updated 7/31/2009 10:19:19 AM ET 2009-07-31T14:19:19


July 30, 2009



Guests: Julia Boorstin, Eugene Robinson, Roger Simon, Lynn Sweet, Earl Blumenauer, Dee Dee Myers, Tony Blankley, Stephen A. Smith, Lars Larson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Beer "pah-ty"!

Let's play "Hahd-ball."

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

This Bud's for you. An hour from now, the commander-in-chief hosts the first and quite possibly last ever beer summit. President Obama will be sitting at the back lawn picnic table alongside Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police sergeant who arrested him, James Crowley.

Everyone has something to say, it seems, about how the two men conducted themselves in this situation. Everyone has a different view based upon their own rearview mirrors and what they've been through in life. We'll be joined in a minute by MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson and columnist Stephen A. Smith.

Why are some Republicans and other opponents of health care reform now insisting that President Obama wants to send government workers to the homes of the elderly to ask how they want to die? It's because of a provision in one of the health care bills Congress is considering. We're going to talk to the sponsor of that bill, but first with a radio talk show host who doesn't like it one bit.

Plus: Whatever happened to the all-purpose can't-miss Obama message machine that vanquished Hillary Clinton and John McCain? Well, suddenly, the president seems hard to figure, especially in this health care debate. What's he saying, and why can't we hear it, and why did he get to be such a buttinski in this fight between the professor and the cop?

Also, what do people really think about Obama, the Clintons, John McCain and Palin? That's in the "Politics Fix." And which of the political couples I just mentioned would you most like to spend your vacation with, the Obamas, the Clintons, the McCains, or the Palins? We got some information from a focus group and what other people are saying on that topic in the HARDBALL "Sideshow."

But we start tonight with today's White House beer summit coming up between President Obama, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and the officer who arrested him, Sergeant James Crowley. Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post," also an MSNBC political analyst, and Stephen A. Smith is a journalist and commentator. And there he is.

Gene, you first. What are we going to get out of this? They're apparently going to be sitting at a park bench.


MATTHEWS: You know, they ought to be playing chess maybe in this situation. There are going to be three relatively total strangers, although Skip and the president are buddies, I guess. The odd man out will be the sergeant, who doesn't really know either of them, right? What's the formatting going to accomplish here?

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what we're going to get is a stilted photograph, some footage. It'll be kind of a photo-op, and that's what we'll get out of it. And I suspect...

MATTHEWS: A spray (ph).

ROBINSON: ... they'll get a little bit more out of it. They'll get beer out of it.


ROBINSON: You know, I haven't been offered a beer yet, but...

MATTHEWS: But you know-but you know, Gene, that none of these three guys is stupid enough to get lit!


ROBINSON: No, of course not. Of course not and...

MATTHEWS: They're going to be very careful not to go past, what, one-and-a-half beers, each one of them?

ROBINSON: If that. If that.

MATTHEWS: If that.

ROBINSON: And look, I don't think they're going to work through America's 400-year...


ROBINSON: ... travails with race over one-and-a-half beers. You know, they're not going to do it. But it's a way of the president...

MATTHEWS: So you're snapping this up as basically a picture for the papers tomorrow.

ROBINSON: It's a picture for the papers. It's a gesture. It's a gesture. And I don't think it's an entirely...

MATTHEWS: OK, I want to hear from Stephen...

ROBINSON: ... hokey gesture, but it's a gesture.

MATTHEWS: ... A. Smith, sir, from Philadelphia, your view of this-

I was using a Massachusetts accent because these guys are up there, they're going to have something of a beer "pah-ty," as they say up there. They're not going to get faced, as they used to say in the old days up there. They're going to have a beer, maybe a half a beer, each of them. What do you make of its potential?

STEPHEN A. SMITH, JOURNALIST: Well, Eugene, let me translate it for you. And with all due respect, let's call it what it is, a complete waste of time, something that has dragged on for entirely too long. It's been eight days that we've been talking about this non-story. The fact is, is that Professor Gates has made it a non-story simply because I'm watching this guy on TV just a few days ago, and he literally said, Hey, you know what? You know, my door was locked and I tried to nudge it open.

And I'm saying to myself-I have some legitimate questions about it from Jump Street, but then when I heard him say that, I'm, like, Wait a minute. You are not at home. You come back here from off the road. You've locked yourself out. You're trying to open your door, and all it takes to open your door is a nudge? Give me a break. You were trying to really push that door open. That's why you had your driver or whoever it was with you to help you do so.

So when you take that into account and then you listen to what Sergeant Crowley said, wait a minute, then it could have been anything. And at the end of the day, what it comes down to is this may have not been an issue about racial profiling, after all. It may have been just a complete misunderstanding. That is something that Professor Gates has still yet to acknowledge, and I find that utterly unfortunate.

MATTHEWS: You want to answer that?

ROBINSON: Well, no, I disagree with Stephen. I don't think this is a complete non-story. I think it's a very interesting story. And one of the reasons I think it's so interesting is that, you know, this is one of these little episodes that make people talk about race, or talk around race, whatever you want (INAUDIBLE) and-but this one-you know, there's no tragedy that we have to take into account. Nobody got shot. Nobody got hurt. The only-all that was hurt were some feelings and some egos. And so in this sort of fault-free...

SMITH: I disagree with that.

ROBINSON: ... environment-well, I think that's true and...

MATTHEWS: OK, look, suppose they try to-excuse me. Suppose they try to get something done. It seems odd to me, what's going to happen-then again, a lot of things that happens in Washington are odd-that they won't talk about what happened. Now, if they don't talk about what happened, I don't know what the hell this thing's-I'm with Stephen completely.


MATTHEWS: If they don't talk about what happened-now, it seems to me there is a critical moment in this whole kerfuffle, if you use a Yiddishism here...


MATTHEWS: ... which is not appropriate. Well, I don't know (INAUDIBLE) going to call it, a-let's get an Irish name for it. I'll think of it in a minute. A donnybrook. A donnybrook.


ROBINSON: Megillah.

MATTHEWS: OK. It seems to me it started when the cop, the police officer, in uniform yelled into a guy's house, Come out here, I want to talk to you. At that moment, the guy's back of his hairs were up. He said, Wait a minute, it's my house. You want to make me leave my house.

Now, Stephen, the way you read this story 100 times, that was when the so-called profiling moment occurred. He, the professor, Henry Louis Gates, figures instinctively at that point he wouldn't have done this to a white guy. He did it to me because I'm a black guy because we-you know how we know he thought that? He yelled it out, You're doing this to me because I'm a black guy.

SMITH: But we're not questioning...


MATTHEWS: That's the key moment-well, was that a profiling moment?

That's the question.

SMITH: Well, it may have been a...

MATTHEWS: He says it is. The cop says it isn't, I assume. What do you say it is?

SMITH: But Chris-Chris, I'm saying it may have been a profiling moment, but the point is, it has devolved to less than that in the days that have followed. Where I disagree with Eugene-and I want to talk to him directly when I say this. I mean this respectfully, Eugene. You're older than me.


SMITH: You've experienced more than me, OK? You understand? You know, pre-Civil Rights days, et cetera, et cetera. There are a lot of things that you've gone through in your lifetime.

When we think about Professor Gates and what he alleged may have happened, the fact that it has devolved into something far less than that, you have to consider the collateral ramifications. You've got a lot of white people out there, a lot of Jewish people out there, a lot of Italian people out there-the list goes on and on-that are looking at it and saying, Wait a minute, this wasn't about racial profiling. It was made into something that it was not.


SMITH: So ultimately...


SMITH: What's going to happen now?

MATTHEWS: Let me give Gene a chance here.

ROBINSON: Stephen...

MATTHEWS: I don't know whether Henry Kissinger would have been told to come out of his house.

ROBINSON: No. I am...

MATTHEWS: Henry Kissinger, come out of your house, stand in the corner here.

ROBINSON: Look, I-Stephen, I am older than you, it's true.


ROBINSON: You know, I managed to kind of, you know, make my way here to the studio.


ROBINSON: But actually-see, I disagree with Chris in that I don't think that was the key moment.


ROBINSON: The key moment was when Skip Gates got arrested, OK? We had established that he was-he was-you know, he was acting out. He was yelling at the cop. The cop didn't like it, whatever...

MATTHEWS: Well, what would have happened if I'd have been yelling at the cop?

ROBINSON: All this-all this sort of stuff...

MATTHEWS: I thought if you start yelling at a cop, you get arrested for disorderly. I thought that came (INAUDIBLE) territory.

ROBINSON: The cop went there to see if somebody was robbing the house. Nobody was robbing the house. He satisfies himself that Skip Gates is the guy who lives in the house. So what do you do at that point? What is good policing at that point? Good policing at that point is, you know, Thank you very much, sir, you know, I hope you have a better day tomorrow than you're having today. You walk away. You don't-you don't clap the cuffs on him. And I think that that's-you know, that...


MATTHEWS: Suppose I was in a bad mood. I just got back from China. I had to force my way into my house. And a cop's yelling at me from outside, Come out here. And I'd say, What? Come out here, and treats me like I'm a suspect. And my attitude is, I don't like being treated like a suspect, so I give some lip.


MATTHEWS: Would I get arrested?

ROBINSON: You know...

MATTHEWS: You're saying I wouldn't.


ROBINSON: I think after the cop...

MATTHEWS: I don't know.

ROBINSON: After the cop satisfied himself that you...

MATTHEWS: He would...


MATTHEWS: ... that I had humiliated him by screaming at him on a-out in front of my house.

SMITH: But Chris...

MATTHEWS: Would he put up with it?

ROBINSON: But I don't think he would have arrested you.

MATTHEWS: OK, your thought?

SMITH: There's a bigger issue, Chris. What I'm saying is this. You're Professor Gates. You're an iconic figure within the African-American community, an African-American scholar. You know the history, you know the trials, the tribulations. You know how this thing-you saw how this thing was spinning out of control.

If you really want to send the right message, why do you need to go to the Rose Garden in the back of the White House and have a beer with the president?


SMITH: How come you couldn't do that...

MATTHEWS: He invited you!

SMITH: ... with Sergeant Crowley yourself?

MATTHEWS: OK, excuse me...

SMITH: How come you couldn't handle it?

MATTHEWS: Now you're getting over the edge here, Stephen. If you got invited to the White House tomorrow morning, you'd be there tomorrow.

SMITH: That's true.

MATTHEWS: What are you, kidding me?

SMITH: That's true, but I wouldn't...

MATTHEWS: OK, well, then, the professor's in the same situation.

SMITH: But hold on. Wait a minute. But I'm not friends with the president. Excuse me! I wouldn't have chosen this occasion to go to the White House if I were friends with the president. I could have picked another occasion. I certainly would have avoided allowing this to escalate to a non-story or devolve into a non-story over the course of eight days about something that just wasn't the case.

MATTHEWS: All right. OK.

SMITH: At the end of the day, it wasn't racial profiling, was it?

MATTHEWS: Well, it looked to me. Let's go back to where we're going to end up tonight. We're going to have the show-we're having a new edition tonight at 7:00. Thank God we can actually talk about what happened. We're going to get a lot of people here with insight, with some tick-tock of what actually happened. We're going to get all kinds of...

ROBINSON: How many beers? How many beers?

MATTHEWS: We're going to find out a lot by 7:00 o'clock tonight. I don't think this thing's going to go on. Do we all agree?


SMITH: Let's pray!

MATTHEWS: This thing's got a life expectancy...


MATTHEWS: ... a Washington reception. He's not staying for dinner.

ROBINSON: After 45 minutes...

MATTHEWS: Light hors d'oeuvres...

ROBINSON: ... there's going to be a lot of checking of watches...

MATTHEWS: I'd say light hors d'oeuvres, OK?


MATTHEWS: So they've had their beers. By the way, we have them here on the set, all three beers. We've got-let's see, we've got a Blue Moon. That is the Sergeant's preference. And we got Red Stripe, which is the professor's. And we've got what we-what the president thought-we'll get into this later in the show-thought was an American beer. Wrong!

ROBINSON: Turns out not to be.

MATTHEWS: It's been bought. It's been bought by a Belgian company.

Anyway, here's the president late today, talking about the beer he's going to have in less than an hour now.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I notice this has been called the "beer summit." It's a clever term, but this is not a summit, guys. This is three folks having a drink at the end of the day, and hopefully, giving people an opportunity to listen to each other. And that's really all it is.


MATTHEWS: And here's a smart column thought from E.J. Dionne in "The Washington Post" today. "The problem with 'teachable moments' is that the term sets up one group of people a teachers while another group is consigned to the role of pupils. In a democracy, that's troublesome."

MATTHEWS: Gene, who's going to learn, who's going to teach?

ROBINSON: You know...

MATTHEWS: The learner ain't going to be happy.

ROBINSON: It's a beer summit. Nobody's going to learn, nobody's going to teach. There's not going to be any teaching or learning there. But what I think has happened over this eight days, or whatever, is there have been conversations about this incident. There have been conversations about race and racial profiling, whether this was or whether this wasn't, and how do police treat black people and do they treat them different from white people?


ROBINSON: Those conversations are...

MATTHEWS: ... cops stop asking blacks automatically to open their trunks...

ROBINSON: Those conversations are...


ROBINSON: ... the teachable moment.

MATTHEWS: What will change?


MATTHEWS: What will change?

ROBINSON: Well, what will change? We don't have, you know, Valhalla tomorrow. I mean...


MATTHEWS: Will cops be less likely to say, Open your trunk, buddy?


ROBINSON: No. No. Not necessarily, but-but maybe...

MATTHEWS: Will they be less likely to say, Come out of your house, buddy?

ROBINSON: Or maybe...

MATTHEWS: Come out of your house?

ROBINSON: ... people will have more of an awareness...


ROBINSON: ... of the way blacks see a situation versus the way whites...

MATTHEWS: I think you're right. I think that's true.

ROBINSON: ... see a situation like this.

MATTHEWS: I think I agree with you.

ROBINSON: And more awareness is...

MATTHEWS: Stephen...

ROBINSON: ... better than less.

MATTHEWS: I disagree. I think this beer party's going to be good for the country. I think it's interesting. The whole world's going to be watching. We've got...

SMITH: I hope you're right.

MATTHEWS: ... our first African-American president hosting the party. That's probably the most important thing, who gets to host. Anyway, thank you, Eugene Robinson. Thank you, Stephen A. Smith. You're always welcome.

Coming up: Do Republicans now have the ammunition they need to defeat health care reform, now that the Democrats have inserted a provision covering end-of-life consultations? This is red meat for the Rs and the people on the radio talk beat (ph). We're going to talk about that coming up. It's a hot topic. Are the people in the health care reform business pushing end-of-death (SIC) decisions ahead of time?

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Last week, House Republican leader-he's the top guy-John Boehner put out a statement that said that the House-drafted health care legislation may start us down a treacherous path toward what he called "government-encouraged euthanasia" if it's enacted into law.

And here's North Carolina congresswoman Virginia Fox on the House floor just yesterday.


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.


MATTHEWS: "Will not put seniors into a position of being put to death by their government." That's a U.S. congresswoman from North Carolina, a Republican, just yesterday warning us about this provision we're going to talk about in the health care bill. And by the way, if you don't think this is hot, here's the president getting hit with it this week at a town hall meeting in North Carolina.


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, 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.


MATTHEWS: Well, what's going on here? In a moment, we're going to talk to Democratic congressman Earl Blumenauer. He's the one who put the bill-put the bill in the-put the measure in the bill.

Here's Lars Larson, by the way, radio talk show host. He's based in Portland, Oregon. Lars, let me ask you about this question. According to the president, all this is, is some money in the bill that pays for somebody who wants a consultation so they can write a living will. What's wrong with that?

LARS LARSON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It's baloney because here's what they're doing. They're putting the government in the position to counsel you about how you should end your life. We've already seen it happen here in Oregon. There's a woman by the name of Barbara Wagner (ph) who was told by the Medicare program-sorry-Medicaid program called the Oregon Health Plan, We won't pay for your cancer treatment, but we will pay for your so-called physician assistance in dying. In other words, your government says, We won't save your life, but we will help you end your life. That's outrageous!

And the idea that this new 1,000-page bill includes buried in it language about having the government counsel older people on how they want to end their lives-Chris, you ought to be very afraid of this. You know, we're on our way to some really serious (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Well, what about the idea of a person who wants a living will, who wants to provide that they don't want any extraordinary steps taken, you know, like an Alzheimer's person facing-my mom died of it. You know-it's a 15-year progression, if you're lucky...

LARSON: Chris...

MATTHEWS: ... and it reaches a certain end. No, really...

LARSON: It's absurd! I'll tell you why.

MATTHEWS: ... what do you say to a person like that?

LARSON: Because you can go on line right now and you can get all kinds of documents to make your wishes clear. But this is the government, the people who control the money, that eventually will control all of our health care, if the Democrats get their way, God help us, and they'll be saying to you, How would you like to end your life, knowing that the very people asking you that question...


LARSON: ... are also-also have billions of dollars at stake in the question.

MATTHEWS: OK. Having read the bill-I assume you've read the provision in the bill. Tell me how it would work physically. I just got a bad cancer diagnosis, for example, or I just found out I've got Alzheimer's or something. You say what would happen.

LARSON: What they're saying, as I understand the language-and I've read it, too, and I think you don't have to be a lawyer to read it. It says that periodically, people who are older will be counseled by their doctor, health care professionals...

MATTHEWS: At their request, right? At their request.

LARSON: Well, there's the question, is whether or not it will be at their request or whether or not the government will say, We want you to do this with all of your patients.

MATTHEWS: How would the government do that? Just tell me how...

LARSON: The government is signing the checks, Chris!

MATTHEWS: Would somebody visit you and walk in your room and say, You're wasting government money or you're wasting Medicare money, why don't you let us-give us hospice care to you or something. Is that what you're saying?

LARSON: Chris, the way I-the way I see it happening is, people who are older, who generally have more health problems, are going to walk into a doctor's office...


LARSON: ... or a physician-you know, physician-physician assistant, and they're going to sit down. And, along with all those other questions, how are you feeling, what's your blood pressure, et cetera, they're going to do a health history, and they're going to say have you thought about the way that you're going to pass out of this world?

MATTHEWS: OK, so, your argument-Lars, I respect your position-your position is that they will affirmatively raise the topic of whether you want to waste this money. So, as you would-as they might put it, do you really want to be a burden on society? Do you really want to go through all these MRIs, when you're really on the way out? So, why don't you just take-you know, we will get you the right drugs for painkilling, and you can live in a hospice for a couple weeks.

LARSON: And, Chris...

MATTHEWS: You're saying they would force that in your face?


MATTHEWS: You're saying they're going to do that to you? OK.

LARSON: And-and not only that, but, remember, they have got a dog in the fight. They have got billions of dollars at stake. And the doctor answers to the government, who is writing the checks.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.


MATTHEWS: Lars, please come back on the show. We will try to get those answers from the U.S. congressman right now.

Thank you, Lars Larson.

LARSON: Good luck.

MATTHEWS: Here is the Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer. He put the language in the bill for the health care bill that is now being considered on this.

And, by the way, what he put in there is an offer to get an explanation by a practitioner of advanced directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorneys and their uses.

Congressman, thank you.

Lars Larson says that you're going to basically have professionals confront older people and tell them they're basically being a burden, their costs are running up too high, they should consider something besides the treatment they're getting.

REP. EARL BLUMENAUER (D), OREGON: Well, Lars is either not telling the truth or he doesn't know how to read the bill.

I posted it on my Web site and I encourage anybody to look at it.

First of all, this is bipartisan legislation. My co-sponsor is a

Republican doctor. And it simply provides, not a government bureaucrat, but allows you when you pick your doctor, if you're going to have this conversation, the government will pay for it.

Right now, the government will pay to hook you up, put needles in you, tubes, do all sorts of things and tests, but it won't pay for a simple consultation about what a patient can look forward to when they're in this most critical stage.

I had a friend of mine, a Republican doctor surgeon, who says he has these conversations all the time. He doesn't want to have them at the last minute, before people think about it. He thinks this is the way to go. So do I. So does the American Association of Retired People.

What Lars is talking about is absolutely bogus.

MATTHEWS: What triggers this conversation, sir, in your bill?

BLUMENAUER: What triggers it is the same thing anything-other medical condition you have with your doctor that's paid for under Medicare.

It is what...

MATTHEWS: Well, do you bring up the subject of, do you want a living will, or does the Congress-does the politician-or does the practitioner say...

BLUMENAUER: It can-it can go...

MATTHEWS: ... do you want a living will?

BLUMENAUER: It can go both ways. You-you pick your doctor under Medicare. It's not somebody that the government assigns. It's been that way for 40 years.

What happens if you have got a pain in your neck, or your doctor sees something that is wrong with your eyes or is talking to you about...


BLUMENAUER: It's the same thing.

What's different is that, for the first time, the federal government will actually pay people to be able to have this conversation.


BLUMENAUER: And, hopefully, it will raise the profile.

You know, the only mandatory provision that dealt with end of life was introduced by a Republican in the Senate...


BLUMENAUER: ... that would have required Medicare-Medicare people...


BLUMENAUER: ... to have to fill this out before they get Medicare.

That's not in our bill. And I'm really embarrassed...

MATTHEWS: OK, Congressman, here is-here is the imagery the they're working on, the critics of this, like Lars Larson. They're saying that you're going to be confronted with this sort of Dickensian, frightening figure who is going to sit down with when you're 80 or you're 40.

BLUMENAUER: Your doctor. This is your doctor.

MATTHEWS: And that person is going to say to you, you're a burden on society. This is going to cost a lot of money, this treatment. Maybe you want to just go to a hospice and save a lot of people a lot of money.

That's what he's saying you're going to be confronted with. Are you saying you won't be confronted with that choice?

BLUMENAUER: I'm saying that this-that this gentleman and others like him have no idea how Medicare works.

You pick your Medicare doctor. It's somebody that you are comfortable with. And they are professionally obligated to work with you. It's bogus to say that, somehow, your doctor is all of a sudden going to want to do something to you that is against your interests, your health...


BLUMENAUER: ... and your family.


BLUMENAUER: That's outrageous.

MATTHEWS: Let's take-let's-you're right. We talked this afternoon, Congressman. Let's talk about Terri Schiavo.

Under your plan, she obviously got into a position of being almost, well, in a vegetable state. We can argue about the brain waves and everything else.


MATTHEWS: It was a terrible situation she was in. Her husband made the decision to end the extraordinary steps to keep her alive. OK. The parents disagreed. We went through that whole thing.

How would your bill avoid those kind of situations, where you can't tell what the patient wants?

BLUMENAUER: Well, it would-it would attempt to make sure that more people are not in the situation of Terri Schiavo.

If Terri Schiavo had had this conversation with her family and her doctor before this incident occurred, and had executed a document, or the doctor actually knew, we wouldn't have had 17 judges intervening, and we wouldn't have made...


BLUMENAUER: ... a national spectacle...


BLUMENAUER: ... out of that family. That's why I have these provisions. I assure-I assume that you do.


BLUMENAUER: Maybe even Lars Larson does.

MATTHEWS: OK. So, it's voluntary.

And there's no government agent...

BLUMENAUER: Voluntary. Your doctor.

MATTHEWS: There's no government agent involved. Nobody is pressuring you to make these decisions. You're saying that?

BLUMENAUER: It's voluntary. It's your doctor.


BLUMENAUER: And I invite anybody to look at my Web site...


BLUMENAUER: ... and look at the actual language.


Well, thank you very much for coming on the show...


MATTHEWS: ... U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer, who has introduced this provision.

Up next: If the things Sarah Palin says sometimes leave you a little bewildered-they're kind of stream of consciousness-may be because you haven't heard them put to verse. Wait until you hear-well, it's really great-Bill Shatner is going to do it for us. He's going to give us the verse-poetic version of the words of Sarah Palin. It's pretty funny, and it's not derogatory.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


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

First up: Palin in verse. If you have ever heard Sarah Palin's Twitter page, you would know her online messages seem to be-well, let's say, stream of consciousness. Well, Bill Shatner, my hero from Captain Kirk days, and now from Priceline, last night put the ex-governor's tweets to rhythm.

Here he is on "The Tonight Show" reading Sarah Palin's actual Twitters verbatim, but also in verse.



WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR: From sea life near lush wet rain forests...


SHATNER: ... to energy housed under frozen tundra atop permafrost...


SHATNER: ... God most creatively displays his diversity in Alaska.


SHATNER: Tourists from across America, here, loving their 49th state, I'm reminded one heart, one hope, one destiny, one flag from sea to sea.


SHATNER: Awesome Alaska night, sensing summer already winding down with fireweed near full bloom, finally sitting down to pen, listening to Big and Rich.




MATTHEWS: "Listening to Big and Rich."

Talk about a trouper, Bill Shatner, although I never thought of bongo drums making the Alaskan sounds.

Now for tonight's "Big Number"-a sugar plum from last night's focus group conducted by pollster Peter Hart. He asked a group of 12 independent voters which political couple they would most like to invite along on a vacation. Well, out of the Obamas, the Clintons, the McCains, and the Palins, who came out on top among the dozen people polled?

This may surprise you a little bit-not much. The Clintons with six votes. Half the people said they would rather be with the Clintons. The Obamas came in second, followed by the Palins, and then the camp-the McCains. The real draw apparently was not Hillary Clinton, so much as Bill Clinton.

Quote-this is one of the guys, who said: "I want to have fun. Bill is a party guy."

Six out of 12 say they would rather camp-well, they would rather vacation with the Clintons-tonight's "Big Number."

Up next: What happened to the Obama message machine? The president's polls are slipping and more Americans disapprove of his way of handling health care reform. For a guy who was so hard to knock off course last year, what's going on right now?

We're going to ask a pair of top-notch message-crafters, Dee Dee Myers and Tony Blankley, what's going on with the president.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


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

Stocks rallied today on solid corporate earnings and an encouraging report on unemployment. The Dow Jones industrials added 83 points. The S&P 500 gained over 11 points, and the Nasdaq is up 16.5 points.

The number of workers filing new jobless claims rose slightly more than expected last week, but the number of continuing claims fell to its lowest level in three months. And the four-week average fell to its lowest level since January.

The report helped send oil prices down more than 5 percent-send more than-oil prices more than 5 percent higher on the day. Oil rose more than $3.50 to settle at $66.63 a barrel.

Shares in Walt Disney are moving lower in after-hours trading. Earnings posted just after the bell showed Disney topping forecasts on profits, but falling just short of analyst projections on revenue.

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


MATTHEWS: Well, we're getting serious now. Welcome to HARDBALL.

Why is President Obama having such a hard time selling health care? He is having a hard time. Now, less than a year ago, he beat the Clintons, and he beat the GOP noise machine, you will. So, what's the problem? He took on everybody out there, beat everybody in the message department.

Here is part of what President Obama told "TIME" magazine-quote-

"This has been the most difficult test for me so far in public life. The case is so clear to me. What you say to yourself is, this shouldn't be such a hard case to make."

Well, former Clinton White House spokesperson Dee Dee Myers is here. She's contributing editor for "Vanity Fair." And Tony Blankley is former spokesman-he had a job like I did-with Speaker Gingrich. He's a columnist for "The Washington Times."

Well, you two guys are pros. He does seem to be tongue-tied.

Let's take a look. Here is President Obama yesterday in trying to answer a question about health care. He's just having a problem.


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



OBAMA: I'm tired of hearing that.


OBAMA: I have been as clear as I can be. Under the reform I have 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, you know?


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


MATTHEWS: Tony, what's the problem?

TONY BLANKLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, whatever you or I think about what he was just saying, it's not working. It's not being-it's not persuading.

The White House, his people have sent him out every day to deliver a message that only about 40 percent of-of the public approves.

MATTHEWS: Forty-one.

BLANKLEY: Well, yes.

MATTHEWS: That's right. Your point is well made.

BLANKLEY: Yes. And-and-and I don't know why they send him out with the same message that's not working every day.

Not only do they depreciate the value of the presidential statement, but they're branding him deeply with a message that they know is-is not appealing. They need to figure out a different message as a starting point.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, here's-we're looking at the NBC poll. You nailed it pretty much. Forty-one percent, according to the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, approve.

Basically, he has won the argument among people who don't have health insurance. But the people-yes. You're going, yes, of course.


MATTHEWS: But most people have it.

MYERS: Right.

MATTHEWS: And most people who vote have it. And he's got to get voters who talk to congresspeople.

By the way, where are the demonstrations for health care in the streets of this city? When we have got civil rights, there were demonstrators. When we have got gay rights arguments, there are demonstrators. There-we got handicap rights, there are demonstrators.

Where is the noise for this, the squeaky wheel? You don't hear it.

MYERS: Well, there are several fundamental problems that are much bigger than President Bush.

One is that the problem-there's a real problem in the health care system. Every economist, every health care expert, anyone who studies it agrees that, if we don't do something to bend the curve of costs, we're going to bankrupt ourselves.

But it's not a problem that's going to happen tomorrow. And I'm not going to lose my health coverage next week, most likely. Most people think there coverage is pretty good. And, so, how do you convince people to make changes that are a little uncertain, when the-you know, the rubber doesn't hit the road for a long time?

And the second fundamental problem is that this is so complex, that it's, you know, into the void of details. As this policy process unfolds goes a lot of misinformation. You won't be able to keep your doctor. They're going to come, as you were just discussing in an earlier segment, and tell you-ask seniors how they want to die.

And then one congresswoman even said they are going to euthanize seniors. Into the void goes all this misinformation. No wonder people are getting scared off of the...


MATTHEWS: But I have seen politicians use this issue very effectively in bad times.

Back in '91...

MYERS: But only-only in a political sense.

MATTHEWS: But, remember, back...


MYERS: When you get to the policy phase...

MATTHEWS: Remember Harris Swafford (ph) back in Pennsylvania in '91, when he said, if a criminal has a right to a doctor, the working American has a right to a doctor.

MYERS: But that's-that was a campaign, Chris. That was politics, and not policy. The minute you get into policy, everything changes.


Look, I mean, the problem is, he's got the same problem that Bush had in 2005 with Social Security. He didn't-he wasn't specific about what he wanted. So, the opposition can paint out every possible boogeyman.

MYERS: Right.

BLANKLEY: This might happen, this might happen. And he has got to defend against it, you know, even these things that may not be in his package.

So, that's part of his problem...

MYERS: Right.

BLANKLEY: ... that he was too general too long.

The other part of the problem was that the fundamental things he's been promising for three years, during the campaign and the first six months of his administration, CBO won't score the way he wants it. So either his commitment or his program has got to shift. And he's still trying to get everything that he promised done, but he can't get the program to make it work.

So he's losing credibility when he repeats stuff. The public is saying, the CBO said it won't happen.

MATTHEWS: What I was struck by is he had an hour press conference time last week and never made a sales pitch. In that whole hour, I heard a lot of dancing and conniving and cleverness and avoidance. But I didn't hear him say this is why we need health care insurance, and I remembered it. It didn't happen.

MYERS: I think Tony-that goes back to Tony's point, which is he wasn't specific enough. In a way, they over-learned the Clinton lesson from 1994. We put together a 1,370 and some odd page bill, and said here it is folks, which was clearly not a way that was going to get it done.

So they took the exact opposite tact, which was here's a couple of broad principles. We're flexible on them. Congress, you work it out. That-even in the Democrat party, or especially in the Democratic party, there's no consensus on public option or no public option. How do you-

MATTHEWS: Does he need a really good sermon? I was thinking today, if you're on the Titanic and there are 2,100 passengers, and there's only 1,000 life boats, you don't like being on that boat, even though you might get one of those 1,000 life boats-life jackets. You don't like it. You don't like it.

Maybe the American people know there are only so many lifeboat seats and there ought to be enough for everybody. And we although to have health care for everybody that's good for everybody. He hasn't solved that case, has he? If it's good for everybody, then everybody has a chance.

BLANKLEY: Americans are generous people, but they don't want to give a lot of what they have for somebody else.

MATTHEWS: What is he asking them to give up, tax money, rationing?

BLANKLEY: The fear is they may get, if you're in Medicare, less services than you currently get, because they're going to reduce it by 300 billion dollars, Medicare. There may be less choice. You know all the things that may happen. Nobody wants to give that stuff up.

If you say 10 dollars a month to help people, maybe yes. But reduce the quality of my family's health care, probably not.

MATTHEWS: Are they afraid-and this may be a boogeyman, as you have used the word-that they're afraid that they need a new lung or they need a liver in 20 years, and they drank too much or they're too old or not on the protocol list, and they need some influence downtown to get it. And they know that some pol, who is a Democrat, probably, downtown, can get it for them. And they don't have the clout to get it.

So the Republican suburbanite is saying, wait a minute, this is going to be about politics. Not just insurance companies saying no to me; politicians are going to get their fingers into this thing, and, by the way, they're probably right.

MYERS: I don't know if that's as wide-

MATTHEWS: You know how political influence works.

MYERS: -- people being afraid that bureaucrats are going to make decisions. There's the idea that it's going to turn out like Canada, which means you get on the list and you wait 17 years, if you're still alive, for your liver.

MATTHEWS: Do you know most letters that come to Congresspeople are complaints they didn't get the disability from Social Security. They want the congressman to get in there and influence the bureaucracy to get them the program, to get them the benefit.

BLANKLEY: Part of his problem is that the reason he says we have to do health care this year is because he said we can't solve our economy until he solves health care.

MATTHEWS: Right, he says that.

BLANKLEY: CBO won't score that. What is the reason why we should be doing this, instead of working on the economy? Why should we be adding deficits at a time when we already have these much larger than hoped for deficits?

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this, selling point-I think it's a good selling point. Tell me if it would work. Like you have to have driver's insurance to get in a car-every state requires, I think, you have to have insurance. Why don't we say, since everybody, if they do get in trouble, they're going to be treated by a hospital anyway, that everybody should have to have an insurance policy, if you can afford it.

BLANKLEY: In driving, I might smash into you. So I'm libel. In sickness, I'm not affecting you.

MYERS: But you are affecting-I think that's exactly what Obama is trying to do, which is to say, if you bring everyone into the pool, including younger healthy people, who tend to be more likely not to have insurance, then you have lowered the overall cost for everybody, because you have more people paying in lesser amounts, but covering everybody. And then you avoid those high costs of emergency room medicine, which is one of the things that drives-people waiting and waiting and waiting, because they don't have insurance, to go at the last minute when treatment is extraordinarily expensive.

MATTHEWS: IS that true we-

MYERS: We should absolutely do that.

BLANKLEY: We could change that policy.

MATTHEWS: We could change the policy by saying no to them?

BLANKLEY: I'm not saying it's a separate issue. The problem is that you can have all these high-minded thoughts. But trying to sell any electorate on sacrifice for the common good is a tough sell.

MATTHEWS: I know who learned that lesson, Jimmy Carter. Thank you.

MYERS: Every president, right.

MATTHEWS: It's tough to say put on a sweater and lower the thermostat. Any way, thank you Dee Dee Myers. You're Dee Dee Myers.

MYERS: And you're not.

MATTHEWS: Up next, will today's beer summit at the White House help President Obama politically. Will it put an end to this week of bad press he's gotten since taking sides in the Gates arrest? Will this make him less of a Budinski (ph) or more of one? The politics fix is next. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.



LYNN SWEET, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Recently, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested at his home in Cambridge. What does that incident say to you, and what does it say about race relations in America?


MATTHEWS: Wow, that's the woman that started it all. Time now for the politics fix. The question, well, from Lynn Sweet, set in motion a series of events that results in tonight's beer summit. There she is, the one that started it all. And now we have Roger Simon here. He's chief political columnist for "Politico."

Lynn, let me ask you about this. Are you glad you started this?

SWEET: Well, I'm neither-I have no emotion one way. You know, President Obama-I don't want to go-I don't want to become part of the story here any more than I am. I'll tell you, President Obama today, when he talked to reporters, said that he had a fascination with the fascination with it. And I think actually that's kind of how I am on this, Chris and Roger. I am fascinated with how this whole thing developed from what, in a sense, was a question the White House expected on a big story in the news.

MATTHEWS: Roger, are you fascinated or not? I am fascinated with it, because I think it gets to the San Andreas fault of American life, which is race. And we're dealing with it what looks to be a relatively civilized way, even if it's just anecdotally. We're having two guys meet.

ROGER SIMON, "POLITICO": It's fascinating, because I'm fascinated by presidential stage craft. But it's not an accident this is happening.

MATTHEWS: Sergeant Crowley said, let's do it. He was the stage man.

SIMON: We now learned that Sergeant Crowley said, I hope we can all have a beer some day. First of all, it was the president of the United States who revealed that conversation. And then like the next day, 48 hours later, the White House suddenly says, yes, they're all coming over here and we're all having a beer. This doesn't happen by accident.

Like all pieces of stage craft, it's designed to sell an image and sell a message. The image is strong president solves problems. The message is racial harmony in America. He can bring people together. Both of those are important. That's why, even though it's three guys sitting around a picnic table, it's a very important moment for the White House.

MATTHEWS: You know, it looks like he's going to try to have one of these Middle East pictures with the guy on either side, the Arab on one side, the Israeli on the other. You're right, he's setting himself up as the summiteer.

SIMON: And who was the master of that picture? That was Rahm Emanuel, one of his proudest moments, bringing people together for that triple hand shake.

MATTHEWS: That was who in that case? Yasser Arafat-

SWEET: On the south lawn of the White House.

MATTHEWS: But this will put him away from taking sides with the professor, as he did in that press conference with you, Lynn, where he made the mistake, a lot of people think, of taking sides, to reposition himself, to use the stage craft term, as the mediator? Is that something he's going to try to do tonight?

SWEET: Absolutely. I mean, I don't think taking sides was his problem in the answer, because if you're a friend, I think people appreciate loyalty in politics and in friendship. I think the use of the word stupidly is what really escalated the situation. He could have been friends with his friend Professor Gates, and still left the door open about what he admitted at the time, he didn't know all the facts. So I think that one word what really ignited this thing.

I see this more in terms of a reconciliation that is the teachable moment that he wants to pass along. And guys, can I tell you, in our own lives, people want to be able to have a second shot at making things right with relationships.

MATTHEWS: I'm with you on that. Human relations. What about this, Roger? Will this help him with the far right who keep bringing up this nativist thing; he's not one of us; he's not an American; all this other stuff they've been going at him on?

SIMON: No, nothing is going to help him with that. That's nutso America.

MATTHEWS: But they're very angry on the racial front.

SIMON: Let them be angry.

MATTHEWS: You got Glenn Beck taking that shot at him the other day.

SIMON: They still don't think we landed on the moon, some of them. You can't persuade unpersuadable. Some of these people on the subject of race are unpersuadable. Some of them-

MATTHEWS: Did you hear Rush today. I'm sorry, I don't want to push Rush too hard. He gets enough publicity and audience anyway. But Lynn, he's out there saying that Barack Obama is obsessed with being black in a white world, that he and his wife are, that they're secretly anti-white-not secretly, openly. And it's the same thing as Beck. They're like doing this competition now, duelling banjos, to see who can be the more virulent in blaming Barack Obama for being tribalist. Your thoughts?

SWEET: My thought is I think they go down this path, which I think gets them ratings and hits on blogs, at their own peril, because, at the end of the day, they have to show there's something there. And they need to bring facts out in the conversation. And they have an absurd premise.

It's like the birther movement here. There's no evidence to show that President Obama wasn't born in the United States. And how do you prove something that did not happen? Well, in this case, there is proof.

So I think this rhetoric-this racially charged rhetoric at this time has nowhere to go soon.

MATTHEWS: Let's get back to a lighter moment. We'll be back in a minute to see who people would like to hang out with. It's a fascinating new focus group. I've never seen this stuff before. Lynn and Roger, come back in a minute.


MATTHEWS: We're back with Roger and Lynn. You know, they did a focus group the other night-Peter Hart, who is pretty bright. They asked people who would they most like to hang out with on vacation. The Clintons won overwhelmingly. Six out of the twelve couples said them. The Obamas came in second, with three. Then the Palins, then the McCains. What's interesting, Lynn, is that the Clintons are doing pretty well with her as secretary of state. The people seem to have warmed up to them more than before, even.

SWEET: I saw that. I found that fascinating. That's a hard choice, if you could, between the Obamas and the Clintons for dinner. I think that the comeback, in the sense of Clinton as the most favored dinner partner, is pretty interesting in her story, you know, in the true-in this clash --

MATTHEWS: Apparently, they're looking more to hang out with him than her. But both are doing OK here.

SIMON: America's new fun couple.

MATTHEWS: You're not surprised to know, Lynn, they say he's a party -

one of the guys said he's a party guy.


SIMON: Also, you might be able to eat more and not have to worry about healthy eating.

MATTHEWS: Bill will be eating off your plate, as well as his own. You know funny thing here, it could be as simple as this. They're not in the firing zone anymore. They're not taking the heat. They're not doing the heavy lifting. Barack Obama is out there doing the terrible heavy lifting on the economy, on health care, et cetera, et cetera, on the West Bank. He's taking the heat, right, and it's showing.

SWEET: And it's more of a party. You can maybe have more of a party if you're having dinner with them. Again, you have both of them, who are still known. You know, Mrs. Obama is very careful in guarding her image.

And I say this seriously, she would be a terrific dinner partner. I would

anyone should be happy to have dinner with her. I think she's just not as well known. I think the Clintons would be just a better fit.

MATTHEWS: New fine couple. Thank you, Roger. Thank you, Lynn. New fine couple. That and you get a year off in this business. You're popular again.

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.



Watch Hardball each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET


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