updated 10/18/2010 1:07:59 PM ET 2010-10-18T17:07:59

Guests: Chuck Todd, Julia Boorstin, Jon Ralston, Jonathan Allen, Christina Bellantoni, John Heilemann, Joan Walsh, Sherrod Brown

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  When Harry met Sharron.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews down in Washington. 

Leading off tonight: Angle of attack.  Sharron Angle is one nasty challenger.  Last night, she took the crowbar to Senate majority leader Harry Reid and didn‘t let facts get in her way.  That said, with the reputation of a Tea Partier who drank too much of the stuff, it‘s hard to undercut expectations.  Just by showing up, she probably met the Woody Allen standard.  Angle‘s alien attitude toward facts in last night‘s showdown in Vegas is our top story tonight.

Plus, Angle told Reid to, quote, “man up” last night.  Sarah Palin has called reporters “impotent, limp and gutless.”  Christine O‘Donnell told her opponent to put on his “man pants.”  Carl Paladino talks about Andrew Cuomo‘s “legendary prowess.”  What‘s with this stuff?  Is this the new normal in political assault?

Also what‘s Sarah Palin doing taking a shot at Michelle Obama, who has an approval rating twice as high as hers?  Does Palin even think about what she says, or does she look for attention wherever she can get it?  And it turns out John Boehner did give money to that Ohio Republican who likes dressing up like a Nazi and isn‘t asking for the money back.  We‘ll talk to Ohio senator Sherrod Brown about that one.

Finally, “Let Me Finish” tonight with a grim reminder of the push for the Iraq war and who did the pushing.

All that‘s ahead, but first let‘s get to the latest polls.  For that, we check the HARDBALL “Scoreboard.”  We‘ll start with California.  A new Reuters-Ipsos poll out late today shows Democrat Jerry Brown with a 4-point lead over Meg Whitman in the governor‘s race.  I‘ve been watching that one.  In the Senate race, Reuters has Senator Barbara Boxer up 1 -- that is a fascinating race -- 46-45, and it could go either way.

In the West Virginia Senate race, a new Marshall poll shows Democrat Joe Manchin, the governor, up by 10.  He has really cleaned up.  I guess it was that “hicky” casting call that got the other guy in trouble.  It‘s a bit change from recent polls that showed this race neck and neck, so Manchin‘s in the lead.

In the New Hampshire Senate poll, the other way around.  Republican Kelly Ayotte is pulling away from Democrat Paul Hodes.  He‘s at—well, she‘s at 50 in the new University of New Hampshire poll.  Wow.  She‘s pulled out. 

Finally, to Alaska, where a poll from the conservative Club for Growth shows the three-way Senate race is basically tied, 33 for Republican Joe Miller—he‘s got the nomination -- 31 percent for Senator Lisa Murkowski, doing a write-in campaign, and 27, but within striking distance, for Democrat Scott McAdams, a weird case where somebody can win in the three-way even, if they‘re on the opposite side of most people. 

The Club for Growth, by the way, has endorsed Miller, and they‘re the ones who did that poll.

But we‘ll continue to check the HARDBALL “Scoreboard” every night leading up to November 2nd, election day.

Now to the Nevada Senate debate last night between Harry Reid and Sharron Angle.  Jon Ralston‘s a columnist for “The Las Vegas Sun” and he host of “Face to Face,” and Chuck Todd is NBC News chief political director and chief White House correspondent, as well.

I want to start with Jon Ralston, but first let‘s take a look at some of the action.  Here‘s Sharron Angle, the challenger, the Tea Partier, delivering, I think, a cheap shot at the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid.  Let‘s listen.


SHARRON ANGLE (R-NV), SENATE CANDIDATE:  You came from Searchlight to the Senate with very little.  Now you‘re one of the richest men in the U.S.  Senate.  On behalf of Nevada taxpayers, I‘d like to know—we‘d like to know—how did you become so wealthy on a government payroll?


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  Mitch, that‘s really a kind of a low blow.  I think most everyone knows I was a very successful lawyer.  I did a very good job of investing.  So her suggestion that I made money being a senator is simply false, and I‘m really disappointed that she would suggest that.


MATTHEWS:  Jon, is this the new politics?  Is this the sleaze way we go?  And this is the dirtiest, oldest trick—well, it‘s the stuff you do in politics.  You play a little number.  You say, if you made some money off money you‘ve invested, you had from before, you‘re stealing.

JON RALSTON, “LAS VEGAS SUN”:  Well, she‘s just playing into what a lot of—

MATTHEWS:  She‘s saying—

RALSTON:  -- her supporters think, right?

MATTHEWS:  -- he‘s stealing!  She‘s saying he‘s a crook!

RALSTON:  Yes, she‘s—but she‘s playing into what a lot of her supporters think, which is Harry Reid is corrupt and made all this money.  And Chris, it‘s patently false.  Harry Reid was a millionaire when he was elected to the House in 1982.  He had made a lot of money off of real estate in Las Vegas, as a lot of people did at that time.

What I‘m more amazed by is how Harry Reid looked like Michael Dukakis there.  He was so subdued.  And then when a person called him corrupt, come back at her and say, Give me some evidence.  How can you say something like this?  Instead, he just, you know, did his usual low-key Harry Reid reaction.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he‘s afraid, or has been badly coached into saying, Well, don‘t look too mean on her, you‘ll be the troll here.  You‘ve got to be nice.  Did somebody tell him that?

RALSTON:  I think there is some of that.  And that‘s true any time, especially in politics, as you know, Chris, when a man debates a woman.  But I have to tell you something about Harry Reid.  He‘s uncoachable.  He‘s proven that time and time again.  I don‘t care how well they prepared him.  But they did not prepare him to answer that question, I bet.

MATTHEWS:  OK, we know, Chuck, television is visual, as well as mental.  Sometimes the mental is not as important as the visual.  Did she win the visual last night by just being able to belly up, stand up against this senior senator and seem like an equal?

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIR./WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  It‘s hard to sit there and say she won anything.  Her performance was not very good.  It‘s just that his performance was so bad.  So I guess—

MATTHEWS:  How would you describe his performance?

TODD:  I guess you have to say that—


MATTHEWS:  Lifeless?

TODD:  He was inarticulate in the first 15 to 20 minutes.  He did eventually get there, but none of his—there didn‘t seem to be a strategy with—look at the way he answered the Supreme Court question.  He started talking about how great Scalia was, Whizzer White.  This is a man who needs a big Hispanic turn-out.  Didn‘t mention Sonia Sotomayor once.  Meanwhile, she at least understood her message.

MATTHEWS:  You know—

TODD:  And went right after him.  Well, I‘m going to tell you what I‘m going to do.  Maybe he was tired.  But this is your only debate?  Your political life is on the line—

MATTHEWS:  This is why—

TODD:  It was an odd performance.

MATTHEWS:  -- politicians who are smart, Jon and Chuck—you know the business now—they wait and they take two to three days off and they get their IQ up as high as they can.  They—it‘s all about synapses.  Do you think about—you had to think of it then!  You‘ve got think of it then.  You‘ve got to prep.

Dukakis, when he went out there, he couldn‘t say what he‘d do if his wife were killed and raped.  Nixon, the smart observer, said he was tired, overscheduled.  Anybody with a brain would have known what to say.  But that was extremely nice to Mike Dukakis because he probably would have said the same thing anyway.

Here‘s the schoolyard talk from Sharron Angle again, real shooting at this guy.  Here she is.  Let‘s listen.


ANGLE:  Man up, Harry Reid.  You need to understand that we have a problem with Social Security.


MATTHEWS:  Well, she also accused him of saying he wanted Social Security for illegal aliens in the country, totally illegal.  But what—well, what do you make of this, Jon?


MATTHEWS:  Is she going to get away with these facts, with being fast and loose with the facts, because she was able to stand up credibly there?

RALSTON:  Well, listen, I do think she held her own.  And I do agree with Chuck‘s description of it.  I didn‘t—she did—she wasn‘t impressive, but Harry Reid was just so all over the map in his performance.

But look at the—she made many claims in that debate, Chris, that are easily debunked, and Harry Reid made very little effort to call her on it.  I mean, she said that she had never called the unemployed “spoiled” and said that Harry Reid had mischaracterized that.  Chris, she not only said it, she apologized for it, yet Harry Reid let that go, too.  I don‘t know why he would not have called her on that.  The Social Security for illegals is in several of her ads in which she calls Harry Reid “the best friend an illegal alien ever had.”  Catchy line, right?  But there‘s nothing beneath it.  All those ads have been debunked by me and others, Politifacts—

MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s Harry Reid—


MATTHEWS:  Here‘s a case, Chuck, where Harry Reid does challenge it.  Here‘s Sharron Angle defending her ad that claims that Harry Reid voted to give illegal aliens Social Security benefits.  And here‘s what she said and how he responded.  Let‘s listen.


ANGLE:  Well, I‘m glad to give voters the opportunity to see that Harry Reid has voted to give Social Security to illegal aliens.  Not only did he vote to give it to them after they have become citizens, but even before they were citizens, he voted to give them the benefits of our Social Security.

REID:  Everything she has said in that ad is false.  It‘s not true. 

I‘ve never voted for tax breaks for people who are here that are illegal. 

I‘ve never voted for security—Social Security benefits for people here.  That is not the law in this country.  She knows it, and she should stop saying it.


MATTHEWS:  She should.  And I checked the objective facts out here. 

He didn‘t come out for that, and yet she keeps saying it.

TODD:  It is amazing how it doesn‘t matter and there is no penalty this year, for some reason, for when it doesn‘t matter, how many media say this is wrong, this is factually incorrect.  It‘s not as if it‘s illegal to put up a TV ad.  I mean, I guess you can file a grievance and say, You have to pull this TV ad because it is false in this way.  And you—

MATTHEWS:  Well, isn‘t it the job of moderators to know something?  I guess that‘s a tough job for moderators, Jon.  I guess, in real time, it‘s hard to pull out an immediate, like in one of these old quiz shows, you know—you know, “It‘s Academic” or something, where they know the answer because they don‘t know what the question‘s going to be.  But do you think the moderators, or the people holding these debates have some responsibility to check the facts, Jon?

RALSTON:  Well, of course, they do, Chris.  But the problem is, in this debate, the format was so restrictive, it was difficult.  The moderator did follow up a couple of times, but they were told to stick to the strict format, which was what, by the way, both candidates, I think, wanted because they both knew that they‘re not very good in this venue.

Now, you know, the question about whether there‘s a penalty for this kind of behavior or not—I guess we‘re going to find out, right?  I mean, we don‘t know yet whether or not there‘s a penalty for it.  Listen, what more can anybody do?  But the problem is, how many people watch a fact check on TV versus how many people saw the ad—

MATTHEWS:  I know.

RALSTON:  -- that said “the best friend an illegal alien ever had”?

MATTHEWS:  Well, give us a tout on this.  It seems to me, looking at this from the outside, you‘ve got an incumbent who is unpopular.  You have a challenger who‘s a bit far out, if not whacky.  Do the viewers, the voters—I call people who watch my show viewers.  Do the voters say, I don‘t care how strange she is, I‘m taking a chance on somebody new, rather than what I‘ve got?  Is that going to be the end of this election, how it comes out?

RALSTON:  Well, I think if people were watching that debate—and listen, I think there‘s very few undecideds left in that race, 1, 2, 3 percent maybe.  If they‘re watching that, they‘re watching to see if Sharron Angle is as crazy as Harry Reid has portrayed her, right?


RALSTON:  And she didn‘t really come across that way.  So I think if there were undecideds watching—that‘s a big “if”—I think they might gravitate toward Angle.

MATTHEWS:  Is that your sense—


TODD:  Look, this is—there‘s a two-prong strategy here for Reid, right?  Number one is, he can try to see if he can gin up his numbers on the ground—


TODD:  -- with a little bit of a “get out the vote” effort.  And the second is hope that he moves some anti-Reid vote to “None of the above,” actually (ph), on one of these third party candidacies.  And that‘s—that‘s who Sharron Angle was up against last night, right, which was the—it‘s the—winning over the anti-Reid voter that‘s not yet sold on her.  What are they going to do?  Did she do enough to keep them away from “None of the above”?

I have to say, the laws of politics are running against Harry Reid.  I still believe if Harry Reid wins, it‘s an upset because of the laws of politics—

MATTHEWS:  Which are—


TODD:  You‘ve got to be sitting at 50.  The wind‘s going at the—


TODD:  Everything—

MATTHEWS:  OK, so the smart move by her strategists and perhaps with her participating, Jon, give this guy one debate so that you can show that you can stand up there and meet him back and forth.  But don‘t give him too many debates because at some point, his expertise will overwhelm her.

RALSTON:  Well, I don‘t know.  After last night, maybe she should‘ve debated him 10 times.


RALSTON:  I‘m not so sure about that, Chris.  Well, but Chuck‘s absolutely right.  I mean, Harry Reid‘s strategy from a year ago was he knew he was never going to get close to 50 percent.  He knew his disapproval rating was 50 percent.  He had to do scorched earth from the primary on to push those people, as Chuck mentioned, from Sharron Angle to “None of the above,” Scott Etch (ph).  And there are nine choices on the ballot.  He‘s hoping people will be confused, vote for somebody else.  It‘s the only chance he has.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, OK.  By the soft approach by him, it reminds me of Henry Cabot Lodge calling Dick Nixon up right before his debate with Kennedy, saying, Erase the assassin image.  And he went real soft on Kennedy.  He kept saying, I agree with the senator, I agree with the senator, I agree with the senator.  It was embarrassing.  If he‘d gone after him like the old Nixon, that would have taken off—taken Adlai Stevenson, took on Alger Hiss, took on all of earlier opponents like, you know, Helen Douglas, he would‘ve killed the guy.  But he didn‘t, and he lost.  You‘ve got to play your toughest game in the toughest battle.  That‘s what I think.  Thank you, Chuck.  Do you agree?


TODD:  It‘s your show.


TODD:  I‘m in your house!  What am I—right?



TODD:  We‘re all politicians.

MATTHEWS:  Chuck Todd, Jon Ralston—

TODD:  (INAUDIBLE) my man, Ralston.

MATTHEWS:  -- thank you, sir.  It‘s great to have you—

TODD:  Go blue.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s great to have an expert out here.

RALSTON:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Up next: All week, HARDBALL hits the campaign trail for the HARDBALL Senate tour.  Monday, it‘s off to the University of Louisville.  I‘m going to interview Senate candidate Jack Conway.  Tuesday, we‘re going to be in New York, covering the big race.  Then Wednesday, the University of Illinois at Chicago, where I‘ll interview Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias.  And Thursday, we‘re going to be on the campus of Temple University in north Philadelphia with Senate candidate Joe Sestak.

Up next: What‘s with women candidates calling their male opponents, quote—telling them to, quote, “man up?”  What‘s that all about?  You heard Sharron Angle say it earlier, and it seems to be a growing trend this election year.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ve heard plenty about President Obama‘s lagging approval numbers, but how‘s he doing relative to Congress‘s approval ratings?  Great question.  And how does he stack up against other presidents in that regard?  Well, President Obama on average has a 26-point lead versus Congress‘s approval in the Gallup polls.  He‘s 26 points ahead of them when both were mentioned at the same time.  That 26-point edge in approval is greater than four of the five previous presidents, the exception being the senior George Bush.  So relative to his predecessors, Obama‘s in pretty decent shape.  I mean, maybe we‘re getting too clinical here, but compared to Congress, the guy‘s golden.

HARDBALL back after this.


MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Last night in two separate debates, two women candidates, one Republican and one Democrat, both told their male opponents to “man up.”  For the past couple of months, we‘ve heard quite a lot of female candidates and also male candidates, nearly all Republicans (INAUDIBLE) chiding (ph) male candidates to do things like “man up” or some variation on that phrase.  We‘ll let them speak for themselves.  Let‘s listen.


ANGLE:  Man up, Harry Reid.  You need to understand that we have a problem with Social Security.

ROBIN CARNAHAN (D-MO), SENATE CANDIDATE:  So I think if you want to repeal health care reform and let insurance companies go back to their worst abuses, Congressman, then you ought to repeal your own first and man up and do what you‘re asking other people to do.

CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL (R-DE), SENATE CANDIDATE:  My opponent is addicted to a culture of spending, waste, fraud and abuse, whether it‘s spending tax dollars on men‘s fashion shows or to pay off his cronies with sweetheart pension deals.

You know, these are the type of cheap, underhanded, un-manly tactics that we‘ve come to expect from Obama‘s favorite Republican, Mike Castle.  You know, I released a statement today saying, Mike, this is not a bake-off, get your man-pants on!

SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VP NOMINEE:  Impotent, limp and gutless reporters take anonymous sources and cite them as being a factual references.

Jan Brewer has the cojones our president does not have!


MATTHEWS:  We‘re not making this up!  Christina Bellantoni writes for the Talking Points Memo and Jonathan Allen writes for Politico.  This is tricky territory for all involved, but I tell you, I‘ve never heard so much of this.  Your thoughts.  And oftentimes, it‘s a female candidate up against a male candidate, and they use the term “manly,” “man up,” “man-pants,” “cojones,” “limp,” whatever—a lot of references to sexuality.  I‘m going to get into some of the men doing the same thing in a minute.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, TALKING POINTS MEMO:  Well, you could just imagine if a male candidate said, Act like a lady, or, Why don‘t you, you know, be a woman and do something like this.  I mean, this is something that you would never stand for.  So now you turn the tables and you have these women saying this.  And they‘re getting away with it.  And it‘s just a very bizarre phenomenon.

MATTHEWS:  Because?

BELLANTONI:  Well, I think it‘s—

MATTHEWS:  The men have no idea what to say.

BELLANTONI:  With the exception of Robin Carnahan, it‘s sort of this “mamma grizzly” phenomenon—We are tough, we‘re going to go out there and fight, we‘re up against the elite men that are making all the decisions in the back room.  I mean, I‘d be curious to know what Nancy Pelosi thinks about this.  I can‘t imagine her ever saying something like that to John Boehner, for example.

MATTHEWS:  Well, she doesn‘t have to do anything.  She‘s as tough as they come.  She doesn‘t need the lingo.

Your thoughts, Jonathan?  This is tricky territory for my fellow male on this discussion because I don‘t even know what‘s PC right now.  It is a common practice now to make these references in debate, sometimes face to face.

JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICO:  There‘s really no defense for a man.  I mean, this is—it‘s an effort to bait, in a way.  You know, if a man stands down from that kind of challenge, he‘s admitting that he‘s the pantywaist that she‘s suggesting he is.  If he comes back too strongly, he may be looking overbearing.  I mean, it‘s really a lose/lose situation for candidates here.

If I‘m a political strategist debate-prepping people right now, I‘m telling them, You got to be ready for this question and say something like, Hey, that was clever, but what are you doing to create jobs?  Find something you can say back because, obviously, if a woman is suggesting that a man is impotent or less than manly or doesn‘t have cojones or whatever the choice words are—in this case, “man up”—there‘s not much he can do.  It‘s a—it‘s a—a tough situation. 


MATTHEWS:  And some of it gets a little more pointed, like fashion shows, spending money on fashion shows.  I think that has a certain connotation.  Maybe it shouldn‘t. 

Let‘s take a look.  Let‘s mix this up a little.  Let‘s listen to what Carl Paladino, who is not exactly a sweetheart, by any means—


MATTHEWS:  Here‘s what he says about Andrew Cuomo.  I think both guys are fairly macho, I suppose.  But let‘s listen to how one goes after the other.  Let‘s hear it. 


CARL PALADINO ®, NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE:  Andrew, stop the political posturing and Albany games.  Come out and debate all the candidates.  Why do you want to exclude the only African-American candidate and the only woman candidate and the Green Party candidate?  I just don‘t understand.  Come out and debate like a man. 



MATTHEWS:  Well, that sounds a little different than when a woman says it, but it‘s almost like, get in the ring with me, stop hiding.  But it doesn‘t seem to have the same—well, here he is.  Here—by the way, Cuomo has accepted.  Apparently, it worked.  Cuomo‘s going to debate the guy.  So, apparently, this “like a man” thing was irresistible, Jonathan. 

ALLEN:  That‘s right. 

I mean, the real answer to that, if you‘re not in the political forum, where it‘s totally inappropriate, is to take a swing at the guy. 


ALLEN:  So, generally—


ALLEN: -- you know, come challenge my manhood any time you want if you‘re a guy.  If you‘re a woman, I don‘t know what to do about it. 


MATTHEWS:  I just wonder about this.  You know, I mean, this stuff happens in traffic in Washington.  I swear, women can get away with blowing their car horn. 


MATTHEWS:  They don‘t care if the other guys gets mad, whereas, a guy blows his horn, he better be ready to take that guy on at the next stop, because he was going to have a little “Let‘s talk about this on the side of the road” kind of thing.

And I do notice that happens.  But I don‘t want to generalize the anthropology here.  But I do think we saw in that debate. 


MATTHEWS:  And here‘s the question.  We just watched that in the last segment.  Jump in here, Jonathan, as well.

We watched Sharron Angle, who is the same age as Harry, roughly, or maybe a little younger, both mature people, but one taking it very personal, saying, you‘re basically a crook, you‘re going to make illegal alien get Social Security, very tough charges.  And Harry comes back kind of like afraid to show any attitude. 

BELLANTONI:  And that was, I‘m certain—you know, everybody knows that it is, as Jonathan said, very difficult to debate a woman, particularly in this Sarah Palin age, where people are ready to cry sexism.  I mean, the lipstick on a pig thing, you remember that.

MATTHEWS:  And the elitism vs. the outsider thing, too.


BELLANTONI:  Also, I mean, this is an insult.  You wouldn‘t say something like that to your co-worker.  If they said that on the Senate floor, you would be hearing about it for weeks.  So, this is an area—


MATTHEWS:  What, you‘re a crook?


BELLANTONI:  A crook or man up or come on and get—


MATTHEWS:  It‘s pretty strong language. 

BELLANTONI:  The cojones comment.  I mean, it‘s definitely—

ALLEN:  Chris—

MATTHEWS:  Finish—I want her to finish the thought here. 

BELLANTONI:  It‘s definitely—it‘s taking this aggression.  And that‘s part of the whole Tea Party Republican movement that‘s happening right now.  And that‘s why, again, I‘m very surprised to hear Robin Carnahan to say that, you know, that she‘s sort of taking that to Roy Blunt.

MATTHEWS:  Is this all just metaphor, that these politicians don‘t punch each other?  They get—risk—they don‘t risk physical assault.  They‘re not street corner kids in tough neighborhoods.  They talk in this way as if they‘re like those people.  Isn‘t this a masquerade when people talk tough? 

As somebody once pointed out, the toughest sports, like football, they talk reasonably to each other . In sports that are not quite as aggressive, like tennis, that‘s where they use the nasty language. 

Your thoughts on that, Jonathan.  Politics is losing its gentlemanly aspect, are we saying? 

ALLEN:  Well, the effect debater gets under the skin of their opponent and makes them lose their temper.  And certainly that‘s part of the strategy for anybody like in that case Sharron Angle or Robin Carnahan earlier in the day. 

You challenge a man‘s masculinity and hope that it riles them up, gets them angry a little bit, makes them look unsettled to the voters. 


ALLEN:  You should also this cuts both ways.  Harry Reid‘s been calling Sharron Angle crazy all campaign season. 


ALLEN:  And that‘s something men use against women in usually subtler ways than Reid‘s campaign has been doing it. 

MATTHEWS:  Really? 

ALLEN:  Absolutely.  There‘s always an attempt to portray female candidates as unhinged.

MATTHEWS:  That sounds like Lucille Ball kind of stuff. 


MATTHEWS:  Let me go back.


MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.

BELLANTONI:  But don‘t forget there‘s some dog whistling here with Christine O‘Donnell. 

MATTHEWS:  What is that?  I love dog whistling.

BELLANTONI:  You‘ve got Christine O‘Donnell.  She suggested Mike Castle—you know, she said all these things about put your man pants on, acting unmanly.

Well, one of her top aides made some comments about, you know, questioning his sexuality.  And she distanced herself from that by repeating it over and over and over again.  So, there‘s something else going on there.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but she was playing the game.  She was playing the game.

I have got to go back to a couple examples, guys.  Probably before you were both in the business, George Bush Sr., after debating Christine—

Geraldine Ferraro, said, “I kicked ass last night.”


MATTHEWS:  That did not go over too well.

But then he did something brilliant against Pete du Pont.  Pete du Pont was taking a shot at him.  And you know what he said?  This had to be Roger Ailes.

Roger, this had to be you.

He said, “Let me help you with that one, Pierre.”


MATTHEWS:  That was a great putdown. 

BELLANTONI:  Then there‘s that. 

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, you know, they used to say that first name of a headwaiter and the last name of a polluter, Pierre du Pont.  No offense to anyone. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Christina Bellantoni and Jonathan Allen.

Good luck with your new job, which is?

BELLANTONI:  CQ-Roll Call starting Monday. 


Up next:  Is Rand Paul modifying his position?  He seems to have done a 180 from one of his more far-out positions.  Here is coming up here on the “Sideshow,” Rand Paul. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


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

First: comedians for a cause. 

Last night, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert announced they would be combining their efforts—or their events, rather, on the Mall into the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on October 30 this year.  They also got a impromptu visit from a big supporter with deep pockets. 





WINFREY:  Hi, Stephen. 


WINFREY:  So, here‘s what I did.  I had my staff sneak into your studio early this morning with a little gift, OK? 

STEWART:  Can I tell you what‘s weird about that?  We have no security here. 


WINFREY: “Daily Show” audience, look under your seats. 


STEWART:  Look under your seats. 


STEWART:  What‘s under there? 



WINFREY:  You‘re going to the rally.  You‘re going to the rally.



For all the buzz, it looks like no one really knows what this rally on the 30th of this month is going to be all about.  Well, I‘m going. 

Next: eating their own, conservative among conservatives.  Charles Krauthammer went after New Tea—York Tea Partier Carl Paladino in “The Washington Post” today—quote—“After winning the nomination, what does Kamikaze Carl proceed to do?  Get in an angry shouting match with a reporter, level some odd insinuation about his opponent‘s prowess”—we talked about that earlier.”

“Figuring he hasn‘t veered off message enough, he then expands on homosexuality and spend three days having to explain and reaffirm, before the inevitable apology”—Krauthammer speaking sanely, throwing the bad apples here from the barrel. 

Now to another Tea Partier.  Will the real Rand Paul please stand up?  The Kentucky Senate candidate again appears to be moderating his stands on the issues.  In a statement to an anti-tax group that was initially verified by his campaign, Rand Paul once wrote—quote—“I would vote for the FairTax to get rid of the 16th Amendment, the IRS, and a lot of the control the federal government exerts over us”—well, pretty far out there, zapping the income tax from the U.S. Constitution, going with a national sales tax instead.

When Paul was asked this week about his support for the FairTax, the national sales tax, he changed his tune—quote—“I haven‘t really been able to say—I haven‘t really been saying anything like that.  I think it‘s probably better to go with what I‘m now saying on the campaign trail.”

Well, the Paul campaign backtracks again today, blaming a former staffer for wrongly distributing that initial FairTax, we‘re going to have a national sales tax, statement. 

Believe me, supporting a 23 percent national sales tax is not a winning issue.  That‘s the FairTax, 23 percent national sales tax to replace the income tax. 

Now to tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Congress could look a lot different come January.  How many Tea Party candidates are on the November ballot?  According to “The New York Times” - - you won‘t believe this -- 138 on the general election ballot.  And you betcha, they‘re all Republicans.

One hundred and thirty-eight House and Senate candidates are flying the Tea Party banner—tonight‘s “tead-off” “Big Number.” 

Up next:  Sarah Palin takes a swat at Michelle Obama?  Palin‘s reality TV show is starting soon, but where‘s her reality?  Is she running for president?  And why is she going after Michelle? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks ending mixed today, as banks dragged on the Dow and Google‘s strong earnings boosted the Nasdaq, the Dow slipping 31 points, the S&P adding two, and the Nasdaq jumping up 33 points. 

An earnings blowout from Google after the bell last night sending shares soaring more than 11 percent today.  But banks were rocked by worries about the impact of the foreclosure crisis, ahead of earnings next week from Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. 

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



SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  You know, when I hear people say or have said during the campaign that they had never been proud of America until—until that time, I think, haven‘t they met anybody in uniform yet? 


MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was of course Sarah Palin last night in San Jose, California, with a jab at lady—first lady Michelle Obama.  What‘s Palin‘s game? 

“New York” magazine‘s John Heilemann is back from the coast.  He was at the event last night in San Jose.  Also joined tonight by Salon.com‘s Joan Walsh, who is out there in San Francisco. 

So, let‘s just do a little bit on this.  Why would she take this shot at the first lady, the beloved first lady, I must say, John Heilemann, and what did it feel like? 

JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK”:  Well, it was very early in the speech when she made that comment.  The first thing she does when she walks into the room is, she asks everyone in the room who has been—who has served in the military to stand up for a big round of applause.  And that was the next thing that she said after that. 

There was a certain kind of improvisational quality to what she does, Chris.  But I would say there was a consistent theme throughout the speech as she—in addition to trashing the Obama administration throughout, she was constantly bringing up the 2008 campaign again.  She was constantly re-litigating the arguments then. 

She was saying things like, you know, I told people—you know, Barack Obama said to Joe the plumber that he was going to spread the wealth around.  He told us what he was going to do.  I knew this is what he was going to do. 

Later in the day, she actually went back and re-litigated the Katie Couric interview.  One—she had a question from the audience, from some kids in the audience, about what she reads.  And she went back.  She said, you know, there was this interviewer back during the campaign.  She wouldn‘t name Katie Couric, but she said there was this interviewer who asked me that question.  I felt she was treating me like a Neanderthal who doesn‘t read anything.  I didn‘t answer that question at the time, she said, and it‘s haunted me ever since. 

So, the 2008 campaign and re-litigating that is a very big part of things that are on her mind today.  And I think that‘s where part of the Michelle Obama thing comes from. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, that‘s a terrible answer on her part.  I know it will work for some people.  But I‘m asked a lot, what do you read?  How do you prepare?  How do you get your—how do you get your ideas?  I‘m asked it all the time.  It‘s a totally legitimate question. 


MATTHEWS:  Where‘s the input valve? 

Joan, the same with you, I‘m sure.  People want to know how you stay well-informed when you have to debate issues and discuss them. 

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, SALON.COM:  There was nothing that was a gotcha question about that, Chris.  We were all shocked that she couldn‘t say something. 

But I want to go back to the Michelle Obama comment for a minute, because I think it‘s so outrageous and so not classy.  I want you to think back.  In 2007, you know, Barack Obama was not necessarily running for president yet.  He was a contender.  He was kind of like Sarah Palin in that sense.  No one knew if he was going to run. 

Can you imagine Barack Obama ever taking a shot at Laura Bush?  I mean, it‘s just not done.  It‘s beyond political decorum.  But—but she can do it, because the Obamas are fair game, whatever you want to do.  There‘s no decorum in this country when it comes to the Obamas.  But it‘s just mean.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think there‘s a tribal aspect to this thing, too. 

Let‘s be blunt.

WALSH:  It‘s mean and nasty.

MATTHEWS:  There‘s no doubt it‘s tribal.  It‘s just, our group out here won‘t like them at all as people, so anything goes. 

WALSH:  Right.  Anything goes.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at Palin.  Let‘s take a look at Palin again in California. 

Here‘s Tom Brokaw.  She‘s out there. 

So here‘s Tom Brokaw asking Meg Whitman about Palin in that Tuesday debate we covered.  Let‘s listen, because he asks about this event. 


TOM BROKAW, MODERATOR:  Ms. Whitman, a real force in your party is Sarah Palin.  She will be in California on Saturday.  She‘s been the governor of a big Western state.  Are you going to seek her advice on what you may do for California after her experience in Alaska? 


MEG WHITMAN ®, CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE:  So, Sarah Palin‘s coming to California.  And she‘s doing fund-raising and a number of other things. 

And you know what?  She has a real following in the Republican Party, but you know that I have actually supported other presidential nominees in our party, whether it was John McCain or my long-term friend Mitt Romney. 

So, that day, I‘m going to be out with voters talking about the things that matter to Californians.  And that is jobs. 


MATTHEWS:  That didn‘t make any sense.  She supported McCain, who was on the ticket with Palin.  They were not running against each other.  What does that mean, John, to say things that don‘t make any sense? 

HEILEMANN:  Well—well—


MATTHEWS:  That wasn‘t an answer.  She‘s obviously a smart person, Meg Whitman, I assume.  How can you give an answer that makes no sense and have people hear it and not—



MATTHEWS:  Well, wait a minute.  That doesn‘t mean anything.

HEILEMANN:  Well, Chris, I think you have heard a lot of politicians in your time on this show and elsewhere give answers that make no sense when they‘re trying to dodge a bullet. 


HEILEMANN:  She wants to—she‘s in a very tight race with Jerry Brown. 

And the people who are up—that are still up for grabs are not the kind of people in California, in that blue state—whether it‘s a deep-blue state or a light-blue state, we‘re going to find out on November 2.  But, in a blue state, the voters are still up for grabs.  Those are not people who are attracted to Sarah Palin. 

It was very noticeable in her appearance in San Jose, she did not mention Meg Whitman, nor did she mention Carly Fiorina, who she endorsed in the Senate primary earlier in the year. 

Obviously, she was acting, I think, on orders from those campaigns.  They are trying to keep their distance from her, because, as I say, at this point in their campaigns, being associated with Sarah Palin is not going to help them with undecided, centrist, independent voters. 

WALSH:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at the commercial. 

I‘m sorry, Joan.

Here‘s a commercial.  I want you to respond to this.  This is a—a new commercial for Palin‘s somewhat unrelated reality show on The Learning Channel.  Let‘s listen. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sarah, you ready? 

PALIN:  Oh, gosh.  We are somewhere that people dream about.

Family comes first.  It‘s got to be that way.

No boys go upstairs.

This is fun.  How come we can‘t ever be just satisfied with tranquility?  I‘d rather be doing this than in some dumpy old political office.  I‘d rather be out here being free.

NARRATOR:  An all new eight-week television event, “Sarah Palin‘s Alaska” premieres Sunday November 14th at 9:00 on TLC.


MATTHEWS:  Joan, there‘s a lot to buy here.  I mean, it‘s very attractive out there.  I mean, she‘s an outdoors person.  We Americans love that stuff.  I mean, I love it.  I pay great tribute.  If she can do the dogsled, if she can do that hiking up the mountainside, that‘s great.  I‘m all for it.

What‘s it got to do with anything?  It has to do with the fact that she is leading among Republicans in terms of job approval as the most popular Republican in the country right now.  It‘s serious business.  For president, let‘s face it.

WALSH:  I mean, also it‘s on the Learning Channel.  I don‘t get that. 

Let‘s start there.

I mean—it‘s preposterous.  It sounds fun.  It sounds like it‘d be fun to spend a day with her.  But if she‘s so happy being free out there, why is she giving it up and traveling all around the country?  I mean, it‘s completely disingenuous because she‘s obviously really, really happy being out on the campaign trail, raising money and raising money for herself and filling her pockets with these speeches.  She‘s being paid for a lot of these speeches.

So, it‘s really—she‘s saying one thing on that show and she‘s doing something very different.

And to go back to the California issue, 2/3 of California voters in last week‘s field poll said that Palin support or being associated with Palin makes them less likely to want to support California politicians.  So, it‘s clear what Whitman and Fiorina were doing.  She‘s toxic here.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I get back to my favorite question because it‘s not a tough one.  Well, it‘s a HARDBALL question.  I‘ll admit it.

John Heilemann, do you believe—I‘m asking any Republican candidate or politician—do you believe that Sarah Palin is qualified to be president?  And even her own guy Joe Miller who she created out of nothing up in Alaska, who‘s the nominee now of the Republican Party because of her endorsement, will not say, she‘s any more than 35 years old and was born in the country, will not say she‘s qualified in any real substantive sense to run this country in a complicated world.

Don‘t they all have to belly up to that question fairly soon?  This campaign‘s going to start in about two months.  How long can they avoid saying whether she‘s got it or not?

HEILEMANN:  Well, I think it‘s a fascinating question for this reason, Chris.  I mean, I increasingly among Republican professional operatives, people who‘ve run presidential campaigns before.  They think, number one, that she‘s likely to run, and number two, she could well could be the Republican nominee.

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

HEILEMANN:  And part of the dynamic that‘s going to work in her favor is that all of the other candidates are going to get asked that question.  And all of them, like Joe Miller and like many other people, are afraid to answer that question.  They‘re afraid to say, no, which is what many of them think because they‘re afraid of alienating her voters, who they‘ll need presumably at some point if she gets defeated in the nomination contest.  They don‘t want to alienate those people.

But they‘re also afraid to say yes because they think it‘ll make them look foolish, because they believe that she does not have the substantive grasp of a lot of policy that a president of the United States needs.

MATTHEWS:  It could be a statement about how dull politicians are that her sparkle, just her presentation, is so electric that it trumps all the substance in American politics today.  That‘s a hell of a statement, right, Joan?

Thank you.  Style beats all substance.  Thank you, John Heilemann.  Have a nice weekend, Joan and John.  It‘s great to have you on the show as always.

Up next, battleground Ohio, Senator Sherrod Brown joins us.  What an interesting senator he is.  We‘ll talk about the tough fights in his state of Ohio, which is always the bellwether in this country.  And the Republican candidate in Ohio who likes to dress up like a Nazi—that‘s interesting stuff.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  President Obama‘s on the campaign trail today.  He made a big stop in Wilmington, Delaware, to push Democratic Senate candidate Chris Coons.  He doesn‘t need much pushing.  He‘s running far ahead in the polls over Republican Christine O‘Donnell.  The president made reference to Coons‘ lead and urged supporters to keep the pressure on.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I want everybody to be clear.  There is no doubt this is a difficult election.  It is difficult here and it‘s difficult all across the country.  And although I think Chris has, so far, run an extraordinary race, I don‘t want anybody here taking this for granted.


MATTHEWS:  Well, this weekend, the president campaigns in Ohio and Massachusetts.  He‘s going to be joined by the first lady in Ohio.  The first time they‘ve been on the trail together since the presidential campaign itself.

HARDBALL, back after this.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama head-to-head this Sunday on the campaign together in the Buckeye State, Ohio.

The most famous, by the way, or infamous, Ohio candidate lately is Republican House candidate Rich Iott.  He had a debate with Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur Thursday night.

Here‘s the “Toledo Blade” report: “‘There are people who deny the

Holocaust happened, we don‘t deny that it happened,‘ Mr. Iott said.  ‘We

talk about it openly and say that this was absolutely one of the worst

tragedies in history.  But we can‘t forget about it and sweep it under the

rug or it just may happen again.‘

The debate‘s moderator, ‘Sandusky Register‘ editor Matt Westerhold,

then asked Mr. Iott a series of question, submitted index cards by audience

members.  ‘As the reenactor, have you ever worn a swastika on an armband?‘ 

‘Absolutely not,‘ Mr. Iott replied.  ‘That is prohibited in the reenactment

world because the armband is a political statement.‘

‘Well, in retrospect, would you portray a Nazi officer,‘ again, he was

asked.  ‘Absolutely,‘ he said, ‘just as I played a G.I., just as I play the

role of a union officer.‘  ‘Well, if elected, would you participate in such

re-enactments in the future?‘”  In other words with Nazi uniforms on.  “He

said, ‘No, I don‘t have time.‘”

Well, we‘re joined right now by Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

Senator, I only want to waste a minute or two on this because it‘s fascinating.  My son, Thomas, is an actor and went down and played, you know, a Southerner or Johnny Reb, if you will, in a reenactment and we had a lot of fun going out there.  I love those civil war reenactments and I got to meet the guys and I love hanging out with them.

Why would anybody, ever, put on a Nazi uniform, ever, under any circumstances wear one, I don‘t get it.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO:  I don‘t know this guy.  I know that he‘s got a lot of money, like a lot of Republicans around the country that are spending, shall I say, liberally, to try to beat good, strong Democratic incumbents like Marcy Kaptur.  He wasn‘t going to beat her anyway.

I remember when I was a bit beside the point.  I was 11 years old.  My dad took me to Gettysburg and watched part of the reenactment of the battle of Gettysburg.  And I was 11 or 10 years old and it was the 100th anniversary.  Other than, I haven‘t—I‘ve never really done it.

But it‘s sort of interesting but Nazi uniforms, I mean just—that‘s just—that was pretty incredible, the whole thing.

MATTHEWS:  Even as kids, we had war games, my brother Burt and I, and somebody had to play the Germans but nobody put the uniform on.

BROWN:  Yes, that‘s right.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  We didn‘t have the uniforms.  I mean this is crazy.  This is crazy.

Let me ask you about John Boehner.  Does he have a problem for giving this guy money?  Boehner PAC money.  And apparently, he‘s not asking for it back.  He‘s given Iott the money.

BROWN:  I didn‘t know that.  I‘m not surprised.  I mean, Boehner‘s a pretty conservative guy and I saw Eric Cantor, the Republican, one of the Republican leaders on television with Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  And she had to really push him, to get him to be critical of this guy.

So, Republicans, I give them credit.  They stick together no matter how bad one of their own is.  And, you know, you see now with Christine O‘Donnell, you see it with Palin, you see it with Fiorina.  Some these candidates that really—

MATTHEWS:  I love the way, Senator, you say, I give them credit.  I love the way you stick the knife in.  I give them credit for sticking with this guy in the Nazi uniform.

OK.  Let me ask you about—I know you—let me talk to you about something that‘s really important.

BROWN:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  First of all, let‘s talk about your state of Ohio.  I grew up as a political junky as everybody knows.  The time I was a kid, I was like baseball cards, it will be (ph).  And Ohio, California, New York, always had the most fascinating politics.

Ohio is such a bellwether.  What‘s going out there?  Why is the president and first lady—it seems to me they know its‘ the bellwether.  They got to hold the governor‘s chair out there with Strickland.  They‘ve got to at least make a fight for the Senate seat, the other Senate seat.  It‘s really gang busters for the White House, isn‘t it?  Ohio?

BROWN:  Yes.  And there‘s so much money in Ohio this year.  The Chamber of Commerce, just in the last three weeks, has spent well over half a million dollars on ads for Republican House members.  They spent, I believe, close to a million for their Senate candidate who already a ton of money because he has—he used to work for President Bush and has the Bush rolodex campaign file for contributors.

You look at the money that Kasich spent against Strickland who‘s been a good governor and is now slightly—now, it‘s about even in the polls but has momentum.

And so, the president knows that 2010 matters, just substantively, and really but also matters for 2012 for the president.  If the president wins Ohio in 2012, he‘s re-elected.  It‘s almost that simple as you know.

MATTHEWS:  I know.

BROWN:  Because you figure he‘ll do well in Pennsylvania, Michigan if he wins Ohio, because those states are a little easier.  So, the president‘s been in Ohio more than I believe in place but New York since he‘s been president.  And so, he‘ll continue to do that.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I agree with you.

BROWN:  All that.  And he‘s bringing Michelle this time to Cleveland when we see them and we‘re all thrilled about that.  It‘s good for the state and good for Democrats.

MATTHEWS:  What are—I agree with you completely.  Ohio‘s right there at the point of control with this history.

Let me ask you about something I said the other night.   I know that you agree with it because you‘re cool about it.  I don‘t understand why the White House—and I agree with their politics on so many things—why they can‘t connect the dots.  They talk about foreign money, they talk about the U.S. Chamber, you just mentioned, the Chamber of Commerce, pouring all of this money on the Republicans‘ side.  Don‘t they know why they‘re doing it?

I think the president has to go to explain to the American people, why has American business given so much money to the Republicans, for the simple reason that they want to go multinational, they want to go global, turn the whole world into a labor, one big hiring hole in the whole world.  You can hire the cheapest labor in the world you can find.  You reduce your costs.  You can automate.  You can use productivity and outsourcing and use foreign vendors, and you can screw the average working person out of his income.

It‘s the ultimate political question today and that‘s why they brought that up issue.  And now, they‘re sneaking away—they‘re not really sticking to it, it seems to me.

BROWN:  That‘s exactly right.  You separate—the Chambers of Commerce in Zanesville, Ohio, or Mansfield or Toledo, are good government groups by in large who want to help the local community grow and help local small businesses especially.  The national chamber, an organization with a hard ideological edge, is much more interested in its large companies that outsource jobs.

And you know what happened in late September, early October, we tried to pass the Disclose Act to require these corporations—

MATTHEWS:  I know—

BROWN: -- like the Chambers of Commerce and these organizations, to disclose where their money was coming.  The same week, we tried to pass legislation that would take away some of the tax breaks to outsourced jobs, they opposed both.

MATTHEWS:  I know.

BROWN:  As you point out they‘re very related, and that‘s the whole good point.

MATTHEWS:  Senator, please come back.  Please come back.  Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio knows the truth.

When we return, let me finish with a grim reminder of that push for the Iraq war back in 2001 to 2003 and who did the pushing.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with the report from the U.S.

Department of Defense.

The item didn‘t get much play in the papers because it was so quietly displayed on the Web site of the U.S. Central Command.  It‘s an estimate of the number of people killed in the Iraq war, 77,000 is the number.  Interesting number, 7,000 more than the U.S. government said were killed the day we dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima.

People like to move away from the cat‘s paws to the decision to attack, invade and occupy a country in 2003, that did not attack us.  There were, of course, multiple perjury convictions of the vice president‘s chief of staff.  But even that was covered over by the president‘s decision, George W. Bush‘s decision, to keep Cheney‘s partner from prison.

But I don‘t like it.  I didn‘t like the way this war was sold—propagandized is the better word—to the American people.  All the employment of phrases like weapons of mass destruction, all part of a new Orwellian, totalitarian vocabulary that rechristened America, our country, the homeland.

Something foreign to this country took over in those years 2001 to 2003.  We were susceptible, of course, teed up after 9/11, and there were people in the government and pushing for it outside, ideologues who wanted this war and didn‘t care what damage it did, including to our country‘s reputation as an enemy of aggression, a country that fights when one country invades another, fights the invader.  This time, we were the invader.

And nobody yelled, “Hey, this isn‘t our part, this isn‘t what we Americans do.”  Well, some of us yelled, but maybe we should have done more, laid out there on the train tracks or whatever you do, to sound the alarm of protest in a democracy.  We should have caused real trouble for the drumbeaters for war, those who are now hang back in their bogus think-tanks in endless meetings and low-grade war-hawking as if they weren‘t the ones who did this to the 77,000 people killed by this war and what they did to our country.

That‘s HARDBALL for now.

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



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