Guest: Andrea Mitchell, Howard Fineman, Wayne Slater, Tom DeFrank, Tom Ridge, Carla Marinucci, Jonathan Capehart
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Remember Howard Wolfson, that “take no prisoners” guy who spoke for Hillary Clinton? He says if the John Edwards scandal had broken before Iowa, Hillary would be the Democratic nominee today. So why is he saying that now?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Leading off tonight: What if?
What if the John Edwards affair had been revealed before the Iowa caucuses? Hillary Clinton‘s campaign spokesman insists she would have won Iowa and gone on to win the whole nomination. But one look at the entrance polls of the Iowa caucuses shows that‘s just not true, that Barack Obama would likely have won by even more that day in Iowa. So why is Howard Wolfson out there now saying that—saying now, long after Hillary‘s race has ended, that she would have won the whole thing if the Edwards affair had come to light earlier? All that in a moment.
Plus, newly released memos show an attempt to portray Obama as a candidate who has a, quote, “lack of American roots,” end quote, that puts him outside the mainstream of American values. A new Republican campaign strategy? No, that‘s a Clinton campaign memo that just came out.
Anyway, and Senator McCain is campaigning in Pennsylvania today with former governor Tom Ridge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can I just say that Pennsylvania, as every political pundit will tell you, will be one of the battleground state again, for not the first time. And so you‘re going to see a lot of me in this state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: As every political pundit will tell you, again—I‘ll just tell you again—according to Tom Ridge, who‘s going to tell you—he‘s on the show tonight—if the Republicans grab Pennsylvania from the blue list, they win the whole election, according to Tom Ridge tonight. A Pennsylvania win for McCain could cripple the Obama campaign, according to Tom Ridge.
Plus, if you watched the Olympics this weekend—and a lot of you people did—you saw an awful lot of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Painful taxes, hard choices for your budget, not ready to lead. That‘s the real Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I love the way they show the smiling Obama with the bad news. Is running that negative ad during the Olympics smart politics or does it strike the wrong tone? We‘ll talk about that in the “Politics Fix.” We love to do tonal stuff here.
Anyway, speaking of the Olympics, what happened when a female beach volleyball player asked President Bush to give her a good luck slap on the you know where? An Olympic moment—it‘s quite a good one—coming up on the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”
But we begin with the political fall-out of the John Edwards affair, which I missed most of by being away for two weeks. Howard Fineman didn‘t miss it. He‘s an MSNBC political analyst. Andrea Mitchell is, of course, one of the stars of this network. Thank you all.
Let me ask you this, Howard, you‘re smiling. You‘re smiling. So I‘ll ask you both. Why is Howard Wolfson, who we wall agree is one of the best campaign spokesmen, ever, the toughest certainly. Why is he now, on another network from the one he‘s paid to talk for, on ABC, not Fox, where he gets paid—why is he out there saying now, If the press had blown the story on John Edwards way back before Iowa, then Hillary Clinton would have won Iowa and therefore would be the nominee? Why rip the scab off this thing now?
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, one explanation is that Howard Wolfson believes it. But you don‘t have to make too many calls back to Iowa, as I was doing today, or read the exit polls, as you were doing, to know that that story doesn‘t hold up. I think that everybody who was going to vote for Hillary, as Gordon Fisher (ph), the former Democratic chairman told me a few hours ago—everybody who was going to vote for Hillary was going to vote for Hillary. Everybody else was dividing up the vote.
FINEMAN: Hillary strategists—Andrea will verify this—they liked the fact that it was a big field. They wanted as many people in it...
MATTHEWS: Yes, split up the anti-Hillary vote.
FINEMAN: Split up the vote. So it‘s not because of the facts. I think it‘s because Wolfson, like many other people still around Hillary and Bill Clinton, are still gnashing their teeth that they came this close and didn‘t get it, and the media, in all of its forms and for all of the stories, is one of the reasons why, in their view, they lost.
MATTHEWS: I guess that‘s my question. Why bring it up now in any context? Why would Howard Wolfson, who‘s a skilled communicator—I‘m now going to build him up because then I‘m going to question why he did it. According to the Iowa entrance polls—these were polls of people who went into the Iowa caucuses way back in—when? Help me, February?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: January, guys.
MATTHEWS: January, rather—we‘re getting old. We‘re getting late.
The second choice of all the Edwards caucus goers was not Hillary Clinton. Overwhelmingly, by 43 percent to 24 percent, it was Barack Obama. So following the syllogism, if you will, if John Edwards had been blown out of the race by then, Hillary would have lost by more because more would have gone to Obama.
MITCHELL: Let me quote Hillary Clinton, one of her favorite phrases, “Woulda-coulda-shoulda.”
MATTHEWS: I know. I know. But...
MITCHELL: You know, I mean, he said, basically...
MATTHEWS: We all do that, of course.
MITCHELL: I mean, it‘s—I (ph) guess saying after losing Iowa so badly, coming in third, which really, really became almost definitive in that she came back in New Hampshire, but she never really recovered in terms of what that meant. What that mean, that Iowa victory set Obama on his course. It told African-Americans in South Carolina, This is real.
MATTHEWS: That‘s the dynamic.
MITCHELL: This can happen. This authenticated him in a white base.
MATTHEWS: And why did she lose Iowa? Because she supported the war resolution, I would argue, in a state that‘s very anti-war.
FINEMAN: Sure. It was...
MATTHEWS: That was the chief reason.
FINEMAN: It was because of the war, and it‘s because they underestimated the desire for change among Americans, and especially Democratic voters. She needed to win them all. If you‘re the frontrunner, you need to run the table. You can‘t let the genie out of the bottle. By losing Iowa, they totally changed the dynamics of the race and they—
Clinton people still resent it, are still looking back on it, still looking at what went wrong and what they could have done...
MATTHEWS: ... I got to ask you because there‘s a big question. Tom Ridge is coming on later. We taped him just late this afternoon, and I‘ll tell you what he said. If the Republicans get Pennsylvania, it‘s over. And a lot of people believe that. How can the Democrats win this election if they‘re still squabbling?
MITCHELL: Well, I agree with Tom Ridge about Pennsylvania. I don‘t see any way that this—if Democrats lose Pennsylvania, it means that they are losing key battleground states. If they lose Pennsylvania, it does mean that something has gone completely awry and they‘re off track. I do think that Hillary Clinton lost Iowa the previous summer, when she refused to say that her war vote was a mistake. That was when she defined herself as...
MATTHEWS: I‘m an old soul on this. Why rip off the scab now? Howard Wolfson must be on the Clinton team. I know he works for—he‘s an independent. He works for Fox television. His interest should be in simply analyzing what‘s going on. But why would he bring it all back to this? Maybe it is his analysis.
FINEMAN: Well, what I wrote for the magazine this week is about the dance that continues to go on between the Clintons and the Obamas. Now, Hillary is going to speak in a prominent spot during the convention. Bill Clinton‘s...
MATTHEWS: Wednesday night.
FINEMAN: Wednesday night...
MATTHEWS: Introduced by Chelsea.
FINEMAN: Yes. Bill Clinton‘s role is still a little unsettled, although...
MATTHEWS: Tuesday night.
FINEMAN: He‘s—yes, he‘s—well, 0 for 2.
MATTHEWS: She‘s Tuesday night and he‘s Wednesday night.
FINEMAN: She‘s Tuesday nigh. He‘s Wednesday night. The caucuses were in January. I‘m 0 for 2.
MATTHEWS: So it‘s going to be an all-Clinton week.
FINEMAN: It is going to be an all-Clinton week.
MATTHEWS: Chelsea and Hillary on Tuesday night, Bill on Wednesday.
FINEMAN: Yes. But the body language of the negotiations feels a little bit more like the Middle East in a bad year than it does like a happy, unified Democratic Party. There‘s still tremendous resentment on both sides against each other, even as they try to put on a good show of Clintons and Obamas in Denver.
MITCHELL: And she is saying and doing all the right things. If you look at what she did in Las Vegas just this week, past Friday, she came out, she said all the right things. But there‘s still a sort of...
MATTHEWS: ... signal from the—is the general, who is Hillary Clinton, giving the signal to her major contributors, her major fighters, the ones who have their heart with her—has she said, Go with Obama? Yes or no? Has she said it? Yes or no? Or is Bob Barnett or the others still negotiating this thing?
MITCHELL: No, they‘re negotiating her role. But she has said all the right things. You could not ask...
MATTHEWS: You really believe she sent her troops in to fight for Barack.
MITCHELL: She told them to go in to Barack...
MATTHEWS: Is it “Simon Says”?
MITCHELL: No, I think—I think the real problem is not her big money people. I think her real problem is a cohort of women that she...
MATTHEWS: Howard Wolfson?
MITCHELL: No, women, these older women...
MATTHEWS: Well, what‘s he doing, then?
MITCHELL: I don‘t think that Wolfson was really on message on this. I really don‘t think so. I think...
MATTHEWS: Howard Wolfson, otherwise known as a cohort of one. I mean, he is a professional, and he is loyal as hell to Hillary Clinton. And he‘s out there saying, Woulda-coulda-shoulda, in your words. Why is he doing it?
MITCHELL: He‘s explaining why—look, the staff messed up. They had a good candidate. There‘s no question from the recently released memos that the staff...
MATTHEWS: ... works for Fox. Here‘s more of Wolfson, what he said to ABC. By the way, he didn‘t get paid to say this. He was working for Fox. Here‘s what he said to ABC. Quote, “Our voters and Edwards‘s voters were the same people. They were older, pro-union. Not all but maybe two thirds of them would have been for us, and we would have barely beaten Obama.”
That‘s not founded upon any of the exit polling or entrance polling. It‘s not based on anything except a claim.
FINEMAN: Well, in my experience—I nearly drove into a bunch of snowbanks in Iowa in January, going to different events of different candidates, and they were not the same people because Hillary had the establishment. It‘s true she had the older voters. She had the more traditional Democratic voters. But everybody she didn‘t have was a change voter who was going to be divided especially among Obama and Edwards and perhaps some other candidates.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at the new—the latest fight. Here‘s the latest ads. by the way. This is a McCain ad. It‘s called “Painful,” and it‘s running during the Olympics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) but for the rest of us, times are tough. Obama voted to raise taxes on people making just $42,000. He promises more taxes on small business, seniors, your life‘s savings, your family. Painful taxes, hard choices for your budget, not ready to lead. That‘s the real Obama.
MCCAIN: I‘m John McCain, and I approved this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t it interesting, Andrea, to show a smiling Obama with bad news attached to him, like they‘re playing off the likability, the celebrity, the charisma, and sticking it to him on the facts.
MITCHELL: And first of all, the facts—it‘s factually wrong.
MITCHELL: It‘s wrong on taxes. The actual numbers are off. Secondly, I think it‘s the wrong tone for the Olympics. The Olympics is—except for some of the political problems that, you know, have and might occur in China, it is a feel-good moment. It is an all-American moment in terms of the rooting for American teams.
MATTHEWS: So is he—is John McCain the Grinch that stole the Olympics?
MITCHELL: I just think it‘s the wrong tone. I think that you want an upbeat ad. This is not a place...
MATTHEWS: Yes, let‘s do a taste test...
MITCHELL: ... to place a negative ad.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s Obama‘s—a taste test, in the idea of esthetics, you know?
MITCHELL: Got it.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s do a taste test. Here‘s his ad, also running during the Olympics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hands that built this nation can build a new economy. The hands that harvest crops can also harvest the wind. The hands that install roofs can also install solar panels. The hands that built today‘s cars can build the next generation of fuel-efficient vehicles. Barack Obama, a new vision for our economy—fast track alternative fuels, create five million jobs developing home-grown energy technologies, because America‘s future is in our hands.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m Barack Obama, and I approved this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That‘s not only cheerful, it‘s downright windswept.
MATTHEWS: That ad should be called “Kelly (ph).”
MITCHELL: You may be overpromising, but it‘s upbeat.
MATTHEWS: By the way, here at NBC, we not only run the ads when they pay for them, but we run them again and talk about them for you. We give you double pricing.
FINEMAN: Well, obviously, the difference in tone is dramatic. But I‘m not convinced that McCain loses by doing what he did there.
FINEMAN: It‘s a huge audience. It‘s a huge, huge audience. That‘s what he‘s paying for. And negative ads have been shown to work. And McCain‘s whole strategy is built on relentlessly attacking Obama. That‘s the whole campaign.
MATTHEWS: Reaching an audience that‘s general non-political, hasn‘t paid attention, and they see a little knee to the groin and they go, Oh, I never thought of that before.
MITCHELL: I still think he needs to define himself. He needs to define who he is...
MATTHEWS: OK. You‘re with Mike Murphy. You‘re with a lot of the critics of his campaign right now who are coming in and saying the ads are too negative at this festive time of year.
Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman. Thank you, Andrea Mitchell. I‘m just back.
Coming up: If you think the Clinton campaign was tough on Obama, wait until you see what some Clinton campaign memos—we just got these inside memos from “The Atlantic” magazine on what the Clinton folks really wanted to say about Obama. If you like this trash talk, stick around.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Two weeks until the Denver convention for the Democrats, and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are trying to act united—act united. But newly leaked e-mails from the heyday of the Clinton campaign could make for a rough road to Denver. Here‘s HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Boy, thank you, Ohio!
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For most of the presidential primary campaign, Hillary Clinton‘s top strategist was Mark Penn, and a new article says that Penn wanted to portray Barack Obama as not fully American. In a series of Clinton campaign e-mails and memos obtained and published by magazine “The Atlantic,” Penn describes Obama as, quote, “not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values.”
CLINTON: Thank you all, and God bless you!
SHUSTER: In late March, just after Hillary Clinton‘s stayed alive with primary victories in Ohio and Texas, Penn urged Clinton to use the inflammatory videos that emerged of Obama‘s pastor, Reverend Wright.
REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, TRINITY CHURCH OF CHRIST: No, no, no! Not God bless America, God (DELETED) America!
SHUSTER: Quote, “Does anyone believe that it is possible to win the nomination without over these next two months raising all these issues on him? Wouldn‘t a single tape of Reverend Wright going off on America with Obama sitting there be a game ender?
Clinton did not take Penn‘s harshest advice and focused her attacks instead on Obama‘s readiness.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s 3:00 AM, and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?
SHUSTER: The memos and e-mails obtained by “The Atlantic” also underscore the back-stabbing and dysfunctionality inside the Clinton campaign. Jeff Garin, who directed the strategy team, decried end runs around the communications team. In March, Clinton adviser Robert Barnett e-mailed 20 Clinton aids and wrote, quote, “The circular firing squad that is occurring is unattractive, unprofessional, unconscionable and unacceptable.”
But it‘s Mark Penn‘s e-mails that are the most controversial, and they are surfacing at a sensitive time. Top Clinton and Obama fund-raising chairs have not united as smoothly as Democrats had hoped. And while Clinton is now campaigning for Obama in places like Nevada...
CLINTON: We are one party. We share one vision.
SHUSTER: ... the issue of whether Clinton will have her name put into nomination from the convention floor remains unresolved.
(on camera): In other words, this is not a great time for Democrats to revisit the Obama-Clinton wounds or to be reminded of the harsh efforts by Clinton strategist Mark Penn.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David. Joining me now is Tom DeFrank of “The New York Daily News” and Wayne Slater of “The Dallas Morning News.” Tom, is this a leading indicator of what the Republicans will do, pick up on where Mark Penn left off, with this stuff about trying to de-Americanize Barack Obama?
TOM DEFRANK, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”: Well, they‘re going to try to do that, and they‘ve done it a little bit already, Chris, but a little more subtly and more carefully. This is very explosive stuff, and I think Senator Clinton was very wise to ignore this. Painting Obama as a quasi-American I think was not going to work.
MATTHEWS: What do you think, Wayne?
WAYNE SLATER, “DALLAS MORNING NEWS”: Oh, I think that‘s probably right. But you look at this, you see this stuff which Tom said rightly is so explosive, coming out right about now, and you wonder, Why is this happening? Who benefits from this being out there? Well, one group that benefits is the faction on the inside whose advice wasn‘t taken, who were blamed for things like, We weren‘t ready for the caucuses and we weren‘t prepared for a protracted race, and it wasn‘t what we did, the mistakes that we decided and make, it was what we didn‘t do.
It‘s ugly stuff, but you wonder if the faction on the outs in this case is trying to justify its own existence.
MATTHEWS: You mean they‘re saying if they had played tougher, they would have won?
SLATER: Absolutely, that‘s what this is. Say, who else is going to benefit from this? The McCain people could benefit. McCain‘s people don‘t have these emails, I don‘t think. This has to be somebody on the inside, who says, basically, we have been blamed for this, whether it was Mark Penn or someone else. But, clearly, that was the side that said, we were blamed for losing this thing, driving it into the ground. In fact, had we played this way, we could have won.
MATTHEWS: You know, Tom...
DEFRANK: Well, I‘m not sure they could have won, Chris. But there‘s a lot of score-settling here as well.
DEFRANK: I think Mark Penn, whatever you think of him, he doesn‘t look so good in these memos. And I think that‘s no accident.
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe he‘s not to blame for everything. I think a long time—an awful long time, a lot of us inside and out of these campaigns make the mistake of arguing that tactics make a difference, when, really, sometimes, it‘s policy.
Hillary Clinton voted to support the war. She never really took that back. I think that hurt her in Iowa.
Let me ask you about how all this fits together, this whole sort of put-together of things, of the—the memos coming out right now in “Atlantic” magazine, showing how—how tough the Barack Obama people were going to get treated if Hillary‘s people had gone all the way with it, this thing from Howard Wolfson yesterday, where he says, basically, that, you know, pushing this whole question again about this campaign, getting tough again about saying that if—if John Edwards had had his scandal exposed back before Iowa, Hillary Clinton would have won, this would have, could have, should have, all at the same time we‘re hearing that Chelsea Clinton will introduce her mother Tuesday night as a keynote speaker at the convention in Denver, that the former President Bill Clinton will speak Wednesday night, all this make nice and coming together, but, at the same time, all this static.
Tom, how‘s it fit together?
DEFRANK: Well, I mean, it fits together like the Clinton campaign, dysfunctionally. I mean, this is not a happy party. I do think Hillary Clinton is doing everything she should do. She‘s being very smart. She‘s positioning herself for 2012, just in case 2008 doesn‘t work out for Obama. But she is she‘s inoculating herself against the—the criticism that she‘s not doing everything she could.
She‘s doing everything she can, but all these memos really do not help peace and harmony and accord within the dysfunctional Democratic family.
MATTHEWS: Wayne, is there any way to report whether she‘s truly sending a signal to her troops to get in line with Barack?
SLATER: Well, you can only—the only way you can look at this is to say, what is—what steps is she taking?
I have talked to some moneymen, some of the money people who she has talked with. And she is sending a signal to some, saying, come on, we have got to get behind Barack Obama. She does this for a lot of reasons. But, just as Tom suggested, among other things, the reason is to clearly show that she‘s behind the ticket, so that she—her—her brand is not tarnished for 2012, if things go badly.
MATTHEWS: You know...
MATTHEWS: I go with the argument that she looks a little good here—I think, Tom, you made the point—that she didn‘t follow this really nasty boy advice in the campaign.
DEFRANK: Well, I think that‘s right.
And I think she was smart not to do it. But these “Atlantic”—the “Atlantic” article also paints a picture of her as vacillating and indecisive and not doing things she should have done until the last minute. And then she would go berserk and go ballistic and nuclear.
And, so, it‘s not totally flattering to her, but I think, you‘re right, she did not take the most Draconian advice that was given to her.
MATTHEWS: Your last word, Wayne?
SLATER: I think that‘s exactly right. You look at this back and forth, you‘re going to see the McCain people pick up on this theme gingerly between now and November.
MATTHEWS: You know, Willie Horton was—wasn‘t—wasn‘t he discovered by Al Gore back in the primaries in ‘88, and picked up by the nasty boys in the George Bush Sr. campaign?
Anyway, thank you, Tom DeFrank. Thank you, Wayne Slater.
Up next: the Oprah effect. Did Oprah really bring out voters for Obama? That‘s next on the HARDBALL “Sideshow.” And we have got some evidence.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”
First up, Bush in Beijing. The president got off the stands and into the sand with the American volleyball team this weekend at the Olympic.
He was put on the spot, though, when an American player invited him to give her a lucky slap on the backside.
You can see the president there opting instead for a tepid back on the back. Well, played sir.
Next, here‘s an anniversary for you. It‘s been exactly two years since this classic YouTube moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA: Let‘s give a welcome to macaca here.
ALLEN: Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s, sadly, the video that killed Republican George Allen‘s campaign for president.
Tonight, actor and Democratic activist Kal Penn is commemorating that gaffe with an Obama house party over in Virginia. The event‘s name? “Hakuna Macaca.”
Now for “Name That Veep.”
“The Financial Times” reports today that this McCain Senate colleague and close friend, by the way—is being vetted for the number-two spot.
An unnamed McCain adviser tells “The Financial Times” he‘s on the short list because—quote—“He‘s never embarrassed anyone and never misspoken.” He would also give a big boost to McCain‘s promises of bipartisanship.
Who is it? Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman. Hawk or not, he would be a tough sell to some party conservatives.
Time now for tonight‘s “Big Number.” This is a big one.
Oprah Winfrey drew blockbuster crowds for Obama out on the campaign trail this primary, but did she actually get voters out to the polls? Well, two University of Maryland economists say they have got the answer.
They report a correlation, a real connection in precincts they sampled between sales of Obama‘s—actually, sales of Oprah‘s magazine and votes for Obama during primary elections. So, there was a connection. According to them, what was the overall Oprah effect on the Democratic primary vote?
1,015,559 votes for Obama. That‘s a plus for him because of her—tonight‘s HARDBALL “Big Number.”
That study suggests, by the way, though, that Oprah is in a league of her own when it comes to endorsements. The million-vote Oprah effect—that‘s tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Up next: Tom Ridge, could we wind up seeing him on the Republican ticket this fall? Well, it‘s an outside chance. He‘s pro-choice. But he comes from the state that he says tonight on the show, if the Republicans win, they win it all.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
CHRISTINA BROWN, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Christina Brown. Here‘s what‘s happening. Russian forces push deeper into the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Russian troops gained control of all of the breakaway province of South Ossetia in the north and moved into another disputed region in western Georgia. Meantime, Russian warships blockaded Georgia‘s Black Sea coast in the south, while warplanes conducted airstrikes throughout Georgia. There are reports hundreds and perhaps thousands of Georgians have been killed.
And after returning from his weeklong visit to Asia and the Beijing Olympics, President Bush denounced what he called a dramatic and brutal escalation of violence by Russia. He also pressed Moscow to accept an immediate cease-fire and pull back its troops.
Meantime, oil fell another 75 cents today, closing at $114.45 a barrel. Crude has now dropped $33 from its all-time high exactly a month ago. And the government reports the national average for regular gasoline fell seven cents over the past week to $3.81 a gallon. That‘s the lowest level in three months—now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who was also the first secretary of Homeland Security, campaigned today with John McCain in Pennsylvania.
Governor Ridge, thanks for joining us.
MATTHEWS: Is Pennsylvania one of the states there, if your party wins it, if John McCain wins it, you have won the whole ball game?
TOM RIDGE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY CHIEF: I think, without a doubt, that‘s absolutely certain. No equivocation on that one, Chris. If we win Pennsylvania, we win it all.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you about some of the strange crossfire going on in the campaign today. Hillary Clinton‘s former media strategist, Mark Penn, had apparently an e-mail he sent in the campaign that just was published in “The Atlantic” magazine that referred to Barack Obama, the Democratic presumed nominee, as quote—“not, at his center, fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values.”
Is that what you think, that Barack Obama is not fundamentally American?
RIDGE: I think he‘s fundamentally unprepared. I think he‘s very much an American. It‘s interesting that the conflict between the Clinton campaign and the Obama campaign lingers on until a couple weeks before the convention.
I think, fundamentally, he answers to no one because of his roots and his heritage. I‘m convinced he‘s a proud American. I think, just fundamentally, he‘s not prepared to be president.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of Howard Wolfson, another Clintonite who is now working for FOX television, FOX News, who took a shot the other day and said on ABC, another network, that, if we had known about this matter involving John Edwards, if the press had broken that story before the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton would be the nominee?
Why do you think he keeps revisiting? Why are the Clinton people going back over the old—the old fight?
RIDGE: Well, it‘s interesting that—there‘s a series of questions that I‘m prepared to answer, but, unfortunately, I‘m not prepared to answer those. I think Jim Carville might be a better spokesman for that group.
It‘s interesting how it lingers. But while they continue to have their own little intraparty feud, John has campaigning hard, been campaigning aggressively, and drawing distinctions between his approach to America‘s future and Senator Obama‘s.
Senator Obama, very appropriately, is on vacation. This is a grueling, a grueling test of stamina for both candidates. But John is talking about the distinction on tax policy, energy policy. And, frankly, the recent events, with the Russia invasion on Georgia, remind everyone what a perilous time we live in, in the 21st century, which I think gives even greater credence to Senator McCain‘s insistence and his profile that he would be far better prepared to be commander in chief.
MATTHEWS: Well, the reason I asked you about the continuing intramurals between Barack Obama and Senator—and Senator Clinton, and her people is, I wonder if you think it‘s helping your candidate.
RIDGE: Well, I will let the—the voters on November 4 decide whether there‘s so much lingering disdain or unhappiness between the parties, it affects their turnout.
Again, our priority has to be to energize our base and appeal to independent Democrats. And for those Democrats out there that are disillusioned with Senator Obama, for whatever reason, I think John becomes a very, very attractive candidate.
That‘s one reason, Chris, I believe that John can and will win Pennsylvania. We have got a lot of independent-thinking Democrats here. Senator Clinton won 60 out of the 67 counties, even though she was outspent 2-1. I think we have got very fertile ground for a McCain victory in Pennsylvania.
MATTHEWS: Why would a pro-choice Democratic woman who voted for Hillary Clinton vote for Senator McCain? What would be her reasoning that you would think? Since you‘re obviously out trying to win that part of the party over.
RIDGE: Well, first of all, I think, unless she is a group—and there are groups on both sides of the aisle, Republican and Democrats, are single-issue voters. But, if there‘s a wider range of issues, from health care, the environment, to energy policy, that also drives them to support Senator McCain, I think, in contrast to Senator Obama, John is a very, very appealing candidate.
I mean, he—and, also, the fact that John has been very independent in his thinking, and he puts his country first, as has been demonstrated by nearly 30 years in public service. So, that one issue may drive people to vote on either side of the aisle. But I think, by and large, most voters on both sides of the aisle take a look at the totality of the candidate, experience, philosophy, and vision, and make the determination in that fashion.
I think, you put up the contrast, experience, vision, et cetera, John McCain will appeal greatly not—around the country, but particularly in Pennsylvania.
MATTHEWS: Do you think John McCain is getting too militant, in terms of his attitude towards Russia? You mentioned a moment ago the Russian invasion of Georgia, its neighboring republic, and former member of the Soviet Union.
MATTHEWS: Do you think calling for Russia to be kicked out of the G8 is too strong a language at this point with our relations with Russia?
RIDGE: Well, you know, Chris, we have had some interesting conversations the past couple days about that.
And John—one of the real challenges we have in the 21st century is holding a country like Russia, that‘s now invaded an emerging democracy that had free elections—how do you hold them accountable? What are the consequences? They want to be part of the civilized community, the world global marketplace.
And with gasoline prices going through the roof, their economy is very robust. But there are some responsibilities if you want to engage with the rest of the world. And, so, the notion that, until they are more accountable to the rules that civilized countries play by, be they military, diplomatic, or economic, I don‘t think it‘s necessary—necessarily being combative to suggest that, unless their conduct complies with a certain norm, that there has to be consequences.
Whether it‘s that or something else remains to be seen. But there has to be consequences in this world. And, right now, we look at Russia invading a neighboring country, and appears without, to this day, no consequences yet.
MATTHEWS: Well, speaking of consequences, Governor, what would be the reaction of Russia if we get real tough with them, and then we go back to them and say, help us in trying to denuclearize or prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons? If we‘re real tough with them on this issue of Georgia, don‘t we sacrifice our—our leverage with them in terms of getting them as an ally against a—a nuclear Iran? Isn‘t that one of the tradeoffs we have to deal with when we get tough with them?
RIDGE: Well, I think one of—well, I think—I think, in terms of getting tough, that doesn‘t mean that there‘s not engaging in quiet diplomacy.
Look, we have had several opportunities for Russia to demonstrate in the Security Council their willingness to support us. They have made some perfunctory moves. But I still think Russia continues to sell equipment related to the expansion of nuclear capability and other equipment to Iran.
You can‘t have it both ways. It‘s a complicated world. There‘s certainly no easy answer. But at some point in time, the western world, the democracies, must say to Russia, you have invaded an emerging democracy. They had free elections. We know you‘re not comfortable with them on the border, but it certainly didn‘t justify invading a peaceful neighbor.
At the end of the day, I think the greatest challenge is providing for the common defense and dealing with people like Putin, who right now is pretty much immune to world opinion, how we hold him accountable. That‘s one suggestion that‘s John‘s made. I suspect, when he‘s elected president, there will be others.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania. Up next, our HARDBALL panel with the politics fix. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix. Tonight‘s round table, Carla Marinucci of the “San Francisco Chronicle” and Jonathan Capehart of the “Washington Post.”
Carla, what do you make of Howard Wolfson? I mean, he was really a powerful voice during the campaign out there sounding the word for Hillary Clinton. Now, the other day at ABC, a network he doesn‘t get paid by, he put out the word, I think argument, I would put it, that Hillary Clinton would have won the Iowa caucuses had the scandal broken earlier on John Edwards.
CARLA MARINUCCI, “THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE”: Chris, Howard Wolfson should get back and start thinking about the future. You have to deal with the deck you have at the moment. That was the deck that Hillary Clinton had. You can‘t look at would have, should have. It‘s about what happened then. I think the polls showed that a lot of the Edwards supporters would have gone to Obama anyway. I think Howard Wolfson needs to just get over it.
MATTHEWS: The question, I guess, is I hate to get the motive, but I think them I‘m getting to it, Jonathan. Why is he doing it now? We know - the entrance polls, as valid as they are, they asked people as they went into the Iowa caucuses, if you couldn‘t vote for Edwards, who would you vote for? If he had not been in it, you could argue that Obama would have gotten 43 percent, Hillary Clinton 24 percent. He would have won a more resounding victory in the Iowa caucuses, according to the polling.
Now, out of nowhere, Howard Wolfson is saying no, that‘s not true. We would have won the whole thing.
CAPEHART: I don‘t know what‘s in Howard‘s head. I don‘t know his motives. But it is one little stink bomb in the march leading up to the convention.
MATTHEWS: Two weeks out.
CAPEHART: Two weeks out. We had list week with the video, the Youtube video of Senator Clinton at the fund-raiser, which were Obama and Clinton supporters, keep that in mind, talking about the catharsis and having her supporters have a moment where they could have their feelings known. You know, she‘s going to speak at the convention Tuesday night.
MATTHEWS: Chelsea, their daughter, will introduce her. It‘s going to be a very dramatic mother-daughter night, daughter-mother night, followed the next night by a very dramatic speech by one of the great speakers of our time, Bill Clinton. Carla, it‘s going to be quite a Clinton affair in Denver. Yet, at the same time, we‘re getting—I like your word, stink bomb—being thrown by Howard Wolfson, on top of these e-mails we‘ve gotten, that are all going to be running in the paper tomorrow, of this nasty, sort of trash talk that was coming through the Clinton grapevine before the campaign was over about how to really stink up Barack Obama.
Our history has shown that when one party tries something out in a primary, the other party uses it in the general.
MARINUCCI: Well, you know, I think the Clinton story line—
MATTHEWS: Willie Horton, that stuff.
MARINUCCI: The Clinton story line at the convention is interesting. Chris, Howard Wolfson‘s comments bring that up, that is there are a lot of Hillary delegates. They want to see her nominated from the floor. They think it‘s historic. I think the Obama people want to get beyond that. So, what this Edwards story did was just revive that whole drama again. It‘s not good for Obama going in, when they want this unified front. They want everyone to be concentrating on one thing, which is that call for change.
For that reason, the Edwards story this week is just not a good one. Thank god for the Democrats. It didn‘t happen next week as they were meeting in Denver.
MATTHEWS: They are supposed to be looking forward to Denver. In the big case for Barack, and I like it, like a lot of people like the part of him that‘s forward looking. Let‘s turn the page, Moveon.org, if you will. Let‘s move ahead. Yet, if you look at the Democratic convention, it‘s looking back. It‘s Al Gore Monday, Hillary and Chelsea on Tuesday, Bill on Wednesday. Not until the last day do you get a shot at turn the page, 21st century.
CAPEHART: Well, you do get the turn the page starting Wednesday night. Because after President Clinton speaks, the vice presidential nominee speaks. Then you start to have the look forward. Let‘s not forget, Bill Clinton is a former president of the United States. Regardless of party at the convention, the former president is given his too.
MATTHEWS: What night is Jimmy Carter‘s night.
MATTHEWS: Seriously, if there‘s a protocol here.
CAPEHART: No, Chris, the most immediate.
MATTHEWS: Oh, Carla, do you like the delegate mess of that, just the most immediate Democratic president gets a shot at the convention.
CAPEHART: George Bush is speaking at the Republican convention. John McCain wishes he could keep him as far away from him as Pepe Lepew from whoever he was trying to get away from him, that cat, that poor cat.
MATTHEWS: Who are the former presidents now? There‘s George Bush Sr. There‘s Jimmy Carter. And there‘s Bill Clinton. So everybody but Carter gets to speak at these two conventions. Carla, it‘s hard to keep the protocol straight.
MARINUCCI: I think the Edwards meltdown does pose a problem for the Democrats as they go into the convention. That‘s a big southern voice that gets taken away. When you talk about how important the southerners were to the Democrats, going back to ‘52, I mean, who were the presidents that got elected? LBJ, Clinton, Carter, the people you name. Who is going to be the southern speaker at the Democratic convention? Aside from Bill Clinton, they don‘t have one now.
MATTHEWS: Do we know if Elizabeth Edwards will get a chance?
MARINUCCI: I don‘t know and I think this poses such a problem. John Edwards—if there‘s a slime ball hall of fame for politicians, I got to say this guy gets in it. I mean, lying to not only his wife, but the voters—he had such support out here in the Bay Area. The kind of money that came out for him—look, for all reasons -- 99 percent honest, that‘s going a phrase that‘s going to go down in political annals history. If your kids ever try to use it on you, blame John Edwards.
CAPEHART: I would just disagree with Carla just a little bit on the southern voice at the convention. The people she mentioned, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, they were their party‘s nominee. John Edwards didn‘t even make it to be in major contention. I don‘t think—
MATTHEWS: He was the nominee for vice president the last time.
CAPEHART: He‘s not a stranger, but he flamed out this go around. I just—it‘s a little bit of an issue, Carla, not a lot.
MATTHEWS: I take a little vacation for weeks, and I come back and John Edwards is finished and god, I‘m really sad. We‘ll be right back with the round table for more of the politics fix.
There‘s big news breaking right now coming out of Russia. It looks like they‘re going to take over Georgia. They‘re basically trouncing that smaller, weaker Republic. We‘re going to see what that says about President Bush‘s leadership, in terms of his relationship with the man who‘s soul he once said he could see into. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These actions have substantially damaged Russia‘s standing in the world, and these actions jeopardize Russia‘s relations with the United States and Europe. It is time for Russia to be true to its word and act to end this crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the round table with something that goes beyond American politics. That‘s the situation of the former Soviet Empire, basically. Is it being reconstructed by Putin? Is his invasion of Russia (sic) an attempt to build a greater empire?
CAPEHART: That‘s what it seems like, Chris. All of a sudden, the night of the opening ceremonies in Beijing, the Russia forces go in through somewhat murky circumstances. And now, instead of fighting rebels along the border, they‘re now stretching their way across the country. It seems like—
MATTHEWS: -- for the capital.
CAPEHART: I don‘t know if you‘re going to bring this—
MATTHEWS: You can cite some of this. There‘s a lot of background. Carla Marinucci, back here in Washington, the administration is briefing at a very high level—a senior official is briefing on what‘s being called the grim nature of this. Grim‘s a strong word. We are dealing now with a Russian republic which is apparently attempting to crush a neighbor republic, a former member of the Soviet Union, Georgia, which enjoyed a Democratic history up until now. And there‘s nothing we can do about it!
MARINUCCI: That‘s right Chris. And I think one of the interesting things about this whole thing is as this crisis was breaking, Americans, by the millions, were watching President Bush at the opening ceremonies at the Olympics, seated one seat away from Putin. They seemed to be having a cordial conversation. There‘s a lot of talk about this being the 3:00 am moment. Yet, we don‘t get that. We haven‘t gotten that sense until today from President Bush of that 3:00 a.m. moment.
He did that interview with Bob Costas, and seemed almost, I don‘t know, casual. It just did not seem like that kind of gravitas was there. I think that that has played into this as well.
MATTHEWS: Carla, you‘re right. We‘re all journalists putting together the way stories are put out. As we all know, when a bad story has to be put out, like an Edwards story, you dump it on a Friday night. Here is somebody dumping it in broad daylight, with the largest world audience there is, for the Olympics—there‘s ever probably going to be for years, this audience for the Olympics. There, right in the middle of all of it, with the president sitting next to him, Vladimir Putin says, I run this sphere of influence; you don‘t. Russia‘s my issue, not yours.
By the way, it gets to the question, which I had an argument—a conversation—if we‘re going to try to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, we need Russia to do it. Can we twist their arm on that issue at the same time we‘re standing back and letting them do this? Or can we twist both arms? Do we have any strength to do either? These are very hot questions.
CAPEHART: They are. I‘m not sure what the United States‘ game plan is here. You raise a very good point. We do need Russia to deal with Iran. But we are stuck in Iraq. We still have a war that we‘re fighting, which a lot of people think is the primary war, and that‘s the war in Afghanistan, trying to find Osama bin Laden and dealing with al Qaeda. And here you have Russia taking this action, and I think it leads to an even bigger question, and that is who charge in Russia?
Remember, Putin used to be the president. He stepped down and became prime minister. It‘s supposed to be Medvedev who is supposed to be the person in charge. Yet, the guy Putin, who was the president of the county, seems to be the person who is calling all the shots. It‘s just not clear.
MATTHEWS: Well, we‘re going to see this, Carla. It seems to me this is all happening against the backdrop of a campaign for the presidency of the United States, which is itself now against the backdrop of the Olympics. A lot of force fields going on here and it looks to me like the United States has very little force.
MARINUCCI: No question, Chris. Right now, you‘ve got McCain, he‘s the battle scarred veteran. I think it works in his favor right now, giving these talks with American flags behind him, people like Tom Ridge next to him, Obama on vacation. But yet both of them I think have a challenge. They can‘t seem to be backseat driving, questioning President Bush as this is going on. It does raise questions for a lot of American voters, looking at the Bush-Republican policies, foreign policies, and whether—the whole issue of Iraq, are we now prepared with troops, with resources, to go ahead?
MATTHEWS: It‘s a frightening three ring circus right now, and the biggest right now is in Russia. Thank you very much, Carla Marinucci. Thank you, Jonathan Capehart. Join us again tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. Right now it‘s time for “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann.
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