updated 10/24/2008 11:16:14 AM ET 2008-10-24T15:16:14

HARDBALL

October 22, 2008

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

Guests: Bill Burton, Nancy Pfotenhauer, David Corn, Heidi Harris, Michelle Bernard, Joan Walsh

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Extreme makeover. The hockey mom heads to Washington, but first she stops at Neiman's.

Let's play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL, tonight from Los Angeles. Leading off tonight, the most celebrated fashion makeover since Eliza Doolittle. We learned today that the Republican National Committee has spent already more than $150,000 on clothes and accessories for Sarah Palin. So what was wrong with the hockey mom? The Politico Web site reported that the RNC spent more than $49,000 at Saks up in New York and in St. Louis, $75,000 at Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis. Talk about a shopping spree. So why did the RNC feel the self-styled hockey mom from Alaska needed a makeover? And exactly who made the decision? Who decided to keep her from intellectual scrutiny from most of the press but parade her in style? We'll talk to advisers from both camps in a moment.

Today's wardrobe bonanza's only the latest bit of bad news to hit Sarah Palin in the last 24 hours. Yesterday, we reported her historic misreading-ludicrous misreading-of the constitutional role of the vice president. "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams sat down with Governor Palin today in Ohio. We're going to talk to Brian and show you some of that interview in a moment.

And by now, you know about Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's comments here on Friday calling for an investigation of the Congress, especially the Democrats, for what she considers possible anti-American attitudes. Of course, she believes that Barack Obama may well be guilty of those attitudes, as well. Well, now comes word that because of her troubling remarks here on HARDBALL last Friday, the National Republican Congressional Committee is pulling its media ad buys for her. Her reelection campaign will no longer get the help financially of this ads. This may have seen (ph), by the way, the end of her congressional career. We'll have to see what's going on in the RNC in the next couple days, but more on that later in the show.

Also, both John McCain and Sarah Palin have referred to Barack Obama's policies as, quote, "socialist," close quote. Well, it turns out there's some history to that charge in American politics. I was just given a letter this afternoon by the former lieutenant governor of Texas. It was a 1960 letter from another Arizona Republican senator, Barry Goldwater, wherein he referred to the Democratic Party of 1960, which was, of course, led by Jack Kennedy, his buddy, as socialists. Well, we'll look at that and more. Apparently, that's a familiar charge being brought back from the dead this election.

You've seen, by the way, me dance on "Ellen" to whatever effect. Here's Barack Obama today on the show doing the same. Well, we'll have that and more with the Obama World Series two-step on the HARDBALL "Sideshow."

But we begin-well, let's take a look. We've got Bill Burton right now and Nancy Pfotenhauer. We've got both of you joining. Let me-let me ask you about this whole decision of this financial disclosure that's broken today. What do you make of it, Bill Burton, this interesting decision to sort of dress up the vice presidential candidate, $150,000 worth? What do you make of that decision by a fellow named Jeff Larson, apparently? He's the guy that's doing the nasty robocalls. He's financing that, as well.

BILL BURTON, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Well, you know, I think the American people can decide what they think about the RNC spending those dollars like that. But I would imagine that people like your former guest, Michele Bachmann, and people like Norm Coleman might wonder why the RNC is spending that money on clothes instead of in close races, such as theirs, especially as you report, considering the NRCC is taking their money out of Minnesota. Boy, I bet they wish that they had that money still in the...

MATTHEWS: Well, you're turning the corner a little too fast on me, Bill Burton. Why don't you want to talk about the clothing allowance here? What do you make of this decision? We have the hockey mom here, self-styled hockey mom, who's the regular woman next door, the one who's looking out for her kids, getting them educated, helping them with sports, a very regular person. And then the RNC says, No, that's not good enough. What we want is a style plate here. We want a style-we want to put on some show here. We're going to spend a ton of money to dress her up in fashion at Neiman Marcus and Saks. And we're going to do this because of what? What is it about here? What are they up to here, the Republican National Committee? What's the goal here?

BURTON: Well, I tell you what. I've had a hard time discerning why they do a lot of what they do. A lot of the behavior over there is erratic, and it starts at the top of the ticket.

But frankly, you know, I think we got bigger problems to worry about than the decisions that they make like this with their money. It's not something that we do, but the American people can decide on that. We're focused on things like the economy, on the-on the-you know, he had-

Senator Obama had a meeting with some of his top foreign policy advisers today to talk about, you know, where we are in the world right now.

MATTHEWS: Right.

BURTON: Those are the things that we're focused on. But you know...

MATTHEWS: OK...

BURTON: ... I can't wait to hear Nancy's answer on this.

MATTHEWS: Well, I'm focused on this right now, so let's go to Nancy Pfotenhauer for an explanation. First of all, thank you for coming on, Nancy. I want to ask you, who made this decision to pay all this-spend all this money of contributor's money? People...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... Republican Party. Who made the decision? Can you tell me?

NANCY PFOTENHAUER, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN SENIOR POLICY ADVISER: I actually don't know who at the RNC made the decision, but it was obviously the RNC's call and the RNC's...

MATTHEWS: I understand...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, let me tell you what they say when you call over there.

PFOTENHAUER: OK.

MATTHEWS: And this is where the hot potato is being flipped around. You may say this is small potatoes, but that little potato's being thrown around an awful lot right now because it's very hot. They say, Go check with the McCain campaign. They made the call. Who...

PFOTENHAUER: Well, I can tell you...

MATTHEWS: If it's such an important thing that they'll-why don't they admit something small like an expenditure, $150,000? The treasurer of the RNC's responsible. He's got or she's got a fiduciary responsibility here. Nobody will accept responsibility for this decision to turn the hockey mom into Eliza Doolittle. Who made this decision?

PFOTENHAUER: Chris, if I knew, I would tell you, honestly, but I just don't know. And I will make, I guess, election history in this election cycle by saying I agree with Bill Burton on something...

(LAUGHTER)

PFOTENHAUER: ... and that is that-I mean, basically, we should be talking about much bigger issues. I mean...

MATTHEWS: Well, let me tell you...

(CROSSTALK)

PFOTENHAUER: Go ahead.

MATTHEWS: OK. I'm with you on that. I'm with you on that. We've talked about the superficial. Now let's talk about the reality here. And I want to talk about this, the role of the vice president. I want to give you a shot at it, Nancy. You're a pro. You're not somebody in from out of town. You know how politics works. What is the role of the vice president under the U.S. Constitution? Simply put, you know it or you don't. Either a person understands the role of the vice president or they don't. What, as you understand it from the Constitution, as a professional, is the role of a vice president?

PFOTENHAUER: Well, I...

MATTHEWS: It's very important you know this answer. We're filling the part in two weeks.

PFOTENHAUER: That's right. That's right. Well, I mean, obviously, the role of the vice president is to support the president, but also to preside when necessary over the U.S. Senate. And I think that this-this is also a tempest in a teapot...

MATTHEWS: No, that's not the role of the vice president.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You got it wrong. I gave you a shot, Nancy. I want you to try again. What is the constitutional role of the vice president in the Constitution?

PFOTENHAUER: Well, I...

MATTHEWS: What's written in the Constitution?

PFOTENHAUER: Well, Chris...

MATTHEWS: You're-you're all strict...

PFOTENHAUER: ... I'm not a constitutional...

MATTHEWS: Look, you're a strict...

PFOTENHAUER: ... scholar, but...

MATTHEWS: Have you ever read it?

PFOTENHAUER: ... I do know that I've been-I'm not a constitutional scholar...

MATTHEWS: OK.

PFOTENHAUER: ... but I've been reading the commentary on this, and it seems to be that people are parsing words, and she was obviously trying to explain...

MATTHEWS: All right, let me-let me...

PFOTENHAUER: ... to a young child...

MATTHEWS: OK, let's take a look at this...

PFOTENHAUER: ... what the vice president would do.

MATTHEWS: OK. Nancy, I appreciate you coming on the show. This is a tough defense of this person, Sarah Palin.

PFOTENHAUER: Oh, my!

MATTHEWS: Apparently, she doesn't understand-the role of the vice president-let me state it very clearly right now-it's to replace the president, if that is necessary.

PFOTENHAUER: Strictly...

MATTHEWS: As Colin Powell said on Sunday, that's the job of the vice president, to stand ready under the Constitution in the tragic circumstances to replace the president. Now, that's one role. The other role is to have only a tie-breaking role as presiding officer of the U.S. Senate.

PFOTENHAUER: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: That's it. The Constitution specifically prescribes that.

In fact, it says that's all that the person has the right to do.

Now, here's Sarah Palin with her definition of this role, which sounds strange to me. And I've been in this city a long time. I have never heard anybody say-and by the way, it's very similar to what she said in her debate with Joe Biden, which made me wonder then, where does she get her civics? Let's take a look. Here's Sarah Palin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: A vice president has a really great job because not only are they there to support the president's agenda, they're like the team member, the teammate to that president, but also they're in charge of the United States Senate. So if they want to, they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Continue that thought, Nancy.

PFOTENHAUER: Well, I think that she's clearly just trying to break down what it means to preside over the U.S. Senate upon occasion to a young child. And you know, having raised five, I can tell you that you obviously have to simplify things when you discuss it.

MATTHEWS: She's talking...

PFOTENHAUER: I mean, I guess I...

MATTHEWS: ... to a news reporter at the time.

PFOTENHAUER: I think that you guys are-are-you know...

MATTHEWS: She's talking to a news reporter at the time. Nancy, she's talking to a news reporter. She said that she had been asked the question earlier in the day by a 2nd grader. In this case, she's talking to a news reporter. Explain-either she's right about the role of the vice presidency or I'm wrong. I say the role of the vice presidency under the Constitution is limited to breaking ties in the U.S. Senate. It has nothing to do with policy making, nothing to do with Senate leadership on either side of the aisle. There is no policy role there whatever for the vice president. If you'd even watched "John Adams" on television a few months ago, you would know that, going into the very beginning of our democracy.

PFOTENHAUER: Well, I...

MATTHEWS: The vice president has a formal role only. She believes somehow that the vice president of the United States has a commanding policy development role...

PFOTENHAUER: Chris, you...

MATTHEWS: ... and can lead the U.S. Senate. Where'd she get this from?

PFOTENHAUER: You can't-you can't just apply this criticism to Governor Palin and then not apply it to Joe Biden, who is constantly inferring-and Barack Obama is, as well-that he's going to offer, you know, a function as some chief foreign policy adviser, for goodness sake...

MATTHEWS: Well, that's helping the president.

PFOTENHAUER: ... and then off the record, claiming that-you know, that Barack Obama is basically...

MATTHEWS: OK, changing the subject.

PFOTENHAUER: ... going to make our enemies...

MATTHEWS: Changing the subject.

PFOTENHAUER: ... nervous enough that they're going to...

MATTHEWS: Right.

PFOTENHAUER: ... contrive or generate...

MATTHEWS: Nancy, you're changing...

PFOTENHAUER: ... an international crisis.

MATTHEWS: It's so obvious to everybody watching you're changing the subject. I'm talking about what-I want to ask you a simple question because you know the answer. What is the legislative authority of a vice president?

PFOTENHAUER: Well, I...

MATTHEWS: The legislative authority.

PFOTENHAUER: I-from the standpoint of they pass tie-breaking votes. I don't even know how you're parsing legislative authority.

MATTHEWS: That's it. That's it.

PFOTENHAUER: Obviously, legislation is drafted in the House and the Senate. Certain legislation, like revenues or tax bills, have to be...

MATTHEWS: No, we know all that.

PFOTENHAUER: ... conceived in the House then and passed in the Senate...

MATTHEWS: But the fact is-does Governor Palin know this? She thinks she's setting up policy shop in the vice president's office in the United States Senate.

PFOTENHAUER: You know that the vice president has a permanent office in the U.S. Senate. The vice president engages casually, maybe not formally, but casually...

MATTHEWS: OK...

PFOTENHAUER: ... all the time...

MATTHEWS: Do you want to watch it again?

PFOTENHAUER: ... with the Senate Republican Policy Committee...

MATTHEWS: Let's watch her again.

PFOTENHAUER: ... or the...

MATTHEWS: No, no, no. Let's watch...

PFOTENHAUER: Yes, yes. They do.

MATTHEWS: ... her again. Let's watch it again. Let's watch her again because I think you're missing what she's saying. She's saying the vice president will be a leader in the U.S. Senate in developing policy.

Let's watch it again. It's very important that we get this right because -

the clothing allowance was right, the prep sessions weren't exactly right. Let's take a look. By the way, I like the red leather jacket, but I'm telling you, what's underneath it is a problem here.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Let's take a look. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: A vice president has a really great job because not only are they there to support the president's agenda, they're like the team member, the teammate to that president, but also they're in charge of the United States Senate. So if they want to, they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Bill Burton, is that your understanding of the role of the vice president, they're in charge of the United States, they can get in there and make-would you please say something instead of standing back and letting them destroy themselves?

BURTON: Well, I-I...

MATTHEWS: Say something here...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, what do you think about this?

BURTON: ... role of the vice president is to break ties in the Senate, if there's a tie, and two, if there is something that happens, take over the job of the presidency. I mean, that's how it's prescribed in the Constitution, as far as I understand it. And I think that that's what you're expected of as vice president.

Now, Joe Biden obviously brings a lot to the ticket. He's a guy who has a lot of experience as it relates to foreign policy or relates to helping folks in the middle class, cops, firefighters, helped to pass the Violence Against Women Act...

PFOTENHAUER: Oh!

BURTON: ... but I don't know that he's-I don't know that he thinks that the role of the vice president's the same as Sarah Palin...

PFOTENHAUER: So Bill, you think that Joe Biden's not going to consult with other Senate Democrats or discuss policy with his colleagues? I mean, it's a totally false construct, Chris.

BURTON: I think (INAUDIBLE) describe it a little differently than Sarah Palin did.

PFOTENHAUER: It is-it's a totally false construct that you're holding out. Of course, the vice president, who has an office in the U.S. Capitol and who is prescribed a specific role to cast tie-breaking votes-and they've passed a few important ones in history...

BURTON: Sure. Lots of folks have offices in the United States Capitol...

PFOTENHAUER: ... is going to interact with...

BURTON: ... get in there and really mix it up on policy.

MATTHEWS: OK...

PFOTENHAUER: Oh, come on! So Joe Biden, who has never been able to...

MATTHEWS: OK...

PFOTENHAUER: ... really control his level of engagement...

MATTHEWS: OK, change the topic...

PFOTENHAUER: ... and that's why you sequestered him in Delaware...

MATTHEWS: Let me tell you something, Nancy...

PFOTENHAUER: You think he's not going to discuss with his fellow Senate Democrats public policy?

MATTHEWS: Nancy, let me tell you the bad news here. And I know you're making the best case you can, but I want to tell you something, Nancy Burton-I mean, Nancy Pfotenhauer. In 1961, when Lyndon Johnson moved from being Senate majority leader to vice president, he thought he could continue his leadership role in the Senate. He went to one meeting of the Democratic caucus, and he never went again because he was completely frozen out. They do not let anybody but a senator get involved with policy decisions. Nobody but U.S. senators can act on the floor of the United States Senate. That's the way the Constitution works. And to get that wrong...

PFOTENHAUER: Chris...

MATTHEWS: ... is to get something very big wrong. And I don't know why Randy Scheunemann or one of the smart people around-or I don't know who else, Nicole Wallace-somebody ought to go to the candidate for vice president and give them a copy of the Constitution to read. That's all it takes. It doesn't take a lot of penetrating thought.

PFOTENHAUER: Chris...

MATTHEWS: Read the job description.

PFOTENHAUER: ... are you actually postulating...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

PFOTENHAUER: ... that the vice president of the United States of a certain political party does not engage with the other senators...

MATTHEWS: OK...

PFOTENHAUER: ... of that same political party...

MATTHEWS: OK...

PFOTENHAUER: ... and have public policy discussions?

MATTHEWS: Let me-let me just-let me just tell you this...

PFOTENHAUER: How can you possibly postulate that?

MATTHEWS: Let me just tell you this. And you're doing the best you can, Nancy. You wouldn't have said what the candidate just said on this tape, which I've played twice, that the vice president is in charge of the U.S. Senate. The vice president of the United States is not in charge of the U.S. Senate. The vice president of the United States is not in charge of policy development. They're not in charge. They're the formal presiding officer with absolutely no authority. As written in the Constitution, it says, "will have no authority except" to break a tie. And somehow, in all this trip to Washington, through Neiman's and through Saks...

PFOTENHAUER: Oh, my goodness.

MATTHEWS: ... and everywhere else that she stopped off, she never picked up a copy of the Constitution. And it is a problem. It is a problem, Nancy, and you know it is. We'll talk about this after the election. You know it is. You got a candidate who doesn't know the job description. Bill Burton, thank you, Nancy Pfotenhauer...

BURTON: Any time, Chris!

MATTHEWS: Coming up, "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams joins us. He interviewed John McCain and Sarah Palin today, and we'll hear from that interview when we return.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Today on the campaign trail, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS" anchor Brian Williams interviewed John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin. Brian joins me now from Green, Ohio. And along with him, NBC News political director Chuck Todd is also with us.

Brian, how is she doing, the vice president-the nominee of the Republican Party, who's taken some hits?

BRIAN WILLIAMS, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS" ANCHOR: Well, she has, and Chuck and I have been listening to the first half of your broadcast and both feel you should be more emotional, into the topic matter, Chris. I'm just kidding.

They got off both aircraft today, Sarah Palin with the accompanying press pool, told us when she landed here that they had dipped a wing and gone down low over a cornfield carved in her likeness.

MATTHEWS: Right.

WILLIAMS: So she was talking about that as they got off the plane.

Look, you know our numbers. You've seen the Fox News poll out today. We've seen the AP out today. There's no shortage of them. Our number has it at 10, with 55 percent of respondents saying she is not qualified to be president.

Our conversation, Chris, because it is so much television and because my preference is to kind of get out of the way of it and let people see it and make their own judgments, I think we're going to serialize it on "NIGHTLY NEWS" not only tonight...

MATTHEWS: OK.

WILLIAMS: ... but over the next several nights. One of the points I take to her is that 55 percent number and get her response to it.

MATTHEWS: Let's take a look at the interview, a piece of the interview right now that's going to be on "NIGHTLY" tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Governor Palin, yesterday you tied this notion of an early test to the new president with this notion of preconditions...

PALIN: Right.

WILLIAMS: ... that you both have been hammering the Obama campaign on. What-first of all, what, in your mind, is a precondition?

PALIN: You have to have some diplomatic strategy going into a meeting with someone like Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il, one of these dictators that would seek to destroy America or her allies. It is so naive and so dangerous for a presidential candidate to just proclaim that they would be willing to sit down with a leader like Ahmadinejad and-and just talk about the problems, the issues that are facing them.

So, that's-that's some ill-preparedness right there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What are do you get out of that, Brian? What's the news value in that. I'm-I can't decipher the meaning there.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": Well, I found it interesting, this tie in an interview yesterday, tying the-what they see as this lack of-sitting down with lack of preconditions with somehow the Biden theory of an early test of the mettle of whatever the new-whomever the new president is.

I'm not sure that we advanced the ball there, but it was-it was worth trying. And-and, while I was doing that, Chuck was hanging out most of the day with campaign officials, and I think got a pretty good realpolitik feel for how this is being seen today.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, Chris, and this is something I don't-and I wouldn't blame Brian for wanting to say that there was a tenseness between-first of all, between the two-there's no chemistry-I couldn't see chemistry between John McCain and Sarah Palin.

It was-I felt as if we grabbed two people and said, here, sit next to each other. We are going to conduct an interview. There wasn't-they are not-they are not just-they're not comfortable with each other yet.

The other thing about is, you could tell they're-know that they are losing. They just have-there is an intensity there. They are drained. The entire campaign staff is drained. The two candidates seem guarded. They seem on edge. It's not as if they were rude or anything. It's not as if they weren't trying to be forthcoming.

It's just-they just seemed-it-there was-it's a-it's a negative intensity. I don't know how else to describe it. But you will see, when you-when you see the two of them together, the chemistry is not all there. You do wonder, is John McCain starting to blame her for things, blaming himself? Is she blaming him?

You know, you just wonder, what's going on inside their heads? Are they upset with how the other has treated them? And is that why her numbers are low? But, whatever it is, it's a negative vibe that you get in that room.

MATTHEWS: Well, Brian, let's put-let's enlarge the picture a bit. It seems like it's tricky being running mates. You-you have to count on the other partner to back you up, essentially if the other party is your-their number two.

Is it-do you think we are seeing a similar thing in both campaigns right now, with perhaps Joe Biden talking about the-the threat that will face America six months into a Barack administration, because he is a newcomer? That must have upset his running mate a bit.

WILLIAMS: I imagine so.

And, Chris, you know your history. This has only been kind of a hand-in-glove relationship a finite number of times in the modern era. You got to see up close the Carter-Mondale relationship. You saw how it worked in the campaign and saw how it worked in the West Wing, kind of an early notion of the partnership of a vice president...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WILLIAMS: ... to a president.

And I think the tops of both of these tickets are-are getting used to it. But, on this-on the one side, on the GOP ticket, you have what has just become a colossal story. And it was all encapsulated in the seven-minute soliloquy that Colin Powell delivered on-on "Meet the Press," what has happened since the naming of Sarah Palin by John McCain.

So many columnists have juxtaposed it to his-his expression on every poster at this rally today, "Country First."

MATTHEWS: Yes, I want to ask that about...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: Right. It was.

I mean, I just think that..

MATTHEWS: Yes, but, Chuck, I want to ask you about...

TODD: Go ahead, Chris.

MATTHEWS: ... what-what has been very successful politics, I think and it is politics-on the Democrats' side, which is to change the topic from she is a number two to she better be ready to be a number one.

That-Colin Powell said that. He's a Republican. He said that very well, I think. The job of the vice president is to be ready immediately to be president.

TODD: Right.

MATTHEWS: That's a-a definition which seems to have taken hold, a job description that's taken hold.

TODD: Well, it has. And you just look at our polling, we have the 55 percent.

The other thing that I think that people may have overlooked in our poll yesterday had to do with the number of people who said John McCain's age is a factor.

As her negatives have gone up, concern over John McCain's age has gone up a little bit. Those two go together. It's as if they realize, oh, I wasn't worried about John McCain. The idea of John McCain as president didn't bother me. He always seemed very presidential.

That's not it. The age thing was always sitting out there. And you do wonder, does-do-does her-does the problems that voters have with her raise that other number with McCain? We have seen some evidence of that today.

But, again, I just-I-I just can't-I can't emphasize enough the odd body language. I know Obama-Obama and Biden don't have the-the great chemistry yet...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: ... but there seems to be some chemistry.

I didn't see any chemistry here. It is-it very much feels forced. And you almost wonder-now, maybe it's the intensity of the moment. They know they are down. You-you-you have no sleep at night. You need that idea that you might win to probably keep you going. And maybe they don't feel that they can win right now, and so they are missing that intensity.

But that was the thing that struck me more than anything, the lack of you almost wonder why they wanted the two of them sitting next to each other.

MATTHEWS: Well, that is a question.

WILLIAMS: And, Chris, allow me to point out that there is a-there's a news item. We're-we are jumping ahead at least three days' coverage, because, again, the conversation takes so long, in evening news terms, to play out.

I asked Governor Palin if she was going to release her medical records. She said she would. So, that is something of a reversal, and, I must say-Chuck was there to witness this-a surprise to her campaign.

TODD: It was a surprise to the campaign staff.

That's the other thing, Chris, you do wonder. Both of these candidates are on the verge of pulling a Bulworth. Or at least you feel like they are on the verge of pulling a Bulworth.

(LAUGHTER)

TODD: I think they-they are second-guessing everything.

You know, that-that moment and this "New York Times Magazine" piece that is out there talking about the behind the scenes of this campaign, how they were in search of a message.

We're at this-we are at a critical juncture inside this campaign for the McCain folks. And that is, who is trusting who? You have got people worrying about their reputations now. Now you're wondering, do the candidates trust the staff? Does the staff trust the candidate?

It is-this is a very dangerous time in a campaign that is behind. They desperately need some good news, because you do wonder, is that cohesion disappearing inside...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: ... not just between the two mates that we saw today on camera, but with the entire campaign structure?

MATTHEWS: OK. It's great.

Thank you very much, Brian Williams. Good luck with the interviews.

And thank you, Chuck Todd.

You can see Brian's interview with Governor Palin and Senator McCain tonight on "NBC Nightly News."

Up next: The Phillies take on the Tampa Bay Rays tonight in game one of the World Series. Can Barack Obama honestly be for both teams? That's next in the "Sideshow."

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the "Sideshow."

Tonight, it's game one of the swing state World Series. It's Rays vs. the Phillies, Florida vs. Pennsylvania, if you will.

Now for the '08 candidates. This makes it very tricky to balance things out.

Here's Barack Obama at a recent rally in Philly and another rally in Tampa.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: My White Sox are gone, so I will go ahead and root for the Phillies now.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I have said from the beginning that I am a unity candidate...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: ... bringing people together. So, when you see a White Sox fan showing love to the Rays...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: ... and the Rays showing some love back, you know we are on to something right here.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: John McCain wasted no time in calling Obama out on his double-dealing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: And I think I may have detected a little pattern with Senator Obama. It's pretty simple, really. When he is campaigning in Philadelphia, he roots for the Phillies. Then, when he's campaigning in Tampa Bay, he shows love to the Rays.

(AUDIENCE BOOING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: But now, just to keep it fair here, check out the cheerleading by his own running mate, Governor Palin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: How about those Tampa Bay Rays?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

PALIN: That was good. That was good. It tells me that the people in this area know a little something about turning an underdog into a victor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Congratulations to your Phillies in making it to the World Series.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

PALIN: OK, Philly fans, you do know all about turning an underdog into a victor.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Red Sox fans know how to turn an underdog into a victor.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

PALIN: And that's exactly what you can help us do on November 4.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Unlimited support for all teams. limited vocabulary with which to express it.

By the way, I have got to thank Comedy Central for catching that traveling show by Governor Palin.

Now, McCain yesterday tried to score one on Congressman Murtha of Western Pennsylvania, but he botched the punchline.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I think you may have noticed that Senator Obama supporters have been saying some pretty nasty things about Western Pennsylvania lately.

(AUDIENCE BOOING)

MCCAIN: And, you know, I couldn't agree with them more. I couldn't disagree with you. I couldn't agree with you more than the fact that Western Pennsylvania is the most patriotic, most God-loving, most-most patriotic part of America.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Don't screw up the punchline.

Anyway, that was Jack Murtha, by the way, initially, said what he did about racism in Western Pennsylvania affecting the election. But he also modified his remarks before that.

Anyway, next, Barack Obama made his return to "Ellen DeGeneres" today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW")

ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST, "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW": Senator, let's talk about dancing.

Michelle was on the show and she was talking some smack about your moves.

You have 20 seconds.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I noticed that.

DEGENERES: Yes. You have 20 seconds to respond to this clip.

(MUSIC)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

DEGENERES: All right.

OBAMA: I don't think-let me you that Michelle may be a better dancer than me, but I am convinced I am a better dancer than John McCain.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Do you love me now that I can dance?

Now for tonight's "Big Number," a little nugget from history. When was the last time Republicans won the White House without a Bush or a Nixon on the ticket? You won't believe this. You will not believe this: 1928. You have got to go back to 1928 to find a year the Republicans won the White House without a Nixon or a Bush on the ticket.

I owe James Carville for that gigantic detail. Eighty years of nothing but Bushes and Nixons in winning Republican tickets-tonight's "Big Number." You can take that to the barroom tonight. What a bet that is. Ask-nobody will know that. You got to go back to 1928 without a Nixon or a Bush.

Anyway, up next, the National Republican Congressional Committee is giving up on Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann after she called for an investigation into anti-American views in Congress right here on HARDBALL. We will get back to that one next.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I'm Julia Boorstin with your CNBC "Market Wrap."

Another major sell-off triggered by some bleak corporate earnings reports and concerns about the global economy. The Dow plunged 514 points, but it was down almost 700 points about 20 minutes before the close. The S&P fell 58 points. The Nasdaq dropped 80.

Meantime, oil prices tumbled again on worldwide recession fears.

Crude fell $5.43 to $66.75 a barrel. That's the lowest level in 16 months.

President Bush invited the leaders of 20 nations to the White House on November 15 for a global summit on the economy. He's also inviting whoever wins the presidential election.

Among the companies reporting quarterly earnings today, drugmaker Merck. It also announced it is cutting 7,200 jobs.

But, after the closing bell, drugmaker Amgen reported earning that easily beat analyst estimates. It also raised its outlook.

That's it from CNBC, first in business worldwide-now back to

HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

On Friday, U.S. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann came on HARDBALL and said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OCTOBER 17, 2008)

MATTHEWS: So this is a character issue. You believe that Barack Obama may-you're suspicious because of this relationship-may have anti-American views? Otherwise, it's probably irrelevant to this discussion.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: Absolutely. I absolutely...

MATTHEWS: So, you believe it brings into-so, you believe that...

BACHMANN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... that Barack Obama may have anti-American views?

BACHMANN: Absolutely.

I-I'm very concerned that he may have anti-American views. That's what the American people are concerned about. That's why they want to know what his answers are. That's why Joe the plumber has figured so highly in had the last few days...

MATTHEWS: What-OK. I want to get off this.

BACHMANN: ... because Joe the plumber...

MATTHEWS: I want to say this. What do you mean by...

BACHMANN: ... asked the question that a lot of Americans want to know.

What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?

I think people would be-would love to see an expose like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, since Friday night, her opponent out there, the Democratic opponent running against Congresswoman Bachmann, has been raising a lot of money on happened here Friday night, which is what is going on out there, apparently.

And now we learned late today that the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee is pulling the TV ads out in that race, which is usually a sign they are not really hopeful anymore. They believe that that seat is in deep jeopardy.

Let's find out what happens right now. We have a couple people joining us. David Corn joins us right now, as well as-and he's from "Mother Jones" magazine. Heidi Harris has been on the show many times. She's a talk show radio host star out there in-in Las Vegas.

David Corn, what is the significance of this that apparently people in that state, in that district up in Minnesota, a Republican district, didn't like what they heard from their representative?

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES MAGAZINE": Chris, you may be the king maker in this district.

MATTHEWS: I don't seek the role.

CORN: Before she came on your show, CQ had her rated as an easy win. After she came on your show, and donations flooded to her Democratic opponent, they moved the district to leans Republican, and then today it seems it's going to be shifted again to a toss up or maybe a Democratic-leaning district, because, as you noted, the National Republican Campaign Committee has pulled out. They're not going to spend any money in that district anymore.

She is still free to do what she wants to. In fact, today, she tried to have it both ways. She sent out a fund-raiser attacking you and asking people to send her money because she has now been criticized by the far left. And, at the same time, she said she was sorry. So she apologized, but also accused you of twisting her words. So she is in a big mess there and it's not going to end well for her at her at this point.

MATTHEWS: I'll let the words speak for themselves. Here's Michelle Bachmann, who is raising money on this issue. Here's the ad, quote, "Chris Matthews did what Chris Matthews is paid big bucks to do: twist my words and set them up for full fledged distortion when his next guests came on." OK, it's a free country.

Let me go to Heidi on this one. Heidi Harris, your thoughts about this race. I noticed that General Powell also commented on this on Sunday when he faced the press.

HEIDI HARRIS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You know what's interesting to me about it is I have been on your show a million times; you don't twist my words. If people want to buy themselves, they can do it without you twisting them around. I think it's a little whiny to complain and to try to say that you trapped somebody into saying something. You know, politicians do this on the left and the right all the time. Say what you mean, stand by it and don't try to back track. It drives me crazy.

MATTHEWS: Can I send you candy? Just kidding. I thought you would take the other point of view. I thought you were going to come on and bash me. I'm just kidding, Heidi. I'd thought you'd take the other view.

HARRIS: I'm not trying to suck up, Chris. But honestly, I get so tired of politicians who don't have the guts to say what you mean. I do it every time I am on my radio show.

MATTHEWS: Right.

CORN: This is the problem. Heidi, this is problem. The problem is she did come on Chris' show and she said what she meant. She said people who she disagrees with, and mainly she was referring to liberals in Congress, are anti-American. That's clearly what she meant. Her words were not twist. And most Americans, I think even conservatives, say they might not agree with Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, but they are not anti-American.

MATTHEWS: Heidi, thanks for coming on the show. Let me ask you this, define the ideological difference in this campaign. If you were going to a person who was just thinking about this election; they've got a week and a half to think about it, what would you say is the philosophical-forget the personalities for a minute here. What are the philosophical differences in the origin of the two candidates for president? The two people running, what do they say politically to you that is important for people to think about?

HARRIS: I think Barack Obama scares me when he says that we need to redistribute the wealth, when he uses any kind of form, spread the wealth around, whatever he said. To me, that is socialism and that's not what America is based on. Now, I'm not going to say that Barack Obama doesn't love America. That's only something that Barack Obama can define. But it's not what our country was founded on.

People who think we need to have universal health care, that is not what America is founded on. Maybe you think we should have that, but that's not America. That doesn't mean you hate your country, but that's not what we were founded on.

On the other hand, there are people-I don't want to go off on the Bill Ayers thing, because I'm bored with the topic. But there are people blame America for everything, and want to do us damage and who are, believe it or not, Americans. Those people are anti-American. I don't know how you can be anti-American and take advantage of the incredible prosperity and freedom we have in America, but people do it. I wouldn't put Barack Obama in that category, but wanting to redistribute my wealth, in your case, because you're richer than I am, your wealth, Chris, that's not American.

MATTHEWS: Fair enough, as everything is on this show. David Corn, your thoughts on this? There is an ideological difference. I think Heidi is right, there is a real ideological difference. We can argue about the nomenclature we use, but there's no doubt the progressive income tax is a redistributive process that was brought in in the 19-teens under Woodrow Wilson. It wasn't no more-we have a direct tax now on income, which is based on a progressive rate. If you make 25 a year, you pay a lower percentage than the person who makes 250 a year. That was what the fight was about with the plumber the other day, Joe the plumber.

CORN: If the Republicans want to argue this honestly, and say we are not for Social Security; we're not for Medicare; we're not for Medicaid; we're not even for Small Business Administration loans, because they don't work in the marketplace, fine. Let them make that argument and say, we don't believe in anything in terms of redistributing government assistance.

The funny thing about using the word socialism in this context, who is the most socialistic governor in the United States? That would be Sarah Palin. Alaska survives fiscally because what it does is it taxes the oil companies and then sends a check out to every citizen of Alaska, because the argument is-and actually, I like this argument-the citizens of the state own the wealth, the natural resources of the state collectively, and they all should get a payment back when those resources are exploited by the big bad oil companies. If that's not some form of socialism, I don't know what is.

She should really not just check the Constitution, but check the dictionary before she gets out there and starts calling Barack Obama socialistic because he believes in a progressive income tax, which has been in existence in this country for decades. Even John McCain-

MATTHEWS: Heidi, we only have a minute. How would you respond to that statement?

HARRIS: I wouldn't blame that decision in Alaska on Sarah Palin. The woman is only 44 years old. This is not her decision that she made. David makes a good point. This is something they all share in Alaska. When somebody wants to take more of your money, Chris, than mine, because you make more money than I do, that's just wrong. It's ridiculous to me. Everybody should pay the same amount, 10 percent, 15 percent, whatever that is, a flat rate. That would be fair.

But it's ridiculous to say it's patriotic to pay more or, in the case of Harry Reid recently, saying we need government to get more involved in us. I don't want that to happen. I don't want it.

MATTHEWS: It's a great argument. It's a great American argument.

It's never, ever, ever going to end. Thank you very much, David Corn. Thank you for coming in. Heidi Harris, thank you for supporting me. I like that sometimes.

Up next, the new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll finds voters saying Sarah Palin is the biggest concern they have, the biggest drag, you could say, on John McCain. With the McCain campaign floundering, is this pick of Palin looking like the problem? The politics fix is next. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix. Tonight's round table, MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard and Joan Walsh of Salon. Joan Walsh is right near me in Los Angeles right now. The Politico website reported that the RNC, the Republican National Committee, has been spending big buck for Sarah Palin's clothing and accessories. They spend more than 49,000 dollars at Saks in St. Louis, 75,000 at Nieman Marcus. They keep spending. It's apparently up over 150,000 dollars in just a month.

I guess the question is, why do they sell this woman as the woman next door, the hockey mom, if you will, the regular person, who is coming in out of nowhere, far from the big cosmopolitan areas, dress her up cosmopolitan to look like Jackie Kennedy? What is the game here? And is it important? I want to ask Michelle Bernard.

MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm going to start of, Chris, by paraphrasing a columnist, Mark Taps (ph), here in Washington at the "Examiner" today, who basically said something akin to every time he thinks the Republican party couldn't do anything more stupid, they go out and do something else dumb. We've seen this time and time again. It really hurts the RNC. It hurts the image.

We've said before, let Sarah Palin be Sarah Palin. I'm sure there are people within the RNC who thought that if they let her go out and dress the way she did before she was the vice presidential nominee, that people might think she is some sort of yokel from Alaska, who is not looking vice presidential or presidential, should that ever happen. But the bottom line is have sold her as a Wal-Mart mom, the common mother, the Target mother. And this just does further damage to the party, which is calling Barack Obama an elitist.

It is pretty damaging. I don't think it will last long. I think the economic issues the country is facing right now are a lot more important than how much money she spends on her clothing. But it was really just a very stupid mistake to make.

MATTHEWS: What do you make, Joan, of this? It seems to me, you either have a situation of Eliza Doolittle, someone who is being confected, created to look cosmopolitan, created to look big city, and informed. Those things don't always go together. Certainly, wealth and style may have nothing to do with substance. When I see somebody, when they have all this money, and building her up to look like a fashion plate, and don't spend five minutes sitting her down with a copy of the Constitution, or the simple reading of what a vice president is supposed to do, I do worry they have their priorities wrong.

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: I'm sorry I'm laughing. I think that you're right. If I had seen a line item for 150,000 dollars of tutoring, I would have thought that was money well spent. And I think this is ridiculous. I agree with everything Michelle said. Although, the point Michelle made about, well, this is only a one or two-day story; they only have another few days. The election is almost here. They cannot afford another one of these scandals.

The other thing I would say is, hey Chris, you and I, Michelle, we've looked at video of her during debates when she was running for governor. The woman was the governor of Alaska. She wasn't running around in a track suit like Roseanne Barr in the old "Roseanne Show." She's not a zhlub. What did she need from Nieman Marcus? What did she need from Saks?

MATTHEWS: Apparently, this fellow named Jeff Larson, this guy out in the Twin Cities got the idea, he had to get her on a shopping spree. He is also the guy who is doing these virulent, nefarious robo-calls that I think are awful, same guy.

Anyway, let me ask you this, one last concern: are you concerned that she has this extra-Constitutional notion of the vice presidency and the authority of that office? Michelle?

BERNARD: I'm not concerned because-I actually really hate to say it, because there are things about Governor Palin that I actually really like, but I don't quite believe that she necessarily understands what the vice president does. That being said, maybe she was thinking about the Dick Cheney model, not that he has any legislative capacity whatsoever. But maybe she is just a little bit confused. So no, my concern, quite honestly, is that she might not really understand what the vice president does.

And Chris, remember, we have seen interviews of Governor Palin in the past where she did say that you could never really talk her into the job of being the vice president until you could tell her what the vice president actually does. That's a problem for Governor Palin. They need to fix this in the next few weeks.

MATTHEWS: Well, Dick Cheney, whose notion of the vice presidency is as big as the Hindenburg, still didn't think he was Senate majority leader. We'll be right back with Michelle Bernard and Joan Walsh for more of the politics fix. You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We're back with Michelle Bernard and Joan Walsh with more of the politics fix, just a minute now. We have an interesting letter this afternoon. Ben Barnes, who is lieutenant governor of Texas, sent me this letter. It was a letter sent by Barry Goldwater back in 1960, the day after Lyndon Johnson got the vice presidential nomination. Here's what Barry Goldwater, another senator from Arizona, said: "it is difficult to imagine a person like you running in a second spot to a weaker man"-that would be Kennedy-"but it is even more incredible to try to understand how you are going to try to embrace the socialist platform of your party."

Michelle Bernard, socialism, not a new word. It was used by Barry Goldwater back against the Kennedy platform back in '60, socialist.

BERNARD: Absolutely. John McCain has said, time and time again, that he is a Barry Goldwater Republican, and that is his hero. The message of socialism, and the accusations thrown at Barack Obama really work with the Republican base, at least certain elements of the base. To that extent, one can see why the McCain campaign keeps throwing that word out.

The bottom line is, if you look at the polls, it is not a message that is resonating with independents or with Reagan Democrats. They have to look for a new message.

MATTHEWS: Joan?

WALSH: Well, again, when you've got Hank Paulson nationalizing our banks, the meaning of socialism is kind of obscure at this point. It is obscure anyway, Chris. As Michelle points out, this appeals to an-maybe appeals to an older demographic.

MATTHEWS: Older than me, even. Michelle, you're great. Thank you, Joan. Thank you very much, Joan. I'll see you in the building. Right now, it is 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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