updated 10/14/2010 10:54:04 AM ET 2010-10-14T14:54:04

Guests: Howard Fineman, Hampton Pearson, Willie Geist, Willie Brown, Joan Walsh, Jim McDermott, Richard Trumka

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Political smackdown.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews down in Washington.  Leading off tonight: Nasty politics.  It‘s started, the death struggle.  Seeing the agony of defeat right in front of them, the possibility of deliverance, the Democrats and the Republicans are going at it.

In California, Meg Whitman went after Jerry Brown last night for his staffer‘s use of a slur to describe her dealing with a public safety union.  And in the Connecticut smackdown, Linda McMahon hit Dick Blumenthal on his bad character for claiming to have fought in Vietnam.   He counterpunched McMahon for, quote, “marketing sex and violence to children” as head of the WWE.  We‘ll go to the videotape on all this at the top of the show.

Plus, regrets, I‘ve had a few.  President Obama says in a “New York Times Magazine” story that he‘s focused too much on policy but he hasn‘t focused enough on politics.  Well, tonight, inside the president‘s brain and who the White House thinks is going to be the likely Republican candidate in 2012, or at least who they want us to think they think is going to be the nominee.

Also, we‘re noticing some Republicans who are talking about getting rid of the minimum wage, or, quote, “taking a look at it,” as they say in politics.  And We know what that means.

And Palin, Paladino, Sharron Angle—let‘s talk about what MSNBC‘s Willie Geist calls the “American freak show.”

“Let Me Finish” tonight, by the way, with that question Bob Schieffer of CBS put to David Axelrod this Sunday.  Is talking about foreign money getting into our political campaigns important or not important?

All that‘s ahead, but first, a check of the latest polls.  And for that, we go to the HARDBALL “Scoreboard.”  We‘ll start with Washington state.  The new CNN/”Time” Opinion Research poll has Senator Patty Murray with a double-digit now lead over Republican Dino Rossi.  She‘s us—look at that number -- 54-40.

In West Virginia, Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican John Raese are tied at 44.  In Delaware, Democrat Chris Coons with a big lead over Republican Christine O‘Donnell.  He‘s up at 19 and has been hanging there.  In Wisconsin, Republican Ron Johnson has an 8-point lead, again a difficult one to imagine, over Russ Feingold.

Finally, to Illinois, the Senate race.  It‘s tied 37 apiece in a new Simon (ph) poll from Southern Illinois University.  But plenty of undecideds, obviously.  Look at all the undecideds.  Only 37 apiece there.

We‘ll continue to check the HARDBALL “Scoreboard” on all the big races each night leading up to November 2nd, election Tuesday.

Now let‘s go to some wild debates on both coasts last night, the fight for governor in California and the fight for U.S. Senator up in Connecticut.  Willie Brown is the former mayor of San Francisco and former California Assembly speaker.  Joan Walsh is, of course, the editor-in-chief of Salon.com.

Mr. Mayor and Joan, let‘s take a look at that debate in California last night.  Let‘s listen to the first chunk of it.  Here it comes.


TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS, MODERATOR:   We‘ve heard no outrage from you about the use of that kind of language, which to many women is the same as calling an African-American the N-word.  Have you been in charge of the investigation of your campaign to find out who is responsible for using that phrase?

JERRY BROWN (D-CA), ATTORNEY GENERAL, CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR:  I don‘t agree with that comparison, number one.


BROWN:  Number two, this is a five-week-old private conversation picked up on a cell phone with a garbled transmission, very hard to detect who is it is.  This is not—well, I don‘t want to get into the term how it‘s used, but I will say the campaign apologized promptly, and I affirm that apology tonight.

WHITMAN:  I think every Californian, and especially women, know exactly what‘s going on here.  And that is a deeply offensive term to women.

BROWN:  Well, could I just interject—have you chastised your chairman, Pete Wilson, who called the Congress “whores” to the public sector unions?

WHITMAN:  You know better than that, Jerry.  That‘s a completely different thing.


WHITMAN:  The fact that you are defending your campaign—the fact their defending your campaign—the fact that you are defending your campaign for a slur, and you know, a personal attack on me, I think it‘s...

BROWN:  It‘s not even close.

WHITMAN:  ... not befitting of California.  It‘s not befitting of the office that you‘re running for.

BROWN:  It‘s unfortunate.  Private conversation.  I‘m not even sure it‘s legal because you have to get the consent of all the parties, and there‘s lots of people talking.  So again, Ms. Whitman, sorry it happened.  That does not represent anything other than things that happen in a campaign.


MATTHEWS:  Mayor Brown, what do you make of this contretemps, this kerfuffle?  It has really enraged a lot of people, the use of that term that he mentioned there with regard to the employees union.  It has a political context, but it also has a very personal one with a lot of people in this country.  They hear that word, they think bad.  He didn‘t apologize enough.  What do you make of this?

WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR:  Well, I don‘t think either Meg Whitman or Jerry Brown handled that question very well.  Neither one of them answered what Tom Brokaw, your colleague, asked.  He said, Have you conducted an investigation?  Jerry should have said, Yes, I have, and I‘ve been unable to determine who may have uttered those horrible words.  Let‘s move beyond it, though, Tom.  I have apologized.  I apologize again here tonight.  And Meg, let‘s discuss jobs.  Let‘s discuss the budget of the state of California.  Let‘s not discuss what obviously is a horror slur word.  And that would have been the end of it.

MATTHEWS:  Joan, your view on this, the way he handled it, the way it was used—it was apparently used by some staffer with regard to unions, public safety employees, of course, union, the way it‘s used in politics, not defensible but certainly looks terrible here.  What do you view—how do you view it?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  You know, it‘s not defensible.  It looks terrible.  But I want to say, I—you know, I don‘t want to sit here—no one died and made me—put me in charge of speaking for women, Chris.  So I do think that this word now has a gender-neutral political connotation, sadly, sadly to Mayor Brown‘s profession and the profession that we both love.  So I didn‘t necessarily hear it as a gender slur.  Nonetheless, it was a bad thing to say.

I thought he got off a great line by reminding her that it‘s her campaign chairman, Pete Wilson, who used it in the gender-neutral sense talking about Congress.  So that took the sting off it.  But I think that Jerry Brown could have been faster to apologize and then get to the quip about Pete Wilson.  I think that would have been a lot more effective.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s move on to the other situation that involves Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate.  Here‘s more from California and that smackdown last night in that debate at Dominican (ph) College.  Here he is.  Let‘s listen.


BROKAW:  If you couldn‘t find someone in your home was undocumented or illegal, how do you expect businesses to be able to do that?

WHITMAN:  So we went through an employment agency.  We looked at three forms of identification.  Our housekeeper falsified those documents and came to admit it nine years later.  It broke my heart, but I had to fire her.  I had to let her go.  But this is why we need a very good e-verify system.

BROWN:  These are real people.  These are mothers and dads and kids. 

And they have this fear, the fear that her housekeeper had.  And by the way

I mean, I don‘t even want to get into that story.  I think it‘s a kind of a sorry tale there.  After working for nine years, she didn‘t even get her a lawyer.  At least I could tell that you could be done.


MATTHEWS:  Well, there you have it, Joan.  I want to you start with the politics of this.  Clearly, Governor Brown, who wants to be governor again, is talking to the Latino voter there, showing sympathy for the employee, not for the law not being enforced, clearly, in that case, whereas Meg Whitman talked about e-verify.  She did take an upholding position, saying she does want the system fix so you can‘t be blamed if you hire somebody who‘s here illegally because you have a card that‘s, you know, biometrically verifiable, no more fraudulent paper being thrown around.

She seems a little better in the way she‘s handled it, not that I believe at all she didn‘t know that this person...

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... was here illegally all those years.  I do believe she knew the situation just because of common sense.  And if she knew her like a member of the family, like she said she did...

WALSH:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  ... they must have had a conversation in nine years that alluded to the fact that this woman needed legal help.

WALSH:  I think that, too.  But regardless of what you and I think about the truth of the situation, I think one thing Jerry Brown is doing very well here and he‘s done it in every debate since this has come up, Chris, is that he‘s brought a kind of moral language back to politics.  And he‘s doing this with Latinos, but he‘s doing it with workers, with poor people, as well.  And you know, you kind of see that Jesuit seminarian training, reminding us—you know, the last debate, he said, We‘re all God‘s children.  He‘d reach out to Latinos as God‘s children, and I think that‘s effective because you can get caught up in the issues of e-verify.

The real political issue here, though, is that she does not support creating a pathway to citizenship for anybody here illegally, and he does.  And that is a real political issue, and that is where she also looks very heartless.


WALSH:  It‘s not just in the dealings with her maid, but with all Californians who are here illegally, many of them who are working hard, trying to play by the rules, trying to do the right thing.  She keeps them in the shadows.  He‘s looking for a way...


WALSH:  ... to welcome them in, and that‘s winning—that‘s a winning political proposition, I think.

MATTHEWS:  I just—I like Jerry Brown, but I think he made a terrible mistake in talking like Mike Dukakis about the use of that word.  I think there may be an inside jargon aspect to it, but to most people when they hear, it‘s very offensive, and he didn‘t react that way.

Let‘s go to the debate in Connecticut, equally harsh.  Let‘s listen to the first chunk of that.


LINDA MCMAHON ®, SENATE CANDIDATE:  Mr. Blumenthal, I just want to go back for a minute, when you talked about the people of Connecticut know you.  They know now that you have a difficult time telling the truth.  They know that you had a hard time...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Please, please, ladies and gentlemen!

MCMAHON:  ... telling the truth about Vietnam...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Please!  Ladies and gentlemen, please!

MCMAHON:  They know that you did not tell the truth on several occasions.  And then after you apologized about Vietnam, then you also did not tell the truth in a couple of other occasions relative to your status on your draft number or the deferments.


will not be lectured on straight talk...

MCMAHON:  I‘m not lecturing you!


BLUMENTHAL:  ... from a woman who has failed to—anyone who has been

has failed to be straight with the people of Connecticut.


MATTHEWS:  I think that‘s another dorky answer.  I‘m sorry, Mr. Mayor, I think that‘s a dorky answer.  He said he fought in Vietnam.  If he said it once, it was a thousand times too many times.  He said it numerous times, that he fought in Vietnam, and he never did.  And he comes back and says, I will not be lectured to.  Well, he was just lectured to, whether he likes it or not, and half the voters of that state are contemptible toward him about this issue.

Why doesn‘t he just admit he didn‘t tell the truth?  He never got anywhere near Vietnam, never had a bullet fired at him in anger, and he was dead wrong to take the honor of serving servicepeople, especially the guys who fought over there, to him—to his own credit?  He should have never, ever, ever done it, and he still acts pompous about it.

BROWN:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  My thought.

BROWN:  Well, that‘s...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s just my thought.

BROWN:  That‘s the problem with...

MATTHEWS:  He seems pompous.

BROWN:  There‘s no question—there is no question, Chris, it is a major, major problem for Mr. Blumenthal.  He otherwise has a very distinguished record of service as the attorney general of the state of Connecticut.  He‘s done a great job doing that, but he does have a problem explaining why he said what he said about military service, none of which was true.

He needs to look the camera dead in the face, not say that no one can lecture him.  He should simply say that is a problem.  And if that problem creates a disability in your voting for me, then I‘ll have to live with it.  But give me at least credit for the 20 years of distinguished service I‘ve done...


BROWN:  ... as attorney general, all of which has been totally accurate, totally true and very professional.

WALSH:  Right.


MATTHEWS:  Joan, let me—Joan, just take a look at this tape and respond to this more tape.  We got to move with all this tonight.

WALSH:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  Another (INAUDIBLE) smackdown from Connecticut last night. 

Let‘s listen.


BLUMENTHAL:  My opponent has not only marketed sex and violence to children, but she actually paid hundreds of millions of dollars to lobby in Washington against penalties for sex and violence marketing to children.

MCMAHON:  I think it‘s insulting to the millions of people who watch WWE every week and are entertained by it to suggest that somehow it is less than—less than quality entertainment.  In terms of making sure that—

WWE does have absolutely first-class health insurance and benefits for over 500 employees that it has, and a complete health and wellness policy for the men and women who do perform as independent contractors.

BLUMENTHAL:  I can‘t believe that I just heard Ms. McMahon brag about this wellness policy at WWE.  That wellness policy is not working too well.  There have been seven dead wrestlers since she started campaigning for this office.


MATTHEWS:  What a choice, Joan!

WALSH:  Yes.


MATTHEWS:  Where do you go to vote elsewhere?  I mean, can we bring back Chris Dodd?  I mean, Chris Dodd got out of this race.  Talk about quality sex and violence, she was...


MATTHEWS:  Talk about a lack of shame!  I don‘t ever—these guys are a piece of work, these two.

WALSH:  Look—but you know, we‘ve got these Democrats now who are facing female CEOs, and I think that they‘ve been a little bit off—you know, off their stride in knowing exactly how to deal with their record.  But their records are very relevant.


WALSH:  Jerry Brown should be doing more with Meg Whitman‘s, frankly.  But in this case, you know, look, it is—there are major questions about the way she‘s run her firm, and I didn‘t really think that was out of bounds, Chris.  I didn‘t.


BROWN:  ... but I think, from a tactical standpoint, on trying to convince and persuade voters, he‘s on very thin ice...


BROWN:  ... telling a lie and being—and having yourself reaffirm that lie with some regularity...

WALSH:  To go back...

BROWN:  ... is a real problem.  Yes, she is a terrible person in terms of being a person who ought to be running government.  Obviously, her previous history gives her no right to assert that.  But he cannot get away from the burdens he has.  And so he should be selling—I‘m telling you, he should be selling his career as a prosecutor.

WALSH:  And he has to speak to the voters, and in that segment that Chris showed us, he did not.  He spoke to her.  He‘s got to speak past her to the voter, say the things you told him to say.  And he has yet to do that, so he‘s still in a little bit of hot water.

MATTHEWS:  I wouldn‘t be scolding anybody, if I were either one of these two people.

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Well, anyway, thank you, Willie Brown, Mayor Brown.  Thank you very much, Joan Walsh.

Coming up: President Obama‘s bracing for Republican victories at election day.  He‘s been talking—a big interview with “The New York Times.”  Let‘s hear what he thinks.  Hell of an interview coming up with Peter Baker to tell us what the president said in a lot of time in the Oval Office, much more policy than politics, he says.  We‘ll see if he‘s got it right.

We will be right back.


MATTHEWS:  Vice President Joe Biden quashed that talk of Hillary for veep the other day.  Here‘s what he said about President Obama on the campaign trail this week in Pittsburgh.  Quote, “I tell you what, there‘s real trust.  That‘s why he‘s asked me to run again.  Look, he said, we‘re going to run together.  Are you going to run?  I said, Of course.  You want me to run with you, I‘m happy to run with you.”  That‘s an interesting conversation he gave us the benefit of, Biden back on the ticket for 2012.  We will be right back.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  What‘s this election teaching President Obama, and what have his first two years taught him about how to handle the next two?  “The New York Times” had a big piece called “The Education of a President” in the magazine that‘s coming out this Sunday, and we got a look at it.

Joining us right now to talk about it, The Huffington Post‘s Howard Fineman, who‘s also an MSNBC political analyst.  Howard, you and I have been together a long time, so we can cut through...


MATTHEWS:  ... the stuff that isn‘t really true.  One thing I thought was interesting is that Biden last night made it clear that he had a conversation with the president and he gave us sort of the conversation.   He gave us the rundown I just told you a minute ago.  I asked him—you know, He asked me, are you with me, Joe, and I‘m with him—and he actually the wording of the whole thing.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the importance of that?

FINEMAN:  Well, the importance of that is we were spending a lot of time here inside the Beltway speculating that it could be something else.  This is traditional in any presidency...


FINEMAN:  ... Democrat or Republican and I thought the way Biden handled it was very shrewd.  He gave the whole encounter, OK?  He didn‘t just give the bottom line.  But he didn‘t make that big of a deal of it.  And neither, frankly, did “The New York Times,” which published story...


FINEMAN:  ... which I think, from the Biden point of view, was good.  You just want to put that little boat in the water, let it sail over there...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me give you...

FINEMAN:  ... and don‘t make too many big waves about it.

MATTHEWS:  And you know he got permission from the president to do this.

FINEMAN:  Oh, of course.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  See, that‘s what people...

FINEMAN:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  ... have to know...


MATTHEWS:  ... that he wasn‘t just putting it out for his own interest.  He and the president—the president said, Joe, I‘ve been hearing a lot of this buzz, let‘s put it to bed.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  I totally...

MATTHEWS:  So this is a duo.

FINEMAN:  I totally agree.

MATTHEWS:  This is a duet.

FINEMAN:  Perfect place to do it.  You do it out in Pittsburgh.  It‘s in the middle of “The Times” story.  It‘s not a big, screaming headline...


FINEMAN:  ... because then that...


FINEMAN:  ... would get people suspicious.

MATTHEWS:  One other thing before we get to the more heady part of this discussion of the president‘s mood after two years, which I always wonder about the value of those interviews because they‘re ready for them.  They know you are coming in, so they give you some big head trip about what they are doing. 

He‘s saying or his people are putting out the word in this big piece coming up this Sunday in “The New York Times” that their biggest belief is that their—the guy who is going to run against them in 2012 is going to be Mike Huckabee, the guy who works for—who works for FOX. 

FINEMAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Mike Huckabee, the former, not the most consequential governor in the history of Arkansas. 

FINEMAN:  Well...


MATTHEWS:  Mike Huckabee is their—what are they doing setting him up as their what?

FINEMAN:  Well, what they—what they also said—now, I thought—

I think Peter Baker‘s piece is terrific—is terrific.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, of all the people that might run against them, like Palin and Mitt Romney...

FINEMAN:  No, but Peter Baker, who did a great job on the piece, interviewed tons of people inside the White House, was just reporting what they were telling him. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why are they doing that? 


First, they said that Palin would not run, which I don‘t believe to begin with.  Number two, they said that Mitt Romney would fail.

MATTHEWS:  Because? 

FINEMAN:  Because he had his own health care reform bill in Massachusetts. 

MATTHEWS:  In other words, he is as bad as we are? 



FINEMAN:  That was the implication of it, which is...


MATTHEWS:  That‘s an incredible statement by the White House staffers: 

This guy has got as big a problem as we do. 


FINEMAN:  He‘s damaged because he had health care reform...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, that‘s so strange.

FINEMAN:  ... which actually is not true, if you think of it, because...


FINEMAN:  ... because Romney would be in a good position to critique what the administration had done, to fight them on their turf. 

And—and Huckabee, they say, is the likely nominee. 

MATTHEWS:  Why are they doing that? 

FINEMAN:  I think they are doing it to—because they don‘t—because Huckabee is probably one of the people they are least afraid of. 

MATTHEWS:  My producers believe...


MATTHEWS:  ... and they are very smart—that the reason they are doing this is setting him up as the reasonable conservative, so that, when he fails, because some huckster comes along and knocks him off, somebody wilder and crazier, they will be able to say, it is too bad they never ran a reasonable man, like Mike Huckabee. 


MATTHEWS:  They want to run—they don‘t think he‘s going to get the nomination, or they wouldn‘t be building him up. 

FINEMAN:  Yes.  I don‘t think they—I don‘t think they care at all about impressing conservatives with their reasonableness at the White House. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  I just think they think that Huckabee...


FINEMAN:  Yes, I know, but that Huckabee is ultimately a regional candidate. 


FINEMAN:  And Obama only is able to travel now to the states in the North and West, where he is strong. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.  He‘s going to the...

FINEMAN:  Right.   

MATTHEWS:  By the way, here is a part of what President Obama said to Peter Baker—quote—“I was looking over some chronicles of the Clinton years.”  I love this, the chronicles.  Remember the Clinton chronicles? 


MATTHEWS:  You don‘t want to be reading that.


MATTHEWS:  “And was reminded that, back in ‘94, when President Obama‘s poll numbers were lower than mine”—hmm, there is a shot—“and, obviously, the election ended up being bad for Democrats.  Unemployment was only 6.6.”

Actually, the president is wrong.  It was 5.6, as Baker pointed out, back in ‘94.  “And I don‘t think anybody should suggest that Bill Clinton wasn‘t a good communicator or was somebody who couldn‘t connect with the American people or didn‘t show empathy.”

In other words, he is saying:  Don‘t blame me for not being unable to communicate.  The unemployment rate is communicating, and that is what my problem is, the 9.6. 

FINEMAN:  Well, I think to some extent, that is true.  But I think the fact that he said that he was studying Bill Clinton‘s time...


FINEMAN:  ... was not meant to disparage Clinton.

MATTHEWS:  No, no.

FINEMAN:  I think that was meant to take hope from Clinton. 

And having just covered Bill Clinton down at a rally in Kentucky the other day, and listening to Bill Clinton state the case for Barack Obama and the Democrats better than Barack Obama and the Democrats have...


FINEMAN:  ... you can see why Obama would want to study and take some some—some lessons. 

I think, rather than read the book, he should call up Bill Clinton and spend more time with him, because...

MATTHEWS:  You know...

FINEMAN:  ... Clinton has a fingertip feel that Obama admits in this Peter Baker piece he does not have. 

MATTHEWS:  Take a look at the president‘s travel schedule—here he is—going over this month in October, the states he‘s going over, all the ones.  We looked at them in gold.

He‘s basically going to—you know how, in school, you know, if you are running for student council, I always tell people in my family or anywhere else, you got one, two, threes.  You go—ones are the who predictably are going to vote for you, your best friends.

And then there‘s the twos that might for you and the three that aren‘t going to vote for you.


MATTHEWS:  Don‘t talk to the threes.  Don‘t get them excited.  Work the ones.  Get your base together first. 

FINEMAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Now, the president is going to his ones, as we say in politics.  He‘s going around to the people that he knows voted for him once.  Why? 

FINEMAN:  Well, because...


MATTHEWS:  I like to ask these...


MATTHEWS:  ... questions...


MATTHEWS:  Why do you go to your base? 

FINEMAN:  I was just thinking about—I was just thinking, in my high school, who the ones, and twos, and three would be.

It would be, the ones would be the Jews.  The twos would be the Hungarians.  And the threes would be the Italians. 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  You‘re—it‘s so tribal. 


MATTHEWS:  But let‘s go to this question.


MATTHEWS:  You‘re right president of the United States.  Why are you going to ones?  Because they‘re the only ones he can count on, really.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Well, they—look, if it is going to be a low turnout election, and it means that the Democrats have to get their core people out.

Obama‘s defending his inner perimeter here. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  He‘s—he is not playing offense here.  He‘s playing extreme defense. 

MATTHEWS:  By the way, in my school, it was the Irish and Italians. 



MATTHEWS:  OK.  Same thing. 

FINEMAN:  So, that is what‘s doing, because he‘s...


FINEMAN:  Look, he spoke to college students last night. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  He is still at the point where he‘s begging the college students to turn out. 


FINEMAN:  If at this point in the campaign he is going back to the people who were his original core... 

MATTHEWS:  See, he knows, if they do vote, they will vote Democrat, is what he‘s thinking.

FINEMAN:  Right.  He has got to get the guaranteed ones out. 

MATTHEWS:  So, if he can pound the ones, OK.

FINEMAN:  That‘s exactly right.

MATTHEWS:  So, with that strategy, is it also a prevent defense?  In other words, he is looking at two possible outcomes, and we are all sitting around here at this table—we‘re in New York—looking at the numbers.  It‘s not going to be a win for the Democrats.  It‘s either going to be a loss or a wipeout. 

FINEMAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  He is trying to prevent the wipeout, right, at this point? 

FINEMAN:  I think that is right.  I think that‘s right. 

And I think, in those wipeout situations, the wave gets so big that it splashes over and deep into your home territory.  And that is what he is trying to prevent.  And that‘s...

MATTHEWS:  So, he doesn‘t want to see Boxer lose.


MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t want to see Manchin lose.

FINEMAN:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t want to—he doesn‘t want to see some of the ones that should win lose. 

FINEMAN:  That‘s right.  That‘s right.  And that means he is not going to detour into any purple states or any places where he is going to try to save one particular House seat in a state.

For example, a place like Kentucky, again, where I just was, there is a Democrat there who may lose.  He—Obama or Biden are not going to waste their time going... 


MATTHEWS:  I think Conway is going to win. 

FINEMAN:  Well, that‘s a House race I talked about.  I think Conway does have a chance in Kentucky.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think he‘s turned the corner up there. 

FINEMAN:  The Democrat does have a chance down there.


FINEMAN:  I know—and it‘s not so much because of Conway.  It‘s because Tea Party voters that I talked to in Kentucky just the other day...

MATTHEWS:  And you—you—you used to work out there.

FINEMAN:  And that‘s where I used to work.

They—they‘re—they don‘t—they—they haven‘t taken to Rand Paul.  Some—some people have.  He signs a lot of autographs and so on, but sort of the middle Tea Partiers—and there are such a thing—they are worried that Rand Paul is kind of evasive, as one of them said. 

MATTHEWS:  But he‘s also got a Rumpelstiltskin quality.  He seems to be talking about what you and I talked about 20, 30 years ago, as if he hasn‘t been keeping up with the class.  Here he is talking about Monica Lewinsky.  What‘s that about? 

FINEMAN:  Oh, well, when you said Monica—Rumpelstiltskin, I wasn‘t thinking so much...

MATTHEWS:  Why is he talking about the old stories? 

FINEMAN:  Well, when you said that, I wasn‘t thinking so much about Rand Paul‘s character being...


FINEMAN:  ... out of step as being impatient, as stamping his feet, you know, the way Rumpelstiltskin stamps his feet. 

MATTHEWS:  Who was the guy that was asleep in the Grimm fairy tales? 

FINEMAN:  That was “The Legend of...”


MATTHEWS:  Rip Van Winkle.  I got the wrong guy.  Rip Van Winkle up in Upstate New York. 


FINEMAN:  But, anyway, the point is that some of the Tea Partiers and conservatives don‘t—haven‘t quite taken Rand Paul to heart yet, which gives Conway the hope that they won‘t show up and vote, basically... 


MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think—I don‘t think he‘s a politician, anyway. 

And I don‘t think that is a positive.

FINEMAN:  Well, that is a positive in most places at most times. 

MATTHEWS:  Howard Fineman, thank you, sir. 


MATTHEWS:  As always, you are a genius, or close to it. 


MATTHEWS:  Up next: the very tenuous bond between President Obama—well, that is interesting—they have a connection.  Wait until you hear what the connection is.  It has to do with genes, believe it or not.  Stick around for the “Sideshow.” 

And next week, all week, HARDBALL hits the campaign trail with the HARDBALL Senate College Tour.  We‘re going to Kentucky.  We‘re going to Illinois.  I‘m going to interview a lot of people out there, Senate candidate Jack Conway on Tuesday.  I will be in New York covering the races on Tuesday.  Then, Wednesday, Chicago, where I interview Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias. 

On Thursday, back up to Philly at Temple University for Joe Sestak.  We‘re going to do what we used to do really good, get around to college kids, wow them with excitement in politics and show them the candidates, and maybe get them to get some questions out of them. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  



First up: paying dues.  On “Good Morning America,” former Governor and pro wrestler Jesse Ventura was asked whether he would support his old WWE boss, Linda McMahon. 

Well, Ventura‘s answer and the reasoning behind it, such as it was, might surprise you. 


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC ANCHOR:  Should she be a senator?  If you were in Connecticut, would you vote for her? 

JESSE VENTURA, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA:  No, because I don‘t vote for Democrats or Republicans.  If she ran as an independent, she could possibly get my endorsement.  But I refuse. 


MATTHEWS:  There is a wide-ranging mind for you. 

Next:  Does money talk louder than words?  Remember how Carl Paladino said this weekend that kids shouldn‘t be—quote—“brainwashed” into thinking homosexuality is acceptable? 

Well, thing is, Paladino appeared to have no such reservations when he, Carl Paladino, rented out for years buildings he owns to two gay nightclubs, or when his son William ran a place called Buffalo‘s gay club of the moment, as “The New York Daily News” reported this morning. 

And remember how Paladino reports to his openly gay nephew who works for his campaign as proof that he, Carl Paladino, is not homophobic.  Well, in an actions-speak-louder-than-words move, “The New York Post” reports that the nephew in question has not come to work with on the campaign trail since Paladino made those comments. 

Now for tonight‘s all-in-the-family “Big Number.”  Ancestry.com has just figured out that President Obama and Sarah Palin are 10th cousins.  They both ascend from a Massachusetts senator called John Smith, not the John Smith, who fought against the persecution of Quakers in the 1600s.

A president and a would-be president, you might say, 10th cousins, tonight—maybe not kissing cousins—tonight‘s “Who would have thought?” “Big Number.” 

Up next:  There‘s a call from some Republicans to get rid of the minimum wage.  Do you believe it?  We thought that was settled information.  And that has given Democrats a chance to paint their opponents as out of touch in these tough economic times.  That is ahead. 

You are watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks finishing off their highs, but still posting solid gains, the Dow surging 75 points, the S&P adding eight, and the Nasdaq jumping 23 points. 

A trio of better-than-expected earnings reports boosting investor confidence today.  J.P. Morgan, Intel and CSX all beating estimates that some analysts thought were optimistic to begin with.  And Apple shares topping $300 for the first time today, ahead of their earnings report next week. 

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


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

A lot of things are up in the air these days, like the minimum wage that has become a hot issue in the midterm cycle among some Republican candidates, like this one from West Virginia, the Senate candidate out there, John Raese. 


JOHN RAESE ®, WEST VIRGINIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  The minimum wage is not something that you want to stay on as a permanent basis.  In other words, if you have a minimum wage job, you don‘t stay there 20 or 30 years.  You don‘t put your children through college working on minimum wage. 

One of the best things That I can think, and when you get government out of the, let‘s say, micromanaging the economy, you don‘t want government to—to set price controls.  You don‘t want government to set wage controls.  And it is an archaic system that, quite frankly, has never worked. 

QUESTION:  So—so, you think that we should do away with the idea of a federally mandated minimum wage? 

RAESE:  Absolutely. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s Tea Party candidate Joe Miller, running for Senate up in Alaska, with the same issue.  Minimum wage, it is up in the air, as I said.  Let‘s listen. 


JOE MILLER ®, ALASKA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  At the minimum level, again, that should be the state‘s decision. 

QUESTION:  So, there should not be a federal minimum wage? 

MILLER:  There should not be.  That is not within the scope of the powers that are given to the federal government. 



That was—well, let‘s bring in Jim McDermott, the congressman from Washington State. 

You know, Congressman, have you noticed a little cultural thing here?  These incredibly upper-class accents that you hear, especially from that guy Raese, and then he says, give me some “hicky” guys to play West Virginians.  There‘s a little disconnect here in terms of connecting with the people you want to vote for you.  My thought. 

Your thoughts about the minimum wage, sir?  Serious matter.

REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON:  Well, you know, a gallon of milk costs $3.30.  And a loaf of bread costs $1.75, and a dozen eggs costs $1.50. 

None of these guys have been in a grocery store and had to buy anything or they wouldn‘t be talking like that about the minimum wage.  We settled that in 1938.  And it is what has made the middle class in this country is that we have kept a floor on wages, so that you couldn‘t drive people down to working for $1 a day, like they do in India or in Cambodia or in some Third World country. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why do you think, in a situation where most people are not rich who vote, most people know people who are working people—some people are better-off, obviously—but most people know somebody who is working-class, knows somebody is lucky to be a bit above minimum wage, why would anybody be playing with this? 

Why do you think these guys are talking—are they playing to some new philosophy out there which says total free markets, you know, cowboy economics?  What are they talking about, these guys, the guy from Alaska, the guy from West Virginia?  Who are they appealing to with this talk? 

MCDERMOTT:  They‘re a saying in medicine:  Listen to the patient.  He is telling you what is the matter with him. 

Well, listen to these candidates.  They will tell you what they are planning to do when they get into office, create a system where we have the Wild West, with no government regulations, we have no control over anything, no protection for consumers, no protection for workers. 

They simply want chaos in this society.  It is awful.  I have—I can‘t believe they are so dumb as to be saying this three weeks before the election. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it reminds me why foreign people, foreign corporations, multinationals maybe want to kick money into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, because they are the ones that benefit from this total globalization, the total—total belief you can buy labor anywhere in the world, go to the cheapest place to find labor, get the job done, outsource, whatever it takes, automate and then outsource, run a business with no Americans in it, the perfect new enterprise. 

MCDERMOTT:  Well, even worse than that, Chris, is the fact that, if you are paying somebody $3 an hour, $4 an hour, the only thing they are buying is food.  They are not buying any new clothes or new Adidas or...


MCDERMOTT:  ... any sports equipment—equipment or boats or anything else.

You are going to have this economy go really in the tank if you drop the minimum wage, just like they don‘t want unemployment benefits.  If you don‘t have unemployment benefits, people haven‘t got money to spend.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Well, maybe some of these Republicans are trying to make politics look easy with this stuff.  But I don‘t know how you can defend opposing the minimum wage.

By the way, it‘s $7.25.  That‘s about 290 bucks a week right now.

Anyway—if you work the full week—thank you, U.S. Congressman Jim McDermott out in Seattle.

Joining me now is an old pal of this show, the AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka.

I want to get to—because this guy worked in a mine, half mile down.  You know what it was like.  By the way, let‘s start with that, because this is very human interest.


MATTHEWS:  We haven‘t talked about it tonight.  But it is thrilling to watch those guys.  You were there at the Chilean embassy.

TRUMKA:  I was, when they were bringing the first miners out.  And I can tell you, they were like other brothers and it was almost like I hit the lottery.  There‘s this feeling of elation because the earth nominally doesn‘t give up a live body after that being trapped underground that long.  This one, when the first miner came out, it was like my brother or my uncle, my dad or anybody coming out.  It was such a win for us.

But it brings up two other issues I think we have to look at because

one, we are very, very elated that these miners are safe.  Second of all, we have to thank the rescue workers that got them there.  And third, it‘s the lack of health and safety in the mines of the world doesn‘t know boundaries.



TRUMKA:  Because you have to have good laws that are—and you have to have the people with the will to enforce them and the resources to get it done, and we don‘t have that in the mining industry.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I got another elation out of it.  I‘ve never been a miner like you.  We just talked about claustrophobia, which I think I probably would have down there.  Some guys would be susceptible to it.

You are third generation of working down deep in the mines.

TRUMKA:  Correct.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s talk about what sort of the message for a lot of the people was, the message coming out of the Tea Party people, and a lot of them are good people, is every man for himself basically, no more taxes, no more government, no more anything, no more safety net, no more health care for everybody, everybody just out get out there make your buck, save it, screw the government, move on, right?


MATTHEWS:  You know, these people, if they were every man for themselves down in that mine, they wouldn‘t have gotten out.

TRUMKA:  That‘s exactly right.

MATTHEWS:  They would have been killing each other after about two days.  This is a story of how people can work together, the people who were down there for two months, the people who are above ground from all over the world, using state-of-the-art equipment, not to get rid of the need for manpower but to save manpower in this case.

TRUMKA:  You know, this is just another example of how radical the Republican Party is becoming, do away with the minimum wage.  You just talked about that.  Bad policy, it will wreck the economy.

If you didn‘t have government regulation, you wouldn‘t have clean water, you wouldn‘t have cars that were safe, you wouldn‘t have electricity that you could afford—I mean, just a number of things where you need a good, efficient government and they just—

MATTHEWS:  Why do people buy the rhetoric?

TRUMKA:  I don‘t think they do buy it.

MATTHEWS:  They say get rid of all regulation, get rid of taxes, get rid of government, and yet when they buy it.  I was like—we‘re Catholic.  On Friday, we always had tuna fish, right?  And you open up the can, you want to know somebody besides the guy making buck off of it made sure it was clean, wasn‘t ptomaine in there.

TRUMKA:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  When you‘re getting up on an airplane, I want to know there is some kind of FAA that‘s looking at regulation and safety.  I want to know there‘s somebody besides the guy making the buck.  Doesn‘t everybody have it when it comes to them, they believe in government?

TRUMKA:  I think what they try to sell is, every person should do that for themselves.  And no one, no worker has the wherewithal to do that.  If you are rich, you might be able to taste—buy somebody or have somebody taste your food for you.  But they can‘t afford, I couldn‘t afford to make sure my plane are safe, that I‘m properly regulated, my drinking water is safe, that the food is a safe that we do, that the automobiles that we drive have been improved year after year to protect it health and safety.

It‘s a foolish, foolish—

MATTHEWS:  What are you going to do?  You got a guy named Raese out in West Virginia, may beat the governor down there, I don‘t think he will, but he may beat the governor who‘s a middle of the road Democrat, he‘s no lefty.

You got this guy Joe Miller out there in Alaska who knocked off Murkowski who I thought was pretty conservative.

What is going on with your rank and file right now?  What are you guys talking about when you get together at the union headquarters?  What‘s going on with your own people?

TRUMKA:  Our guys are pretty excited right now.  Early on, I think there might have been a little bit of a gap in enthusiasm.  Not so now.  They actually see the difference between what‘s at stake here.

We either are going to continue to go forward and try to build an economy that works for everybody, or we‘re going to go back to where these guys want to go, where there‘s no minimum wage, where there‘s no health and safety laws, when there‘s no unemployment compensation.

Our people, working Americans, don‘t buy that.  But it is another example of how radical right the Republican Party is becoming.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I listen to Ed Schultz on this network and I think sometimes he‘s got it dead right, because I hear him with the labor, you guys are right, sometimes.  I think you are mostly right.  In fact, wait until you hear my close tonight.

I think you‘re dead right on this whole issue of this whole idea of getting money from other countries and getting involved in our politics.  They only interested in one thing, getting cheaper stuff from us, selling our stuff here, the whole deal.

TRUMKA:  They are looking out for themselves.

MATTHEWS:  Nobody is going to give money to our election unless they are getting something out of America that we are losing.

Anyway, thank you, Richard Trumka, for coming on.

TRUMKA:  You bet.

MATTHEWS:  A real miner.

Up next—third generation—MSNBC‘s Willie Geist is coming in here, “American Freak Show” is the name of his book.  I‘m going to let Mr.  Geist speak for himself on some of this because your language is very extreme and it scares me a little bit, and I‘m worry who you are going to attack.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Here she is.  First Lady Michelle Obama has made her first campaign appearance of the year.  And here she is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, doing her part to get out the vote, the women‘s vote in this case.


MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY:  I have the privilege of traveling around this country and I meet so many beautiful children.  Let me tell you, that is the highlight of my role.  When I look into the eyes of those children, I see clearly what‘s at stake.


MATTHEWS:  Nice touch.  The first lady will hit the trail Sunday in Ohio with the president.  For the first time, they campaign together.  First time they are out on the road since 2008.  Polls consistently show, no surprise here, Michelle Obama is one of the most well-liked figures in America.

HARDBALL will be right back.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.

This election season‘s had more than its fair share of interesting candidates to say the least—and who better to talk about it than MSNBC‘s Willie Geist, who has a new book called “American Freak Show.”  Willie you get up around, what, 3:00 in the morning?


MATTHEWS:  And you‘re still up, and you‘re still up, drinking coffee.  I just caught you gulping there.

When you say, “freak,” we had a phrase back in the ‘60s which is freak was sort of cool.  The guy‘s a freak.

GEIST:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  But you mean it in its literal meaning, right.

GEIST:  I do.  For the most part in my book there‘s a derogatory term, there‘s no getting around it.

But there is a different kind of freak, like the way LeBron James is a freak, someone who exceeds our expectations, who exceeds our imagination.

I think that Barack Obama has a little freak in him.  I think that Sarah Palin has a little, the positive freak in here, which is to say that kind of coming out of nowhere we didn‘t know who she was two years ago, we didn‘t really know who Barack Obama was six years ago and they have some other worldly talent, some ability to capture the imagination.

Most of the people in the book do it in a bad way, but a couple in there do it the right way.

MATTHEWS:  I think that the menagerie‘s about to show itself.  Where do you catch some of the—I mean, you must have predicted the existence of Carl Paladino, who‘s running for governor of New York.  The guy that says, “I‘m going to take you out.”

Let‘s watch him in action.  Here he is.  He‘s sort of antigay, but pro-gay.  It‘s hard to tell where the money fits in.

GEIST:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s watch.


CARL PALADINO ®, NY GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE:  Some children should not be exposed to that in a young age.  They don‘t understand.  It‘s a very difficult thing, and exposing them to homosexuality, especially at a gay pride parade, and I don‘t know if you‘ve ever been to one, but they wear these little Speedos and they grind against each other, and it‘s just a terrible thing.


MATTHEWS:  You know, it‘s a terrible thing and he runs two gay nightclubs and his kid‘s a manager of a gay nightclub, but he‘s offended by this grinding together.  I don‘t know what goes on at these clubs he makes money at.

GEIST:  Sure you do, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  But what‘s this guy‘s number?

GEIST:  I don‘t know.  Isn‘t this always the case, the guy who‘s so vehemently against homosexuality—I‘m not saying Mr. Paladino is going to turn with the skeleton in his closet, but its always the Reverend Ted Haggard, right, with the gay hooker and the crystal meth in his hotel room.


GEIST:  So, I think he protests too much.  But you know, there‘s some grinding in Speedos that goes on in the gay pride parade, but I‘m pretty sure it‘s not going to lead to the end of western civilization and the corruption of our children.

MATTHEWS:  How about the debate in Connecticut?  Connecticut is one of the most well-off states in the Union, and you might say elite.  I‘d love to live there.  It‘s a beautiful state.

But they‘ve got two candidates.  One guy who fought Vietnam except he never did night Vietnam.

GEIST:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  And one who runs—made her money out of professional wresting which she calls quality sex environments—quality.  So, let‘s take a listen to these two going at it.  What a duo.


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT SENATE CANDIDATE:  My opponent has not only marketed sex and violence to children, but she actually paid hundreds of millions of dollars to lobby in Washington against penalties for sex and violence marketing to children.

LINDA MCMAHON ®, CONNECTICUT SENATE CANDIDATE:  And I think it‘s insulting to millions of people who watched WWE every weekend, or are entertained by it to suggest that somehow it is less than—less than quality entertainment.


MATTHEWS:  You know the reason people used to go to wrestling matches, my memory was, to watch the people in the first row.

GEIST:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  The fans were the show.  And now, she‘s defending these people, they‘re like quality sex and violence.  And you‘re offending them by saying they‘re not what they ought to be.

What is she up to here?

GEIST:  Chris, I went and I‘m going to admit this here on your show, I was at WrestleMania I, 1994, Madison Square Garden.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re part of the problem, sir.

GEIST:  And I was sitting next to a man who—I‘m not making this up—pulled up his pants up and said I have a knife in my boot in case anybody messes with the Hulkster.  So, that‘s just goes to your point right there.  But, yes, it is a little odd.  Those were glory days back in the ‘80s—

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re here to say I heard that wrestling is fixed. 

You wouldn‘t have said that next to this guy?

GEIST:  No, no, no.  Not the kind that you bring it up.  But it is funny.


MATTHEWS:  Willie Geist.

GEIST:  On “MORNING JOE” yesterday, we had horrors, wrestling and gay guys in Speedos from Carl Paladino.  It is a freak show.

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s right out of book called “American Freak Show” by Willie Geist.

By the way, I predict you will be one of the biggest talents in some business in few years, but I‘m not sure which it is yet.

GEIST:  Vague but appreciated.  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  When we return: we‘ve got—we‘ve heard Democrats speaking out against cash coming from multinational corporations, and, by the way, let‘s talk about it, because I‘m going to finish with that.  I think it matters.  We‘ll see.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight by addressing the challenge Bob Schieffer of CBS News issued to the White House this Sunday.  Is that the best that you can do?

Bob was challenging David Axelrod on the White House charge that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was using money it raises from overseas to finance Republican political campaigns.

So, why is it so darn important to the average voter out there, that multinational corporations, some of them based outside of the United States, have their fingers in this election?

How about this—it‘s the central economic issue of our times. 

Look at how the giant corporations get their profit margins up these days.  Are they out there selling hot, new products every consumer wants to get their hands on?  Or are they doing the job by cost-cutting, cutting down the number of employees for whom they have to pay those tiresome health packages, those costly pensions and 401 plans?  Are they doing it through those highly celebrated productivity gains by substituting robotics for people, by outsourcing the cheaper vendors overseas, over where the price of labor is dirt cheap?

No wonder the multinationals want to gift candidates who love to deregulate, love so-called free markets, love tax structures that lead them as free as possible to continue doing what they‘re doing—the kind of free-willing, cost-cutting that meets the quarterly bottom line.

No wonder the U.S. Chamber‘s such a popular lobbying body for the multinational operation, in whatever country, it happens to currently find the best haven.

So, the right answer, is this is best that we can do is, is: is this the best America can do?  It‘s about jobs, and if all of the American people can talk about this election season as this, I say, keep on talking.  You‘ve finally got your finger on the pulse of this country.  It‘s about the economy.

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.

Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.



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