updated 6/8/2010 10:03:53 AM ET 2010-06-08T14:03:53

Guests: Steve Theriot, Buck Lee, Mark Halperin, Amy Walter, Peter Beinart,
Sue Lowden


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Forty-nine days and counting.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight:
The gulf of oil.  The good news is that BP now says it hopes to soon be able to siphon off 20,000 barrels of oil a day.  The bad news, if 20,000 barrels of oil can be captured while so much spills into the gulf, how much is escaping from the underwater well?  The fact is, nobody really knows.  But even that 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day estimate now seems very low.  In a moment, we‘ll get a reality check on how the spill is affecting Gulf Coast residents.
Plus, forget whether this could be Obama‘s Katrina or not.  Could this be Dick Cheney‘s death march?  The lax regulations and cozy relationship with government inspectors can be traced right back to the Bush years, not to mention that $34 million signing bonus Cheney got from Halliburton on joining the Bush team or the secret meetings Cheney held with BP and other oil execs.  Let‘s get into that stuff.
Also, it‘s another big primary day tomorrow.  Voters in 11 states go to the polls, and we could learn whether the tea party helps or hurts the GOP.  The big races are in California, where Republicans will choose from among three candidates to take on Senator Barbara Boxer.  And they‘ll choose a candidate to take on Jerry Brown, who‘s running for governor again.  In  Arkansas, two Democrats face each other in a Senate runoff.
Sexual intrigue has become the big story surrounding the leading Republican gubernatorial candidate in South Carolina.  And in Nevada, three Republicans are battling to take on Harry Reid.  One of them, Sue Lowden, joins us tonight.
Plus, Elton John performs at the wedding of Rush Limbaugh—Sir Elton and El Rushbo together in the “Sideshow.”
And “Let Me Finish” tonight by suggesting it‘s time we listen to our adversaries every now and then, not just the people with whom we agree.
Let‘s start with the president of Jefferson parish down in Louisiana, Steve Theriot, and the executive director of the Santa Rosa Island Authority in Florida, Buck Lee.  Gentlemen, thank you for joining us.
Steve Theriot, let me ask you about BP‘s claims.  They say they‘re going to work to speed up this thing.  The president is going to help make them speed up the payments to the people who have claims.  What do you think‘s going to happen down there?  Is that going to happen?
STEVE THERIOT, PRES., JEFFERSON PARISH, LA:  Well, I believe, as everything that BP has done before, they tend to drag their feet on a lot of issues.  In our meeting with the president on Friday, an individual from the Department of Homeland Security was there and mentioning the claims process.  And kind of interestingly enough, the individual who‘s in charge of that is based out of London, England, so which makes it rather difficult, I‘m sure, to relate to the individuals in the Gulf Coast and the challenges that we have.
MATTHEWS:  What did you tell the president at that meeting, Steve?
THERIOT:  Well, I told the president, quite frankly, I was hoping that he would federalize the recovery process.  That BP—Admiral Allen mentioned before that the industry had the technology to deal with the oil that the government didn‘t have that.  And I believe that that logic could be used to determine that BP doesn‘t have the wherewithal to deal with our citizens and claims (INAUDIBLE)
And quite frankly, as the former legislative auditor for the state of Louisiana and dealing with FEMA throughout the Hurricane Katrina process, I asked that he would, in fact, invoke FEMA to deal with our citizens and their claims so that at least it could be dealt with fairly, recognizing the fact that BP does have its shareholders to answer to, where the federal government has the citizens of our country to deal with.
MATTHEWS:  So you want FEMA to step in here.
THERIOT:  I want FEMA to step in to at least deal with our citizens, to give them their claims process, and then let the federal government go to BP to get reimbursed because right now, each individual has to deal with BP individually.  And quite frankly, the game—the level—there‘s no level playing field in dealing with that.
MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s take a look at the president.  Here he is on the oil spill.  Let‘s listen.  Then we‘ll get to Buck Lee.  Here‘s the president on the spill.  Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  What is clear is that
the economic impact of this disaster is going to be substantial and it is going to be ongoing.  I do not want to see BP nickel-and-diming these businesses.  We‘re going to insist that money flows quickly in a timely basis, so that you don‘t have a shrimp processor or a fisherman who‘s going out of business before BP finally makes up its mind as to whether or not it‘s going pay out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS:  Mr. Lee, you‘re right down there on the oceanfront.  Tell us your reaction to this discussion about whether the federal government should become the intermediary, basically, the agent of all of the people who have claims when they go up against BP, so they don‘t go as individuals against this giant British corporation.  Your thoughts?
BUCK LEE, SANTA ROSA ISLAND AUTHORITY, FL:  Well, I never thought Steve and I would be asking for FEMA to become involved, but once you deal with BP, you almost beg for FEMA to step in here.  It is unbelievable what we have to go through.  I watched what the governor of Louisiana had to go through just trying to get the berms out there and the runaround he got.  They finally got some berms, and I hope it‘s not too late for the great state of Louisiana.
What we‘re trying to do here is protect our coasts here, and the process you have to go through to try to get the equipment you need to keep your area clean is unbelievable.  And to the people to the east of us, whether it‘s in Navarre (ph) or Destin or Panama City, you‘re in for a terrible, terrible nightmare dealing with BP.
MATTHEWS:  What do you make of the $58 million BP advertising budget to tell us that everything‘s going along OK?
LEE:  Well, I met with a gentleman from BP from Mobile, Alabama, today at the east end of our beach.  We had a tractor and what we call a surf rake, which goes along the beach and would take oil and put it in a hopper and put the white sand back.  You need a tractor and you need a surf rake.  That‘s a total of about $90,000.  We need four sets of those in Perdita Key (ph) beach and four seats of those on Pensacola Beach.  It comes up to less than $700,000.  What is a 60-second ad calling (ph) them, apologizing to the United States for their screw-up?  Just cancel one of your ads and fund our equipment.
MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at a new ABC/”Washington Post” poll, gentlemen.  It takes—it shows that 69 percent view the federal response to the oil spill negatively, 62 percent view the federal response to Katrina negatively two weeks after that.
Steve, is this a fair comparison?  If not, tell me why not.  It looks like this is as least as bad, probably worse, in terms of the public estimate of how the feds are doing.  Your thoughts?
THERIOT:  Well, as I mentioned before, Chris, I was in a previous position in dealing at a state level dealing not only with the state‘s recovery but also local government previously.  And as I said, the initial track record for FEMA was horrible.  But with the passage of time, they got better at that process.  So, too, do I believe right now this particular disaster is of an enormity that no one ever envisioned, and that‘s why I suggested to the president that we—that he would engage FEMA to assist us because they‘ve had the track record for dealing with such of a disaster.
I think it holds true that since the oil is still spewing, and it looks like it won‘t be until sometime until the middle of the latter part of August before they potentially could stop it, that we will be faced with looking at oil inundating our coastline between now until at least the end of the year, at least.
MATTHEWS:  You know, Buck, I‘m getting a little tired of two things that I keep hearing.  One is that Secretary of Energy Chu has a Nobel Prize, which doesn‘t seem all that relevant to this situation, and two is that these British guys coming on television telling us in commercials that they will pay all—catch this word—“legitimate” claims.  I mean, if we got to go through litigation, to go to Britain, under British law—I mean, what do you think it‘s going to be to get the money?  And maybe Steve has the idea right, the federal government should be the broker here.  The federal government represents the American people.  Maybe they should represent the American people to BP.
THERIOT:  You‘re exactly right.  And I said from the very beginning if this would have been handled by the states, working with their own parishes and counties, this would have gone a lot better.  And then we‘d have worked with FEMA and we‘d have split the cost 90/10, like we do on a major event.
The most important thing here on Pensacola Beach, if you look behind me, people are swimming, people are fishing, people are laying on the beach.  Our beach is open.  But the problem comes when we need things and trying to fight with BP to get the funding.  And I saw before the congressional hearing and they kept talking about legitimate expenses.  And I thought, Oh, my God, this is going to be tied up in the legal system for years and years to come.
MATTHEWS:  Let me ask about this comment just out.  I‘m reading from the wire here.  Senator Bill Nelson of your state is talking—well, here he is right now.  Let‘s hear Bill Nelson on tape earlier today.  Let‘s listen.
LEE:  OK.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA:  My worst fears are coming true as the wind that had so blessed us in our state of Florida for now going on seven weeks shifted a few days ago and this big spill of oil is moving to the east and to the northeast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS:  Buck Lee, is that your estimate, that the winds have turned negatively toward you now?
LEE:  No.  They did earlier.  The winds out here came out of the north now, and it‘s been helping us.  The sheen was about a half mile offshore a day-and-a-half ago, now it‘s about five miles.  So it‘s helped us.  It‘s going to hurt Destin and Panama City.
MATTHEWS:  Wow.  It‘s going help Pensacola but to the west of you, it‘s going to hurt.  Thank you, gentlemen, so much for this real-life update.  It‘s a reality check for us all on the difficulties, potentially, down the road of getting any money from BP.  Steve Theriot and Buck Lee, gentlemen, thank you for being great representatives of your localities.
Coming up: Some have called this disaster Cheney‘s Katrina.  So how much blame does Dick Cheney deserve for what‘s happening in the gulf?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MATTHEWS:  Veteran House (SIC) reporter Helen Thomas has retired today after making negative comments about Israel.  Here she is late last month in an interview she did for a Web site called Rabbilive.com.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HELEN THOMAS, HEARST COLUMNIST:  Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.  Remember, these people are occupied.  And it‘s their land.  It‘s not Germany, it‘s not Poland.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So where should they go?  What should they do?
THOMAS:  They can go home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Where‘s home?
THOMAS:  Poland.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So the Jews...
THOMAS:  Germany.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You think Jews go back to Poland and Germany.
THOMAS:  And America and everywhere else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS:  Well, Thomas apologized, saying she went too far, but the damage had been done.  And today, she resigned as a columnist at Hearst.  Thomas was dropped by her speakers bureau, and a suburban Maryland high school canceled a graduation speech she was set to give.  The 89-year-old Thomas had a long career with UPI beginning in 1943.  She does have many friends in Washington.  She covered the White House since 1960.  We‘ll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  There‘s been no shortage of critics when it comes to the way President Obama‘s handled this oil disaster, but the circumstances that led to it didn‘t just happen on his watch.  A climate of deregulation and cozy relationships between oil companies and government officials can be traced right back to the Bush/Cheney administration and before.
BP participated in Cheney‘s secret energy task force and its chief executive had a separate private session with the vice president.  Lax regulation led to a culture of corruption at the Minerals Management Service.  Halliburton reportedly gave Cheney a $34 million golden parachute -- or I might call it a singing bonus with the Bush administration—when he left the company to become Bush‘s running mate.  And former Cheney staffers went to work for big oil, like Andrew Lundquist (ph), who lobbied for BP after his stint as executive director of Cheney‘s energy tax force.
Talk about a close revolving door here.  And (INAUDIBLE) Womac (ph), it may not have anything to do with it, but it looks like the same problem, his national—she was a spokesman for Cheney‘s campaigns—now she‘s heading up BP‘s media operations, the same flacking operation for both Cheney and the oil company which he once worked for and which gave him all that money when he went to the White House.
In any other country in the world, we‘d be thinking this has a very bad smell.  So can culpability for this disaster be laid at the doorstep of the previous administration?
Mark Halperin is with “Time” and Richard Wolffe is an MSNBC political analyst.  I want to talk to you, Mark, and then Rich.  Jump in here both of you.  It seems to me that if you put all this together, it looks like a third world country.  This the kind of stuff that happens in, dare I say it, some Arab countries, some African countries, where it‘s all baksheesh, it‘s all who you know, it‘s all inside stuff.  If you‘re not in with the current government, which is the ongoing current government in these country—they don‘t have elections—you don‘t do business.  And if you are in, you got it made.
MARK HALPERIN, “TIME”:  Well, it‘s just like what happened with Wall Street in two respects.  In one, the technology changed.  The private sector business practices changed in a way.  The regulators didn‘t keep up.  That‘s the fault of people in Congress and in the White House.
MATTHEWS:  As David Gregory would say, unpack, will you, a little bit?
HALPERIN:  Well...
MATTHEWS:  What do you mean by...
(CROSSTALK)
HALPERIN:  They‘re drilling deeper and deeper without updating the way the regulations would work...
MATTHEWS:  OK.
HALPERIN:  ... which—obviously, none of us are experts on this, but it‘s—it just—it‘s logical...
MATTHEWS:  So let‘s not—let‘s not give any more slack through technological change here than I want to give them.  When you allow the company you‘re supposedly regulating to pencil in the inspection report that you then cover over in ink, that‘s corruption.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Sure it is, but, Chris...
MATTHEWS:  Right.  And that‘s what‘s going on here.  In other words, it‘s not the form, it‘s the fact they let the oil company fill it out.
WOLFFE:  Right, but there‘s something else, which was the ideological mission of the Bush administration.  I interviewed Bush in 2000 (INAUDIBLE) 2000.  He made it very clear as a candidate the one thing he wanted to do was relax regulatory oversight...
MATTHEWS:  On his oil patch buddies.
WOLFFE:  On not just oil, everything, financial services, you name it, because they felt that through the Clinton years, the balance had tipped too far.  They weren‘t going back to the Reagan era quite as much, but the laissez-faire approach was what they wanted to do.  And that argument is playing out right now between the tea party and the Republicans on one side, the Obama folks—and the balance between business and government is being played out.
MATTHEWS:  Is there any government—now that we‘ve all seen this for six weeks now, is there any evidence there was any real regulation, federal regulation, of oil safety?
HALPERIN:  It was totally...
MATTHEWS:  Any.
HALPERIN:  There was some, but it was totally insufficient.  But I‘m telling you...
MATTHEWS:  Was there some?  What was this?
HALPERIN:  Of course there was some.
MATTHEWS:  Because they‘re filling out their own inspection forms.
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  How many people actually had the job of making sure—let me give you an example.  When they applied for that permit to drill that well down to a mile below the surface of the water and two miles deep, they said they had the capacity to deal with a spill something like 10 times that size, a multiple of that size.  They didn‘t.  They lied.  Nobody checked.
HALPERIN:  Nobody checked.  And the regulations weren‘t sufficient.  There were too many people too close to the industry involved in the process.  And the regulations—the regime was not keeping up with what the oil companies were doing.  In this case, I think, because I think there will be prosecutions...
MATTHEWS:  Yes.
HALPERIN:  ... there‘s going to be some corrective there.  But I think also, there‘s going to be a corrective in Congress.
WOLFFE:  Chris, there‘s something else.  Look, it ties back to what Alan Greenspan said about banks.  There was a belief that self-interest—these companies could look after their self-interest to the point where they would not allow this to happen.  It was not this their interest...
MATTHEWS:  That‘s what Axelrod was saying the other night.
WOLFFE:  Right.  That...
MATTHEWS:  Nobody has a bigger interest in fixing this leak than BP.
WOLFFE:  That‘s the problem.
MATTHEWS:  They still believe that!
WOLFFE:  That‘s the problem.  The problem is, the idea that industry itself is going to look after their interests and therefore not take these kinds of risks because they‘re not trying to save money—well, they want to cut corners.  That‘s why you need effective oversight and effective regulation.  And if you don‘t have people who are going to come in from the outside and check this stuff out, you don‘t have regulation.
MATTHEWS:  Do you think—I mean, this is always thinking outside of the box.  None of us are technical experts by the least measure.  But you know, I wonder whether BP doesn‘t have a somewhat different interest.  They have an interest in letting this leak go on for months if, at the end, they can cap it or get another route down to that oil source and make all that money.  But do they have the same interest we have in just damn well stopping it?  In other words, would they explore all possibilities, like blowing the thing or something like that, that we might think, Wait a minute, we don‘t care if they never get another drop of oil out of this thing, stop the leak, whereas they say, No, we want to make sure we got this well in three or four months when this leak‘s over?
Well?
WOLFFE:  This is devastating for their share price.  There are real reports out there that there could be some kind of breakup of the company or seizure of pieces of this.  This is not in their interests...
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  Well, what about Tony Hayward, the head, the CEO saying he wants to get back to his life again?
(CROSSTALK)
HALPERIN:  They are one—they are one serious whistle-blower away from going out of business, as far as I‘m concerned, because any corporation of this size is going to deal with this in a way that‘s not in the public interest. 
MATTHEWS:  Have you noticed that Dick Cheney has said nothing, the expert on this field, the man who comes from Halliburton?
(CROSSTALK)
HALPERIN:  His daughter has.
MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s safe.
But the guy who worked for the company as CEO, the guy who knows a lot about this stuff in terms of its government relations, its inspections regime, the whole regulatory aspect that company is under.  He knows it all.  He knows what he‘s done about it, too, which was hold the secret meeting with the energy bosses, hold the private meetings, separate meetings with BP, right?  He knows all this.  He‘s not available for interviews, is he? 
(CROSSTALK)
WOLFFE:  Yes.  It is interesting that the political calculation has been—he‘s quiet on a whole bunch of stuff, on the foreign policy thing as well, in a way that he wasn‘t before. 
But to say this is all Cheney‘s fault...
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  I‘m not saying that.
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking you—no, I‘m asking you, is the philosophy of deregulation, which you guys have pointed out...
WOLFFE:  Yes, absolutely.
MATTHEWS:  ... is that responsible for a failure to regulate?  Isn‘t that definitional?
HALPERIN:  All the focus—there‘s a lot of focus on how this puts the president on the defensive.
The mind-set of Dick Cheney about how to regulate big industries, including in energy, is also going to be on defensive eventually, because they are going to have to explain not just what they did, but what should be done now to keep stuff from—this from happening again. 
MATTHEWS:  Does oil have a special protection against regulation over the years?  I think it has, because my evidence digging up was in terms of pipeline safety on the mainland of the United States, they had one inspector, what I was able to figure out.
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  After transferring authority over through four agencies, they‘re left with one guy.  They don‘t have inspections by federal officials. 
WOLFFE:  What‘s interesting is that the politics of this has not played out as you would think.  You have Bobby Jindal saying, I don‘t trust BP to clean the stuff up, but we want BP to carry on drilling, where does this leave, for instance, the ANWR debate? 
The whole point was that the technology was so good, the footprint so small, that there would be no spills, there would be no problems. 
MATTHEWS:  I know.
WOLFFE:  That debate has not played out yet.  And it‘s playing out right now in the region in unpredictable ways. 
MATTHEWS:  Remember the old Rahm Emanuel line which I‘m sure he wished he hadn‘t said, which is let no crisis go on unexploited?
Have they failed an opportunity here to go on the—go to the public with a bullhorn and say, not go get the terrorists, but here‘s a time we need a new energy policy in this country? 
HALPERIN:  It‘s about to happen in the Senate.  And pressure is going to be on moderate Republicans, not just the two from Maine and Scott Brown, but a few other moderate Republicans...
MATTHEWS:  To join an energy bill.
HALPERIN:  ... to join in, if they can craft it as a way that takes all... 
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  How do you know those three are on?  They‘re on financial regulation.  But are they on for energy? 
(CROSSTALK)
HALPERIN:  They may be.  They‘re the easiest gets, but they going to need more than just the three of them.  And I don‘t think those three go alone.  They are going to need a couple others.  But they have got their eyes on some others.
And they can use the crisis.  Everyone mocks what Rahm Emanuel said, but in this case it‘s true.  I think the energy bill is more likely now, rather than less likely. 
MATTHEWS:  Are the only Republicans in America watching right now who want to see a new energy policy those from the cold, the frost belt, because they hate the oil industry? 
WOLFFE:  No.  LeMieux from Florida was in with the president talking about this.
Murkowski in Alaska—there are pieces that he‘s been trying to give away on the energy piece of it, like offshore drilling and nuclear to get these people on board on climate change.  Does that tradeoff still exist?  I don‘t know. 
MATTHEWS:  Is the Nobel Prize-winning Mr. Chu able to do this?  Do they have the political finesse to put together a majority policy in this country that we can actually make a change?  I keep waiting for them to do something. 
WOLFFE:  I would bet more on it than immigration right now. 
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  Well, no.
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  Because they don‘t want to deal with immigration, honestly. 
(CROSSTALK)
HALPERIN:  They can do it before the election, but they can also do it in the lame-duck session after the election.  And I predict they will get one of the two done. 
MATTHEWS:  Energy probably?
HALPERIN:  It‘s—no, I‘m saying they will get energy done either before the midterms or more likely... 
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  Really?  Are you hopeful, like, that we will get a real energy bill, in terms of dealing with what we have to do in terms of fossil fuel, moving towards renewables down the road?  The potential of solar, if you put the stuff in place, is awesome?
(CROSSTALK)
HALPERIN:  You need a bunch of Democrats who have already lost their seats who are not afraid to then vote for regulation in a way that could hurt the economy, because, remember, that‘s still a bigger issue for most Americans.
People in the press are more concerned with the Gulf right now.  Jobs and the economy are a still bigger issue for Democrats and for the country. 
WOLFFE:  You are going to have to get Republicans to sign up to some kind of carbon tax, at least specifically for the power energy industry.  Could you sell that right now?  I don‘t know. 
MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s talk politics, pure political discussion. 
Can the president, if he has the right spokespeople and the surrogates around the country, shift a measure of responsibility for this disaster between now and November to the Republicans that left office before he came in, specifically Cheney?
(CROSSTALK)
HALPERIN:  After the leak is plugged, yes.  Before, no. 
WOLFFE:  He has got to show action.  He has got to get people down there...
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  Can he shift some of the blame for this hell to the Republican deregulators? 
WOLFFE:  Yes, some of it.  Some of it. 
MATTHEWS:  Cheney and Halliburton.
(CROSSTALK)
WOLFFE:  This is a collection of incompetence and recklessness.  He has got to, first of all, shift it to BP.  That‘s the primary responsibility. 
MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you, guys. 
Thank you very much, Mark Halperin and Richard Wolffe.
You wrote “Maverick.”
And you wrote “Game Change.”
WOLFFE: “Renegade.”  Close.
MATTHEWS:  “Renegade.”  Same place.
WOLFFE:  Go ahead.
MATTHEWS:  That‘s your John McCain book.
WOLFFE:  That‘s the other one.
MATTHEWS:  OK. 
“Renegade.”  Thank you. 
Up next:  What was Elton John thinking when he performed at Rush Limbaugh‘s wedding?  I think I know what he was thinking.  The “Sideshow” is next.  It‘s a gig. 
(LAUGHTER)
MATTHEWS:  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Now to the “Sideshow.”
I want to start this part of the show tonight with my sincere best wishes for Rush Limbaugh on the occasion of his wedding.  Good for him and his bride.  Anyway, also I want to congratulate him on his choice of a wedding singer, Elton John.  Wish we could all have him.  He‘s expensive, of course. 
But I always like it when people can separate their politics from their taste in other things, like music.  I remember a Barbra Streisand concert out there where she asked the audience who they had voted for.  Half of them were Republicans.  You don‘t have to fight about everything. 
Anyway, best to Rush and his bride.  And to Elton, as Ben Franklin said, a fair exchange is no robbery.  I think it was a million dollars for that gig, that wedding. 
Next:  Charlie Rangel stirs the pot.  The Harlem congressman kicked off his reelection bid by a real noisemaker, comparing Barack Obama, his fellow Democrat, to—catch this—Dick Cheney.  Rangel told “The New York Daily News” that the ongoing war in Iraq is, as it always was, as he puts it, about oil, adding—quote—“The lack of an honest explanation for the war is consistent with Bush and Cheney.  We‘re trying to buy our friends there.  Stuff like that makes Cheney look good.”
I don‘t know why he was so tough on Obama.  I don‘t get it.
Now for the “Big Number.”
We know Senator Blanche Lincoln is fighting an uphill battle against Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter for Democratic nomination in tomorrow‘s ark runoff election.  If Senator Lincoln loses tomorrow, she will join the ever-growing crowd of incumbents thrown from office this year. 
So far, we have Utah Senator Bob Bennett, West Virginia Congressman Alan Mollohan, and two-party-switcher Senator Arlen Specter, and Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith.  So, if Senator Lincoln loses tomorrow—and the polling shows that‘s likely—that would make for five big incumbent losses this midterm, and we‘re still six months out from the election.  If Senator Lincoln loses tomorrow, five incumbents will go down in defeat, five out of—put it in perspective -- 535 members of Congress.  That‘s like less than 1 percent are getting thrown out. 
Anyway, that‘s tonight‘s throw-them-out “Big Number.” 
Up next:  Which Republican will win the fight to take on Harry Reid?  Will Blanche Lincoln be the next incumbent to lose down in Arkansas?  We will preview all the hot races in tomorrow‘s primaries—coming back in a minute.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC
“Market Wrap.”
You can call it a moderate sell-off compared to Friday‘s declines, the Dow Jones industrials falling 115 points, the S&P 500 sliding 14 points, and the Nasdaq plunging 45 points. 
Financials in the spotlight today after Goldman Sachs was subpoenaed
by the FCIC after failing to comply with a request for documents and
interviews.  And the FTC ordered Bank of America to pay $108 million to compensate borrowers for misconduct at Countrywide Financial. 
Meanwhile, investors are scratching their heads after a report on consumer credit showed a surprise drop in March and only anemic growth in April.  Analysts say consumers are still focused on saving, rather than spending.
Bristol-Myers Squibb shares jumping more than 6 percent after a new leukemia drugs met key goals in a major clinical trial, but CVS shares skidding more than 8 percent after Walgreens said it wouldn‘t participate in the CVS Caremark drug plan. 
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
HARDBALL. 
MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 
Tomorrow is another huge primary day, with tough fights from coast to coast.  HARDBALL will be on at 5:00 tomorrow night, 7:00 and midnight Eastern with all the winners and the losers. 
Here‘s what we will be watching tomorrow night. 
The Democratic runoff in Arkansas.  Will lieutenant Govern Bill Halter make Senator Blanche Lincoln the latest incumbent to fall this year?  In South Carolina, it‘s a four-way race for the Republican nomination for governor.  Front-runner Nikki Haley has been under attack.  A runoff in two weeks is very likely.  How ugly is that going to get?  It‘s pretty ugly already. 
In California a pair of ex-CEOs are leading the polls for the Republican nominations.  Meg Whitman has spent a fortune on the governor‘s race to off against former Governor Jerry Brown.
And Carly Fiorina wants to battle Senator Barbara Boxer.  And, in Nevada, it‘s a three-way Republican fight for the right to face Harry Reid. 
Sue Lowden will be on HARDBALL in about 10 minutes tonight.  She faces Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle and businessman Danny Tarkanian.  It‘s going to be a big, big night.
Amy Walter is the editor in chief of “The Hotline,” which tells us everything.  And Peter Beinart writes for “The New Republic” and The Daily Beast.  And he‘s the author of a new book called “The Icarus Syndrome.”  It‘s all about his youth and genius.
Let‘s start here. 
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  And let‘s start with you, first of all.
Arkansas seems to be almost a generational—Blanche Lincoln, moderate to conservative Democratic, against the young hotshot Bill Halter, the gamer.  What is going to happen down there? 
PETER BEINART, THEDAILYBEAST.COM:  I think it looks like Halter is probably going to win.  And this is going to be a big deal. 
This is part of the whole—what the netroots is all about.  The netroots never accepted the idea that even in red states you needed to nominate conservative Democrats.  There is this old dream going back to FDR, if you remember, the 1938 primary...
MATTHEWS:  When he tried to knock off...
(CROSSTALK)
BEINART:  When he tried to knock off conservatives, saying you could have progressives in the Deep South. 
MATTHEWS:  So, how‘s it look?  Any better now for progressives to win in Arkansas, which is a right-to-work state, which went for McCain by 20 points?
(CROSSTALK)
BEINART:  They will probably lose in either case, but significant—it‘s still significant they can beat an incumbent senator in the primary. 
MATTHEWS:  You know what the old line of the NDC was when I was growing up politically was?  November doesn‘t count in D.C.  And that‘s always going to be the argument of the activists.  They would rather win the fight in the beginning. 
Let me ask you about South Carolina.  Nikki Haley, I only heard about her—she‘s obviously very attractive.  You see pictures of her.  That‘s all I know about her.  But the first time we heard about her was Sarah Palin built her up.  Next thing you know, it‘s like Oprah almost, top of the list.  Now she‘s being attacked by these guys who claim they have had relations with her. 
I have never seen such poor—what‘s it, poor form is what we say, used to say.  Go ahead.  What are we saying here? 
(CROSSTALK)
AMY WALTER, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “THE HOTLINE”:  Well, actually, the first
high-profile person to endorse her was Jenny Sanford.  When Jenny Sanford came out for her, then we all started to take another look. 
MATTHEWS:  Yes. 
WALTER:  Mitt Romney came out for her, Sarah Palin.  So, she is the anti-establishment candidate, in that she doesn‘t come from the old boy network. 
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  Is she a teapot or a tea bagger or whatever they call it? 
WALTER:  You know, she‘s very—she‘s—the most conservative of that bunch.  She‘s certainly the biggest outsider.  She‘s been outspent dramatically.  And you‘re right.  These guys went after her.  There was a thought, uh-oh, here we go again. 
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that, that these people claim they did it in her defense or in their defense? 
WALTER:  I have no idea where this is coming from, except that they obviously came from other camps as well.  They are aligned with other camps. 
The reality is—is this.  The more that they have hit her, the stronger she‘s been and she‘s...
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  It looks it.  You have got to root for somebody who is under attack like that, just in principle. 
(CROSSTALK)
WALTER:  Last-minute attacks never work in campaigns. 
MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go.  Let‘s take a look at the women out in California.  I want you all to look at these figures.  It‘s the biggest money state in the country, California.  It‘s the biggest state, too.
Fiorina, once with Hewlett-Packard, 38 percent, Campbell, 21 percent, DeVore, the conservative, 16.  It really looks like Carly Fiorina is going to win that, Peter, the primary.
BEINART:  Yes.  Basically, the rule seems to be the Tea Partiers win everywhere, except in California, because, in California, money is all that counts.
It‘s been that way for a long time in California.  You have to buy the state, because you can‘t do retail campaigning.  And Whitman and Fiorina have done it.  They have bought it. 
MATTHEWS:  OK. 
What does Fiorina think?  She‘s pro-life.  She wants to get rid of Roe v. Wade.  She wants to outlaw abortion, basically.  I can‘t remember the last time somebody won statewide in California with that point of view. 
BEINART:  Well, this has always been the problem.
MATTHEWS:  You have to go way back to Deukmejian, we found out. 
That‘s way back.
Everybody in history, Republican and Democrat, whether it is Governor Wilson or it‘s Governor Schwarzenegger and all the Democrats, have all been pro-choice. 
How can she win a general election being for the outlawing of abortion rights? 
BEINART:  Well, the question, how could she win a primary if she weren‘t?  That‘s always the problem these Republicans face.  The California Republican Party is very far-right.  It‘s very white.  It‘s very old in a state that‘s very culturally liberal, young, and...
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  Well, are they—do they have the same view that the young progressives do in backing Halter; we don‘t really care who wins the general; we want to win the primary?
BEINART:  That‘s whole ethic of the Tea Party is, basically, they believe Bush was too moderate, compromised too much.  They want to be pure.
MATTHEWS:  So, what‘s the goal, blow away the moderate Republicans? 
(CROSSTALK)
BEINART:  It‘s always the fantasy that you can have ideological purity and still win. 
MATTHEWS:  In both parties? 
(CROSSTALK)
MATTHEWS:  Is that true, Amy, in both parties?  You cover both.  Do both party activists think that in—you know the old argument, if people really knew all the facts, they would agree with me? 
WALTER:  Yes. 
MATTHEWS:  I mean, some people believe that.
WALTER:  It‘s very true.  Although the interesting thing—
MATTHEWS:  It‘s not true.  It‘s true that people believe it.  Don‘t say it‘s true.
(CROSS TALK)
WALTER:  Here, the thing, Blanche Lincoln actually supported the health care bill.  That‘s what‘s quite remarkable.  It‘s one thing to say let‘s punish somebody for not doing the right thing.  And in the case of California, you know, Fiorina, in many ways, is going to position herself as a moderate, which I think she can do because of her business background. 
MATTHEWS:  Even on the choice issue?
WALTER:  I think the bigger problem for her. 
MATTHEWS:  Can she do that in California? 
WALTER:  We‘ll see if she can do that and whether that‘s going to be as big of an issue.  Remember, Democrats tried to make abortion a big issue in Virginia, right?  I know it‘s a very different place. 
Here‘s I think Carly Fiorina‘s bigger issue is her HP background. 
That is going to be the bigger—very controversial. 
MATTHEWS:  Why she was pushed out.
WALTER:  Why she was pushed out, 21 million dollar golden parachute. 
This is the bigger issue. 
MATTHEWS:  I want to go back you—back—I want to go from Peter and then go over to Amy again.  The Whitman thing, spending a ton of money -- the only thing—I was in California this weekend.  The only thing you hear is that she has the money, the big bucks to buy the ads right through the election, and LA TV is three-quarters of the state through cable.  Can she avoid making a mistake and win the election with paid ads?  Or is she going to sometime between now and November show that she‘s not a professional pol, whereas Jerry Brown, with his somewhat whimsical background, is still a solid professional? 
BEINART:  I think you answered your own question.  Historically the trend is—not always, but very often—candidates without a background in politics, who spend their way to a primary victory or to early success, often blow up because they don‘t realize that it‘s actually much more difficult.
(CROSS TALK)
BEINART:  In California particularly. 
MATTHEWS:  Do you know who makes the money?  The ad consultants?
BEINART:  Yes, if you go back to Ed Chapman, so many people have blown their fortunes in California.  So far, she‘s been able to do it in the primary.  But I agree, Brown has run a lot of campaigns before.  The question will be, can she sustain this?
MATTHEWS:  Who has the best shot, Fiorina, Carly Fiorina running against Boxer, or Whitman running against Jerry Brown? 
WALTER:  I would rather run against Washington, so I would rather be Carly Fiorina and running against D.C. than I would—
MATTHEWS:  You can make Boxer D.C.? 
WALTER:  Yes. 
MATTHEWS:  You know what Barbara has in common with some people?  Incredible good luck.  She has won—she ran against Bruce Herchison (ph), who got caught with a peep show problem.  Then she ran against a guy who got caught taking anti-gay money.  She has seems to have something pop right near the end that puts her back in. 
BEINART:  She also benefited from the polarization of American politics.  California has moved further left.  So a senator like here, who is one of a handful of most liberal senators, can do it. 
WALTER:  That‘s going to be the question.  Can we get this away from an ideological battle, which it has been in the past, to one that‘s more Washington versus outsider. 
MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to Nevada.  Harry Reid is one shrewd politicians. 
I have heard from Republicans and Democrats he‘ll probably win in the end.  Is he just lucky or is he smart in getting, it looks like, Sharon Angle, who is probably going to win that primary tomorrow night?  I don‘t know.  Sue Lowden‘s a very attractive candidate and could win the general.  Are the voters out there going to be strategic or are they going to ideological on the Republican side? 
BEINART:  In most places, so far, people are not being strategic. 
There‘s enormous amount of anger on the Republican side. 
MATTHEWS:  They‘re willing to lose with the one they like? 
BEINART:  They haven‘t come to terms with the fact that people they really—that the Tea Party is not America. 
WALTER:  Let‘s face it, Harry Reid—of this entire field, I thought from the very beginning—this isn‘t about can Harry Reid win.  It‘s can Republicans lose it.  They‘ve been in a contest throughout this primary to see who can do a better job of losing it. 
MATTHEWS:  It was amazing listening to Chuck.  Apparently, Harry Reid only needs to get like 44 percent and he wins, because there‘s some other small party candidates running.  He doesn‘t have to jump the high jump here to win. 
WALTER:  And that‘s really the question.  Of those three, it‘s not that any one of them has an easy path to this.  Harry Reid did a very good job in the very beginning of pushing people out. 
MATTHEWS:  All right.  Which of the three Republican candidates, Angle, Tarkanian or Lowden, has best shot at the 15 percent in the middle? 
WALTER:  I would say Tarkanian, because he doesn‘t have the record.
MATTHEWS:  More than Lowden. 
BEINART:  Yes.
MATTHEWS:  OK.  Tarkanian could sneak in between the two women candidates then.
BEINART:  Most of the polls seem to suggest that it is going to be the Tea Party woman.  Then the question is does she have crossover appeal? 
MATTHEWS:  You guys are good.  You‘re placing your bets on—You think Fiorina has a better shot than Whitman.  You think than Angle will probably win the primary.
(CROSS TALK)
MATTHEWS:  Halter‘s going to beat Blanche Lincoln.
BEINART:  He‘s leading in the polls. 
WALTER:  He wins. 
(CROSS TALK)
BEINART:  He‘s leading in all the polls. 
MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Great guests.  Thank you, Amy Walter.  Thank you, Peter Beinart.  Up next, one of the Republicans vying for the right to take on Harry Reid in Nevada is Sue Lowden, former state Senator Sue Lowden.  She‘s going to join us next.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Retreat, relax, renew.  Unwind and enjoy the soothing sauna and spa treatments in Nevada prison.  You heard right.  Career politician and Senate candidate Sharon Angle sponsored a bill that would have used tax dollars to give massages to prisoners.  Angle‘s plan was developed by the Church of Scientology.  Sharon Angle, pampering prisoners with our tax dollars.  A relaxing experience Nevada can‘t afford. 
SUE LOWDEN ®, CANDIDATE FOR SENATE IN NEVADA:  I‘M Sue Lowden and I
approved this message. 
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS:  God.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Nevada Republicans pick their Senate nominee tomorrow.  It‘s safe to say that Senator Harry Reid would rather run against Tea Party favorite Sharon Angle than against her opponent Sue Lowden.  Sue Lowden is before us right now.  She‘s tonight from Las Vegas.  She‘s a former state senator, former state party chair. 
Senator Lowden, thank you for joining us.  I‘ve been watching your campaign out there and I‘ve been thinking, if I were a Republican big shot out there, I‘d be running you against Harry Reid because you could get the center.  You could get the independent voter, as well as the conservative.  Your thoughts on that thought? 
LOWDEN:  Well, not only do you think that, but clearly Harry Reid thinks that.  That‘s why he and his allies have put hundreds of thousands of dollars in negative ads toward me in the last several months.  Everybody from the SEIU to the brick layers to the elevator operators to you name it; they‘re in the middle of this race campaigning against me, because Harry Reid does not want to meet me in November.  He wants to defeat me in June. 
MATTHEWS:  What do your fellow Republicans think about the fact of him messing with your rhubarb, with coming over into your party and telling, through advertising, through labor union advertising, who to vote for and against, and who to pick against him?  I mean, he‘s picking his opponent, you‘re saying. 
LOWDEN:  He has never before done this.  This is a Republican primary, literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in negative ads on TV, on radio, and now I‘m hearing today I‘m anti-gun.  Here I am getting an A-Plus from the NRA and have my concealed weapons license, but there‘s an anti-gun piece out on me, thanks to Harry Reid and his allies. 
We are going to find out how Republicans feel about it.  We are one of those states that early votes.  And we are very confident in our early vote exit polling that we‘ve done very well.  Right now, the polls, for the most part, don‘t mean anything except get out the vote.  We‘ve had a very aggressive get out the vote campaign, where we touched 15,000 households yesterday.  We‘re going to do the same today. 
Seven out of ten people are going to vote.  Republicans are going to vote in the primary tomorrow.  We‘re going to push that number and hope that there‘s more.  We really want people to get out and vote. 
MATTHEWS:  Angle‘s really for massages for prisoners in state prison out there?  Explain that so I get it a little bit.  Why would a conservative, who usually likes to take away their barbells and their TV sets, be for giving them massages. 
LOWDEN:  You‘ll have to ask her that.  She does not deny it.  She put the bill together and she presented it to the Nevada legislature, asked our governor at the time to go visit the prisons where she said they were—it was working.  Then when that didn‘t work, she actually went to our congressman and our senator from Nevada and asked for federal legislation, federal funds for that to—to happen here in Nevada. 
So you‘ll have to ask her why she did it.  I‘m not sure why she did it.  She clearly isn‘t the conservative in the race.  She‘s also voted for her own pay raise three times.  We are right—
MATTHEWS:  They all do that.  They all do that. 
LOWDEN:  We are a right to work state.  And she voted against our right to work state.
MATTHEWS:  OK.  Is she into Scientology?  You allude to that.  That‘s always a negative to people who aren‘t Scientologists.  Are you saying your opponent is under the influence of the Scientology movement? 
LOWDEN:  No, I‘m not saying that. 
MATTHEWS:  Why did you put it in the ad? 
LOWDEN:  Because it was sponsored by—clearly, it was sponsored by the Scientologists.  This was some kind of a therapy that apparently they thought was good for prisoners. 
MATTHEWS:  Why would she go along with the Scientology crowd if she‘s not one of them? 
LOWDEN:  You‘d have to ask her.  I don‘t know. 
MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about your—the thing that got you into trouble, senator, and the suggestion that we should go back to a barter system for medical care.  What do you make of that suggestion at this point, the night before the election? 
LOWDEN:  Would you tell your colleagues at MSNBC to lighten up on that?  I mean, come on. 
MATTHEWS:  I am very light, senator.  Go ahead.  Tell me why we were wrong or right to do that? 
LOWDEN:  I have been followed for a long time by Harry Reid cameras.  And we were in a rural community where we were talking about options and about how people used to be so close to their doctors.  And it came up in a conversation that that‘s what people used to do.  That‘s what I said, grandparents used to do this.
And it was taken out of context.  And literally hundreds of thousands of dollars has been spent exaggerating that comment.  And, Chris, I know that you‘re a big fan, a big baseball fan.  Brice Harper is going to be at the Washington Nationals and I‘m going to buy you a beer and a hot dog. 
MATTHEWS:  If this won‘t hurt you, good luck tomorrow, senator.  Good luck tomorrow senator.  I think it‘s great.  Sue Lowden, good luck in this race tomorrow.  I hope it doesn‘t hurt you having me say it. 
LOWDEN:  I know.
MATTHEWS:  When we return, let me finish with some thoughts about how partisanship has infected Washington.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
Matthews:  Let me finish tonight with something I‘ve been working on for a while now.  It‘s the conviction that some people have that my political party, whichever that party happens to be, is the exclusive root to the best possible government for this country.  You know the mentality; other views need not be contemplated.  We hold the received wisdom, the guts, the moxie and day-to-day know how to solve America‘s deepest problems. 
That‘s right.  We‘re sitting on the exclusive monopoly to how to lead the country.  This is the way some politicians and a lot of voters are acting these days.  They know the truth and they‘re right, and the other side—well, all the smart people know it—they don‘t know the answer to the country‘s problems and they‘re not right, not on anything that really matters. 
Well, I have my negative attitudes toward certain politicians.  I‘ve been, as you know, inspired by others, like our president.  And I do think some people‘s only interest in politics is how much they can get their taxes cut.  That‘s the beginning and end of their public philosophies.  You know, the guy in the commuter train after a couple of drinks. 
I also like to think that I can talk to just about anyone about politics, and maybe learn something.  There are things and certainly times when I‘ve been completely wrong, and I always like to conclude at the end of even the most well considered assessment, whether I say it out loud or not, that I may be completely wrong. 
But I don‘t think I‘m wrong on this one.  Recently, Bob Schieffer reported that a staffer for one of his Sunday show guests asked to have a separate greenroom from the other guest.  Why?  Because the other guest was from the other party.  It‘s gotten this bad. 
Charlie Crist gets the red hots even hotter by hugging Barack Obama.  He has to quit his party.  Bob Bennett tries finding an alternative to the Obama health care bill by teaming up with a Democrat, he‘s history. 
So ask why they can‘t get anything done in Washington?  Start here.  If you can‘t meet and talk, how are you going to find common ground?  If you don‘t get the common ground, how are you going to run the country?  You want one party rule?  Like they have in some developing countries?  That‘s what you want?  Some party-central committee running the country?  Go for it.  You‘ll be back begging for a two-party competition so fast it will make your head spin. 
That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.  Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz. 
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
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