updated 7/30/2009 10:24:48 AM ET 2009-07-30T14:24:48

Guests: Chuck Todd, Mike Huckman, Joan Walsh, Kweisi Mfume, Lois Romano, Jonathan Martin, Charlie Cook, Tom Davis

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Bend it like Beck?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

Suspicious minds.  Did you hear?  Obama pals around with terrorists.  Did you hear?  Obama‘s not an American, he was born in Africa and lied about it.  Did you hear?  Oh, this one‘s the best.  It‘s just in from Glenn Beck.  Obama‘s a racist.  He hates white people—yes, like his mother and his grandparents, who helped raise him, and all the people who voted for him?  Gotcha.

It gets worse every day, and the worst part is that people are getting paid to say this stuff, to dump on our election, saying the whole thing was illegitimate, that the guy‘s from another country, to dump on the voter by saying we voted for someone who holds, quote, “a deep-seated hatred for white people.”  That‘s also from Glenn Beck, and that‘s what we‘re starting with tonight.

Also tonight, back to the real stuff of politics, what most Americans think.  We‘ve got the latest from the new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll just out tonight.  The headline, the president‘s health care plan is losing ground, and so are the Democrats, at least from where they were in inaugural season.  Chuck Todd and political analyst Charlie Cook will here to go through the numbers with you.

Also, just because the Democrats are hurting doesn‘t mean all is well with the other party.  Here‘s what Senator George Voinovich of Ohio said about some of his fellow Republicans.  Quote, “We‘ve got too many Jim DeMints and Tom Coburns.  It‘s the Southerners.  People hear them and say, These people, they‘re Southerners.  The party is being taken over by Southerners.  What the hell have they got to do with Ohio?”  Well, is the party of Lincoln getting weighted down by the refugees from the Democratic Party down in Dixie?

Finally, in more ways than one, we‘ve now got Republicans opposing health care reform by telling people that the government is coming to your house to ask you how you want to die.  Well, that‘s what they‘re saying about the health care bill.  But is this more of the malarkey?  Well, that‘s in the “Politics Fix” tonight.  Plus, we‘ll have what General Colin Powell has to say about Mr. Afternoon Delight himself, Rush Limbaugh, in the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

But first, Fox News host Glenn Beck said this early Tuesday about President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, HOST, “GLENN BECK”:  This president I think has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.  I don‘t know what it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Fox was so concerned by that that it issued a statement separating itself from it.  Here‘s a statement from Bill Schein, the senior vice president of programming for Fox News.  Quote, “During ‘Fox & Friends‘ this morning, Glenn Beck expressed a personal opinion which represented his own views, not those of the Fox News Network.”  Well, that‘s interesting they put that out.

Anyway, former congressman Kweisi Mfume is also a former president of the NAACP, and Joan Walsh is with Salon.  Congressman, thank you for joining us tonight.  He also called—I should say, Glenn Beck also called President Obama—let me get this quote—can we move that quote up there right now?  Can we move up the quote?  Well, let‘s listen to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  I‘m not saying that he doesn‘t like white people.  I‘m saying he has a problem.  He has a—this guy is, I believe, a racist.  Look at the things that he has been surrounded by!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that, Congressman?

KWEISI MFUME, FORMER PRES. & CEO OF NAACP:  Well, it‘s just—it‘s I can‘t even believe it, first of all.  Glenn Beck owes the president an apology.  He owes the American people an apology.  This is an insult to our democracy, our way of life.  It‘s divisive.  It‘s throwing out race and trying to find a way to divide people.

But at the same time, he‘s wise enough to know that maybe he can move his numbers up.  And I don‘t know if he wants to overtake one of his colleagues at Fox in terms of ratings or what, but this sort of thing is terrible.  And if Fox separates itself says that‘s not their position, the question becomes, Well, what is their position regarding the president?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me go to Joan because the congressman raised the issue that maybe this is for commercial purposes.  That‘s my hunch.

WALSH:  Well, mine, too.

MATTHEWS:  But I also have a deeper hunch, but I never know what people—I don‘t know what—I don‘t know Glenn personally.  I don‘t know what his goals are.  But I think a lot of this is aimed at telling people who are racist on the other side, Hey, you‘re not so bad.

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s as bad as are you.

WALSH:  Absolutely.  And I think...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s a racist, too.

WALSH:  He‘s a racist, too.  But it‘s not “too” because, of course, they‘re not racists.  I mean, I wrote about this today, Chris, and I see it with both Glenn Beck and with Rush Limbaugh.  There‘s a clear case of projection here, where these guys with really suspect racial feelings and perceptions are projecting their own hate and their own divisiveness onto a president who, as you said, had a white mother, was raised by white grandparents, and there‘s absolutely no evidence at all that he anything but loves white people.

Obama got to where he was, in my opinion, largely because he makes white people feel like he knows we‘re all trying really hard, and we really like it when black people make us feel that way.  So I mean, I believe that this man...

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH:  I hear the laughter.  I appreciate it.  You know, I believe that this man is a bridge builder.  I can criticize him on this or that, but the idea that he‘s racist is so sick—and I just want to finally say about Fox, issuing a statement criticizing or separating yourself from his statement?  Separate yourself from him, Fox News.  Find another host.  You‘re profiting from his hate and then trying to have it both ways and saying, Oh, we don‘t believe that.  That‘s crap!

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, we‘ve had—Mr. Mfume, you‘re the expert.  You‘re an African-American and you‘re a former head of the NAACP and you represented a district of Baltimore with a lot of African-Americans.  Let me just ask you, it seems to me after 400 years in this country, African-Americans living here longer than most of us or our parents ever—grandparents ever lived here, where does this fit in, this comment by him?

MFUME:  Well, it doesn‘t fit.  I mean, hate radio, hate speech, hate groups, hate crimes really don‘t fit in, in the America that we know today.  And so for this to take place and there for also to be silence in the ranks of many on this comment is rather interesting.

I mean, black people, white people, Latinos, Asians, people work every day to struggle to make a living for their family and have a nice neighborhood to live in, to try to enjoy life.  This sort of thing comes along and says, No, all that‘s out the window because this person is a racist, and I don‘t like you and you should not like him.  And when we start going down that slippery slope, it ends dialogue.

So I would hope that persons who don‘t like this, and which I know are most Americans, will also pull back from the sponsors who continue to sponsor the shows that allow Mr. Beck and others to make money and to get good salaries.  Just don‘t buy the products.  Don‘t buy the services.  And pull back and send a very real message that there‘s no room in this America for that kind of talk.

MATTHEWS:  You know, Joan, you and I have been on television together an awful lot together over the years.  And I just wonder whether you believe what you said a minute ago.  Do you believe you know this guy Beck enough to make that accusation, that he‘s really charged by racism himself, or that Rush Limbaugh is?

WALSH:  You know, I really...

MATTHEWS:  Do you really believe...

WALSH:  Yes, I do.

MATTHEWS:  ... you think you know their motives enough to say that?

WALSH:  Yes, I do.  I really do.  I‘m sorry, Chris because I think that words have consequences, and I think that if you—I judge people not only by their words but what they do.  And if you look at people who have a pattern, who‘ve built a career out of dividing people and who built a career out of often not just Obama but finding ways to degrade and diminish African-Americans and African-American leaders, I don‘t care what‘s in their hearts, to be honest with you.  They can tell themselves they‘re not racist.  They can tell me they have black friends.  I don‘t care.  It‘s racist to consistently make your living on the backs of black people.

And you know, you brought up 400 years, and let‘s consider this an intellectual show where we can talk history.  I truly believe that this assault on Obama is linked to what you referred to earlier, with his health care numbers dropping.  And I will tell you why.  In the 230-year history of this country, the reason we have never developed a social democratic base, the way they have in Europe—we‘re the only Western country without some kind of universal health care, Chris.  There‘s a reason, and it is because corporate interests have divided the American people by race and ethnicity, the Irish from the blacks, the Germans from the German Jews.  It goes back to the 1700s.

It‘s been very smart.  It‘s been very effective.  And people have voted against their self-interests to keep some other group down, and therefore, we don‘t have the basic things that other countries take for granted in terms of a social infrastructure.  That‘s what they‘re doing again.  They want to defeat health care.  They want to defeat his whole agenda by dividing us on racial lines.  I don‘t think it‘s going to work.  I really don‘t.  But that‘s what‘s happening.

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe this grand theory, Congressman, that Joan just put out there that there‘s some grand sort of almost Marxist analysis, where you can say that the corporate world...

WALSH:  I‘m not a Marxist!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, but it‘s an analysis.  It‘s an economic analysis of human behavior.  Yes, it is an economic analysis of human behavior, and I think it‘s more complicated.  I think we all have tribalist tendencies.  We‘ve got to overcome them.  I don‘t think the corporate world created those tribalist tendencies.  I think we‘ve...

MFUME:  Well, Chris...

WALSH:  I think...

(CROSSTALK)

MFUME:  Chris, I‘m not a conspiracy theorist, but I don‘t think Humpty-Dumpty just fell.  I think he was pushed.  And I there are people who in this country are deliberately pushing buttons to try to hold back the progress that people are making in this country as one nation.  And when you push those buttons, as Mr. Glenn Beck did and so many others, it causes the progress to slow down.  As I said before, this is anti-American, and most of all, it‘s insulting to the democracy that people work day in and day out to preserve.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s listen to him again.  Let‘s listen to at least a couple of the bites again, if we can run them now, so people know what he said and we‘re not getting beyond Glenn Beck and his thinking here, if you will.  Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  You can‘t sit in a pew with Jeremiah Wright for 20 years and not hear some of that stuff and not have it wash over.  What kind of president of the United States immediately jumps on the police?  Just like what kind of president would ever say, Oh, well, yes, well, he‘s black, of course he was breaking into the house?  You‘d never do that!  You‘d never do that.  He wanted to address this.  Now—now they‘re going to have a beer?  That‘s obscene!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s the thought.  He‘s obviously embellishing this, Congressman.  He‘s getting into this—is some sort of the use of the word racist.  “Racist” in common parlance means you don‘t like the other race.  If you‘re white, you don‘t like black.  If you‘re black, you don‘t like white.  But it really means a sense of racial superiority.  That‘s what racist means, one race should dominate the other.  It‘s historically mean white people dominating blacks.

MFUME:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think he means by this idea that Barack Obama is a racist, that blacks should rule the world and whites should be subservient, or that blacks—he just doesn‘t like white people?  What meaning can you ascribe to this fellow, this broadcaster?

MFUME:  I mean, aside from the fact that he‘s laughable, he‘s also just a great big problem in the terms of the road of progress.  You know, Chris, I was born at night, I just wasn‘t born last night.  I served under Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton.  I mean, every president says something in the heat of the moment that they back off from.  And they say, Well, you know, I may have misspoken.  That‘s normal.  It‘s going to happen.  It‘s going to always happen.

But for him to take this and to play it in such a way to suggest, Well, you know, you‘ve got to watch out because these black people are getting ready to take over, that is offensive.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Joan, about this question of the “birthers.”  You and I have talked about it before.  I have thought there‘s an attempt by some people—not the Republican Party per se but people on the far right, who have tried to delegitimize our election last November.  They can‘t live with the fact that Barack Obama won, so they‘re trying to say, basically, he wasn‘t a legitimate American, therefore it wasn‘t a legitimate election, therefore our democracy almost needs a new election.  And this guy, by the way, needs to be picked up and taken out by INS, basically, because...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  No, really, that‘s when you—if you follow their logic, to the extent that it exists, he ought to be picked up because he doesn‘t have a Green Card.

WALSH:  Well, Lou Dobbs came very close to that.

MATTHEWS:  Because he wasn‘t born here and he never went through naturalization.  I mean, if you listen to them as if they were logical, this is what they‘re saying.

WALSH:  If you follow, right.

MATTHEWS:  Is this of a piece—is this of a piece...

WALSH:  I think it‘s related.

MATTHEWS:  Is Beck part of that, to de-Americanize the guy.

WALSH:  I do.  I think it‘s related.  It‘s all an attempt to dehumanize him and to delegitimize him in a very deep way.  And it does go back—I mean, you led the segment by talking about Sarah Palin, He‘s palling around with terrorists.  It goes back to the Palin campaign.  I will not say the McCain campaign because John McCain did come out and tell people, He‘s not a Muslim, he‘s a good American family man.  And really I value that moment because it‘s been way too rare in the last, you know, six to eight months.

We need more of it.  We‘re not hearing enough of it from Republicans.  Michael Steele finally—finally today, Michael Steele did make a statement and said, I believe the president is a citizen and he‘s a legitimate president, and I want these people to stop.  But it‘s just been far too slow in coming.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, it‘s getting worse.  And by the way, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is taking heat from the South down there from some of the right for daring to vote for a Supreme Court nominee of the other party.  It‘s unbelievable.  It‘s getting very heated.  Congressman, thank you very much for joining us.

MFUME:  It‘s the takeover of the Republican Party.  It‘s being taken over by the extremists.

WALSH:  Absolutely.

MFUME:  And the ones—the moderate Republicans need to speak up and say something.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s wait and see if they do it, if there are any left.  Kweisi Mfume of Maryland, sir, thanks for joining us.

MFUME:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Joan Walsh of Salon, thank you.

Coming up, we‘ve got a brand-new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll to share with you tonight with some tough numbers for President Obama and very tough numbers for his health care plan.

It‘s all coming up here on HARDBALL.  You‘re watching it, on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  President Obama hit the trail again today to sell his health care plan.  But a new NBC News poll finds a rocky road awaits him as he tries to carry his plan across the finish line.  Chuck Todd‘s NBC News chief White House correspondent and political director and NBC News political analyst Charlie Cook is the editor and publisher of “The Cook Political Report.”  I‘ve got two heavyweights here.

Let‘s analyze the problem facing the president.  More people now disapprove than approve of the president on the issue of health care.  In other words, he‘s got more people fighting him than supporting him right now.  The divide is clearly, if you look at these numbers, between the people who have insurance and those who don‘t have insurance.  Look at that, 52 percent of the people who have health insurance—who don‘t have it, rather, like what he‘s doing, 38 percent who have health insurance now don‘t like what he‘s doing—or like what he‘s doing, rather.  So you have, basically, a very low level of support, 38 percent, among the insured people, and a relatively high percentage of the non-insured people backing him.

Charlie, that makes sense.

CHARLES COOK, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST, “COOK POLITICAL REPORT”:  It makes sense, but the key thing is almost 60 percent—I think it‘s 59 percent—have private insurance.  So that‘s where the big numbers are and that‘s why that gap is so important.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Chuck, that‘s a problem, is he hasn‘t been able to sell his plan or his notions, even, to those people who are insured and feel that they‘re covered.

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR/WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Right.  I mean, just think about that health care number.  He‘s upside down on his job approval on handling the health care issue.  What has he talked about the last two-and-a-half weeks?  Nothing but health care.  So the more he‘s campaigned on this issue, the more he‘s talked about it, the more the numbers go down.

Why?  Well, there‘s a few reasons you could speculate.  Number one, he hasn‘t had a plan to sell, he‘s had an idea to sell.  And then when you pick through the plan, it‘s come—all the incremental stuff has come from Congress, and it‘s all been just sort of the negative that people have feasted on, whether, My taxes are going to go up.  Oh, what—you know...

MATTHEWS:  Exactly.

TODD:  It‘s like the woman yesterday—rationing, who‘s going to decide if I get a hip replacement?  How does that work?  And all of a sudden, it‘s mired in all of this detail.  And I‘ll tell you, everybody‘s now afraid of it.

MATTHEWS:  You know, what it looks like?  A redistribution plan, the way he‘s selling it—We‘re going to take from the people who have insurance, give it to those who don‘t have it, take from people who make a good income, take their money and give it to pay for poor people‘s health care.  It‘s beginning to sound like redistribution, instead of everybody does a little better.

Here‘s the president in Raleigh, North Carolina, today.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Nobody is talking about some government takeover of health care.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  I‘m tired of hearing that.  I have been as clear as I can be. 

Under the reform I proposed, if you like your doctor, you keep your doctor.  If you like your health care plan, you keep your health care plan.  These folks need to stop scaring everybody.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  Nobody, nobody is talking about forcing you to have to change your plans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That sounds like a cheerleader when the other team has the ball and they‘re about to score.  It sounds like a defensive cheer.

COOK:  It is.  And the thing is, fundamentally, I think, what‘s happened is that the last six weeks, the American people, or particularly independents, have lost their confidence in him.  And a lot of it goes back to the stimulus package, which they thought should have worked by now, which is probably unfair.  But the thing is, there was a lot of garbage in that bill, in that stimulus package, and there enough to discredit the whole thing, and people don‘t trust him anymore.  And it jumps out.  And I had a Republican pollster use the term NIMBY.  People are fine—not in my backyard.  Don‘t change my insurance.  Change the system...

MATTHEWS:  Yes, do no harm.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the fact he‘s out there, Chuck, today saying, I‘m not going to hurt you, is scary.  Let‘s take a look—for him.  Let‘s take a look at the latest polling on Congress.  We‘re back to our expertise here, politics -- 39 percent of the country now says they‘d like to see the Republicans control Congress next time.  That‘s gone up a bit, and the Democratic number, 46, has come down a little bit.  Charles, that‘s the closest it‘s been since, I‘m told, April of 2006.

COOK:  Basically, we were getting 9 to 19-point Democratic advantages on that question.  Now we‘ve got I think five polls in the last 10 days that have shown the advantage anywhere—the Democratic advantage down as far as 6, 3...

MATTHEWS:  Is it headed towards a Republican possible takeover of Congress next year?

COOK:  That could happen. 

Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  Forty seats is a lot in the House of Representatives.  But, right now, could you see a Democratic loss of, say, 20 seats, in other words, cut in half?  Could you see that happen?  Absolutely.  And this is what would happen where the Democratic momentum...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

COOK:  ... would dissipate. 

MATTHEWS:  And those Democrats who will lose those seats...

TODD:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... in these projections are the ones scared to death right now, right, Chuck?

TODD:  Well, they are. 

And what is interesting is, our pollsters were able to peel—they—they basically created the Blue Dog demo—demographic, which is, people that didn‘t identify themselves—that people identified themselves as Democrats, but not as liberal Democrats, and—and, ethnically, they‘re white. 

Well, guess what?  Among these voters, while they still personally approve of the president and like the president, all of these things, they‘re the ones wary about deficits. 

So, the...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

TODD:  So, these Blue Dogs, whatever you want to say about them, they are representing their constituents and how they feel about all of this government interaction and the stimulus in the health care. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

You raised the ethnic issue, the racial issue, if you will.  Let‘s take a look at who people blame for the incident up in Cambridge the other week.  Look at this.  Twenty-seven percent blame the Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates.  Eleven percent blame the police sergeant, Crowley.  Twenty-nine percent both equally. 

But I find it more interesting—and this shows that we‘re somewhat enlightened as a country.  We just know.  We weren‘t there.  Almost a third say that. 

And, Charlie, that would be my answer in many cases.

COOK:  Yes.  I—I don‘t know.  I don‘t know who to believe.

MATTHEWS:  I wasn‘t there.  I still want to know...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know what it was, felt like, seemed like, was like. 

COOK:  I think that‘s exactly right. 

And I think that‘s why a lot of voters—I mean, you could understand why the president had a reaction, as an African-American and as a friend of Gates.  But they wondered, should this guy really be wading into this?

MATTHEWS:  He was profiling, in a sense, the president.  He was looking at it as a classic case, he thought.

COOK:  I will let you say that. 

MATTHEWS:  No, I mean, he was profiling the situation.

COOK:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  He was saying, this is a situation I‘m familiar with. 

Therefore, I know what happened. 

COOK:  Yes. 

TODD:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t know what happened. 

COOK:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead...

TODD:  And, Chris, you know, one of our...

MATTHEWS:  ... Chuck.

TODD:  ... one of our pollsters, Peter Hart, he—first of all, they were stunned over that over 70 -- nearly 70 percent in our survey felt comfortable giving an opinion, which tells you how closely they actually followed the story.  You don‘t give an opinion unless you feel like you follow it. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

TODD:  But here‘s the other thing.  Peter Hart goes, the only teachable moment in here, it‘s a teachable moment for the president:  Don‘t step in one of these sidebar issues...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

TODD:  ... and get yourself dragged down. 

MATTHEWS:  A learnable moment, too, as well.

TODD:  Yes.   

MATTHEWS:  Chuck, your thoughts on this.  You may have to take a projected leap here, but the connection between the birther movement right now that sort of subsided a bit with that vote the other day where the Republicans were forced to vote on the record, and all voted he was a citizen...

TODD:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... and this whole thing about Cambridge, this Glenn Beck thing about he‘s a racist, according to Glenn Beck, how is that all fitting into the attitude toward the president on policy and economic matters? 

TODD:  Well, look, all I will say is this.  If you look at the poll—and I want to—I want to take out the Cambridge incident and Beck—and I don‘t want to get it confused with this—but, if you look at poll, we are seeing polarization kick back in.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

TODD:  Where the country was a year—in October of 2008, sort of red team, blue team.  And, by the way, we‘re seeing some old habits.  The South you know, the—we‘re seeing regionalization break in again.

The conservatives and the Republicans have their strongest showing in the South than they have had in three years.  So, we‘re seeing almost a return to where things were pre-Katrina...

MATTHEWS:  So, turning up the heat...

TODD:  ... going back to a last—by the way, another moment that was a—both a racial moment, but don‘t forget the economic-divide moment that that was as well. 

MATTHEWS:  Turning up heat of ethnicity and tribalism helps Republicans, because it divides the country roughly again. 

COOK:  Well, it polarizes things. 

But, ultimately, I don‘t think that‘s President Obama‘s problem.  The problem is, it‘s moderates, it‘s independents, it‘s people that like him, but they—they‘re just not as confident... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What was his biggest mistake since inaugural, Charlie, from the numbers you look at?  Is it going with that grab bag of stimulus stuff on the Hill? 

COOK:  I think that was it, but I think also on health care. 

I think something like this has to be bipartisan.  Big, big public policy changes have to be bipartisan. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

COOK:  He should have brought in Republicans.

MATTHEWS:  Can he save this by cutting a deal with the Senate Republicans?  Can he save his bacon?

COOK:  I think, when he did not—was not willing to go along with malpractice reform, he effectively ended any chance of getting any significant—any—any measurable Republican support. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  OK.  He‘s got to fight with the trial lawyers on that one. 

Anyway, thank you...

COOK:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  ... Chuck Todd.

Thank you, Charlie Cook. 

We will have some more numbers from the NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll coming up at 7:00 in our new edition tonight.  If you want to stick around, you will get some more numbers.

Up next:  Colin Powell hits back against Rushbo, Rush Limbaugh, and the Republicans who are all dittoheads, according to him.  They won‘t stand up to the guy on the radio.  That‘s the General Powell view.  That‘s the Powell—well, it‘s the Powell doctrine.  That‘s next in the “Sideshow.” 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.” 

First up:  The feud rages on.  Last night, General Colin Powell took on the entertainer in chief, Rush Limbaugh, and the dittoheads who think that every minute of Rushbo amounts to a teachable moment; every criticism of Limbaugh is grounds for either swift revenge or a self-debasing and public contrition. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LARRY KING LIVE”) 

COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE:  The problem I am having with the party right now is when he says things that I consider to be completely outrageous, and I respond to it, I would like to see other members of the Party do likewise.  But they don‘t.

LARRY KING, HOST, “LARRY KING LIVE”:  Do you think they are afraid to take him on?

POWELL:  Well, I know a number of instances where sitting members in Congress or elsewhere in positions of responsibility of the party made light criticism of this—of Rush, and, within 24 hours, they were backing away because there is...

KING:  Why?

POWELL:  There is a strong base of support for Mr. Limbaugh.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I think there‘s three parties out there right now, the Democrats, who are largely loyal to President Obama and the Clintons, Republicans, looking for leadership right now, and the hating tribalists out there living in nightly fear of the black helicopters arriving tomorrow morning, dispatched by celebrity left-wing commissars from New York, Washington and Hollywood coming to take away, well, first their guns and then them and their families.  That‘s the third party out there.  And Glenn Beck is talking to them. 

Next up: a reckoning on the “New York Times”‘ opinion pages.  Columnist Maureen Dowd has been known for—over the years for her tough criticism of Hillary Clinton.  But here is speaking today in her column—quote—“Hillary, who is at long last in a job that she earned on her own merits, had lost that—has lost that irritating question mark she used to carry around above her head like a thunder cloud:  What is Hillary owed because of what she gave up, and went through, for Bill?”

Well, Maureen, who‘s a master of the pen, has shifted her sharp literary focus to the more topical ex-governor of Alaska.  Look out, Sarah. 

And, finally, goodbye, “Ratso” Rizzo.  “The New York Times” reports that New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg‘s administration has been actually trying to save money on shelters by buying the homeless one-way tickets to places where they—where they have got relatives willing to take them in. 

The city spends half-a-million dollars a year now on a program which sends people mostly back to Georgia, the Carolinas, and other points south.  I guess, if you can‘t make it in New York, it‘s time to get on the bus, Gus. 

Anyway, time now for tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Republican Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona, who was a guest on this show yesterday, wants to slow the progress of a $600 billion plus defense appropriations bill, which he says is loaded down with wasteful earmarks and no-bid contracts. 

How is he doing it?  By filing amendments, one after the other.  How many amendments is he filing?  A record 553 amendments.  According to The Politico newspaper, if the House—House actually votes, ends up voting on all of those amendments, it would mean roll call votes for 50 hours straight. 

Congressman Flake‘s making a stand with 553 amendments to that big spending appropriations bill—tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next:  The Republican Party has been shrinking the last few election cycles, and now Republican Senator George Voinovich of Ohio thinks he knows why.  He says there‘s too many Southerners aboard.  Are Southerners driving the GOP South? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MIKE HUCKMAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Mike Huckman with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

And a late-day rally on the Fed‘s latest economic snapshot was not enough to move stocks into move territory today, the Dow Jones industrials finishing 26 points lower, the S&P 500 losing four, and the Nasdaq is down almost eight points. 

The Federal Reserve‘s Beige Book said some regional economies are showing signs of stabilizing.  But it warned, the national economy is still fragile, and it is looking like recovery could happen at a slower-than-expected pace. 

There were a number of factors dragging on stocks today, including a surprise jump in oil inventories, a weaker-than-expected Treasury auction, a drop in orders for durable goods, like cars and appliances, and mortgage applications falling for the first time in four weeks. 

But say hello to Microhoo.  Microsoft and Yahoo! reached a deal today to combine search capabilities to try to better compete with Google. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  This is going to be trouble, if we haven‘t had enough trouble already with Glenn Beck tonight.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Recent comments by Senator George Voinovich, who is a lame-duck Republican senator from Ohio, has gotten some other Republicans mad.  Voinovich told “The Columbus Dispatch,” his hometown dispatch—quote—

“”We have got too many Jim DeMints”—he would be the conservative guy from South Carolina—“and too many Tom Coburns”—he‘s the conservative guy from Oklahoma.  It is the Southerners.  People hear them and say, ‘These people, they are Southerners.  The party is being taken over by Southerners.  What the hell they got to do with Ohio?‘”

Well, joining me, former U.S. Congressman Tom Davis, Republican of Virginia, which is somewhere on the border.  It‘s a Southern border—

Southern state. 

What do you make of this?  Has your party become the party of ex-Democrats who quit the Democratic Party because of civil rights back in the ‘60s; they‘re all Dixiecrats now calling themselves Republicans?  Is that killing your party?

TOM DAVIS ®, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN:  Well, it‘s a Southern...

MATTHEWS:  Thad Cochran, people like that?

DAVIS:  Well... 

MATTHEWS:  Trent Lott was like that.

DAVIS:  A lot of them are Northerners who moved south in migration for the new economy down there as well, just felt comfortable.  They‘re right-to-work states.  So, there are a lot of reasons.

MATTHEWS:  Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn?

DAVIS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Lindsey Graham moved South? 

DAVIS:  Well, Lindsey didn‘t.  But we have—you know, a lot of—a lot of our members are Northerners, who—Tom Price from Georgia...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Shelby?  Richard Shelby?  He is an ex-Democrat.  He‘s classic. 

DAVIS:  He is.  It‘s a coalition.  You know what Southern politics... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m going to ask you this.  Is your party—I‘m looking at the party.  You have had 19 members of the United States Senate who are Republicans in the last couple elections quit.  That‘s half the number of senators that there are there now.  You have got 40 Republicans. 

Almost half have just quit.  There‘s no future, except for Specter, who just got in a lifeboat, right?

DAVIS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  He just switched parties.  He got in the lifeboat with the Titanic sinking.  In New England, there‘s no Republican congresspeople left. 

DAVIS:  Not in the House. 

MATTHEWS:  Not in the House. 

In the Senate in New York—I mean, in the House in New York, there‘s like two left.  And one‘s just leaving.  He‘s going to become secretary of the Navy or whatever.

DAVIS:  Well, we will hold that seat, I think, but...

MATTHEWS:  Well, you might.  But it seems like the whole Northeast, where I grew up...

DAVIS:  Right. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... there was always a Republican senator in every state, at least.  You know, you had two in Pennsylvania for years.  New Jersey had a Republican senator.  New York had Republican senators when I was a kid. 

What happened to your party in the North?

DAVIS:  It has—politics has been defined by culture over the last several cycles.  And we have become a rural party and a Southern party.  We have been losing inner suburbs and the like. 

A lot of this was the policies of the Bush administration.  There are 18 states we have lost now five straight presidential elections.  McCain wasn‘t within 10 points in those states -- 34-2 is the Senate lineup in those states. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, do you think part of the problem is, when I polled the people at the—at the first presidential debate last year at the Reagan Library, and—and we asked them a simple question, do you believe in evolution, and I think three guys said yes. 

(LAUGHTER)

DAVIS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I mean, you had to—they don‘t believe in sort of the natural biology courses we all took in high school. 

DAVIS:  Well, I think...

MATTHEWS:  You have a party that doesn‘t believe what they were taught in high school. 

DAVIS:  Well, it—you know, it‘s changed so that people, the high-education areas—Obama carried 78 of the 100 counties with the highest education.  McCain carried 88 of the 100 counties with the lowest education. 

So, there—as we have moved to cultural politics, that‘s been the shift.  But that‘s going to change.

MATTHEWS:  Is that the smart move for the Republican Party, to join... 

DAVIS:  No, it‘s a terrible—it‘s a terrible... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  To pick up the Dixiecrats when they quit the Democrats over civil rights? 

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS:  Well, it‘s more than that.  It‘s also rural—you know, it‘s also rural vs. urban in the Northeast and Midwest and everything else. 

But it‘s going to change.  I mean, part of that is the cost of government. 

MATTHEWS:  But guys like Tony Perkins are dancing on your grave.  The far-right guys and Limbaugh and those guys and...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They love this thing. 

DAVIS:  Well, they don‘t think we have gone far enough to the...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DAVIS:  ... the right. 

MATTHEWS:  They love it. 

DAVIS:  It‘s going to change...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They want a small Republican Party that they can dominate. 

DAVIS:  They want a club.

MATTHEWS:  Glenn Beck is not upset that the party has gotten rid of its... 

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS:  They want a private club with admissions tests.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DAVIS:  They don‘t want a party which is, by definition, coalition. 

But...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Would they rather lose?

DAVIS:  Oh, yes.

I mean, I think DeMint said as much, that he would rather be 30 true believers than he would these broad coalitions that make a majority.  Look at the Democrats.  Now they have let so many moderates in, they‘re having trouble passing bills, even with big majorities. 

But that‘s where the country is.  And, in a sense, that reflects the electorate.  But it‘s going to change a bit, because...

MATTHEWS:  Would Lincoln join today‘s Republican Party? 

DAVIS:  I think he would. 

MATTHEWS:  Which part—what would he like about it? 

DAVIS:  What wouldn‘t he like about it?

MATTHEWS:  What would he like about the Republican Party today?

DAVIS:  I think he would like our economics.  I don‘t think he would like socialized medicine. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Socialized medicine.  OK.  You‘re back to your party roots here.  That didn‘t take long. 

DAVIS:  Well, I‘m an economic conservative. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the party‘s future.  It seems to me you‘ve got a choice between Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, just to be cartoonish about it.  You‘ve got the person who is the full mooner, all the way out there, very attractive politically.  She knows how to give a speech, which most people don‘t in America.  She draws a crowd.  She‘s going to make a lot of money on the speaking tour.

Then you‘ve got Mitt Romney, who is dull, who doesn‘t seem to know that he‘s a politician, doesn‘t seem to know how to be a politician.  Who wins that kind of fight? 

DAVIS:  I think you‘ll see maybe a John Kasich or somebody emerge. 

MATTHEWS:  If he wins in Ohio. 

DAVIS:  If he wins in Ohio.  I think the midterm will bring in a new breed of Republican out there that can appeal—will hold the base, but will -- 

MATTHEWS:  Can you win with a party where Charlie Crist wins down in Florida, Tom Coburn wins in Pennsylvania, Christie wins in New Jersey, your guy McDonald wins in Virginia?  Is that the basis for a national political party, a bunch of governors? 

DAVIS:  I think it‘s going to be.  I think we‘ll pick up in the House as well, because the midterms are a referendum on Obama.  It‘s not about the Republicans.  The voters will want to put a check on him. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re saying that Abraham Lincoln, where he brought back to life today, would not join the party of Obama.  He‘d join the party of Mitch McConnell?  Are you serious? 

DAVIS:  I am serious. 

MATTHEWS:  Can I put you under oath right now. 

DAVIS:  And Mark Kirk and Tom Davis and John Warner.  We can go on and on.  Absolutely he would be a Republican.  He‘s a fierce independent. 

MATTHEWS:  How about Teddy Roosevelt, a conservationist.  I‘m sure he‘d be for global warming.

DAVIS:  He‘s a New Yorker.  I can‘t comment on that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you, sir, Tom Davis.  Thanks for joining us, a Virginian. 

Up next, talk about scare tactics; it‘s the latest right wing strategy to defeat health care, telling old people that the government‘s going to come get them, go to their house, and ask them how they want to die.  We‘ll get to that.  It gets worse in the politics fix.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back now with the politics fix, with the “Washington Post‘s” Lois Romano and the “Politico‘s” Jonathan Martin.  Let‘s take a look at the president.  Here he was talking about the health care plan, after being asked a question by a wary caller at an AARP meeting today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I have been told there is a clause in there that everyone that‘s Medicare age will be visited and told to decide how they wish to die.  This bothers me greatly.  And I‘d like for you to promise me that this is not in this bill. 

OBAMA:  You know, the—I guarantee you, first of all, we just don‘t have enough government workers to send to talk to everybody, to find out how they want to die.  I think that the only thing that may have been proposed in some of the bills, and I actually think this is a good thing, is that it makes it easier for people to fill out a living will. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s North Carolina Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, speaking on the House floor. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. VIRGINIA FOXX ®, NORTH CAROLINA:  Republicans have a better solution, that won‘t put the government in charge of people‘s health care, that will make sure we bring down the cost of health care for all Americans, and that ensures affordable access for all Americans, and is pro-life, because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s how hot it‘s getting.  Lois Romano, Jonathan Martin

Lois, your thoughts about this debate.  It‘s a provision in the Energy and Commerce version of the health care bill—in the Energy and Commerce Committee.  It was put in this provision by Earl Blumenauer from Oregon.  There it stands.  It‘s a provision which allows you to get counseling every five years or so. 

I wonder what the hell this provision is doing in a bill that‘s aimed at people who are younger?  It‘s not about Medicare recipients, people over 65.  Why we would want to be visited every five years by somebody to talk about how you want to die.  I think it‘s crazy this is in there.  Your thoughts?

LOIS ROMANO, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  It‘s not in there. 

MATTHEWS:  It is in there.  It‘s in the bill.  It‘s in the Dingell bill. 

ROMANO:  Chris, first of all, it‘s an extension of a 1999 bill that was enacted during the Bush administration, and it‘s a self-determination, a patients rights bill.  All it really says is that Medicare will pay if somebody wants to go in and have a consultation.  It doesn‘t say you have to have a consultation. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not about Medicare, Lois.  We already have that in Medicare.  This is about people under 65, younger people.  This is not about Medicare.  We‘ve got it in—you‘re saying that.  This is about a health care bill to help people in their middle and younger years.  Why would you have this conversation with them? 

ROMANO:  I think it‘s basically to give patients some rights.  They want to go in and have a conversation.  It‘s about a living will, as Obama said.  It‘s about making choices, about being prepared, you know—I think most people would opt to use it if they were ill.  I don‘t think you and I, healthy, would go in and say can we talk how I‘m going to die in 20 years, if something happens.  I think it‘s—

You‘re talking about a person—say they‘re under 65.  Say they‘re 45 and they‘re dying and they just want to go and have a consultation. 

MATTHEWS:  This is on a regular recurring basis. 

ROMANO:  But it‘s not mandated, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not mandated.  What‘s it doing in there?  I just have a sense this was put in by a lobbyist who wanted this in for hospice care.  Somebody pushed this in there.  It‘s the kind of social policy dynamite that sounds like Denmark or Scandinavia.  It‘s that kind of mindset that drives a lot of moderates and conservatives crazy.  Your thoughts, Jonathan?

JONATHAN MARTIN, “POLITICO”:  Chris, that‘s exactly why you see someone like Foxx from Carolina, a very conservative member, bringing this up on the House floor.  It does offer political fodder.  If you‘re a Republican, you‘re trying to do anything you can to torpedo this bill.  What do you do, Chris?  You go in this bill and you find any element that you can take out and extract, and try to use that to hurt the larger bill. 

That‘s why you heard her doing that on the House floor.  That‘s why the president has folks call into his AARP call-in show, bringing this issue up, because the Republicans are trying to find something to kill this larger bill.  And that sounds pretty damn scary. 

MATTHEWS:  Lois, the concern I have is that something that can be handled by filling out a form, that somebody can handle for a minuscule amount of money.  And we‘re talking about a trillion dollar bill here.  And somebody put in a provision, which is a nice, useful handle for somebody to say, we‘ve got social policy here and the lefties can‘t wait for us to start telling old people, well, it‘s going to cost a lot of money for you to live, so maybe you ought to be doing this other thing.

ROMANO:  I just don‘t see it that way.  Everything that I read about it; it‘s a provision that asks hospitals to raise the question of living wills, which I don‘t have, but a lot of people have one.  Just say, do you want to do this?  If you‘re coming into this hospital, do you want a living will?  You make a very good point.  It‘s even more benign if it‘s not for the elderly.  It‘s just to inform patients that they have some rights, if they want to do a do not resuscitate.  I just don‘t think there‘s any that big deal about it. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll come back on this.  I think it‘s like the abortion issue that‘s been jammed into this thing.  We have a Hyde amendment, Lois, that says the government will not pay for abortion.  People are talking about putting that into the bill.  Pro-choice people want the government to pay for abortions.  There‘s a lot of social policies being jammed at us. 

ROMANO:  This is not a social policy.  This is just telling patient what options they have, like a patient living will.

MATTHEWS:  Why is it in this bill? 

ROMANO:  Why not. 

MATTHEWS:  Because it‘s—we‘re talking about it.  Anyway, thank you, Lois.  Stay with us We‘ll be right back, Lois Romano and Jonathan Martin.  We‘re going to talk about Glenn Beck, a simpler topic to talk about, when we come back on HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Lois Romano of “The Washington Post” and Jonathan Martin of “Politico.”  Let‘s take a listen, if you can stand it, of Glenn Beck on Fox yesterday morning. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  This president I think has exposed himself as a guy, over and over again, who has a deep seeded hatred for white people or the white culture.  I don‘t know what it is. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  He also called President Obama racist.  Listen to this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  I‘m not saying he doesn‘t like white people.  I‘m saying he has a problem.  He has a—this guy is, I believe, a racist.  Look at the way look at the things that he has been surrounded by. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Lois, what do you make of this character?  Glenn Beck, he‘s rising high on the right wing side of things. 

ROMANO:  OK, so I have a question for you.  Why are we talking about this guy?  He went to the same school of hateful punditry as Ann Coulter did.  He had Keith Ellison on his show and wanted to know, you know, if Keith was a terrorist of some sort.  He said he couldn‘t debunk rumors that FEMA facilities were going to be used as concentration camps. 

The guy is bordering on being a nut. 

MATTHEWS:  More people listen to him than read the “Washington Post.” 

That‘s why we‘re listening to him. 

ROMANO:  Oh, well. 

MATTHEWS:  The fact is that voice is being heard and some people believe it.  In fact, I assume that people who listen to him on a regular basis mostly do believe him, and are willing to listen to what he has to say, because they think it has some value. 

MARTIN:  And the more provocative he is, then, you know, the more attention he‘s going to get, and we‘re going to talk about it, and it will be picked up online.  And therefore, the more viewer he gets.  It‘s like the Coulter strategy as well.  The more provocative they are, the more attention they get. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you make, Lois, of the fact that the Fox News network, one of their top executive, made a point the other day of coming right out and saying, he does not speak for us.  This may be a first.  But they came out and said, don‘t count on us to back up this guy‘s point of view. 

ROMANO:  Because they know they‘re dealing with a very popular president and a very hot issue.  I mean, we‘ve just come off of two weeks of an intensely hotly debated racial issue, with Skip Gates and the arrest.  And so, you know, Fox doesn‘t want to be caught on the wrong side of a racial issue. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you the question, Lois.  Do you think this all wraps together the fact that the Republican right, the far right rather, has been questioning the president‘s birth as American, questioning his legitimacy as elected president, even suggesting he ought to get picked up, basically, because he doesn‘t have a Green Card.  They‘ve gone that far.  Then to take it—obviously, going after him on the situation in Cambridge, which is murky.  And this whole thing with Glenn Beck saying he‘s racist.  It seems to me there‘s a piece to this.  It‘s all one message, this guy is not one of us. 

ROMANO:  You know, Chris, I think you‘re on to something there.  I think the far right has picked up on all these racial overtones.  You know, I did a piece on Michelle Obama, I guess, a few weeks ago.  It had about 400 comments on the Internet.  And some of them were so vile, we had to take them down.  They were so racist. 

They know they‘re hitting a core segment of society.  And they‘re trying to inflame these racial feelings. 

MARTIN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Your thoughts, Jonathan?  Why is party politics—we know he‘s African-American.  That‘s fact, manifest from the day we first met him in his big speech.  Why is it news that they‘re playing the racial card the way they‘re playing it? 

MARTIN:  Well, the birth certificate offers a certain segment out there some degree of reassurance that this country didn‘t actually elect somebody who is African-American.  Look, it‘s not even thinly veiled.  The whole birth certificate issue is totally driven by this sense on denial by this small fraction of American society.  They can‘t except the fact that he‘s our president, so they‘re grasping at this, even though, obviously, it‘s totally debunked.  Of course it‘s about race.  They don‘t want to accept—

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s not about documentation?  It‘s about pigmentation, is that what you‘re saying?

ROMANO:  It‘s about race and it‘s about patriotism.  It‘s just a take on what the far right has always done.  It‘s this whole thing about when they call—they said John Kerry looks French, and they questioned John McCain‘s commitment to his country.  It‘s putting doubt in people‘s mind about people‘s loyalty and who they are. 

MATTHEWS:  Maybe it‘s time for the Republican party to unhook the caboose, let it go.  Anyway, thank you, Lois Romano.  Thank you, Jonathan Martin.  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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