updated 10/6/2009 11:04:48 AM ET 2009-10-06T15:04:48


October 2, 2009



Guests: Clarence Page, Terry Jeffrey, David Corn, Jonathan Martin, Paul Eaton


Let's play HARDBALL.

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

The right roots against America. Remember how Republicans questioned Democrats' patriotism during the Bush years, how you were either with Bush or with the terrorists? So what do we make the of the glee some prominent Republicans felt when Chicago and President Obama lost its Olympics bid? It's one thing to argue politics and policy, what's good and what's bad for America. That's what we do right here on HARDBALL. It's another thing to root for America to fail.

Plus, the growing divide between the White House and the military brass. Last week, the top military man in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, campaigned publicly for more troops while the president was weighing a smaller counterterrorism strategy. Well, the president's national security adviser rebuked McChrystal yesterday on television. Two retired generals join us to talk about this open fight now between the uniformed leaders and the civilians.

And if you've been thinking that President Obama needs a win one of these days, you're not alone. Check out "Saturday Night Live's" devastating opening skit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very clear what I've done so far, and that is





MATTHEWS: Why the president needs a win, and quick. Later in the show.

Also, is General David Petraeus really thinking about running for president in 2012? Could he beat someone as exciting as Mitt Romney, someone as deep as Sarah Palin? Well, check out the "Politics Fix" tonight for that big question.

And do you remember the famous macaca remark in Virginia a few years ago that sank George Allen's Senate bid? Well, we may have heard just another one, another macaca moment in Virginia. It's in the HARDBALL "Sideshow" tonight.

Let's start with why conservatives seem to be rooting against America these days. Clarence Page is with "The Chicago"-did I say Chicago? --

"Chicago Tribune," and Terry Jeffrey is not. He's with Cnsnews.com.

Gentlemen, let's take a look now at some things here. Here is a conservative group getting the news about the Olympic bid this Friday. Let's listen.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) the first vote! We did not have any chance of even negotiating. They were out on the first vote.



MATTHEWS: Well, there they are clapping. In fact, if you missed the clapping seen there, it continued in that line. They seemed to be enjoying the news that Obama, the president, and Chicago and the United States had failed in its Olympic bid to Rio de Janeiro.

Anyway, a "Weekly Standard" blog-that's the right-wing or neo-con "Weekly Standard"-their blog went out right after Chicago was passed over, and the original headline on their blog was, "Chicago loses! Chicago loses!" and it included this news bulletin, "Cheers erupt at 'Weekly Standard' world headquarters."

Well, there you have it. There's more along this line. We're going to have Rush Limbaugh along that line in a couple minutes, but that's the beginning of this conversation.

What is it, Terry, that seems to excite almost to an orgiastic level the right about the failure of America to get the Olympic bid last...


MATTHEWS: Is this...


MATTHEWS: ... just rooting for any failure of Obama?

JEFFREY: I don't think the city of Chicago getting the Olympics is synonymous with a vital national interest of the United States. I mean, you could be from Chicago and not want the Olympics to come to Chicago.

I think what you saw conservatives happy about there is they saw hubris brought low. There's something disproportionate about the president of United States at a time when he's not making up his mind about how we're going to change our strategy in Afghanistan and whether we're going to reinforce the forces there, as General McChrystal wants, flying off to Copenhagen to try and lobby the International Olympic Committee on whether a single city in the United States is going to get games six years-eight years from now. So I think that what people were reacting to is what they see as the hubris of President Obama being brought down.

CLARENCE PAGE, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": I've been around a long time, Chris

the first time I've seen Americans cheering over America not getting the Olympics because they're not the Chicago Olympics. Those uniforms don't say Chicago, they say USA. And that's usually what you hear, you know, a kind of mass disappointment.

This episode kind of reminds me, Terry, of the first O.J. Simpson verdict, when you had a split screen with people cheering on one side and crying on the other. You know, this is that kind of a contrast here.

MATTHEWS: Well, let's take a look. Do we have Rush Limbaugh? Can we show him reacting to this thing on Friday? He was quite in a dither over this. In fact, he was wallowing in it-a good word for him. Here we go. Here's Rush Limbaugh wallowing in the news that Chicago had failed to get the Olympic bid. This is Friday.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The world has rejected Obama! Chicago, the least number of votes, first elimination in the round of voting for the Olympics in 2016! Barack Hussein Obama, mmm, mmm, mmm! Barack Hussein Obama, mmm, mmm, mmm! Has been running around the world for nine months, telling everybody how much our country sucks. Why would anybody award the Olympics to such a crappy place as the United States of America?


MATTHEWS: Terry Jeffrey for the defense?

JEFFREY: Well, you know, what-I think Rush...

MATTHEWS: Do you think that was good for the country...


MATTHEWS: ... that performance right there?

JEFFREY: I think-I think Rush makes an excellent point. I think one thing that...


JEFFREY: No, I do. And I think one thing-what he's pointing to-and I think it's something Americans ought to be very worried about with President Obama right now-is his going off to Copenhagen to lobby to get the Olympics for his hometown and failing to get is it shows a serious lack of prudence, Chris.


JEFFREY: And Rush made the point this guy is going to negotiate with the Iranians? Right now, the guy's trying to negotiate with the Iranians to stop a nuclear program that's probably headed toward the Iranians getting a nuclear weapon, yet this guy cannot even predict what the International Olympic Committee's going to do when he shows up and talks to them face to face!

You know, yes, that should be ridiculed in forms like talk radio, and Rush did an excellent job in pointing to that vulnerability we have with this guy in the White House.

MATTHEWS: I'm restraining myself. Go ahead.

PAGE: Well, good for you, Chris. (INAUDIBLE) very well. The IOC is hardly comparable to nuclear negotiations, which, by the way...

JEFFREY: Exactly! That's the point!

PAGE: ... went remarkably well last week, but that news was overshadowed because Americans care more about the Olympics right now, God bless us. You know, we're lucky that we can afford to do that. But the fact of the matter is that Obama went off as quickly as he could and came back as quickly as he could. And that's probably part of the reason why the IOC wasn't more impressed, because he didn't spend more time there.

MATTHEWS: You know...


MATTHEWS: ... I think he probably knew that there were a lot of voters in the Olympic committee who thought it's time for the southern hemisphere to have a shot...

PAGE: Definitely.

MATTHEWS: ... African and African-American countries, people who aren't white, have a shot at it. They're tired of the same old countries getting it. He probably knew that. I think he knew also that it was his job, coming out of Chicago, to try, at least.

If Ronald Reagan had gone over and tried to get the Olympics for Los Angeles and it failed, would you guys be rooting...

JEFFREY: But-but...

MATTHEWS: Would you be cheering that Reagan had failed?

JEFFREY: But Chris...

MATTHEWS: If Rudy Giuliani had rooted for New York, like he always does, and appropriately so-if he had tried to get it for New York, would you be...


JEFFREY: You know what, Chris? He didn't. And in fact, Ronald Reagan did not even negotiate with the Soviet Union until there was...

MATTHEWS: We're not talking about-why do you...


MATTHEWS: This isn't about nuclear arms or negotiating with...

JEFFREY: Well, let-let...

MATTHEWS: It's about a game.

JEFFREY: Let me make my point. Ronald Reagan in the first term of his presidency put Pershing 2 missiles in Europe when he had...

MATTHEWS: What has this got to with the Olympic Committee?

JEFFREY: Wait a minute. Let me make my point, Chris. I'll tell you what my point is. Ronald Reagan would not negotiate with any Soviet leader until they had a leader in place that he thought he actually could negotiate with. But he negotiated from a position of strength. When he went to Reykjavik...

MATTHEWS: This wasn't a negotiation!

JEFFREY: Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Let me draw a contrast here. When Ronald Reagan went to Reykjavik and Gorbachev said, We'll do all this, provided you get rid of SCI, Reagan stood up and walked out on the leader of the Soviet Union. That helped bring the cold war...

MATTHEWS: Right, right.

JEFFREY: ... to an end (INAUDIBLE) for the United States. That is an emblematic moment in Reagan's presidency. The most emblematic moment in Obama's presidency...


JEFFREY: ... is his going to Copenhagen and having the International Olympic Committee slap him down.



MATTHEWS: I think Americans ought to get used to getting in the running with third world people having a right to vote. I think it's great that they get a right to vote...

JEFFREY: Are these democratic countries that are getting the right to vote?

MATTHEWS: They're countries...

JEFFREY: They're not democratic countries.

MATTHEWS: ... with sovereignty that have a right to issue a vote.

JEFFREY: Right. They're not democratic countries. They're not equal to risk (ph) free and democratic...

MATTHEWS: OK, let me tell you...


JEFFREY: They're not equivalent!

MATTHEWS: It's not about nuclear arms.

Let's take a look at a couple of things here. I want to take a look at Lindsey Graham taking on Glenn Beck on this issue. I think we should take a look at that right now because I think there's something-well, let's take a look at Rush Limbaugh first. There seems to be a pattern out here that any time-well, let's go to Lindsey Graham. Here he is talking about Glenn Beck. Let's watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think of Glenn Beck?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: Only in America can you make that much money crying.


GRAHAM: Glenn Beck is not aligned with any party, as far as I can tell. He's aligned with cynicism.


MATTHEWS: Well, this is the whole question of whether the right is being pushed back by the-these people that just want the president to fail, as opposed to the people who run for office in this country, Republicans.

Here's Glenn Beck responding to Lindsey Graham.


GLENN BECK, TALK SHOW HOST: You know, there's a lot of things that I'll wear as a badge of honor. Lindsey Graham hating my guts is probably the highest honor I've ever received.


MATTHEWS: Well, I have no idea what that means. But let's take a look at Graham responding on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday.


GRAHAM: What I am saying, he doesn't represent the Republican Party. You can listen to him, if you like. I choose not to because, quite frankly, I don't-I don't want to go down the road of thinking our best days are behind us.


MATTHEWS: There seems to be a growing-well, not growing, an emerging possible split between Republicans and the far right. What do you think?

JEFFREY: Well, you know, first of all, Lindsey Graham does not speak for the conservative movement. I can't speak for Mr. Beck. I don't even see his television program, so I can't judge what's happening there.

MATTHEWS: He's mostly on radio (INAUDIBLE)

JEFFREY: But you know, if you're a conservative and you're-because you're not strictly a Republican-you're looking at those Republicans who fight for conservative principles and conservative causes, and what's going on in Congress, if there are congressmen that conservatives like to see done (ph). Lindsey Graham is not one of those people. He is not one of the leading fighters for the conservative movement the United States Congress. He can speak for the Republican Party. That's fine. He doesn't speak for conservatives.

PAGE: Well, I say good for Lindsey Graham. I've known him for a number of years. He's a man of principle, as is Terry, who I've also known for a number of years. I'm only disappointed when the debate gets polluted by falsehoods and exaggerations, like Beck there saying-saying, Lindsey hates my guts. He doesn't hate his guts, you know? But that's how Beck makes money. He's a showman.

It's unfortunate that the national debate gets polluted by show business and you get distortions like "death panels" that don't exist, but these become issues, and it gets people scared and it's just unfortunate. This was-what has happened, and I hope, you know, that at least the conservative movement can try to police its own house.

MATTHEWS: Let's go back there to look-let's take a look at Rush Limbaugh earlier this year talking about what his view is-the way he looks at the presidency of Barack Obama. And it's on his radio show.


LIMBAUGH: Well, I'm thinking of replying to the guy, OK, I'll send you a response, but I don't need 400 words, I need 4. I hope he fails!


MATTHEWS: What do we make of that?

JEFFREY: Well, Chris...

MATTHEWS: Just fails, period.

JEFFREY: Well, now, wait a minute, Chris. What Rush said immediately before that is President Obama, who would be coming into office shortly, had an agenda of taking over-having increased government control in the automobile industry, in the banking industry, in the health care industry. He wants...

MATTHEWS: His agenda?


PAGE: He's going to give it back right away. He's going to give it back.

JEFFREY: Well-well-well, but wait a minute! There's something...

PAGE: He doesn't want to keep it.


JEFFREY: Look, after this happened, President Obama took over General Motors. He offered a health care plan that had a public option where the government would be running a health care program that Michael Moore said would drive private health insurance companies out of business. Rush had specific agenda items that President Obama was forwarding. He said he was against them. He hoped they failed. I'm with Rush 100 percent on this one.

PAGE: If Michael Moore was running liberal policy in the country right now, I'd begin to agree with you, Terry. But fortunately, he is not. Max Baucus is running the health care debate, and that is why your side is winning on that score.


MATTHEWS: You don't think-just to get back to our point here, you don't sense that on the right-well, maybe I'm asking the wrong person to agree with this-that there is a goal here that anything where there's a contest, a chance to prove its success, whether it's ideological, whether it's pro-American or political or partisan, any chance for Barack Obama to fail, your side is going to root for him to fail, whatever it is. He must fail at any moment. Whether it's health care, whether it's the Olympics, whatever it is, you will cheer if he fails. Are you denying that now?

JEFFREY: Not any place, most places. There's one place, clearly, where conservatives ought not want him to fail, and that...

MATTHEWS: No, but don't be selective. Isn't it true...

JEFFREY: No, it's not true.

MATTHEWS: ... that the evidence of this past week is, wherever he attempts to do something, you guys want him to stumble.

JEFFREY: No, actually, that's true because...

MATTHEWS: Give me an example where you're rooting for him.

JEFFREY: Well, let me give you an example. I'm very much rooting that what President Obama chooses to do, which he hasn't yet chosen to do, in Afghanistan works because all Americans share an interest in our country succeeding in Afghanistan. It's important for our national security that it happens. I hope his policy in Iraq succeeds. I hope what he does with the Gitmo prisoners, Chris, succeeds. I think conservatives are very much worried that he will not succeed because they think his policies in those areas may be wrong-headed.

On the domestic front, I think conservatives are opposed to just about everything President Obama is trying to do because he's trying to augment the power of government over our lives and diminish our individual freedom. So to the degree that his ability to leverage the Democrats in Congress to attain his agenda is diminished, that's a good thing for the United States of America.

MATTHEWS: And the problem is he inherited a depression and was forced to move in the direction of public action because of the disastrous economic circumstances he inherited. That's...

PAGE: Well, the voters decided on that back in November, and I don't see that big of an objection. There's concern about-about...


MATTHEWS: ... bail out Wall Street and all the Republicans on Wall Street...

PAGE: Yes. Right. Right.


PAGE: There is a concern, but there is not a rising objection to Obama's policies on Wall Street, except among the tea party folks.

JEFFREY: Well, listen...

PAGE: I see you smiling.


JEFFREY: I would also say that, you know, Wall Street is not exactly a bastion of conservatism, either. And there is a certain amount of symbiosis that goes back and forth between the Wall Street bankers and big government people in Washington, D.C. But...

PAGE: How's the Dow-Jones today, by the way?

JEFFREY: By the way...

PAGE: How's that NASDAQ? They've regained their losses, not all of them, but...


MATTHEWS: ... most of this began last fall under George Bush. The bringing in of Hank Paulson from Goldman Sachs, the whole works, the whole downfall of Wall Street, the attempt to bail out Wall Street, the banking industry, the failure of General Motors and those industries began long before Barack Obama came into office. He came in to clean up the mess, and I refuse not to take sides between the fire brigade and the fire. He's the fire brigade. Your side was the fire. Clarence Page, Terry Jeffrey, thank you.

Coming up: There's a growing rift between the White House and top military brass. We haven't begun to talk about that one. Where's this divide? And why are generals giving speeches where they disagree with the president? What's that about? Is this General MacArthur and Truman again? We'll be right back to who's calling the shots, the elected commander-in-chief or somebody else?

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. One day after the president's strategy session in Afghanistan last Wednesday, the top U.S. commander there, General Stanley McChrystal, on Thursday publicly rejected the option of a scaled-back counterterrorism mission during a speaking engagement in London. General McChrystal wants an additional 40,000 troops to beat back the Taliban and help protect the Afghan population, which puts him at odds with some in the White House who are pushing for a smaller military footprint to target al Qaeda.

But is it appropriate for the top military man in Afghanistan to flat out reject and publicly sell a more narrow military strategy when the president, the commander-in-chief, has yet to make a decision?

Retired Army general Paul Eaton is a senior adviser to the National Security Network. General, thank you. And retired Army colonel Jack Jacobs is an MSNBC military analyst. Gentlemen, thank you both.

Let's take a look. Here's "The Washington Post." We don't have film

of this or video, but we have the quote from the speech in London by

General McChrystal, our commander in Afghanistan. It reports that, "When

asked whether a scaled-back U.S. effort in Afghanistan would work in

practice, McChrystal said, quote, 'The short answer is no. You have to

navigate from where you are, not from where you wish to be. A strategy

that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a short-

sighted strategy.'"

General, you have a president-you have a general, a field commander, challenging a strategy that's being talked about in the White House right now. How does that stand in terms of military discipline?

MAJOR GENERAL PAUL EATON (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, you have got to look at it from where General McChrystal is sitting. He published the-he produced a document, the recommendation that he gave to the president. Somebody leaked it. So, his position is already known.

It's a matter of fact. So, he has now posed a question that is, in fact, directly aligned to recommendation that he gave the president. He reiterated the position that's in that paper that never should have been revealed.

MATTHEWS: So, he is simply backing up what he has to. But should he be out giving speeches when he knows he will gets a question asked about it?

EATON: Well...

MATTHEWS: You think-he's setting up a Q&A. He will be asked, he knows, before he goes into that London speech. He knows he is going to have to answer the question whether he in fact has recommended this 40,000 troop increase. He knows that.


EATON: I suspect the speech got lined up a long time ago, one. Two, he's in London, our ally, our great ally. So, in a NATO context, he's not likely to say that small footprint, oh, by the way, our allies, we don't need to do that.


Colonel Jacobs, here you have the president and his field commander engaged in a public discussion. Now, neither has-the general has taken sides. He says we need 40,000 more troops. The president is weighing the options, including the one that's been associated with his vice president, Joe Biden, which is to focus on catching al Qaeda, not on nation-building or even on population defense.

Isn't this strange, to have this debate going on out in the open?

COLONEL JACK JACOBS (RET.), NBC MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, I'm not very fond of policy like this being made out in public, with everybody, including the vice president and the secretary of state, by the way, weighing in, in public on what should be done in Afghanistan.

And, if I had been General McChrystal fielding that question, I would have said, look, we're in the middle of a policy debate. I'm not going to answer that question. And it's irrelevant that the thing had been leaked before. Somebody else did that. There is no reason why he can't dodge the question.

I think that policy that's made in public usually turns out to be rotten policy.

MATTHEWS: You know, gentlemen, what it means to me? It sounds to me like the debate over health care.

EATON: Well...

MATTHEWS: Not to knock the president. He doesn't need to be knocked right now, but here he is, letting Hillary Clinton, his secretary of state, say, if we let the Taliban come back, al Qaeda will be back.

McChrystal is out there. His thing has been leaked. Who knows who leaked it. That's out there. You know his position. Biden's position is out there. So, here he is, the president of the United States, with three different positions floating out there, none of-we can't identify any as his.

EATON: One of the great strengths of the Democratic Party is healthy debate. It's a little fractious. It's a little ugly sometimes, but I wish we had had a whole lot more of that a few years ago, when George Bush decided to go into Iraq.

MATTHEWS: So, you think it's good that we have this sort of bull session going on in public?

EATON: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It doesn't bother me at all.

Don't be afraid of the debate. Put it on the table. When...


EATON: I'm sorry.


JACOBS: No, I was going to say, I think it's-I think debate is great. The place for it is in the Cabinet Room and in Central Command headquarters, not in the press.

I think the president of the United States is in a position where he's got to make some sort of decision. You know he does. He's got various people telling him different kinds of things. The best decisions are made in secret, and then announced publicly.



MATTHEWS: Here is an example where the president seems to be directing business. Here he is, this is yesterday. The national security adviser, Jim Jones, who is national security director-he has got the old Kissinger job. He's the big-time guy in the White House who traffic-controls all policy debates.


MATTHEWS: Here he is saying it's unseemly for General McChrystal to publicly be campaigning, as he puts it, for one particular strategy, going up 40,000 troops, and then saying-wait until you catch this-he says in this-this speech here on-on television the other day that McChrystal, instead of offering one proposal, should be giving the president array of options-an array of options.

Here he is really sticking it to him for having a public position out there, and then sticking it to him, saying, you owe-you owe the president more than one option. Here he is, General Jones.


GEN. JIM JONES (RET), NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER-DESIGNATE: Ideally, it's better for military advice to come up through the chain of command, and I think that General McChrystal and the others in the chain of command will present the president with not just one option, which does, in fact, tend to have a, you know, forcing function, but a range of options that the president can consider.


MATTHEWS: How do you think of that, Colonel?

JACOBS: Yes, I think it's-I think he's off the mark, too. He's absolutely right about the fact that a subordinate staff, and that includes General McChrystal, gives a wide range of options in what their possible outcomes would be, and then gives his recommendation, too.

I mean, that's his job. But I think it's-I think, for General Jones, whom I have known for a long period of time-and he really is the honest broker-then to castigate General McChrystal for only offering one option I think is bad news on General Jones' part.

All this stuff needs to be done in the Cabinet Room, including the remarks of the national security adviser.

MATTHEWS: Shouldn't the president be allowed to set the strategy and the general to carry it out?

JACOBS: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: And here's the general saying-here's the general saying, you only got one strategy here. You have got to protect the population, you have got a nation-build, you can't just do counterterrorism.

He is dictating to the president publicly now what his strategy has to be in Afghanistan.

EATON: The-the general has an opinion. He is the man on the ground. Someone asked a question. He answered the question. He answered it faithfully, and he answered it properly, also.


EATON: We have got a-we have got a problem right now that there is this obsession with numbers of military to dedicate to the problem.


EATON: It's a lot more than just the military. I want to see the rest of the executive branch, and so does the military, to see the rest of the executive branch redefine national security in the totality of American power to bear.


EATON: So, what you see, he's really got much more on the table that's not been revealed in this...


MATTHEWS: OK. And I think a big challenge for the president, he has to change his mind, because, back in March of this year, he was for a strategy very much like McChrystal is talking about. If he has got a different strategy more in line with Biden, which is just counterterrorism, going after al Qaeda, he is going to have to change his mission, his complement and everything of troops over there.

Thank you, General.


MATTHEWS: General Eaton, thanks for joining us, as always.

Thank you, Colonel Jacobs.

Up next: Have we just heard another macaca moment in Virginia?

That's in the "Sideshow."

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


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

First, "Saturday Night Live" went after Roman Polanski and got the strong man to do the job. Here is Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger saying that, back in the 1970s, when he was single, he wasn't anything like Polanski, not in any bad way. Here is our friend the great Darrell Hammond showing how it is done.


DARRELL HAMMOND, ACTOR: Seth, I was around in the '70s. I also had the sex with the ladies.


HAMMOND: There was the grabbing and the groping of the hands and the glutes, and all of these body parts, but these were not 13-year-old girls, and I didn't give these ladies the champagne or the quaaludes. I didn't have to. I just would flex my muscles.

This was my champagne. This was my quaaludes.





MATTHEWS: Next: Remember how a Virginia Republican got into big trouble for making fun of someone's ethnicity, calling a young Democrat, a campaign worker, macaca?

Well, Sheila Johnson, the co-founder of BET and a backer of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, mocked the Democratic candidate, Creigh Deeds, for his stutter at a September 25 fund-raiser. The video just posted on the Web today, and here it is. Here is Johnson.


SHEILA JOHNSON, CO-FOUNDER, BET: The next is communication. We need someone who can really communicate. And Bob McDonnell can communicate.

The other people that I talk to, and especially his opp-opp-opponent, who did this through-all through my interviewing with him, he could not articulate what needed to be done. All right, so communication is hugely important.


MATTHEWS: When are we going to learn? Stop the personal stuff now.

So, how about the "Big Number"? Vice President Biden has been the butt of a bunch of jokes over the years, but let me tell you, this guy is always working. He oversees the stimulus money. He oversees the war zones. And he's certainly the number-one Democrat out there on the campaign trail. He is in Connecticut and New York today raising money for members of Congress.

And they're extremely grateful for it. And today, the Politico magazine called Biden the patron saint of all those who got elected on the Obama coattails last year and are now hanging on for dear life.

Well, in fact, Joe is our "Big Number" man tonight. Since August, he's helped raised more than a million dollars for nervous House members. And that is today's HARDBALL "Big Number"-Joe Biden out there working the rope lines helping to keep the majority Democrats in the majority. One million bucks-tonight's HARDBALL "Big Number."

Up next: President Obama's failure to win the Olympics for Chicago is shining the light on his accomplishments, such as they are. And it's "Saturday Night Live" who may have nailed it. Despite a lot of campaign promises, this president doesn't have much to brag about yet. How badly does President Obama need something to go right? He needs a W. right now somewhere. And what are these consequences if he can't get a win, and soon?

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


BERTHA COOMBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bertha Coombs with your CNBC "Market Wrap."

Stocks rebounding on long-awaited signs of growth in the service sector, and a bit of bargain-hunting after a two-week decline-the Dow Jones industrials gaining 112 points. The S&P 500 was up 15, while the Nasdaq finished 20 points higher. The service sector activity picked up above the midway mark in September, according to the Institute of Supply Management. That indicates expansion, after 11 straight months of decline.

Around midday, solid demand for about $7 billion worth of treasury inflation protection notes also helped stocks hold on to early gains.

And Alcoa climbed nearly 5 percent, ahead of its earnings report, which is due out on Wednesday. That kicks off earnings season.

And shares of Brocade Communication soaring almost 19 percent today, "The Wall Street Journal" reporting the data storage equipment-maker is putting itself up for sale, with Oracle and Hewlett-Packard named as potential bidders.

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


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The opening of "Saturday Night Live" was a little rough on the president. Let's listen to another segment right now.


FRED ARMISEN, ACTOR: I said I would make improvements in the war in Afghanistan. Is it better? No, I think it's actually worse.


ARMISEN: How about health care reform? Hell no.



MATTHEWS: Any truth in that comedy? By the way, he went through a whole series of cases where he promised something and couldn't deliver.

Chuck Todd is NBC's White House correspondent-thank you-and also NBC News' political director. Eugene Robinson is only a Pulitzer Prize-winning news columnist for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC analyst.


MATTHEWS: Trying to get all the-the titles here.

Hey, Chuck, you're great, and I always know what you're going to say, because I know it's going to be brilliant.


MATTHEWS: And what you have got here now is brilliance. You have decided, almost like when the midnight at New Year's when that ball starts to come down from the top, that you have decided that now we have reached the point where this president hasn't delivered, he should have delivered by now, and therefore he got has problems.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, what it is, is-what "Saturday Night Live" captured was this issue that the Olympics issue brought home, which is, you know what, he hasn't closed the deal on anything in quite some time.

The stimulus, getting that done, in many ways, that was the last thing he got done, right, the big thing that he signed? And yet we're still trying to figure out, get it all spent. It's still not all spent, and there is still debate and question on that.


TODD: Beyond that, everything else is a ball in the air, whether it's the plan to close Gitmo, whether it's health care reform, which we have missed like three or four different deadlines just on getting bills out of different committees, whether it's Iran and nuclear-and this nuclear disarmament talks.

So, it just brought home the collective issue. Now, it's nine months in, you know? And, in three to six months from now, he could have check marks of yes by all of those boxes.


TODD: But it is a reminder that it isn't there yet, and it's-and it's-and that's what made the Olympics thing such a stomach punch, I think, to this White House.

MATTHEWS: Do you accept that premise? And, if so, where are we going to get closure, Iraq, health care, Iran, Afghanistan, or Gitmo?



MATTHEWS: Where is the possibility of a W. next to any of those contests?

ROBINSON: Well, how soon do you want the W.? I mean, as Chuck said, you know...

MATTHEWS: Well, Chuck has just decided it. I think it's time.


MATTHEWS: No, but "Saturday Night Live," let's lay it on their shoulders. "Saturday Night Live" says that this is time for him to deliver.

ROBINSON: The fact is that it takes a while to get the stuff done.

It's taken 60 years for health care, so it might take a few more months.



MATTHEWS: And, by the way, just to remind, Terry Jeffrey was on

earlier-and not for a late hit here, because I said it when he was here

these are inherited crap. All this stuff that he is being hit with that he hasn't solved yet are problems that were left on his doorstep on January 20. And...

ROBINSON: Well, the problems were there. He attacked on many fronts.

He said, we're going to do all these things.

And, so, you know, it's not out of bounds for-for-especially for a satirical TV show to say, aha, well, where's-where-where are the results?

You know, but there's a long way to go in the Obama presidency and in the Obama first term.


ROBINSON: And these things will reach their conclusion. He will get health care or not. He will-he will come to a policy in Afghanistan, and we will have a better idea of where it's going. I think they remain committed to closing Guantanamo by their deadline, but they found it takes longer than it does.

MATTHEWS: We are getting out of Iraq. Yes.

ROBINSON: And we are getting out of Iraq. And, you know, I wrote and I've said that I did think the Olympics thing was a-was a bad gamble, and I didn't think they were ever going to get it.

MATTHEWS: You knew more than Daley knew. Let me ask-let me go back to Chuck, because I think it's a great question. When you covered the White House these days, do you get a sense that they feel the pressure from, well, "Saturday Night Live," because it is, in fact, not only the indicator, but it's a good example of sort of the Zeitgeist, the sense of the times, that they have the sense that this will work as a cult open.

TODD: Well, look, I'll say this. They know-they believe that if they sign a health care reform bill in the next couple of months that that will be-that will be one of these big accomplishments that will serve as a morale booster to the base. This is as much about Democrats feeling like, geez, we're trying to do all these things; let's get something done. Let's put something in the done box.

The to do list is very long. But you've got to get something big and substantial in that done box. And frankly, legislatively, it's that first year that you can get a lot of stuff done in Congress. Because you know what? If you don't get it done this year, next year is one of those even-numbered years. That's even that much harder to get something through Congress. So that's why, look-

MATTHEWS: By the way-

TODD: -- feeling the pressure.

MATTHEWS: I'm sorry, Chuck, while you're on, what is the betting odds that they can do this, the health care? A bill which has 60 percent at least of what they wanted in it, something substantially improving the situation?

TODD: They believe they're going to sign a bill. Now, I'll tell you this: I've talked to some senators on Capitol Hill who are just exhausted from the debate. And one fear that they have is that this thing is now so defined as Obama's health care plan that the Democratic party is going to own every health care problem. This is a fear-this is a couple senators who are going to support anything that comes out of that Finance Committee.

But the fear is that any problem somebody has now with their health insurance, they're going to start-instead of blaming health insurance companies and cursing them, that they will just knee-jerk and blame Democrats and the president. And while that seems completely unfair, it's just how badly I think the message fight has been mismanaged here as far as some of these Democrats on Capitol Hill are concerned.

Now, look, none of them are profiles in courage sometimes. They're ducking and hiding behind the president in this thing. But it does show you sort of the exhaustion that some of these folks are feeling, and the pressure they're feeling on Capitol Hill.

ROBINSON: Well, ironically, though, the president does have one gigantic achievement, but it's a dog that didn't bark. There's a growing consensus that this administration, along with Bernanke at the Fed, managed to keep us from sliding into a new Great Depression. They saved the economy. That's a huge deal.

MATTHEWS: I agree with the argument there, because I think McCain-

I believe we did meet-because of printing the money and fiscal stimulus, the president offset that tremendous downfall in consumer spending and investment. But since the world didn't go into Depression outside of the United States, isn't that a hard argument to make, that he won by doing that?


MATTHEWS: Name a big country that went into the Depression.

ROBINSON: It's not that hard. But the U.S. is still the biggest economy and we had the lead on that. And I think there is-not just among the hard core Keynesians, but among the-that this administration did a fabulous job in crisis management, in keeping this whole thing from getting worse, from turning into a catastrophe.

MATTHEWS: By the way, congratulations to your colleague down there, Robert Gibbs, the press secretary. I was so impressed this Saturday to see that he drove down to Richmond for Jody Powell's memorial service, his predecessor. He must-that's a lot of class there. By the way, Chuck, while I have you, when does the White House see the most important deadline for them to achieve political success? Is it on the eve of 2012, or on the eve of 2010?

TODD: You know what? I think they believe, at the end of the day, it's on the eve of 2012. I can't tell you how many people have reminded me, older Democrats that are connected to this administration, who sit there and say, hey, we're in the same position Reagan was in in late '81 and '82. So maybe the midterms in 2010 will look like '82. That year, Republicans took a bit of a beating.

And then, all of a sudden, morning in America again. That was, you know, 1983, '84. So that's what White Houses worry about. They worry about the every four year. They certainly don't want-you know, they don't want to lose a lot of seats in 2010. But I think they think it's inevitable that they're going to lose some, particularly in the House, and possibly a few in the Senate. And the question is, what's more important? I think, in their minds, it's more important to be a two-term president.

MATTHEWS: Thanks for that analysis, Chuck Todd at the White House, chief White House correspondent for NBC. Eugene Robinson, thank you, sir.

Up next, are Republicans getting dangerously close to rooting against America? Terry Jeffrey may not think so. Or maybe he does. But I'll tell you, when we have this argument, it's clear from the tapes we can show you that last Friday, when the word got out that Chicago wasn't going to get the Olympics, there was a lot of cheering and hooting and high fiving on the right. That's a fact. We've got the tapes.

How smart is that strategy? We'll be right back. This is HARDBALL.





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were the first vote. They did not have any chance in even negotiating. They were out on the first vote.



MATTHEWS: There they are, clapping at the loss of the Olympics by the United States. That's a gathering of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity. That's an odd group to root against boosterism, responding gleefully that Chicago and President Obama did not win the 2016 Olympics.

We're back. It's time for the politics fix with "Mother Jones'" David Corn, an unusual babbot (ph) to be appearing on the program, and "Politico's" Jonathan Martin. I'm going to put you in the role of Lions Club, rotary, the kind of guy that really does weigh for local economic development. Bring new jobs to the town.

Ironically, you have the Democrats now doing the kind of boosterism the Republicans have historically done well, which is more jobs for the city. This is going to be great for the town, great for the country.

Let's face it. If we did have the Olympics coming up soon, it would be all we would be talking about. I was in South Africa this summer. All they were talking about is the world cup coming. I don't care how big your country is. I don't care if you're the Yankees. You still want to win the World Series. So excited.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES": You know, there is an argument against bringing the Olympics to a particular city on economic and development grounds. You know, there are people out there making that case. You can call them wet blankets. There's a policy argument against it.

But the political argument is basically people like the Olympics.

MATTHEWS: By the way, that policy argument is usually lefties like you. We can put this money into welfare payments.

CORN: More stadiums named after Citigroup.



CORN: To see the Republicans in this position, where it's just so bitter and acrimonious-they're not out there saying this is for the best of the Chicago citizens. They're saying-


MATTHEWS: I read this thing the other day; they said the Frenchman wants to be known as the world's greatest lover. The Englishman wants to be known as the world's greatest dresser. Russian wants his neighbor's horse to die. You know what I mean? They want-


MATTHEWS: They just want some bad news for the person they're competing with.

JONATHAN MARTIN, "POLITICO": They're reveling in the fact the president, that they despise, had an embarrassing moment here. That's purely what it is. The irony is pretty rich though. The famously patriotic party that called French Fries Freedom Fries a few years ago is now cheering that the U.S. lost in their bid-

MATTHEWS: Rio won.


MATTHEWS: Ronald Reagan-I ran this by Terry Jeffrey, who is just playing his position there. He wasn't going to agree with me. That's fair. That happens here. If Ronald Reagan had stuck his neck out for LA Olympics, if Rudy Giuliani had stuck his neck out, and any Democratic had laughed-first of all, I don't think they instinctively would have. They would have said, good try, good move.

CORN: Imagine how happy these people would be if Obama lost a war. I mean, it's-it may even come to pass. But they are just is-

MATTHEWS: Give me that newspaper over here, will you? When you're talking about a war, let me try to remind ourselves what we're talking about. Here's a war. This is real. Eight U.S. soldiers killed in that attack the other day at that outpost. I'm telling you, it's real.

Let's talk about the Olympics. I think Terry got confused. This is not nuclear arms negotiations with Gorbachev.

MARTIN: No, it's a reflection of the political times. We're so polarized that anything seen as a loss for Obama, regardless of what it is, is cause for celebration by a lot of folks on the right.

MATTHEWS: I was looking-we've all seen histories. When the OJ verdict came in, black and white reaction-that instantaneous reaction is very telling. It's not a game. These people's glee was real.

CORN: That was what was kind of frightening about it. I remember after 9/11, and for all the people on the left and the Democrats who really despised George W. Bush, didn't think he had been elected legitimately, and who also thought the tax cuts and everything he had done up to that point was really bad for the country, they still-a lot of them were rooting for him after 9/11 because they saw that the problems that the country had were serious enough that even if you don't like the guy, he's the guy there. And they put some of their hatred aside.

Then it came back-

MATTHEWS: I got in a lot of trouble for doing that. I thought after

9/11, when he had the bull horn there and he had the firefighter at his

side-I said, I don't think Al Gore could have done it that well. I

thought at that moment he was King Arthur. He lost it later because he got

the neocons talked him into Iraq. I'll say it a million times. The neocons talked him in.

Let's come back. We'll be right back to talk about General Petraeus. Is this guy running for president? Is this MacArthur? We'll be right back with David Corn and Jonathan Martin, who knows his politics. General Petraeus will have an easy time in New Hampshire. You're watching HARDBALL. Live free or die up there. MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: We're back with David Corn and Jonathan Martin with the politics fix. I'm hesitating because I'm thinking of something that I think would really get to the heart of this. David Corn, man of the left, proudly so would you-were you his adviser, personal adviser, recommend to General David Petraeus to get out of uniform, come home and run for the Republican nomination for president next time and take on President Obama? Would you recommend that he try?

CORN: If he was interested, I would say get out of uniform now. In the next year or two, he's partly in charge of getting us out of this mess that we're in in Afghanistan. I mean, this story in the "New York Times" today that we're all getting, you know, excited about, that there's rumors and speculation about him running, doesn't make any sense to me. Because right now, he's been given the really tough job.

Forget about Iraq, whether he did well there or not, he's in charge now of dealing with Afghanistan, which seems to infinitely be harder. How can he do that and even think about running for president?

MARTIN: Well, because the GOP field is pretty thin right now.

MATTHEWS: Very thin. You have somebody who's-you have somebody who is all sail, like in a boat, and that's Sarah Palin, who is a great sail. She's exciting as hell. And one guy who is all ballast.

MARTIN: Romney.

MATTHEWS: Romney. You don't have anybody that puts it together.

MARTIN: We're still three years away.

MATTHEWS: No, you're not three years away. You're about two months away from starting a campaign.

MARTIN: It's a thin field right now. This is a party that reveres the military. Just imagine a place like South Carolina, how well Petraeus could do. His residence, by the way, is in New Hampshire, which obviously can't hurt. The question is, what are his politics? What does he believe? Is he in favor of abortion rights? Where is he on-

MATTHEWS: Win wars.

MARTIN: Chris, the Republican primary cares about certain cultural issues. Where is he on those? We just don't know. He hasn't voted since 2003.

CORN: On economic policy, on health care.

MARTIN: Exactly.

CORN: Listen, we've been through this before. All the talk about Colin Powell, he ended up not having the fire in his belly. Wes Clark, smart guy, was a terrible campaigner.

MATTHEWS: Do one, two, three right now. Early running, morning line, one, two, three Romney, Petraeus, Palin. What would you put it at? Who is one two three?

MARTIN: As far as definitely running?

MATTHEWS: In positions, gate positions right now? Who do you put in the inside track right now?

MARTIN: I think most Republicans would probably put Romney at the first track.

MATTHEWS: Who's number two, Petraeus or Sarah Palin?

MARTIN: I'd say you would put Pawlenty or Palin there.

CORN: Where's Huckabee?

MATTHEWS: Where's Petraeus?

CORN: I don't think he's going to run.

MARTIN: Huckabee's there, too.

MATTHEWS: We'll see. It's getting talked up on the front page. You got to be it's talked up inside the White House. Thank you, David Corn. Thank you, Jonathan Martin. Being talked up here. 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.



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