updated 9/16/2011 10:55:49 AM ET 2011-09-16T14:55:49

Guests: Michael Isikoff, Kayla Tausche, Michael Steele, Alex Wagner, Wayne Slater, Willie Brown, Michael Feldman, Steve McMahon, Todd Harris

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Texas hold `em.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

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

Leading off tonight: Pay to play in Texas. Rick Perry`s awkward
debate comment that he couldn`t be bought for only $5,000 may be the least
of his problems. NBC`s Michael Isikoff reports that not only did Perry get
far more than that from the pharmaceutical company Merck, but that Perry
has been accused of a long history of running Texas as a "pay to play"
state. He accepts big campaign contributions from deep-pocketed supporters
in exchange for favors that help make them rich. It could be the strategy
to take down Perry either before or after he`s nominated.

Bob Dylan said it, by the way, in 1965, and it applies today. You
don`t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. And right
now, the wind is blowing hard into the face of Democrats in general, and
President Obama in particular. How does the president turn it around?
It`s been done before.

Plus, here`s Senator Jim DeMint`s candid and cold calculation. If
Republicans support President Obama`s jobs plan, well, they`ll bear
responsibility for the success or not of those programs and for the
economy. However, if they oppose the president`s plan, the worst the
president can do is blame them for voting against his legislation. Is that
true? The HARDBALL strategists break down the GOP choice of strategies
about helping the economy or helping themselves.

And not since the know-nothing party briefly emerged about 160 years
ago as a party, either party championed ignorance. But in today`s
Republican Party, it seems the lack of educational credentials has become
its most important bragging point.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with the consequences of voting before you
think in 2012.

We start with "pay to play" in Texas. Michael Isikoff is NBC News
national investigative correspondent and Wayne Slater is, of course, senior
political reporter for "The Dallas Morning News."

I want to start with Michael, who`s been working this whole story.
Let`s go straight to some alleged "pay to play" examples from Governor
Perry`s time in office. He`s been in the office a long time, in the office
of governor of Texas. Texas home builder Bob Perry gave $2.5 million to
Perry`s gubernatorial campaigns. What did he get? The entire state agency
was created down there, the Texas Residential Construction Commission, to
restrict -- that`s the purpose of this agency -- lawsuits against builders
over defective homes, which happen to be Bob Perry`s personal crusade.
Hmm. You get what you pay for.

Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons gave Perry $1.1 million. What did
he get? A license for a controversial nuclear waste dump in west Texas
owned by Simmons`s company. Texas accountant George "Brint" Ryan gave
Perry over $972,000. What`d he get? Well, nearly $1 million in tax
rebates for his company through an Economic Development Board grant.

Well, there you have it. It looks to me like there`s a pattern.
We`ve seen this in cities in this country. A lot of big cities play this
game. You give money to the politicians, you get what you want.
Developers do it. They do it. It`s crooked as hell. But when you`re
running for president, can you defend it? And is this going to be a part
of this guy`s problems.

of the things that happened during the debate that was interesting is when
Michele Bachmann -- and actually, maybe it was her interview on the "Today"
show the next morning -- referred to "crony capitalism." She introduced an
issue that -- into the political -- mainstream political dialogue that has
plagued Perry and swirled around Perry during each of his most recent
gubernatorial campaigns.

This is a charge that Democrats have brought against him time and time
again. They`ve tried to get traction on it. But you know, there is, to
some extent, in Texas and in many Southern states, this whole "pay to play"
culture. And so it`s not a completely new allegation.

The question with Perry is, how far did he take it? Does it go beyond
the norm? Does it --

MATTHEWS: Well, why is the norm OK? Why is it OK to bring a guy into
the White House who makes a habit, has grown up in a political culture,
where if you want to even meet the governor, you got to go to the fund-


MATTHEWS: Unless you go to the fund-raiser and kick in some money,
you don`t get to meet him. And if you want to get action, you`ve got to
give big money.


MATTHEWS: Why would the American voter, Republican or Democrat --
yes, that`s pretty cool? Why would they say OK to that?

ISIKOFF: Well, you know --


ISIKOFF: I mean, look, it`s certainly an issue that, you know, taps
into public revulsion with the way government does business and --

MATTHEWS: How can you run against government when you`ve been selling

ISIKOFF: Right. Look, that`s -- that`s -- you know, you`re writing
ads for the Democratic National Committee if Perry becomes the nominee,
right there with lines like that.

MATTHEWS: The only thing they like about government is it`s a great
way to make money.

ISIKOFF: But look -- but these -- you know, there are some pretty
eye-popping examples. And we picked out three, but there`s, like, dozens
of more. And I`m sure Wayne can talk to them because they`ve been amply
reported in the Texas press. You have no limits on contributions in Texas.
You have these huge donations from people like Bob Perry, and then you get

MATTHEWS: You`re an investigative reporter --

ISIKOFF: -- government response --

MATTHEWS: -- but you know the political context of this. You`ve
already mentioned it. Are the people around President Obama, the smart
guys out in Chicago and in Washington -- are they looking at this?

ISIKOFF: Absolutely, as is every major news media organization right
now. And it`s something we`re going to be hearing time and time again
throughout the campaign --

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think we`re trying --

ISIKOFF: -- as Perry goes forward.

MATTHEWS: -- to figure out who this guy is because he does look
attractive on certain levels. Let`s go to Wayne Slater. You know the
appeal of this guy. He`s got that cocksure attitude. He seems to know
(INAUDIBLE) plan, cut taxes, cut regulations, cut government, the economy`s
going to go crazy.

Wayne, talk about this guy`s behavior as an elected official. Is he a
guy who deals with insiders who pay to play?

WAYNE SLATER, "DALLAS MORNING NEWS": Yes. The quick answer is
absolutely. That has been his history. That is the rap against him.
We`ve written an awful lot about these various deals. And the ones -- as
Mike said, the ones you mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg. There
are a whole range of these. A lot of people have done very well.

But here`s what`s different right now. If I go to Chicago in the old
Daley years, nobody`s shocked, shocked that somebody gets a contract if
they support the local ward boss. But Perry, riding a Tea Party wave,
which Sarah Palin reiterated yesterday, said this crony capitalism is a bad
thing. We aren`t part of giving public money, taxpayer money, to our
friends. That`s the wrong thing.

This is the wrong year for Perry to be shown -- and it`s going to be
an extensive record before this is all over -- to be shown as a guy who has
done everything he can, really, for the political folks who have given him
not just hundreds of thousands but millions of dollars --

MATTHEWS: OK, great point.

SLATER: -- over the years.

MATTHEWS: Were you surprised that he was so wrong-footed, as the
Brits say, to come out and say, You think you can buy me for 5K? I`m more
expensive than that.

SLATER: Yes. That`s the -- like, again, the punch line of a joke.
Well, we know what you are now, now we`re quibbling over price.

MATTHEWS: Yes, it was the old line about a hooker or somebody. Yes,
I get it. I know the gross old line, yes. But it reminds everybody, men
and women who work with me -- so they remembered the old gross joke, too,
when they heard it. It`s like saying, I got a price, but it`s higher than
5K, therefore I`m clean. What?

SLATER: All right, here`s the -- here`s the back story on this --

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at this because people that weren`t
watching that night --


MATTHEWS: Let`s watch him in -- here he is Monday in the latest
debate. These debates are fascinating, by the way. The president ought to
watch with these debates, even if he says he doesn`t. Here he is
deflecting criticism about his financial ties to this company, Merck, that
manufactures this vaccine he had the young -- well, the girls in these
public schools had to be immunized with. He was criticized for mandating
those girls having to take the shots, and here`s his defense.


former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company. The
drug company gave thousands of dollars in political donations to the
governor. And this is just flat-out wrong.

Merck, and it was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them. I
raise about $30 million, and if you`re saying that I can be bought for
$5,000, I`m offended.


MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) wasn`t bought for $5,000. How much money did
Merck give him?

ISIKOFF: Exactly. All right. Merck gave $28,500 to his
gubernatorial campaigns, but then on top of that, they gave another
$377,000 to the Republican Governors Association during the time Perry was
chairman and finance chair.

MATTHEWS: OK, you got him. You got him.

ISIKOFF: So there was a lot more money --


ISIKOFF: -- than that $5,000.

MATTHEWS: So I can`t be bought for 5, but they gave me 28.5, and they
gave me 377 when I was head of the Republican --


MATTHEWS: Wayne, why would he be so maladroit as to deny he couldn`t
be bought for 5, and then it --


MATTHEWS: -- when it turns out he was given 28.5 on top -- above --
above that amount, and 377 when he was head of the Republican governors,
from the same company?

SLATER: In the preparation for that second debate, they went over
this. What they expected was that Romney wasn`t going to come at him --
Romney`s going to come at him on Social Security. Bachmann and maybe
Santorum will come at him first on immigration. Then with respect to this
Merck deal, they thought that what Bachmann was going to do was talk as
this Christian conservative, saying it`s a bad thing because it`s about sex
and it violates these parental rights, this parental responsibility, and so

They did not expect Bachmann to do what she did, which was quite
artful, and that was to extend the debate not simply about the mandate and
parental rights, but to crony capitalism.

And I want to say one other thing about the connections here. The
lobbyist, as Michael has written -- the lobbyist in this case, Mike Toomey,
and as you mentioned, is not just simply a lobbyist. He is someone who is
a close associate and adviser to Rick Perry, was chief of staff at one

Years ago, in one of the land deals, Toomey represented the -- Rick
Perry as part of the effort which helped make Rick Perry a millionaire.


SLATER: Moreover, Toomey and Dave Carney, who is Rick Perry`s
political guru, co-own an island together in Lake Winnipesaukee in New


MATTHEWS: -- Mitt Romney --

ISIKOFF: Mike Toomey is now running the Super PAC, Make Us Great
Again, that is backing Perry`s candidacy --



MATTHEWS: I`m not going to use words like "bag man" --


MATTHEWS: -- know more about this. But it begins to look like an old-
time situation here. Quickly, help the viewer now who is just learning
this as we`re presenting this news right now about his pay-to-play methods
down there, if you will.

What came first? Did this company Merck go out -- and these other
enterprises go out and hire his chief of staff first? Did he get the
campaign money from them first? Did he do the deed for them first in terms
of creating this agency and all this other stuff, (INAUDIBLE) giving the
women -- young girls these shots? What was the sequence of events, Wayne?

SLATER: Well, sequence of events depending on which we`re talking
about here -- you`re talking about Bob Perry and the housing agency --

MATTHEWS: The shots. Let`s talk about Merck and the shots.

SLATER: The shots? All right. The shots -- basically, what happened
here was that Merck decided in about 2006 they were going to do a national
campaign at several state legislatures to get people to do this. And they
went to Austin, came to Austin and said, Who`s the best guy? Who`s the
best connected guy? They said, It`s Mike Toomey. He`s close to the
governor. They hired him. That`s when it happened.

MATTHEWS: And then they got the shots deal.

SLATER: And can I --

MATTHEWS: They got the executive order.

ISIKOFF: What was really extraordinary about it, though, is that this
is something that offended Perry`s natural base, social conservative base.
They were blindsided by this. He hadn`t consulted with them. He hadn`t
consulted with the state legislature. And what`s even more unusual about
it is it would have made Texas the very first state in the country to
mandate this vaccine, not something you would expect from --



MATTHEWS: I had uncle growing up named Uncle Bill, and when he heard
about this kind of corruption, Wayne, up in Philly, and he heard about deal
making between big shots and people who want to influence the big shots, he
had a standard line -- Herb (ph), it`s like everything else.

What the public in this country doesn`t like to hear too often is that
it`s like everything else because after a while, when the public keeps
hearing about corruption like this from the so-called clean guys, they
really lose heart in our democracy. This is not a joke. This is -- and if
people think that`s the way it always is, it isn`t always that way. There
are a lot of clean politicians out there. And if pay-to-play is the way
you like your government, vote for this guy.

Anyway, thank you, Mike Isikoff, great investigative reporting. In
fact, the best. Anyway -- you and Bob Woodward. Anyway, Wayne Slater,
thank you, sir, from the local point of view out there with "The Dallas
Morning News." Thank you very much.

Things are looking grim, by the way, for the Obama administration on
the other side of the chart here, but is it time to panic for them or a
time for a shake-up? You got to hear what James Carville, the "ragin`
Cajun," has been saying. Should he really start firing people, indicting
people? Carville has a very tough prescription for Obama -- that man we`re
looking at right now -- to get out of the weeds right now.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Well, in his jobs speech to Congress last week, President
Obama said construction companies all across America are just waiting to
get to work and give people jobs. And he mentioned one particular bridge
that could use some help. Well, today the White House announced that the
president will visit the Brent Spence Bridge that connects, by the way,
Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky. (INAUDIBLE) site trip is set for next
Thursday, and Obama will give another speech telling us to sell his plan.
That`s his idea. The bridge is Speaker Boehner`s back yard, not quite in
his congressional district, but close to home.

And we`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, it`s no secret out there.
Anybody watching this show knows that these are tough times for President
Obama. And just this week, a new Field poll, that`s the great poll out in
California, a must-win state as we all know for Barack Obama and any
Democrat running for president, has his approval rating -- catch this --
below 50 percent. That is bad news, California below 50 percent.

The news is bad or worse in other states, of course. Well, the
president`s poll numbers nationwide, coupled with a bleak economy that
stays bleak, places him in a perilous position as he gears up for 2012.
Everybody knows what I`m saying.

So just how does he turn things around? That`s what we don`t know.
And for the Democrats who are going to be running with him next year, they
want to win, too.

So let`s ask two experts, Willie Brown, a great man, served as mayor
of San Francisco and also led the assembly out there as speaker for so many
years, and Mike Feldman, a guy from Philadelphia, a good place to be from.
He was an adviser to the Clinton/Gore White House.

Mayor --


MATTHEWS: -- your Honor, I want to quote you some stuff from the
"ragin` Cajun," Carville, who`s one of the smartest guys in politics, if
not the smartest these days. Long-time strategist James Carville wrote a
column which we all read today. It grabbed all of our attentions. What
should the White House do?

He says, "Panic. As I watched the Republican debates, I realized that
we are on the brink of a crazy person running our nation." I guess he`s
talking about Perry. "I sit in the front of the TV and shudder at the
thought of one of these creationism-loving, global-warming-denying,
immigration-bashing, Social Security-cutting, clean air-hating, mortality-
fascinated, Wall Street-protecting Republicans running my country. The
course we are on is not working. The hour is late and the need is great.
Fire, indict, fight."

Now, he`s got some amazing proposals out there -- fire somebody,
indict some people, make a case like a Democrat and hold fast to your
explanations. What do you make of this, Mayor? Because I want your
thoughts. How ferocious does Obama have to be to turn this 180?

BROWN: I think he has to demonstrate that he is very, very tough.
Seldom, if ever, have you had a president who has waited so long to show
truly his nature in terms of a fight. From the time he did not allow the
Bush measures to go by the wayside on the tax breaks that he should have
last December until the present day, he hasn`t taken one step to
demonstrate how tough he really can be and how principled he can be, and
how, at all costs, in terms of his base support, he`s willing to take
steps. He hasn`t done that, and I think that`s what Jimmy is talking

MATTHEWS: And that`s what he`s running on. Basically, he`s basically
forced because he hasn`t dumped the Bush economic policies -- they`re the
policies he has to defend. Isn`t that weird, Michael? I mean, I always
say to people who are Republicans, OK, fair enough, but we`re operating
under your tax policy. This guy hasn`t changed it. It`s what Bush gave to
him, all the tax cuts for the rich, all those breaks. Obama hasn`t busted
them. He`s living under their regime.

their rules and call them out on that. These are the policies that got us
into this mess. And I think you seem him last week, with his speech next
week, as you pointed out, going to Cincinnati, going to John Boehner`s
district, take the argument out --

MATTHEWS: Is this tough enough at this point?

FELDMAN: I think it is.

MATTHEWS: It`s what I think he should have done.

FELDMAN: I agree, but he`s doing it now. And the fact is -- and I
applaud James Carville. I worked for him. He gave me my first job in
Democratic politics. But panic is not something I would do as a commander-
in-chief, as the president of the United States.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s look at some other thoughts here. Here`s
former White House spokesman Bill Burton, who is on the team, of course,
who now runs the group Priorities USA. He warned his fellow Democrats,
quote, "Democrats should be very nervous. They need to put on their war
paint" -- you know, an old cowboy movies phrase here -- "and get ready for
what is going to be a very difficult battle. Unless activists really
engage and organize or recognize the stakes of this fight, it`s going to be
impossible for the president to win."

Mayor, again, this is the first time I have heard it. And I will tell
you, my concern about this election is that people say it`s next November,
it`s November 2012. This is the time of year we all know people begin to
make up their minds about next year. It isn`t all done in that booth. We
saw it happen to Jimmy Carter in `79. They made up their mind and in `79
he had to go.

BROWN: Well, let me tell you, you`re correct. They did make up their
mind in `79, but I don`t think people have made up their minds about Barack

There`s still great optimism that he can, in fact, cease his
relationships with the Republicans and trying to placate them and go back
to do things for his base, go back to address the issues that young people
care about. Go back to address the issues that independents are concerned

And as somebody said to me on the day, if you want me to vote for your
guy, get me a job. He`s got to do that.

MATTHEWS: Well, can he run against the government? Because it`s not
his government anymore. He can`t get 60 votes in the Senate anymore. He
can`t get 218 in the House. He doesn`t have the government under control.

He seems to run defending the government right now. Why doesn`t --
well, you`re applying it, Mayor. Should he run against the government,
which is the speaker of the House, Boehner? The Republicans control the
Congress, in effect. It isn`t his Congress. Why doesn`t he run against it
and say, I want to be president of the country, and the only way I get that
is get control of Congress?

BROWN: That`s exactly what I would do. I would be running as if I
wasn`t even in Washington were I Barack Obama. And I think he`s attempting
to do that.

He just hasn`t shown the spark and the willingness to fight that
people are looking for. I`m telling you, with the Republicans in the
absence of the quantity of candidates on the other side -- Carville (ph)
correctly describes them -- they are people that can`t garner a majority
under any circumstances. All Barack Obama has to do is make people believe
he is it.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, Mr. Mayor, I believe in Machiavelli.
You`re not supposed to say so.

I will go to Mike Feldman on this, young fellow. I will tell you
this, it`s better to be feared than to be loved, Machiavelli taught. And
my argument is, if you`re not feared, you`re not loved very long. Because
leaders are supposed to be feared. And if they`re not feeder by their
enemies, people who like them stop loving them.

FELDMAN: I agree. But he`s making an argument now. He has put a
jobs plan out there, which is, by the way, popular with the American


MATTHEWS: Is Eric Cantor afraid of him? Is Larry McCarthy afraid of
him? Is Boehner afraid of him?

FELDMAN: Well, we will see.

MATTHEWS: I don`t think they`re afraid of him.

FELDMAN: Next week, President Obama will be in John Boehner`s
district. He will be campaigning on his plan. He said to the Republicans
and the leadership in Congress, do you want an issue to run on or do you
actually want to actually create some jobs?

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the real bad news for the president that tends
to trickle down of course to the rest of the ballot right now.

A longtime Senate Democratic spokesman, Jim Manley, who used to work
for Ted Kennedy, who is a very good source for many of us, and Harry Reid,
he said this about the reelection prospects for Democrats on ABC`s


JIM MANLEY, DEMOCRATIC SPOKESMAN: I`m sure glad I`m not working for a
member that`s up for reelection next year, because it`s an ugly, ugly mood
out there.


MATTHEWS: And on "The Hill" newspaper -- "The Hill" newspaper earlier
this week, an unnamed Democratic strategist said -- quote -- "I`m warning
my clients don`t run in 2012. I don`t want to see good candidates lose by
12 to 15 points because of the president." That`s Really fierce stuff.

Is this helping at all, Mayor, right now to have people under the
covers sticking their heads out and saying, we`re screwed? Is that helpful
to wake up the president and his people?

BROWN: No, not at all. As a matter of fact, we ought to be talking
about how we reverse the perception that there is something wrong with the
Democratic delivery system.

Let me tell you, Chris, this is September 2011. When we talk in the
same way we`re doing today in 2012, March, April, May, or June, I think
there will be a totally different perspective, because Barack Obama will
have been in John Boehner`s face. He will have been all over this country,
directing the activities that gets people jobs.

MATTHEWS: All politics is local, sir, as we know from Tip O`Neill.

Thank you very much, Willie Brown, and, thank you, Michael Feldman.

Mr. Mayor, thank you. It`s always great to have you on.

BROWN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next, how does Steve Colbert, Stephen Colbert, handle
the latest criticism of President Obama`s American Jobs Act? That`s next
in the "Sideshow." I love Colbert. You`re watching HARDBALL, only on


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow."

Talk about judging a book by its cover. It`s not like criticism was
unexpected when President Obama`s American Jobs Act was introduced last
week, but here`s a new one. The president`s taking heat not for the
contents of the bill, but for the way the pages are held together. What?

Let`s hear how Stephen Colbert took on this one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama`s jobs bill hot off the presses at
Kinko`s? Hundreds of billions in tax hikes and new spending bound together
with a chintzy clip. Look at that thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, this is your jobs bill. That deserves a
large, shiny binder. And instead, it`s with a little clip.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need the good one from Kinko`s, right?



COLBERT: If he really believed in this bill, he should have presented
it in a leather-bound volume with gold filigree and illuminated initials,
so the Republicans had something presentable to dismiss before they ever
look at it.




MATTHEWS: Really, there`s a problem with a paper clip? Give me a
break, Republicans. And finally -- or FOX, whatever you call yourselves.

And, finally, come on, game on. GOP candidate Michele Bachmann
attracted ridicule this week for suggesting that the HPV vaccine could
cause -- quote -- "mental retardation."

Well, it wasn`t just the politicos who raised their eyebrows at that
one. Now bioethicist Art Caplan has issued to Bachmann what he called the
HPV challenge. What`s at stake? A hefty, well, $10,000 -- quote -- "If
she can produce a case in one week, starting today, verified by three
medical experts that she and I pick of a woman who became retarded, her
words, due to a HPV vaccine, I will donate that to a charity of her choice.
She must donate $10,000 to a charity I pick if she fails to do so."

Well, I think that`s a little chintzy, isn`t it, three doctors,
$10,000? You would think he would have a little more confidence in his

Up next, when did ignorance become bliss in the Republican Party? Did
you hear that? When did ignorance become bliss? Is it now the know-
nothing party?

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back. I`m Kayla Tausche
here with your CNBC "Market Wrap."

It was a big day for the bulls, the Dow Jones industrials soaring 186
points, the S&P 500 jumping 20, and the Nasdaq picking up a cool 34.
Stocks started higher and stayed higher throughout the session on news
banks around the world will be allowed to lend U.S. dollars to European
banks. That took some pressure off financials, but there have been
concerns about difficulties those banks could face by the end of the year,
providing short-term loans to each other.

Elsewhere, Netflix plunged after reporting a steep decline in
subscribers, mostly from those DVD-only customers.

And a federal jury awarded chemical giant DuPont $920 million in
damages from a South Korean company accused of stealing trade secrets.

And banking giant UBS slumped in trading after police in London
charged a rogue trader with losing the company about $2 billion in
unauthorized deals.

That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide. Now let`s send it
back to HARDBALL and Chris Matthews.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

This is going to rip the scab off of all the conservatives watching.
Is there room in the modern Republican Party any longer for someone who`s
even slightly an intellectual? Or has the GOP become a party that
celebrates ignorance?

Look at how the presidential candidates in the field proudly oppose
mainstream scientific thought like, well, global warming, evolution. Look
at how they grow defensive when they get facts thrown about history.

Jennifer Rubin, a conservative blogger for "The Washington Post" --
I`m not sure she`s that conservative -- summed it up when she wrote today
yesterday -- actually, today -- that some of the Republican Party seems to
think ignorance is virtue and intelligence is a vice.

She wrote: "Republicans have sometimes mistaken anti-elitism with
anti-smarts. It`s one thing to heap scorn on liberal elites who parrot
unsupportable leftist dogma or show contempt for ordinary Americans`
values. It`s quite another to celebrate ignorance. Has Governor Perry
shown himself to be knowledgeable and mature in these debates? Nope. He`s
just reveling in the scorn, because he has mistaken mainstream and some
conservative media criticism for confirmation that he really is doing
something right."

What is going on here.

Michael Steele is a former chairman of the Republican National
Committee and now an MSNBC analyst. And Alex Wagner -- I think she`s up in
New York -- is also an MSNBC analyst.

I am struck by this. Here is Michele Bachmann talking about the
implications of getting these shots done in Texas that Governor Perry
administered by executive order. It was earlier in the week on "The Today
Show" making some very controversial and sharp, unsubstantiated comments
about the HPV vaccine. Let`s watch.


last night come up to me here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate. She
told me that her little daughter took that -- took that vaccine, that
injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter.


MATTHEWS: And here`s how she defended those comments later on Sean
Hannity`s radio show. Let`s listen.


BACHMANN: I am not a doctor. I`m not a scientist. I`m not a
physician. All I was doing is reporting what this woman told me last night
at the debate.


MATTHEWS: Reporting? What the hell does that mean?. Parroting.
Reporting, as if I`m engaging in some sort of study, some sort of study

Somebody comes up to me and says there`s a truther, some nutcase comes
up to me about building seven and I ignore them. She comes on television:
It`s just been reported to me that this was a conspiracy, that President
George W. Bush blew up the World Trade Center. It`s been reported to me.

wasn`t like that.

MATTHEWS: It isn`t?

STEELE: No, I don`t think so.

I think what she was doing was trying to convey and relay to the
audience more broadly speaking, not just to you, Chris, the connection
between the event that we`re talking about and --

MATTHEWS: But there is no connection.

STEELE: Well --


MATTHEWS: There`s no scientific connection.

STEELE: This mother comes up to her.

MATTHEWS: There`s never been a reported case of mental retardation --


STEELE: But she doesn`t know that.


MATTHEWS: She doesn`t -- that`s right. She doesn`t know that.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that that`s a stretch,
saying that she`s trying to communicate some constituent`s belief.

I think that that`s fear-mongering about big government harming
ordinary Americans and intruding into their lives to the detriment of
health. And I think, you know, there`s a very big difference, Chris,
between being a populist and being intellectually irresponsible. And I
think what Michele Bachmann did that night was intellectually

STEELE: I mean, you can argue whether or not she should have gone
immediately without some level of verification or appreciation of what she
was told.

But you also have to understand the politics of the moment. After
coming off the stage or before going on stage tomorrow having this
conversation with a parent, who was probably upset about the situation, and
telling her, her personal story. You don`t know that.

Now, what will verify all this is if the mother and the child come
forward. But the fact of the matter is, you -- I know you have been on
campaign trails and certainly I have been. People tell you a lot of
things. The judgment call is, what do you then go speak about more

MATTHEWS: So if I yell that this building is on fire right now, and I
will just say --


STEELE: Well, Chris, that`s a --


STEELE: -- different thing.


MATTHEWS: It`s exactly the same thing. She`s on national television.

STEELE: Chris, if you come up to me as a constituent and you say to
me that I lost my job because this company fired me for this reason --

MATTHEWS: That`s not the same as a scientific argument. OK.

STEELE: No, the point is, whether it`s a scientific argument or not,
it`s just a personal --


MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s take a look at more of this. There`s a very
strong pattern here, and it never ends.

It`s Governor Perry sitting with that little 8-year-old saying, you`re
smart enough to know the difference between evolutionism and creationism.
You decide.

Give me a break.

Here`s Perry speaking at Liberty University, a real seat of
intellectualism, in Virginia yesterday. That`s the college founded by
Jerry Falwell. And here are some self-deprecating comments he made to make
the point we`re trying to make unsuccessfully to Michael. The theme is,
I`m no intellectual. It`s like, you know he`s a redneck if. Let`s listen.



out, and I just looked up the word convocation, so I would make sure I kind
of understood what I was walking into here.

I actually went to college to be a veterinarian. And the dean of the
veterinary school advised me that I actually wanted to be an animal science
major. He said: "Son, I`m looking at your transcript. You want to be an
animal science major."


PERRY: So, you know, the fact of the matter is, four semesters of
organic chemistry made a pilot out of me.


PERRY: I`m very proud to stand before you today and tell you I
graduated in the top 10 in my graduating class of 13.



MATTHEWS: Well, there are qualifications for president of the United

STEELE: He`s having fun, for goodness` sakes. And you`re showing
your intellectual hubris by -- by talking --


MATTHEWS: Why? I have never come off as an intellectual.



STEELE: You`re talking about the university -- you`re talking about
this university, well, there`s a place of intellectualism. You don`t know
what those students are learning at that school. Go there and meet the
kids. Set that that aside for a moment.

The governor is making the point that a lot of Republicans have to
deal with all the time from the intellectual left, that we`re somehow dumb,
stupid, or inarticulate on these issues and he`s having fun with it.

MATTHEWS: He`s running for the president of the United States,
claiming that ignorance is bliss.

STEELE: Well, you know, Barack Obama said there were 57 states.

MATTHEWS: That`s not the same thing.

STEELE: Oh, of course not. Of course it`s not the same


WAGNER: I`ve got to disagree here, Michael. I`ve got to disagree
with you on this one.

MATTHEWS: OK. Go ahead.

WAGNER: I think that Rick Perry has an incredible personal story. I
think that nobody should denigrate how far he`s come. But I think that
there`s a real difference between that and pointing to doing badly in
school at a time when American students are ranked 25th out of 34 in the
world on science and math and we are trying to move this country forward.
And we are looking for someone to lead us there.

And here is a guy making fun of doing bad in school and placing no
emphasis on education and being aware of the world around you.

STEELE: Well, we don`t know what the rest of the speech was about to
the room full of students. Maybe he did talk about education. And I know
I`ve talked about my own story at Johns Hopkins when I got expelled from
the university, but got back into the university, and the rest of the story

MATTHEWS: Is it a qualification -- is it a qualification that you can
claim this lack of knowledge to some strength -- Bachmann does it, he does
it, they all do it. It`s a clamoring attempt to identify with regular
people by acting like you`re stupider than they are.

STEELE: It is not a clamoring attempt --

MATTHEWS: It is. It started with George W. Bush`s father.

STEELE: You`re showing intellectual arrogance here by going to do
this --

MATTHEWS: How come a guy who goes to the --

STEELE: Why are you taking that lead?

MATTHEWS: -- driven to school by a chauffeur, George Herbert Walker
Bush, he`s part of this game, saying "bidness" instead of business. Why do
you mispronounce words?

STEELE: They`re not doing that.


MATTHEWS: I`ll tell you right now, in the world we`re trying to
compete with the Chinese, the Indians, they`re busting their butt to beat
us in science and technology. They realize, are the American people going
to elect a guy who`s proud of the fact he doesn`t know anything. Are we
going to get a couple of generations --


STEELE: Chris, you`re taking this way out of proportion.

MATTHEWS: It`s on every issue.

STEELE: It is not. It is nowhere near --

MATTHEWS: Michael, you`re a charming fellow and you`re defending the

STEELE: I`m not trying to defend, I`m trying to explain. That`s what
I do to folks --

MATTHEWS: You did get to be lieutenant governor by being -- I`ve got
to move on.

Up next, the HARDBALL strategists, they`re coming on to duke it out on
the issues of importance to us that do matter intellectually.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: What a story of courage. Dakota Meyer saved 36 lives from
an ambush in Afghanistan. Today at the White House, the Marine veteran
received the nation`s highest military honor. President Obama awarded the
Medal of Honor to Meyer who lost some of his best friends that morning of
September 8th, 2009.

Meyer charged to heavy insurgent gunfire to save 13 Marine and Army
soldiers and another 23 Afghan troops pinned down by enemy fire. All that
despite taking a shrapnel wound to one arm. We salute him.

And we`ll be right back.



economy that lasts. And that starts now --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you, Barack!

OBAMA: I love you back! That starts --


OBAMA: If you love me, you`ve got to help me pass this bill. If you
love me, you`ve got to help me pass this bill. It starts with your help.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That`s the president out there, connecting, I think, feeling the love
and taking his jobs plan to the people. But Republicans have their battle
plan ready.

We`re going to get to it with the HARDBALL strategist right now.

Tonight, point one, are Republicans smart to just say no to everything
he proposes? And part two, Rollins, Ed Rollins, dumps on his own
candidate, Bachmann. It happened here on HARDBALL last night.

Tonight, we`re getting the strategist`s reaction to both those issues.
We`ll start with Steve McCain -- Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist,
Todd Harris, a Republican strategist.

Gentlemen, thank you. Let`s take a look at this first question.

Todd, is your party smart to just say no? People out there are saying
quote after quote, they`re out there just dumping on this saying, they
think they can win by just screwing the guy.

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It`s not just -- the Republican
Party saying no is actually not the president`s biggest problem right now.

MATTHEWS: OK. Can you answer my question? Is it a smart policy --
here`s Senator Jim DeMint laying out --


MATTHEWS: Let`s look what he says. Here`s DeMint. Let`s listen to
what he says, because I want to know if you agree with him.


SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If we vote for this plan, we`ll
own the economy with the president. And he desperately needs someone else
to blame it on. If we vote against it, he`s going to try to say Congress
blocked his ability to create jobs.


MATTHEWS: So, are you better off saying no and screwing the
president, or joining him and getting blamed?

HARRIS: They`re going to vote no and the president`s going to try to
blame it on him, and it`s not going to matter, because this thing is dead
on arrival. The president --

MATTHEWS: You`re smiling. So it`s a smart move?

HARRIS: The president was in North Carolina and gave this huge rally,
lots of cheering. Kay Hagan, the Democratic senator for North Carolina, a
state with almost 11 percent unemployment, she`s opposed to this bill. His
biggest problem right now are his own people.

MATTHEWS: OK. So you`re smart to say -- they`re smart. Are they
smart to say no to everything? Just let the roads rot, let the bridges
fall down, let the president complain about them voting no?

approval ratings and you can see how smart the strategy has been. People
still like the president more than they like Republicans and Congress, and
they trust the president more with economic problems than they trust
Republicans in Congress.

This is exactly why politicians shouldn`t be political consultants
because you could roll that tape again and again and again. They would
rather win an election than do something for the people in this country,
than give tax cuts to small business, tax cuts to veterans, tax cuts to
folks who have been chronically unemployed. And I don`t think that`s going
to play very well --

MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s a problem for the Democrats and why Republicans
are probably doing what you recommend them do. Here`s some Democrats`
comments about the Obama jobs bill that just came out.

Here`s Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, a strong Obamanite, "I think the
American people are very skeptical of big pieces of legislation."

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said, "I have serious questions
about the level of spending that President Obama is proposing here."

And North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan, you mentioned, said, "We`ve got
to have legislation that is supported by Democrats and Republicans. I`m
going to have to look at it."

So, you`re sticking with your guns here?

HARRIS: Yes. Here`s the problem, nothing ever happens in politics in
a vacuum. And there are voters who are looking at this new stimulus bill
and now, I`m not talking about the hard core base --

MATTHEWS: He`s not calling it a stimulus bill.

MCMAHON: Todd is, though.

HARRIS: I`m not talking about the base of the Republican Party which
always hated the first stimulus bill. I`m talking about voters in the
middle and they`re saying wait a minute you passed a bill twice this big
just two years ago. You said it was going to create all kinds of jobs and
where are those jobs? If passing a bill twice as big didn`t create jobs,
why is this one going to?

So, that`s the first thing. The second thing --


MATTHEWS: By the way, your candidate proposal is Hoover, do nothing


HARRIS: No, no. It`s the same absurd argument that was made when the
stimulus passed. The question is not do this or do absolutely nothing --

MATTHEWS: Well, what is the Republican -- it`s always cutting taxes.

HARRIS: John Boehner --

MCMAHON: By the way, that`s what this bill does. It cuts taxes. It
extends the payroll tax for workers. It gives a tax break to employers who
hire people. It gives tax incentive to employers for hiring veterans and
it gives a tax incentive for hiring people who are long-term unemployed.

These are exactly the things that Republicans have been for forever
and now all of a sudden it`s the president so --

MATTHEWS: I don`t know if it`s all for real. But let`s take a look
Ed Rollins here. Ed Rollins, Bachmann campaign manager, just a few days
ago couldn`t say whether he`d like to see Bachmann as president. Let`s

He was running her campaign. And I asked him should she be president?
Here`s -- let`s listen.


to win the nomination.

MATTHEWS: You`d like to see her president.

ROLLINS: You know, I think she`s a great candidate. I think she has
evolved. I think she will evolve. She`s got an uphill battle. She`s got
to get back --

MATTHEWS: Would you like to see her president of the United States?

ROLLINS: I would not be --

MATTHEWS: Controlling the bomb?

ROLLINS: First of all, the bomb is -- I want someone to control the

MATTHEWS: But you would make her commander-in-chief?

ROLLINS: Whoever is president gets to be commander-in-chief. The one
that`s in there today didn`t have much --

MATTHEWS: You`re hedging. Would you like to see her commander-in-
chief of the United States -- Michele Bachmann?

ROLLINS: If she`s elected president, she`ll be commander-in-chief.

MATTHEWS: Would you like her to be commander-in-chief?

ROLLINS: I have no question she would be a very tough commander-in-

MATTHEWS: You are so slippery, Ed. You`re not answering my question,
but I know you`re not giving me an answer.


MATTHEWS: How can you -- you first -- how can you defend the
candidate for months as her campaign manager to run for president of the
United States all the time being unwilling to say she ought to be president
of United States?

MCMAHON: Kind of reminds me of Todd when we used to ask whether he
supported Palin and whether he thought she should be president.

Look, I think you learn a lot from Ed Rollins` reaction right there.
I don`t know if he discovered after he got inside that she was utterly
unprepared to be president or if he knew it on his way in. I suspect it
was the former. I hope it was the latter.

MATTHEWS: What is going on there? Sometimes, people take over
campaigns. They have no faith in the candidate winning. They just like
the game?

HARRIS: I think, with all due respect to Ed Rollins, some political
consultants need to learn it`s not about them. If you`re going to run a
campaign and then quit midstream, shut up. You owe an obligation to that
person who`s been paying you by the way.

MATTHEWS: OK. So what should he say when I asked should she be

HARRIS: He shouldn`t come on this show, he shouldn`t be putting
himself in places if he is not prepared to say, absolutely, she should be
president of the United States, commander-in-chief. If she is not going to
do that, then don`t put yourself in places to get asked. It`s not fair to
the person that`s been paying you.

MCMAHON: Todd`s right about that.


MCMAHON: I mean, he is absolutely right. I don`t often agree with
him on --

MATTHEWS: So, when does the problem begin? When he takes the job,
when he realizes she`s not up to the job, or when?

HARRIS: Look, if -

MATTHEWS: What do you think of Rollins? You said he took the job
knowing she wasn`t up to it.

MCMAHON: I said I suspect that he knew that she wasn`t up for it.

MATTHEWS: You think that?

MCMAHON: But once he takes the money, he has an obligation to her
because it`s like a lawyer. You sign up a client. If you quit the client
you don`t give up -- if you don`t take their opposition research book and
give it to their opponent as one --

MATTHEWS: How did I know he wasn`t going to defend her? How did I

HARRIS: You`re a smart guy. You want to wait until they drop out.
You can trash them all you want after that.

MATTHEWS: Look, it`s a little comic relief but it`s scary to people
who believe in the candidates, anyway -- because they believe in the

Thank you, Steve McMahon. Thank you, Todd Harris.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with why now and not next November is
the critical time when voters are beginning to make their big decisions to
whoever is our president. By the way, people are really beginning now to

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

The people of this country have begun to make a decision about who
they want to lead us and also how and where they want us to be led. It`s a
serious mistake I think for a voter, as well as politician or journalist,
to assume that the election of 2012 will be held on the first Tuesday after
the first Monday come next November. People begin making their decisions.
Many make it for good long before they walk ballot in hand into the polling

This is the time right now I sense people are beginning to make their
decision on the presidency. I have a simple warning for all of you.
Recall that Yogi Berra once said about the driver who yelled out we`re lost
but making good time. And also remember Ernest Hemingway said to actress
Ava Gardner something about not confusing action with motion.

We should decide now where we want to be led before we decide who we
want as our leader. I said this because we have made mistakes in the past.
George W. Bush was president for a number of reasons, none of them having
to do with what he ended up doing. He teased us with a promise to exercise
humility in foreign, in our American role in the world. He teased us with
being the guy who seemed more informal, less taken with the trappings of
power with the ivory tower.

You recall what we got from W. once he took office?

Instead of humility, we got a neoconservative agenda fighting wars on
foreign lands against a country, Iraq, with absolutely nothing to do with
9/11, nothing to do with attacking us. We got an ideology in the White
House of intellectuals bent on pushing a hard right philosophy that cost us
the lives of thousands of Americans, tens of thousands of others and took
us deeper into the quick sand of Mideast politics and tribal hatreds. W.
did that, a guy who promised humility in foreign policy, who promised to be
the very antithesis of a president who would buy into some hare-brained
intellectual scheme that had our troops ranging around Mesopotamia rooting
out Baathists in some ideological cleansing operation that we Americans
have no more confidence to carry out than we have a national interest in
being involved in.

So, as we begin choosing our president this time around, it`s good to
remember the lessons of before, before you go reject the one alternative
for the other consider what your new favorite is really all about. Does he
believe what you do about the role of government in American life? Does he
believe what you do about the role of America in the world? Because while
you can ignore this pair of mighty questions now, you won`t be able to
ignore them once we have a new president.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.



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