Guests: Ed Rendell, Michael Steele, Karen Finney, Pete Williams, Brian Sullivan, David Corn, Alex Wagner, Roger Simon, Liz Benjamin
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Number nine. Number nine. Number nine.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews down in Washington.
Leading off tonight: If the opposition to Obama wasn‘t so zany, so dreadful, so both (ph), this is what we‘d be talking about. More than any Republican presidential candidate, the one thing President Obama should fear the most is the unemployment rate, and today it ticked up to 9.1 percent.
Mitt Romney, creating a new form of birtherism, called Obama‘s policies “European.” Why can‘t the Republicans focus on the president‘s job performance instead of his origins? Our top story tonight, President Obama‘s race against the unemployment number.
Plus, former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards was indicted today on six counts of taking illegal campaign contributions, which prosecutors say he used to cover up his extramarital affair and baby. Edwards decided to reject a plea agreement and fight the charges in court.
So is this—my question—a legitimate use of campaign law?
And Sarah Palin‘s triumphant, media-grabbing week speaks volumes about the Tea Party power and the weakness of the regular Republican field. Not only did she big-foot Mitt Romney and eclipse his announcement up in New Hampshire, she practically knocked him off the front page of New Hampshire‘s main newspaper. How‘s that for a final insult to the GOP front-runner?
Also, if Congressman Anthony Weiner is really an innocent victim in this mess, then why didn‘t he turn to the FBI or to the Capitol Police? Instead, he seems to be mishandling his Twitter scandal at every turn. The latest debacle, his office called the cops yesterday on a reporter who showed up and dared to ask him a question.
“Let Me Finish” tonight with the best example of sticking to it, no matter how bad things get. I caught the NBA game last night.
Let‘s start with the new unemployment number, 9.1 percent, up a tenth of a point, and what it means for the president. Ed Rendell‘s the former governor of Pennsylvania and the former chairman of the DNC, and Michael Steele‘s the former chairman of the RNC—dueling banjos.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Both are MSNBC political analysts. Gentlemen, it‘s an honor to have you both on tonight on this Friday.
Governor Rendell, for the defense, you know, the president had a top economic adviser name Christine Romer. She‘s no longer with the team. But before she left, she said he will have it down to 8 percent by the end of the first year. Does the president have a problem by his own standards with 9.1 percent ticking up unemployment rate?
ED RENDELL (D-PA), FMR. GOV., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, sure. I think your analysis at the outset of the show is right because no Republican candidate with beat Barack Obama, only the economy can beat him. But there is a very good, cogent answer, and that is was he took over as president, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month, Chris. Over the last several months, we‘ve average close to 200,000 jobs gained each and every month.
That‘s a turnaround of almost a million jobs a month, and it‘s directly related to the stimulus, to the auto bail-out, to TARP, which did, in fact, stabilize the financial system of this country—and I think people are coming begrudgingly to that conclusion—to the tax cuts—there were $350 billion worth of tax cuts in the original stimulus plan.
So I think there‘s a good argument. And the president‘s next argument is, Look, I‘ve charted out an investment future for this country. We should invest in a robust infrastructure bill. We should invest in renewable and alternative energy. We should invest in research and development. Those are the things that are important and will create good, well-paying jobs. And it‘s the Republicans that have stymied that.
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s your opportunity, Michael. It‘s still 9.1 percent. What are going to you make of it?
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIRMAN: Well, I think the governor just laid out the indictment against the president because all those things that were done, over a trillion dollars in the last year, and the year before that, another trillion dollars of spending, where are we? The unemployment number is going in the wrong direction. That‘s because still the people who create the jobs in this country, not the government, the business owners—I don‘t care what size they are or where they are, they‘re the ones that are really driving this thing. They‘re not having the confidence of getting this job done. They don‘t have the confidence in the president‘s policy. There‘s still an uncertainty after all the spending that we‘ve done.
MATTHEWS: I agree. Look—
RENDELL: Michael, you‘ve got to be correct in the facts. The stimulus wasn‘t $870 billion in spending, it included $350 billion in tax cuts, the same tax cuts that Republicans had been calling for.
STEELE: Well, wait a minute. Governor, are you for tax cuts or against tax cuts? Because now, if you‘re going to lay out the tax cuts in the stimulus bill as a good thing, then how are calling for more tax cuts now a bad thing?
RENDELL: No, what I‘m saying—
STEELE: See, this is the—this is the problem. This is the disingenuous—
MATTHEWS: He said the president had a mix of spending increase and tax cuts, as a mix. Is that wrong?
STEELE: Yes, but at the same—that‘s why we have deficits. You cannot spend and cut taxes—
MATTHEWS: OK, that‘s ideological. I like this, Governor. Let‘s take a look at the latest tracking poll of the president. Despite this number, which no friend to the president, of 9.1 percent, he‘s at 53 percent. He hasn‘t been this high in a long time. He‘s been at 50 percent most of the time, going up this time. His disapproval number‘s down to 39, the lowest it‘s been.
I want to jump ahead here to Newt—to Mitt Romney. I don‘t understand why he‘s running for president. He doesn‘t look like he wants to be president. I know he was born for it. But here‘s Romney‘s latest—somebody wrote the word “salvo” on the teleprompter. Let‘s go with this. I don‘t think he knows how to do a salvo against the president. He accuses him of having a foreign economic policy. Now, this is white-collar birtherism. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Folks wonder how is that President Obama was so wrong? How could he make so many mistakes related to our economy? And I happen to think that in part, he took his inspiration from Europe. Now, why do I say that? Well, because when the Europeans were in trouble economically, they spent more money and borrowed more money. And that‘s what he did. He has been awfully European. You know what? European policies didn‘t work there. They sure as heck aren‘t going to work here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK, last time around—let‘s keep race out of it for 5 seconds here. Last time around, they accused John Kerry of being French, and they said it again and—oh, no! This is not a funny thing, Michael. There‘s a weird thing about your political party. It‘s nativist. It is weird. Obama—you still got a big chunk of Republicans say he wasn‘t born—he was from Africa or somewhere. Now you got this—this sophisticated, prep-school-educated governor of Massachusetts out there saying, “He‘s awfully European.” What in hell does that mean?
STEELE: Well, it means—
MATTHEWS: To an average guy out there, what does it mean?
STEELE: The average guy out there gets it, apparently, more than you do.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t get it at all. I just consider it a slur. But go ahead.
STEELE: It‘s not a slur. It‘s a recognition of his philosophical orientation that‘s much more—
MATTHEWS: He said he‘s inspired by Europe.
STEELE: -- much more geared towards a European-style model of—of -
MATTHEWS: No, he said he‘s inspired by Europe. What does that mean?
STEELE: Well, that‘s the point!
STEELE: Inspired by the programs and the policies that—that—
MATTHEWS: Governor, would you translate what he‘s saying into what—what game is—
MATTHEWS: I like the fact—you two fellows are pros, and you‘re arguing about economics. Should we do a tax cut, a mix of tax cuts, spending increase. What‘s the smart move? That‘s good American argument, and we‘ll be doing that when we‘re a thousand years old.
MATTHEWS: But going into this—the origins of the guy—Governor Rendell, help me here. Why does a sophisticated WASPy Republican call the president of the United States European? What in the world does that mean?
RENDELL: Well, first of all, let me say—
RENDELL: -- that Michael has always been better than most of the people in his party. He‘s never resorted to that. But this is just name calling. He could have said, Michael, The president spends too much money. The president hasn‘t solved our economic problems. He doesn‘t have to use what‘s clearly a slur designed to ignite Americans‘ anti-French, anti-European feelings. They‘ve got to attack Barack Obama on policy. If they don‘t do that, they shouldn‘t run for president, plain and simple as that.
This is America. Barack Obama is as American as you are, Michael. He‘s as American as I am. He‘s as American as Chris is. Nobody complained about him not being American when he ordered those SEALs to take out Osama bin Laden, right? Nobody did.
He‘s American. Stop this stuff. Michael, you should speak up and tell your people to stop it.
STEELE: Well, yes, I had that ability at one time, but—
RENDELL: Well, you still do! You still do.
STEELE: But—but—I think—I think that this is an overreach here by you—
MATTHEWS: Want more? OK. Here‘s more of Romney. Tell me—I‘m going to give you another shot.
STEELE: You‘re giving me another shot. All right. Here we go.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s Romney, said the president never had a job and was elected because he was “well spoken.”
MATTHEWS: Let‘s listen. This is—this guy from 1953, or what?
Let‘s listen to this guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: We elected Barack Obama, a guy we didn‘t know terribly well, who didn‘t have a very extensive record, no experience in the private sector, no experience in leadership, no experience really in negotiations. And we said, Let‘s give this guy a chance because he was so well spoken and promised a lot of things we liked.
Now three years later, into his fourth (ph) term (ph), we don‘t have to just look at the promises, we can look at the record. And the truth is that Barack Obama has failed America. And I believe it‘s time to have someone who‘s actually had a job do the job of getting jobs for the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So what do you make of that phrase? You know, Chris Rock -
the governor—Chris Rock is so funny on this! I mean, years ago I saw him do a routine, where Chris Rock says, There‘s an African-American guy going for a job or something, said, Oh, he‘s so well spoken. He said (INAUDIBLE) supposed to be well spoken. He‘s a college guy! What does he -- “well spoken”?
MATTHEWS: I can‘t do it as well as Rock.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of that phrase?
STEELE: I hate it, OK?
MATTHEWS: OK. Good.
STEELE: I hate it when I hear people refer to African-Americans who clearly have the gravitas to stand toe to toe with anybody as “articulate.”
STEELE: You know? You know? But look, the reality of it is—
MATTHEWS: Was this guy out of touch?
STEELE: No, I think he‘s out of touch. I think it‘s—I think he‘s just expressing what a lot of people out there believe about the president, at one level or another, that yes, I mean, he was a guy who came to the table as a two-term state senator, ran for the presidency of the United States after about 12 or 18 months in the Senate. And that‘s the level of what he brings to the table.
RENDELL: Chris, I‘m amazed. Abraham Lincoln is considered the greatest Republican president in history, maybe the greatest president in our history. Do you know what his public experience was? He was a one-term state representative and one-term U.S. congressman, less experience than Barack Obama had.
STEELE: And Governor, I‘ll ask you the question—
RENDELL: And he was a great president.
STEELE: Do you think that is, you know, the standard by which we‘re going to elect presidents in the future?
STEELE: I think that‘s changed. And that‘s the only argument. It clearly didn‘t stop—
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s go—
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go the question—
STEELE: -- do with that.
MATTHEWS: This is the ad hominem. Paul Ryan, who I have to respect -
I don‘t think he‘s right on Medicare, but he may be along the right lines. Something has to be done about Medicare. We know that. We have a more complete picture now of the exchange that went on between the congressman from Wisconsin and President Obama on Wednesday. Ryan accused the president of mischaracterizing his Medicare overhaul plan and asked him to ease up on the demagoguery. And here‘s how he described it. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN: I just said we got 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 and 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 growing and get this debt under control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Fair enough. In response, President Obama said that he was no stranger to outlandish depictions, and then fired back this. “I‘m the death panel-supporting socialist may not have been born here president.”
So there‘s the president reminding everybody how he‘s been demagogued by your party.
STEELE: Absolutely. And I think—I think both men make the right point at this point in time. I think the American people are fed up with this craziness. The name calling and the bullying is not getting the job done. Right now, you have an economy that is coming up against a wall. And the question the people out there tonight as they watch this program are asking themselves, What are you going to do on Monday morning when you get back to the White House and you get to Congress about my husband, my spouse, my children having a job the next day? If you can‘t answer that question, a pox on both your houses. And that‘s been the genesis of what you see—
MATTHEWS: They‘d probably be saying you‘re a better candidate that Romney would be. But your thoughts, Governor?
RENDELL: Well, I—
MATTHEWS: I can‘t say “well spoken.” It sounds stupid. But I think that was—I do think that Ryan and you—and you guys all deal in policy. Governor, you‘re a policy wonk. I mean, policy‘s where you‘re at. I mean, I don‘t know why this debate‘s not about what you guys were having about five minutes ago. Your thoughts?
MATTHEWS: Wouldn‘t it be a great debate, taxes versus spending cuts -
MATTHEWS: -- and the whole thing?
RENDELL: Absolutely. And we can have that debate and we can talk about how Bill Clinton raised taxes on the top 2 percent and we had the best job growth in the last 50 years. George Bush cut taxes on the same group, and job growth went down the toilet. We could talk about all those things.
But Michael is right. What we ought to be talking about on Monday is a robust infrastructure bill that will rebuild the American infrastructure that‘s crumbling as we speak and create 2.5 million jobs. We should be talking about investing in energy, creating an American independence—energy-independent strategy that will create jobs. That‘s what we should be talking about, and we‘re not.
STEELE: Hey, Governor—
STEELE: Governor, I think what we should be talking about on Monday morning—all that you laid out is very nice. You know, if we can get those government contracts to build roads, great. But what I want to talk about on Monday morning is how does the local grocer allow him or herself the opportunity to go into the marketplace and to hire again?
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, gentlemen.
RENDELL: You‘re welcome.
MATTHEWS: By the way, your governors, Christie in New Jersey and that guy Rick whatshisname down in Florida—
MATTHEWS: What a loser that guy is, by the way! He‘s against the railroad and Christie‘s against the tunnel. So don‘t tell me your party‘s for infrastructure. They‘ve been “no” men all along. They are for nothing! Anyway, thank you—
RENDELL: They used to be for infrastructure, Chris. They used to be.
MATTHEWS: Lincoln built the railroads!
STEELE: We don‘t have the money to do it!
RENDELL: Yes, we do!
MATTHEWS: You‘re the Ebenezer Scrooge—
RENDELL: It‘s in Iraq and Afghanistan! That‘s where it is.
MATTHEWS: And go see Bernanke. He‘ll make you some money. Thank you, Ed Rendell. Thank you, Governor. Thanks. Have a nice weekend, Michael Steele. Gentlemen, thank you.
Coming up, the dramatic fall from grace for John Edwards. This is very murky story and we‘re going to keep very wide open about what is really going on here. I‘m not sure if this is a real case or not. The former senator and vice presidential candidate pled not guilty today. He‘s charged with soliciting campaign funds and then covering—to cover up an extramarital affair. I think he was clearly covering it up. I‘m not sure these were campaign funds. Let‘s get to the politics and the law with the prosecution of this former presidential candidate by an appointee of George W. Bush. Let‘s find out what‘s really going on here.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Wow! President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner are making nice, which is good. We just got word from the White House that they‘re going to play a golf game on June 18th, two weeks from tomorrow. No word yet where they‘re going to play.
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), FMR. SENATOR, FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE: There‘s no question that I‘ve done wrong. And I take full responsibility for having done wrong. And I will regret for the rest of my life the pain and the harm that I‘ve caused to others. But I did not break the law. And I never, ever thought I was breaking the law. Thank you all very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Looks like the guy hasn‘t aged a bit.
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was, of course, two-time congressional candidate—presidential candidate and former senator, U.S. senator, John Edwards. Earlier today, he was indicted by a grand jury. Edwards is accused of receiving nearly a million dollars in illegal campaign funds and using the money to hide his mistress and their baby out of fear of running—ruining his 2008 run for the White House.
Pete Williams is the best there is on this, NBC News justice correspondent. Karen Finney is pretty good, too, an MSNBC political analyst and a columnist for “The Hill” newspaper—I‘m just teasing—and a former spokesperson for the Edwards family. So you have a different angle on this.
Let‘s start with the law. We‘ll get to the larger politics of this. It strikes me that their main case a conspiracy, that Bunny Mellon, the contributor, and the other fellow, Fred—what‘s his last name—Baron—
MATTHEWS: -- gave the money to help him out of an embarrassment, a child he had with this woman, and it was not perceived by them to be a campaign contribution, but the courts—or rather, the Justice Department is claiming that it is.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: That‘s exactly it. The whole question here was what was this money for? The government says if it had become public that he had a mistress and fathered a child with her, it would have destroyed his campaign. He was, after all, the government says, someone who presented himself as a family man, although I think even if he hadn‘t, it would probably still have destroyed a campaign.
And so they say this—this whole thing, it is all about—it‘s—it was campaign money. It was intended to prevent the campaign from having to deal with it. If it had become public, the government says, they would have had to spend a lot of campaign time and resources fighting this.
So, they say that this is a campaign contribution. Now, remember, it‘s important to remember they‘re not saying that you can‘t spend money to conceal that you have a mistress. They aren‘t saying that you can‘t have a mistress. What they are saying is, the people who gave the money, nearly a million dollars, $925,000, exceeded the individual campaign contribution limit, which, at the time was—
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s try something else legally. Under that theory of the law, suppose he had a cousin who had tremendous health problems and he couldn‘t pay for it out of his own money because his wife didn‘t want to do it. And he said, I need this. This is just going to completely distract me and the whole campaign. My cousin is in such bad shape. I need this financial help from Mrs. Mellon. Give me the money.
If there is no sex involved, no intrigue involved whatever, would it still be a case that was being brought by the Justice Department?
WILLIAMS: Possibly, and for this reason.
MATTHEWS: Or is it just because it is scurrilous, it has something to do with sex?
WILLIAMS: One of the—I mean, who knows. One of the tests here is whether you had a previous relationship with somebody that had been giving you gifts in the past.
MATTHEWS: I see.
WILLIAMS: The thing you said, you know, the keep me from—keep this from being a distraction, that might throw it in.
But it is important to say that the government‘s theory in the case here has never been used. And this is a point that Edwards‘ lawyers are making. This is a novel application of the campaign law. And so while the case may look strong on paper—and many legal experts say it does—it‘s never been tested in court.
Suppose—well, you start on this. Every time I read about a politician, I hear about him staying at somebody—wealthy person‘s house.
And they stay at their house. They may be with them or not. They may let them stay there alone for a while. And this goes on all the time. Under this theory of the law, that‘s a campaign contribution because it gives the guy R&R during the campaign. It allows him to take a break that would help him be more exciting during the campaign.
WILLIAMS: It might well be a campaign—a contribution.
MATTHEWS: See, but that has never been interpreted that way, has it?
WILLIAMS: Oh, sure.
MATTHEWS: Has it?
WILLIAMS: Oh, yes.
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You would have to determine what is the value of staying at their house, how many hours, all of that, to determine whether or not it was a contribution and was it over—
MATTHEWS: They never filed this as a campaign contribution. They never said here‘s—of course they know the limit is $2,300, so it couldn‘t have been—
MATTHEWS: So when did it become..
MATTHEWS: What is your political view? Do you think it‘s politics in this prosecutor? Was it just a Republican U.S. attorney going after this guy, sticking around to do the dirty work for the R‘s?
FINNEY: You know—
MATTHEWS: I‘m asking you.
FINNEY: No, I know you are.
MATTHEWS: Two-and-a-half to make this case.
FINNEY: Well, obviously, I think they wanted to take their time to make sure they had a good case. Whether or not they do I guess is what we‘re going to find out.
I don‘t know. I don‘t—it‘s disturbing if it‘s true that this would actually create a whole new sort of way around campaign finance laws in theory, right? Because you could say, well, the money wasn‘t for my campaign. It was for my sick cousin. And I think that‘s part of the concern.
MATTHEWS: Yes. You know how this struck me? And I‘m not fan of Edwards ever. I thought he was a little too slick. I think he is slick as a trial lawyer too. I think he works the older rural people to his advantage. But that‘s—that‘s just a prejudicial judgment, which I admit right up front.
MATTHEWS: But this looks like one of those things you read about in Third World countries, or in India or somewhere, Pakistan, where they get somebody who has been out of office a couple years, get them while they‘re down, hit them with some incredible charge with campaigning funding law that nobody has ever heard of before, and put them away for a while.
It just looks like revenge against the party, against somebody that lost the election.
WILLIAMS: Well, remember, while the U.S. attorney is a Republican, he is a holdover from the Bush administration, the head of the criminal division, who was out front on this today, is Lanny Breuer, a former lawyer for President Clinton and a longtime Democrat.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes.
WILLIAMS: So there is certainly bipartisan involvement here.
MATTHEWS: Do we know what president‘s view is towards Edwards, who he ran against?
WILLIAMS: I certainly don‘t.
MATTHEWS: No. Do you?
FINNEY: No, I don‘t think that—
MATTHEWS: No bad blood there?
FINNEY: I don‘t think so. Look—and I think—beyond the legal implications, I think from the perspective of Edwards himself, I think he wants—would he views this as an opportunity to try to clear his name in this process of trying to rehabilitate himself in the aftermath of anything.
FINNEY: Whether or not this case will end up doing that—he may win legally, but he may not—
MATTHEWS: Tough question.
Do you know—can you report now what the plea bargain offer was? Was he given—was he offered something short of jail time? Was he offered disbarment, non-disbarment? I hear he was fighting for his law license.
WILLIAMS: No. No. The government—my understanding is from those who were involved that the government had insisted that he serve some time.
MATTHEWS: Does that include disbarment?
WILLIAMS: I don‘t know about that. But that was a deal-breaker for him.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Because—why do you think?
WILLIAMS: Well, he would be disbarred if he was a convicted felon.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, that‘s true. I didn‘t know that.
WILLIAMS: But you can always get your law license back after a period of time.
MATTHEWS: Was there any way he could have pled to a civil case and turned this into a civil case, rather than a criminal case?
WILLIAMS: Not that I ever heard.
MATTHEWS: They‘re not open to that?
WILLIAMS: Well, as far as I know, that was never an offer available.
MATTHEWS: Now, he has a top lawyer, Greg Craig, we all know, a top guy.
Is this going to be the kind of case that turns on who has got best local guy, or is this going to be a case that is fought in Raleigh court? You know how these things work regionally.
WILLIAMS: Well, Karen may have some views on this too.
I think a jury trial cuts both ways, because you could certainly say this is the big feds trying to come after our local boy. On the other hand, a recent poll shows him to be one of the most unpopular public officials in North Carolina history. So, that could go both ways.
FINNEY: And I think hiring Craig was more a maneuver around I think the whole process of trying to negotiate a deal, right?
You have your guy from D.C. working to try to work that deal out.
That didn‘t actually happen.
FINNEY: And I agree. The problem I think he‘s going to have is again there‘s—it is hard to separate out the legal from your personal emotions about what happened.
We do know that he add an affair. And I think for people to separate those two things out, I understand you have to follow the law, but there is the sort of public—
MATTHEWS: Craig is a good lawyer. I would admit, I think his best case will be, this has never been used this way. Whenever you have a law that‘s never been used this way, I think the jury is going to say, well, why this time?
WILLIAMS: And they are starting that today. That was his point today.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think—well, that‘s where I learned it from.
WILLIAMS: And he‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
It is. It‘s always—I don‘t like original law enforcement.
Anyway, but thank you—although that‘s how they got Capone. Anyway, not the same story.
Pete Williams, thank you. It‘s too great to have you.
WILLIAMS: You‘re welcome.
MATTHEWS: And thank you, Karen Williams.
MATTHEWS: -- Finney.
MATTHEWS: Karen Williams. I know Karen Williams.
Here‘s everything you need to know about the Republican field. The main newspaper in New Hampshire today put Sarah Palin on its front page and bumped the story of Mitt Romney‘s big announcement that he is running for president to the inside.
And wait until you hear Palin‘s history lesson Paul Revere. Talk about originality. It‘s got something to do with the NRA. I don‘t know where she got this stuff from.
Catch the “Sideshow” next.
Karen Finney, thank you for joining us. I got your name wrong.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the “Sideshow.”
First up, as promised, a headline showdown. Mitt Romney may have hoped, even expected to win yesterday‘s news cycle with his rollout in New Hampshire. The hitch, Sarah Palin. She crashed the party with her big bad bus tour.
Today, New Hampshire‘s biggest newspaper, “The Union Leader,” made its verdict. No surprise. Sarah Palin—look at that big picture—gets the big splash, the big photo on the front page with the headline, “Palin Hits the Seacoast,” while Mitt Romney is reduced to the smallest item, a little inset on the page, not at the bottom there. Note at the bottom, by the way, there is a story about a rabid fox that got a gig bigger headline—a rabid fox—than Romney. Romney, you could say, was left buried in the Alaska tundra.
Next up, too good to be true, history according to Sarah Palin. Yesterday, she visited Paul Revere‘s house up in Boston. The Revolutionary War hero is famous, of course, for warning colonists of the approaching British army through his secret midnight ride.
Well, here‘s Palin‘s take.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: He who warned the British that they weren‘t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and making sure, as he‘s riding his horse through town, to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we were going to be armed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Oh, God, I think that speaks for her credentials more than anything else. I remember Steve Schmidt, who ran the campaign for John McCain, saying after meeting with her and listening to her, saying, she doesn‘t know anything.
And, by way, it‘s one if by land, two if by sea, was the signals he was giving about where the British were coming. Everybody knows that.
Up next, Michele Bachmann is closer than ever to running for president. Can she rev up the base the way Sarah Palin has this week?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
BRIAN SULLIVAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: It‘s for your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
And there were no rabid foxes, only red arrows again today. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 97 points, the S&P down 12, and the Nasdaq took a beating, giving up 40 points. It was a negative end to another negative week on Wall Street. It is fifth straight week of losses for the major indexes.
And if you‘re keeping score, that‘s the longest losing streak since 2002. Stocks started out lower on that disappointing jobs number, only 54,000 jobs added in May. Analysts were expecting more than double that amount.
The fall was cushioned somewhat by word that Greece can expect a $160 billion bailout installment in mid-July. And couple of stocks to take note of today. GT Solar shares surged after it received a $460 million order from a Chinese firm. Wal-Mart gained slightly after its board approved a new $15 billion stock buyback program. And electric carmaker Tesla surged after a share offering that will finance developments of its new SUV.
And that‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: We‘re looking forward to winning the triple crown, aren‘t we? Holding on to the House of Representatives, getting a conservative Senate in for the first time under a long time, and finally presenting a change-of-address form to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue—
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BACHMANN: -- because, if we have anything to say about it, Barack Obama will be a one-term president.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was, of course, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann speaking today at the Faith and Freedom Conference, an event organized by former Christian Coalition head the inimitable Ralph Reed.
As she made clear, Republicans‘ goal—the Republicans‘ goal is to make President Obama a one-term president. That‘s their goal.
Who has got the juice to do it?
David Corn is an MSNBC political analyst and Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones.”
Alex Wagner—Alex, you‘re up in New York, I guess. She is with The Huffington Post and an MSNBC political analyst.
Haven‘t seen you in a while, so let me ask you about Michele Bachmann. It seems like there is an interesting kind of a duel going on between the two cultural right figures. Both happen to be female. And I think happen to be is the right way to put it.
But both—they both appeal to that Christian right people and there they are. There‘s Bachmann. I‘m getting the word, as we all are, she is going to announce. Is she what is happening? Is she going to run and join the exciting trio of Huntsman, Pawlenty and Romney?
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The colorful cast of characters.
WAGNER: Look, I would put my money on Bachmann at this than Palin, in all honesty.
And if you‘re looking for the Rosie the Riveter for the conservative set, it is Michele Bachmann. Here is someone who has married for 33 years. She has 28 children, 23 of whom are foster children. But she has a huge brood. She is an evangelical Christian.
And she is taking cues from the Palin camp insofar as she is spouting half-truths and wildly incorrect data. Today at the Faith and Freedom Conference, she was saying that Planned Parenthood is engaging in trafficking of underage girls and women.
She is saying things that conservatives want to hear, and in that way I think has learned some great lessons from Sarah Palin.
MATTHEWS: And she is also jumping on the Bibi Netanyahu bandwagon to the point—not that Netanyahu would ever say this, although it may be his policy. She is basically saying no two-state solution over there.
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: Israel keeps every block of land, which is a good argument, except there are Arabs living on those lands you have to deal with.
CORN: Well, we did a piece a couple of days ago that she is very close to a ministry in Minnesota that believes in end times prophecy. And you know about the key role they give to Israel in that.
MATTHEWS: Which is to be part of the world ending.
CORN: Yes. It was part of the world ending.
MATTHEWS: Do they know that? Has she told her new partners that that
CORN: Well, I think the Israelis feel any friend for now is good.
The interesting thing this week is, if you look what‘s happened the last few days, you see Sarah Palin on the bus and doing God knows what in this so-called quasi-family vacation. What was Michele Bachmann doing? She was speaking before a group of evangelical, social conservative, grassroots advocates, which shows she is far more serious about running. And she has far more to gain.
MATTHEWS: She is ready to run.
CORN: She has far more to gain from running than Sarah Palin does.
MATTHEWS: OK, we all agree. I think she‘s going to be in it. We hear today, guys, she is going to be in that first debate, a CNN debate, later this month.
MATTHEWS: She will probably announce within the next week or two. I agree. She is a legitimate candidate.
MATTHEWS: What is—just before we end that, what is Palin actually doing, except destroying Mitt Romney, so Pawlenty—here is my theory. I have this theory. I want to check it both with you.
Here is how it gets in the intramurals. Palin, her strategy, knock Romney out of the race. Give it to Pawlenty. She endorses Pawlenty to blow Bachmann out of the race. She wants Pawlenty to be the nominee and win in Iowa.
MATTHEWS: You‘re laughing.
MATTHEWS: Write this down, because a year from now you will not be laughing, and you will see that is called history.
MATTHEWS: Alex, you were chuckling. Here‘s the theory. Palin is checking Romney, so that Pawlenty can win and to knock out Bachmann.
CORN: This is a hockey play.
MATTHEWS: Your thoughts?
WAGNER: To neutralize, to neutralize Michele Bachmann.
It is interesting chess, Chris. I mean, I think that there is—there is not room enough in the GOP 2012 race for both Bachmann and Palin. That‘s absolutely for sure. I think Palin is building national—her—
her national profile. I don‘t think she‘s serious at all. You know,
MATTHEWS: Well, wouldn‘t she like it have a candidate that‘s her made man?
WAGNER: Absolutely. She wants to be—
MATTHEWS: If she can make Pawlenty the nominee by knocking out Romney
MATTHEWS: -- she is more powerful than Bachmann if Bachmann loses.
WAGNER: She wants to be a king maker.
MATTHEWS: Stay out of it. If she makes Pawlenty the acceptable Tea Party endorsed candidate, she is ferociously powerful.
CORN: Well, yes. You know, you create a king—you make a king and the king ends up being king.
MATTHEWS: President of the United States.
CORN: President of the United States. And it‘s unclear how much the Republicans are going to need Sarah Palin in the general election. When it comes to the general—
MATTHEWS: She can fake (ph), but she can help pick a running mate that will help them win.
CORN: Yes. But he—
CORN: She won‘t be an asset after that.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s talk about this. Who won the week? Alex, I haven‘t had you on for a while but it looks to me you‘re really to do this. Palin‘s week, does she win or Romney win this week?
WAGNER: I mean, it‘s Palin by a million miles. She‘s the Lady Gaga of American politics right now. She has, you know, high-speed chases going on around the country. She has her version of little monsters. She has the press corps wrapped around her finger. And she‘s not even going to run.
I mean, this is all about—you know, I‘ve used this metaphor before. There is line in “Dirty Dancing,” nobody puts baby in the corner. Well, that‘s Sarah Palin this week. She is owning it. I mean, without question. She undermines Mitt Romney in his hometown paper. I mean, this is a woman who has actually figured it out how to play the lamestream media quite well.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
CORN: Mitt Romney is the big loser.
MATTHEWS: Look at the picture.
CORN: It was going to be his day, his week, no one is talking about him—
MATTHEWS: Did you hear what our friend Howard Fineman said the other day, that he‘s never seen a less enthusiastic crowd? Let me ask you a question to both of you—do you seriously believe that Mitt Romney really, really wants to be president?
CORN: Oh, yes.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) through this.
CORN: No, no. I don‘t think anybody does this if they don‘t want to, especially having done it the first time. No, he wants it. But he‘s just not a very good performer. He doesn‘t connect well. He doesn‘t give a speech well. And he doesn‘t convey the excitement.
Sarah Palin, perhaps the only thing she‘s good at is conveying
excitement and getting buzz. She‘s all buzz and no cattle. And you know,
MATTHEWS: OK, sort of mixed bag.
What do you think of Mitt Romney? Do you think he‘s really running?
WAGNER: Absolutely. Mitt Romney is dotting the I‘s and crossing the T‘s and being the good son.
But at the end of the day, I agree with David. I don‘t think he has it. He doesn‘t have that fire and he doesn‘t know how to—he doesn‘t have the whiz bang that I think you‘re going to have to have to be real contender in this 2012 race.
MATTHEWS: -- favors because I don‘t think he is a politically interested person. I don‘t think anybody is about my age would be saying things like speak about an African-American being well spoken. These lines, we‘ve all gotten rid f that stuff in our vocabulary years away, whether you are right, left or center, you know, you don‘t talk like that. It sounds condescending.
Why—you think he‘s s up-to-date in terms of politics and interest, Alex?
WAGNER: No, but I think that there‘s a real desire on the part of the some establishment Republicans to have a viable or safe candidate because people like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are so wild and so out there. And then you have Newt Gingrich. You have Donald Trump still flirting around the edges of the margins.
You know, they want someone they think that can come in and can win a debate.
CORN: I think he‘s good at representing the 1950s.
MATTHEWS: These words like calling the guy European, saying well-spoken. I mean, he‘s—Chris Rock does a whole number on this.
Anyway, thank you, guys. He‘s really funny. Thank you—but he can do it.
Thank you, David. We can‘t do it. Thank you, David Corn. Thank you, Alex Wagner.
Up next: Congressman Anthony Weiner who‘s been dogged—hot-dogged I think—by questions about a risque tweet isn‘t talking any more. He even called up the cops the other day yesterday to get a reporter out of his offers. I guess she left on her own, but calling the cops is pretty risky business for a politician who likes to get covered by the press.
Latest on the Congressman Weiner when we return.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: First Lady Michelle Obama, along with their daughters Malia and Sasha, will make an official trip to South Africa, Botswana—love to go in that trip—later this month. The first family minus the president will visit Cape Town—there‘s a beautiful city—Johannesburg and Botswana‘s capital city to focus on education and health-related issues.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
All week, New York Congressman Anthony Weiner has made conflicting statements to some extent on the lewd photos sent out by his Twitter account. Yesterday, things got worse. Weiner‘s staff called the Capitol police on a New York CBS affiliates reporter. That was Marcia Kramer, who showed up in the congressman‘s—her she is in the congressman‘s office—trying to get an interview. They said she could be arrested if she refused to leave the office. Kramer said she never refused to leave.
Well, joining us right now is “Politico‘s” Roger Simon. He‘s been writing a lot about this. Well, one great counts a lot for me.
And Liz Benjamin is host of the YNN‘s “Capital Tonight.”
Liz, joins us here. Thank you for coming on the program.
And it‘s a strange story. But, you know, as always it is the way people handle these things. And we‘re not getting any (INAUDIBLE), these any high school stuff, let‘s stay above the level things have gotten to. I‘m serious.
I think the whole tweeting thing is high school. The way it‘s been done. People speaking in 8-year-old English, with Z‘s to the S‘s, and everybody being queued and BTW‘s and everybody does this now.
It‘s like in Hollywood. Everybody dresses like they are 8 years old, OK? I mean, it‘s just the way people are. It‘s the juvenilization (ph) of America.
I think he‘s caught up in this. If I were him, I do one thing the rest of my political career, do politics is stay out of this cute stuff.
Your thought. What‘s going on with Congressman Weiner? Could he possibly lose his political career or is he in such a safe district that he‘s in there no matter how bad this gets?
LIZ BENJAMIN, HOST, YNN‘S “CAPITAL TONIGHT”: You know, here‘s the thing, had he called the Capitol police—he is calling the Capitol police on the wrong person. Had he called the police at the outset, even to just a have a discussion with them, then he would have an out. He could have kept saying, I can‘t discuss that, I‘m working with law enforcement. I can‘t discuss that. I‘m working with law enforcement.
Instead, he opts for this—you know, first, he did every bad option in the book. It‘s like “throw the spaghetti at the wall” PR crisis management effort and it totally flopped, right? First, he says nothing, vague statements. Then he just says way too much. Now, he‘s back to nothing.
In terms of him being defeated, first, you need someone it try and run against him. I mean, he is in a fairly safe district. It‘s not impossible.
The real issue more is 2013 and his desire to run for mayor. That could be a real problem because now he‘s got as you said, you know, with the Twitter and everything, he‘s demonstrated that he hasn‘t gotten over a juvenile temperament and that‘s a problem.
MATTHEWS: Roger, you‘re calm today, from “Politico.” Is it worth getting with my coffee? I savor your stuff. Go ahead.
ROGER SIMON, POLITICO: Thank you.
He is—sending a picture like that is not a crime. Amazingly enough
as long as you send it to an adult. He‘s committed no crime.
Lying to the press isn‘t a crime. In fact, half the public or more probably thinks you do a good thing by lying to the press.
Lying to your wife is not a crime.
Lying to the world is not a crime.
However, if you lie to the Capitol Hill police—you work (ph) with a Capitol Hill cop, yes.
SIMON: And if you lie to the Capitol Hill police, a federal police force, that‘s a crime.
If you lie to the FBI, that‘s a crime. If a federal forest ranger comes by your tent and says did you throw a beer out --
MATTHEWS: So, your point being?
SIMON: My point being, he can‘t talk to the people everyone says he should talk to. He can‘t go to the cops and say, check this out. He can‘t go to the FBI and say check out --
MATTHEWS: Well, what‘s your assumption? Why did you think he can‘t speak plainly and honestly to those officials? Liz?
BENJAMIN: I think he doesn‘t—I don‘t even think that he had to ask them for a probe. He could have just gone and said, hey, I think my account was hacked. To say and then two go to the press and say, I‘ve talked to law enforcement. Look, I‘m not encouraging people to be vague with the press. I mean, God knows I really—it drives me mad when people are vague with the press. And that‘s been the whole point of my job is to get people not to be vague.
I‘m just saying, if you talk to anyone at all in law enforcement, then you‘re not lying when you go to the press and say, hey, I‘ve talked to people in law enforcement.
Now, I mean, in terms of—let‘s be clear, he said he didn‘t send the picture. He has never said that the picture wasn‘t him. That‘s the real problem. With certitude, he cannot say whether or not that photo was him.
Why he can‘t say, hey, I‘ve got embarrassing photos in there and that‘s embarrassing, but somebody hacked my account and I‘d like to get to the bottom of that. I still don‘t understand why he can‘t say that.
MATTHEWS: OK. The problem is people don‘t take pictures now with cameras anymore, they take them with cell phones. It‘s almost immediately potentially viral.
Let‘s take a look here. Here‘s Jon Stewart on Weiner. He called out Weiner on his ill-advised media blitz, questioning the very thing you‘re talking about, Liz. He‘s taking your point here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Did you send that picture to that college student in Washington State?
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: I did not.
JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: Boom! Done! Thank you! A direct answer.
BLITZER: But you‘re not 100 percent sure whether the photo is actually you?
WEINER: What I am going to say is that we‘re doing everything we can to try to answer that question. But we‘re doing an investigation.
STEWART: OK. That last part didn‘t help. An investigation—you know, I‘m no big city detective, but why don‘t you just check inside your pants?
STEWART: Where I believe you keep the item in question. Seriously.
An investigation? Your penis didn‘t rob the Bellagio.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MATTHEWS: Well, I don‘t know where to go with that. He can say things we can‘t. I want to thank you both. I think we‘re done here.
I think, Liz, you‘re right but I think it‘s time to talk to the Capitol police without answering a few basic questions like: is that you, sir?
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, guys. Have a nice weekend. I don‘t think the congressman will.
Roger Simon, great reporting, great writing, as ever a great columnist, my friend. Liz Benjamin, thank you for coming on.
When we return, “Let Me Finish” with why you should never, ever give up. I caught the NBA game last night. I‘m not taking sides here. I‘m just going to say I saw something last night I haven‘t seen in a long time.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: “Let Me Finish” tonight with my newest best example of somebody sticking to the job no matter how bad things look. It used to be the Phillies pitcher in late innings who I identify with—you know, staying with the team down a couple runs in the seventh inning, the poor guy on the mound, (INAUDIBLE) in the old days knew he had to get the other team out right through the ninth inning and he still end up losing. He had to do his best and hope for a break against all common sense that the old Phils would come up with the runs.
Well, my latest and now best example of fighting against the odds and not giving up no matter how far you‘re down, no matter how late in the game, is what I saw last night in the NBA Finals. I‘ve been following the Heat for a while now.
But last night, let me tell you—I‘ve never seen anything like it. Here‘s this guy, Nowitzki, his team down 15 with about a little more than six minutes on the clock. And he just can‘t get a basket. He keeps pressing and just can‘t get a clear shot. He gets tied up every time by the great Miami defense.
And I‘m watching it. And it‘s clear the game is over. And he keeps pushing. I‘m wondering, why is he doing this? Why he‘s still fighting so hard out there?
The game is over. It‘s over. Wade is unbelievable tonight. He just sunk one from the corner, a three pointer with nobody on him. The Mavericks are just not in this game.
Then, magic. What can only happen in this my favorite sport, basketball, the NBA, with minutes left, the world inside this place changes here -- 15-2 run by Mavericks with Nowitzki hitting six of those game winning baskets, especially the final one. When he twisted and turned his way backwards past Chris Bosh.
You got to understand, this game was over. Everybody thought so. So did LeBron when he gave that big, generous man-to-man in your face salute to Dwayne. And I did like that for a moment. James was saying after all, the grief would take the Heat is headed for the ring.
Look, I like LeBron and Wade and Bosh. I still think they‘re going to win this thing. But last night, we learned something about character. I‘ve grown up with big guys who couldn‘t shoot from outside, couldn‘t hit the foul shot. Those days are over.
The pros today are unreal at everything. The talent is through the roof. What we saw last night in Miami was something personal, something about character, about not giving up, about fighting what everybody says is lost.
LeBron said recently, if you‘re not exhausted at the end of the game, you didn‘t play hard enough. Good for him. I can‘t wait for Sunday. This is going to be one of the great series. And I‘m never, ever going to forget about this guy, Nowitzki, not quitting when everybody thought it was over.
Six minutes to go, 15 down and they won. Boys and girls, don‘t ever forget this one. Don‘t ever give up. You‘ll never know if you just might have done what the Mavericks did in Miami the night of June 2nd, 2011.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.
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