Guests: David Corn, Alex Wagner, Richard Wolffe, Chris Cillizza, Michael Smerconish, Kayla Tausche, Howard Fineman, Michael Steele, Rep. Peter King
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Take me to your leader.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
None of the above. First the Republicans had a crush on Donald Trump, but
that fizzled. Then they swooned over Michele Bachmann until she started
linking vaccines and mental retardation. Next up, Rick Perry, who excited
Republican hearts until he broke them with his debate flops. And all this
time, Mitt Romney has been standing at the door with a bouquet of flowers,
but the GOP just doesn`t want this gentleman caller.
On Saturday, both Perry and Romney were dumped by Florida straw poll
voters. You have to have somebody to win an election, don`t you? And
right now, the Republicans have nobody. Could their somebody wind up being
Chris Christie of New Jersey? His lips say no, but his eyes say yes. The
GOP moneymen actually are begging him to get into the race, and he`s still
taking their calls.
Plus: Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. That was
President Obama`s message to the Congressional Black Caucus this weekend.
And last night, he went after the global warming-denying Rick Perry, after
GOP audiences who cheered for people without health insurance to die and
booed gay soldiers. The campaign is on.
And extremism in defense of electoral victory is no vice, or so says
the writer Frank Rich, who insists if President Obama aims for the middle,
he`ll lose because the country is truly divided, left and right. Is Rich
right? We`ll debate that one tonight.
Plus, we finish with the campaign without a candidate, one of heed
(ph) and hatred, but no actual head.
We start with the lack of satisfaction with the 2012 Republican field.
Howard Fineman`s the Huffington Post Media Group editorial director and
Michael Steele`s the former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Both are MSNBC political analysts.
Gentleman, let`s take a look at -- in a surprising victory, Herman
Cain walked away with the win at the Florida straw vote this weekend. That
was a poll down there. It was 3,500 people, delegates. He had 37 percent
to Perry`s 15, Romney`s 14 -- small potatoes for the so-called front-
This way this is being judged by everybody, Michael Steele, is that
the Republican activists who show up at these things are not thrilled with
either Romney, who has never thrilled them, or Perry, who seems to be
faltering as a performer.
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIRMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I
think that`s part of it. There is truth to that. The other part of it --
and I talked to a number of people who were there -- they really responded
to the candidate -- in this case, it was Cain -- who spent time with them,
who actually stuck around and participated in the events that weekend.
That went a long way, surprisingly enough. And that`s how these straw poll
events tend to be. It`s up-close retail personal politics. Florida`s no
different from Iowa in that respect.
So I think you had a combination of forces coming together here, where
they wanted the respect, but they also wanted to send the message that we
may not be done yet.
MATTHEWS: But the trouble with that analysis -- and I`ve heard --
that`s legitimate, of course. But Howard, the other analysis would have to
be, for years now, that`s been a pretty good leading indicator of who`d
they pick as their nominee. This isn`t just, Who do you like today, it`s,
Who do you think will be the nominee, who should be the nominee? So it`s a
Now, it may be Herb Cain -- you know, Herman Cain deserves to be
considered as one of the front-runners now, but I don`t think yet. He
might end up there. But the question now is, what are they up to? What
are the activists looking the for? They seem like -- my hunch is, Mitt
Romney could turn in 19 sterling debate performances in a row, and they
still wouldn`t love the guy. On the other hand, if Perry makes a comeback
and has a good night, they`ll be back in his embrace again.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think
that`s right. I think -- first of all, from what I know of the people I
talked to who were there, Herman Cain got the vote he did partly because he
criticized both Romney and Perry for going at each other over what was in
their books and all this sort of non-ideological gamesmanship, where the
people in that audience wanted a red meat conservative. Instead, they got
two guys dueling with each other over...
MATTHEWS: They wanted applause lines.
FINEMAN: ... over nothing. Right. So a top Republican strategist I
talked to, who`s independent but really knows his stuff, said, Look, this
contest is Romney versus a conservative. And Romney is nowhere with the
Tea Party people. He`s never going to be anywhere with the Tea Party
people. It`s just a matter of finding who the proper conservative is...
MATTHEWS: To take him on in the end.
FINEMAN: ... to take him on.
MATTHEWS: But what happens, Michael, if he ends up...
MATTHEWS: But what happens if he ends up with the most votes? Here`s
a guy, Andrew Romano, writing in this week`s "Newsweek" -- let`s take a
look at this. "The bottom line is that Romney is not very good at winning
votes. In fact, over the course of his 17-year political career, he has
notched only one electoral victory, the 2012 contest that made him" --
actually, not the -- "the 2002 contest that made him governor of
Massachusetts. The most remarkable part of all this losing is that
Romney`s support almost always peaks early on, then plummets as election
day approaches. He was way ahead in Iowa and New Hampshire at this point
four years ago. He lost both. The pattern is clear. The more time Romney
spends in front of voters, the less willing they are to vote for him."
Now, that Andrew Romano -- I don`t know this writer, but he goes into
great sort of reporting about how he will meet with a voter and say stupid
things. He doesn`t know how to connect with -- you know how to do it, meet
a person on a street corner. You can do it, meet people, chat with them.
He can`t do that basic thing of meeting another human being. That is a
problem for a politician.
STEELE: Well, it`s a problem for a politician, but...
STEELE: It is. I mean, if you can`t communicate the message, it
doesn`t get that far. But I`ve seen Romney in the room, and in the room,
he is really, really good. And the problem is translating...
MATTHEWS: One on one or with a group of 200 people?
STEELE: Well, no, with a group of -- with a group of 60...
MATTHEWS: Did you ever seen him one on one?
STEELE: Oh, yes. I have. No, I`ve seen him...
MATTHEWS: This writer says he`s terrible.
STEELE: Well, that`s that writer`s opinion and -- but there`s the
opinion of others out there like myself who have seen him and have seen him
to be very good at that. The problem is translating that to a broader
audience via television and other media, in which you don`t necessarily
MATTHEWS: Has he ever said to you, Who let out the dogs?
MATTHEWS: He has some strange reactions when he meets people.
FINEMAN: Remember how George H.W. Bush was kind of uncomfortable
sometimes? But George W. Bush had a winning earnestness about him that
MATTHEWS: Well, he was great one on one.
FINEMAN: He was great. And I have...
MATTHEWS: One on one.
FINEMAN: ... interviewed...
MATTHEWS: Trouble was there one too many wars with the guy. That`s
FINEMAN: I have interviewed Mitt Romney one on one, and maybe it was
just me, but it was a difficult interview.
STEELE: Yes, but you didn`t write him a check. You`re not going to
vote for him, you know?
MATTHEWS: Now, there`s a statement. Pay to play, huh?
FINEMAN: Number two, and I know Andrew Romano. I used to work with
him at "Newsweek." He`s a terrific young reporter.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK, I see a problem here. Let`s take a look. Here`s
Brit Hume, no man of the left here, weighed in on Rick Perry`s bad week
last week. Here he is going after the other front-runner, and they`re
getting about even, these two guys, Perry and Romney. Let`s listen to Brit
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Perry really did throw up all over himself in
the debate at a time where he needed to raise his game, and he not only --
I mean, he did worse, it seems to me, than he had done in previous debates.
Perry is about, you know, one-half a step away from almost total collapse
as a candidate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I have this idea, not in reference to what Brit said --
he`s his own guy, I think -- but this idea of what -- I get the feeling
that Fox and Murdoch and that particular empire, which is a big part --
Roger Ailes is part of that, too. Those guys seem to be pushing -- we have
a "New York Post" editorial today, pushing like mad for a new entry. We`re
going to get to him. But just for a second here, before we get to him in
the next block, Christie. No -- he`s to me evidence that they don`t like
what they got, Michael.
STEELE: Yes. No. I...
MATTHEWS: If they liked what they got, they wouldn`t be pushing for
the Jersey governor with one or two years under his belt.
STEELE: Well, this is the problem. You get a Christie in the race,
and then once you start peeling back that onion, you don`t like what you
see or you smell, then where are you?
MATTHEWS: That`s what they`ve been doing. One after another, they
say, You know who I really like? The guy who`s not in the race.
FINEMAN: I know Roger Ailes. We all know Roger Ailes.
FINEMAN: My guess is that Roger Ailes has looked at Rick Perry in the
last couple of performances, if he didn`t know Rick Perry going way back,
and said, Uh-uh.
MATTHEWS: Because Roger knows television (INAUDIBLE)
FINEMAN: He knows people who come across as credible on television...
MATTHEWS: Right. Well, let`s...
FINEMAN: ... and Perry didn`t.
MATTHEWS: We`re all over the place, but what seems to be going over
this weekend, you look at all kinds of evidence, the Florida straw vote,
what`s happening with the media empire of Murdoch, what you hear
everywhere, everywhere, the neoconservatives like Bill Kristol out there,
they`re all -- and what`s his name, John -- what`s his name, Senor (ph)?
MATTHEWS: Yes, that guy, Dan Senor. They`re all looking for
Christie. Anyway, here`s the latest CNN Opinion Research Poll. It still
has Rick Perry leading, but in a narrow way. Though he`s dropped 2 points
from earlier this month, he`s still ahead of Mitt Romney, who has gained 3
points. One person who`s dropped a lot, Sarah Palin, who`s down to 3
points since earliest September.
Why are we not hearing anything right now about Palin? My hunch is,
Michael, quitting the governorship halfway through her term disqualified
her as a presidential candidate -- not as a popular figure, but a
presidential candidate. And it`s becoming clear.
STEELE: I think there`s some legitimacy to that, and I`ve heard that
from some of the activists in the party who thought that that -- you know,
fulfilling that responsibility and that role would have notched it up a
bit. Cutting out halfway through, you know, brought her down. And I think
you`re right. She remains popular, but when they look at the office of the
presidency, that is a...
MATTHEWS: And Ronald Reagan couldn`t have been elected president as a
TV commentator or radio commentator or columnist.
STEELE: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: He had to have those two terms as governor.
FINEMAN: Yes, that`s right. And Rick Perry -- despite what Brit Hume
said there in colorful terms, Rick Perry needs to raise the level of his
game if he`s going to stay in it. It`s not impossible.
The irony is, they kept him out of it for a long time to try to train
him up, but in the process of trying to train him up, they raised the
expectations for him. And he certainly didn`t meet the raised the
expectations in the last debate, but the dynamics are that there`s an only
mildly popular Mitt Romney preaching electability, ironically, a guy who
rarely wins an election, and the desire of the Tea Party more for a strong
If it`s Perry, if they have to make the best they can out of Perry, if
nobody else enters the race, they`re going to try and do it. So Perry`s
got another shot here.
MATTHEWS: I agree. He has a good night, he wins -- he`s back on top.
FINEMAN: A good night, he`s back there because the underlying
dynamics of the race are going to require somebody to go up against Romney.
MATTHEWS: I want to get to what I`m going to say at the end of the
show tonight. I want to check it with you. You`re a Republican. It seems
to me what the Democrats have a problem, the president isn`t quite sure
what kind of a campaign he`s going to run. We`ll get to that later in the
MATTHEWS: Is he going to run down the middle like Clinton, somewhere
left/right like Harry Truman, or hard left like Roosevelt did in `36? What
kind of a campaign`s he going to run? But we know who the candidate is.
Your party, we know what kind of campaign it`s going to be. It`s
going to be angry. It`s going to have some heat in it, maybe some hatred
in it. It`s being very tough on Obama. You need somebody to wear that
uniform, but you know what kind of campaign it`s going to be, anti-Obama.
STEELE: Right. And that`s going to go but so far, I think, because
the country is fed up with the anti. And now they`re looking for...
STEELE: I really believe this. And I think...
MATTHEWS: But the red-hots in Florida weren`t.
STEELE: But the red-hots in Florida -- how does that translate into
other parts of the country...
STEELE: ... where the vote really is going to matter?
FINEMAN: I got to say, with all due respect to the chairman, I
totally disagree with that. I think the anti -- the anti mood in the
country is colossal. I think if people could press a button and get rid of
every member of Congress on both sides of the aisle, they would do it.
STEELE: They would do that.
FINEMAN: Right now.
STEELE: But that`s not the reality. And when they get in that voting
booth on election day, that becomes the reality then. They`re going to ask
themselves the hard question. Does a Perry or a Romney standing in for the
Republicans do better than a Barack Obama?
MATTHEWS: Remember Austin Powers, when they pushed a button and the
chair falls down into the ground and the trap door closes (INAUDIBLE) and
they hear the wailing beneath the ground? If you could do that to the
United States Congress, all...
FINEMAN: No, if you gave voters -- supposedly, voters love their own
member of Congress. If you said, OK, you can keep your own member of
Congress or you can press the other button and get rid of all of them,
including your own member of Congress...
STEELE: They would push that button.
FINEMAN: ... they would push that button.
MATTHEWS: By the way, this weekend, one -- a party -- a Congress with
one eighth support among the American people -- one in eight people like
the Congress -- held up the United States budget and is threatening to shut
down the United States government over one 25th of 1 percent of the budget.
Those are the numbers. Those are the metrics. Anyway, thank you, ladies
and gentlemen of the Congress.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Howard Fineman, and thank you, Michael Steele.
Coming up: So if it`s not Mitt Romney, who is it? Well, we got the
big guy from Jersey. He`s been talked about all weekend. What is it about
this guy that seems to be the call of the wild for the Republican Party?
Everybody wants him.
He`s taking the phone calls. He`s listening. He may run. And if he
does, does he change the whole thing? We`re going to get to the question
of why this guy`s still being talked of, not Palin, him, that guy from
Jersey. I think it`s atty-tude.
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. Atty-tude.
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s another sign of Rick Perry`s potential
flameout. The Dublin-based betting house Intrade gives Perry only a 25
percent chance of winning the Republican nomination right now. The smart
money in Dublin right now is on Mitt Romney. He`s way up to 44 percent.
But you know, this thing is wobbling. A couple weeks back, it was Perry
with the lead over Romney.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That concludes tonight`s debate. And as a
reminder to Chris Christie, it`s wide open, buddy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was a cue. And that
was "Saturday Night Live" this weekend, joking about what a lot of
Republicans around the country are thinking.
The GOP field this year is still not satisfactory. And the one name
that comes up over and over again -- I don`t know why -- all over again
this weekend is the blunt-talking New Jersey governor, Chris Christie.
Today, former New Jersey governor Tom Kean told the National Review
online that Governor Christie is, quote, "very seriously," close quote,
reconsidering a run, and the odds are a lot better now than they were a
couple of weeks ago, so somebody`s pushing this story on the inside. Kean,
by the way, is a strong supporter of Christie and has urged him to run.
But Christie has always denied he would consider entering this race in
Let`s take a look at what he`s said over time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: You`re still saying, categorically, not
running in 2012.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: No, I`m not running.
SAWYER: Categorically not running.
CHRISTIE: Yes, I mean, I don`t know how else to put it, Diane. I
mean, the answer is no, I`m not doing it.
You have to be really in your gut and in your heart ready to be
president of the United States if you decide to run for that. And I simply
do not have the desire to do it, nor do I think I`m ready.
I`m 100 percent certain I`m not going to run.
Listen, I threatened to commit suicide -- I did! I said, What do I
have to do short of suicide to convince people I`m not running?
Apparently, I actually have to commit suicide!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that sounds fairly certain. It`s not exactly
Shermanesque, but it`s close to it. But still, the calls for Christie to
run continue, as of we speak right now. And what does that say about the
field that`s out there running hard? And is there any chance the governor
would reconsider over the next several weeks?
U.S. Congressman Peter King represents parts of Long Island in New
York state. Michael Smerconish is a nationally syndicated radio talk show
host and an MSNBC contributor.
I want to start with Congressman Peter King. As an elected official
from the Northeast, is part of this just the sense that George Will
mentioned the other day in a column, that our part of the country up here
has been underrepresented in your party? Is it essentially you need
somebody with attitude? What is it that`s missing in the field right now?
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: You know, I`ve actually been a
supporter of Chris Christie for a while. I actually drove all the way to
Trenton. And to drive from New York to Trenton, you know, you`ve got to be
serious about it. This was last September, I guess, a year ago. And I
spent about two hours with him, urging him to run. He pretty much
convinced me at that time, certainly at that time, he did not want to run.
I saw him again a few weeks ago, and -- again, I`m not part of the
inside with Chris Christie, but I was talking to him and his wife and he --
I don`t know, he didn`t seem as resistant now as he did then. But that
could have been me just reading into it.
Why is he attractive? I think, Chris, the fact -- and you said it
yourself. He`s tough talking. He gets the job done. And I think -- and
this is an old thing I have. I think he would appeal to the Reagan
Democrats, the Irish, the Italian, the Catholic...
MATTHEWS: To your crowd, yes.
KING: ... ethnics, the conservative Jews. Yes.
MATTHEWS: What is it, though, about -- about -- something about
that`s missing. I`m trying to figure out, without being derogatory -- I
know you don`t want to trash the other Republicans who are out there
running and you may have to back. But what is it missing in -- let`s start
with Romney. You know that old story about the dog food? They had great
commercials for it, they had great advertising, great can it came in, and
they wouldn`t -- the dogs wouldn`t eat it. And somebody says, Why don`t
the dogs eat it? It`s well advertised. They said, The dogs don`t like it.
MATTHEWS: There`s something out there about the voters in the
Republican Party, Peter, that they just don`t like this guy, Romney.
KING: I wouldn`t say they don`t like him. I have only been with him
really for one extended period of time.
And, actually, I disagree with what you said before, or what the
reporter said. I found him one on one to be actually very friendly. When
he is in front of a crowd, he does become more stiff. So, I think his
competence comes across and his sincerity as far as wanting to get the job
done, but, no, he doesn`t have sort of the Bill Clinton or George Bush or
Lyndon Johnson -- I`m trying to think -- or a Giuliani or D`Amato or Cuomo.
MATTHEWS: Or you.
KING: OK. I will take that. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Peter, you`re pretty...
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at conservative commentator Bill Kristol,
not exactly the regular guy you bump into on the street, but yesterday he
said he would like to see Governor Christie get in this race.
Quote -- let`s watch Bill Kristol, a smart guy, on FOX yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": We don`t know how Chris
Christie would be, as Brit says, as a presidential candidate. I would just
like to see some of these guys try.
Chris Christie would be a big -- I have said this before and I have
said to this him, and he`s good-natured enough to laugh at me and not knock
me out -- he would be a big man for a big job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there`s a little pun there.
But here`s an editorial in "The New York Post" this morning, lead
editorial, strong language urging the New Jersey governor to get in --
quote -- "There`s no denying that Chris Christie has long been the hottest
ticket in town, a genuine GOP political superstar, with good reason. For
one thing, he can construct a coherent sentence, appealing to people
without talking down to them. And there is a freshness to him that`s
lacking in the other poll leader, Mitt Romney, who`s been campaigning for
five years now."
Michael, you understand this business better than I do, which is the
suburban person who decides all elections, tends to be maybe not real tough
on abortion one way or the other, tends to be probably pro-choice, but they
run on issues of moderation, they look for somewhere center-right. Is
Christie the answer to their prayers?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think he can
sell, I think he can play in suburbia. And some of those conservative
influences who are encouraging him to get into the race, he might not be
that which they anticipate. This is not a guy -- and I like him. I`m
favorably disposed toward him, because of his fiscal prudence. But, Chris,
he`s not going to pass a GOP purity test.
You know, there was an interesting issue recently that he had to make
a determination on. It`s this trend among employers to say in want ads,
the unemployed need not apply. And Chris Christie passed into law in New
Jersey a ban of that kind of advertising. They became the first in the
country. And the free market purists were of a mind-set that a person
ought to be able to run their business as they see fit with little guidance
from Uncle Sam.
SMERCONISH: To me, it was a reminder that this is not a guy who is
going to line up lockstep in those conservative boxes.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but he certainly will connect with the Reagan Democrat
who`s been out of work who`s 55 years old.
KING: Yes, Chris, I agree with you completely on it. That is what
his strength is going to be, to appeal to people -- and the swing state --
I think -- and Michael`s a good friend of mine, but I think Chris Christie
is certainly conservative enough running against President Obama to hold
the conservative states, the South, the West, the Southwest.
But where he`s really going to be competitive is New Jersey,
I mean, those are -- Ohio, and also Florida, obviously. So to me,
that`s where the election`s going to swing. I think Chris Christie can win
those states, hold on to the conservative base, especially running against
President Obama, who is obviously not going to, to me, win any of those
So I think he`s the best choice. I have told him that, but I have no
inside information if he`s going to run or not.
MATTHEWS: He just strikes me as a Knights of Columbus kind of...
MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Michael, your thoughts. You have a better
thought maybe. Go ahead.
SMERCONISH: The only point I was going to make is that I think that
to the extent that you`re looking at who he pulls from, is it Perry or is
it Romney, I think in the end, he`s a relatively moderate Northeastern
governor, and I see him more in a Romney mold than I do in a Perry mold.
He might be exactly what Rick Perry needs at this juncture.
MATTHEWS: I think the Tea Partiers love him, because I think he`s got
the attitude about big government and he has the attitude about the way
things are. I think he`s angry. And if you`re not angry running this
time, I don`t think you`re in sync, but that`s my thought.
Here`s Christie. He`s known for being blunt, as I said, and
conservative when he`s dealing with other politicians, combative, and with
the press, and even constituents. Here are a few of the governor`s more
famous, or infamous, outbursts, starting with his direct message to a few
New Jersey beachgoers this summer who didn`t listen to warnings to leave in
that run-up to Irene. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Get the hell off the beach in
Asbury Park and get out. You`re done. It`s 4:30. You have maximized your
You`re going to have to raise the retirement age for Social Security.
Whoa! I just said it and I`m still standing here.
CHRISTIE: I didn`t vaporize into the carpeting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don`t send your children to public schools.
You send them to private schools, so I was wondering why you think it`s
fair to be cutting school funding to public schools.
CHRISTIE: Hey, Gayle (ph), you know what? First off, it`s none of
your business. I don`t ask you where you send your kids to school. Don`t
bother me about where I send mine.
You know, Tom, you must be the thinnest-skinned guy in America,
because you think that`s a confrontational tone, then you should really see
me when I`m pissed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, Congressman King, I don`t know how long you get
along with that kind of rough talk, but what do you think of the old
argument in politics, some time in your life, the galloping horse of
history rides by, and you better get on it because it ain`t coming back for
you? Is this Christie`s time?
KING: Chris, I think it is.
And I`m not going to get into an ideological debate with you on this,
but I think among independent voters, a lot of the suburban people, they
see a failure of leadership on President Obama`s part. And I think with
Chris Christie, people may overlook some of the details here or there.
He`s a tough leader, he`s going to kick ass. He`s going ahead, he`s
going to do whatever he has to do, and that`s what people are going to see
and that I think is going to win conservative votes, it will win Tea Party
votes, but also it`s going to bring a lot of blue-collar jobs, those
construction unions, the cops, the firemen. Despite what -- you`re going
to find quotes he said this or that. I don`t think it matters. I think
the big picture is, he is a big guy, he`s a tough guy, and that`s what
people want this year.
MATTHEWS: Yes. And I think the American people deserve -- this is a
nonpartisan thought. They deserve a reasonable choice between two credible
presidential candidates, Obama and someone else, and they better find one
Anyway, thank you, Congressman Peter King.
KING: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: My colleague, Michael Smerconish, sir, thanks for joining
up next, much more from "Saturday Night Live." Season premiere was
last night as they skewer the Republican presidential field. You know,
they ought to -- God, they ought to pay the salaries of some of these
Republican guys, "SNL." They give them such great material. That`s next
in the "Sideshow."
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now for the "Sideshow."
First up, it`s officially fall. The new season of "Saturday Night
Live" has premiered this weekend and right off the bat took on the field of
the 2012 Republican candidates. Let`s get the party started.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: I believe all 10-year-old girls should be
vaccinated for HPV, so they can enter into meaningful sexual relationships.
BALDWIN: Oh, try again. Rick Perry consistent -- I believe Social
Security is a Ponzi scheme. I believe we need to build a fence to keep the
illegals out. However, should any illegals get through and have children
here, I think we should open our hearts and pay for their education.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I believe paying no taxes can help us return to
the America I love, not the America of Ronald Reagan, not the America of
the founding fathers, but rather the America of thousands of years ago, in
which feral bands of mud people lived in their caves, never worrying that
Barack Obama was going to come and take their hard-earned pelts.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: There`s no better motto for the federal
government than that of a pizza place. Pizza doesn`t come to your door
unless you ask for it. But when you ask for it, pizza will be there in 10
minutes. And if you vote for me, America, I promise you that I will
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, forget the United States government paying these
people. Perry and Bachmann, like Palin before them, should get their
salaries direct from "SNL."
And next up, moving forward or faking it? The good news is, King
Abdullah of Saudi Arabia announced this weekend he was advancing the rights
of women in his country -- quote -- "We refuse to marginalize the role of
women in Saudi society in every field of work," and later, "Women will be
able to run as candidates in the municipal election and will even have a
right to vote."
Well, it sounds like a major step in the right direction over there in
Saudi Arabia, but how about the fine print following this? Elections are
taking place this week in Saudi Arabia, but strangely enough, a woman`s
right to vote will not actually kick in for another four years in 2015. As
for getting to the polls, don`t think about getting behind the wheel.
Women in Saudi Arabia still lack the right to drive a car. Gives new
meaning to the phrase voting with your feet.
Up next, President Obama revs up his base. He tells the Congressional
Black Caucus to stop complaining and start marching, and he`s blasting Rick
Perry and the Republican crowds who cheer for people without health
insurance to die and, of course, boo gay soldiers. The campaign is on,
next. You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Kayla Tausche with your CNBC
A major rally to kick off the week, the Dow Jones industrials soaring
272 points, the S&P 500 adding 26, and the Nasdaq bouncing back from an
early dip to finish 33 points in the green.
Well, what started out as a somewhat tentative rally did pick up steam
late in the session on a report from CNBC`s own Steve Liesman that a
detailed plan is in the works to leverage money from the European bailout
fund to provide bank capital and fund money for debt purchases. That
helped investors overlook more bad news out of the housing market, sales of
news homes falling for the fourth straight month in August to a six-month
In stocks, Boeing soared after delivering its first 787 Dreamliner of
Japan`s All Nippon Airways. Coca-Cola gained on plans to invest almost $3
billion to build its presence in Russia over the next five years. But
Clorox tumbled on word billionaire investor Carl Icahn is stepping back
from his bid to take over the board of that company making bleach and
That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Obama hit the road over this past weekend as he begins
gearing up for his reelection, which he`s already done. The president held
fund-raisers on the West Coast to pump up his base and he unleashed some of
his harshest criticism to date on his Republican challengers.
Obama even pushed back against his own supporters who have been
critical of him by challenging them directly. Is this the Obama liberals
have been hoping for?
Alex Wagner is an MSNBC political analyst and David Corn is the
Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones."
Alex, I haven`t seen you in a while and I want your views on this,
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: OK, Chris, I`m happy to share.
MATTHEWS: I have been in this business a long time, and I don`t know
the answer. That`s why I`m hitting you with it.
Is Obama -- I`m going to get to this at the end of the show. Three
trails he can take. Does he go to the center, like Clinton did effectively
in `96 with things like welfare reform and NAFTA and balancing the budget?
Is he smart to go Harry Truman`s route, give them hell, Harry, real
partisan, not left-wing, but partisan as hell? Three, does he go like
Franklin Roosevelt did in `36, unite the hard left with the center-left and
say, this is where I stand, we`re going to win this left vs. right?
Where does he go, if you had to call it? Where are they thinking of
WAGNER: I think he`s going Roosevelt, Chris.
Look, he`s been sort of in the center for a little while now, and I
think the whole country wants to see him fighting. Vis-a-vis his comments
at the CBC this weekend, where he said, look, we have got to keep fighting,
and really it was a call to arms in many respects. I think the quote that
everybody`s been showing is get out of your bedroom slippers and start
MATTHEWS: Well, wait. Now that you bring it up, let`s show it. Here
he is challenging, as you said, Alex, members of the Congressional Black
Caucus down here in Washington on their big weekend. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t have time to
feel sorry for myself. I don`t have time to complain. I expect all of you
to march with me and press on. Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on
your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop
crying. We are going to press on. We have got work to do, CBC.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do people still have bedroom slippers, Alex?
MATTHEWS: I mean, I sleep in a T-shirt.
WAGNER: Oh. Well...
MATTHEWS: I mean, I`m not sure -- I don`t have all this elaborate
bedroom gear. Do people still have slippers and all...
MATTHEWS: ... bathrobes and...
WAGNER: To not get too in-depth into my bedroom wardrobe, I do have a
pair of slippers, Chris.
WAGNER: But I think what gets lost here is that the run-up to that
line was framing the choice ahead of us and the choice facing not just the
black community, but America on whole, is akin to the civil rights
WAGNER: We -- this is a great battle. And I think it was I think in
many ways a call to arms.
Now, look, Maxine Waters on "The Today Show" voiced some skepticism...
MATTHEWS: Well, you`re queuing up all these. Here`s Maxine Waters on
"The Today Show." We will do what Alex is doing at this point.
Let`s watch what she had to say about the president. It`s pretty
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TODAY SHOW")
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: I found that language a bit
curious because the president spoke to the Hispanic Caucus, and certainly
they`re pushing him on immigration. He certainly didn`t tell them to stop
complaining. And he would never say that to the gay and lesbian community,
who really pushed him on "Don`t ask, don`t tell." He would never say to
the Jewish community, Stop complaining about Israel. So I don`t know who
he was talking to because we`re certainly not complaining.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I want to go to David on that. She hit all the bases
there, but you know, there`s the old thing, you can tell jokes about your
own community, but not about others. Maybe he feels he can be tougher with
your own community than others. I don`t want to think for him, but maybe
that`s what he`s talking about.
DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: There was a lot
of wind-up to that comment, and he was clearly feeling the passion of the
moment. But it`s no secret that he has felt that liberals and
progressives, in all the different communities, not just in the African-
American community, have not been as understanding of the challenges he has
faced and they`ve let their disappointment get the better of them. So he`s
not pushing back, but he`s saying, Come on, guys, we`ve got a big fight.
And to Maxine Waters, if she`s going to get upset about these sort of
words and these decisions, when there`s this big choice coming up next
year, whether it`s...
MATTHEWS: OK, can you please separate...
MATTHEWS: Let`s not get into this idea people are, when they come on
this show, these politicians, they`re speaking their minds. They`re all
CORN: Of course. Yes.
MATTHEWS: The president`s a politician. Maxine Waters, the
congresswoman, is a politician.
MATTHEWS: She`s saying what will sell well with who she`s talking to,
the base who may be upset with the president.
CORN: Anybody in the base reading that speech, hearing that speech in
the full context would walk out saying, yes, that`s the Obama I want. And
if he made a little comment about, Don`t complain so much, very few people
MATTHEWS: OK, I`m not getting anywhere with you. Alex, here`s the
point. Isn`t it better for an African-American politician who represents,
in many cases, an African-American district, on the left, if you will,
poorer people than the average in many cases, to be tougher on the
president? It doesn`t hurt her a bit to be a little tougher and to his
ALEX WAGNER, HUFFINGTONPOST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it doesn`t.
And look, Chris, I mean, to be fair, look what`s happened to the black
community in America. I mean, we talk about jobs in this country. Black
unemployment is at near historic highs. You look at the loss of black
wealth in this country...
MATTHEWS: I understand.
WAGNER: I mean, it is -- the lack of attention...
MATTHEWS: Last in, first out. Last in, first out. Same old deal.
WAGNER: But I also think that there was some sense that President
Obama, because he does have African-American roots, would be at least
paying attention to this, if not giving it some amount of special
attention, given the fact that blacks have disproportionately felt this
economic downturn. I mean...
MATTHEWS: You`re right. One thing I think you`re right about. Why
hasn`t he done a jobs program per se, a CETA program, some kind of major
hiring of people for civil service jobs, putting people to work, per se?
Here he is at a fund-raiser in San Jose. Let`s hear what he had to
say, President Obama. "Republicans would fundamentally cripple" -- keep
going -- "America." He said, quote, "I mean, has anybody been watching the
debates lately? You`ve got a governor whose state is on fire" -- that`s,
of course, Perry -- "denying climate change. You`ve got audiences cheering
at the prospect of someone dying because they don`t have health insurance
and booing a service member in Iraq because he`s gay. That`s not
reflective of who we are. This is a choice about the fundamental direction
of our country."
There you have divide and conquer. He`s saying, Maybe I`ve not been
that successful, all right...
CORN: I don`t think he`s...
MATTHEWS: I know he doesn`t want to say that, but he`s really saying
to the voters, You want them?
CORN: Well, listen, he`s a president -- we`re going to have
unemployment over 9 percent, black unemployment over 15, 20 percent,
whatever it`s going to be, and he`s going to have to look at the electorate
and say, Hey, you`re not for change. You may feel like you`re for change,
but no, you`re not. You`ve got to look at the choice. It`s me, and you
may not be happy with the way things are going now, but look at the other
side. Do you think they would do a better job? Are their values in sync
MATTHEWS: You`ve got to change it from performance to ideology...
MATTHEWS: Last thought.
WAGNER: I think my favorite line there was Obama said, Don`t compare
me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative. And that`s exactly what
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s what he has to do. Anyway, thank you, Alex
Wagner. It`s great to have you on. Thank you, David.
WAGNER: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Barry Goldwater famously said "Extremism in
defense of liberty is no vice," and now Frank Rich up in New York is saying
extremism in defense of victory is no vice, either. He`s calling for
President Obama to get tough, move to the left, or risk defeat because the
other side is definitely getting ideological.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Here`s a shocking number -- 81 percent. That`s the number
of Americans who say they`re dissatisfied with the way the country`s being
governed -- 81 percent. And that`s according to a new Gallup poll, more
than 8 in 10. That`s an all-time record high. That tells you what the
mood of the country is and it`s reflected in that number. A whopping 92
percent of Republicans and two thirds of Democrats are in that number.
Everybody hates somebody.
Anyway, we`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARRY GOLDWATER (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I would remind you
that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: From the Cow Palace in San Francisco, that was Barry
Goldwater. He got, like, 26 million votes. He did not do well. That`s
Barry Goldwater accepting the Republican nomination for president back in
1964. He went on to lose handily to Lyndon Johnson, but many say his
candidacy did, in fact, lay the historic groundwork for what was to become
the Reagan revolution many years later.
In this week`s "New York" magazine, Frank Rich draws a comparison
between the Goldwater era and now. He writes, quote, "Whatever Perry`s" -
- that`s Rick Perry`s -- "2012 electoral fate, his lightning ascent is
final proof, if any further is needed in the day of Tea Party GOP, that a
bipartisan consensus in America is as unachievable now as it was after
Richard Wolffe`s an MSNBC political analyst, as is Chris Cillizza,
who`s also managing editor of Postpolitics.com.
Let me go through this in all fairness. I`m skeptical of what Rich
writes, but he`s a smart guy. Let`s go to these questions about -- do you
think, Richard Wolffe -- you studied the politics of this presidency better
than anybody. How do you see the argument here? Let`s start with the
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
MATTHEWS: Is this going to be a right-wing victory in this nomination
process? When it ends up in Tampa next fall, at this time next year, will
it end up with a conservative candidate?
WOLFFE: I`d put money on that. The energy of the party is for an
extreme candidate that doesn`t want to have anything to do with the center,
with moderates, with Obama`s position. So yes...
MATTHEWS: That`s what I think. I think the party of heat and hatred,
to some extent, needs a head. Whoever that head`s got to match the heat
and the hatred.
Your view, Cillizza. You have to be really nonpartisan here, but...
CHRIS CILLIZZA, POSTPOLITICS.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well...
MATTHEWS: ... is the pattern going towards somebody of true right-
wing belief and attitude, not just somebody who`s acceptable down the
CILLIZZA: I think right now, Chris, you`ve got the choice between the
heart, which is clearly Rick Perry -- he`s the guy who gets people
animated, conservatives animated. They believe that he believes, right?
He`s heart. And the head, which is Mitt Romney. The head -- thinking,
steady, electability, can beat Obama on his issues.
So I honestly don`t know the answer, but I do think you`re seeing that
basic dynamic play out in a way that`s not dissimilar, I would say, Chris,
to `04. Remember, Howard Dean as heart, John Kerry as head. It`s not that
different. One is the candidate they love. The other candidate is the one
they like but think other people can like him, too.
MATTHEWS: I think they`re still looking for more heart and would like
to have somebody better and smarter than Perry maybe. Here`s Frank Rich
writing in "New York" magazine. Quote, "Whether Perry snares the big prize
or not, he could prove a shock to the system tantamount to Barry Goldwater
in `64 and just as misestimated (SIC) now as -- or underestimated as
Goldwater was then." A little strange writing there by the writer.
MATTHEWS: Misunderestimate. What do you make of this?
CILLIZZA: Well, look...
MATTHEWS: I think he`s arguing that even if Perry loses the
nomination or loses the election, he still moves the party further to the
right. My believe is they`re looking for somebody like Perry, if not him,
who`s more accomplished and more successful in debating, for example.
WOLFFE: Well, I think people on both sides -- the partisans on both
sides want to punch each other in the face. They get a lot of satisfaction
from that. And the question for Republicans is, Do they want to win, or do
they want to punch Obama in the face? For people like Frank Rich, they
want Obama to do the same in return. That`s not where elections get won.
In fact, that`s not what Goldwater`s impact was.
MATTHEWS: What`s the argument about -- that Rich makes? Why would --
if you saw the Republican Party moving to the right, and I think we do,
wouldn`t you grab the center that they`re leaving behind?
WOLFFE: Well, there aren`t enough liberals out there. You need to
win, as a Democratic president, a supermajority of moderates -- moderates,
not the independents, moderates -- and that`s where Obama is trying to head
for. That`s where Romney...
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at this. Here`s the NBC poll about who
people are in this country. People describe themselves -- the latest NBC -
- the latest -- shows a country that tilts to the right. Now, look at
these numbers. These are factual self-described expressions of what people
are politically. People should write this down. I found it fascinating.
Respondents say they consider themselves -- 17 percent said they`re --
or 7 percent said they`re very liberal, 10 percent somewhat liberal. So it
adds up to 17 percent who call themselves liberals. Moderates, people like
that number, 40 percent. Somewhat conservative, 23 percent. Very
conservative, 17 percent. So basically, add up the conservative and
liberal, it`s 17 to 40, Chris.
MATTHEWS: It doesn`t look like it`s even. Now, I personally believe,
a lot of people who say they`re moderates are by conservative estimates
liberals. I mean, I might call myself a moderate. A lot of conservatives
will call me...
CILLIZZA: I would say, Chris, yes, you`re exactly right. Look,
people like to say they`re independents or they`re moderates because that
means, Well, of course I don`t believe one side or the other all the time,
I think about each issue and then I break it down. But in truth, if you
pushed most of the 40 percent who are in that moderate category, my guess
is 20 percent would be on the liberal side, 20 percent would be on the
conservative side. So that`s a little bit, I think, misleading in that
because people hike the -- it`s like people like the idea of compromise.
But when it comes to actual compromise...
WOLFFE: Let me jump in. Moderates -- there`s a lot of polling about
what moderates believes. Socially, they`re to the left. On economic
policy, they`re in the middle. But on foreign policy, they`re with
Republicans (INAUDIBLE) right. So moderates are a different group of
people. Only about half of independents are moderates, as well. They`re
overlapping all these different parties. That`s where Obama did well in
MATTHEWS: So what do you do if you`re Obama?
WOLFFE: And by the way, they were less a share of the electorate in
MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to prescriptions. Should Obama go left,
center-left or center?
WOLFFE: The perception is you`ve got to tell these people -- values.
They care about deficit. They care -- they want a story. They don`t just
want the two sides punching each other. They want to know what you stand
for. And they want to have you aligned -- for instance, they`re more
environmental, more pro-immigration reform.
MATTHEWS: OK, we`re out of here. You`ve got to come back. This is a
debate we`re going to have from now until next November. Thank you,
Richard Wolffe. Thanks, Chris Cillizza.
CILLIZZA: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You`re always great.
When we come back, "Let Me Finish" with the candidate who matches the
anger, the attitude of Republicans today. This is what I think coming up.
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this. The Democrats have
their candidate for 2012. We know who he is. Republicans don`t, and
therein lies the big difference as we move into October. Obama has the
challenge of shaping his campaign for a second term, but the Republicans
have the problem of finding the candidate who fits their shape of their
campaign of heat and hate that`s already gone on for three years.
Obama has to decide whether he heads down the middle, the center-left
or the left. He needs to decide if he`s going to be -- follow the path of
Bill Clinton in `96, Harry Truman back in `48, or something more like
Franklin Roosevelt`s reelection campaign of 1936.
Let`s see what the Republicans are up to. They need a candidate -- in
simple terms, they need a candidate. The Florida debate last Thursday
showed they don`t have a front-runner who`s ready to debate Mitt Romney,
much less Barack Obama. The Florida straw vote on Saturday showed us that
activist Republicans don`t see Romney as an acceptable fallback.
Well, today`s "New York Post" editorial shows us that the media power
of Rupert Murdoch wants Chris Christie to get into the race. So do
neoconservatives, who seem to believe they have found in him, Chris
Christie, someone who will carry their banner into battle, someone not
named Mitt Romney, not Ron Paul, and apparently not the stumbling Rick
Well, their combined problem is that all these forces want a candidate
to match the campaign well under way. It is a Republican campaign already
of heat and hatred that wants Obama out of the White House. It`s a
campaign of negativity that needs a candidate who is negative and angry and
can show it in his face.
Mitt Romney had it too good to be that guy. He`s got a beautiful
family, enjoys a happy life with them and has a quarter billion dollars
salted away. He`s not your ticked-off middle class guy hitting his pillow
each night with anger about deficits, debt or same-sex marriage. He`s the
kind of debonair guy you meet at the club and chat with about college
football, how the kids are doing so well, and how great the fall weather`s
Chris Christie, on the other hand, is the kind of guy you just got
stuck in traffic, got cut off by some cab driver, and stuck his head or at
least his hand out the window to signal his attitude. The word is "atty-
tude." It`s a big city word for ticked off and not afraid to say so. It
explains the courtship today of Chris Christie, and how much fun a lot of
Republicans would have with him out there telling Obama what he and they
think of him.
Mitt Romney is a man without an attitude, and attitude is what Chris
Christie is all about.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "POLITICS NATION"
with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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