updated 12/23/2008 2:33:32 PM ET 2008-12-23T19:33:32

Guests: Jim Cramer, Eugene Rivers, Mike Barnicle, Mike Rogers, Todd Harris, Steve McMahon, John Heilemann, Michelle Bernard

MIKE BARNICLE, GUEST HOST:  The money party is over. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Mike Barnicle, in tonight for Chris Matthews. 

Leading off tonight:  Show me the money.  The banks that received the first $350 billion in a taxpayer bailout either can‘t or won‘t tell us how the money is being spent. 

The Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion from the government, but not one could provide an accounting of the cash influx.  Are the banks lending to homeowners and small-business owners, as they‘re supposed to?  Or are they using some of that money for corporate bonuses?  And, if there‘s no accountability, is the next $350 billion wave headed for the drain? 

Much more on this outrageous story with CNBC‘s Jim Cramer in a moment. 

Plus, president-elect Barack Obama is still drawing fire from gay rights activists for inviting conservative evangelical minister Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration.  Exactly what was Barack Obama thinking?  Was it a betrayal of gay supporters to give an evangelical leader a prominent role at his inauguration, or was it a shrewd, reach-across-the-aisle power play?  We will get two very different opinions on this in a moment. 

Also, President Bush has vowed to oversee a smooth transition of power to Obama‘s administration.  But tell that to Vice President Cheney. 

Here he is on “FOX News Sunday” talking about his successor, Joe Biden. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”)

RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If he wants to diminish the office of vice president, that‘s obviously his call.  I think that president-elect Obama will decide what he wants in a vice president.  And, apparently, from the way they‘re talking about it, he does not expect him to have as—as consequential a role as I have had during my time. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  Well, I guess that‘s true. 

Cheney was also unrepentant about telling Senator Leahy to go ‘bleep‘ himself in an infamous exchange four years ago.  What is Dick Cheney up to? 

Anyway, we will talk to our strategists about that one. 

Also, last week, Caroline Kennedy seemed to be a shoo-in to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate.  Now the New York tabloids are being so tough on her that one pol she‘s being “Palinized.”  Will she make it?  Can she survive that and more in the “Politics Fix”? 

And what brand of shoe is the hottest in the world these days?  Well, here‘s a hint.

Good reflexes.

How one lucky shoe designer is profiting from protests in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.” 

But we begin with that famous phrase, follow the money.  What did the banks do with $350 billion in taxpayer money? 

Jim Cramer, a legend, is host of CNBC‘s “Mad Money.”

Jim, the four questions that the Associated Press asked, all right?  Here they are.  And I‘m not going to be happy with segment unless your head explodes in anger by the end of it, OK? 

JIM CRAMER, HOST, “MAD MONEY”:  Oh, that will happen no matter what. 

You‘re good for that.

BARNICLE:  All right, that‘s good. 

Here are the four questions:  How much money has been spent?  What was it spent on?  How much was held in savings?  And what‘s the plan for rest of the money?

Now, my question to you, before we get to the issue of the banks‘ response to these questions, could Hank Paulson or Ben Bernanke give us an answer to those questions? 

CRAMER:  No, I don‘t think they have a clue. 

I mean, one of the things that happened here is that dissembling Hank Paulson, which is what we call him “Mad Money,” literally took that money and did the wrong thing with it.  He promised us what I thought was a great plan, which was to buy mortgages, refinance the mortgages, make some of these people be able to stay in their homes. 

And, instead, he just wrote checks to the banks, because things were either much worse than he thought or he really didn‘t have a plan to begin with.  And that‘s what really drives me crazy. 

BARNICLE:  Jim, now, you—you have done this on “Mad Money” several times.  I have heard you do it.  I have heard you talk about the story, about the day they brought all of the banks to Washington, D.C.  Tell us that story.  And why is it that the fact—the fact—we now know it‘s a fact—that a couple of the bigger banks didn‘t want the money, why is that not more of a story? 

CRAMER:  Well, I—I don‘t understand why we have decided that every bank was out there begging. 

I personally don‘t think Bank of America, which didn‘t want the money

Wells Fargo didn‘t want the money.  You know, we could pillory—we could pillory them all we wanted to, Mike, but why?  They were told, you had to have it. 

Now, some banks needed it really badly.  And my sources indicate that Citi needed it the worst.  Now, if they needed it the worst, they should have just thrown a pile at Citi, and not everybody else. 

Mike, there should be an investigation of what happened here.  But you know what?  No one seems to even care.  I mean, it‘s like AIG, here‘s $150 billion.  We don‘t know what they‘re doing with it.  I will tell you, this is just government gone wild. 

BARNICLE:  Well, now, you say nobody cares.  I mean, I think a lot of people do care.  People who watch your show, average people care about it. 

CRAMER:  Oh, they care.  But they don‘t—you know, they‘re not in charge. 

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE:  Well, but that‘s my question to you, is why does it seem—and maybe I‘m wrong here—that a lot of the people in Congress on both sides, of the House and the Senate, the two sides of the Capitol—understand so little about business, and maybe even a lot of business writers writing for some of our bigger papers seem to know so little about business? 

What‘s up with that? 

CRAMER:  I think people were buffaloed.  I think that they don‘t have a lot of contacts at the higher level of banks. 

I do know—I mean, in the—in the defense of banks, they‘re scared to death.  They may not be lending the money because they, frankly, don‘t think they really have any money, when you look at their losses.  Many of our banks are insolvent in the country.  Certainly, no one wants to hear that. 

But I would emphasize that the lack of sophistication in Congress and among the press has allowed a lot of free passes to Hank Paulson, to the new treasury secretary—he is going to be Tim Geithner—who is so worshipped and loved—please tell me what he did right—and to Ben Bernanke, who finally got it right last Tuesday. 

And I have decided I‘m no—now he‘s just—he‘s Benjamin “Boo-yah” Bernanke.  He‘s done something right.  But the pass, the free pass these guys have gotten, particularly, again, with the AIG, is just incredible to me. 

I—I have got to tell you, Mike, this is, without a doubt, the most mystifying thing, is, where is the reporting? 

BARNICLE:  Where‘s your sense of where the money is, though?  Where has this money gone, the maybe that has been out there already?  Where is it going?

CRAMER:  Well, some of it—Bank of America actually put some in China.  I think they would like that back, if they had a chance. 

But where I think the money is going is to take charges against.  In other words, they take the money in.  Then they can have bad loans, and they don‘t have to have the bank examiner come in crawling all over them, saying, listen, you have got to raise more capital. 

Now, this is going to sound really heretical, but many of these banks actually need much more than they have gotten.  Some don‘t need any.  What the government should have done is merged a lot of banks, sold them to the healthy banks.  And then we wouldn‘t be giving a little bit, billion here, a billion there, which, of course, as Dirksen said, does add up. 

I feel that this outrage, which is that the TARP money was spent on an entirely different issue than we thought, is still not being understood by Americans as the betrayal, the ultimate betrayal, of the Bush administration. 

BARNICLE:  But, again, how does it happen, the TARP money?  This is our money.  This is taxpayer money. 

CRAMER:  Right. 

BARNICLE:  How does it happen that the secretary of the treasury, and I guess the chairman of the Fed, Ben Bernanke, goes along with it...

CRAMER:  Right. 

BARNICLE:  ... takes our money, hands it over to these banks, not really telling them, “I want to know where every cent is spent,” supposedly to help people...

CRAMER:  Right. 

BARNICLE:  ... who are failing in their mortgages—and yet that seems not to have helped—how does it happen that this money just goes...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAMER:  This is—you know, every night I come out here, I say the same thing.  It‘s our money.  What are they doing with it?  It‘s our darn money.  What is AIG doing with it?  They won‘t tell us.

No one will open their books.  What are they doing with our money?  It‘s almost like we gave it to these guys and then we said, have a superty-duper time. 

Meanwhile, if we get—give money to Gm, where actually lots of people work, although they don‘t make $500 million a year, we don‘t—we want to know every penny.  Where is every penny going?  But when it comes to the banks and the insurance companies, we‘re saying, hey, look, don‘t—wait.  This is a don‘t ask/don‘t tell.  Whatever you say goes, because you‘re really smart. 

How can that be?  These guys are paying themselves $50 million, but, oh, we‘re all upset those guys who make 75 G‘s on the assembly line. 

Now, I‘m not that happy if people don‘t—get paid and don‘t work.  But, Mike, the outrage against the unions is so funny, because there will be like one or two guys at Goldman Sachs that make the whole thing about what a factory floor would make. 

(CROSSTALK)

CRAMER:  But, hey, listen, whatever they want is fine.

BARNICLE:  Well, look it, Bob Rubin made more since he went to Citigroup when he got out of the government...

CRAMER:  Don‘t you dare criticize Bob Rubin.  He‘s the greatest man who has ever lived. 

(LAUGHTER)

CRAMER:  I mean, isn‘t that what the press says all the time?  Don‘t you dare mention Bob Rubin.  He‘s just unbelievable.

Bob Rubin is an outrage.  I bet you even the people at Citigroup feel like he‘s a jerk. 

BARNICLE:  I mean, he‘s made more money since he left the government and went with Citigroup than the entire locals, all three locals for all three car companies in Detroit have made on the line in nine years. 

CRAMER:  Mike, you better watch yourself.  The posse is going to have to come after you for telling the truth about Rubin.  You are not allowed to breathe a word of the truth about Rubin.  You will never be invited anywhere!

(LAUGHTER)

CRAMER:  You‘re done.  You‘re done.

BARNICLE:  I‘m not invited anywhere anyway.

(LAUGHTER)

CRAMER:  you can‘t even get into—I will tell you something. 

Madoff, Barnicle, you‘re in the same thing.

Madoff, Barnicle, these guys are both in trouble, because you actually told the truth about Bob Rubin.  Don‘t you dare ever repeat that.  It‘s just between you and me.  Can we redo the segment? 

BARNICLE:  Yes.  We will do it after we finish the segment.

CRAMER:  I mean, Madoff, Rubin.  I mean, like you, come on, you blew the cover of Rubin. 

BARNICLE:  What do you think the deal is, Jim, that you get the auto guys, you get Nardelli, you get the General Motors guy, you get the Chrysler, you get the—the—the Ford guy, you get them all in Washington, you get the UAW guy in Washington, and, basically, these senators are asking them for their grandmother‘s thumbprint, and, you know, everything, before they will give them a cent. 

And, yet, anyone representing the big banks, whether it‘s Citi, whether it‘s B-of-A, whether it‘s Wells Fargo, they don‘t have to go to Washington. 

CRAMER:  Let me give you the biggest scandal.

AIG has gotten 10 times what they gave the auto companies.  Do you know that my work says that most of it went to European banks?  But, of course, AIG won‘t tell us.  We subsidized European banks.  Hey, there‘s a good scandal for you.  But, again, you can‘t tell the truth about that either, because then all the people get mad at you. 

BARNICLE:  What about AIG?  They get the money, and then they 425 grand on a weekend in California, like two weeks after they get the money.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAMER:  They have got to protect those employees, Mike.  Come on. 

(CROSSTALK)

BARNICLE:  Where are these people in Washington who work for us?

CRAMER:  If you don‘t pay those people millions of dollars, they may go to other firms. 

BARNICLE:  Don‘t these people work for us in Washington?  Aren‘t they supposed to be watching our money? 

CRAMER:  If it comes to finance, you can buffalo people.

I mean, look, I worked at Goldman Sachs.  I was a hedge fund manager.  I know the tricks, Mike.  I got to tell you, I‘m sitting here just laughing.  I said, boy, the government is just—no more—we don‘t have to sell a single house in the Hamptons, not one, because the government has bailed out the Hamptons houses. 

BARNICLE:  Let me ask you a question about community banks.  If you drive around our major cities...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAMER:  What?  Community banks? 

BARNICLE:  Community banks.

CRAMER:  They can‘t get big money. 

BARNICLE:  Don‘t they need the money?  Don‘t their—doesn‘t their money go directly from their little bank on the corner in these communities that they serve right to mortgages and car loans? 

CRAMER:  Right.  Yes.  But, Mike, they didn‘t get in trouble.  Why should we help them?  They were just good hardworking banks. 

(LAUGHTER)

CRAMER:  You‘re missing the whole point here.  You have got to pay yourself millions of dollars and get in trouble to get the money. 

The community guys, they‘re paying themselves like $80,000.  They‘re like GM workers.  Why should we help them?  They haven‘t done anything wrong. 

You refuse to see irony. 

BARNICLE:  What do you think is going to happen in the next six months with the foreclosure rate in s country? 

(CROSSTALK)

CRAMER:  The foreclosure rate actually will peak, I believe, in the middle of next year.  And the reason is pretty simple.  Every time houses go down to minus-40 percent, they get sold.  So, the foreclosure peak will come because houses are going to go down so much in value, and we will have mortgage money at 4.5 percent. 

Hey, Ben Bernanke did good by that.  That was a good thing he did.  Had we actually fulfilled the goal of TARP, I think we would have bottomed pretty much in the next three months. 

But, remember, Hank Paulson came to town, told you one thing.  But, you know, you can‘t call him a dissembler, because then you get in trouble, just like you told the truth about Rubin.  Stay out of the trouble box.  I‘m in trouble, and I can‘t leave the Elks Club.  It‘s the only place that will have me. 

BARNICLE:  When you write the history of this particular period, the last four or five years—“The Times” had a big takeout on it yesterday—when you write it in four or five years, not you, but when it is written...

CRAMER:  Right.  Right.  I might do it.

BARNICLE:  ... is it—it a crime story or is it a money story? 

CRAMER:  I have to tell you, I think that some of this is going to be

look, I have been saying on my show that we need miscarriages of justice just to tell the story.  Now, that‘s obviously being a little facetious. 

But there should be a Justice Department investigation.  Now, if we could get Justice out of the Commerce Department, where President Bush put it, and actually have an independent organization, I think we will actually look into a lot of this. 

“The New York Times” is giving you a blueprint of who to go after.  You know, “The Times,” it‘s not well-read down there, anymore, I guess in Justice.  The new Justice Department may pick up the paper and start the process of indicting, which actually would probably be good. 

BARNICLE:  Boy.  Well, you know, I didn‘t make your head explode that much, but it exploded—it was OK.

CRAMER:  Be careful what you say about Bob Rubin, Mike.  I‘m worried about your personal safety. 

(CROSSTALK)

BARNICLE:  Well, I don‘t get invited anyplace anywhere.  So, I don‘t have to worry.

CRAMER:  Well, then you‘re fine.  Then you‘re fine.

You come with me at the Summit Elks.  We will have a drink together and we will protect ourselves.  We will look under our car, because you said the truth about Rubin.  And you almost told the truth about Paulson. 

You‘re a dangerous man. 

(LAUGHTER)

BARNICLE:  I will meet you after the show. 

CRAMER:  Gotcha. 

BARNICLE:  Jim Cramer, thanks very much. 

“Mad Money” airs weekdays at 6:00 and 11:00 p.m. Eastern on our sister network, CNBC. 

Coming up:  Is the selection of Pastor Rick Warren to speak at Obama‘s inauguration a slap in the face to gay voters who supported Obama?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARNICLE:  Coming up:  Vice President Dick Cheney is unapologetic for having used the F-word.  Will that affect his legacy?

When HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARNICLE:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

President-elect Obama is still taking heat from gay rights leaders for inviting evangelical Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration.  Warren supported Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California.

Here‘s what openly gay Congressman Barney Frank said about the matter. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Mr. Warren compared same-sex couples to incest.  I found that deeply offensive and unfair.  And the president-elect was wrong when he said, well, he invited me to speak; I‘m just inviting him to speak. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  So, is Barack Obama playing a politically shrew game of reaching out to evangelical leaders, and is he betraying the gay community that supported his candidacy? 

Reverend Eugene Rivers with the Azusa Christian Community Church.  He‘s also an MSNBC contributor.  And Mike Rogers is a gay activist and the editor and publisher of PageOneQ.com. 

Mr. Rogers, what bothers you about Barack Obama‘s inviting Mr. Warren? 

MIKE ROGERS, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, PAGEONEQ.COM:  The biggest problem with Rick Warren is that he, at a time when we want to bring the nation together, is a lightning rod. 

I think what Barack Obama did by reaching across into the evangelical community was a brilliant proof of our true big tent philosophy on the progressive side of politics.  But, in picking Rick Warren, he picked somebody who has basically used the gay community in the culture war by attacking gay relationships in the Proposition 8 battle. 

And I think that he was a bad choice, not, again, because of his religious beliefs, but because of his political activity.  And I think that the community has a right—and, in fact, a mandate and a need—to stand up and reject to that behavior. 

BARNICLE:  But, you know, maybe Barack Obama has convinced Mr. Warren that he‘s wrong.  Did you ever think of that? 

ROGERS:  Well, in fact, you know, it‘s interesting. 

Today, the—the Saddleback Church actually changed their Web site and stripped out a bunch of homophobic anti-gay language, and replaced it with much more welcoming language.  So, we see a public display already.  Once the spotlight of history has shone upon Rick Warren and his divisiveness in the country, immediately, we also see his Web site undergoing a revamp, rewriting, literally within the past 24 hours. 

So, we have major victories just by bringing this issue to light. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  And I think the this is one example. 

BARNICLE:  We‘re already making progress here. 

Reverend Rivers, isn‘t tolerance a larger issue here than—than Mr.

Warren‘s appearance at the inauguration? 

REVEREND EUGENE RIVERS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Oh, absolutely. 

I think that this is basically a pseudo-controversy that‘s been

fabricated by sort of the anti-religious left.  The reality is that—fact

Rick Warren is not a divisive political figure.  There‘s not one shred of empirical or statistical data to support this unfounded claim.  It‘s simply not true. 

In fact, anyone that is familiar with the white evangelical community, of course which he‘s a spokesman, knows that he‘s actually on the more moderate side.  And, in terms of his political activity, Rick Warren has never been, you know, actively engaged and is not identified by any responsible source as a big activist on this issue. 

Rick Warren‘s issues have been, in fact, focusing on AIDS in Africa, focusing on issues of economic justice.  And anyone that actually does their homework and researches what Rick in fact does—and I know the guy personally, and met Barack Obama on December 6, 2001, at the World AIDS Day -- this is not his issue.  It‘s false.

BARNICLE:  Well, Gene...

RIVERS:  Yes. 

BARNICLE:  Gene, are you saying that Mr. Rogers hasn‘t done his homework? 

RIVERS:  The thing—obviously.  Listen, point of fact, anyone that researches and looks at the data...

ROGERS:  Well, the point of fact here—the...

RIVERS:  ... on Rick Warren knows that his major issue...

ROGERS:  And the data is very clear.

RIVERS:  ... is in Africa, justice in Africa...

ROGERS:  The data is very clear.

(CROSSTALK)

BARNICLE:  All right...

RIVERS:  ... and he has not been one of the major...

ROGERS:  The data, Reverend...

RIVERS:  ... vocal spokesmen out front...

ROGERS:  ... is very...

RIVERS:  ... on the issue of AIDS...

BARNICLE:  Gene, let Mike Rogers have his say.

ROGERS:  The data is very clear.  The other day on the “Today” show, Reverend Rick Warren compared gay relationships to incest.  That in itself should be enough proof for the American people.  And what this spotlight of this show is doing, where you are forced to come on and defend Rick Warren, the fact that this very argument is happening, shows the power of the gay community to stand up and say, This is divisive, this is wrong.

And I think that your very appearance on this show and your very defense of Rick Warren proves that this is a big story.  It shows that the nation is looking at it.  And here you are.  It‘s having you talk about it.  It‘s having Rick Warren change the language on his Web site.

And it really has nothing to do about Rick Warren and his religious beliefs.  But he was very involved in the Proposition 8 battle, spreading misinformation and outright lies.  So we have a victory today.  Rick Warren has seen the error of his ways and has authorized and directed his church to change its Web site.  He no longer has that divisive language.

So I think that even you would agree that there‘s change coming about as a positive development, that Rick Warren is demonstrating what he claims.  And I would invite him to sit down—not in a big public showing, but sit down privately with the leadership of the lesbian and gay community, sit down with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Human Rights Campaign, show these organizations that you want to build bridges—again, no big fanfare of who you‘re helping and all that, but sit down at the table...

(CROSSTALK)

BARNICLE:  All right, let Reverend Rivers jump in here.  Reverend, go ahead.

RIVERS:  Mr. Rogers—Mr. Rogers, you know what you‘ve just suggested implies logically?  That Barack Obama‘s invitation was a good thing.  If all of these positives have come out of President-elect Obama‘s invitation, then in point of fact, you‘ve made the argument for why it was a good thing to do.  Very good!  We‘ve resolved the issue.

ROGERS:  If you‘d like to sit here and actually ask me to defend my community‘s support for Barack Obama, when clearly, he has made many, many long-term appointments without members of my community, you can have at it.  But the reality is, is that it‘s this spotlight of history will continue to shine on divisive figures like Rick Warren.  That will bring them about.  And as you see, the issues that he so passionately cares about are on the cusp of being changed.  For example, Prop 8, which he was so strongly supported (ph), lost by about 2 percentage points.

So clearly, over the next few years, Rick Warren will be in the minority on that.  So I think what we‘re seeing here is a sea change.  How does that change happen?  Folks like me stand up and say, This person is divisive.  We need to call them out, and then we see them change their ways.  I compliment Rick Warren on realizing the error of his ways and changing his Web site.  I consider it a great victory.

BARNICLE:  Hey, Mr. Rogers, let me ask you a question.  You just referred in your response to—you used the phrase “my community.”  What do you mean by “my community”?  Aren‘t we all part of one community in this country or ought we not be part of one community?

RIVERS:  Amen!

BARNICLE:  What do you mean by “my community”?

ROGERS:  Certainly.  Absolutely.  But I also think that there is identity politics in this community.  People identify, for example, Mike, as Irish-Americans or people identify as Italian-Americans or African-Americans.  And one of the great things about America is that we have various communities of support and similarity and working together.

One of the most diverse of those communities is the gay community.  It reaches across all socioeconomic lines.  It reaches across all ethnicity lines, gender lines.  So I actually look at the gay community as a way to unite and bring people together, which we have seen for centuries, certainly, for decades, how gay people have led the way.  And I think that this is a clear example.

Barack Obama had a divisive figure coming in to his inauguration, and it was the gay community that stood up and said, This is wrong, and it was Pastor Warren who realized he made a mistake, who changed his Web site.  My community, the gay community, has not changed one thing about this entire discussion since it began.

But Rick Warren has said, Oh, I need to change.  Something about the language that I‘ve been using is not inclusive, it‘s divisive, and I‘m going to recognize that.  Folks like Mike Rogers, folks on the shows who‘ve been calling him out, again under the spotlight of history, he knows he has made the change.  and that change is recorded.  And those are the kind of things that we‘re happy to see as a positive change.

RIVERS:  Mr. Rogers...

ROGERS:  Yes?

RIVERS:  ... if you are happy and feel better, President-elect Obama, Rick Warren and myself are happy.  It‘s a great Advent experience.  If you‘re feeling better, that‘s a good thing.  Issue resolved~!

RIVERS:  Well, I think it is an improvement.  What I would like to see, and I‘d like to hear you agree with this, is that Rick Warren convenes and sits down—again, behind closed doors, none of the showmanship of on the stage and trotting everyone out, but sits down behind closed doors of the leadership of our community, the gay community, the national leadership, and says, I‘d like to build a bridge.  Sit down with the Human Rights Campaign.  Sit down with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force religious roundtable and show me that your speech is really about reaching out and that it‘s really about uniting America.

And if you can‘t sit down and have those meetings with the community, then I think that really shows really what you‘re about.

BARNICLE:  Well, two things, Mr. Rogers.

RIVERS:  No, no!  No, no.  Mr. Rogers...

BARNICLE:  Gene, quickly.

RIVERS:  Mr. Rogers, listen...

ROGERS:  Sure.

RIVERS:  It would be presumptuous of you to suggest that if Reverend Warren doesn‘t sit down with your particular crew, that somehow, that‘s an act of bad faith.  That‘s a political trick.

ROGERS:  Well, if Reverend Rick Warren—if Reverend Warren is a so-called leader in the evangelical movement, who represents the evangelical movement on a national level...

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS:  ... certainly, it‘s appropriate for him to sit down with national leaders of the lesbian and gay movement.  Let‘s not parse the exact phrases here...

BARNICLE:  All right, gentlemen...

ROGERS:  ... let‘s work on bringing together the communities (INAUDIBLE)

BARNICLE:  We‘ve got to wrap it up there.

RIVERS:  OK...

BARNICLE:  Thank you very much.

ROGERS:  Thank you, Mike.  Eugene Rivers...

RIVERS:  We‘re all happy!

BARNICLE:  Mike Rogers.  We‘re all happy now.  Thanks very much.

ROGERS:  Thank you.

BARNICLE:  Up next: Why is there a worldwide demand for shoe model 271?  The “Sideshow” is next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARNICLE:  Back to HARDBALL.  I love that music.  Time for the

“Sideshow.”  First up: Talk about cashing in.  Remember the shoeing of

President Bush in Iraq last Sunday?  No matter what you think of the

incident, it turns out there was an unexpected beneficiary.  Baydan Shoes -

that‘s not Joe Biden, it‘s the Turkish firm which claims it made the shoe thrown—says it has to hire an extra 100 workers to meet the worldwide demand for 300,000 pairs of the famous footwear.  The firm‘s owner says he may rename the model the Bush shoe or simply Bye-Bye Bush.

Speaking of, it turns out that infamous shoe toss has taken on a life of its own here in the United States.  A Chicago radio station this morning offered residents their own chance to pay to play with the Illinois governor, our old friend, Blago.  How?  By throwing old shoes at a life-size cut-out of the governor.  Go for it.  Look at this, huh?  Good throw.  Three throws for a dollar.  All proceeds by the way—boom, that dropped him.  All proceeds, by the way, are going to the radio‘s charity for needy children.  That was not Pat Fitzgerald making the toss.

Next up: From the 3:00 AM wake-up call to “Yes, we can,” 2008 was the year of political buzzwords.  In fact, yesterday‘s “New York Times” points out that the spectacular rise and fall of the Clinton campaign can be described with just a few of these sugar plums.

Here it is.  Up until late 2007, it was all about “inevitability.” 

Then came Barack Obama‘s Iowa shocker and the onset of “Clinton fatigue.”  Afterwards, the Clinton camp argument morphed into “He can‘t win.”  And now, of course, Hillary‘s part of the “team of rivals” in the White House.  So what Clinton drama will 2009 hold?  Well, tune in to find out.

Time now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”  Congress next month will begin debating a big economic stimulus package.  How big?  About $850 billion.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  The government‘s possible $850 billion stimulus package is tonight‘s “Big Number.”

But what does $850 billion really amount to nowadays?  This morning‘s “Washington Post” put that figure in perspective.  Here is a look at some of the biggest government expenses of all time in today‘s dollars.  The Marshall Plan, which merely saved Europe from financial collapse, cost $115 billion.  The race to the moon, $237 billion.  Vietnam, America‘s longest war, $698 billion.  The one government expenditure that dwarfs the price of the stimulus, World war II at $3.6 trillion.  Either way, the stimulus package is a pretty hefty investment.  Let‘s see if it works out.

Up next: A defiant Vice President Dick Cheney defends his record and goes after his successor along the way.  On the Cheney legacy when we return.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MARKET REPORT)

BARNICLE:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Vice President Cheney has been doing a round of exit interviews, and in his latest, he knocked his successor, Joe Biden, but not without Biden taking a swipe at him, as well.  Take a look at this war of words between one outgoing vice president and one incoming veep.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If he wants to diminish the office of vice president, that‘s obviously his call.  I think that President-elect Obama will decide what he wants in a vice president, and apparently, from the way they‘re talking about it, he does not expect him to have as consequential a role as I‘ve had during my time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT:  I don‘t agree with the vice president.  Look, I think the recommendations, the advice that he has given to President Bush and maybe advice the president already had decided on before he got it—I‘m not making that judgment—has been not healthy for our foreign policy, not healthy for our national security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  So what‘s up with Dick Cheney going after the incoming vice president?  Is this the smooth transition that President Bush pledged to oversee?  Let‘s turn to the strategists, our odd couple, Republican Todd Harris, who was once John McCain‘s spokesperson, and Steve McMahon out there in Omaha, Nebraska, I guess.

Todd, here‘s a loaded question for you...

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  It‘s cold out here.

BARNICLE:  Well, it‘s always cold in Omaha.  But Todd, you‘re in Washington.  Let me ask you a loaded question here.  How do you defend Dick Cheney at this stage?  How do you defend the guy?

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, I‘m actually in Berkeley, on the campus of UC Berkeley.  And I have to say, Mike, I‘m proud but more than a little bit terrified to be sitting here defending Dick Cheney today.  But I‘m going to take a stab at it.

You know, look, Cheney‘s been a punching bag for the last eight years, so I think that some slack can be given to him for him taking a swing at Biden on his way out the door.  But on a larger level, Cheney is going to be judged by history based on history‘s judgments not on Cheney as a person but on a couple of key questions.  Number one, how much power should the executive branch have?   Number two, what is the yin and yang between civil liberties during wartime and protecting the nation during wartime.  Then finally, the broader debate specifically over the War Powers Act, and how much power should an executive during time of war have versus Congress. 

And I think those three things over the course of history, as judgments are

made, Cheney‘s role will either look better than it is today or, you know -

I think he has single digit approval ratings, so it couldn‘t be much worse.  But I think that is the context, the prism through which he‘s going to be judged. 

BARNICLE:  OK, well, before we go ,to Steve sitting out there in Warren Buffett‘s front porch, here is another back and forth between Joe Biden and Dick Cheney.  Then we want Steve to comment. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN:  His notion of unitary executive, meaning that in time of war essentially all power goes to the executive, I think is dead wrong.  I think it was mistaken.  I think that it caused this administration, in adopting that notion, to overstep its Constitutional bounds, but at a minimum to weaken our standing in the world and weaken our security. 

CHENEY:  Well, I fundamentally disagree with him.  Joe‘s been chairman of the Judiciary Committee, a member of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate for 36 years, teaches Constitutional law back in Delaware, and can‘t keep straight which article of the Constitution provides for the Legislature and which provides for the Executive. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNICLE:  Steve, let me ask you now, last week the vice president gave an interview I think to Charlie Gibson on ABC.  And regardless of what you think about the Constitution and who knows Article One and Article Two and the powers of the vice president, I think he was asked a point-blank question, did he agree with the war in Iraq, looking back in retrospect, blah, blah, blah.  I think he had a one-word answer, yes.  I think he was asked, did he agree with the detention in Guantanamo, would he continue to do it again?  I think he had a one-word answer, yes. 

The thing that bothers me about the vice president—and it‘s not—it‘s personal, actually.  There‘s a specific section in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 60 -- this war that the vice president gives a one-word, flip answer to has resulted in thousands and thousands of deaths.  And I‘m wondering if you see the same arrogance in this guy that I, an average viewer, sees. 

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I certainly do.  In fact, the thing that he said to Charlie Gibson that most troubled me was that he almost laughed off the fact that there was no or were no weapons of mass destruction.  Basically, he said we were going to go to war with Iraq regardless of whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction.  We made the right decision, and, you know, everybody ought to just get over it. 

In fact, that wasn‘t the case that the administration made to the American people, which everybody will remember.  And the president even went so far as to suggest that we might find out about their weapons when the mushroom cloud comes to America.  So I think he said a number of things just in the past couple of weeks which prove again—you did the big number a little while ago.  The number that sticks in my mind is 29, which is his favorable rating.  The one thing he said to Fox over the weekend, which I think tells the whole story, is he didn‘t think Don Rumsfeld should be fired. 

I mean, the war in Iraq is certainly going better than it was before, and he didn‘t think Dick (sic) Rumsfeld should be fired.  He didn‘t think any decision they made was the wrong decision.  He didn‘t think suspending the Constitution or habeas corpus was problematic at all.  And the expert on the Constitution, who likes to talk about Article One, actually said that the vice president and the vice president‘s office was part of the Legislative Branch and not the Executive Branch, which is a reading of the constitution that has eluded Constitutional scholars for over 200 years now. 

BARNICLE:  Todd, now I understand that you‘re in Berkeley so you can speak softly. 

HARRIS:  I‘m going to need an armed guard when I leave here. 

BARNICLE:  I have to tell you, you know, his attitude towards the war, towards the casualties, towards the conduct of the war, towards what‘s happened to this country internally due to that war, his flippant attitude, it might not be who he is—I don‘t know him.  I don‘t know the guy.  But it bothers me.  Why should it not bother me?  Explain to me why it shouldn‘t bother me. 

HARRIS:  His demeanor, that‘s up for you, Mike, or for anyone else to decide whether they like his demeanor or not.  I don‘t think that anyone should question how deeply he feels about both the responsibility of office that he has and the consequences that decisions that he has helped to make have brought. 

You‘re right.  Lots and lots of brave men and women have lost their lives, either in part or directly because of decisions that he helped to make.  And I think that that weighs very heavily on him.  You know, like I said before, people may not like Dick Cheney as a person.  They may not like his demeanor.  But the way that history will judge him, I don‘t think we‘re ready to know that answer yet. 

BARNICLE:  Todd Harris in Berkeley, California, Steve McMahon freezing in Omaha, thanks very much. 

Up next, is Caroline Kennedy‘s political honeymoon hitting a rough patch?  That and more on the politics fix on HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARNICLE:  We‘re back now.  It‘s time for the political fix.  Joining me, MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard and “New York Magazine‘s” John Heilemann.  Ladies and gentlemen, Caroline Kennedy.  She has been in the headlines, both good and for ill for over a week now.  The tabloids here in New York are killing her.  The revelation that she hasn‘t exactly been a consistent voter.  What‘s going to happen here, John? 

JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK MAGAZINE”:  You know, it looks to me—obviously, the tabloids have a thing for her.  You know, it‘s not a great moment in New York politics right now.  Even the mayor, who is obviously not part of a dynasty, but has provoked a certain amount of backlash with this third term—it‘s kind of a populous moment—New York is not a populous place.  There‘s kind of a populist moment happening here.  And I sense, the tabloids want to go hard on her.  They‘re open to trying to take her down.  Obviously she has some opponents who are dropping some opposition research on her and want to also try to help take her down.  I suspect that it is pretty well wired, but the thing could just collapse of its own weight if she looks after another few weeks of this and it keeps getting kind of ugly and nasty and hard.  She could just finally look up and say I don‘t want to do this. 

BARNICLE:  That struck me too.  Michelle, one of the things that struck me more than anything else that‘s been mentioned about her is her voting record, the fact that she is a member of the Kennedy family, a terrific political dynasty.  No matter where you are in the ideological spectrum, they have been such a force in American life for so long.  You would have thought that she would have voted.  What about that? 

MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes, you would have thought that she voted in every single election, particularly when you think about who the members of her family are, and for the fact that so many people fought and died for all Americans to have the right to vote.  That being said, this is something that Governor Paterson is going to have to deal.  This is not—right now at least, it is not an elected position.  It will be somebody who is appointed by the governor.  As he looks at all the candidates, he‘s going to have to decide, you know, in balancing this, just how important that is.  Is she disqualified because she has not voted so many times? 

BARNICLE:  John, get me excited here.  Tell me about the tension convention, Andrew Cuomo, Caroline Kennedy, the marriage.  He‘s divorced from Kerry Kennedy, Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general of New York, son of the former governor.  Come on, get me excited. 

HEILEMANN:  It‘s a simmering stew, Mike.  Again, go back to dynasty.  Talk about two competing big political dynasties trying to get ahold of this Senate seat.  There has been the suggestion on a couple of cable networks that it‘s possible that Andrew Cuomo might have been behind some of this opposition research.  I‘m not sure there‘s any actual fact to back that up.  I‘ve heard a couple people say it on TV. 

From Paterson‘s point of view, if Caroline Kennedy hadn‘t come along, the Andrew Cuomo selection would have looked pretty smart.  It would looked like the obvious political call, because Andrew Cuomo might run against Paterson for governor, if he doesn‘t have another thing to occupy him.  It would have been an easy pick to put Cuomo in there and get rid of a potential political rival. 

Now it very hard though.  How do you look at the clear choice of the president-elect, although he doesn‘t say it?  Everyone assumes that Barack Obama wants Caroline Kennedy in the Senate, and all the other Kennedy stuff.  How do you look at that and walk away from it if you‘re Paterson?  I‘m not sure.  It‘s hard.

BARNICLE:  He is already in the middle, or at the edge of one gubernatorial appointment in Illinois.  Does he really want to get in the middle of this one? 

HEILEMANN:  He clearly has made a point of not getting in the middle of it.  But you know how close he and Caroline Kennedy are.  That‘s been telegraphed pretty clearly.  He‘s not going to get involve in any way.  But if you‘re Paterson, you obviously it would make the president-elect happy if Caroline Kennedy got the job.  You can‘t miss the relationship that developed over the campaign. 

BARNICLE:  You know, Michelle, another thing that strikes me, sitting here in New York, if you take Caroline Kennedy and Andrew Cuomo out of the mix.  Whatever, take the Congressional delegation out of the mix.  I know a few states in this union who have a larger, more diverse, more eclectic, more accomplished population than New York.  What would be wrong with choosing someone completely out of the box?  Someone—look at the financial picture today.  You‘ve got all of these—you‘ve got some smart people on Wall Street who could perhaps be of some benefit to us.  What would be wrong with that? 

BERNARD:  I don‘t know if there is anybody on Wall Street right now that I would describe that way.  But there probably wouldn‘t be anything wrong with it.  Honestly, Governor Paterson—he‘s probably going to want to continue to be governor.  I think this is where he has to be a smart politician.  He really has to take the pulse of New Yorkers and figure out what his constituents want.  That‘s how he has to decide who he‘s going to appoint to this position. 

Something really interesting that we should take a look at is that last week Kerry Kennedy said something that I disagreed with, which was that she thought that the seat should definitely be filled by a woman.  I disagree with that.  But one of the things I think people need to start asking themselves is why this backlash against Caroline Kennedy?  Why aren‘t people submitting questions to Andrew Cuomo and asking him what his qualifications are?  And why is—outside of the people who were Hillary Clinton supporters, that are angry that Caroline Kennedy supported Barack Obama, why are people so vehemently against her and saying that she is disqualified? 

BARNICLE:  She is a fabulous headline.  That‘s the answer to why she is in there every day.  She‘s a fabulous headline.  We‘ll be right back with Michelle Bernard and John Heilemann for more of the politics fix.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BARNICLE:  We‘re back with Michelle Bernard and John Heilemann for more of the politics fix. Rick Warren, the invocation at the inaugural; what does this do for Barack Obama?  Up or down?

HEILEMANN:  I think it is up.  You know, it‘s interesting, I thought for the whole campaign, I kept waiting for—a lot of people did—kept waiting for him to have a Sister Soldier moment, a legitimate Sister Soldier moment, ie, you do something that will seriously annoy a core part of your base.  And this I think is it.  It is the first time he‘s really done something that has really alienated part of the base.  And I think it does him a world of good out in the broader part of the country.  It actually puts some meat on this notion that he keeps talking about, has kept talking about all through the campaign, which is we can disagree without being disagreeable, that I am really open to a bunch of ideas.  I‘m not going to change my views because I invite this guy to do the invocation, but we‘re going to have a broad conversation, in which a lot of different voices are going to will be welcome.

He said that for a long time.  Now he is kind of actually doing it.  And I think it plays really well to a lot of swing voters and a lot of just regular old Americans. 

BARNICLE:  Michelle, if you take Cambridge, the upper west side of Manhattan, Georgetown, Santa Monica and San Francisco out of this debate, there is no debate.  Do you agree with that? 

BERNARD:  That is actually very true.  Rick Warren‘s “The Purpose Driven Life” is a very, very famous book.  Hundreds and million of people throughout the country have read the book and actually really like Rick Warren.  Focus on the Family, I think Tony Perkins, that whole group of people with certain philosophical beliefs and religious beliefs, are very happy about this pick.  It is a great way to reach out across the aisle.  There are many people who are very, very offended by his selection of Rick Warren. 

BARNICLE:  Well, we‘re all going to get together over Rick Warren.  Michelle Bernard and John Heilemann, thanks very much.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now, it is time for “1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE” with David Shuster.

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