updated 7/28/2009 10:31:07 AM ET 2009-07-28T14:31:07

Guests: Julia Boorstin, Norah O‘Donnell, Pat Buchanan, Jeanne Cummings, Michael Smerconish, Jonathan Capehart, Ken Vogel, Howard Fineman Karen Finney, Eugene Robinson, Jonathan Capehart

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Sarah Palin declares war.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in New York.  Leading off tonight:

The long good-bye.  We don‘t know what Sarah Palin‘s going to do the next couple of years, but if yesterday‘s any indication, she‘s not going to hold her tongue.  As we know, Palin insists she‘s quitting her job so she can better fight for Alaska.  And in her good-bye speech yesterday, she took on well, she took off after what she called partisan operatives, Hollywood starlets, and most of all, the media.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  Democracy depends on you, and that is why—that‘s why our troops are willing to die for you.  So how about in honor of the American soldier, you quit making things up!

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll look at what‘s next for Sarah Palin in just a minute.

Plus: This Bud‘s for you.  We now know that President Obama, Henry Louis Gates, and Sergeant James Crowley will meet at the White House for one of the most celebrated beers in the history of diplomacy sometime this week.  We also know—well, we now have that 911 call that started the case on tape.  We‘ll have that for you later in the show.

And here‘s one reason that that phony controversy over Barack Obama‘s citizenship won‘t go away.  Respectable, if you will, elected, office-holding Republicans won‘t let it die.  Look what happened when a reporter for “The Huffington Post” asked Republicans on Capitol Hill whether they personally believe Barack Obama is an American.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What do you believe personally?

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS ®, WASHINGTON:  Oh, I‘d like to see the documents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So you‘re kind of afraid of the lunatic fringe base?

What do you personally believe, though?  I mean, do you think there‘s a question here?

REP. CHARLES BOUSTANY ®, LOUISIANA:  I think there are questions. 

We‘ll have to see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  “I think there are questions.”  I just don‘t know what the Republican hope to gain from peddling this nonsense.  More on this so-called “birther” movement later in HARDBALL.

Plus, Senator Jim Bunning, a great Phillies—was a great Phillies pitcher, but also a Detroit Tiger pitcher.  He was certainly in the Hall of Fame.  He threw no-hitters in both leagues.  He says he‘s not going to run for another term in the U.S. Senate.  That may be good news for Republicans, who‘ve been trying to get Bunning off the ticket.  We‘ll see.  Well, we‘re going to have more on that in the “Politics Fix.”

And what are Sarah Palin‘s chances of actually winning the Republican presidential nomination come 2012?  Well, the oddsmakers are speaking on that.  We‘ll have those numbers for you from the betting leagues (ph) in just a moment on the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

But we begin with Sarah Palin‘s first day as the ex-governor of Alaska.  NBC‘s Norah O‘Donnell joins us now from Fairbanks.  Norah, it seems like if you go through the speech reading it, she‘s picked out three enemies—they‘re all cities—New York—well, let‘s say that‘s the media—Washington, the government, and L.A., Hollywood.  It seems like a pretty nasty attack plan she‘s got under way here.  What do you make of it?

NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, this was a really fiery farewell speech.  And she‘s angry and she used this speech not only to defend the time that she spent in office but also to take some parting shots.  I mean, to the media, she said, You quit making things up.  She talked about Hollywood starlets, those anti-2nd Amendment, anti-hunting people.  And she said, Listen, we here in Alaska, we eat, therefore we hunt.  So this was a defensive speech in many ways.

She also said that she plans to protect the interests of the state like that—like a grizzly guards her cubs.  But she didn‘t say what or how she plans to do that, Chris, and that‘s really still the big question mark.  And that‘s how this woman operates, through mystery.  We don‘t know what‘s next of her.  She likes surprises.  She likes stunning people.  And she likes throwing red meat out to the crowd, and that‘s exactly what she did to thousands of people here in Fairbanks.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you said she was mad.  Is that a pose or is she actually mad?  And what about?

O‘DONNELL:  No, I think she‘s angry.  I think she‘s been treated unfairly.  She sees that she‘s got the lowest approval ratings of her career.  So she is angry.  She wants to be free from all these ethics complaints that are dogging her.

But I think what was most remarkable, the thing I noticed while here, what‘s new, is that she‘s grown more insular.  She‘s distrustful, I think, of even her own staff.  She doesn‘t communicate with her own press aides.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  They didn‘t even know that she was in a camper coming up here with her kids.  Her primary means of communication is via Twitter.  I mean, she is communicating with the world and even her own staff via Twitter and her BlackBerry that she‘s RV‘ing up here.  I don‘t think you can run a presidential campaign or any business by not informing your staff or people you work with about how you plan to operate.  It suggests that she‘s distrustful, and I think maybe that she doesn‘t know what to do next.

But I reported this weekend, Chris, she‘s raised over a million dollars for her political action committee.  She has more than 13,000 people who have made donations to her political action committee with almost no solicitation because there really, quite frankly, is not an organization set up.  There is no big group trying to solicit, like Mitt Romney‘s PAC is doing.  So that‘s significant, and she can use that money to do a lot of travel.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Norah O‘Donnell, great reporting up in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Pat Buchanan‘s an MSNBC political analyst and Democratic strategist Karen Finney is with the—she‘s communications director for a long time with the DNC.

Patrick, it looks to me like Sarah Palin‘s looking at the Pat Buchanan playbook.  She wants to do what you did.  She‘s had a very short public career in elected office, but that doesn‘t seem to mind—people don‘t seem to mind that.

Can she run, basically, as a commentator, as a person who doesn‘t like New York, doesn‘t like the media, doesn‘t like Washington, doesn‘t like the government, doesn‘t like L.A., Hollywood?  Can you run a completely negative rhetorical campaign, basically?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, if you‘re the out party,

Chris, and she‘s—let‘s say she‘s out there in 2010, raising money for the party at state conventions, going in for candidates who invite her in - yes, the red meat—she rallies the faithful.  She rattles the cages of the media and the liberals like no one else can do.  Yes, you can do that in an off-year campaign.

But if you‘re running for president of the United States, you got to have an agenda in foreign policy and an agenda, I think, in trade policy and an agenda in economic policy.  But right now, if you‘re talking 2010, yes, she‘s on the right course.  You get yourself a good rally speech and you use it like Nixon did in 1966.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BUCHANAN:  He wasn‘t out there boring the country with one-hour press conferences on health care.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look.  Here she is about who she—who she said is tearing down our country.  Here‘s Sarah Palin, as you put it, Pat, throwing out the red meat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  And we are facing tough challenges in America, with some seeming to just be hell bent maybe on tearing down our nation, perpetuating some pessimism and suggesting American apologetics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I don‘t know, Karen.  It seems to work that sort of way she raises her voice and she does that thing where it‘s a victimization.  Nothing like righteous indignation.  It always seems to work.  Can she pull it off and become a national figure now?

KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, you know, I mean, the ironic thing about that speech is I‘m not exactly sure what she was talking about.  I mean, she seemed to sort of make up this sort of, you know, narrative of Sarah Palin against these enemies.  But I think, you know, there‘s a political tactic here, and I think that, you know, the more she is under siege or under attack, of course she‘s going to be raising money.

I was just listening to Norah O‘Donnell talk about, you know, the million dollars she‘s raising.  I think the more she‘s attacked, the more she raises money, the more she also—that red meat inflames the base of the party.  That‘s that Karl Rove, you know, “anger point” strategy.  And that helps her galvanize her base of support.  And by doing that, she can really have some choices about what she does next in the party because...

MATTHEWS:  Pat, can you think...

FINNEY:  ... she‘s got money and she‘s got support.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Pat, can you think of something that the media, the national media, has reported about her that‘s not true?  She talks about how our fighting forces overseas—and we‘re all for them—how we have to do them the favor, basically, or the honor of not telling bad stories about her.  What has been said that‘s not true by the media about Sarah Palin?  What‘s she talking about?

BUCHANAN:  Well, I don‘t know.  When it started off—I don‘t know where the source was—the allegation was floating all over the place, reported by the media, that Bristol‘s child—rather, the child she was born with, with Down syndrome, was actually Bristol Palin‘s.  It was a horrible, ugly thing.  And I think that‘s wounded her.  There‘s no doubt her...

MATTHEWS:  Well, who was reporting that in the media, “The New York Times,” “The Washington Post,” the networks?

BUCHANAN:  Well, I was hearing it—well, look...

MATTHEWS:  I never heard anybody report that.

BUCHANAN:  Mike Barnicle, quite frankly, was one of the fellows who was telling me about it when we were out there in Denver.  But Chris, she can answer that thing.  Let me tell you, you and me and all of us in the media, this obsession with Sarah Palin is what is boosting her.  It‘s raising money for her.  It‘s why people love her.  They love her for the enemies she has made, and this obsession...

MATTHEWS:  No, no.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I only say positive things about her.  I find her the only interesting Republican right now, Pat.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I find her more interesting than your Mitt Romney, to be honest about it.  I find him, you know—talking about, I don‘t know, aluminum siding would be more interesting.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  ... obsessed with her, and you say she‘s tearing down—all she‘s doing is running negative, tearing down things.  I think she‘s going to run a campaign on conservative principles and ideas...

FINNEY:  You know...

BUCHANAN:  ... and go after those...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

BUCHANAN:  ... who are assaulting them.

MATTHEWS:  It just sounds like an Agnew campaign.  She‘s going after the media.  She‘s going after government.  She‘s going after Hollywood.  What else is new?

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY:  But guys, let‘s call it what it is.  That‘s a classic strategy.

BUCHANAN:  ... the most admired man in America after his speech on the media.  It was an enormous success!  Nixon was...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Karen, your thought.

FINNEY:  This is a classic Republican...

MATTHEWS:  Pat is patting himself on the back here again, which is fair enough on this show.

(LAUGHTER)

FINNEY:  But guys, this is...

MATTHEWS:  He wrote the damn speech!  That‘s why he‘s saying it‘s great.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.

FINNEY:  This is the classic, you know, Republican triumvirate of Hollywood and the media, you know, the big bad wolves of the left.  So let‘s be clear about what that is.  And again, I don‘t think we know yet what Sarah Palin‘s going to do.  I think if she‘s smart, she will, you know, again, continue to raise money, galvanize support, put a good team around her that she trusts because that‘s obviously critical.  She could end up being another Pat Buchanan or a—you know, a Rush Limbaugh of the party.  I think she could take that role, make money and be someone who could be a critic both outside and inside, or she could run for office.  But I do think if she runs for office...

MATTHEWS:  Pat gave up the money to run.

FINNEY:  ... she‘s going to have to...

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get that straight.

FINNEY:  But look, I think...

MATTHEWS:  Pat gave up money to run.  I‘m not going to hold that against him.  And he won the New Hampshire primary.

FINNEY:  I think if she does run, though, guys, I think she‘s going to have to be a little bit more disciplined.  And as a woman, I have to tell you, it disappoints me to hear her kind of play the victim card.  As a political strategist, I understand the strategy.  But as a woman, I‘d like to hear her back off from that, and do as Pat was saying—let‘s talk about the issues.  Let‘s talk about...

MATTHEWS:  Well, here she is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Respond to this.

BUCHANAN:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  Here she is doing—this is going after Hollywood and defending guns.  Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  You‘re going to see anti-hunting, anti-2nd Amendment circuses from Hollywood.  And here‘s how they do it.  They use these delicate, tiny, very talented celebrity starlets.  They use Alaska as a fund-raising tool for their anti-2nd Amendment causes.  Stand strong and remind them patriots will protect our individual guaranteed right to bear arms.  And by the way...

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

PALIN:  By the way, Hollywood needs to know we eat, therefore we hunt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, what‘s this about...

FINNEY:  That was just bizarre!

MATTHEWS:  ... shooting wolves from helicopters or whatever?  I don‘t know if that‘s necessary for survival.

BUCHANAN:  Come on, Chris!

FINNEY:  That was bizarre!

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s she talking about there, Pat?

BUCHANAN:  She kills her own food, and she‘s talking about Hollywood.  And look, you got 58 votes in the United States Senate to let everybody carry a concealed weapon across state lines.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  All these Democrats—Chris, she‘s touching the base and much more than the base here, and you know it.  Look at the gun thing.  The gunners have defeated the liberals horse, foot, and dragoons!

FINNEY:  But you know, really...

MATTHEWS:  What language were you speaking there?  Pat, you go into another language sometimes.  “Horse, foot and dragoons”?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Look, all I know is she‘s hitting all the erogenous zones of victimhood.  I think Karen‘s right.  It‘s all about victimhood—

They‘re coming to get us in black helicopters.  If you don‘t vote for me...

FINNEY:  It‘s pretty out there.

MATTHEWS:  ... we‘re all going to be taken over.

FINNEY:  I mean, I think people are more...

BUCHANAN:  Chris?  Chris...

FINNEY:  ... busy talking about health care reform...

BUCHANAN:  ... she‘s got you going!

FINNEY:  ... and the economy than heading up to Alaska and taking away anybody‘s guns!

BUCHANAN:  Karen—Karen, health care reform is going down the tubes because people are against it like her.  And they‘re going out and fighting it...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

FINNEY:  Well, I don‘t think it‘s going down the tubes.

BUCHANAN:  ... and they‘re fighting big government and...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  ... and the country is leaning her way!

MATTHEWS:  Pat, can I appeal to your well-read knowledge of American history?  Who‘s winning the argument right now, the 2nd Amendment supporters or the critics of it, who narrowly define it as something to do with militias?  Clearly, you must agree, the 2nd Amendment forces are winning heavily.  They got the Supreme Court on their side now.  It‘s an individual right.  They‘re on the road to victory here, aren‘t they?  They‘re not in retreat.  Come on!

BUCHANAN:  But they were on the road to victory, but once you‘ve got the guy beat, you chase him, Chris, and make him retreat and retreat and retreat.

FINNEY:  But again, I...

BUCHANAN:  And she rallies the troops with that.

FINNEY:  I don‘t—I...

BUCHANAN:  She rallies the troops.  You can see it.

FINNEY:  I can‘t imagine that the majority of the American people are going to bed at night think about that when they‘re worried about their health insurance, their jobs, their kids.  I mean, I—just in terms of what‘s top of mind, I mean, again, she‘s sort of created this false enemy...

MATTHEWS:  OK, got to go.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Got to go.  I‘m sorry, out of time.  This is a great American argument.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  ... how come all those senators voted for concealed carry?

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  America is divided.  I‘m not sure she‘s going to unite the country.  Pat, you would even agree that she‘s not exactly a uniter.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Pat Buchanan...

FINNEY:  I think we can agree on that.

MATTHEWS:  ... and Karen Finney.

Coming up: President Obama is moving forward with plans to have a beer

I love these moments—at the White House—a beer moment, like a bicentennial moment—at the White House this week with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and Sergeant Crowley, Sergeant Crowley who arrested him.

Meanwhile, new details are beginning to emerge about what actually happened during that arrest situation.  We‘ll have the latest on the Gates case.  There has been some green sprouts of information coming up about that one.

You‘re watching HARDBALL.  It‘s coming up here in a minute, the Gates case, and it‘s not closed.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Today audio from that 911 call on the Gates arrest was released.  Let‘s listen to that.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t know what‘s happening.  I just had an older woman standing here, and she had noticed two gentlemen trying to get in a house at that number, 17 Ware Street.  And they kind of had barged in and they broke the screen door and they finally got in.  And when I had looked, I went further—closer to the house a little bit after the gentlemen were already in the house.  I noticed two suitcases.  So I‘m not sure if these are two individuals who actually work there—I mean, who live there...

911 OPERATOR:  You think they might have been breaking in?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t know because I have no idea.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Police also released recordings of the police radio transmissions from the scene.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SGT. JAMES CROWLEY, CAMBRIDGE POLICE:  Gentleman says he resides here (INAUDIBLE) uncooperative, but keep the cars coming.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, “Keep the cars coming.”  Where does the discussion on race in America stand now?  Joining me is Eugene Robinson, “Washington Post” Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, and Jonathan Capehart, who writes editorials for “The Washington Post,” as well.

Gentlemen, I know I‘m going to learn something here, so I‘m going to leave this pretty wide open to you.  But there seems to be some miscommunication which occurred during the midst of this mayhem.  Apparently, the officer in question, the arresting officer, Sergeant Crowley, in his police report said that the professor at Harvard said, when asked to come outside, I‘ll speak with your mama outside.  Now, this is the way he recorded this.

I wonder whether some projection here about two or three degrees.  He thought this was what a black fellow would say.  This is what a white guy thought a black guy would say.  He didn‘t say this.  It‘s a little humorous because I‘ve got to find humor in this horrible American situation.

What do you make of that, Eugene?  Is it possible, Eugene, that this firefight began over one guy projecting and another guy, well, seeing somebody projecting and he didn‘t like the sound of it?

EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST”:  I cannot imagine in this universe Skip Gates saying, I‘ll speak with your mama outside.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  This is one of the preeminent academics in—in America, you know, one of the most prominent professors at our nation‘s most prestigious university, at the top of his profession, at the top of his game.  He—he—you know, he—he rolls with kings and queens and Nobel Prize winners... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But I wonder why a white police sergeant, an Irish American, would think—Jonathan, I have got to find some jocularity in this for at least one minute in our conversation. 

Do you think he just projected what he thought was street talk, jive talk, whatever you want to call it?  I know, in the Major Leagues, the one thing you can‘t do is mention the other fellow‘s momma.  We know the words that might have been used in a baseball game that get you thrown out of a game.

Do you think this is just one guy projecting attitude that wasn‘t there, or what? 

JONATHAN CAPEHART, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know. 

CAPEHART:  ... you know, I can‘t get into the mind of Sergeant Crowley, and I can‘t get into the mind of Professor Gates in that situation.

And I think what we‘re seeing, here from the—the 911 tapes that you just played, from the—the person who reported what she thought was a burglary, to Sergeant Crowley‘s comment about keep the cars coming, to, you know, who said what when, we have seen this before, where we have these incidents that are a whole lot more complicated than what they might seem, than the black-and-white issue that we thought at first. 

And, so, I think, you know, to try to get into Sergeant Crowley‘s mind about whether, you know, he was projecting yo momma talk is something...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Jonathan, here he is...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Before I get back to Gene, here he is showing he is just as hard-nosed about this as the professor is.  You talk about two guys going to their corners and basically saying, “I‘m right, he‘s wrong,” here he is again saying he‘s right. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SERGEANT JAMES CROWLEY, CAMBRIDGE POLICE DEPARTMENT:  I didn‘t do anything wrong.  I think that would be setting the wrong example for police officers around the country to apologize for something that I didn‘t do, for the sake of appeasing somebody who acted very—very inappropriately, who made rude comments to me, who made rude comments about my mother. 

It‘s just not something that is going to happen. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there you have it, Gene. 

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  I just...

MATTHEWS:  He said, he went after my mother.

I mean, this is street corner.  This is...

ROBINSON:  I just—again, that does not ring—not ring plausible to me.

But, you know, I—I just find this whole thing really, really fascinating.  And—and this extra element—you know, Skip Gates is a—is a big cheese.  He‘s an important guy.  And I lived in Cambridge for a year.

And, you know, meeting a famous Harvard professor who is arrogant is like meeting a famous basketball player who is tall, right? 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

ROBINSON:  I mean, it‘s not exactly a surprise. 

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  So, you know, if—if you believe the police report, aside from the yo mamma thing, which I don‘t believe, but if you believe the rest of the police report, you have Professor Gates acting in a high-handed manner, confronting Sergeant Crowley.

And I find this—I find this aspect of it fascinating, because, of course, that‘s the way big cheeses act.  That‘s the way they have acted since time immemorial.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s get to that.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  ... is that there are African-Americans and Hispanics who have become big cheeses, at the very top of their professions.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there‘s no doubt about it.

ROBINSON:  And...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Jonathan, put this together...

CAPEHART:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  ... from your generation.

CAPEHART:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Gene and I are the same generation.  Put this together from your generation and throw on the town vs. gown thing, the—the attitude of most Harvard kids, I‘m told, which...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... is, they‘re above the local—they‘re—they‘re, class-wise, above the local...

CAPEHART:  Well, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... certainly the campus police.  Well, tell me about that attitude. 

CAPEHART:  Well, Chris, not having gone to Harvard...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Neither me—neither me nor you... 

(CROSSTALK)

CAPEHART:  But having gone to the Harvard of the Midwest, Carleton College—but, anyway, Chris, I think what we‘re seeing here, as I said before, this is a much more complicated story. 

It‘s black and white.  It‘s town vs. gown.  It‘s high—you know, as Gene just said, you know, you have—we have—you have got the high-handed professor vs. the—the—the cop on the beat, if you will. 

I think—to—to speak to the generational issue here, I think perhaps what we‘re seeing is Professor Gates is from the generation that lived through Jim Crow and lives through the beginning of trying to right the wrongs during the ‘60s and the ‘70s. 

My generation is a generation that‘s had a different experience when it comes to race and race in America, not to say that, you know, race and race issues have been solved.  But our experience is a little—perhaps, generally speaking, a little bit better than, say, Professor Gates‘ experience. 

So, there could be some of that at work here.  But I think, for us to know for sure all of these things is if we keep talking about what—about how we‘re feeling and what we think about these things, especially when new information comes to light. 

And I just want to point out, Chris, the tape that you showed of—of Sergeant Crowley came a couple days after the—the story broke.  Have you noticed that, since President Obama made his surprise visit to the White House Briefing Room on Friday, that the—that the tone and the rhetoric has changed completely, that—that tempers have cooled?

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CAPEHART:  And now we‘re looking at some—at some point this week perhaps the three men coming together at the White House for a beer to talk.  And I think that that was very, very important. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Gene, about this beer.  What do you make of it? 

ROBINSON:  Mm-hmm.  Well, I...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Is this going to be like the—the—the beer summit? 

What are we going to call this thing? 

ROBINSON:  I hope no one brings up anybody‘s mother, first of all. 

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  I hope nobody goes there. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think so. 

ROBINSON:  Yes.  No, look, it—it—it‘s going to be at the White House with the president.  You know, everybody is going to be nice.  And everybody—you know, and while neither man might be in the mood for a formal apology, I think they will find some sort of common ground and—and—and move on from there. 

But I—you know, I do find this episode just really fascinating, because there‘s so much that is unknowable by us.  Yet—yet, there‘s a lot to talk about.  And, when we talk about it, we‘re talking about our own feelings, our own prejudices, our own history, our own experience of race.

And so, you know, we keep waiting for this kind of structured, big national conversation about race.  I think the way it actually happens is incident by incident, and—and—maybe we will learn something out of this. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe we should all just try to get along a little better.  I mean, I speak from my perspective, too.

CAPEHART:  The Rodney King...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  You and Rodney King, right.

MATTHEWS:  And I—I heard that you have never been stopped by a policeman, Jonathan.  You have never had a situation like this in your whole life. 

CAPEHART:  That—that is true. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I appreciate that.  That‘s good news.  It‘s good news. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  We would agree on that.

Eugene Robinson.

ROBINSON:  We would.

MATTHEWS:  Jonathan Capehart. 

Up next...

CAPEHART:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  ... does Hillary Clinton have her eye on another White House run?  Well, people keep asking.  We will see what happened on Sunday with that. 

And what are Sarah Palin‘s odds of becoming the Republican nominee in

2012?   We are going to give you the odds, the betting odds, out of Dublin. 

Stick around for the “Sideshow.”  You‘re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  And time for the “Sideshow.” 

First up, the question de rigueur, she keeps getting hit with it.  You know who and you know the question.  The who is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  The question is whether she‘s thinking about some day running for president. 

Here is her answer on “Meet the Press.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE:  The answer is no. 

I don‘t know how many more...

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”:  But you didn‘t—but you didn‘t say never. 

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  Well, you know, I say no, never, not at all.  I don‘t know what...

GREGORY:  Right. 

CLINTON:  ... what else to say. 

GREGORY:  Are you saying you wouldn‘t entertain another run? 

CLINTON:  I have absolutely no belief in my mind that that is going to happen, that I have any interest in it happening. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think we all have our sense—our own personal sense of what she‘s thinking about the long run politically.  Let‘s agree there‘s no reason in the world for her, given her current position, to share what she‘s thinking. 

Next up: a political battle in Concord.  A kiosk owner down in Concord, North Carolina, says that his lease at a shopping mall is not being renewed because of the right-wing propaganda he sells, you know, bumper stickers such as “Impeach Obama” and “Al Qaeda‘s two favorite days, 9/11/01 and 11/4/03”—or “08,” rather.

After ginning up a protest movement that includes some supporters saying they will boycott the mall, the owner of the kiosk in North Carolina says he‘s gotten a boost in sales out of the publicity.

Finally, I have got to give a loud applause to my friend Lance Armstrong.  Coming back from a three-year retirement, the cancer-surviving American finished a very respectable third place in the Tour de France yesterday.  That‘s a hell of a feat.  And I can‘t wait for him to go for the roses next year. 

Here is Lance on HARDBALL a while back talking about health care reform. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JULY 25, 2007)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think this country is on the verge of a major change in how we finance health care?

LANCE ARMSTRONG, FORMER TOUR DE FRANCE WINNER:  I‘m not trying to be political. 

I mean, you can look at it and say, well, you know, everybody deserves health care, period.  And I—and I actually do agree with that. 

Great example, New York City.  I mean, if you had an investment banker in Midtown Manhattan who had advanced cancer, he would have the best care in the world.  You go two miles north of there to the—to the slums of Harlem, and they would probably die.  And, so, that‘s—that‘s a—that‘s an issue.  That‘s an issue of access and that‘s a—that‘s a disparity that we—we shouldn‘t put up with. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s not just about the bike, obviously. 

Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Now that Sarah Palin is no longer in elective office, she‘s no longer governor of Alaska, will she be setting the groundwork now for a presidential run?  And how are her chances? 

Well, according to the online traders at Dublin-based Intrade.com, where anybody can make a money bet, her odds of winning the Republican nomination in 2012 -- that‘s the next time—are 16 percent.  That‘s one in six.  She‘s in second place—actually, she‘s just behind two people, Mitt Romney and Bobby Jindal.

Sixteen percent, a one-chance-in-six odds of winning the big Republican nomination in 2012.  I would say the odds are better than that.  Maybe I should make the bet. 

That‘s our “Big Number” tonight. 

Coming up:  They just don‘t go away, those birthers, those right-wing nuts—Is that too cruel? -- who think Barack Obama isn‘t an American.  And now they‘re getting support from some Republicans in Congress like, well, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who says he won‘t discourage the birthers, and they may have a point.  Well, that‘s careful.

Why are elected officials in this country playing to the sleazebags? 

That‘s coming up next. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks clawed their way back into positive territory late today, led by solid gains in the financial sector.  The Dow Jones industrials added 15 points.  The S&P 500 is up almost three points.  And the Nasdaq added number two points. 

An encouraging new homes sales report was behind some of today‘s biggest gains, sale of new homes up a much-better-than-expected 11 percent in June.  And inventories of unsold homes are at their lowest levels since 1998.  That news led to gains among homebuilders and in the financial sector.  Bank of America led the way there, its shares finishing up more than 4.5 percent. 

But investors were worried about the impact of a record $200 billion in government debt flooding the market this week.  Traders are seeing signs of recovery and worried these massive auctions could lead to a tightening of credit. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Will Republicans be blasted from questions from the birther crowd when they go home next month?  What will these elected officials say to their constituents?  Will they shout them down as nuts, or will they keep throwing them the peanuts?

Mike Stark is a blogger for “The Huffington Post.”  He took a camera to Capitol Hill the other day to get some questions answered.  How many Republicans in Congress really think whether the president is not a natural-born citizen?  Well, check out.  Here is his—here is his blog. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE STARK, BLOGGER, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”:  What do you believe personally? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I would like to see the documents. 

STARK:  So, you‘re kind of afraid of the lunatic fringe base? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, it‘s certainly being looked at. 

STARK:  What do you personally believe, though?  I mean, do you think there‘s a question here? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think there are questions.  We will have to see.

STARK:  You do believe there are questions?  That‘s good enough. 

Thanks very much. 

We‘re on the Hill asking Republicans if they believe Barack Obama was born in the United States. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (OFF-MIKE)

STARK:  It doesn‘t matter to you? 

But you swore an oath to uphold the Constitution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s a question he needs to answer, not me. 

STARK:  You can tell me what you think.  You can tell me what you think.  Do you think he was? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, he was my U.S. senator.  So, he said he was, so I believe he was. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst, and Ken Vogel is with The Politico. 

Howard, you first.

Why do Republicans stutter when asked whether Barack Obama is a Republican?  I mean—I‘m sorry—if he‘s American.

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  No.

Well, they‘re stuttering because, as you pointed out in the introduction, Chris, their nightmare is to go back home for the August recess, where they would like to spend the time attacking Barack Obama‘s health care plan and other things, and have to spend all their time at the meetings talking about whether Barack Obama has a legitimate birth certificate or not. 

The White House claims they think this story is beneath them.  They think it‘s an outrage.  But, when—when Robert Gibbs was asked about it at the briefing today, which I attended, he lamented it, but he answered it.  So, I think the White House is sort of looking forward to the prospect of the Republicans having to deal with this when they go home. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, here is Gibbs right now.  Let‘s listen to him. 

Here‘s how he handled it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  And I almost hate to indulge in such an august setting as the White House—and I mean this in seriousness—the White House briefing room discussing the made-up fictional nonsense of whether or not the president was born in this country.

If I had some DNA, it wouldn‘t assuage those that don‘t believe he was born here. 

But I have news for them and for all of us:  The president was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, the 50th state of the greatest country on the face of the Earth. 

Because, for $15, you can get an Internet address and say whatever you want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Ken Vogel, why do these people—not just the one—the dozen or so who have backed this thing in legislation, who are pushing for some sort of resolution with regard to this—we have got a new guy out there basically saying he wants a resolution on something else.

But here is the one—we got—we got Neil Abercrombie from Hawaii, who is a Democrat, who wants to—to honor the state out there by also throwing in the fact that the president of the United States was born in Hawaii. 

So, clearly the battle has been joined here.  Is this real? 

KEN VOGEL, THEPOLITICO.COM:  Well, it was real during the campaign, and I thought the Obama campaign did a very effective job of undercutting it during the campaign by producing these documents. 

Hey, if these documents don‘t answer the questions of folks on the right or the libertarian fringe, who still continue to insist that Obama is not a natural-born citizen, nothing will satisfy them.  And I agree with Howard that the White House would like nothing better than for Republicans to go back to their districts during the august recess, and have their constituents ask them about this, because that means they won‘t be asking them about, you know, Obama‘s health care plan or the cap and trade bill, things that the White House would really like to get through without having a huge public debate over. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, the hardest thing, it would seem to me, if I were a doubter—and I tend to be a doubter on other things, Howard—is the doubt—well, why would I question a birth announcement that was put in the newspapers at the time he was born in Hawaii, with the street address and everything.  We‘re looking at it right now.  Why would anybody have such an announcement made except that they‘re planning for their kid, just born, to be president, because they‘re automatically a citizen if their mom is a citizen. 

So there‘s only one goal here, to be able to lay the groundwork for some sort of Manchurian candidate presidency. 

FINEMAN:  Well, look, Chris—

MATTHEWS:  And that is a full mooner theory, by the way, anybody who thinks like that. 

FINEMAN:  This isn‘t really about facts.  It‘s about emotion.  And I can tell you from having, for example, covered one of the tea party events down in Kentucky, where I began as a reporter back in April, those same people that I saw there, some of them, the people who were worrying about the government taking up the guns, the people who deny that the federal government has a right to tax your income, the people who are worried about being overrun at the borders, the people who are worried about the rights of the NRA and so forth—a lot of those same rejectionist front, if you will, are out there looking for a reason to find a conspiracy in the presidency of Barack Obama. 

There are just enough annoying little bureaucratic details that they can seize on, having to do with the original birth certificate, et cetera, which are all legally and factually besides the point.  But there are enough of them that allows the people on the fringes of the party to do what they‘re going to do. 

When the river is low, the river bed is exposed.  The river is low in the Republican party right now, and you‘re seeing the rocks at the bottom. 

MATTHEWS:  I can‘t wait until somebody hits the question to—or brings the question to Sarah Palin.  Maybe that‘s bringing Cole to New Castle.  I assume she‘ll give something of a stutter as an answer.  Here‘s, by the way—what are your thoughts, Ken—I haven‘t had you on the show lately, so I want to get your DNA.  They have something called a Minnesota multiphasic (ph) personality test, which tests your temperament. 

I remember taking the test to be an RA in grad school.  They ask you questions, do you like tennis or baseball?  Would you rather play chess, an indoor thing, or go outside, whatever.  Then right in the middle of it, they say things like, is someone chasing you right now?  Is someone trying to kill you?  They intersperse those questions to catch the full mooners.

I think lot of these people who believe this stuff will say yes.  If you believe this, you probably the worst.  What are your thoughts?  Are we talking psychological problems with people or what? 

VOGEL:  I don‘t know.  There are certainly people who are prone to embrace conspiracy theories?  We see it with the idea that 9/11 was an inside job.  We see it with the idea that the Bilderburg (ph) group meeting every year is, in fact, a global banking—international banking cabal designed to institute a world government. 

It just so happens that a lot of people who believe those things also believe the rest of them. 

What Howard said is true; there are enough of them, particularly in the Internet age, where they can be something of a force in politics and one that Republicans have to watch out for.  They will drag them down into this sort of—

MATTHEWS:  You are great.  Ken, I‘m falling in love.  You‘re great.  You have reminded me of all the erogenous zones of insanity.  In one sentence of free thinking there, your stream of consciousness has picked up on the idea that George W. Bush was sitting in the White House basement with a plunger as he blew up the World Trade Center with his uncanny ability to get away with murder. 

FINEMAN:  Chris, can I just—

VOGEL:  -- people give a lot of money.  Ron Paul‘s campaign showed that.  There are folks who embrace these conspiracy theories—

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t say Ron Paul. 

VOGEL:  -- an innate distrust of the federal government.  And they can be a force in politics in the Internet age.  But Republicans have to be careful they don‘t cater too much to them.  Otherwise, they marginalize themselves in the mainstream.

MATTHEWS:  Ron Paul has a lot of appeal as a libertarian.  Go ahead, Howard, last thought.

FINEMAN:  I was going to say, I think the White House is not unhappy this is happening.  My ears perk up whenever a politician or spokesman denies something he hasn‘t been accused of.  Robert Gibbs said—I‘m being perfectly serious here about this, and I almost don‘t want to talk about it, but I will. 

But I would caution the White House not to be too cute by half about this stuff.  They think they can do a controlled burn on this, to mix my metaphors. 

MATTHEWS:  Do they have a document to trump this in the end, if it does become—

FINEMAN:  The document that they already have trumps it, in the sense that the certification of birth is a valid document that proves his—

MATTHEWS:  We‘re looking at it. 

FINEMAN: That‘s what you have been showing on the air.  Now, there‘s a dispute over something called the certification of live birth.  Does it still exist or not?  Were they all put on microfilm after 2001?  Were they destroyed after 2001? 

It doesn‘t matter.  He was born in Hawaii, and there‘s legal proof to show so.  But what I‘m saying is if the White House really wanted to shut it off in a forceful manner, you know, they could, number one, deny to answer the questions anymore.  The fact that Gibbs was willing to talk about it in the press room today is interesting in and of itself.  Or they can do something in Hawaii if they wanted to. 

But the Democrats see an opportunity in this now, which is why Neil Abercrombie put that new resolution out there on the floor of the House. 

MATTHEWS:  Great talking to you, Howard.  Thanks as always.  And Ken, welcome to the show. 

Up next, Sarah Palin says good-bye to Alaska, not to us, and slams the media on her way out.  Boy, she is the new Spiro Agnew.  What kind of political future could she have?  She could have a big one in a party that‘s getting smaller and farther to the right.  She could be perfect for the Republicans come 2012. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  It is because I love Alaska this much, sir, that I feel it is my duty to avoid the unproductive, typical, politics as usual, lame duck session in one‘s last year in office.  With this decision now, I will be able to fight even harder for you, for what is right, and for truth.  I have never felt that you need a title to do that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘re back and time for the politics fix, with syndicated radio talk show host and MSNBC contributor Michael Smerconish, and the “Politico‘s” Jeanne Cummings. 

I have a question.  How do we know if she runs for president, when she won‘t quit that?  I mean, quitting public office halfway through your term is an unusual political move.  It doesn‘t bespeak strength.  I remember being a Napoleon fan.  He once said the only victory in love is to walk away.  I‘m not sure it applies here, Michael first. 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  You know, there‘s already a bumper sticker out there.  I think I saw Conan with it.  It says Palin in 2012 through 2014 and a half.  Of course, that‘s going to be the charge about her, that she quit this.  She should have stayed the course, not to use an old political metaphor.  But I think it was the worst possible thing she could have done, Chris, because she will be portrayed as a quitter. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I‘m not a quitter, so I quit.  I love Alaska, so I‘m leaving.  There seems to be, Jeanne, a separation, as they say in football, between the reality and the words. 

JEANNE CUMMINGS, “POLITICO”:  I certainly agree with you, Chris.  It was just a jumble of contradictions, as we saw during the presidential campaign.  On the one hand, she‘s feisty and in your face.  And on the other hand, she‘s a victim of Hollywood starlets.  On the one hand, she‘s a protective mother who hates the way the media treated her kids.  And on the other hand, she goes out of her way to be sure she mentions every single one of them on national TV. 

And then she‘s a fighter, but she quits because she‘s going to be a lame duck and can‘t get anything done.  I think if we continue on here, we may not have to ponder much, whether we‘ll be covering a presidential campaign by her later, because what may well happen is that she‘ll go out and pretend to be fighting for conservative values, where, in fact, she makes a whole lot of money for her personal use. 

MATTHEWS:  Michael, you‘re a lawyer.  I want to give her a chance here.  One thing she says that does strikes true with me—I don‘t think she‘s justified in quitting over it.  These nuisance suits against her, one that says you can‘t raise a legal defense fund to pay off the costs of all these ethic charges.  How else is she supposed to pay for a lawyer?  Isn‘t that sort of a nuisance that she has a right in saying they shouldn‘t be doing it, her Democratic critics? 

SMERCONISH:  I think it is unfair to her, because it seems like there have been some legitimate and many illegitimate.  Chris, she‘s a fund raising machine.  I‘m sure there‘s a lawful way for Sarah Palin to turn loose what you‘re about to see, in terms of the grassroots support that she‘s going to cultivate for the GOP, and raise money. 

One other observation, if I may, the three of us are looking at this somewhat derisively, the way in which she announced that she was leaving.  I must tell you, all day long today, telephone calls from people saying to me that‘s the plain talk of Sarah Palin that we so admire.  She‘s different than all the rest of them.  And that‘s why we are for her. 

MATTHEWS:  I think this is like Hearts.  She‘s shooting the moon, right, Michael?  She‘s shooting the moon? 

(CROSS TALK)

MATTHEWS:  Everybody else is grabbing this card, and she says, no, I‘ll grab all the cards.  She‘s just going the opposite direction of all the others, which got Jimmy Carter elected president, got Ronald Reagan.  Go against the crowd, do what they don‘t do.  Don‘t pack up a resume. 

Throw the resume out the window and say I‘m running on my values. 

CUMMINGS:  Well, she can try that, but it takes a whole lot of work.  The very point you raised in the beginning is what does this say about her stamina and her commitment?  A fighter fights through these things. 

By her own admission, the ethics laws in Alaska need to be amended, because of the nuisance suits that have been brought against her.  The way you get that done is you stay and fight. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be right back to talk about Jim Bunning.  Whatever happened to Jim Bunning?  The greatest pitcher of all times gets thrown out of the game.  We‘ll be right back with HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Michael Smerconish and Jeanne Cummings.  Jeanne, what do you make of this?  You‘re a political expert.  What do you make of this Jim Bunning?  Here‘s his statement today: “over the past year, some of the leaders of the Republican party in the Senate have done everything in their power to dry up my fund raising.  The simple fact is that I have not raised the funds necessary to run an effective campaign for the U.S. Senate.  For this reason, I will not be a candidate for re-election in 2010.” 

I‘ve never seen a candidate come out directly against the party leadership, and blame them for his failure to get reelected.  Your thoughts? 

CUMMINGS:  I think that his statement is dead on.  He‘s right.  They tried to push him out.  He‘s right.  He didn‘t raise enough money.  We have not seen these kinds of sharp elbows played on the gentlemen‘s club that is the Senate in a long, long time.  It was very sharp elbows.  McConnell didn‘t want him to run, didn‘t think he could win.  That calculation might have been right.  They definitely pushed Bunning out.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m with Bunning on this one.  Michael Smerconish, I will never forget his heroics for the Phillies.  What a great pitcher, hall of famer.  What happened here? 

SMERCONISH:  Well, McConnell spent 20 million dollars in the ‘08 cycle.  Senator Bunning only has 595,000 dollars on hand.  Whether they shut him down or he shut down himself, it‘s not the age.  Some people are saying he‘s 77 years old; he‘s too old. 

It‘s the money.  He just doesn‘t have the scratch.  But he should have raised it himself. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I‘ve talked to him about this.  He seems perfectly fine to me, whatever age he is.  Thank you, Michael Smerconish, Jeanne Cummings.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW WITH” Ed Schultz.

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

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