updated 10/2/2009 12:28:49 PM ET 2009-10-02T16:28:49

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Scott Cohn,  Rep. Loretta Sanchez, Rep. Mike Rogers, Roger Simon, Jim Warren, Michael Smerconish, Taylor Branch

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Two weeks‘ notice.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

Big talks with bad guys.  America and five other countries talked with Iran today about nuclear weapons.  We don‘t want them to have them.  We think they‘re building them.  We want them to stop.  Is talking to them going to get them to stop, or does it simply encourage them?

And what happened at today‘s meeting?  Iran agreed to a second round of meeting meetings—no surprise there—but also agreed to open its new, recently revealed nuclear facility to international inspectors.  President Obama said late today after the meeting that he‘s giving Iran two weeks to give inspectors unfettered access to that nuclear facility at Qom.

He also wants Iran to show us concrete proof that it‘s going for peaceful use of nuclear power, and to prove it, transfer its enriched uranium to a third country for conversion.  So is President Obama‘s policy of talking to the bad guys showing progress?  We‘ll hear from two members of Congress who may well disagree.

Plus: The president‘s leaving tonight for wonderful Copenhagen to pitch for Chicago to host the 2016 Olympics, but why is he going?  Does he think Chicago‘s got a real chance?  Is he doing it because the mayor of Chicago told him to?  He‘s taking some heat from the usual suspects, and from some unusual ones.

And the inside Clinton book.  Former president Bill Clinton tapped one man to be his historian during his presidency, and now Taylor Branch has written a book about the unique access he had to the former president.  He‘ll be here, right here, to give us the scoop on what Clinton thought about the Monica Lewinsky scandal and other items of interest.

Also, Republicans are still pushing for Democratic congressman Alan Grayson to apologize for saying the Republicans want sick people to die quickly.  Sounds like Grayson‘s not only not going to go down on his knees, he‘s still blasting away.  Should the Democrats be copying‘s Grayson‘s anatomy?  We‘ll get to that in the “Politics Fix.”

And finally: You‘ll never guess which Republican congresswoman railed against a provision for school health clinics.  OK, you probably can guess who she was.  She‘s going—she‘s doing her odd number again, and that‘s in the HARDBALL “Sideshow,” where some of these folks, by the way, should set up permanent tents.

Let‘s start with today‘s talks with Iran.  Democratic congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of California is a member of the Armed Services Committee.  She joins us.  Republican congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan is member of the Intelligence Committee, as well.

Congressman Rogers, you first, this question.  Has the president moved ahead today by staking out a rule, two weeks from now, if Iran has not given the international inspectors unfettered access to the facility we‘ve discovered at Qom, we‘re going into action ourselves, it‘s going to get tough for them?  What do you think of today‘s developments?

REP. MIKE ROGERS ®, MICHIGAN:  Well, unfortunately, it‘s just a little bit more of the same.  And you remember that September was the deadline where they were supposed to give all on their nuclear program.  Well, we haven‘t quite gotten there yet.  We‘re getting close to being in October here.  It‘s created a real problem.

And here‘s the other thing, Chris.  The president knew this when he gave his speech in Cairo.  He knew it when he was talking to the United Nations last week, and it was just very, very tepid.  And it‘s created a whole bunch of problems in this one sense.  Iran knows if they just stall a little bit, they can continue to continue to build and enrich uranium, and that‘s what they‘ve done all along.

MATTHEWS:  And you believe the president‘s not going to do anything about it?

ROGERS:  Well, he hasn‘t shown me anything yet, even though he knew about this second facility a long time ago.  And that‘s what I‘m concerned about.  As a matter of fact, they told the French they didn‘t want to get into all that ugly Iran stuff because they wanted to make sure that his, quote, “image of success” was protected.  That is the wrong way to deal with a country like Iran, who is determined to get a nuclear weapon.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s talk about that.  Let‘s go to Congresswoman Sanchez.  Your thoughts about the president‘s performance today, where he said two weeks‘ notice.  He also wants the Iranians to ship their nuclear material to a third country for conversion for peaceful uses.  He wants hard evidence now, starting today, that they‘re going peaceful, that they‘re not going nuclear weapons.

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA:  Well, Chris, first of all, I would have to agree that we can‘t trust Iran, and they have certainly shown it at this point.  And the problem is that we‘ve been working in a coalition trying to get all the important countries that in some ways have been helping Iran maybe to get to this technology or who have not put sanctions in the way that we need to, to be able to force some very strong sanctions against them.

So discussing this and telling Iran, OK, now we know that you have it, we need to see it, and by the way, we need to see everything, we want to see everything—and yes, I think he‘s right when he says that he wants that uranium moved to a third country.  That‘s very important with respect to what he‘s put forth.

MATTHEWS:  OK, I‘m skeptical about a lot of this talk.  Let me go to Congressman Rogers, and then Loretta Sanchez, Congresswoman, you can jump in here, as well.  The question is, do we really have the clout to stop Iran from doing what it‘s doing?  You know, you can talk about sanctions.  I‘m a very skeptical person about sanctions.  I watched them for years against South Africa.  It wasn‘t until we really got tough that anything happened over there.  Sanctions—we wouldn‘t eat Polish ham for about 40 years.  That didn‘t do much good.  I‘m not a big believer.

Do you really believe there‘s any way we can get the Chinese and the Russians on our side and really cut them off to the point where they‘re bleeding?

ROGERS:  I do.  And as a matter of fact, I argue if you can continue to go through the United Nations alone for this, we won‘t be successful because the Chinese and the Russians have watered down every resolution.  They‘ve stalled.  They‘ve vetoed.  They‘ve threatened to veto.

What we need to do is get our European allies—and by the way, when

the French are saying we‘re not tough on Iran, that tells you we got some

work to do here—and get those European allies, who I think are eager for

U.S. leadership on this, to do very tough U.S./European sanctions, we can -

·         especially with refined gasoline.  Remember, they can‘t refine enough gasoline.  They have to import refined gasoline.

You start attacking the things that will impact their economy right now, you‘ll bring them to their knees.  And more importantly, you‘ll send a message to all those Iranians who protested in the street and said, Hey, this is ridiculous, that, You know what?  The world is watching.  The world is with you.  And you don‘t want a nuclear Iran.  We don‘t want a nuclear Iran.  Maybe we can work something out.

MATTHEWS:  Who doesn‘t want a nuclear Iran?  You think the people in the streets don‘t want a nuclear Iran?

ROGERS:  I think what they don‘t want to be is isolated from the rest of the international community.

MATTHEWS:  No, no, no.  Wait a minute.  You think they don‘t want a nuclear Iran, the people in the streets, the so-called reformers don‘t want it?

ROGERS:  I think they don‘t want to be isolated from the international community, and any issue that gets us to that point with that particular group, we ought to be with them.  They don‘t want to be isolated.


MATTHEWS:  Look, Congresspeople...

ROGERS:  This is an opportunity not to be isolated.

MATTHEWS:  ... there‘s a huge “if” here.  That is, when we start getting tough with Iran, their nationalist hackles don‘t come up and they don‘t rally around the flag.  That‘s what I‘m always afraid of with these countries.  But I know it‘s a Catch-22.  And my question is, what are we really threatening them with, in the end?  Do they really think we‘ll ever attack them?  Congresswoman Sanchez, do you think you would ever support an attack on Iran?

SANCHEZ:  I think it would depend on what we have in our hands to do that with.  Obviously, we‘re engaged in two different wars right now, so the reality is that it‘s not just about an attack, it‘s about how can you sustain something, because obviously, they‘ll hit back.  And who else will be with you?

So I think one of the reasons why we‘re looking at dialogue, why we are looking at diplomacy and we‘re hoping that works, and if it doesn‘t, why we have been talking to our allies—and you know, I think Mike believes that sanctions will work.  I believe that sanctions can work also, but only if these allies are with us.  And they haven‘t been in the past.  Now, we‘ve been talking to Russia.  They‘re just as worried about this nuclear issue with Iran as we are, so that‘s a positive.

But yes, there are some wild cards out there.  China, for example.  We really don‘t know whether they‘re going to be with us if we put sanctions because in order to put sanctions, it‘s not just the European allies.  And by the way, that (INAUDIBLE) things went through them over to Iran.  We need to make sure that we have everybody lined up and that we can put sanctions on.

ROGERS:  That‘s right.

SANCHEZ:  And that takes time.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you, Congressman Rogers...

ROGERS:  Well, I don‘t think...


MATTHEWS:  Now, you say—I understand your thinking here.  You want to get us together and lead the Europeans, the French, the British, et cetera, the Germans.  But isn‘t sitting down with them and making this last college try with the Iranians one way to get them to join our team, so they can keep their left-wing allies quiet in their own countries by saying, We tried the peaceful route?  Isn‘t this a way to get to where you want to go?

ROGERS:  Think about all this big hubbub with the announcement, the disclosure of the second facility.  And what happened today?  We agreed to have more talks.  And oh, by the way, they‘ve said, Listen...


ROGERS:  ... we‘re not talking about...

MATTHEWS:  He gave them...

ROGERS:  ... our nuclear program...

MATTHEWS:  Why are you so tough on the president?

ROGERS:  But every—every time...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s doing what you want him to do.

ROGERS:  But every—listen, no, I‘m not touch on the president, I‘m tough...

MATTHEWS:  He gave them two weeks‘ notice.

ROGERS:  ... on Iran, and I think the president is not being tough enough on Iran.  And he needs to step it up.  Listen, this thing is happening, you know?  This is what worries me most, Chris.  It‘s not about the image of success for President Obama.  If Iran gets...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not talking about that.

ROGERS:  If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, that means Turkey gets a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia gets a nuclear weapon, Egypt gets a nuclear weapon.  And the danger and destabilizing factor of that is terrifying to me.  And what we need to do is say, Listen, that is a non-starter.  So what are we going to do today?

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You know...

ROGERS:  You want bring the Russians and the Chinese on board?  Then go tough sanctions with our European allies.  We can‘t wait for the U.N.  They haven‘t...

MATTHEWS:  And you believe...

ROGERS:  ... been able to pull it off.

MATTHEWS:  You believe it‘s wrong of the president to try to bring our allies aboard by meeting with them today.  You think there‘s some other way he could have gotten them to join him in tough sanctions than meeting?

ROGERS:  Absolutely.

SANCHEZ:  It‘s important...

ROGERS:  The French president said that this president isn‘t being tough enough on Iran.  That‘s a clear...

MATTHEWS:  You guys...


MATTHEWS:  ... so Franco-phobic!  Every time you have to make a joke, a cheap shot, you bring in the French in some kind of xenophobic stupidity...

ROGERS:  Last I checked...

MATTHEWS:  ... to play to the yahoos.

ROGERS:  ... France is part of the European union.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re laughing.  It‘s not funny.  I know what you‘re doing here.  Every time you guys make a point, it‘s with this—using the French to jump off from.  It‘s not about a joke.  It‘s about getting serious allies who are conservative governments...

ROGERS:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  ... in Europe—how many conservative governments you got there?  You got Merkel...

ROGERS:  Chris—Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... you got Sarkozy, you got Berlusconi...

ROGERS:  ... you‘re right, but when Sarkozy...

MATTHEWS:  ... and you‘re probably going to have...

ROGERS:  ... comes out and says they‘re not...

MATTHEWS:  ... Cameron soon.

ROGERS:  ... tough enough, that‘s a problem.  I mean, listen, when the French are saying it‘s not—we‘re not tough enough, and it‘s a problem, you‘re right, it‘s not a joke.  It means that we ought to be concerned that our position in the world is degrading.  We want to be leading.  We need to be leading on this issue.  There is so much at stake, and a nuclear Iran is dangerous for the world and it‘s dangerous for us...

MATTHEWS:  I know, I know, I know, I know.

ROGERS:  ... and it‘s dangerous for the Europeans.

MATTHEWS:  I know that.

SANCHEZ:  Mike, you know...

MATTHEWS:  The problem is—look, I‘ve been hearing talk about sanctions against the Iranians for years now, and I always hear sanctions against somebody.  All I know is we ended up going to war with Iraq after all the sanctions.  Sanctions didn‘t stop two wars with Iran—with Iraq, rather.  We went to war with Afghanistan.  We go to war.

SANCHEZ:  Chris?

MATTHEWS:  And it seems like, in the end, that‘s what everybody‘s talking.

SANCHEZ:  Chris, the worst part...

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.  Are you for war with Iran?

SANCHEZ:  Chris?

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just asking both of you.

SANCHEZ:  Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Would you ever support an American strike on Iran? 

Congressman Rogers first.  Would you ever support one?

ROGERS:  Well, I mean, you don‘t ever say ever.  You should never take it off the table.  I think there are a lot of great things we can do before that‘s an option, but you can‘t take it off the table or you stop them from coming to the negotiations.

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re using war as a threat.

ROGERS:  No, no.  I‘m using sanctions as a threat.  You‘re using war as a threat.  But I think you have to...

MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m asking you.

ROGERS:  ... leave it on the table.  No, no.  I‘m just saying there‘s a whole panoply of things you have put on the table.

ROGERS:  A military strike has to be one that you would consider. 

Doesn‘t mean that‘s what we‘re advocating for.

ROGERS:  I don‘t think either Ms. Sanchez or myself would say that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m trying to put this—I don‘t think there‘s a real fight here.  It seems like the issue of two weeks is a stupid thing to argue about.  Let me go to you, Congresswoman.  If the president gives two weeks‘ notice to the Iranians, and then he sounds like he should get on the track that Congressman Rogers says to get on, which is to get the Europeans together, our easier allies, then go to a larger alliance and try to really do a suffocating sanctions regime that really, really squeezes them on petroleum—not petroleum, on gasoline, on refinement, so they can‘t even move their cars over there.  Is that where you‘re at?

SANCHEZ:  Well, we certainly have been talking to our allies.  We‘ve been talking to Russia.  We‘ve been talking to China, to India.  It‘s going to require the entire world if we‘re going to be doing sanctions.

But I just want to go back to something that my colleague said.  I mean, way back when, we were deciding whether to go to war with Iraq, the fact of the matter is, many of us thought Iran was a bigger problem.  And unfortunately, by now having used our resources in Iraq, we‘re not in a position to use military force in Iran, not for the long run.  You can do a strike, but then what?

So the answer is, we have to work on bringing the rest of the people of the world together with us to do sanctions.  But more importantly, we should try and we should give two weeks to the President Barack Obama to try to get—to try to get our investigators in there...

MATTHEWS:  OK, Congresswoman...

SANCHEZ:  ... and our inspectors in there.

MATTHEWS:  ... there‘s one little problem with your argument, OK?  And you ought to take it to heart.  Your leaders in the Democratic Party rolled in 2002 and went with the president‘s war with Iraq for political reasons.  They all did.  John Kerry did.  Hillary Clinton did.  Chris Dodd did.  They all did.  Except for the president.  They rolled.  Most of your leadership rolled for political reasons because it was easier to support the war than to fight it.  You know why?  Because they‘re afraid they‘d be blamed if they didn‘t support the war.  They chickened out.

SANCHEZ:  And Chris...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s why you can‘t make that case anymore...

SANCHEZ:  I certainly—Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... because too many big shots in your party...

SANCHEZ:  Chris, I certainly...

MATTHEWS:  ... supported the war.

SANCHEZ:  ... can make the case because I voted against that war.

MATTHEWS:  But you‘re not a leader.

SANCHEZ:  And my number one reason was because...

MATTHEWS:  But you‘re not a leader.

SANCHEZ:  ... I worried about what was going on with Iran.

SANCHEZ:  Well, we just have to stand up and we have to tell people what we believe...


SANCHEZ:  ... and we have to vote against it when it comes forward.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you got too many softies in the leadership of your party that just want to get on deck with every war that starts.  Anyway, thank you, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.  Congressman Rogers...

ROGERS:  Hey, Chris, I loved it...


ROGERS:  ... beating up on the Democrats!

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know—OK, OK.  Let‘s do the same old French jokes again.  The fact of the matter is that Europe is moving to the right.  We‘ve got a lot of allies over there.  Let‘s get together.  Two weeks is hardly worth arguing about.  Why don‘t we come back in two weeks and see what the president‘s got, what he‘s going to do here or just more talk.

Coming up: President Obama‘s heading to Copenhagen, hoping to win the 2016 Olympics for his Chicago hometown.  Is this smart politics, or is this hometown politics, or is he doing it because the mayor told him to?  Let‘s find out when we come back.

You‘re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Republicans are out there criticizing President Obama for heading off to Copenhagen tonight to lobby for Chicago to host the 2016 Olympics—that‘s eight years from now—when issues like health care reform are all heating up here in Washington.

Here‘s the latest line of attack from House minority leader John Boehner.  It‘s today.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  While the president is in Copenhagen tomorrow, the American people are going to wake up and find out that hundreds of thousands more Americans have lost their jobs.  The administration‘s trillion-dollar stimulus plan clearly is not working.


MATTHEWS:  So is the president right to make a personal pitch for

Chicago?  We have joining us now Eugene Robinson of “The Washington Post” -

- he‘s used to dealing on bigger issues than this—and Michael Smerconish

·         oh, my God.  Look at this guy!  He‘s got a Phillies costume on.

Congratulations to the Phillies.  Our hometown team is now division champions in the National League East for the third straight year.  Now they‘ve got to play the Rockies, right, Michael?


MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s...

SMERCONISH:  I was afraid you wouldn‘t say it if I didn‘t wear the jacket.

MATTHEWS:  No, no.  I don‘t—I don‘t mind a little coaching, but thank you for that.  Let‘s go to—I wore the whole jacket—I wore the hat the whole time they were in the series.

Look, let‘s go to the big question.  Is the president looking too much like a Babbitt, a booster, a local yokel by going to Chicago?  You first, Gene.


MATTHEWS:  He‘s over there tonight.

ROBINSON:  ... you know, am I supposed to play the role of a Republican here tonight?

MATTHEWS:  You‘re supposed to play...


ROBINSON:  On balance, I would have skipped the trip.  I—basically, because I think it‘s a win for Obama if Chicago, his hometown, gets the Olympics.  I don‘t think they‘re going to get them.  I think Rio is leading.

MATTHEWS:  But if they lose a close call and the word gets out that he lost—they lost the bid to bring the Olympics to Chicago and to America in 2016 and it goes to Rio instead, would he be blamed then for not trying?


MATTHEWS:  Is this for the try or for the win?

ROBINSON:  No, he wouldn‘t be blamed for not trying, although he is the—this is the first time that a president has gone to...

MATTHEWS:  Well, Tony Blair apparently went to Singapore back in—before the 2012 Olympics, and he won it for London, Michael. 

So, apparently, it works, this boosterism.  Show up, you win it. 


MATTHEWS:  You win it for your country. 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Listen, his skill set is such that he thrives on the world stage.  Why—why would you make the case not to go, when, potentially, there‘s $20 billion at stake?

If the issue were different, if it were a widget factory in China that we had the prospect of relocating to Illinois, everyone would say the president should make that trip.  So, why should it be different because it‘s the Olympics? 

And, Chris, there‘s going to be criticism of him on everything.  But this is—this is a phony—no disrespect to Gene—but this is a phony argument.  And it‘s reminiscent of when he wanted to deliver a speech on accountability in schools, and some people said, oh, we can‘t have that.  There will be indoctrination involved. 

You have got to pick and choose your battles.  I think the GOP looks poor for taking him on, on this issue. 

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t jobs a big issue in this country, Gene?  I know—I hope, by 2016, we‘re out of this recession, but isn‘t the idea of being a booster, a—a member of the Jaycees, of the Lions Club, isn‘t that very Republican, to be out there pushing for the hometown? 

ROBINSON:  Well, it is, to be pushing for the hometown.  Most Americans don‘t live in Chicago. 


ROBINSON:  And, I mean, I just wonder how...


MATTHEWS:  Well, we will to have it here. 

ROBINSON:  Well, they—yes, they would like to have it here.  It‘s certainly more convenient. 

I just wonder how it plays politically across the country.  And—and  I wonder if the Republicans get any traction with the—he—Obama plays while—while America burns kind of...


MATTHEWS:  Twenty-four hours? 

ROBINSON:  Kind of -- 24 hours. 

MATTHEWS:  Michael, let‘s go back to your larger point, so I think we can broaden the discussion. 


MATTHEWS:  Are the Republicans attacking on too many fronts?  Are they being gnats? 

SMERCONISH:  Chris, I can tell you, as one who spends literally six hours a day answering telephone calls on two different national radios, phone calls from across the country, the mere mention of the president‘s name will draw negative telephone calls, regardless of the issue, from certain quarters. 

And I don‘t think that the president can govern by worrying about what that fringe element is going to say on tomorrow‘s program.  So, for that—and, you know, the other point that needs to get made, this is Air Force One.  This is not the three of us flying coach on U.S. Airways. 

So, whatever he needs to do, it‘s at his disposal all the way there and all the way back.  He will be back for dinner tomorrow night. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what I think?  I think—and let‘s get to this larger point. 


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get out of the world of the Olympics for a second. 

It seems to me, he‘s going over.  It‘s done.  Spilt milk.  OK?

ROBINSON:  Mm-hmm.  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s agree that it‘s over.

ROBINSON:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  He will be back tomorrow. 

ROBINSON:  He will be back.

MATTHEWS:  And we can argue about something else. 

But it does seem like the Republicans are turning on their tommy guns and hitting him on every front. 

ROBINSON:  Mm-hmm. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s given the Iranians today two weeks to clean up, to show up and give a transparent look, unfettered look at their facilities in Qom.  What more do they want?  Ten days‘ notice, a week‘s notice?  Two weeks.

ROBINSON:  Right.  No, I think that‘s hard to argue with.

And, yes, yes, the—approach of the Republican Party has been to throw everything against the wall they possibly can and see what sticks.  And—and...

MATTHEWS:  And who—who is this woman Bachmann? 


MATTHEWS:  I don‘t want to say anything against her.  I‘m going to let you guys say it. 

A congresswoman, she‘s been elected.  She‘s represents the people.  I look up to her for being elected, for running, and all those good things.  But she‘s out there saying that this call for clinics in schools, which I have been pushing for, for years—I want every public school in this country to have a good clinic.

ROBINSON:  Of course.

MATTHEWS:  I want dental.  I want everything.


MATTHEWS:  I want to make sure they get the vaccinations, everything, because, by the time they‘re out of public school, they‘re healthy and used to good health, and it‘s good for everybody. 

ROBINSON:  Mm-hmm. 

MATTHEWS:  She says this is a backdoor to secret abortions, and she‘s just come up with this. 

ROBINSON:  Yes.  No, that‘s crazy.  I mean, that—you know, maybe you can‘t say it, but I can say it.  That‘s crazy.  That‘s—that‘s—that‘s lunacy.

MATTHEWS:  Why is there a—a tenor out there which anything thrown at the president will score a point back home? 

This guy Mike Rogers hitting him for giving Iran two weeks‘ notice, which I think is pretty tough.  And now somebody out there screaming, abortion, abortion, abortion.  And I care about that issue, but I don‘t like being tricked. 

ROBINSON:  Well, as—as Smerc, said, there is—there is an element

·         there—and it‘s not a majority—it‘s not even a majority of the Republican Party, but there‘s an element that is receptive to any criticism of Barack Obama and that denies, in --  in some sense, his legitimacy

Michael, I think it‘s pin the tail on the donkey.  That‘s all it is. 

It‘s high school.  Your thought? 

SMERCONISH:  Well, Chris, it‘s also—it‘s also a fund-raising vehicle. 

You know, if it‘s Joe Wilson shouting out “You lie,” if it‘s this guy Grayson in Florida—I predict he will raise $300,000, $400,000...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SMERCONISH:  ... from people who are supportive of that view. 

Michele Bachmann, the more you run that image of her on television on cable tonight, the more money she will raise.  And—and they have got to run every two years.  I think they get rewarded, is what I‘m trying to say. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  That‘s the price we pay, Michael. 

I hope the Phillies get to the series with the Yankees.  That will be the—the big show of our lifetime. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Eugene Robinson. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Michael Smerconish. 

Up next...

SMERCONISH:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  ... so, who‘s the funniest guy in Washington, like what is the tallest building in Scranton?  No exception here.  The answer next in the HARDBALL.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on the “Sideshow.” 


MATTHEWS:  We will be right back. 



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

Up first:  Who is the biggest joker in Washington, as in, as I said before, what‘s the tallest building in Scranton?  It turns out it‘s Austan Goolsbee, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. 

Oh, what a jester he is.  Goolsbee won last night‘s funniest celebrity in Washington contest.  Here‘s a joke from his monologue on who the Republicans should run against Obama in 2012. 


AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER:  ... I‘m on the Republican side, you know, I don‘t know.  I kind of think they might do better to look outside of Washington at the governors. 

You know, there‘s a lot of—of governors.  There‘s, obviously, Sarah Palin—wing nut—from Alaska who‘s...


GOOLSBEE:  ... a former governor—quitter—and you just cannot...


GOOLSBEE:  ... you cannot rule out that, by 2012 -- there will be a warrant for her arrest—that she will be the nominee. 



MATTHEWS:  Well, speaking of Governor Palin, she‘s about to have her book come out, which everybody will—well, somebody wrote it for her anyway—is already selling as a bestseller. 

So, like Liberace of old, that flamboyant pianist, she‘s laughing or snow-sledding all the way to the bank. 

Next: new health scare.  Last night, on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann warned of a provision in the bill for health clinics in school, something I have always pushed for, health clinics in public schools.  Let‘s catch her fear-mongering. 


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  The bill goes on to say what—what‘s going to go on: comprehensive primary health services, physicals, treatment of minor, acute, chronic medical conditions, referrals to follow up for specialty care. 

Is that abortion?  Does that mean that someone‘s 13-year-old daughter could walk into a sex clinic, have a pregnancy test done, be taken away to the local Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, have their abortion, be back, and go on home on the school bus that night? 



Well, in wacky world, you say school nurse, the member of Congress starts shouting abortion.  School nurse.  Abortion.  Secret abortion. 

This is what is happening in this country.  I used to be able to kiss off the nuts on the Internet, the bloggers huddling in their basements pushing revolution.  Well, the trouble is, those crazies in their basements are now being read by right-wing staffers on Capitol Hill, who feed this stuff to their bosses.  And I‘m being kind. 

The nonpartisan group PolitiFact.com trashed this particular conspiracy of Congresswoman Bachmann about school nurses pushing secret abortions three months ago, stating there‘s no language in the main versions of the bill out there right now that would allow school-based clinics to provide abortions, nothing.  There‘s nothing to this.  It‘s completely made up by the wackies. 

And, finally, our “Big Number” tonight honors my former boss, President Jimmy Carter.  The Jimmy Carter Library Museum reopened today in Atlanta, after extensive renovations.  And today just happens to be the Nobel Prize winner‘s 85th birthday.  That‘s Jimmy Carter. 

So, tonight, it‘s my pleasure to light up 85 candles for President Jimmy Carter, 85 years old today—tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next:  Bill and Hillary Clinton are reemerging as power players in this Obama presidency.  They‘re back.  Coming up, we have got the Clinton confidante who recorded hundreds of hours of conversations with Bill Clinton for his new book, “The Clinton Tapes.”  He‘s coming here, Taylor Branch. 

What a story. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


SCOTT COHN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Scott Cohn with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

A major sell-off on Wall Street today on disappointing manufacturing and jobs reports—the Dow lost 203 points.  That‘s its biggest decline since the beginning of July.  The S&P down 27 points, and the Nasdaq fell almost 65 points.  That‘s a 3 percent decline. 

Manufacturing activity did fall unexpectedly in September, but the index remained above 50.  That means the sector is still expanding, after 18 months of declines. 

And a surprise jump in first-time jobless claims balanced by another report showing the pace of planned layoffs is on the decline.  And a quarterly tally shows federal and local government jobs have seen the biggest cuts since the beginning of the year.  Second hardest-hit was the auto industry. 

There was some good news today.  The housing sector continues to improve.  Pending home sales leapt almost 6.5 half percent in August. 

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


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

President Bill Clinton gave extraordinary access to historian Taylor Branch—by the way, who is a hell of an historian.  He wrote all about the Martin Luther King years.  Throughout his eight years of the presidency, Taylor got to talk to the president.  And it was all off the record until now. 

The tapes of their interviews are in Clinton‘s possession.  But, after each meeting with the president, Taylor Branch very cleverly spoke his own recollections into a tape recorder. 

This is how you do it.  It‘s called tradecraft.  And those tapes form the basis of this new book called “The Clinton Tapes,” which, I tell you, is going to sell.  It‘s “Wrestling History with the President.”

Taylor Branch, thank you, buddy. 


PRESIDENT”:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  This is an amazing story, because I know you like Bill Clinton in many ways, but I think you have got some journalist skepticism here that I want—that‘s the part I want here right now. 

What is the story—we only have about six or seven minutes, but there‘s two big questions most people have about Bill Clinton.  Of course, there are Clinton lovers out there.  But there are some people that keep wondering about a couple things, not that he had this dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, but his inability to sort of deal with it ever. 

He just—what is—what is his way of dealing with it?  How did he say—does this—I crapped up; I blew it; I cracked up; I—how does he explain how he let his presidency get screwed up? 

BRANCH:  Well, first of all, he was frustrated that his frustrated that his presidency was off-course and—and besieged by tabloid scandals for six years, of which the Lewinsky was the only one that proved any substance. 

He forfeited the attempt to rise above the cynicism of the tabloid era by validating all of that cynicism with Monica Lewinsky.  And his only explanation was that he felt sorry for himself that he was trying so hard to be a good president, and all anybody wanted to talk about was Filegate and Travelgate and whether or not he had killed Vince Foster. 

And, so...

MATTHEWS:  Did he think that people—well, let‘s get to some of these more extreme charges against him.  Did he think anybody thought—anybody real—I mean, we talk about the nut jobs here at night all the time.  But does anybody really think Bill Clinton put a hit on his friend Vince Foster? 


MATTHEWS:  Does anybody really think that? 

BRANCH:  No, but it stayed in the news for six years. 

MATTHEWS:  What news? 

BRANCH:  So, it‘s—it‘s astonishing.  It was all over the place.

MATTHEWS:  What newspapers carried that? 

BRANCH:  Well—well, first of all,

MATTHEWS:  The Clinton chronicles, you know, on FOX or somewhere, yes. 

BRANCH:  Ken Starr could make stories about it all the time.  It was an official investigation of the Whitewater special counsel. 

MATTHEWS:  I forgot.  You‘re right.  John—what‘s his name, the guy from the Middle West, the guy who shoots the cantaloupes. 

BRANCH:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  He was involved in it.

BRANCH:  So—and the only—and the only purpose of that was to lead toward impeachment, which, of course, is where it wound up. 


BRANCH:  That‘s the—that‘s what you have a special counsel for. 

Hillary told him he—the biggest mistake of his presidency, which he ultimately accepted, was to agree to the original Whitewater counsel. 

MATTHEWS:  Because that gave Ken Starr his license to hunt him.

BRANCH:  Forever.  And there‘s no check and balance on it. 

It destabilized the—the checks-and-balance system—system.  There is no judicial or legislative check on that.  And it didn‘t work.  And, so, it—it—it got to the point where he confessed to me that he couldn‘t even supervise his own executive branch.  That‘s, you know...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Here‘s what I don‘t understand. 

I, at the time—I have always been tough on Clinton.  I‘m tough on everybody.  But I always thought the answer was not impeachment.  It certainly wasn‘t conviction.  And some kind of resolution would have been fine with most people.  Get it over with.  Say something.  Congress passes resolutions all the time, National Turnip Day.  They could make National Bill Clinton Shouldn‘t Have Done It Day. 

That should have been easy, and it would have all been over with. 

But why didn‘t Clinton finesse it?  I heard a horrible story recently, without naming names.  Henry Hyde, the chairman of Judiciary, was ready to finesse it, pass a resolution, and let it go.  He wasn‘t going for impeachment, until somebody in the White House dropped the dime on him and put out the word that he had had an affair 30 years before. 

And he said, all right, we want to play that way, we‘re going for impeachment. 

That‘s the story I have heard. 

BRANCH:  I don‘t believe that. 

MATTHEWS:  So, why doesn‘t Bill Clinton—why doesn‘t Bill—go ahead. 

BRANCH:  I don‘t believe that. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t?


They didn‘t have anything else to do.  They had—they did impeachment—they impeached Clinton even after losing the 1998 election. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but that was a political call.  They did it because they thought they had him.  They had him dead to rights on...

BRANCH:  Oh, no, no.

MATTHEWS:  They had him on—on obstruction of justice, they thought. 

They thought they had him on perjury. 

BRANCH:  The senators were furious at them.  They thought that this was—this was the same kind of stuff that‘s going on now.  We don‘t have anything else, so let‘s throw all the mud. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BRANCH:  We have taken our hit in the election.  We have become the first party to lose seats to a six-year president in history. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, you‘re giving a political analysis. 

Did they think he was guilty of—of perjury?  Did the Republicans who voted to impeach him think he was...

BRANCH:  Did they think he was—he was going to be convicted in the Senate?  No. 

Therefore, they were just going to—and he wasn‘t.  The Senate Republicans were mad at them.  I mean, in fact, one of the surprising things to me, that hadn‘t been picked up yet, Clinton said his source in the Senate who was telling him that the Republicans were furious with the House managers was Richard Shelby, one of the most anti-Clinton senators.  But he was a prosecutor and said there‘s no case here.  They know they‘re not going to win. 

MATTHEWS:  I was looking at what I said at the time on this show, what was provable wasn‘t impeachable.  And what was impeachable, an obstruction of justice charge, wasn‘t provable.  His secretary wasn‘t going to talk.  Vernon Jordan wasn‘t going to talk.  And Monica wasn‘t going to talk, if there was a crime, if there was a crime. 

BRANCH:  So we went through all of that for nothing. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about Bill Clinton himself.  It seems to me he was a genius.  He‘s really smart.  And I‘ve always wondered about something personally.  He will be interviewing you or talking to you.  And yet he uses the extra 40 IQ points to do cross word puzzles or to play Hearts with you. 

What is it about a guy with that incredible talent, why he doesn‘t apply it directly to the presidency, for example?  Why he has to always be using his brain to sort of slice off some of it for other uses?  What is that about? 

BRANCH:  Well, he fidgets.  He has a lot of extra energy.  It‘s almost like one subject was not enough for him.  It wasn‘t always that way.  There would be some times when he would be talking to me about a lot of things and he would—you could see the strain in his face of the one subject, Bosnia, Kosovo, dealing with the Republicans, dealing with Bob Dole. 

We talked about Bob Dole almost every session.  Part of him loved Bob Dole. 

MATTHEWS:  I think people—I like that. 

BRANCH:  He begrudged Bob Dole and Trent Lott and even Newt Gingrich much less he complained about the press, because he idolized the press and to him political opposition—he said, if I were on the other side, I would be doing the same thing.  And that‘s what we talked about. 

MATTHEWS:  Why did he hate the press? 

BRANCH:  Because he felt that he looked up to the press and he thought they should be trying to do the agenda of the country.  But instead they were falling in behind the Republicans, who were trying to do the tabloid stories. 

MATTHEWS:  Most people watching this show—I‘m not talking about our show, because I have a tough sort of attitude.  But they would say that the mainstream broadcast nets, ABC, NBC, CBS, are all sort of somewhat left of center, they would argue.  Certainly conservatives would say.  They‘re not lefty.  They‘re sort of establishment liberal. 

Why would he think that the liberal establishment, reflected in news people‘s opinions, would be anti-Clinton? 

BRANCH:  That‘s what—that‘s what drove him nuts.  But more specifically, the “New York Times” and the “Washington Post” drove the Whitewater scandals.  And he had always looked up to them.  And he thought they were sucked into some sort of tabloid nether-world that was detracting from his agenda for the country, which he—and his mission that he saw was to try to rescue the country from years of cynicism, where people thought politics was good for nothing and only a threat. 

We‘re still kind of mired in that.  And Lewinsky, you know, forfeited his opportunity on it. 

MATTHEWS:  Does he feel that he was a great president? 

BRANCH:  I think that he feels he lost the chance to be a great president, and that he showed some good direction and had some achievements that be will be put more in balance later. 

MATTHEWS:  Does it bother him that Barack Obama calls him a non-transformative president? 

BRANCH:  If Barack Obama—if that‘s what he said—I haven‘t heard him say that—but I‘m sure it would bother him. 

MATTHEWS:  He didn‘t list him among the transformative presidents. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think there‘s a missing gadget with Bill Clinton, with all his IQ and personal appeal, and everybody likes him.  So many people like him.  With all of his charm and brains and everything seems to be going for him, there‘s something that stops him from being really one of the great leaders of our time.  Is there something there? 

BRANCH:  Yes, us. 


BRANCH:  Yes, our country.  Our country didn‘t support his agenda that much.  We were all—all caught up on Whitewater too. 

MATTHEWS:  So everybody‘s out of step with Johnny? 

BRANCH:  Everybody‘s out of step with Johnny.  We‘re responsible for the country and we got to fix it now. 

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s us.  The name of the book is the “Clinton Tapes” by Taylor Branch.  I‘m telling you, you got to read this book.  Because—because this is Bill Clinton, the most fascinating guy we have been covering in a long time. 

Up next, if Republican Congressman Joe Wilson won‘t apologize on the House floor for shouting “you lie” at President Obama, should Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson apologize for saying—this is absurd.  Of course he shouldn‘t.  One guy is wrong.  This guy is right.  There‘s a difference.  Politics fix is coming up next.



REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA:  We‘re dealing with people on the other side who are utterly unscrupulous.  These are foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging, Neanderthals, who know nothing but no. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.  That was U.S. Congressman—Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida, speaking about his Republican counterparts, who he calls knuckle-draggers.  When Grayson said on the floor that the Republican plan for health care reform was to die quickly, Republicans demanded an apology.  At least they pretended to.  It doesn‘t sound like they‘re going to get one. 

Time now for the politics fix.  Jim Warren is with MSNBC.  He‘s our contributor.  He also writes for the “Huffington Post.”  And Roger Simon is our chief political columnist for “Politico.”

Jim, I know you got a scoop on the Copenhagen thing and the president and Chicago.  Hold it for a second.  Let‘s talk about this big thing here.  This guy Grayson, is he going to teach the Democrats how to do it?  He just comes out and says it. 

ROGER SIMON, “POLITICO”:  Yes, but, you know, he‘s like a guy on crack who is always searching for a bigger high.  And he knew he was going to go too far, which he did when he said health care in America is a Holocaust. 

MATTHEWS:  The way the Republicans deal with it. 

SIMON:  Yes.  There are some people in America, a lot of whom live in Florida, who take that word very seriously. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s better to not ever make any comparisons to Hitler on any grounds. 

SIMON:  This is a first term Congressman who won by four percentage points. 

MATTHEWS:  In Orlando. 

SIMON:  In Orlando.  He‘s the 12th richest person in Congress, 31 million dollars.  That‘s twice as much as the late Senator Ted Kennedy. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s ahead of—above almost all but seven or eight senators. 

SIMON:  It‘s twice as much as John McCain, twice as much as the late Senator Kennedy. 

MATTHEWS:  You looked at the list too, didn‘t you? 

SIMON:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  I looked at it too. 

SIMON:  He only won by four percentage points. 

MATTHEWS:  I looked at who has money too.  We‘re all fascinated with that.  What do you think of this, Jim?  This guy has the cajones to get out there and swing away.  When they asked for apologies, he says, I will give you more.  I don‘t like the way the health care treatment in this country works.  Don‘t make any reference to the Third Reich when you‘re doing it, of course.  But isn‘t he right to just get out there and stick it? 

JIM WARREN, “HUFFINGTON POST”:  As a devoted viewer of C-SPAN and many, many hours each week of proceedings, which I personally covered back in the ‘90s, I think things are way, way, way too civil among the folks in both bodies.  It wasn‘t too long ago historically where you occasionally had duels, gun fights, shots ringing out.  I‘m not calling for that.

But I wouldn‘t mind something more akin to the slightly more active back and forth one has with question time with the Prime Minister in England.  Now, that said, it‘s not a justification for rank stupidity and loose use of the word Holocaust. 

But I also do think we‘re a little culpable here, in way we can unintentionally reward and legitimize rank stupidity and even unintentionally gratuitous and harmful remarks, by simply giving this stuff attention and then watching these guys exploit the attention, as we found in the case of Wilson, who, within 24 hours, was fund-raising based on his stupidity. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he was wrong.  This guy‘s right.  I‘m serious.  I don‘t always take sides.  I‘ll take sides here.  I think this guy‘s right for this reason: I think the trouble with this debate over health care is the Republicans have won a simple argument, stand pat looks good.  They have made the case effectively, because of the joke the Democrats have put together here, because the president won‘t say what he wants—they‘ve been able to say what we have is pretty good, leave it alone, do no harm.  And that do no harm argument is probably, if this thing goes down, what wins. 

That‘s why the Democrats have got to say, what we have now isn‘t working; we‘re not healthy.  We have millions of people without health care, millions of people having health care denied when they think they have it.  And we have to fix it.  They‘re not winning that argument.

SIMON:  They have to make that argument.  But early on, let‘s not forget, that a non-partisan group, the Congressional Budget Office, dealt a huge blow to President Obama by saying change was not necessarily going to be better.  It was going to add to the deficit.  Ever since then, he‘s been back pedaling and trying to get a program through that would add not a dime to the deficit. 

MATTHEWS:  He swore he won‘t. 

SIMON:  Which is hugely difficult.  He wants to make up 600 billion dollars in waste, fraud, and abuse.  Gosh, why hasn‘t anyone thought of that before? 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the old Califano trick.  Califano once said 10 percent of the HEW budget or whatever is waste, fraud, and abuse.  So Reagan came along in 1980 and campaigned, well, I‘ll get rid of that part.  As if you can just do it. 

We‘re going to come back and see how the president is going to balance the budget by bringing the Olympics to Chicago.  We‘ll be right back with Jim and Roger for the Fix.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Jim Warren and Roger Simon with more of the Fix.  “The New York Times” is reporting tonight that Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada is in deeper doo-doo than he was.  It has contacted a small group of supporters—he was contacting them, trying to get a job for the top Washington aide, Douglass Hampton, whose wife he was having sex with.  Let‘s put it blunt.  And he was trying to get the guy off his back. 

Jim Warren, this is a problem, because he‘s using his office to cover up a little hanky panky.  That‘s a problem.  It makes it official.

WARREN:  Key word there was cover up.  Once again, D.C., cover ups are much worse than the original crime.  When we look at some of the quotes in the “New York Times‘” first dispatch of about an hour or so ago, one finds Senator Coburn, the Republican of Oklahoma, saying on the record something to the effect of John did something stupid and then exacerbated the situation by a series of mistakes. 

And most amazing, in a story which is all about to park the husband of the woman you‘re having the affair with in some job back in Nevada, he turns out being a lobbyist.  There is a comment from that fellow himself that he and Ensign knew full well that they were violating lobbying ethics rules, and then simply turned away.  They didn‘t care. 

MATTHEWS:  This is what Clinton did with Monica.  Clinton was out trying to get a job for Monica to farm her out.  Remember, he was going around to everybody looking for a job.  Trying to get a job Revlon, at the UN, everywhere he was going. 

SIMON:  The problem of what Ensign did is worse than just a cover up.  If you‘re a senator, a sitting senator, and you go to a firm and say, give a job to my friend, give 100,000 dollar contract to my friend.  And then that firm has a bill before Congress and calls you and says, we need your vote, what are you going to say to that firm?  You say yes. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, that‘s the problem with going with the hanky panky and dealing on the market with it.  Let‘s go to Jim Warren.  You got a scoop.  Who got the president to go to Copenhagen tonight?  You can report.

WARREN:  Generally speaking, accumulation of folks.  Obviously, we know that three former aides to Richard M. Daley, arguably the most potent American big-city mayor, has been in charge here for 20 years—David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett, the key point person when it came to the Olympic bid, obviously were all basically trying to make the case for Obama to go. 

And he clearly was not absolutely totally convinced.  All throughout, I‘ve been wondering—I‘ve never known what exactly the relationship was between Daley and Obama when it came to discussing the Olympics.  Caricatures of Chicago politics aside, and Daley and Obama aside, these guys are not particularly close.  There is not any great reservoir of gratitude on the part of Obama toward the mayor. 

But there is a big dinner tonight.  I emailed one of the key participants and asked a simple question, did the mayor call the president.  And the e-mail from Copenhagen, just before this guy was going to bed, was that, yes, the mayor called personally to make the case. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Big question.  I like the mayor of Chicago.  Is it possible we can get the Olympic bid?  We can win it?  Can we win it by tomorrow night?  Can we?  In other words, is it worth a try? 

WARREN:  Yes.  Yes.  Yes, it‘s possible.  we came from way back.  Rio and Madrid were clearly the front-runners.  And now I think it‘s exceedingly close.  It‘s a wacky voting system.  And key to this will be two things: the African bloc—what will they do?  Because they‘re basically the independent voters in this.  They don‘t have any skin in the game.  They don‘t have a candidate.  Where will they go? 

And where will the losers on the first round go?  Will it be Tokyo or Madrid? 

MATTHEWS:  Are we going to get it?

SIMON:  I think we are going to get it. 

MATTHEWS:  And the president gets the win? 

SIMON:  I think the argument to Obama was a simple one, if you don‘t go, we won‘t get it. 

MATTHEWS:  I think so.  I think they got an inside scoop.  I think there‘s something wrong with Rio.  They know it.  They‘re going to exploit.  We‘ll be right back.  Jim Warren, Roger Simon, thank you.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern.  We‘ll be right back.  I‘ll be on “The Jay Leno Show” tonight on NBC.



Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED.

No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.

User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s

personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,

nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion

that may infringe upon MSNBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or

other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal

transcript for purposes of litigation.>


Discussion comments