Guests: Michael Steele, Sue Herera, David Corn, Joan Walsh, Errol Louis, Ted Strickland, Bob Graham, Marsha Blackburn, Emanuel Cleaver
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Brief encounter.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening, and what a news day. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Leading off tonight: Bus stop. She makes more excitement riding a bus than the others do actually declaring for president of the United States. The Iowa caucuses are seven months away, and who‘s dominating Republican presidential politics? Sarah Palin.
The splash—the splash she continues to make in cities across the Northeast is trumpeting not just her electrifying stagecraft but the dowdiness of the Republican field. Romney, Pawlenty, Huntsman—no one can match her, and yet she doesn‘t really seem serious about running.
And that‘s why Republicans are still pining for a new star—
Christie, Giuliani, Perry. Can any Republican eclipse Sarah Palin? That‘s our top story tonight.
Plus, U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner says he was the victim of a prank when his Twitter account was hacked, he said, but he‘s not ruling out that it may be—he may be the guy in that racy photo, even though he‘s now denied sending it to a college student after initially refusing to answer questions about it. Well!
And President Obama has some powerful secret weapons in his reelection arsenal, the Republican governors of Ohio and Florida. Recent polls now show that freshmen governors Rick Scott—never did like that guy—and John Kasich—always liked him—would lose badly in those critical swing states if a do-over election were held today. Talk about buyers‘ remorse.
Also, are Boehner and Cantor willing to risk another economic calamity like the one their party created three years ago? Are they willing to push this country right to the edge of the cliff of becoming Greece just to make their political point about the debt?
And “Let Me Finish” tonight with Mitt Romney running away from the very thing that‘s allowing him to run at all, his record as governor of Massachusetts.
Let‘s start with Sarah Palin. We have to. David Corn is “Mother Jones” Washington bureau chief and Michael Steele is the former chair—and for us, always the chair—of the Republican National Committee.
MATTHEWS: Both are MSNBC political analysts. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us. This is a strange time. The heat in Washington is already becoming what it often does, and it‘s only June 1st. The summer doldrums are in, but Sarah Palin could not be hotter as a candidate.
Here are Palin and Trump last night having some pizza, New York pizza, on Times Square. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you be teaming up for something bigger (INAUDIBLE)
DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: We‘ll see. We had a great time.
We‘re friends and we had a great time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How was the pizza?
TRUMP: Pizza was great. New York pizza, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When do you think you‘re going to make the announcement? A lot of people are obviously interested (INAUDIBLE)
SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VP NOMINEE: Not for many weeks still. I think that there really is a lot of time still (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think President Obama is beatable?
PALIN: Oh, definitely! I do. I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know. I don‘t know what it is. She goes to Times Square. She‘s hitting all the beauty spots in American patriotism. And I agree with all those spots. She‘s even found New York and she‘s making Times Square look exciting. And Melania, most beautiful person in the world, probably, there, right next to Donald Trump—
DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: But I got to tell you, when I think of family summer vacations, I do think of the Liberty Bell, your hometown of Philadelphia, I think of Gettysburg, I think of Washington, D.C. And I think of Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re being funny, but why don‘t Democrats go to these places? Why do Republicans—
CORN: Well, they do! Wait a second!
MATTHEWS: You know, Ronald Reagan—
CORN: Wait a second!
MATTHEWS: -- discovered the Statue of Liberty—
CORN: This is—this is phony—
MATTHEWS: -- again. What is it about your party that understands power of these icons?
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think—
MATTHEWS: I think she‘s not for real as a presidential candidate.
But what is this about?
STEELE: I think it is just kind of the appreciation and the symbolism and bringing all of that together to real people. I mean, it‘s not to say that Democrats don‘t—because, you know, we know they do. They just do it different.
MATTHEWS: But the first day of summer, this candidate, who‘s not even a candidate, is going around and—look, Mitt Romney—I‘m going to talk about him later in the show—is actually running for president. He actually was governor of a state—
MATTHEWS: -- and he finished his term and he‘s a real public servant who may well be the strongest opponent against President Obama next year, and we‘re not—we‘re going to cover him tomorrow, but we‘re not giving—these pictures are—
MATTHEWS: Michael Steele, Republican.
STEELE: This is the difference, though, because whether or not she runs, what Sarah‘s doing connecting the people to something to remind them about the broader argument.
MATTHEWS: And larger than herself.
MATTHEWS: And larger than herself.
STEELE: Let me—it probably is that, too. But you‘re missing the point. See, that‘s what—that‘s the problem. You‘re fixating on the individual and so you want to make this all about Sarah Palin. And what Sarah Palin is doing is translating beyond her to people in a way that connects them to something. So if Mitt Romney or any of the presidential candidates got on a bus and said—for the first of June or for Memorial Day or whatever, We‘re going to go to those stops and draw people‘s attention to that, that would be different.
MATTHEWS: You think Romney—
MATTHEWS: Here she is, by the way—
MATTHEWS: By the way, I once was in a little boat going under the Statute of Liberty, looking up at it. It is the most inspiring—especially at night.
STEELE: Sure, it is.
MATTHEWS: Here is Sarah Palin at the Statue of Liberty. Let‘s listen to her, if there is a message here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: It is, of course, the symbol for Americans to be reminded of other countries (INAUDIBLE) the French—other countries warning us to never make the mistakes that some of them had made. This is a symbol, a reminder of what it is that we can do right in the name of freedom. And that‘s what I appreciate about the Statue of Liberty. I think it‘s great, too, all the symbolism, just represented in each different aspect and detail of the statue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What does—all right, OK, I like the statue. I like the romance of it. What does that garble of words coming out of her mouth mean?
MATTHEWS: What—let recount this to you because when it comes out of—you just can‘t believe she says this stuff. “It is, of course, the symbol for Americans to be reminded of other countries”—what? --
“because this was given to us, of course, by the French.” OK, that‘s fine. “Other countries warning us to never make the mistakes that some of them have made.” What does she mean by that?
CORN: I don‘t think when the French gave us the Statue of Liberty—
MATTHEWS: What does she mean by—
CORN: It was not only—
MATTHEWS: -- We give you the Statue of the Liberty for the country, the French revolution—
MATTHEWS: What does she mean by don‘t make the mistakes?
STEELE: It‘s not a—it‘s not a—it‘s not a warning!
STEELE: It‘s about freedom!
STEELE: Those countries—
MATTHEWS: This is “freedom fries” again.
STEELE: -- they were oppressed and repressed into a land of freedom, and this is a reminder—
STEELE: -- she‘s talking about the immigrants who come to the country.
MATTHEWS: What mistakes did they make that she is—they‘re warning us not to make? I mean, I thought they were celebrating liberty, like the French revolution and the American revolution.
CORN: Chris, you‘re taking her too seriously.
MATTHEWS: No, I‘m trying to find out what there is that‘s serious here.
CORN: But there is nothing—I mean, this is—
MATTHEWS: OK, I got—
MATTHEWS: She‘s there with a national camera crew asking her questions and she comes out with garble like this, and we‘re treating her like a presidential candidate. I think this is nonsense, what she said!
STEELE: Well, but that‘s your—
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you—well you interpret it for me—
MATTHEWS: This is a symbol—
STEELE: You‘re in a different place. The rest of us—
MATTHEWS: Other countries—
MATTHEWS: What is this, Ebenezer Scrooge?
CORN: You don‘t need her to remind you—
MATTHEWS: -- Jacob Marley? Who‘s she talking about here?
STEELE: You guys, again, you‘re thinking in the little boxes—
CORN: No, no! We‘re looking—
STEELE: -- that you—that you want to put people in.
CORN: -- for syntax!
CORN: -- verbs and subjects and objects!
STEELE: -- verbs and sentences and syntax. But the point is, the symbolism, the words, all of that connects.
STEELE: And so—
CORN: It‘s empty symbolism without any meaning!
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s go—let‘s go—let‘s do more. Here‘s Sarah Palin speaking for herself in New Jersey today. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: You know, I don‘t know if I‘m going to be running yet. And I‘m sorry that I give you guys the same, old boring answer on that one, but nothing‘s changed, you know? I‘ll decide when the time is right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK, what‘s she doing?
STEELE: She‘s autographing somebody‘s book.
MATTHEWS: To what effect? What‘s she doing? Is she—is this a book tour? Is this a Hollywood star? Is this a political person?
CORN: It‘s a Sarah Palin tour. This is about—
MATTHEWS: Is she ever going to run for anything again?
STEELE: It is—it is—I don‘t know—
MATTHEWS: Why is she moving to Arizona?
STEELE: There are a couple of things going on here. One is, yes, there‘s probably this exploratory part of trying to figure out is this something that we could or should do. Two, there is the brand—
STEELE: -- getting the brand back out there in the public‘s eye because it has been—
CORN: And number three, there‘s a brand, and number four, there‘s the brand, and number five—
MATTHEWS: By the way, there‘s something about her—
CORN: Location, location, location—
MATTHEWS: It‘s primordial. When she walks and moves, there‘s something electric about it—
MATTHEWS: -- that she doesn‘t do on television with Roger Ailes sitting in that booth in Wasilla. Look at, there‘s something—other candidates don‘t do this. She‘s constantly in motion. She looks, obviously, very attractive. She‘s doing something that works—
MATTHEWS: If Mitt Romney was doing the same exact thing, Michael—
CORN: But there‘s no substance!
MATTHEWS: This is what‘s going on here.
CORN: There‘s no substance!
MATTHEWS: -- a new “Washington Post” Pew poll asked people for their word impression of the Republican field this year. Overall, 44 percent of the words people picked were negative, 25 percent had no opinion, 19 percent offered a natural—a neutral description, just 12 percent—just 12 percent, one in eight, had a positive word to describe the Republican field this year.
Among Republicans, 37 percent picked a negative word, 27 percent had no opinion, 22 percent picked a positive word, 18 percent were neutral. Here‘s look at the words people offered. The size of the word reflects how much it was heard. “Unimpressed” is the biggest word, “unimpressed.”
CORN: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: This field of—let me go to you, this one. The Republican candidates, such as they are, of Huntsman, Mitt Romney, Pawlenty and maybe Bachmann, is unimpressive to many, many Republicans.
MATTHEWS: That‘s why she continues to hold the limelight. That‘s my theory.
CORN: You don‘t even have seven dwarves yet. But there will be a giant amongst the midgets eventually.
MATTHEWS: Amongst them?
CORN: Yes. But if you ask people—the Republican primary voters about Sarah Palin and her qualifications as a potential candidate, they are also unimpressed. Her—
MATTHEWS: What are those little things you buy in the mail and then they grow up real big?
MATTHEWS: -- if you buy it in the mail this summer, it will grow into something bigger?
CORN: Whoever wins will look good by the process of winning. And as interesting as she is as a political celebrity, she has very low standing even amongst Republicans—
CORN: -- as a potential candidate.
MATTHEWS: -- let‘s talk Superman here because I think what‘s really going on here is she‘s sort of like a line (ph) to the possibility they‘re looking for more show biz than they have. Now, who else is out there that could bring more showbiz to the fight against President Obama, who is a figure of some historic importance already? It‘ll take somebody of some historic importance to take him on. Christie, Rick Perry of Texas, Rudy Giuliani—which of those three do you think has a real chance to come in?
STEELE: Well, a holiday (ph) of historical importance? I don‘t understand what you mean by that.
MATTHEWS: I mean, will one of them come in and become a larger figure than the three running?
CORN: No, they look good because—
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) ask a pro here, from that side.
STEELE: No, you know, I don‘t think so. I think—
MATTHEWS: They won‘t come in?
STEELE: No, I don‘t think they‘re coming in, first of all—
MATTHEWS: Perry‘s not coming in?
STEELE: Perry—I‘m still not convinced that Perry is going to do this.
MATTHEWS: Why is Rudy out there flirting with this? He‘s number one in the latest CNN poll.
STEELE: Well, I mean, he‘s flirting with it, but again, there‘ve been no concrete steps taken, there‘ve been no signs or calls made to get that thing—
MATTHEWS: You don‘t think Rudy wants in?
STEELE: I think he wants in. The question is the dynamics of getting in, the cost of getting in. Do you really want to spend that kind of capital now or wait until 2016 when it‘s an open race?
MATTHEWS: You think Rudy will be still in the business in 2016?
CORN: Listen, it raises his profile yet again on coming close to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 if he allows his name to be put into play here. You know, he still gets speaking fees. He still gets contracts with business folks. If they think he‘s, you know, more at play—
CORN: -- it helps in every aspect of his life.
CORN: It‘s a good thing to be talked about this way.
MATTHEWS: OK, here‘s what Sarah Palin‘s out there rebranding herself, getting herself out there. She‘s reminding the Republicans there‘s another Republican Party besides Pawlenty, Huntsman and Mitt Romney. I think there is. Call it Tea Party, call it cultural right, whatever. It‘s unspoken-for yet.
If she‘s out there saying that now, and Bachmann will probably be on the ticket at some point, go out there—will they be able to say to your party come next November in Tampa, You know what? You got a nice establishment candidate here. Maybe his name‘s Pawlenty. Maybe his name‘s Romney or Huntsman on the outside. But you need some balance on this ticket. You need the establishment, but you also need the more aggressive right wing of the party.
STEELE: (INAUDIBLE) new generation (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Can she come out and say, You better put Perry on the ticket or you‘re not going to get my support Would that work? Does she have that power?
STEELE: I don‘t know if it‘ll work, but it certainly is a position she could be in. I‘ve always said—
STEELE: Absolutely. I‘ve said—
STEELE: -- going back to my chairmanship that, you know, for Sarah Palin, her greatest strength in 2012 will be being the kingmaker, as opposed to being the queen in this—
MATTHEWS: Yes, if she goes out there and—let me ask you this. If she makes it clear—you know how these conventions are. It‘ll be 100 degrees down there, too. It‘s already hot here now—
MATTHEWS: -- going to be like in Tampa in late summer—
CORN: Good pick!
MATTHEWS: -- of 2012.
MATTHEWS: All the parties go south in the summer.
MATTHEWS: -- why we always have caucuses and primaries in the coldest part of the country, then in the hottest part, we have the conventions in.
If Sarah Palin says that and leaks it to Fox or somewhere, tells it to
somebody, “The Weekly Standard,” whatever, and says, You know, I‘ll be
really for this ticket if they pick somebody like Rick Perry on the ticket”
MATTHEWS: You‘re Mitt Romney. You‘re in a hotel room down there in Tampa. What do you think? I‘d better do this? It‘d be wise to do this, or what?
STEELE: If I‘m Mitt Romney, if I‘m any of these candidates, I think, Well, OK, that‘s her opinion. I don‘t think that she‘s going to have that kind of pull necessarily on their ultimate decision. I think she could have some influence on it, and I think that‘s what she‘s positioning—
CORN: You‘re getting too far down the road, Chris.
CORN: She could have impact in Iowa, in South Carolina.
STEELE: That‘s what I—
MATTHEWS: You think she might kiss somebody and say, This is the one?
STEELE: No! No, no, no!
CORN: She might dis-endorse someone. She might say, I don‘t like
what they‘re saying about this. And once you get to the general election -
MATTHEWS: OK, you know why I‘m going with her?
CORN: Once you—
MATTHEWS: She says there‘s going to be more interesting people coming into this field. She said this it this week. So she disagrees with you. She doesn‘t think the field‘s that great. She thinks there‘s going to be more coming in. That‘s why I keep talking about Christie, Perry and Rudy. She wants somebody else in this field. She‘s trying to jazz up something. I think she‘s saying, These three establishment guys don‘t have it, come on, maybe it‘s me.
And by the way, I don‘t think she‘s out of it yet. Thank you, Michael Steele, long-time chairman of the Republican National Committee, here forever holds the title.
MATTHEWS: We have a little one of those NBA kind of things—
MATTHEWS: -- Republican boss in caucus (ph). Thank you, David Corn.
You know nothing about Republicans!
MATTHEWS: Coming up, what‘s going on with Congressman Anthony Weiner
MATTHEWS: By the way, Anthony Weiner—we called it “brief encounter.” Get the joke? It ain‘t a joke. This is weird. I don‘t get it. I honestly say this is a news story I can‘t quite get to the reality of. But he seems to be on the skillet over this, and I can‘t quite figure out what‘s going on. He was the victim of a prank, he says. Who sent out this picture of him, this sort of odd picture of him in his underwear or whatever, to somebody who‘s 21 years old? He says he didn‘t send it out, but he‘s not denying it‘s him in the picture. Racy photo or not, we‘re going to find out.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s done (ph). Kathy Hochul of upstate New York has been sworn in to Congress. The new congresswoman won that highly watched special election in the 26th district in New York state last week in a race that turned on the Republican candidate‘s support for her party‘s Medicare-killing budget plan. Hochul is the first Democrat to hold that seat in more than four decades. It‘s been continuously represented by Republicans since Jack Kemp won it back in 1970.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
New York Congressman Anthony Weiner is denying that he cement a lewd photo from his Twitter account to a 21-year-old college student, but he can‘t say for sure that it‘s not—well, he is not the person in the photo. How much trouble is this for the congressman from New York?
Joan Walsh is editor-at-large at Salon and Errol Lewis is political anchor for New York1.
Let‘s take a look at some of these stories that he has been giving. Here is Congressman Wiener‘s explanation this Monday, a couple of days ago, and today of what‘s going on. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: I was hacked. It happens to people. You move on.
LUKE RUSSERT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: So you never intentionally sent anything to Miss Cordova?
WEINER: No, nothing. And she says that, I‘m saying that. Clearly I have said that ever since Saturday, when I said that originally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That was Luke Russert asking the question there for MSNBC.
Here is Wiener evading whether the picture was here. Let‘s listen to that exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSERT: The picture that went over Twitter to Gennette Cordova from your account, is that you?
WEINER: Well, let‘s keep in mind what happened here.
I was pranked, I was hacked, I was punked, whatever it was, someone sent out a picture. I‘m an easy name to make fun of and I think that‘s what happened.
RUSSERT: But that‘s not a picture of you?
WEINER: You know, I can‘t say with certitude. My system was hacked, pictures can be manipulated, pictures can be dropped in and inserted. One of the reasons that I have asked the firm that includes an Internet security arm is to take a look at what the heck happened here was to make sure it doesn‘t happen again.
RUSSERT: But, Congressman, would you remember if you were to take a photograph of yourself like that. You don‘t -- ?
WEINER: Well, you know, one of the reasons we have asked an Internet security firm to come in is to see. Maybe something was manipulated. Maybe something was dropped in. We don‘t know for sure what happened here.
RUSSERT: You will not flat-out deny that that photograph is not you?
WEINER: Here is what I will say. I will say that we are trying to figure out exactly what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So are we.
Let me go to Errol. I mean, Luke did a good job there, Luke Russert.
He was like his dad there.
I have go to tell you, answering the question—to finally get an answer, and it wasn‘t forthcoming.
Errol, why doesn‘t he simply say, why would I have a picture of myself in my underpants of that lewd kind, and why I would ever take a picture of it, and why I would ever send it to anybody on any occasion or have it in my possession, have it anybody‘s possession, of course, it‘s not mine, and if it ever turns out it is mine, I will be the most surprised guy in the world?
Why doesn‘t he just say that, instead of hedging? What is going on here?
ERROL LOUIS, NEW YORK 1: You know, I—
MATTHEWS: What do you—what is the backstory here of this? I‘m calling it brief encounter. Other people call it suspicious package.
MATTHEWS: I mean, everybody‘s got a nickname for this now, not mine.
LOUIS: I suspect—I spoke to the congressman earlier today. And I wasn‘t much more successful than you guys were at getting to the bottom of it.
The reality is, he can‘t say because he—I don‘t think he really knows. I take him at his word when he says—
MATTHEWS: How do you mean by, he doesn‘t know? Among the possibilities are this. Many pictures do you have yourself in this—this kind of picture—this kind of picture, which we are not showing—it‘s a particular kind of picture—of you in your underwear? How many pictures do you have like that, that this might be one of them?
Most people don‘t have any, and, therefore, it is easy to stay, it is not mine. What do you mean it might be his, he doesn‘t know if it‘s his? Why are you giving him the benefit of the doubt, until you explain why there is a doubt? Give me the doubt.
LOUIS: Well, I give—I think the doubt is there because he has placed it there or he hasn‘t allowed—
MATTHEWS: Yes, he has placed it there.
LOUIS: He has allowed it to remain there. He has allowed it to remain there.
LOUIS: But, you know, look, honestly, after the two years of madness that we saw around this whole birther issue, I think he has earned a little bit of the benefit of the doubt. He says—
MATTHEWS: How so?
LOUIS: -- he‘s going to an investigation.
MATTHEWS: What‘s the connection between him and the birther issue?
LOUIS: Well, I mean, look, we—we—we went on and on and on and the White House said we are not going to dignify this, we‘re not going to waste time on this, and then they finally did sort of clear the whole thing up. And it was just as they had said all along.
Now, why they didn‘t that on day one or year one, that is their issue. Why Anthony Weiner first said he wasn‘t going to talk about it and is now doing media tours today and talking to anybody who wants to talk to him, even that I‘m not clear on.
I think he senses, though, Chris, that he has lost control of the story and that he needs to get it back. I mean, look, around the country, he is a liberal firebrand congressman.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK. Don‘t change the subject.
LOUIS: Here in New York, he is a leading candidate for mayor.
MATTHEWS: No, but that‘s changing the subject. And, by the way, it‘s something he has been doing in every single exchange he has had.
Joan, every time he is asked the question, he changes it to Boehner or something else or something else or something else. He never simply says, this is ridiculous, I had nothing to do with. Simply, I had nothing to do with it. This has nothing to do with me. Drop it.
Why doesn‘t he just do that?
JOAN WALSH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, SALON.COM: You know, I don‘t know, Chris. I‘m a good Irish Catholic girl. I‘m not going to sit here and talk about what pictures he may or may not have of himself on his computer. It is none of my business.
But he said that he didn‘t send the pictures out. And my position from the beginning has been, I‘m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt because this originated with Andrew Breitbart, who released the selective—
MATTHEWS: No—go ahead.
WALSH: -- the deceptive—deceptively edited ACORN tapes that people tried to use --
MATTHEWS: Well, it wasn‘t that—no, it wasn‘t deceptive. That‘s what everybody is saying about it. I saw the first version of it, and it told pretty much the whole story of how that woman had gone through an epiphany of understanding how race works.
WALSH: No, now you‘re talking about Shirley Sherrod.
WALSH: You and I disagree about this. We had that out loud here.
WALSH: Shirley Sherrod was smeared. She was depicted as a racist, when she was not a racist.
MATTHEWS: All right, fine. Fine.
WALSH: And that was the point of her story.
MATTHEWS: But, look, we are changing the subject again here to—what is going on with this guy?
WALSH: I am changing it. You know what? There‘s—I‘m giving you the context and I‘m giving you why a lot of people were inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Now, the benefit of the doubt that something odd may have gone on is sort of dwindling as he continues to say, I‘m not going to answer questions, then answer questions. Then he can‘t really answer with certitude.
I agree that this starting to look weird. But the larger issue of how this came into the public—into mainstream, I think that context matters. I also think that a 21-year-old girl has been smeared here.
WALSH: We have no evidence of wrongdoing on her part. She may have received some naughty photos that she didn‘t even want.
And conservative bloggers smeared, not just her name, multiple photos, where she goes school—
WALSH: -- the paper she writes for. So something really stinks about this whole thing. I‘m not going to exonerate Representative Weiner, because I have no idea.
I just think that this is kind of a disgusting place to be in politics right now.
Well, it‘s strange. And I think that politicians are the ones responsible for their own story. And there‘s something strange about a guy who spends the whole afternoon doing unilateral interview after interview after interview with one reporter after another, giving different stories, finally to the point of saying something like, I don‘t know if it‘s my picture.
And I think that‘s a strange thing to say. I‘m sorry. We‘re on different planets on this one. I think the whole thing is strange, why he doesn‘t just say, I had nothing to do with this. Blame it on Breitbart or anybody else, but just say, this isn‘t about me. I had nothing to do with it at all.
Later in the day, he said, I don‘t know who had access to my Twitter account.
Now, that‘s a different thing than saying who hacked into it.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know who had access to my Twitter account is a—as we all know, even my limited knowledge of this technology tells me, you mean somebody else can send Twitters besides you? That‘s a strange thing to be saying—
MATTHEWS: -- for a guy that all of a sudden—
WALSH: Wait. Can I just clarify that just one point?
MATTHEWS: Errol, is that a development? Is that a development, Errol?
LOUIS: No, I mean, it‘s not a development. I mean, it is just a fact. If somebody can guess your password and your—then they can control your Twitter account. There‘s no question about it.
WALSH: Errol, can I just say one other thing besides that?
Lots of politicians have their staff tweet for them. I don‘t know that he does. He seems—it seems to be himself. He is funny. But politicians have multiple people tweeting for them. Multiple people may have access to his computer.
He may be afraid that he is about to out somebody who works for—I‘m not going to—I‘m not going to blame anybody else besides him.
I‘m just saying, that‘s not weird to me. Famous people give people—give their staff access to their Twitter accounts all the time. People‘s friends have access to their Twitter accounts. People have been pranked before. So, you know, the story at the heart of the story is very mysterious.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Joan.
I think it‘s his fault.
Thank you, Joan Walsh. Thank you, Errol Louis.
WALSH: All right, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Guess who is having a field day with the Sarah Palin bus trip? Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, of course. They‘re ahead. This is fun stuff in the “Sideshow.”
You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.” I think we just had the “Sideshow.”
Anyway, first up: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on the traveling circus otherwise known as the Palin bus tour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Palin refused to give reporters her schedule.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don‘t actually know where Palin is heading.
She just won‘t say.
JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”: She‘s in the bus wrapped in the Constitution—
STEWART: -- signed by Sarah Palin. How do you not know where she is going? This is a bus Bret Michaels said was—quote—“a bit much.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE COLBERT REPORT”)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, “THE COLBERT REPORT”: Of course, the lamestream media ambushed Palin within gotcha questions, like, where are you going and why are you doing this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah Palin keeps everybody guessing on her national tour.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What‘s this tour all about?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just what is Sarah Palin up to?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What‘s up with her bus tour?
COLBERT: That‘s the power of Sarah Palin.
COLBERT: No matter what she does, America starts asking, why is this happening?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I will tell you why. You stand next to an elephant, you look small. You stand next to this crop of Republicans, Huntsman, Pawlenty and Mitt Romney, and you look very big indeed. And that‘s the fact.
Up next: The best thing President Obama has going for him in the swing states of Florida and Ohio may just be the very unpopular Republican governors of both of those states. These guys are immediately unlikable, Rick Scott, John Kasich actually help the president—may they—win Florida? Can he win Florida and Ohio because they hate their Republican governors?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
SUE HERERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Sue Herera with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
A major sell-off sparked by more signs of a slowing economic recovery. The Dow Jones industrials plunged nearly 280 points on the trading session, and the S&P 500 30. The Nasdaq tumbled 66.
The selling off started right off the bat on another batch of weak economic data, then accelerated after Moody‘s said it thinks there is a good chance Greece will default on its debt. It cut Greece‘s bond rating to junk status, citing the increased risk of restructuring and missed targets for budget reforms.
And then came word of surprisingly weak private sector jobs growth in May, only 38,000 jobs, well short of the 175,000 that analysts were expecting.
And U.S. manufacturing slowed much more than expected to its lowest level since September of ‘09, the sharpest drop since 1989. But generating at least some positive attention today, travel site Expedia said it is teaming up with deal-of-the-day site Groupon to offer discounted travel deals.
And that‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Newly elected Republican governors in crucial 2012 swing states have become so unpopular, that they could wind up being President Obama‘s secret weapon as he runs for reelection next year.
Ted Strickland is former Ohio governor. And Bob Graham is former Florida governor and senator from that state, and is the author of a new novel called “Keys to the Kingdom.”
Governors, thank you much for joining us.
BOB GRAHAM (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: I want you to look at these poll number about the guys who are office right now in those states. Republican Governor Rick Scott‘s approval rating—now, this is in the toilet -- 29 percent approval rating, 57 percent disapproval.
What do you make of that, Governor Graham? What is the story about the governor down there so quick so hated?
GRAHAM: Florida‘s a state that likes things to be stable and predictable. We have had some policies that have carried through under Democratic and Republican governors to improve the quality of our schools, to diversify our economy, and to invest in our quality of life through the environment.
Governor Scott has broken all those patterns. And I believe the public is surprised and is reacting negatively to that surprise.
MATTHEWS: Is he a radical right-winger?
GRAHAM: I don‘t know what that term means, but he is—
MATTHEWS: Well, does it apply to this guy? He seems like one to me.
GRAHAM: Yes, he is out of the main—he is out of the mainstream of Florida.
Remember, Florida has had Republican governors for the last 12 years. We have had Republican legislatures for most of that time. And now we have a supermajority Republican legislature. So when the governor vetoes a budget and describes—or line-item vetoes—and describes things as frivolous and not in the public interest, he is not pointing at Democrats. He is pointing at his own party.
MATTHEWS: Yes. It seems to me that he doesn‘t want the railroad down there between Tampa and Orlando. He doesn‘t want any development in that state. It is a young state, as you know. I don‘t get—let me go to the state of Ohio, which is always a key state in deciding presidential elections.
John Kasich, 38 percent approval, what do you make of that, Governor Strickland?
TED STRICKLAND (D), FORMER OHIO GOVERNOR: Well, you know, what—what Governor Graham has said about Florida, he could have said about Ohio. We are a centrist state.
We are a state that shuns extremes, both to the left and to the right. And I believe this new administration is well outside the mainstream of Ohio political thought. They are radical. They have attacked the working class. They have attacked labor unions. They are underfunding education.
And I think Ohioans are responding, Chris, to what they perceive to be an agenda that is extreme.
STRICKLAND: Ohio is a centrist kind of state, and this administration is far from centrist.
MATTHEWS: You know, Governors, you know, it reminds me—I have been working on this—in history the immediate period right after World War II, when the Republicans come into the Congress, that 80th Congress that Truman bashed. They thought they had a mandate for all kinds of crazy things.
And they had to put the term limit in for president, which is fine, but they did all kinds of agenda things—
STRICKLAND: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: -- all kinds of getting even. And it turned out they were smashed out of there in two years because they just misread their mandate.
Governor Graham first, and then Governor Strickland, is this what happened with these Republicans? People wanted to see some restraint on spending. They‘re worried about the economy. And these guys went in there and picked up on the old Republican agenda of labor bashing, of going after public employees—I guess they are going after the trial lawyers next—just the old Republican agenda that they could have done any administration, and they are just out of touch with the people.
What do you think, Governor Graham?
GRAHAM: Chris, I think you are absolutely right that what the people are really concerned with today are jobs and those things that are going to contribute to long-term economic well-being, such as an investment in education, protecting our environment.
And these governors have gotten off onto a very bizarre agenda of issues. We had one in Florida where we now are prohibiting doctors to talk -- particularly pediatricians—to talk to their patients about gun safety in the home. That‘s how far out of the mainstream our state government has gotten.
MATTHEWS: Gun safety is a no-no, huh? You can‘t talk about that even with mothers.
Let me—let me go to Governor Strickland on this.
Ohio is, to me, the ultimate regular state of the union, the regular -
it‘s sort of like the true north of American life to me, Ohio.
STRICKLAND: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: John Glenn country. It doesn‘t seem like right-wing country to me.
STRICKLAND: Well, it isn‘t it is a state that tradition has voted for Republicans, more often than Democrats but John Kasich is no George Voinovich or Bob Taft. He is—he is well to the right and he—you know, I mean, this is a guy who calls a police officer an idiot for giving him a ticket.
He says, you know, I‘ve got a bus. You can get on the bus with me. If you don‘t get on my bus, I‘m going to take that bus and I‘m going to run over you.
He declares war on public employees and the right to collectively bargain. And he‘s made teachers and nurses and firefighters and police officers the enemy. But these are the servants of our state.
MATTHEWS: I understand that. I think, in the end, Schwarzenegger made that mistake when he came into governorship. There‘s a time for change out there and he read that as a time to go after nurses, teachers and firefighters and he got blown away on that one.
Let me ask you about your state and the president. It seems like in both these states, Ohio and Florida, the two states we‘re talking about, sort of these swing states in all presidential elections these days, the president is picking up here. Look, he was down in your state, Ohio. Now, he‘s up 49-45. He‘s up even more in Florida 51-43.
You first, Governor Strickland, why is Obama coming back? Is this Medicare? Is this bin Laden? What is this?
STRICKLAND: Well, it‘s Medicare, it‘s bin Laden and it‘s the auto industry. The president saved the auto industry and that‘s been a huge, huge positive for Ohio.
So, President Obama and Senator Sherrod Brown are both likely to be reelected, in my judgment, in large part because of the extreme nature of the current administration. I think it‘s going to help the president. It‘s going to help Sherrod Brown.
And I think—I think we may even win back the Ohio House of Representatives in 2012.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Governor Strickland, so much.
And governor, it‘s great seeing you again, Governor Graham, the novelist. What‘s the name of your book?
GRAHAM: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: What‘s the name of your book?
GRAHAM: “Keys to the Kingdom,” Chris.
MATTHEWS: “Keys to the Kingdom,” sounds like my religion there.
Anyway, thank you very much.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next—sounds very Catholic. Up next: Republicans are willing to send the economy into a tailspin. They‘re refusing to raise the debt ceiling.
Is this going to be the second Greece? At least not without spending cuts. We‘ll see. You got to wonder about this brinksmanship going on here now about whether we‘re going to tax—raise taxes or whatever. Let‘s talk about this when we come right back.
MATTHEWS: Republicans criticized President Obama‘s bailout of the Detroit auto industry, but the bailout actually ended up costing much less than expected. According to the president‘s National Economic Council, the government will lose less than 20 percent of that $80 billion bailout. That‘s less than $16 billion and the bailout was projected to cost three times that.
It‘s another piece of good news about the auto industry and it comes a week after Chrysler paid off nearly $6 billion in government loans.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
Are Republicans willing to risk another economic meltdown just to prove a political point about the country‘s debt? Last night, Republicans leaders held a faux vote on hiking the debt ceiling that they urged their own members to reject. The defeated measure was staged to show Democrats that spending cuts will need to be part of any deal to raise the borrowing limit.
And when House Republicans met with President Obama today at the White House, Congressman Paul Ryan, architect of the plan to overhaul Medicare, reportedly told the president that he hasn‘t shown leadership. Here‘s what he said when asked about that statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN: I just said we got to take on this debt, and if we demagogue each other at the leadership level, then we‘re never going to take on our debt. We have a debt crisis coming. We want to deal with this.
If we want to grow jobs in the economy, we got to get our spending under control. We got to get our debt under control. And if we try to demagogue each other‘s attempts to do that, then we‘re not applying the kind of political leadership we need to get this economy going and get this debt under control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, this is getting hot.
Congressman Marsha Blackburn is a Republican from Tennessee.
Congresswoman, thank you for joining us. We got a lot to talk about.
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN ®, TENNESSEE: Good to be with you.
MATTHEWS: Three big questions. One is the debt ceiling.
I know you are watching what‘s happening in Greece right now. That country is headed towards freefall. We‘re all watching it as a standard.
What happens if we don‘t get a dealt ceiling bill passed between now and August? What‘s the big danger? Are you worried we don‘t get it done? And if we don‘t get it done, are you worried we‘re going to have a real catastrophe like we had in 2007 and 2008?
BLACKBURN: Chris, I‘m one of the members that has been worried about the out-of-control spending and the debt my entire time that I‘ve been in Congress. Every year, I have brought forward amendments that would actually cut what we are spending.
Do we need to address this? Absolutely we do. I think that those generations that have caused this debt should be the ones to address it.
Certainly, in the last five years, we have seen our public debt, the debt that is held by the public, double. And it is increasing at 15 percent a year. It is time to get that under control.
MATTHEWS: Well, where were the Republicans when we went into two wars, ignoring the cost of those wars, including one that was an option of war in Iraq, maybe Afghanistan was a necessary war to go after bin Laden. At least, there was the goal in the first place.
How about the prescription drug bill which wasn‘t funded? What about all the spending bills that Congress passed and President Bush—W. Bush never vetoed.
So, you have three issues—the wars, prescriptions and all these spending bills, and your caucus never tried to stop that like you‘re doing now.
BLACKBURN: As I said, I‘m one of the members every year who has talked about—consistently talked about spending. You and I have discussed this on your program. It is time for us to say the spending is out of control, the spending has to be addressed, we have to address the debt. We cannot kick this can down the road to future generations.
If we do, what we are doing is capping and trading our children‘s future to those nations that own our debt. That is not an acceptable option.
We need to put it all on the table and say, OK, let‘s move forward with how we are going to address this. To just raise the debt ceiling and not require spending restraints, not require a balanced budget amendment—
BLACKBURN: -- not require spending caps, not address entitlements.
It‘s a wrong thing to do.
MATTHEWS: What about the Bush tax cuts, should we look at them again?
BLACKBURN: We all know that now is the wrong time to increase taxes -
MATTHEWS: Well, then, you‘re saying put everything in the table and now you‘re taking revenues off the table?
BLACKBURN: No, I‘m not taking revenues off the table. I am telling you what you cannot do in this kind of economy is to raise taxes. You can talk to economist after economist, and they‘re going to tell you that.
Item number one is get the spending under control. You also have to address the trust fund issues, which is Medicare and Social Security, and the entitlement issues. Primarily that is Medicaid. That is an orderly process.
What the American people are looking for is leadership and courage to say we‘ve got to get this done.
MATTHEWS: I agree. Thank you.
BLACKBURN: The clock is running out. Get it done.
MATTHEWS: Marsha Blackburn, congresswoman from Tennessee, thank you so much for joining us.
BLACKBURN: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: And here‘s how Speaker John Boehner characterized that meeting with the president today and the other Republicans. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We had, I think, a very productive meeting with the president today. And we appreciate the opportunity to be here at the president‘s request, to have a conversation about jobs and the deficit and the debt that‘s facing our country.
This morning I released signed by 150 economists who agreed that if we‘re going to get serious about creating jobs in America, we‘ve got to reduce some of the uncertainty. Some of that uncertainty‘s caused by the giant debt that is facing our country. And the fact if we‘re going to raise the debt limit, the spending cuts should exceed the increase in the debt limit. Otherwise, it‘ll serve to cost us jobs in our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver is a Democrat from Missouri.
Congressman Cleaver, a couple of questions. What do you think Eric Cantor‘s plan to demand cuts in the government budget in order to help the people here in Joplin?
REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: I think Mr. Cantor probably misspoke. I can‘t—I refuse to believe that‘s what he was actually trying to say. We have 134 people dead in Joplin, Missouri, and devastation like we‘ve never seen in any city in Missouri in its state‘s history. So, if the federal government does not have a role to play in helping people survive, then we don‘t need a federal government.
And, I guess the sad thing would be is that we didn‘t get an offset before we went to the aid of the Haitians and we didn‘t get an offset when we went to the aid of the Japanese after the tsunami. And, unfortunately, it looks like we‘re going to do an offset. But I think the way it was presented to the American public was probably not as compassionate as I believe Mr. Cantor is.
MATTHEWS: OK. I‘ve got a question about a larger question. Even in the dangers of earthquakes, tornadoes, and whatever, and this is this whole question of another Greece. We‘re getting warnings from Geithner, the secretary of treasury, if this Congress doesn‘t get its act together, doesn‘t reach an agreement on the debt ceiling before this August deadline, we‘re going to have a real problem with our credit in the world. The United States won‘t be paying its bills.
You have Greece, you know, the biggest news out a few minutes ago, just saw it. Greece may well default. Here‘s a major country in Europe. Do we want to follow them?
CLEAVER: Absolutely not. We do have one difference between the U.S. and Greece and that is we have a central bank, which can print currency almost unlimitedly, whereas Greece doesn‘t have a central bank. The central bank is actually the European bank. And they can‘t print the euros.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But you want to start printing money like Mugabe is doing it?
MATTHEWS: I mean, we can‘t do that either.
CLEAVER: No, we‘ll have $100 bill worth 35 cents.
CLEAVER: But I do think that we cannot have a technical default or any kind of default because it will cause the United States to lose its place among the nations around the world. Our currency‘s now the preferred currency of the world. It‘s hailed back by most countries when they make big purchases like oil or airlines.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
CLEAVER: And so we can‘t do that. It will damage the United States internally.
MATTHEWS: Great. Thank you so much. I agree with you completely. We‘ve got to get this done. Thank you, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri.
When we return, “Let Me Finish” with why Mitt Romney is running away from his own record that he should be running on. You can‘t do it this way, Mr. Romney.
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MATTHEWS: “Let Me Finish” tonight with the long tradition of moderate Republican governors of Massachusetts.
I speak with some experience. I went to college in Massachusetts, in Holy Cross, and worked for half dozen years as top aide to Tip O‘Neill.
Let me say that modern Republicanism is up in the blood in the commonwealth of Massachusetts because back in my lifetime, to Leveret Saltonstall, and Henry Cabot Lodge and Edward Brooke in the U.S. Senate, but especially in the governor‘s chair. We‘ve had popular Republican governors in the commonwealth.
You know who‘s part of that tradition of moderate Republican governors of Massachusetts? The guy who is announcing for president tomorrow, Mitt Romney.
When he served at the statehouse up on Beacon Hill, Romney was the leader of the effort to ensure that people take responsibility for their health care. He made it a law to carry health insurance just like you have to carry car insurance. It‘s to protect other people from having to pay for you when society has to step in and fill in for what the individual failed to do. “The Boston Globe” just did a glowing account of Romney‘s fine leadership in this effort.
Mitt Romney is now running for president on the basis of his executive experience as governor of Massachusetts. Yet, he is not running on his record of achievement in those four years. That‘s what gives the candidacy the inauthentic look. He‘s not running on what he‘s done, but in a strange way, running from it.
If he had not been governor of Massachusetts, he would not have the foundation to run for president. Yet, we see him working tirelessly to kick that foundation of accomplishment out from under him.
This country needs moderate Republicans again. They are a bridge between the left and right of this country. More than that, such men and women over the years have been among the true producers of positive government in America.
So, here‘s a thought: if some people believe that positive government is out of fashion, being a solid moderate Republican is out of step, then maybe Governor Romney should take them on instead of taking on his own record of solid governmental service.
I have a feeling that is unlikely to happen. And that as much as anything explains the cloud cuckoo land that has become the Republican presidential nominating process. A land of Palins, Bachmanns, Newts and who knows what.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.
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