updated 7/14/2008 10:16:31 AM ET 2008-07-14T14:16:31

Guests: Willie Geist, Michelle Bernard, Margaret Carlson, E. Steven Collins, Jonathan Alter, David Corn, Ken Vogel, Chris Cillizza

MIKE BARNICLE, GUEST HOST:  Can John McCain get the “Straight Talk Express” back on track?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Mike Barnicle, in tonight for Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  This was supposed to be the week that John McCain straightened out his campaign, hit his stride and got back on message.  Well, so much for that.  It wasn‘t bad enough that on Monday, John McCain seemed to call Social Security a “disgrace,” then came this now infamous remark from his chief economic adviser, Phil Gramm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHIL GRAMM ®, FORMER TEXAS SENATOR:  (INAUDIBLE) mental depression.  This is a mental recession.  We‘ve never had more natural advantages than we have today.  We‘ve sort of become a nation of whiners.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  We‘ll talk in a moment about how the “Straight Talk Express” got derailed again.

Plus: Take those statements by McCain and Phil Gramm, throw in Jesse Jackson‘s caught-on-tape moment, and you have a week‘s worth of gaffes and blunders.  So we thought we‘d have some fun and look back at some of the great “Did I really say that” moments in political history, like this one, for example, from Vice President Dan Quayle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN QUAYLE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The question is whether we‘re going to go forward to tomorrow or we‘re going to go past to the—the back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE:  Trust me, this is going to be a lot of fun!

Also: Name that veep.  Which potential running mate happily announced he‘s being vetted, which one says he hasn‘t been vetted at all, and which one was a little coy about things today on “Morning Joe”?

Plus, in the “Politics Fix,” whether we‘re in a mental recession or not, people are hurting.  What a new poll says about you think about the economy and who can fix it.

And what‘s wrong with this picture?  We‘ve all seen this shot of this week‘s Iranian missile test.  Well, it turns out what you see is not necessarily what you get.  That and more in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

But first, the “Straight Talk Express” derailed.  Jonathan Alter is with “Newsweek” and David Corn is with “Mother Jones.”  Gentlemen, if you could, listen again to what Phil Gramm said to “The Washington Times.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAMM:  (INAUDIBLE) mental depression.  This is a mental recession.  We‘ve never had more natural advantages than we have today.  We‘ve sort of become a nation of whiners.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  All right, I don‘t want to whine about this too much, but it seems to me that the McCain campaign had perhaps its second or third reorganization recently, Steve Schmidt, a very terrific professional, brought in to streamline the message, get people on track.  And now we‘ve had this.  When John McCain was supposed to be out talking about the economy this week, going to Michigan, talking about real things that concern real working people this country, we‘ve got Phil Gramm saying this today.

Jonathan, what does this say about the McCain campaign?

JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWSWEEK”:  Well, they‘ve got a big problem here, Mike, because, look, Phil Gramm is not just any old surrogate off mouthing off.  That‘s going to happen with surrogates.  He‘s John McCain‘s principal economic adviser.  They‘ve been very, very close for 25 years.  And actually, John McCain supported Phil Gramm for president of the United States in 1996.  He‘s listened to him a lot on this issue, which by McCain‘s own admission, he doesn‘t really know anything about.

So the question is, how much of a window is this in the McCain‘s real thinking about where we are economically?  I think you have to say, as in any gaffe—what a gaffe basically is, as the columnist Michael Kinsley said, when somebody tells the truth, you know, inconveniently.  And here Gramm conveyed what a lot of people in the McCain camp think is the truth about the American economy.

BARNICLE:  Hey, David, let‘s talk about that window that Jonathan just mentioned.  I mean, there‘s about 115, 116 days left until election day.  A “Washington post” story, I think yesterday—this morning—yesterday John McCain was in Michigan.  The “Post” story today indicates that he tried to speak about the economy to automobile workers, to people in Michigan.  Didn‘t go over too well.  In the “Post” story, they said they basically sat on their hands.

The economy being the big issue, how much of a window does John McCain have, do you think, to sort of touch people about his concerns about the economy and people‘s beliefs that he might be able to do something about it?  What are we talking about in terms of time?

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”:  Well, we‘re getting close to the time being past.  I mean, Barack Obama is kind of a new product, politically speaking, to many voters.  John McCain is a pretty old product.  He ran in 2000.  He‘s been around on the national scene for years longer than that.  And he‘s never come across a guy who‘s populist or really seems to care a lot about working on economic issues.

And then you have Phil Gramm come out and make this comment, and then John McCain says, He doesn‘t speak for me.  Well, about at the same time as John McCain said that yesterday, Phil Gramm was appearing at “The Wall Street Journal” editorial board.  What was he doing there?  Speaking for John McCain, defending his economic policy.

So this, I think, reaffirms—it confirms the suspicion that a lot of people have that John McCain just—this isn‘t what he cares most about.  He can‘t talk about it persuasively, and this is the guy advising him.

BARNICLE:  Jonathan, why is...

ALTER:  My...

BARNICLE:  Go ahead.

ALTER:  I was just going to say that I think David put his finger on a really important point about this campaign.  There‘s what you could call a passion gap for John McCain between the passion that he feels about international relations—whether you agree with him or not, he‘s very knowledgeable and very passionate when it comes to talking about the world.  When it comes to discussing domestic issues outside of pork barrel spending and campaign finance reform, he‘s very unenthusiastic, just not passionate, doesn‘t seem to care a real lot or be real interested.  And the problem with McCain is he‘s a genuine enough guy, he‘s not a good faker.  You know, he can‘t really fake being passionate about the economy because he‘s not.

BARNICLE:  Well, I mean—I mean, you‘re right.  He can‘t fake it.  And when you hear the sound bites—and they are only sound bites, we should tell people, you know, there‘s much more to his speeches than what we show you on TV—but he comes across as a rather dispassionate guy when he is talking about the economy.  An aspect of the economy—I‘d like the both of you to listen to what John McCain said Monday about an economic issue, Social Security.  Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  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 be fixed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  So David, he is approaching one of the third rails of American politics, Social Security, and he doesn‘t have specifics there, other than saying it‘s a disgrace.  Again, this fits in with the portrait being painted of the McCain campaign as a campaign that can‘t stay on message.  Your thoughts?

CORN:  Mike, I think it‘s worse than that.  When he said that, he was essentially challenging the fundamental funding mechanism of Social Security.  What happens is people working today pay, and that money‘s used to support people who are retired.  By saying that that‘s a disgrace, he‘s saying the whole program should be shot and buried, put aside for privatization.

And again, maybe it was a slip-up.  Maybe he doesn‘t really understand what he‘s saying.  But it goes back to the point I think Jonathan and agree on, that when it comes to these sort of issues, he doesn‘t seem to really embrace them and thought about them much in a way that resonates with people, except maybe on one matter, and that is free trade, which certainly doesn‘t help him in states like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

BARNICLE:  Well, this is out of today‘s “New York Times,” on that issue of John McCain and Social Security.  This is a quote.  “Afterwards” -from “The Times” today.  “Afterwards, a spokesman for the McCain campaign said that his use of ‘disgrace‘ was meant to refer not to Social Security itself but to Washington‘s unwillingness to address distortions developing in the system.  But Mr. McCain seemed to undermine his staff‘s explanation when he appeared on CNN on Tuesday, and to a large extent, repeated himself.”  Quote, “‘They pay their taxes, and right now, their taxes are going to pay the retirement of present-day retirees,‘” unquote, “he said by way of explaining his support for allowing young workers to open private accounts for retirement.”

We‘re not even on the highway, Jonathan, with the McCain campaign, really.  We‘re still in the middle of the summer.  And yet the wheels seem to be sort of coming off.  He‘s taking all of these exit ramps with the “Straight Talk Express” into these adjunct issues, when he should be staying on message.  When is he going to get on message?  Can he stay on message?

ALTER:  Well, first of all, on Social Security, this is a much bigger problem for him than a misstatement, you know, using the word “disgrace” instead of something else.  That‘s a passing flap that he‘ll get beyond.  The real problem for John McCain on Social Security, Mike, is that he backed President Bush‘s privatization plan.  That plan was so unpopular in 2005 that it never even came up for a vote.  Every community that the president went to and unveiled—and pumped for the privatization plan, he was less popular and the plan was less popular after he left town.

This is a dead, sure loser in American politics.  McCain was for it.  Obama will hit him on it in his debates in the fall, and it will be very harmful, if not fatal, to John McCain‘s campaign.  He can still win.  He has a lot of ways to win.  But Social Security is going to be a big, big problem for him this fall.

BARNICLE:  You know, David, it‘s been said about Senator McCain—and the polls still show—a lot of polls still show there‘s a relative closeness between Barack Obama and John McCain.  And it‘s been said of John McCain in this campaign that his biggest asset is the uncertainty that there is out there among a lot of Americans about Barack Obama, and that‘s the reason it‘s so close.  Do you buy into that?

CORN:  Well, I think so.  It goes back to an early point I made, that people know John McCain.  Even if they don‘t agree with him or like him, they may be more familiar with him than they are with Barack Obama, who is new to the national scene.

But after the week he just had—I made a list before coming on the show of over a dozen missteps and slip-ups he had, not just about what we talked about but about Iran and Iraq and other matters this week.  His campaign, and he himself even to a slight degree, seems a little discombobulated this week after a staff shakeup was supposed to make everything sail smoothly.  So he still has yet to show that he can campaign effectively, passionately, as Jon said a moment ago, while the Barack Obama campaign really seems to be going pretty smoothly at this point.  That will matter a lot in the general election.

ALTER:  I‘m not sure I agree about Obama‘s campaign.  I think Obama‘s campaign is experiencing some bumps—a bit of a bumpy ride this month, as well.  And there‘s a lot of time for McCain to get back on track.  So we don‘t want to get ahead of ourselves here, in trying to say something that happens in July is, you know, fatal to his campaign or anything like that.

CORN:  I‘m not going that far, Jon.

ALTER:  It‘s important to look at these—yes, I know you‘re not, but there are some people out there who are kind of ignoring the polls and they‘re going, Oh, you know, McCain can‘t get to first base.  He‘ll find his groove at a certain point.  The problem is that his groove is out of step right now with where the American people are, and Social Security is a great example.

You know, after the 2004 election, a lot of Republicans thought because—say this transfer payment that McCain described is about how current workers are paying current seniors, that people would consider that to be bit of a con game and that the public would react badly to that.  The way McCain described it is totally accurate.  He may be right that some kind of, you know, private accounts could yield a higher return in the future.

But set aside the merits of the Social Security debate for a minute, and you look at this contract that the American people struck with their government in 1935, the guaranteed return, not subject to the whims of the stock market or privatization.  The American people are so far behind this, it‘s a killer issue in American politics.

BARNICLE:  All right, but...

ALTER:  Much more important than (INAUDIBLE)

BARNICLE:  But quickly, let me ask the both of you to wrap this up.  You know, is what happened this week—if you take Phil Gramm out of it—is this John McCain being John McCain?  I mean, everybody says, Let McCain be McCain.  Is this McCain being McCain?

CORN:  Well, I don‘t think so, in some ways.  The John McCain that a lot of reporters knew and loved in 2000 as a straight talker now, under the you know, as part of this gigantic presidential campaign, managed a lot by professional party hacks and operatives, is flip-flopping and not straight talking the way that he claims he used to.  And I think he‘s not putting his best foot forward and he‘s not showing himself as an independent maverick free of political spin that he tried to at least do back in 2000.

He‘s made too many bargains with the devil to get the nomination, and it‘s going to be hard for him to campaign like the old John McCain when he‘s the new, you know, baggage-ridden John McCain.

BARNICLE:  David Corn...

ALTER:  Especially on the gas tax.

BARNICLE:  ... Jonathan Alter in Chicago.  Go Cubs.  Thanks very much, gentlemen.  We appreciate it.

Coming up: Lots of running mate candidates making news.  We‘ll run through the veep possibilities getting the most buzz today.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARNICLE:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Who‘s making news in the veepstakes?  Who‘s looking good and who‘s not?  Let‘s bring in Politico‘s Ken Vogel and Chris Cillizza, who writes “The Fix” for Washingtonpost.com.  Gentlemen, we‘re going to do the way that John Miller (ph) does it on ESPN on the baseball.   One of you guys is going be Joe Morgan (ph), the other guy‘s going to be Tim McCarver (ph).  We‘re going to whip through this line-up of potential candidates, and you‘re going to give me pearls of wisdom.

We‘re going to start with Senator Hillary Clinton.  And you, Chris Cillizza, go ahead.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM:  The rift between Clinton and Obama folks, Mike, hasn‘t been as quick to heal as we thought it would.  You know, Obama forgot to mention that his donors should give to Hillary Clinton during a—you know, a very public thing this week.  Look, I don‘t think she‘s in the top two or three or four people being considered.  Can she wind up there?  Sure.  But I don‘t think she‘s there right now.

BARNICLE:  Ken, yesterday on Fox, Howard Wolfson, one of their newest commentators—the amiable Howard Wolfson—said that as far as he knew, Hillary Clinton had not yet been vetted by the Obama campaign.  She‘s one of the most vetted people in history.  What do you figure Wolfson is up to there?

KEN VOGEL, POLITICO:  Not sure what he‘s up to, but you‘re right, she has been thoroughly vetted over 26 years of public service.  Her tax returns have been released going back more than 20 years.  And there is—you know, she has a lot of baggage and a lot of baggage has been vetted.  That‘s a pro and a con.

BARNICLE:  And Bill Clinton‘s baggage hasn‘t been vetted, though, has it?

VOGEL:  It‘s been thoroughly vetted, but you‘re right, that would be a major consideration, a major impediment, frankly, for Obama to put her on the ticket.

BARNICLE:  Next up, gentlemen, Governor Tim Pawlenty, governor of Minnesota.  Check out his haircut.  A couple of months ago, he had the mullet, if we can get the picture up there.  There he is.  And now he‘s got the nice haircut.  He looks kind of like Bob Kerrey there.  Now no mullet.  What‘s the story on Tim Pawlenty?  What does he bring to the table, Chris?

CILLIZZA:  Well, I‘m always pro-mullet, Mike, but you know, apparently

you know, look, what he brings to the table is he‘s a two-term governor of Wisconsin—of Minnesota—excuse me.  It‘s a swing state.  It‘s sort a sort of bluish state in the presidential race.  The other thing about him, he‘s very close to McCain.  This is a guy he‘s known since the ‘80s.  Pawlenty was on board very early for McCain and stayed through when McCain went through his doldrums.  And he‘s a safe choice, above all.  He doesn‘t really offend anyone.  And sometimes, you know, the best advice in vice presidential picks is, above all, do no harm.

BARNICLE:  Ken, Chris Dodd, senator from Connecticut, he‘s being vetted.  He said he‘s being vetted.  He had the little mortgage flap a couple of weeks ago.  Put Chris Dodd in the ranks.  Tell me where he stands.

VOGEL:  Well, I‘m surprised even to hear that he‘s being vetted because I don‘t think he would bring a lot to the ticket.  I think that mortgage story that  you mentioned is a significant impediment.  Remember, Obama‘s really reaching out, trying to show that he understands people‘s pain going through this economic recession more than John McCain does.  This story, the sweetheart deal on the mortgage, certainly doesn‘t help.

And let‘s not forget that Obama, too, was the subject of a story in “The Washington Post,” actually, suggesting that he got a good deal on his mortgage.  So unless they want an all-sweetheart mortgage ticket, I think this is probably not the way to go.

BARNICLE:  Chris, he has experience.  He‘s Catholic.  He‘s a good campaigner.  I mean, you know, the whole thing about he wins a state or brings a state to the candidate, that‘s, I think, overrated.  Chris Dodd—not a bad candidate for that ticket.

CILLIZZA:  Well, you forgot the important thing, Mike, which is that he‘s from Connecticut, like me.  And we all know that there‘s good stock coming out of Connecticut. 

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA:  But, yes, I think—I think he does—I think Ken is right.  You know, I don‘t think Dodd is ultimately going to be the guy. 

But I do—the thing that a lot of people forget about, he‘s a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.  This is a guy who has his fingers in a lot of pots, can raise a lot of money, not that Barack Obama might need it.

But I think he‘s considered.  I don‘t think ultimately he‘s in that final two or three, though. 

BARNICLE:  And he also has great hair, like Tim Pawlenty. 

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE:  Charlie Crist, governor of Florida, for John McCain.  He just got married.

Ken, that‘s a high price to pay for wanting to be on the ticket, maybe.

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE:  What do you think?

VOGEL:  I think that, like a lot of folks who we bandy about their names when we‘re talking about prospective McCain vice presidential nominees, he‘s young.  He‘s telegenic, two things that McCain is not. 

The other thing, like Pawlenty, his support meant a lot.  Remember, he, Charlie Crist, endorsed McCain right before that crucial Republican primary in Florida, which McCain carried, and it really put him on the way to the nomination.  McCain values loyalty.  It might solidify his chances in Florida.  They will probably—Republicans will probably carry it anyway, but it wouldn‘t hurt to have someone from Florida on the ticket.  Still a long shot, though, I think. 

BARNICLE:  All right, Ken and Chris, I want you to watch this now.  This is a potential Democratic candidate, Governor Bill Richardson, this morning on “MORNING JOE.”  Watch this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MORNING JOE”)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  And, by the way, has anyone vetted you?  Have you gotten the call from the Obama camp, from Eric Holder or anybody? 

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO:  Well, you know, I see myself some of on these—I see myself on these lists.  Then I‘m not on some lists.  You know, that‘s Senator Obama‘s choice.  And we‘re going to...

MITCHELL:  But have they asked for your tax returns?

RICHARDSON:  ... do everything—well, you know, I‘m not going to get into any of that stuff...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  So, Hillary Clinton has not been vetted, but Bill Richardson is being vetted. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And Chris Dodd.

SCARBOROUGH:  Chris Dodd also being vetted.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... press release, though, unlike Bill Richardson.  Bill said, none of your business, which is a yes.

BARNICLE:  Here‘s how we can tell.

Governor, this is Mike Barnicle.  We can tell if you‘re being vetted or not.  Once you start shaving the beard, we figure that you‘re being vetted. 

(LAUGHTER)

RICHARDSON:  Well, I did cut my hair.  So, we will see...

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  Man, it‘s all about the hair tonight.  It‘s all about men‘s hair club tonight.  But, Bill Richardson, an attractive guy.  Chris Cillizza, what do you think? 

CILLIZZA:  Remember, Mike, he was one of the last two or three in 2004 I think a lot of people forget that—for John Kerry.  He as in the final mix there.

You know, his big attribute, I think, he‘s a Hispanic, former congressman, former governor.  He‘s got an amazing resume.  And if the West is going to be the central battleground this time, you know, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, then Bill Richardson can do quite a bit of good. 

I don‘t hear his name all that much, to be honest.  But, you know, this thing, the veepstakes is also sort of a mystery wrapped in a riddle, surrounded by an enigma.  You never know until the pick gets made.  So, we‘re all sort of playing a guessing game. 

BARNICLE:  Well, Ken Vogel, he has international experience, too, something Obama doesn‘t really have. 

VOGEL:  That would certainly be helpful for him.  It would be helpful to lock down New Mexico and possibly give him greater appeal with Hispanics, although polls show that he‘s doing all right in that category right now. 

What Chris mentioned, that, in fact, Bill Richardson had been vetted in 2004.  One of the issues that came and would definitely come up again if he were on the ticket were allegations that he behaved inappropriately towards women.

We would see a lot of attention to those allegations.  And, so, for that reason, I think, as well as the sort of just questions about what he would bring to the ticket in general, I also put him somewhere down lower on the short list. 

BARNICLE:  OK.

Quickly, one name that we haven‘t mentioned that‘s in the top of your list. 

Ken Vogel, you first. 

VOGEL:  I think you have still got to consider Mitt Romney.  It was a very contentious primary.  Having said what I said about how loyalty is very important to John McCain...

BARNICLE:  OK.

VOGEL:  ... I still think he would bring a lot, particularly on the economy, key issue here. 

BARNICLE:  Chris Cillizza, one name. 

CILLIZZA:  Tim Kaine, governor of Virginia. 

BARNICLE:  Hey, I like that. 

Chris Cillizza, Ken Vogel, thanks very much.  You guys were great. 

It‘s Joe Morgan and Tim McCarver.

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE:  Up next: one more potential running mate who doesn‘t seem too keen in the job.  That‘s next in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

And, later, after a week of gaffes from both McCain and Obama, we look back at the best campaign gaffes and missteps of all time. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL—there he is on the tank.

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE:  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARNICLE:  Wow.  Well, welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Time now for the incredibly popular HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

Jay Leno last night talked about how fuel prices are affecting everyone, even the famous.  Take a listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”)

JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”:  With gas prices approaching $5 a gallon here in California, a lot of people are starting to use bicycles for transportation.  Have you noticed that?  Have you noticed more people on bicycles?  In fact, coming in today, I saw Jesse Jackson backpedaling all the way. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  Ah, Reverend Jackson getting it from all sides. 

Now, news reports of Iran‘s missile test this week startled many.  But there may be less there than meets the eye.  It appears the image of the missile launch used by “The Los Angeles Times,” “Palm Beach Post,” and “The New York Times” Web site, among others, was Photoshopped. 

Yes, Iran doing iPhotos.  State-controlled media released the photo on their Web site.  And it appears that the missile circled there is a composite of two of the others.   Here‘s the real deal.  There were only three missiles.  Iran inflating its missile capabilities—I‘m shocked. 

Now for “Name That Veep.” 

We just brought you a rundown of potential V.P.s.  But there‘s one big Democratic name that doesn‘t seem to be, well, jumping at the chance.  When asked whether he had been approached by Obama‘s team, this senator said—quote—“I made it clear to him and everybody else I never worked for anybody in my life.  I got here when I was 29.  I never had a boss.  I don‘t know how I would handle it.”

So, just who is this longtime Capitol Hill dweller?  Delaware Senator Joe Biden.  Apparently, he likes the view from where he is. 

Time now for tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

With campaign finance reform a big part of his platform, Senator Obama pledged early on to disclose the names of his top money collectors, those bundlers who raise $50,000 or more. 

Well, “The New York Times” noted yesterday that the Obama campaign had added just two names to that list since November, a number that didn‘t sound quite right.  So, when “The Times” asked the Obama campaign yesterday about the accuracy of the list, just how many new names popped up?  One hundred and eighty-one.  That‘s right.  In one night, the Obama campaign added an additional 181 names to its existing list of 328 big-time money collectors, a jump of over 50 percent.

For a campaign that‘s supposedly big on transparency, they seem to be a little slow releasing their information, 181 new Obama money collectors -tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next:  It‘s been a week of gaffes and missteps from both the McCain and Obama camps.  We will take a look back at some of the best political gaffes of the week next. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Wall Street closes out a volatile week in bear market territory.  It was yet another wild ride, with the Dow Jones industrial average dipping below 11000 for the first time in two years, then briefly touching green, before retreating into the red steeply within the last hour of the session, the Dow Jones industrial average triple digits, off 128 points, the S&P 500 by 14, and tech stocks taking the Nasdaq lower by nearly 19 points.

The big headline today, fears about the stability of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as the government-backed mortgage companies fell 50 percent in the early trading session.  But those stocks began to rebound after Reuters reported that Fed officials had discussed the possibility of bailing out Fannie and Freddie, but now the Fed saying that no such discussions have taken place and has declined to comment on any options under consideration.  Fannie and Freddie both saying they‘re adequately capitalized. 

And oil set a new trading record today before retreated and settling at just $145 a barrel. 

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

HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE (whispering):  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

From Jesse Jackson‘s caught-off-guard moment, to missteps by John McCain and Barack Obama, this week has been chockful of political gaffes and slip-ups. 

For a look back on the week‘s greatest hits, as well as some of the better-known classics, oldies, but goodies, let‘s bring in Willie Geist of MSNBC‘s “MORNING JOE.” 

Willie, it‘s good to see that you‘re still up and around.

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIE GEIST, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Let me ask you a question before we get started about the attire. 

BARNICLE:  Yes.  Yes. 

GEIST:  You look great.  You have got a nice tie on, the jacket.

You come on to our show at 6:00 in the morning, you got a jacket from the Salvation Army, the golf shirt you wore to play 36 holes the day before, and some sneakers on. 

(CROSSTALK)

BARNICLE:  Yes. 

GEIST:  How does—what goes into that decision, the wardrobe decision?

BARNICLE:  Steve Capus, president of NBC News, came down, gave me the shirt and tie, and said, look like an adult, would you?

GEIST:  Is it a reflection of the respect you have for...

(CROSSTALK)

BARNICLE:  Yes, it is.  It‘s the lack of respect I have for you.

GEIST:  I thought...

(CROSSTALK)

GEIST:  I just wanted to clear that up.

BARNICLE:  All right.  So we just saw Jesse Jackson on FOX TV. 

GEIST:  Yes. 

BARNICLE:  Your reaction when you saw it?  It has been played over and over.

GEIST:  My reaction is, who was this a gaffe for?  It‘s the greatest thing that ever happened to Barack Obama, right?

There are white all over—let‘s be honest—all over the country saying, wait a minute, he disapproves of Barack Obama?  Maybe I like this Obama guy after all.  So, maybe it‘s a gaffe for John McCain than for anyone. 

BARNICLE:  I sort of agree with you.  I‘m much older than you.  I‘m about 200 years older than you are.  So, I‘m going to tell you, some of the oldies, but goodies make the Jesse Jackson comment pale in comparison—

1988, I‘m going to show you a clip of Michael Dukakis haunted by this video of the former governor of Massachusetts riding in a tank.  Check this out. 

(CROSSTALK)

BARNICLE:  Willie...

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE:  ... your thoughts, please. 

GEIST:  You know, we were talking...

(LAUGHTER)

GEIST:  We were talking to Andrea Mitchell about this, this morning. 

She said, by coincidence, she‘s sitting in the office interviewing Lee Atwater.  This video comes on the TV.  He jumps up.  They all but pop the champagne and said, it‘s over. 

BARNICLE:  Oh, boy, the poor guy, the poor guy. 

(CROSSTALK)

GEIST:  That goes down with sort of the John Kerry—wait—what to you call it, surfboarding or whatever he was doing. 

BARNICLE:  Yes, riding the surfboard up on Nantucket Sound.

GEIST:  Yes. 

BARNICLE:  But we have had Barack Obama just recently, a couple nights ago, appearing on behalf of Hillary Rodham Clinton to raise money for her. 

GEIST:  Yes. 

BARNICLE:  Here is Obama almost forgetting to ask fund-raisers to relieve Hillary Clinton‘s debt.  Take a look at this. 

(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)

BARNICLE:  How annoyed do you think the Clintons were that, you know, oops...

GEIST:  Whoops.

BARNICLE:  ... I forgot to mention the person I was here to speak on behalf? 

GEIST:  And that was sort of the whole point of the event.

BARNICLE:  Yes. 

GEIST:  But we talked about this the other day.  The thing about gaffes is, right, people see what they want to see in them.  It reinforces something they already believe.  So, we were talking about the Obama campaign behind the scenes, deep down somewhere, a little bit annoyed that they‘re paying off Mark Penn‘s salary. 

So, maybe, subconsciously, if you want to read into it, that‘s what that was about, maybe a passive-aggressive move, oh, yes, her. 

BARNICLE:  I like that, the use of the subconscious here on HARDBALL. 

GEIST:  Thank you.  Psychology.

BARNICLE:  I‘m going to show you right now a guy I regard as the all-time king of gaffes, the gaffe master of all time, vice president for yuck tsunamis, Dan Quayle. 

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE:  Here‘s just one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN QUAYLE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The question is whether we‘re going to go forward to tomorrow or we‘re going to go past to the—the back. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE:  I mean...

GEIST:  The problem is, you can fill a whole hour playing these clips. 

BARNICLE:  Yes.  Yes. 

GEIST:  You didn‘t even show the potato or any of that other...

You know, he got a run for his money, though, with President Bush.  We play these clips every morning on our show coming in where we has things like that, you know, the gynecologist practicing their love on women all over this country.  So, it‘s the slips of the tongue that catch up to them.

BARNICLE:  I‘m going to tell you something.  President Bush sounds like Abba Eban, the former very articulate foreign minister from Israel, compared to Dan Quayle. 

(LAUGHTER)

GEIST:  We haven‘t heard much from Dan in a few years either, have we? 

BARNICLE:  Take a look—well, take a at this famous exchange between Bush and Cheney about “New York Times” reporter Adam Clymer.  You mentioned President Bush. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There‘s Adam Clymer, major-league (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Oh, yes, he is, big-time.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

GEIST:  See, that one, I almost feel bad for him.  They‘re standing up there.  You think you‘re having a private conversation with the guy.  The mike‘s turned up, and the truth comes out.  You and I have said some things privately about people—let‘s be honest—that probably aren‘t so flattering.  It happens. 

BARNICLE:  That‘s not true.

(CROSSTALK)

BARNICLE:  That‘s not true. 

GEIST:  Oh, really?

BARNICLE:  I speak flatteringly about everyone.

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE:  Top gaffe of the year so far, what would you think about this one, Hillary Clinton‘s infamous recollection of coming under sniper fire in Bosnia?

Take a peak at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  I remember landing under sniper fire.  There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport.  Instead, we just ran with our heads down to get to into the vehicles to get to our base. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEIST:  Yes, that didn‘t happen.  Unfortunately, here‘s the video of what actually did happen, children bringing her flowers as she strolls across the tarmac.  But again, this is something—the point is, you see what you want to see in this.  People say she stretches the truth; she makes a habit of that.  Here she goes again.  What won‘t she lie about?  That translated to her husband when Bill Clinton said Barack Obama, the ferry tale line.  When he was talking about Barack Obama‘s Iraq policy, people said, no, it‘s Bill Clinton.  Trust me.  What he really meant is this whole candidacy, this idea of an African-American being president is a fairy tale.  Wink.  Wink.

BARNICLE:  That sort of became the gift that kept on giving for the Obama campaign. 

GEIST:  Bill Clinton brought it up again a month later.  They wouldn‘t let it die. 

BARNICLE:  John McCain, this is recent now.  John McCain recently told a Pittsburgh TV station that he gave up the names of the Pittsburgh Stealer famous Steel Curtain when he was interrogated as a P.O.W.  Take a look at this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN:  When I was first interrogated and really had to give some information because of the pressures—the physical pressures that were on me, I named the starting lineup, the defensive line of the Pittsburgh Stealers as my squadron mates. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  Unfortunately, in his autobiography, “Faith of My Fathers,” a terrific book, John McCain wrote, quote, “pressed for more useful information, I gave the names of the Green Bay Packers offensive line and said they were members of my squadron,” unquote.  I want to give John McCain a base on balls on this.  I mean, it‘s sort of—when you fool around with sports teams and sports names in the course of a campaign, that‘s trouble. 

GEIST:  Yes, Stealers fans don‘t like this one this week.  I‘m surprised he did this.  The P.O.W. story is the core of who he is.  It‘s the story we all know about him.  If you follow him closely enough, you know the Green Bay Packers story.  So, lying about that story and pandering it seems unlike him and it‘s not good. 

BARNICLE:  Not only that, I mean, while John McCain was imprisoned in north Vietnam for all those years, for most of those years both the Stealers and the Packers, I mean you couldn‘t name any member of their team.  They were both terrible teams. 

GEIST:  He was probably thinking about Mean Joe Green and those guys.  They came a decade later.  The Stealers stunk in the ‘60s.  There‘s no way he would have known those guys. 

BARNICLE:  You know, Willie, but you didn‘t stink.  You were great. 

You always bring something to the table. 

GEIST:  I‘m just glad you wore a tie.  I‘ve never seen you like this.

BARNICLE:  I have to be back at 6:01 tonight to Steve Capas. 

Thank you, Willie Geist.  Up next, does Barack Obama have an image problem with regular folks?  Does he come off looking too cool for school?  The politics fix is next.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARNICLE:  Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix.  Tonight‘s round table, MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard, Bloomberg‘s Margaret Carlson and WRNB radio host E. Steven Collins.

Ladies and gentlemen, here‘s my theory; the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll has more than three quarters of the country, 77 percent, with a negative view of the U.S. economic condition, only five percent are positive.  John McCain, it seems to me, is a great, small hall candidate, 100 or 200 people in these town hall meetings.  Barack Obama gives a great speech off the teleprompter. 

With both of these candidates, you have a lot of people walking around in this country worried about the economy, wondering, which one of these candidates gets it, gets my life?  So, Margaret, which candidate do you think impresses voters the most right now as to the fact that they get my life? 

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG:  Well, the polls show that Obama wins big on the economy.  So it seems they more identify with him to fix the economy.  And after yesterday, when McCain‘s top adviser called anybody who thinks they‘re not doing well whiners, and, you know, as that gets around, I think they‘ll think that even more. 

By the way, Mike, middle class people aren‘t whiners.  I‘m always surprised when polls show how optimistic middle class people are.  They go out and spend the money they have.  They think things are going fine, even to the point where they‘re not going fine.  And so for Phil Gramm or John McCain, who, by the way, early on had no idea how bad the home foreclosure or the mortgage crisis was, savings of calling them—their analysis and their ideology trumps the lives of people.  I think that really helps Obama on that issue. 

BARNICLE:  Michelle, the Phil Gramm comments certainly were not helpful to John McCain‘s candidacy right now.  Do you think people believe that Barack Obama sort of understands the things that they‘re coping with?  I mean, he‘s sort of a very cool candidate, you know, to his great credit.  He‘s great on TV because he comes across as this cool candidate.  This country feeds off emotion.  Do you think he‘s shown enough emotion? 

MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  The reason people will believe that Barack Obama feels their pain and understands the economic plight of America‘s working class is because no matter how cool a character he may appear to be, there are the inevitable comparisons.  When we saw Senator McCain speaking yesterday, and really repudiating the statements that were made bid Senator Gram, he says, he doesn‘t speak for me; I speak for myself.  He says it in this very monotone fashion that really doesn‘t show any sort of emotion. 

Then, you know, this door is opened.  Barack Obama really walks right through it.  He has a very charismatic way of speaking.  When he came out and says, we don‘t need another Dr. Phil.  We already have one, and this is not a figment of your imagination—the person who is able to speak to you that way and telegraph that sort of emotion is the person that the American public, at least on economic issues, is going to be feel really feels their pain. 

BARNICLE:  Yes, the Dr. Phil line was a pretty good line.  Steven Collins, you are not in Washington, DC.  You‘re not in Boston or New York.  You‘re on the ground in Philadelphia.  The people you interact with, the people you speak to, do you think they believe either one of these candidates can fix their economic lives? 

E. STEVEN COLLINS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  First of all, Senator McCain said he didn‘t fully get the economy.  I think that‘s kind of set a stage for how we perceive him dealing with some of the issues we‘re dealing with.  Remember, President Bush said he didn‘t realize gas prices were going to become so outrageously high.  If you remember that just a few months back.

Most of us are at 4.50.  The folks in Los Angeles and Alaska are paying almost five dollars and it‘s going to continue to go.  All of that having been said, here we have a picture of an American family, a guy who grew up through the Chicago system of state politics and then federal politics, with his children, his loving wife, and they look like we look.  They look like people in middle class America trying to figure it out. 

I don‘t get this whining issue.  I think we are all trying to figure out how to best deal with a tremendously depressing economy. 

BARNICLE:  Yes, but Margaret, Steven just pointed the Obama family, two beautiful kids, the husband and the wife.  He‘s a United States senator.  He‘s running for president of the United States.  I still can‘t get over the hump that neither one of these guys, John McCain or Barack Obama, gets what five dollars, approaching five dollars a gallon for gasoline does to that family out there in Illinois or Michigan or Montana, in which they are paying an extra 35 dollars a week now for gas out of a fixed pay check.  It‘s a crusher.  Do you think they get it? 

CARLSON:  I don‘t think they get it at the visceral level you are talking about.  Cindy McCain spent 750,000 dollars in one month on her credit card.  Michelle Obama talks about shopping at Whole Foods and Arugola, and how hard it is to get fresh fruit.  Senators, in general, are removed from most of us.  You mentioned something else, which is the coolness.  I think one time, Mike, you said too cool for school.  You and I are old enough to remember that saying.  You want to say eat the donut.  Come on, do not be so elegant.  Let us know that you are a little bit more like us. 

People, they don‘t care about that so much in a city councilman or a congressman.  But people really like their president to be like they are. 

BARNICLE:  I am so—

BERNARD:  Here‘s the question I have—

BARNICLE:  I am so with you on that, Margaret.  Go ahead. 

BERNARD:  Mike, what I was going to say, this is so interesting a discussion to have in the context of Barack Obama.  If you listen to his story, if you listen to his wife‘s story, as two African-Americans, these are two people who had to really pull themselves up from their boot straps.  I often times wonder, if he show—if he were a little bit different and a little less elegant than he is, I wonder how the American public would react to that, and if, all of a sudden, he would become this very scary, angry black man and that would knock him out of the race.  It‘s sort of he‘s stuck between a rock and a hard place. 

BARNICLE:  I understand that, Michelle.  I think there‘s an aspect of that argument you just made which is absolutely correct.  Steve, we got to take a break.  When we come back, I want you to think about this question, all three of you, not the angry black man Barack Obama that Michelle just mentioned, but the idea that, as Margaret pointed out, Bill Clinton crying with a woman in 1992 over health care up in New Hampshire, the idea that people want to see more emotion out of a candidate.  Not just Barack Obama, but John McCain and what emotion does to our politics in this country.  I think it drives a large part of our politics.  We‘re going to find out what the panel thinks when we come right back with the round table fore more of the politics fix.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARNICLE:  We‘re back with the round table and we‘re back with a brand-new “Newsweek” poll.  It shows Barack Obama now with a three point lead over John McCain, 44 to 41.  It‘s down from a 15 point lead last month.  That gets us back to the whole question about emotion, Barack Obama.  People want to know more about him.  They want to see more from him.  Steven, your thoughts.  We only got a couple minutes left.  let‘s start with you. 

COLLINS:  Really quickly, at the root of this, people want to see a guy they can have a beer with and all that. I think now, as things really tighten up, people want to see confidence skill and experience, someone who has a plan.  I think Barack Obama has articulated that over emotionalism. 

BARNICLE:  Margaret? 

CARLSON:  You know, just as Obama has pivoted to the center on some issues, I think he might become more human as time goes on after establishing this non-angry man.  He‘ll go the other way.  I have a friend in Connecticut, Bill Curry, who said—oil went up five dollars a barrel today.  He said for every dollar oil goes up, Obama gets to make half as many mistakes.  So two and a half mistakes for the five dollars, wiped off.  I think that‘s going to be partly determinative as we go forward.  Not much else is going to matter but the price of oil, the stock market, the home foreclosures and all these other things.  Then he‘s not going to have to eat the donut. 

BARNICLE:  Michelle, talk a bit more about what you mentioned in the last segment about Obama, really, it‘s a can‘t win situation.  If he begins to show more emotion, when does he become an angry black man? 

BERNARD:  It depends on the type of emotion we‘re talking about.  It‘s not so much that I think it‘s difficult for him to show emotion.  I actually think he shows emotion.  What I find difficult for him to be in this position is that all of a sudden, it‘s the black man who is being labeled the elitist, the person who doesn‘t eat sweets, who eats Arugola, who drinks wine versus of beer. 

My question is, if he was the man, in this instance the black man, who sits down and drinks a Bud or some sort of other beer and he sits down and does things a little bit differently, he might begin to look like a traditional, stereotype of a black politician.  I think if that were to happen to him, he would not be in the place where he is today.  That‘s the slippery slope for him.  People might be expecting something from him that he cannot give them. 

COLLINS:  Mike—

CARLSON:  Hey, mike. 

BERNARD:  I do think he needs to roll up his sleeves. 

COLLINS:  I don‘t remember Barack Obama ever, ever being an angry black man.  I think he‘s an intelligent senator—

CARLSON:  I think it‘s the stereotype he has to avoid. 

BARNICLE:  We‘ve got to go.  We‘ve got to do this at some other point.  It‘s a fascinating story, fascinating topic.  Michelle Bernard, Margaret Carlson, Steven Collins.  Chris Matthews returns Monday, 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern, for more HARDBALL.  Right now, it‘s time for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE with David Gregory.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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