updated 7/11/2008 10:49:09 AM ET 2008-07-11T14:49:09

Guests: Pat Buchanan, Jim Cramer, Rev. Eugene Rivers, Ed Gordon, Jennifer Palmieri, Hilary Rosen, Ron Brownstein, Nancy Giles, Jim Warren

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Bummer.  McCain‘s “brain” calls recession a mental problem, that we‘re all just a nation of whiners.  But is it smart politics to blame the voter?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL, tonight from San Francisco.  The day after Jesse Jackson gets caught making cutting remarks about Obama, McCain‘s top economic adviser says we‘re a nation of whiners, while McCain himself steps on the political third rail, calling Social Security, which keeps millions out of poverty, a “disgrace.”  Former senator Phil Gramm, one of McCain‘s top advisers, was quoted in “The Washington Times” today as saying, quote, “You‘ve heard of mental depression.  This is a mental recession.  We have sort of become a nation of whiners.”  This at a time of a weak dollar, plummeting stock prices, spiking gasoline prices and rising unemployment.

John McCain quickly said Gramm doesn‘t speak for him, then dropped this howler about what Gramm could do next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think Senator Gramm would be in serious consideration for ambassador to Belarus, although I‘m not sure the citizens of Minsk would welcome that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  But McCain is unlikely to talk this one off with a one-liner.  We‘ll take a look at this latest controversy, Barack Obama‘s reaction to it, and of course, the real state of the economy in just a moment.

There‘s racial politics.  Jesse Jackson has spent most of the last 24 hours apologizing for his caught-on-tape remarks about Obama.  But do Jackson‘s remarks and the fierce reaction to them signal a changing of the guard in black political leadership?

Plus, we have the latest installment of the Hillary-Obama drama.  Is the rift healing, or is it more serious than we imagined?  By the way, what‘s the price of peace on that front?

Also, in our “Politics Fix,” some new numbers on what pollsters are calling the lack of oomph behind John McCain.  And in the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight, what was it that John McCain said or didn‘t say when asked about Viagra?

But first, Phil Gramm‘s comments on the state of economy.  Jim Cramer‘s the host of “Mad Money” on CNBC.  His special, “The American Dream,” airs this Sunday at 7:00 PM on NBC.  And Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst.

In fairness, let‘s listen now, gentlemen.  This is what Phil Gramm told “The Washington Times.”  Quote, “You‘ve heard of mental depression.  This is a mental recession.  We may have a recession.  We haven‘t had one yet.  We have sort of become a nation of whiners.  You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline.  Well, we‘ve never been more dominant.  We‘ve never had more natural advantages than we have today.”

Jim Cramer, an economic and political autopsy, please.

JIM CRAMER, HOST, CNBC “MAD MONEY”:  Well, first, can I say I actually

I like Phil Gramm.  And I think the second part of what he said is true. 

We‘ve never been more competitive.  We own the new technology world, which is the world to be able to drill cleaner, the world to be able to make products better.  We are dominant.

But the whining thing—I mean, hey, wait a second.  If you‘re paying $3 more than you did seven years ago at the pump, if your food price has doubled, don‘t you really have something to whine about?

MATTHEWS:  I was wondering, Pat, about the old thing about Jimmy Carter and malaise, and you guys back in ‘80 certainly took advantage of that little stink bomb.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I wonder if the goose is good as the gander here.  Are you going to say that this was a mistake to blame the customer for the lousy service, if you will, economically speaking?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, look, Phil Gramm has always had sort of the bedside manner of Nurse Ratched.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  He‘s really good, Chris, on spending.  He‘s really good on taxes.  But this was a very foolish, politically foolish thing for him to say.  I think McCain was brutal in the way he treated him.  But the truth is, Chris, we‘ve lost 3.5 million manufacturing jobs under George Bush.  It is directly related to the free trade policies McCain and Phil Gramm.  The dollar has lost half of its value against the euro.  The United States of America exported fewer cars to the world than Mexico exports to us.  If these fellows—this is a problem with the Republican Party of today.  It is addicted to this free trade ideology...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  ... which has driven away the Reagan Democrats.  It is killing manufacturing in the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAMER:  I absolutely agree with Pat.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me hear Phil Gramm react.  Let Phil Gramm react  and disagree first, before you—here‘s what he said.  “I‘m not going to retract any of it—any word of it.  Every word I said was true.  When I said we‘d become a nation of whiners, I‘m talking about our leaders, I‘m not talking about our people.  We‘ve got every kind of excuse in the world about oil prices.  We‘ve got speculators.  The oil companies are to blame.  But too many people don‘t have a program to get on with it, a job—the job of producing.  If you listen to our leaders, we can‘t compete against Mexico, for God‘s sake.  If they don‘t think we can compete with Mexico, who can we compete with?”

Well, he‘s a Texan, not saying very nice words about our neighbor down there.  But it seems to me, Jim, he‘s challenging Pat right there.

CRAMER:  Yes, he is.  Look, I have to tell you, we are—become an unbelievable nation of manufacturers again.  Pat, I know that you think that free trade is the end.  And I do not like the communist Chinese and I always call them the communist Chinese.  They are ridiculous traders.  They wreck world trading.

But I do think that a lot of our great American companies like Deere and Caterpillar, Eaton, the great American companies, Emerson, the company I‘m proud to work for, General Electric—we really do need free trade because without it, we do not have enough economic growth in this country to sustain it.  Now, that‘s a Republican bull (ph).

BUCHANAN:  Now, Jim—all right, let me respond to that.

CRAMER:  OK.

BUCHANAN:  Why is it that China is growing at 12 percent and the United States is growing at 1 percent?  We got great manufacturing companies, but all of them are becoming greater by outsourcing their factories, their plants, their jobs to China, to Vietnam, to Mexico, all over the world.  What happened when one of six manufacturing jobs in America disappears under George Bush?  Do you understand, Jim and Phil Gramm...

CRAMER:  Yes, no, I do.  I...

BUCHANAN:  ... why we‘re in trouble in Michigan and Ohio?

CRAMER:  No, I understand, but I do think that we have become a very inexpensive place to work.  I see jobs coming back to this country.  Again, no help from the government whatsoever.  I‘m just trying to say, Pat, that I celebrate the American working man for having to be able to reduce the cost that he develops things and producing by far the best products in the world, for solving the major problem of the world, cleaner water, cleaner air, cleaner drilling.

MATTHEWS:  OK...

BUCHANAN:  You know...

CRAMER:  We‘re great at this, Pat, and we need that—we cannot be shut out of these other markets.

BUCHANAN:  Well, look—look what‘s—what has happened to General Motors and Ford?  General Motors used to produce half the cars sold in the United States of America.  Toyota‘s outrunning it.  Both of these companies are on the edge of bankruptcy.  Going on, look at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  “The Wall Street Journal” today says that could cost the taxpayers $5 trillion, if they go under.

CRAMER:  I agree.  I agree.  They‘re insolvent.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Gentlemen, let me—let me...

CRAMER:  But GM‘s become a great exporter!  We are a great exporter of cars...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  We‘re importing—what are you talking about?

MATTHEWS:  OK...

BUCHANAN:  We‘re importing $800 billion a year...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK...

CRAMER:  ... going to sell in this country!

MATTHEWS:  OK...

CRAMER:  We should not be bamming (ph) GM!  They‘re being killed by oil!

BUCHANAN:  I‘m not bamming GM!

MATTHEWS:  OK...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  ... trying to save them from you guys!

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s go back to McCain.  Here he is, distancing himself from Phil Gramm, his economic adviser.  Let‘s take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  I don‘t agree with Senator Gramm.  I believe that the person here in Michigan that just lost his job isn‘t suffering from a mental recession.  I believe the mother here in Michigan and around America who‘s trying to get enough money to educate their children isn‘t whining.  America‘s in great difficulty, and we are experiencing enormous economic challenges, as well as others.  Phil Gramm does not speak for me.  I speak for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Here‘s Senator Obama reacting to Phil Gramm‘s comments.  Let‘s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Senator Gramm then deemed the United States, and I quote, a “nation of whiners.”

(BOOS)

OBAMA:  Whoa!  A nation of whiners.  Now, this comes after Senator McCain recently admitted that his energy proposals, you know, for the gas tax holiday and the drilling, will have mainly, quote, “psychological benefits.”

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  I want all of you to know that America already has one Dr.

Phil!

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Pat, this is too delicious.  What would old Dutch Reagan say if he heard the Democrats say we‘re all a bunch of whiners, that we‘re in a mental state, that the economy is just swimming out there and we‘re blowing it with our lousy morale?  What would Dutch Reagan, your old hero, say?

BUCHANAN:  He would have handled it just like Barack Obama, We‘ve got ourselves another Dr. Phil!

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  That was very funny.  And he‘s right.  The truth is, the reality is, an awful lot of Americans are hurting terribly, not only people, investors and their retirement, the manufacturing class, a lot of folks having to have two job.  I mean, this is a—this is—I mean, Phil Gramm, God bless him, he‘s working for UBS, some Swiss bank he‘s the vice president of.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  For heaven‘s sakes.  And what does he know about guys in Michigan?

MATTHEWS:  Pat, you know more, obviously.  Let me ask you about another exciting development.  The other day—it didn‘t get mentioned right at the time, but the Democrats have jumped on it.  Here‘s John McCain on Monday, talking about that old third rail of American politics, the Social Security system.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today.  And that‘s a disgrace.  It‘s an absolute disgrace, and it‘s got to be fixed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the question here, Pat, is here‘s a guy opening that old can of worms, ripping the scab off the old issue that hurts every Republican, including Reagan in the old days, of saying there‘s something wrong with a system where workers pay for retirees in current dollars.  He‘s saying we‘ve got to have a different system than that.  Is that smart politics, Pat?

BUCHANAN:  It is not smart politics to raise the Social Security issue and the funding of it because now, Chris, what is going to happen is, OK, Senator McCain, how are the retirees going to get their benefits and who‘s going to provide them, if not today‘s workers?  And then he is into the can of worms you describe.

I don‘t know—I mean, after the Jesse Jackson day, it looked like a good day for Republicans.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  But I mean, these guys—I mean, they can‘t stand good luck.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about it, Jim, because I think it‘s a hard bit of ideology here.  Fair or not, smart or not, Republicans don‘t like the idea of Social Security as it is, whereby when you‘re working and you‘re young, you‘re 18 years old, your first job, you‘re delivering newspapers at 14, you‘re kicking into a system that‘s going to somebody making—who‘s 75 years old.  That‘s the way it‘s always worked.  He‘s saying that‘s a disgrace.

CRAMER:  You know, I‘ve got to tell you, McCain is the most disorganized, lack of any knowledge whatsoever about economics.  The real issue, as Pat says, the whole banking system‘s falling apart.  If you have money in the stock market, they—look, the Republicans want you to invest it yourself.  You would have lost a fortune.  I mean, is that what we want is a bailout of another bailout of another bailout?

When is either Obama or McCain going to address the fact that almost every major bank in this country is insolvent, that Fannie and Freddie...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

CRAMER:  ... are insolvent.  Those are the real problems facing America.  Your house keeps losing value, and all they want to do is, like, cut taxes.  Oh, and by the way, on this energy stuff?  Obama‘s in favor of ethanol, which made it so your barbecue cost twice as much as it did last year.  He‘s one to talk about energy!

MATTHEWS:  Pat, to make that point, to embroider that one more time, suppose the Chinese curse had visited George Bush and we‘d gone to a pay into the Social Security system and you put your money into the stock market.  Imagine the last couple of months, what the country would be like.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  Well, a lot of us would have our Social Security checks nipped a little bit, Chris.  You‘re exactly—but look, that makes the argument against these private accounts, which make it much more difficult but John McCain really gets—as a practical matter, you don‘t mention Social Security and get into that ball of wax in the middle of a campaign.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BUCHANAN:  As for the Belarus embassy, I mean, I thought that was a little savage, didn‘t you, on one of your main men?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think it‘s going to help our relations with Belarus to know that that‘s what...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAMER:  ... taking out of a page of the five-year plan of Stalin, right?  You‘ll send this guy out to the water or the dam...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, we got to go—these economic statistics, by the way, are amazing.  By the way, gas was about a buck-and-a-half back in the beginning of this administration.  The international price for gas was hardly—it was 16 bucks.  It‘s hard to believe those good old days were the year 2001.

Anyway, thank you, Pat Buchanan.  Thank you, my Philadelphia friend, Jim Cramer.  And you can watch Jim‘s special, “The American Dream.”  It airs on a broadcast network on Sunday night at 7:00 on NBC.

When we return, reaction to the Reverend Jesse Jackson.  He had to apologize after making those what he called “vulgar” remarks about Barack Obama.  I love the phrase on daytime today.  They said it was a “below the belt” remark.  That‘s pretty funny.  Jackson was criticizing Obama for speeches he made, actually, to African-Americans.  But has the torch now passed from Jackson‘s generation of the old Civil Rights fighters to the new generation of Barack Obama?  We‘ll see.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION:  See, Barack‘s been talking down to black people on this faith-based—I want to cut his (DELETED) off.  Barack, he‘s talking down to black people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Reverend Jesse Jackson sparked a firestorm with those remarks about Senator Obama, which he thought were not on tape.  But what was Jackson actually talking about, the substance here?  Let‘s talk about that.  Is this the latest generational divide in this presidential campaign?

The Reverend Eugene Rivers is with the Azusa Christian Community Church just outside of Boston, and Ed Gordon is the host of “Our World With Black Enterprise.”

Reverend Rivers, just tell me what you think of this.

REV. EUGENE RIVERS, AZUSA CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY CHURCH:  The unfortunate remark is really not the story in this context.  There‘s a larger story here, which is that we are witnessing a transition.  We have formally entered the post-Jackson reality with the ascension of Senator Barack Obama, who has brilliantly taken a baton which should have been passed and taken us into a new arena of post-ideological, post-civil Rights politics.

And so it‘s unfortunate, but you know, Jesse Jackson has been a larger-than-life figure for 40 years.  That‘s four times the period that Martin Luther King was a major figure, from 1955 to about ‘65, and then his death.  So we‘re in a post-Jackson era.  And the real intelligent question is, How do we frame a post-Civil Rights agenda that dovetails with the kind of pragmatic politics that Senator Obama brilliantly personifies?

MATTHEWS:  Ed Gordon, what are your—what‘s your feelings, as well as thoughts, on this subject?

ED GORDON, “OUR WORLD WITH BLACK ENTERPRISE”:  I would  agree with the reverend in one sense, and that is that the story is not really what the Reverend said.  I think that‘s the reverend trying to impress the gentleman he was seated next to, to say, I‘m still a player in this, I‘m going to make Barack come to my table and deal with me.

The bigger story for me and a lot of people that I‘ve talked to is whether or not, in fact, it is a generational difference and divide that is there.  But this question of passing the baton, particularly in black politics, is interesting to me because if you look across the board, mainstream politics, you never trivialize the older politician.  He or she becomes the lion.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

GORDON:  They become the elder statesman, ever irrelevant, maybe not as relevant in their heyday.  And for black America, there‘s always this assumption that you‘re no longer relevant.  Reverend Jesse Jackson, while not at the height of his power, could still be very relevant.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look.  Here‘s the Reverend Jackson apologizing last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACKSON:  If anything I‘ve said in a hot mike statement that‘s attributed as distraction, I offer apology for that because I don‘t want harm nor hurt to come to this campaign.  It represents too much of the dreams of so many who‘ve paid such great prices, and I‘m very sensitive to what that means.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s talk nasty politics, real politics, Reverend Rivers.  Is this helpful to Barack Obama, to have a bit of a fight over the issue of parental responsibility, where he seems to be taking the more, well, let‘s call it middle class view of things, or whatever you want to call it, traditional view, which is we all ought to shape up as parents, and Jackson seems to be blaming the state, blaming politics rather than parenthood?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is that a smart divide to be on the right side of, the right side of, rather than the left side of?

RIVERS:  OK.  OK.

Ideologically, tactically, in terms of get-down politics, it‘s always good to have the right enemies in politics.  And Senator Obama, to his credit, focused on an issue which is not really middle-class. 

If you go to the average working-class black church anywhere in black America, they are saying the same exact thing that Barack Obama‘s saying.  Black men, take responsibility for your children.  We shouldn‘t be producing babies we don‘t take care of. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

RIVERS:  All across this country, black churches are emphasizing the importance of personal, moral responsibility, not to the exclusion of the larger macroissues.

But, at the end of the day, the state and the system did not produce the baby.  The man did with the woman.  And, so, what we see is that Senator Obama is actually articulating this kind of post-ideological politics that says the black community now must more effectively mobilize its own resources to meet the needs of our communities. 

No, Obama is exactly where America wants to be and where the black community has been for a while. 

GORDON:  Look, to a great, degree, Chris, though, this helps him with white America, who wants to say, see, see, we have been telling you that all along.  You guys need to clean up your dirty laundry.

There is a segment of black America who still suggests that it really isn‘t—quote—“our fault.”  It is all of the external factors that caused this. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GORDON:  While that‘s true, there is a larger cry from black America to say, whether that‘s true, there are many external factors that cause these problems.  We‘re going to have to clean up our backyard.  Hence, 40 acres and a mule is not coming.  They didn‘t come when Katrina hit us.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GORDON:  And they‘re not coming now, so you have got to clean up your own backyard. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, the 40 acres and a mule was Thaddeus Stevens.  And it should have come during Reconstruction.  And we can all argue about how that was blown, by the way. 

And, by the way, there‘s is a larger macroargument, Reverend.  And you‘re right.  It isn‘t just the black community, the black parents.  There‘s history behind all this, which ain‘t so good when you look back on it.  And the current history ain‘t so good either sometimes.

Let‘s take a look at what Dan Balz said.  I agree with both of you gentlemen.  This is probably smart politics, just the way it turned out. 

Quote—this is what Dan Balz, probably the new dean of American—talk about a generational shift.  He‘s the new dean of print reporters on politics. 

He said in “The Washington Post” today—quote—“If Obama were looking for a way to endear himself more to those white working-class voters who were resistant to his appeals in the Democratic primaries, nothing is likely to help him more than a condemnation from Jesse Jackson.”

Boy, that‘s nasty assessment, but it may be.

You‘re laughing.  Somebody‘s laughing because it‘s so brutally true. 

(LAUGHTER)

RIVERS:  It‘s absolutely true. 

The amazing thing is that Barack Obama engaged in excellent public policy and brilliant politics, appropriating the faith-based initiative, and saying, this is one of a number of strategies that can be employed.

That was brilliant, aside from which, when you look at the substance of the public policy, it‘s one of the most effective policy prescriptions that have come out of the Bush administration, but was actually created by a lunch-bucket Democrat from Philadelphia, your friend John DiIulio, Chris.   

MATTHEWS:  Right.  You‘re right.

Let me ask you, Ed Gordon, sir.  We have worked together a bit.  You know, when you work with guys like the Reverend Jesse Jackson, the one thing that comes clear to you is, there‘s so many public personalities to every political figure you deal with. 

The Reverend Jesse Jackson is a man of history with Dr. King.  He‘s going to go down in the history books when he passes away as a major figure in American history. 

He‘s also a regular guy.  He‘s also a minister.  And he also can use pretty rich language when you‘re hanging around with the guy.  I mean, I just think people got a peek at one of the different faces of Jesse Jackson in this.  It sounds a little raw, but I have got to tell you, in this business, you have got to be careful of that microphone. 

GORDON:  You have got to be careful of that microphone. 

And you and I both know, Chris, men of the cloth and those who hold up themselves up—and I‘m not suggesting this of Reverend Jackson—but to a higher moral standard can sometimes be absolutely different and a little blue and joke-telling like. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GORDON:  And I think we saw that along the lines. 

But, Chris, I would say it‘s important here to see that—I sat with Barack Obama just a couple of weeks ago and talked extensively about race.  And Barack Obama‘s done something masterful to this point.  And that is what African-Americans have to do who play in the mainstream.

You have to be black enough to make black America comfortable and not too black to make white America comfortable.  And that is the rub for many African-Americans in this country. 

(CROSSTALK)

GORDON:  It is the treatment of still the vestiges of not being comfortable with African-Americans.  And you have to walk that fine tightrope. 

(CROSSTALK)

GORDON:  He‘s done it, and he‘s done it masterfully, we should say.

MATTHEWS:  You know, we have all—we have both inched into this issue accidentally.  We didn‘t want to have to talk about this, but it is something we ought to talk about.

In the black community—in the white community, you don‘t hear an open, candid discussion either about prejudice and old attitudes either here.  You hear about the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and those sort of hot-wire issues, but the general discussion of where we stand racially in this country is something that may come out of this campaign. It may not. 

Anyway, the Reverend Eugene Rivers, Ed Gordon, gentlemen, both of you, thank you.

Up next:  Did Barack Obama forget the purpose of his meeting last night with Hillary Clinton?  Apparently, he did for a while there.  That‘s next in the “Sideshow.”  And it is a sideshow. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.  Welcome back to HARDBALL, in fact.

Time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

Last night, Obama‘s fund-raising event was choreographed between Barack and Hillary to be an moment of unity.  The senator planned to ask her donors to help pay off—rather, his donors, to help pay off her campaign debt to help soothe the hurt feelings between the two camps. 

But, well, he forgot.  Yes, Obama closed out a 30-minute speech and worked his way into the crowd with no mention of raising a dime for Hillary Clinton. 

Here he is realizing his big booboo. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Hey, hold on a second, guys.  I was getting all carried away. 

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  Senator Clinton still has some debt.  And I could have had some debt if I hadn‘t won.  So, I know the drill. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  The best part there, Obama was walking off the stage to the music of sign, sealed, delivered.  And the failure to seal the deal there was precisely the problem. 

Now, Senator McCain prides himself on his willingness to take any and all press questions.  But there‘s one question we can guess he would rather, well, avoid. 

Check out this exchange yesterday. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  Insurance companies cover Viagra, but not birth control and...

(CROSSTALK)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I certainly do not want to discuss that issue. 

QUESTION:  It was unfair that health insurance companies cover Viagra, but not birth control.  Do you have an opinion on that? 

MCCAIN:  I don‘t know enough about it to give you an informed answer. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I just love the way his eyes darted southward. 

Anyway, well, that was a pregnant pause if I have ever heard one.

Well, it is the “Sideshow,” and speaking of circuses, former Clinton strategist Mark Penn‘s P.R. firm, Burson-Marsteller, has announced that they are hiring former Bush loyalist Karen Hughes. 

Karen Hughes, you remember, came into the Bush White House with Karl Rove to help sell the war in Iraq.  She then went to the State Department to improve, as you can see, our image in the Middle East.  Mark Penn‘s claim to fame?  Running Hillary‘s campaign completely into the ground by advising Hillary, his client, to run on experience in a year where the whole thing was about change. 

I don‘t know.  It sounds like failing upwards for me for both candidates here. 

Now for “Name That Veep.”  This Midwestern senator joined Senator Obama yesterday in voting for the surveillance bill, while other Democratic V.P. hopefuls, including Senators Clinton and Dodd, voted against the legislation. 

This senator from a battleground state flirted with the idea of running for president himself, before dropping out last year and endorsing Senator Clinton. 

So, who is it?  Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana.  Could the Bayh brand put the Hoosier State in play this year?  You will see.  We will all see. 

Time now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”

Senator Clinton‘s dormant campaign seems to be, well, trying up some loose ends—loose ends.  The campaign started a T-shirt design contest in May, and just now announced the winner of this T-shirt contest.  This morning, you could see the winning entry there.  It reads—quote—“For everyone who works hard and never gives up, this one is for you.”

Well, as with everything else in politics, this tribute comes with a price tag.  Just how much do you have to contribute to retiring Clinton‘s campaign, the debt, to snag this shirt?  Fifty bucks.  Fifty dollars for a memento of Hillary‘s history-making campaign.  Will her supporters shell out $50 in this economy for a T-shirt?  I wouldn‘t bet on it.  But every little bit counts -- $50, tonight‘s big price for a Hillary T-shirt and our “Big Number.”

Up next:  More than a month after clinching the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama campaigns now with Hillary Clinton to court women voters.  Why are some women who supported Clinton so hesitant to back Obama? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MIKE HUCKMAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I am Mike Huckman with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

And stocks finished up after a yo-yo day of trading—the Dow climbing 82, the S&P 500 adding nine, and the Nasdaq jumping 23 points. 

A big deal by Dow Chemical helped to send the markets higher.  The company agreed to buy its rival, Rohm & Haas, in a cash deal for more than $15 billion. 

Concerns about oil fueled a late-day surge in crude prices.  Oil shot up more than five bucks, settling at $141.65.  High oil prices are increasing the demand for hybrids.  And Toyota is working to keep up with that demand.  For the first time, the Japanese car company with begin producing its Prius hybrid in the United States starting in 2010. 

And there was some positive news on the economic front today, better-than-expected June retail sales results, and a slight dip in foreclosures from May to June. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

As Barack Obama works to pay off Hillary Clinton‘s campaign debt, he‘s also trying to win over Clinton voters.  Is it working, though? 

Jennifer Palmieri is with the Center For American Progress.  And Hilary Rosen is political director for TheHuffingtonPost.com.

Let me ask you both really a tough question.

Well, first of all, let‘s take a look at what Senator Clinton said this morning.  Let‘s get the latest from both Clinton and Barack Obama.  Here they are both today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  Equal pay for equal work has been in our laws for more than 40 years, but it‘s not yet the reality. 

And it‘s going to take an American president who understands, as Maya (ph) was saying, how hard it still is for so many women to keep body and soul together, to make it clear that fairness is an American value, and fairness in the workplace to women will be the law of the land that is enforced once and for all, when, finally, we have a Democrat back in the Oval Office. 

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  But let‘s be clear.  These issues, equal pay, work-family balance, child care, these are not simply women‘s issues. 

When women still make up just 77 cents—still just make 77 cents for every dollar that men make, and black and Latino women make even less, that doesn‘t just hurt women.  It hurts entire families, since women now -- 62 percent of families see the woman making at least half and often more of the total income.  So, that means that the entire family finds themselves with less income and have to work even harder just to get by. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Hilary—I mean, Hilary Rosen, I think Hillary Clinton was better at that than Barack. 

(LAUGHTER)

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Yes. 

(LAUGHTER)

ROSEN:  Well, you know, she so instinctively knows these issues.  And it‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

ROSEN:  They‘re her entire career, so it‘s pretty obvious. 

But I think, you know, he—look, from all accounts, he is doing everything he needs to do with his messaging on women.  And I think it‘s just a matter of consistently delivering that message and—and tying it to the economic state that women are finding themselves in today.  The polls are showing that he‘s doing very well among women.  But, you know, Hillary Clinton out there for him articulating these issues as well as she did is still really important to them in the Obama campaign, and I think they need to keep using her. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Jennifer, all our information, most of us, unless we‘re professional pollsters is anecdotal.  We talk to people on the phone.  We bump into them.  We hear from them.  I‘m hearing anecdotally that there‘s still a big problem here.  It‘s the big name women, some of them wealthy, not all of them wealthy, but big name women with connections who are still angry at the fact they‘ve been investing in a candidate—in fact both the Clintons for 20 or 30 years now.  Their investment is not paying off.  They‘re not happy with having to go over hat in hand to deal with Barack Obama‘s people, who may not be the warmest people in the world to receive them. 

But I also hear among the regular people—I mean, people who don‘t have all these connections, working women.  I hear it when I ask them, have you made up your mind yet?  These are Democrats.  They say, I haven‘t made up my mind yet.  There‘s something out there that is still resisting the charms and political appeal of Barack Obama on the woman front. 

PALMIERI:  The polling does show it.  There was a poll today that “USA Today” had that showed that he had a very big advantage over McCain on women and that‘s growing.  So I think that he may have more of a political problem than an actual problem with women voters.  You know, there are women that—I think there are women that were Hillary supporters that will probably never be more him.  I think that it‘s a very small number. 

He does need to—dealing—he‘s concerned that there‘s a perception that persists that he has a problem.  McCain tries to capitalize on that and tries to make an appeal to women.  I think that they‘re smart to try to nip that in the butt, and not just do well in the polls, but have him go out today and do a women economic agenda, do the vents with Clinton to show very demonstrably his commitment to women.  I thinks that that‘s going to be enough. 

I mean, as Hillary said, I think he‘s done just about everything that he can do, and has done it well, to try to respect the voters that supported Hillary.  That‘s what she said she really wanted was her voters to be respected.  I think it may take time.  It‘s going really well. 

MATTHEWS:  Hillary Rosen, do you think that Barack Obama‘s people are doing what they have to do or just what they have to do?  Are they doing enough to really sell the fact, OK, they came in ahead in terms of numbers just barely.  They only won it 51 percent to 49 percent, something like that.  They didn‘t roll it up.  Are they showing the kind of humility that comes with a close election? 

ROSEN:  I don‘t think they think they need to show humility.  I don‘t think they‘re worried about this.  I think that‘s a big issue with some of Senator Clinton‘s biggest supporters, is that the Obama campaign is not worried about women.  They think they‘re going to get the majority of women.  They think they‘re going to have a big gender gap, much bigger than closer to these 15 points that the polls are showing, bigger than Gore and Kerry were able to get. 

And so I think for the most part they‘re investing elsewhere.  They‘re investing in unregistered African-Americans.  They‘re investing in youth in the field.  They‘ve just hired the senior adviser who was Hillary Clinton‘s women‘s organizer.  She‘s quite good.  I think they‘re taking steps, but I do know that they‘re not worried.  And, you know, that‘s an interesting position, because the Clinton women were passionate.  They were just desperate for a woman to be in the White House.  And I think it‘s unlikely that that passion will transfer to Barack Obama. 

But that doesn‘t mean the votes won‘t transfer to Barack Obama.  I think we‘re going to have to see this play out for a while.  I think he will get the votes.  We can maintain this margin of 15 to 17 points in a gender gap, which would put him over the edge with John McCain.  It‘s going to be hard to replicate that passion.  He can try harder maybe than he is, but I‘m not sure that other than changing his gender he‘s going to be able to quite get there. 

MATTHEWS:  I think a lot of us may have been slow to get it.  But I certainly feel the passion.  I see it in the faces of those women.  I get it from you, Hillary Rosen.  Thank you, Jennifer Palmieri, Hillary Rosen.  

Up next, will Phil Gramm‘s comments today—aren‘t they unbelievable?  Calling America a nation of whiners?  -- hurt John McCain with the working folks out there who know that these problems are real?  And can Barack Obama capitalize on this baby at the convention?  The politics fix is next.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix.  Tonight‘s round table, the “National Journal‘s” Ron Brownstein, Jim Warren of the “Chicago Tribune,” and social commentator Nancy Giles.  Let‘s all of you, gentlemen and lady—Let‘s take a look at this latest matchup.  It‘s the head to head fight for the presidency.  The pew poll, Obama 48, McCain 40.  Ron Brownstein, is that a strong enough lead for him at this point. 

RON BROWNSTEIN, “THE NATIONAL JOURNAL”:  It‘s a very strong lead.  The results of this poll, the striking results in it, Chris, very much follow what I found last week.  I was out talking to voters in the Denver suburbs, swing counties that are going to be important in November.  It was clear that Obama still had some significant hurdles, but that John McCain simply has not done anything to inspire any passion. 

You look through this poll and that is the real threat here for the Republicans.  Among voters who said they are supporting John McCain, more of them, even these McCain voters, said Barack Obama was likely to bring ideas to Washington.  There was more dissatisfaction with this field, according to the Pew poll, among the Republicans who didn‘t vote for McCain than there was among Clinton supporters.

Finally, while 74 percent of Democrats said they were satisfied with the choices, only 49 percent of Republicans in the poll said they were satisfied with the choices.  That‘s lower than it was at this point in 1996 for Bob Dole, whereas Obama‘s number, 74 percent among Democrats, is comparable to where Bush was at this point in 2004.  Of course, Bush generated a record turnout among Republicans.  So the real story out of this poll is not so much the head to head number, as the enthusiasm gap, which seems to scream from these numbers. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Ron, everybody else, we got those numbers to show you.  Let‘s put them on the screen now.  They are fascinating.  Republicans are less satisfied with their candidate than they were in 2004, then it was 75 percent; three-quarters of Republicans were happy with George Bush as their nominee for president in re-election back in ‘04.  Only 49 percent this time, less than half, are happy with McCain. 

On the D side of the aisle, the Democratic side, with all the talk about problem between the Hillary Clinton people, that residue of distrust, look at this, three-quarters of the Democratic faithful like Barack Obama as their candidate.  That‘s with the ethnic, racial factor, with the gender factor.  With all that, Nancy, it‘s impressive to me, true or not—those numbers do impress me, that Democrats are so strong for Barack after all this sturm and drang with the primaries. 

NANCY GILES, SOCIAL COMMENTATOR:  I like that, Sturm and Drang.  I totally agree.  What‘s also interesting is it‘s the summer, Chris.  Who can necessarily even trust these polls completely.  You‘ve got people that are really preoccupied with the price of gas, the price of a gallon of milk, just making it.  And with an eight-point lead already, it means that Barack Obama is putting John McCain in a position where he‘s going to have to spend a lot more money in states where he thought he might already have the vote locked up. 

It‘s true, in the Democratic party, there‘s a lot of different ways of thinking.  You‘ve got a lot of lefties, who are very disenchanted with Barack‘s FISA vote, a lot of Hillary voters who are still angry at what they perceived to be sexism.  In the end, come on, they‘re going to be enthused about him.  They‘re not going to turn their back and vote for McCain.  It‘s not going to happen that way. 

MATTHEWS:  By the way, you‘re not keeping up with events, Nancy.  You‘ve got some of those facts wrong.  That milk problem, that price of milk you paid, that thought you paid a higher price, that gas you thought you paid a higher price, that‘s in your mind, according to Phil Gramm, the top economic adviser to John McCain; that‘s all a mental problem.  You are a whiner.  You are a whiner.  Didn‘t you know that? 

GILES:  Let‘s wonder how recently Phil Gramm either pumped his own gas or bought his own milk, you know. 

MATTHEWS:  You think he got in the full service line? 

GILES:  Of course, or he sends someone else.  These guys are so cut off from what real people are dealing with; it‘s not even funny. 

MATTHEWS:  They‘re going to pay for that little rich one.  Anyway, let me go to Jim Warren, who‘s winding up with a bit of a sardonic look at all this.  Here we are talking about the problems with the Democratic party, and lo and behold, as Ron Brownstein pointed out, and these numbers show, three-quarters of the Democrats, despite all the rivalry in the party, are happy with the candidate. 

JIM WARREN, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  First of all, as part German, can I congratulate you guys on pronouncing sturm and drang?  You were pretty close on that.  Not bad at all.  Ron obviously hit all the key points.  One thing he did not hit, which I think is rather impressive, is the level of engagement among the American electorate.  Sardonic souls like me would be usually quick to point out that, oh, it‘s only the second week in July.  People aren‘t really engaged.  It‘s summer vacation.  They care more about the Cubs here than they do about Obama or McCain. 

But if you look at those Pew figures, if they‘re correct, there‘s both an impressive level of engagement, and among the very folks we always make a lot of, that youth vote, which we‘re always suspicious of.  Boy, there really seems to be not only a high level of engagement, but a very impressive level of knowledge among those 30 and below, more impressive than among their elders.  In a country where apparently only one out of seven can point to Iraq on a map, it may be somewhat reassuring that we‘ve got some folks out there who know what‘s going on and perhaps know a little bit more about the economy and its ramifications than Professor Gramm, apparently, knows. 

It reminds me, what was that Henry Ford line during the depression? 

Henry Ford said, times are really good.  It‘s only a few people realize it. 

It sounds like Phil Gramm. 

MATTHEWS:  On the youth front, I hope that the young people say, in the interest of the country, they do something like refuse to even check their e-mail until after they‘ve voted.  How‘s that for discipline?  I will not check my e-mail until I have voted.  That will force them to vote.  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 the round table and the politics fix.  Let‘s take a look at an issue here.  Look at this number here; there‘s been a ten-point gain, from seven percent to 17 percent, on the gas price front.  I think, Ron Brownstein, I‘m a little bit surprised that only 17 percent of the people point out gasoline prices as one of their top issues. 

BROWNSTEIN:  I think it falls into the economy as well, Chris.  As I said, I was out talking to voters in the Denver suburbs, which are a key swing area.  It‘s really all part of one seamless web of concern about sort of the way the economy is going.  You know, I would just qualify one thing that Jim said before.  Based on my experience, I‘m not sure the level of engagement is as deep as the Pew numbers suggest.  I think a lot of people are still operating with very general impressions of both McCain and Obama. 

And in this poll, there are still warning signs for Obama, particularly that the voters Pew identifies as swing voters trust McCain by three to one over Obama to handle a crisis.  But there‘s no doubt that this whole web of issues, they all come together, and they point toward an overall dissatisfaction with the direction of the country that is the strongest tail wind for Obama, a desire for change that is very real. 

MATTHEWS:  Jim, on that point, do you think we might see another 1980, where people really, really, really want change, and only when they saw the challenger, Ronald Reagan, able to handle the incumbent, that they all of a sudden rush to him.  Could this happen for Barack? 

WARREN:  It‘s possible, but at this point, quite unlikely, particularly when you dig deep into that sort of lethargic reaction so far to McCain.  It‘s hard to envision him rousing folks, particularly when the base initially is so inherently suspicious of him.  What Ron just said, I think—in sort of qualifying my remarks, is true.  One has to remember that Barack Obama, despite what I think is engagement by a large number of people, and being interested in the race, I think he‘s still got a couple of months to really introduce himself to this public, because I still think a lot of people out there don‘t quite know who he is, and may be focusing on the early caricature of him with Jeremiah Wright and things like that. 

MATTHEWS:  Nancy Giles, please come back soon. 

GILES:  I‘d love to.

MATTHEWS:  You need more time.  We‘ll give you a lot more time next time.  Thank you, Nancy Giles.  Thank you, Ron Brownstein.  Thank you, Jim Warren.  Great report, Ron.  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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