobbying has been very effective and you should do a victory lap now.

LAPIERRE:  Hey, hey, I‘m all for a 2nd Amendment...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But I don‘t think you can do both and say you won on gun rights before the highest a court in the land and still have people running around afraid that the helicopters are coming to take away their rights.

LAPIERRE:  Folks back in rural Indiana don‘t care how it‘s going to play in New York.  They‘ve won their case.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  I know.  The smart lobbyist never gives up, ever.  Wayne LaPierre, one of the best.  Paul Helmke, sir.  He seemed a little soft tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up: Republican senator Gordon Smith is tying himself to Barack Obama, a Republican running for reelection tying his, well, life support to a Democratic candidate for president.  Is that smart?  We‘ll see.

Has the Republican Party‘s, by the way, brand gotten so far gone that a Republican has to associate himself with Barack Obama to win?  Test case in Oregon.  We‘re going to talk about it when we come back.  Let‘s look at the extensive damage to that Republican brand name right now.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Republican Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon, who was one of the first senators to endorse John McCain during the primaries, is now working to tout Barack Obama, as he—as Senator Smith runs for reelection. 

Check out this new Smith—new ad by Smith. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SMITH CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR:  Who says Gordon Smith helped lead the fight for better gas mileage and a cleaner environment?  Barack Obama.  He joined with Gordon and broke through a 20-year deadlock to pass new laws which increase gas mileage for automobiles.  Governor Ted Kulongoski praised their bipartisan partnership on this critical issue. 

Gordon Smith, bipartisan leadership for energy independence. 

SEN. GORDON SMITH ®, OREGON:  I‘m Gordon Smith, and I approve working together across party lines and this ad. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, is the GOP brand, the Republican brand name, so damaged that a Republican U.S. senator has to boast of working with his party‘s presidential opponent in order to win? 

Michael Smerconish is a radio talk show host in Philadelphia.  And Deroy Murdock is with “The National Journal,” one of the great conservative magazines. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Michael.

Let‘s take a look, Michael, at the new Quinnipiac poll.  Well, let‘s start, by the way, with the national poll.  I want to go to the national poll.  On favorability and unfavorability of the two political parties, this is our own NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll.  And it shows that the Republicans have an unfavorable rating of 47 percent, while Democrats enjoy a 43 percent favorable.

Look at that.  Hold up those numbers for a bit.  Just look at the Democrats, marginally favorable in the public.  Like, nobody likes politicians generally, but 43 percent, 32 percent, a modest advantage for the Democrats.

But look at the Republicans.  Only 28 percent of the country has a positive view of Democrats. 

Michael, does that surprise you, in a big metropolitan area where you work? 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I think that the Republican Party suffers right now from not having a brand.  And to the extent that it conjures up any kind of a brand image, it‘s negative in people‘s minds, because it‘s represented by folks who are out of the mainstream of the country. 

What do you think of when you think of spokesperson for the GOP?  You think of the president, who is out of favor.  James Dobson?  Ann Coulter?  This party needs to moderate on social issues and adopt some new spokesperson.

MATTHEWS:  So, what happens when they go to the convention out there in Minnesota, in Saint Paul, this fall, early—or late summer, rather, the first week in September?  Are they better off not having a convention and advertising that John McCain‘s a Republican?  Are they really going to be better off after a week of showing the face of the Republican Party, Michael? 

SMERCONISH:  What are you going do with the president?  What are you going do with Dick Cheney?  I think it‘s critically important that they call central casting now and that they hope a big tent for that controversy and hope that the country is going to even tune in. 

The thing about that Gordon Smith commercial, Chris, unless you have got a magnifying glass, and you look at that initial sequence, where it says R from Oregon, you have no idea what his party is.  And it‘s all in green.

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe that—maybe—let‘s go to Deroy.

Maybe that‘s just Oregon, which has always been sort of a sophisticated—excuse me for bragging about this state—middle-of-the-road kind of state, where Republicans and Democrats can be quite acceptable, like Packwood, Hatfield all those years, a lot of moderate Republicans.

What do you make of this, Deroy, this fact that the Republican Party is in such disfavor, according to the NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll?

DEROY MURDOCK, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  Well, I would make a couple points, Chris. 

One is that Gordon Smith is a quintessential moderate Republican.  Right now, he has an American Conservative Union rating of 48 percent.  So, he‘s really right down the middle.  And in a state like Oregon, which is a pretty liberal state, I would imagine he doesn‘t want to make himself look too Republican going into this campaign, this election in November.

But I think what Michael doesn‘t mention is that a lot of the weakness among the GOP is among Republican voters.  There‘s a tremendous amount of confusion and disappointment and anger among Republicans to look at the GOP leadership in Washington, D.C., which has spent money like crazy.  They have increased spending about 7 percent per year as long as President Bush has been in there.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MURDOCK:  We just, a couple weeks ago, got this massive farm bill, $307 billion, with subsidies for thoroughbred racehorses.  We‘re not talking about just helping poor people. 

(CROSSTALK)

MURDOCK:  We‘re talking about helping people who own thoroughbred racehorses.  And now we have a $300 billion housing bailout, which apparently covers houses up to $700,000 in value, which is about triple what the average American home costs.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re one of the Bill Buckley true conservatives.  You‘re not a neocon or some sort of new-breed supply-sider.  You basically believe that the purpose of a conservative is to be conservative, right, Deroy?

MURDOCK:  Well, that‘s—yes.  I believe in limited government.  This is one of the core principles of the Republican Party.  And, unfortunately, it‘s been drop-kicked right into the Potomac over the last eight years.  And a lot of Republicans are very upset about that.

MATTHEWS:  Do you know the national debt right now?  Do you know what the national debt is right now?  When President Bush came into office, it was $6 trillion.  It‘s now $10 trillion.  Do you know, in the entire world economy of $55 trillion, we owe $10 trillion.  We owe a fifth of the world‘s economic productivity to the world right now. 

MURDOCK:  Up and away.

MATTHEWS:  We owe it.  It‘s almost doubled under Bush.  I know the argument about 9/11.  Let‘s take a look at a new poll, Michael Smerconish, a new Quinnipiac poll here out in California.  It has Obama beating McCain—in Colorado, rather—by five points in Colorado, actually a red state, by 49 percent to 44 percent.  Obama beats McCain by six points in Michigan, a contested state.  In Minnesota, he leads McCain by 17 points.  In Wisconsin, he‘s up by 13 points.  Are these summer numbers?  What do you make of that?  What do you think, Michael? 

Oh, Deroy.  Let‘s go to Deroy. 

MURDOCK:  Oh.  Well, I would say that there‘s a lot of time between now and November, number one. 

And the fact, in a place like Michigan, that McCain is only back by six, I think, shows this could be a very competitive race.  And McCain has to do a couple things.  One is to solidify his base.  He has a very impressive record in terms of limited government...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MURDOCK:  ... being opposed to all these—this spending. 

And he ought to talk about that.  And I think he ought to make the contrast between Obama wants to raise taxes; he wants to cut taxes and give people an optional flat tax.  Obama seems to want a big-government solution to almost any problem.  McCain usually takes a more limited-government approach. 

And I think making those contrasts—and it can be done in a very polite and gentlemanly way, but it needs to be made clearly—I think this would be a very competitive race.  And McCain actually could still win this thing.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think is going on with these numbers, Michael?  You study numbers.  Minnesota up by 17, Barack Obama, 17 points.  He‘s almost out—beyond the distance there of losing—Wisconsin, same, 13 points.  Now, these are states Democrats normally win. 

But look at this state, Colorado.  Is this unusual, by your lights, that Barack Obama‘s beating a war hero like McCain out in Colorado?

SMERCONISH:  I think, to use the term from Bush 41, the big mo‘ is on the Democratic side of the aisle. 

That notion that there was a bloodbath taking place between Barack and Hillary was ridiculous.  John McCain was out of sight, out of mind. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SMERCONISH:  It did not bode for him that that primary season went so late.  So, it doesn‘t surprise me at all.

But, you know, we‘re junkies, Chris.  We love this sort of thing. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SMERCONISH:  But I think it‘s meaningless.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think this gun thing‘s going to help McCain.  I may be wrong.  We will see.

We will be back with all of you guys again. 

Michael Smerconish, Deroy Murdock, thank you both for joining us. 

MURDOCK:  Thank you. 

SMERCONISH:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next;  Which candidate of the two running for president says America—well, actually, it‘s one of the other ones—is—says America‘s ready for a man with a mustache?  I think you can figure this one out.  It‘s one of those other-party candidates.

Plus, John McCain‘s penchant for taking weekends off.  Wait until you catch this number.  It will blow your socks off—John McCain‘s weekend habits. 

The HARDBALL “Sideshow”—coming up straight ahead. 

You‘re watching it, HARDBALL, on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

And time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

“Star Wars” creator George Lucas was on Capitol Hill this week to talk about universal Internet access.  But, instead of science, the press pounded Lucas on science fiction.  “The D.C. Examiner” reports Lucas was asked if President Bush is more like Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader?  Said Lucas, “It‘s up to the viewer.”

Asked about Vice President‘s Cheney‘s embrace of being called Darth Vader, Lucas said, “Cheney seems to like it.”

Asked if Senator Obama would be a Jedi, Lucas said, “I would say that‘s reasonably obvious.”

George Lucas is one of the most creative people of our time.  His political assessments show he‘s also one of the most discerning. 

Libertarian Bob Barr‘s presidential bid for the White House is definitely a long shot.  But Barr knows that there‘s one thing he‘s got that McCain and Obama don‘t have, a mustache.  The man with the stache told “The D.C. Examiner”—by the way, it‘s the second time we have cited that paper tonight—“Absolutely, America‘s ready for a mustache president.”  That‘s Bob Barr‘s view.

The Georgia firebrand wasn‘t sure who the last mustachio president was.  He said it either Teddy Roosevelt or William Howard Taft.

Well, the last president to actually have a mustache was William Howard Taft.  There he is.

And now it‘s time to “Name That Veep.” 

This second-term governor was tapped earlier this year to give the Democrats‘ response to President Bush‘s State of the Union address.  The governor‘s father was the Democratic governor of Ohio back in the ‘70s.  The governor has street cred for fighting insurance companies.  The governor is Catholic, a popular leader in a red state.  And, oh, yes, the governor is a she. 

If Barack Obama wants to pick a woman as his running mate, and doesn‘t want Hillary Clinton, then this governor might be the one.  So, who is this heartland hopeful?  Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. 

And, finally, tonight‘s HARDBALL “Big Number.” 

John McCain has been the presumptive Republican nominee for nearly four months now.  And McCain was on his way to being the presumptive nominee five months ago, when Mitt Romney dropped out of the race.  Now McCain keeps hitting the campaign trail to raise cash and rally support.  But it‘s not exactly a seven-day-a-week job for him. 

Today‘s “Politico,” the newspaper, points out that McCain seems to avoid working on weekends.  So, how many times has McCain held a public weekend campaign event since early February in all these months?  He‘s had one event, once.  And that‘s tonight‘s HARDBALL “Big Number”—one, one Arizona rally back in April. 

McCain has held one public weekend campaign event since effectively becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, one event, one time—interesting—tonight‘s HARDBALL “Big Number.” 

Up next:  Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton settle up, but what role will she have at the convention out there in Denver at the end of August?  Will he ask donors to pay—pay off her debts?  And, of course, the big question, as always, what about Bill? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Stocks plunging today, as oil prices soar to record highs.  And there are new worries again—once again—about the financial sector.  The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 358 points, to its lowest level since September of 2006.  The S&P 500 lost almost 39 points, and the Nasdaq took an 80-point slide. 

Oil surged to an all-time high, above $140 a barrel, after OPEC‘s president said it could hit $170 this summer.  Crude finally settled at a record closing high of $139.64 a barrel, up $5.09 on the day. 

Stocks were also hurt by Goldman Sachs‘ downgrades of Citigroup and General Motors.  Citigroup shares fell 6 percent after Goldman told its clients to sell those shares, while GM shares fell 11 percent, to their lowest level since 1955. 

Meantime, sales of existing homes rose 2 percent in May.  But it‘s only the second increase in 10 months.  And prices continue to fall. 

That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to Chris and HARDBALL. 

Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will hit the campaign trail together tomorrow in a place called Unity, New Hampshire.  Are Democrats truly united?  Is there too much bad blood out there?  And what about Bill Clinton?

With us now, “Chicago Tribune” columnist Clarence Page, and a “New York Times” reporter, Jeff Zeleny. 

Jeff, you have a story on the front page of “The Times” today, saying that lawyer Bob Barnett, an established fellow in Washington here, has somehow been put out there as point man to negotiate this sort of prenup between Hillary and Barack, whereby they decide, among each other, between each other, how much money I guess Barack‘s going to raise for Hillary to pay off her debt, what role she‘s going to play the campaign, how much time she gets at the convention, what role Bill plays, right?  All that is on the table?

JEFF ZELENY, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  Right.  It‘s a pretty big plate.  It‘s either a prenup or a divorce settlement.  I‘m not sure, probably somewhere in between.

But it is interesting.  And it sort of speaks to the acrimony that‘s going on, to have Mr. Barnett, who is the book agent for both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama...

MATTHEWS:  Really?

ZELENY:  ... and former President Clinton, to negotiate this.

What he‘s doing is just sort of, he says, facilitating.  But Senator Clinton brought him on board to do this.  The things at issue are, first of all, the debt, how much is Senator Obama going to help with the debt, and, second of all, what role will she have at the convention, and then a myriad of things in between. 

MATTHEWS:  But in seems to me that this explains the chill between the two of them.  There has not been a love embrace here.  This is very much an arranged marriage, at best, right now.  It‘s sort of like an ancient time, as I said last night, when you‘ve got two geese and a goat if you‘ll take my wife, take my daughter.  Hillary Clinton has apparently not told her big donors to start kicking in.  The troops out there haven‘t really gotten the word.  They‘ve got to check in with Hillary before they go with a fund-raiser.  You know? 

PAGE:  Right, everything has to be negotiated here.  It is a marriage of convenience, a temporary one at that, because Hillary Clinton, she wants that job that Obama has been nominated for.  And—but in the meantime, she has to appear to be the good loser, the team player who really wants to work with him.  She wants something out of it too here, and deserves it in the minds of many.  So he has to show—show in good faith that he‘s going to help her get past her debt. 

MATTHEWS:  What does he have to give her, Jeff, to get her warm embrace, to tell her troops we‘re with him; we really, really, want him to win?  I‘m really, really want him to win.  I‘m not waiting for next time.  What does he have to do for her to get that big embrace? 

ZELENY:  I think, first was praise.  The praise started even before she got out of the race.  You sort of heard it in the last, maybe, three weeks of the campaign.  Senator Obama was beginning to shower a little more praise on the Clintons.  Now it‘s money.  How much money is he going to help her raise?  She‘s ended this campaign with more than 20 million dollars in debt.  Half of it is her own money, some of which she knows she won‘t get back. 

MATTHEWS:  Is she secretly trying to euchre the money for herself?  Is she secretly saying behind the scenes, if you really want my warm embrace, pay me back the 10 million I put into the campaign?  Isn‘t that the secret jack pot prize here? 

ZELENY:  I don‘t know if it‘s that specific or not.  Look, she has also has something that she needs out of this.  She has 18 million, you know, votes from Democrats, as we‘ve heard again and again.  But she does not have a good feeling, a good vibe in terms of a lot of Democratic activist, African-Americans in the party.  She needs to do something between now and November.  They both need each other, I think.

MATTHEWS:  When is this going—who‘s going to broker this thing?  It isn‘t going to be a lawyer is it?  Is it about money?  What‘s it about? 

PAGE:  We‘re talking about lawyers here?

MATTHEWS:  What‘s it about?

PAGE:  It is about money in terms of dollars and cents, and that‘s the way lawyers think.  But this isn‘t a question of damages.  It‘s a question of how‘s Hillary Clinton improve her image now among Barack Obama supporters and Obama—

MATTHEWS:  So Bob Barnett (ph), on behalf of Hillary Clinton, says, I want Tuesday night at 10:00, I want prime time on broadcast network coverage—I think it‘s Monday night we‘re going to be covering it on NBC.  I don‘t want just cable coverage, I want broadcast coverage.  I want all three net road block.  I want a half hour to 45 minutes.  That‘s the opening chip.  Right?

Then he comes back and Barack says, well yes, how much time do you want for your husband?  It‘s coming out of your time, right?  That‘s what he‘ll come back with.  They‘re not both getting 45 minutes. 

ZELENY:  I wouldn‘t think so.  Unless, of course, she‘s on Wednesday night, which is when the vice presidential speeches, which, you know—we‘re told that‘s not even a part of these discussions now.  That sort of says where, you know, that is going.  But I think we‘re told the principals are getting along actually quite well.  But it‘s the supporters who are having a little bit of difficult time.  A lot of her leading women supporters are slowly coming to Senator Obama. 

But the Obama people sent out word that, look, you have just a short amount of time to get in on maybe the mezzanine level to come with us.  This is wrapping up.

MATTHEWS:  If Hillary wants her people to be with Barack, she embraces Barack, they will be with Barack when that happens.  I don‘t buy this theory.  I‘ve been in politics and watching for 35, 40 years.  The top sets the pace.  The people below do what the top wants them to do.  Don‘t ever believe it‘s the staffer‘s fault or it‘s the troops‘ fault.  The troops follow the leader.  The leader‘s signaling those people, don‘t embrace this guy yet until I get what I want, right? 

PAGE:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, sir.  That‘s my kind of panelist.  Anyway, thank you.  Don‘t give in so easily.  Thank you.  Great report today. 

Up next, the worst day on Wall Street since 2006.  And boy, was it terrible.  Will this economy do in McCain?  It‘s certainly not doing much for the morale of people I know.  Look at this stock market and the oil prices.  Every time the oil prices go up, the stock market goes down.  This isn‘t just a cyclical problem.  This could be a trend problem.  The politics fix is next.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the politics fix.  Tonight‘s panel, Ryan Lizza of “New Yorker Magazine,” Jill Zuckman of “The Chicago Tribune,” and Dominic Carter of New York One. 

Well, here‘s the bad news—get out the crying towels—the Dow Industrial Average lost nearly 360 points today, the worst day on Wall Street since 2006.  This is dark news, Ryan Lizza.  You work for the “New Yorker.”  It‘s not just New York, the entire financial community.  This country is now heavily leveraged in stocks.  The Republicans have sold people on buying into the market.  Everybody‘s into the market who has any money.  This is bad news for everybody watching. 

RYAN LIZZA, “THE NEW YORKER”:  Not a good year to be selling something like the ownership economy, which has been a big Republican message in the last few years. 

MATTHEWS:  Suppose Bush had given us our Social Security and put it into the stock market. 

LIZZA:  Look, that‘s McCain‘s Social Security plan.  He still favors market investments.  The fundamentals of the race, if we talk about the politics of this, have just gotten worse for Republicans.  Every underlining issue is going against them right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Dominic Carter up in New York, I want to get New York‘s view up there.  This is pretty dark up there, isn‘t it? 

DOMINIC CARTER, NEW YORK ONE:  Definitely the case, Chris.  I agree with what was just said.  Not good for Senator McCain in terms of the stock market.  This plays right into Barack Obama‘s hand when he talks about change.  Whatever that may mean, this plays exactly into his argument, and we will continue to see Senator Obama tie McCain to President Bush when there are days like this on Wall Street. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve got to ask yourself, what will Senator McCain do differently than President Bush in terms of economic policy?  Is there something he‘s proposed that‘s dramatically different than a low-tax regime, free trade, and waiting? 

JILL ZUCKMAN, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  Well, he has a very similar approach to President Bush.  The key difference is that Senator McCain is really opposed to all of the out of control federal spending, as he would put it.  He thinks that this Bush administration has spent like drunken sailors and he thinks, you know, it adds—

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry, Jill.  What drove the market down, today, was oil prices again.  We were told by Paul Wolfowitz—I don‘t know what planet he‘s on right now.  The former deputy defense secretary, under oath in Congress, said if we go in and fight that war, oil will pay for that thing.  Larry Lindsey, the president‘s chief economic adviser, said this war will give us cheaper gas. 

All these promises, not that they were the reason for the war, but they where are supposedly going to be premiums that came out, pluses. 

LIZZA:  And they helped sell it.

MATTHEWS:  All this hand holding with the Saudis, all this policy of Bush‘s; how does he not take responsibility for the failure of this economy? 

LIZZA:  He‘s being blamed for it by Democrats. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there an alternative assessment that he‘s not guilty of failed policy?  Is there another policy announced this year?

LIZZA:  Certainly, the way he—the effects of the Iraq war that he laid out before the war been proved completely wrong.  He‘s responsible for making a case that didn‘t prove active. 

Let me step back and try to be counter-intuitive about maybe how this could all help McCain.  Right?  If you think of it as a McCain adviser, you‘re sitting around, all these numbers are coming in, total disaster.  The best case you can say is maybe if things get so bad in this country, and it‘s hard to see them getting a lot worse, then we can move the race back to sort of McCain‘s experience and Obama‘s lack of experience. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you buy that, Jill?

ZUCKMAN:  Who do you trust? 

MATTHEWS:  Fear factor, get us so scared we go with the veteran. 

ZUCKMAN:  I think it‘s a good point.  I think, you know, do you want to trust someone who is so completely untested?  That‘s what they‘ve been saying.  That‘s what they‘re going to continue to say.  I think the key thing here, because both of these men—neither of them is president.  They‘re both running to become president.  The person who can most clearly and persuasively speak to the American people, make them feel more confident that they have a plan for the economy, and they‘re going to make things better and that they understand what they‘re going through, I think that‘s the person who‘s going to be the next president. 

MATTHEWS:  We don‘t have that candidate on the floor now, do we? 

Neither one of them seems to have a full fledged—

ZUCKMAN:  Bill Clinton is busy.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be back with the round table for more of the politics fix.  We‘ve got to talk about something brighter than the economy, I promise you that.  We‘re going to talk about this Obama/Clinton marriage coming back here right now, and what‘s going on with that.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the round table for more of the politics fix.  I don‘t know when—I don‘t know when, Dominic, you and I and everybody else are going to take the oath that we will never talk about the Clinton CentCom again as long as we live, that we will never talk about Bill as part of this duo, Hillary as part of this duo.  But here we go; quote, “New York Times” today, “Perhaps the thorniest question, what to do about Bill Clinton, who friends say continues to refight the bitter primary fight, has yet to be raised by either side.  Advisers said, quote, although Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton talked several times since she withdrew, Mr.  Obama and Mr. Clinton have yet to talk.  The relationship repairing effort, aides said, is concentrating first on Mrs. Clinton.” 

Dominic, this is unbelievable.  This is right out of General Hospital or something.  We‘re now talking about not Brad and what‘s her name on one of these soap opera case.  Bill doesn‘t like Barack.  That‘s the latest in this whatever, this saga.  So, now we have to get a deal between Hill and Barack before we can get a deal between Barack and Bill.  Have you heard the word that Bill is mad at Barack? 

CARTER:  That is the word making the rounds, Chris.  I have to agree with something that you said earlier in terms of an arranged marriage.  I think as far as the Clintons and Senator Obama, that‘s the bottom line here.  But I really do believe that this is much to do about nothing as of right now.  At the end of the day, I strongly feel that Bill Clinton is going a be out there on the stump with Senator Obama.  And I, you know—

I will argue a different point of view.  You know, this is a guy, Bill Clinton, whose office is only a couple of blocks away from here, in the middle of black America, if you will, in Harlem, his office.  So for him to be called a racist during the campaign, those are some strong words, and he‘s taking it very personal.  I think at the end of the day, he‘s definitely going to be on board with Senator Obama. 

MATTHEWS:  Ryan, did you hear that Obama was going to give him a little, gee, whiz, I didn‘t mean to do it kind of thing? 

LIZZA:  That Obama was going to call Clinton?  I haven‘t heard that.  Look, the fact that they brought a lawyer in to help out tells you things aren‘t going swimmingly.  If you need to bring a lawyer in to negotiate this—these are two senators.  They‘re used to being in the Senate, where you sit down with each other and go over legislation.  Why do they need a lawyer?

ZUCKMAN:  Maybe they need neutral ground to sort of negotiate the two sides. 

LIZZA:  It‘s a little strange. 

MATTHEWS:  Could it be that one side is afraid to say what they really want, but they‘ll get Barnett to ask.  What we really want is for you pay off my personal debt to the campaign.  I want the 10 million back.  I want a plane for me and I want a plane for Bill.  And I want enough money to tour the country and look good until election day, if you want our 100 percent support.  Is that what they want? 

LIZZA:  I think the question is who needs whom more?  I would argue that Barack doesn‘t really need the Clintons all that much.  This is his party. 

ZUCKMAN:  I disagree. 

CARTER:  I disagree with that as well. 

ZUCKMAN:  I can‘t tell you the number of women voters who have told me how sad they are, how upset, how depressed, how they‘ve never voted for a Republican before, how they‘re considering it. 

LIZZA:  Look at the polls.  What is happening in these polls?  Why was Barack Obama at the end of the primaries not doing so well against McCain?  Because Democrats hadn‘t come home yet.  Why is he shooting into double digits now?  Democrats are coming home.  Sure, he wants to have the Clinton‘s support.  It‘s important to have it.  But she‘s in the driver‘s seat here. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Dominic?  I think there‘s a lot of problems for Barack, he better settle quick. 

CARTER:  I think he better settle quick as well.  We‘re five months roughly from the election.  Democrats, we can play this game all we want.  They have problems on their hands. 

MATTHEWS:  Got to go.  Ryan Lizza, Jill Zuckman, and Dominic Carter, thank you.  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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