Guests: Nia-Malika Henderson, Frank Lautenberg, Frank Pallone, Robert
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Attacking al Qaeda.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good afternoon. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington -- actually, I`m in
Leading off tonight: No country for old men. Another victory in the
war on terrorism, this time in Yemen. The United States killed the radical
American-born cleric Anwar al Awlaki and a colleague who edited al Qaeda`s
on-line magazine. Awlaki has been linked to numerous incidents, including
the underwear bomber and the murderous assault at Ft. Hood. Along with the
killing of Osama bin Laden, today`s drone strike in Yemen makes it that
much more difficult for Republicans to credibly call the president weak on
Also, a new poll shows that most people still blame President Bush for
the awful economy. But Bush isn`t on the ballot next November, President
Obama is. Looks like it`s time for a new strategy.
Plus, Jersey sore. Amid all the talk of Chris Christie getting in the
race comes word today that the governor doesn`t really get along with the
big-name Democrats in his state. Senator Frank Lautenberg calls him the
"king of liars." We`ll ask him, Senator Lautenberg, what he means by that.
And Mr. President, you`re on the air. President Obama joined our
colleague, Michael Smerconish, on his radio show today to talk about the
economy, taxes and efforts to restrict voting rights. Michael Smerconish
joins us later.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with a night millions say they`ll
we start with another victory for President Obama in the war on
terrorism. Evan Kohlmann`s an NBC News terrorist analyst and Richard
Wolffe is an MSNBC political analyst.
Thank you, Evan. How did we get him?
EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: We got him because of the fact
after months of tracking this individual, after months of firing missiles
at him fruitlessly, we got the right opportunity. There was a meeting that
was taking place. It was not near a major populated zone. There wasn`t a
threat of civilian casualties. And it -- you know, it worked out. It was
the time and -- the right time and the right place, but there was a lot of
work and there were a lot of failed efforts that led into this.
MATTHEWS: How safer are we today because we got him?
KOHLMANN: Well, here`s the problem. Anwar al Awlaki didn`t have a
official title in AQAP. He wasn`t the leader. He wasn`t the deputy
leader. He was an adviser. And so he assisted with recruiting Westerners,
OK, but he wasn`t a military official. He`s not a bomb maker.
Unfortunately, as far as al Qaeda in Yemen goes, they have pretty much the
same military capabilities today that they did yesterday. It`s more of a
long-term thing. It may be more difficult now--
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute! Wait a minute. Let`s get this thing
straight. Is he operations or is he propaganda?
KOHLMANN: He is -- look, he`s to a small degree operations, to a
large degree propaganda. This is somebody who is known as the godfather of
homegrown terrorism, of contemporary homegrown terrorism. He`s far more
valuable in terms of recruiting lone wolves and homegrown extremists than
he is as a military official within or in support of AQAP.
MATTHEWS: So basically, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- this guy
goes around, gets on the air, gets on the Internet, and stirs up people who
may possibly be leaning against U.S. policy in the Middle East, turns them
KOHLMANN: They see him as a rock star. The guys out in Ft. Dix here
in New Jersey who were scoping out terrorist targets -- they were listening
to Anwar al Awlaki on their car stereo system while they`re pointing out
various targets and they`re saying, This guy, this guy knows how to do it.
We need to follow exactly what this guy is telling us to do.
MATTHEWS: Well, it looks like an enemy in the field to me. Today,
the president said the death of Anwar al Awlaki was a significant milestone
in the broader effort to defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates. Let`s watch
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The death of Awlaki is
a major blow to al Qaeda`s most active operational affiliate. But make no
mistake, this is further proof that al Qaeda and its affiliates will find
no safe haven anywhere in the world. Working with Yemen and our other
allies and partners, we will be determined, we will be deliberate, we will
be relentless, we will be resolute in our commitment to destroy terrorist
networks that aim to kill Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Richard Wolffe. Richard, you know, it reminds
me, back in the Bush era -- which seems like a long time, thank God -- that
Bush was always saying things in his strange way -- I`m not really going to
think a lot about getting bin Laden, he never occurs to me.
Here`s the guy, of course, who he swore he was going to get the Friday
after 9/11. He tried to pretend like they weren`t really worth going
after, that we had a far more important war to fight in Iraq. Talk about a
wrong-way Corrigan effort there.
This president seems to be targeted towards getting the destruction of
al Qaeda accomplished.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And look, I think
George Bush was sincere about wanting to get bin Laden. Obviously, they
diverted themselves into Iraq. But results count, and that the narrative
that this administration can build up not just about al Qaeda but also
about Iraq and Afghanistan, which is results-based. I mean, there are key
markers here that really demolish the Republican line about this president,
that he doesn`t have a policy or he`s weak or he`s incompetent or he
apologizes for America around the world.
These kinds of moments bring home how focused he has been on what he
said he would do, which is to go after the core leadership of al Qaeda and
these splinter groups which have proved so effective.
MATTHEWS: Not exactly, to use the wondrously ingenious phrase of
Sarah Palin, "palling around with terrorists," is it.
WOLFFE: Not exactly. Look, they`re--
MATTHEWS: He`s killing them.
WOLFFE: I`m sure you`re still going to have people say these things,
but for reasonable voters in the middle, the swing independent voters,
moderate voters they`ve got to pull back into the fold in this election,
they`re going to hear that stuff.
The Republicans -- Newt Gingrich is not going to stop saying this
stuff, or Sarah Palin, and they`re going to see that disconnect between
what the president has actually done and this caricature that Republicans
have, where this president doesn`t know what he`s doing, isn`t up to the
job, has no idea -- I mean, look at the Arab spring. They`re going after
the Arab spring saying, Well, you know, he doesn`t know what he`s doing.
Gadhafi is gone. Mubarak is gone. Al Qaeda`s leadership is gone. America
can actually rest a little bit easier. It`s still got a long way to go,
but it`s still a much safer position, and this president can claim a big
chunk of the credit for it.
MATTHEWS: Yes, how big a "mission accomplished" banner would Bush
have for this baby?
Anyway, here`s what one former State Department official had to say
about President Obama`s foreign policy record. Aaron David Miller advised
six different secretaries of state on Middle East policy, most recently
Colin Powell. Well, he told Politico today, "The president has essentially
morphed into a much less reckless and ideological version of Bush 43. His
policies on Iraq, Afghanistan, Gitmo, Iran, even Patriot Act issues
resemble much more the pragmatic George W. Bush of 2007, 2008 than the
earlier lone ranger version."
This doesn`t bother me a bit, as an analyst observer. What you`re
saying is as Bush W. became more aware of reality, as he got toward the end
of his term, as he fell less under the influence of Cheney, he began to
become much better as a president and a leader. Obama`s more like him.
KOHLMANN: Yes. Look, I mean, Obama really has gone aggressively
after al Qaeda. No one can argue with that. If anything, you could say
that this is overly aggressive. I mean, we`re going after people with
But I think what Ron Paul and I think some others have gotten wrong
here is the idea that just because he`s an American citizen, we shouldn`t
be firing missiles at him. This is someone who declared war against the
United States of America, who openly broadcast--
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute! Ron Paul -- talk about being out to lunch.
You mean if you go join the Nazi army and fight -- and you`re fighting in
the army against us with the SS and you get killed in action, that`s
somehow wrong? You need to be given a bill or particulars or whatever?
KOHLMANN: Yes, there`s no mystery here.
MATTHEWS: Or Miranda rights. What`s he talking about?
KOHLMANN: There`s no mystery here. This is someone who went on video
and said, I want to kill Americans. I want other people to kill Americans,
as many as possible. That is declaring war against the United States. If
you do something like that, if you make yourself into a clear and present
threat to U.S. national security, I`m not sure what your argument is that
that`s an assassination.
MATTHEWS: I mean, look at -- let`s take a look at -- here`s several
Republican candidates today who were out there praising the action. Mitt
Romney called it a major victory. Rick Perry congratulated President Obama
and the military.
Here`s Newt Gingrich this morning defending the use of lethal force
against Anwar al Awlaki, who was an American citizen. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:
American citizens who engage in war against the United States are
legitimate targets, and I think it was an appropriate and correct thing to
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So they give up the right to due process?
GINGRICH: Absolutely -- well, they got due process. The president
signed an order to kill them. That was due process. I think President
Obama did the right thing and I praise him for having had the courage to
stand up and defend America against somebody who was clearly engaged in
trying to kill Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And by the way, that`s Newt talk -- execution,
assassination -- that`s ridiculous. You shoot an enemy in the field.
That`s what the president did. Anyway, it`s Newt screwing up things with
his awful language.
Anyway, however, Ron Paul, of course, as I just said, criticized the
action. Let`s give Paul his time in court here. Let`s listen to Ron Paul
criticize the action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This really is a huge deal, Andrea. After killing
bin Laden, I think Awlaki was really the number two target. No one was
more important to protecting the United States. It wasn`t just him being
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK, that was not -- that was not Ron Paul. Let`s go to
this question. It seems to me if someone`s in the field, their operations,
they`re doing operations, not just propaganda, it seems to me you`ve got a
good case to bring them down.
KOHLMANN: Yes, look, the individual who was killed alongside him, the
other American, Samir Khan, published an article in al Qaeda`s "Inspire"
magazine "Why I turned traitor to America." Other articles in that
magazine that he authored included "How to build a bomb in the kitchen of
When you start publishing material like that, when you start
encouraging terrorist attacks, when you align yourselves with people that
are building underwear bombs and trying to bring down U.S. airliners, I
don`t see where the argument is that you have lacked due process. You have
identified yourself as an enemy combatant.
MATTHEWS: Well, I guess Ron Paul would say we should have one of
these weird kind of third world country trials in absentia, where you try
the person before you target them?
MATTHEWS: What`s he talking about?
KOHLMANN: -- there`s no mystery here. There`s no--
KOHLMANN: This is someone who has acknowledged the role. There`s no
question about the guilt.
MATTHEWS: OK. Back to your specialty, then. We`re going to go back
to Richard. It looks--
MATTHEWS: Let me -- I`ll go To Richard first. It seems like the CIA
is doing its job under Petraeus, following up on the excellent work done by
WOLFFE: It is the CIA. But you know, you`ve also got to have
leadership there. And what the president has got, especially in John
Brennan, is someone who has the authority and the focus to follow through.
There has been a concerted effort under John Brennan in the White House to
demolish these leaders as they emerge, to use unprecedented numbers of
drone attacks. And it`s been successful.
You could see that in the intelligence they picked up around bin
Laden. These people were trying to keep low cover, not being -- not coming
out into the open. It hampered them operationally and ultimately led to
their demise, not just where we saw around the al Qaeda leadership itself,
but also these splinter groups.
And so you know, if you look at what the president said he would do in
trying to get elected, this fits that. And people can say -- whether they,
you know, like his policy on Israel or not, they can pick holes in it, but
at least he said what -- he did what he said he would do when it came to al
MATTHEWS: Last word from you, Evan. They can run, they can hide.
Can they hide anymore?
KOHLMANN: Well, you know, a lot of al Qaeda leaders have been killed
in the last year, some very, very senior people, the number one, the number
three. The number two, from what we know right now, is on the run, is
desperately trying to avoid U.S. drone strikes. How long can he survive?
Not that long.
The problem is, is that al Qaeda is switching from being an
organization to being an ideology.
KOHLMANN: And when you have an ideology, when you have a
decentralized unit like this, you don`t need to have leaders anymore.
Anwar al Awlaki`s recordings will live on the Internet for years to come.
That`s all it takes to radicalize--
MATTHEWS: Excuse me. Does that mean any more -- no more big
operations like 9/11.
KOHLMANN: Well, that`s the hope. That`s the hope.
MATTHEWS: -- don`t want to jinx it.
KOHLMANN: Yes. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: Knock wood. Let`s not make bragging points about the
future. Thank you so much, Evan Kohlmann, for coming on.
KOHLMANN: A pleasure.
MATTHEWS: And thank you, as always, Richard Wolffe, for excellent
WOLFFE: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: -- on a big, good day for America. It`s always better to
win when you`re up against bad guys.
Up next, a new poll shows most Americans still blame the bad economy
on Bush. That`s good for President Obama, but how much longer can he count
on that, especially since Bush is probably not going to run against him
next time? Just kidding.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: The Obama administration bid farewell today to the chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the great Admiral Mike Mullen. Mullen`s
ending a 43-year military career, one that will go down in history. He
presided over the end of the military`s "Don`t ask, don`t tell" policy and
was outspoken about his suspicions that the Pakistani government has
terrorist links. Admiral Mullen`s successor is Army general Martin
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. Now, here`s the hot potato question. Who`s
responsible for the struggling economy, President Obama or the man he
inherited this whole mess from, George W. Bush? Well, here`s Vice
President Biden`s somewhat surprising take on that question. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even though 50-
some percent of the American people think the economy tanked because of the
last administration, that`s not relevant. What`s relevant is we`re in
charge. It`s gotten better, but it hasn`t gotten good enough. And so I
don`t blame them for being mad. We`re in charge. So they`re angry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: "We`re in charge." The poll now he`s referring to is the
new one from CNN. When asked who`s responsible for the current economy, a
majority of Americans, 52 percent, say President Bush and the Republicans.
You hear that? Fifty-two percent say Bush and the Republicans. Just 32
percent say President Obama and the Democrats. That`s an allocation of
blame about the same as this time last year. It`s holding.
But Bush isn`t on the ballot, I would argue, next fall, and it looks
like it might be a time to change the argument. Alex Wagner is an MSNBC
political analyst and Nia-Malika Henderson covers politics for "The
Ladies, thank you for this -- for coming on tonight. It seems to me a
very most to the point question about American politics. We know the
economy`s terrible. We know people are very angry about it. Everyone is,
of every age group. The question is, what`s the smart, intelligent thing
for this president to say as he attempts to fix it? Is he smart to say
it`s Bush`s fault, or what Joe Biden is starting to say now, the vice
president, Look, we`re in charge now, we hope it gets better, we`re not
going to blame it on the past?
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think Biden is taking
the argument that we opened up the church doors. There was a baby on our
doorstep. It`s not our baby, but we`re going to take care of the baby,
which is effectively what he`s arguing for in terms of the economy. It is
their responsibility to shepherd it to a better place.
The question is, how long is the American going to give them? Thus
far, the administration has been reliant on this talking point that it took
a long time to get into it, it`s going to take a some time to get out of
it. The American public`s patience in a time of 9.1 percent unemployment
is understandably growing thin, I would imagine..
MATTHEWS: OK, what do you think of that, Nia? Because I was arguing
or thinking about arguing that one thing the president ought to do is just
say, Look -- you know, like, when you do a skiing event or one of these
(INAUDIBLE) they hold up the sign, 10-point difficulty. I mean, it has
been a very high difficulty the last three years. Is he smart to stop
saying it was hard, and smart to say, Look, I`m turning things around,
don`t blame the other guys, blame me?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, you can see them sort
of getting away from that argument and betting that a lot of Americans have
been feeling economic pain for years and years and years. Even when I`m
out on the stump, you know, I talk people about, you know, downturns in
businesses and they immediately say, Oh, well, you know, it`s the
president`s policies. But then if you dig a little deeper, they say this
downturn has been going on for quite some time.
So I think they`re getting away from the blame game. They`re trying
to have a narrative where he can say that he`s turning things around.
They`ve got this American Jobs Act. He`s obviously out on the campaign
trail. I talked to some campaign folks just before I got on the air, and
they think that that`s going to give him some momentum, give him something
And then, you know, at the same time, he can sort of point to the
Republicans and also say that they aren`t doing anything, that not only did
they implicitly sort of get us into this mess, but now they`re also being
obstructionists as he`s trying to create the jobs.
So they feel like now they`re in a pretty good place. But I think,
again, we don`t know what`s going to happen with this American Jobs Act.
We don`t know if come 2012, he`s going to be able to run on a trend of
things are getting better.
MATTHEWS: And if they had a smart political organization, and I mean
the entire Democratic Party, they would have other people saying it was
Bush`s fault, not having the president say it. That`s a message that`s
better delivered by third parties. You get your Cabinet maybe to say it.
You get members of Congress to say it and governors to say it. Look what
this guy inherited. Don`t blame him. And then Obama can come back and
say, we`re doing our best. Here is what we`re doing.
But they don`t have an organized political structure, like parties
normally do. That`s what I find at fault here.
Anyway, here`s Vice President Biden on the economy, the 2012 election,
and voter anger. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BIDEN: Right now, understandably, totally legitimate, this is a
referendum on Obama and Biden, the nature and the state of the economy.
It`s soon going to be a choice. It`s soon going to be a choice.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, let me start with you, Nia.
You report out there with "The Post." And here`s the question. The
president had a very sharp day in terms of execution. In fact, they caught
a bad guy over there. They killed a couple of them who were out to get
out, al-Awlaki. And the question of palling around with terrorists
reminded me of -- well, that was in force -- of course, that was Sarah
Let me talk to you about something that Bachmann said today. She said
the president`s responsible for the fact that the Democrats were the ones
who approved the politically correct loans. Let`s listen to her. This is
going way back to the Democrats in Congress.
Last night in North Carolina, Michele Bachmann laid the blame for the
whole economic meltdown on the government and politically correct loans
given by Democrats. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We all know
that it was the government that caused this meltdown, because the
government, through Freddie and Fannie, through keeping artificially low
interest rates, through pushing the federal government, pushing the toxic
subprime mortgages, through the Community Reinvestment Act, forcing banks
to make politically correct loans, the system was gamed by the federal
government that led to the disastrous meltdown, that led ultimately in
September of 2008 to the terrible consequences that we are still dealing
with today in our economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, that`s just old-time religion there. I mean,
it`s not fact. Everybody knows Wall Street is guilty. Everybody knows
Wall Street overleveraged. They know that they`re the ones that gave all
these credibility to these securities. They did it with the default swaps
and all that stuff.
WAGNER: Well, the CRA, the Community Reinvestment Act, sort of
implicating it as the sort of genesis of the financial--
MATTHEWS: The poor people did it.
WAGNER: Yes. What it is, is effectively class warfare.
Now, look, some conservative economists are actually going to argue
that the CRA played a pivotal role in bringing down in -- the subprime
mortgage scandal. The issue, though, with Michele Bachmann and sort of her
attribution is she completely ignores the fast and loose regulatory
environment that led to financial institutions investing in exotic
derivatives. I mean, it`s just a gross mischaracterization and a gross
MATTHEWS: Why is she exempting--
MATTHEWS: I`m sorry, Nia.
What -- explain the politics of why somebody like Bachmann out there -
- well, it`s pretty obvious. I`m going to -- I will ask an obvious
question. Why does she hold harmless Wall Street? Not the rich, not the
corporations, not New York, nobody did anything wrong up here. It`s those
little poor people that got those loans to buy houses they shouldn`t have
had. They were too ambitious to genuine the American dream. Blame them.
HENDERSON: And she fails to mention that she, of course, got a loan
from Fannie and Freddie for her own very lavish home.
But this is an old narrative from the Republicans, this whole idea
that the liberals are pandering to the poor and it`s the poor people`s
fault that the economy is in such dire straits, because they always have
their hands out. You heard, of course, for instance, Newt Gingrich talking
about President Obama being the greatest food stamp president ever.
MATTHEWS: Hint, hint.
HENDERSON: So there has been that rhetoric, I mean, even going back
to President Reagan, who talked about welfare queens and that whole
So she`s just playing into that whole narrative that has been along --
around for a long time. And it`s its own version of class warfare.
MATTHEWS: I thought it was Nixon that expanded the food stamp
program? I thought it was Bob Dole that fought for that for the farmers.
I mean, is my history that off?
WAGNER: Look, history and accuracy--
MATTHEWS: The Republicans invented affirmative action.
WAGNER: If you talk about class warfare, this narrative of attacking
the poor and the struggling and the disenfranchised is what the GOP is
effectively running on these days.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Food Stamp. Boy, that good -- good old Newt, he`s up
there with the welfare queen terminology. Good. You`re catching up, Newt.
You`re really today`s politician. Go back to the past, Newt.
Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Alex Wagner.
Thank you, Nia-Malika of "The Washington Post."
WAGNER: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next: suspicions confirmed department. What do Tea
Partiers think is the most important amendment in the Bill of Rights?
Think about it. Well, go first through 10. Think about the one they
really love. Catch that in the "Sideshow."
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now for the "Sideshow."
First up, when you think of the Bill of Rights, what`s the one
amendment that you think`s most central to what the country stands for?
Well, for Illinois Republican Joe Walsh, no surprise, it`s not freedom of
speech. Which one tops the list for him? That would be amendment number
two, the right to keep and bear arms.
Advocating for his state to pass a concealed carry law, Walsh
explained to his audience of Tea Partiers earlier this week -- quote --
"There`s no issue when it comes to freedom that matters more than this,
like the Second Amendment. The most important amendment in the Bill of
Rights is the Second Amendment. It protects every other amendment. It is
the last line of defense between us and our government."
Does Mr. Walsh really believe that his owning a gun has any positive
influence on the success of our democracy? This is delusional.
Next up, operation bargain hunt. That was a feat taken on by the
first lady yesterday afternoon, and she went out to pick up a few things at
a nearby Target. With a baseball cap and a pair of sunglasses, it looks
like she and her plainclothes security detail managed to pull it off,
spotted only by the cashier at Target and an AP photographer.
But how about the president? Well, let`s hear what he had to say
during his interview with Michael Smerconish earlier today.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t even want to
shop. All I want to do is take a walk. But, as she reminds me, nothing I
do is undercover. She gets embarrassed when she goes out with me, because
there`s an ambulance and a caboose and the dogsled. It trails for about a
mile behind me.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the president is talking in code about the motorcade
of security vehicles that goes wherever he goes as president.
And next up, prepare for an awkward handshake this night. GOP front-
runner Mitt Romney`s is booked to speak at next month`s Values Voters
Summit here in Washington -- down in Washington. The program is all set.
And as it stands now, there could be more than a little friction between
Romney and the speaker who will follow him.
That would be the director of issues analysis for the American Family
Association, Bryan Fischer. It turns out he has a long history of bashing
the candidate`s Mormon faith. Let`s listen to his comments from earlier
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRYAN FISCHER, DIRECTOR OF ISSUES ANALYSIS, AMERICAN FAMILY
ASSOCIATION: Mormonism is not an orthodox Christian faith. It`s just not.
It was very clear that the founding fathers didn`t intend to preserve
automatically religious liberty for non-Christian faiths. So when
Mormonism came along, they practiced polygamy. They believed in polygamy,
just like Muslims do today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the only person who ought to be embarrassed by that
statement or any of this awkwardness is the man who just made that
statement. Religious liberty in this country is religious liberty.
Up next, Republicans love Chris Christie because he`s a tough guy, but
that`s exactly why so many Democrats back home in New Jersey actually don`t
like him that much. Senator Frank Lautenberg even calls him the king of
liars. And he`s coming here to talk about it.
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
COURTNEY REAGAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Courtney Reagan with your
CNBC "Market Wrap."
Put a bow on it. The end of the market`s worst quarter since the
depth of the financial crisis in 2008 is over. Today, though, no help.
The Dow plunging 240 points. The S&P 500 sinking 28 and the Nasdaq down
65. If you`re squeamish, you better not look. These are the results for
the quarter, all the major averages plunging more than 10 percent.
These were the laggards on the Dow, big names looking at some big
declines over the past three months. There were a few bright spots,
comfort food for investors, IBM, in fact, now the world`s most second
valuable tech company, bumping Microsoft to third place.
Well, it`s not hard to figure out what was behind this bearish
quarter. We have got a sputtering global economy, a European debt debacle,
and that U.S. credit downgrade back in early August.
And, quickly, I want to the mention Kodak plunging nearly 60 percent
today on rumors it was preparing to file for bankruptcy. It has since
flatly denied those rumors.
That`s it from CNBC. We`re first in business worldwide -- now back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: If you`re looking for leadership
in America, you know you`re not going to find it in the Oval Office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It`s getting hotter. That was
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in Louisiana last night hinting at his
own consideration of running for president.
This afternoon, the Associated Press reports, that we have been
hearing for days, confirming he is thinking about a run, and may make up
his mind soon. That`s from the governor -- close to the governor.
His tough talk as governor, by the way, has won him Republican support
around the country, praise, and a lot of national attention. But Democrats
in New Jersey itself are telling a different story.
We have got two of them with us tonight, this evening, Senator Frank
Lautenberg from New Jersey and U.S. Congressman Frank Pallone of New
I want to read something here.
Senator, thank you.
"The New York Times" reported today, as I know you have read, that you
-- the two of you have a chilly relationship, you and Governor Christie.
The story said the governor`s referred to you as -- quote -- "so out of
touch and so partisan" and said you are -- "You blow hot air." That`s his
description of your work. And that you called him or said that he`s the
king of liars.
Are those quotes accurate, Senator?
SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, his quote about me is
one of more generous ones, I will tell you that. Yes, because he--
MATTHEWS: How about yours about him?
LAUTENBERG: He persists in lying himself. He lied to the head of our
General Assembly. He lied to our speaker, our president of the Senate,
when during a snowstorm he said he was in touch regularly, and the fellow
said he never heard from him.
He lied to the firefighters when he said the last thing he would do,
furthest thing from the truth, would be to fool around with their pension
plan. And the first thing he did when he was elected is make the
adjustments that really hurt them.
So he`s a persistent liar. And the opportunity came to respond to him
and I called him the king of the group.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, Senator.
Let`s go to Congressman Frank Pallone. He`s with me right now.
I just don`t understand this. You have had Hurricane Irene up here.
Normally, people get together, even if they don`t agree politically, when
there`s a crisis. Did you even get together with him then? Was there any
kind of powwow or anything, getting together with the governor?
REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY: We did work together during
Hurricane Irene and afterwards, with FEMA and the state and local
governments. I think it actually worked out very well.
MATTHEWS: Did you sit in a room with this guy?
PALLONE: We traveled with him when President Obama came to New
Jersey. And we were working together.
MATTHEWS: But that`s a photo-op.
PALLONE: No, it was more than a photo-op. I think that there was a
lot of cooperation during and after the hurricane.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of him as a governance person? Is he a
kind of a guy -- let me go back to Senator Lautenberg.
Is he the kind of person who you can imagine bringing the country
LAUTENBERG: It`s hard to think of that with his bullying temperament.
He calls people names freely. He`s abusive to women. He called one a
jerk, another one a liar. Another one needed a baseball bat brought to
her. That`s not the kind of language we want to hear from someone who`s
going to try and bring the country together when, in fact, he`s a divide --
strictly a divider.
MATTHEWS: Congressman Pallone, is that your view?
PALLONE: I think he doesn`t work together with the Democrats to
accomplish the goal of improving the economy and creating jobs.
I mean, our unemployment is higher than the national. You know, he
made all these promises about he was going to lower property taxes, he was
going to save our schools and improve our schools. And every one of those
things, frankly, is getting worse. And I -- I just wish he would make this
decision, Chris, about whether to run, because New Jersey has a lot of
problems, which he needs to address or, you know, have to be addressed,
whether he`s there or not.
MATTHEWS: Well, why is he popular in the Republican chat world right
now, the chat room, where the country seems to be focused on this guy,
PALLONE: I think they like the fact that he, you know, is kind of a
bully and I guess they say, you know, doesn`t hesitate to insult people and
that type of thing.
But I don`t think that`s helpful. I agree with Senator Lautenberg.
You need somebody to bring sides together, Democrats and Republicans
together. And that hasn`t happened in New Jersey. And I think he`s the
last person that would accomplish that nationally.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s look at the poll.
Christie`s approval rating has jumped up in the last month. It is now
up to 54 percent, which is pretty healthy, way above the president`s.
MATTHEWS: Thirty-five disapproval.
Senator Lautenberg, if he`s so difficult to deal with and so
uncheerful a presence, why is he up there at 54 percent?
LAUTENBERG: Well, because he is a good speaker.
But the tales that he tells about cutting and reforming things hasn`t
affected, hasn`t touched a lot of people outside of the state. But it`s a
miserable knife that he carries when he wants to cut, and it affects
people`s living. And he`s -- it`s mean-spirited.
And so, he`s not a bad person, but he`s -- his temperament is not that
of a winner. And very, frankly, I think the more that people get to know
about him across the country, they will think differently about him.
MATTHEWS: Well, you`re the veteran senator in this state, the senior
senator, Senator Lautenberg, and everybody respects you.
And I just wondered, how many times has he called you for cooperation
in the last two years he has been in office? Does he ever call up and say,
let`s get together for lunch or dinner or a drink and let`s talk about how
we can work together? Does he ever do that?
LAUTENBERG: No, I have never gotten a call from him.
As a matter of fact, one time at a delegation meeting, I offered to
give him my phone number, because I said he must have lost it, I never hear
And that`s been the situation right from the beginning. He doesn`t
mind evicted, but he doesn`t like making a phone call to share a problem or
to encourage us to work harder. You saw what he said in the article.
MATTHEWS: I know.
LAUTENBERG: That his people said that he`s closer to Obama, and he go
direct, and he doesn`t have to talk to us. Meanwhile, he`s gone retail
instead of wholesale in trying to resolve a debt that`s owed to the federal
government. Wrote in lawyers, cost them over $1 million so far.
MATTHEWS: Yes, he hires a lobbying firm Patton Boggs rather than
working through the delegation. That`s an odd way to do business.
LAUTENBERG: Well, I thought so, because they`re going to have to come
to me. I`m on the transportation committee. And I`m chairman of the
committee that does transportation work.
So, I want to work for the state of New Jersey. But he makes it
impossible to do it jointly.
MATTHEWS: It is odd, Congressman, to go hire a law firm that hires
former senators to come and talk to current senators who`s actually have
Let me ask you about the great conundrum. Frank Pallone, I`m going to
ask you a political question. The American people want Congress and the
public and the government to get along. They want action. They`re tired
of this the bickering, this pinging back and forth, this stupid talk. And
they want something done.
Now, why do they like a guy that`s so awful, who uses terrible
language, yells at callers on call-in shows, uses terrible language with
people, treats people like scum sometimes, but he`s perfect for the country
to run it. It doesn`t make any sense?
PALLONE: It doesn`t. I think it`s because, as was mentioned by the
senator, you`re looking at a Republican primary where there`s not some very
good choices out there. And I think to some Republicans, they`re looking
for another person, a new face, whatever. But once Christie --
MATTHEWS: But why would they want a grouch if they want somebody to
get along with everybody?
PALLONE: Well, I don`t think the right wing does want to get along.
I think it`s the people in the middle, the more moderate Republicans, you
know, that would like to work with the Democrats and I don`t think
Christie`s that type of a person.
LAUTENBERG: They don`t know what kind of a bully is. He`s thrown
people out of meetings. He`s used all kinds of insults.
He`s not a peacemaker, nor is he a mover on a bipartisan basis.
MATTHEWS: OK. Senator, last question to you -- is this a striptease
that`s going to end with nothing, or is he actually going to be talked into
running for president?
LAUTENBERG: Well, I think it`s a tease, and I think that before he
leaves the state of New Jersey and leaves that seat open, where we`re in
such deep debt, where we`re in such deep trouble, that if he`s going to run
for the president`s job, then he ought to make plans to leave the
governorship to someone who`s going to be active.
MATTHEWS: OK. Do you think he`s running?
PALLONE: I don`t know, but I`ll tell you, he should make a decision,
because the longer this goes on, I don`t think it helps the state. He`s
got to get back to business.
MATTHEWS: OK. Nobody knows. Anyway, thank you very much, Senator
Frank Lautenberg and Congressman Frank Pallone. Thanks, gentlemen, for
both coming on.
Coming up, our own Michael Smerconish interviewed President Obama
today on his radio show. We`re going to get some insight from that. We`re
going to talk to him about what he learned from the inside conversation he
had today with his friend, the president.
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Texas Governor Rick Perry promised a major policy speech
today, but what he delivered had very few policies ideas, and instead was a
broadside against rival Republican Mitt Romney and President Obama. Let`s
listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As Republican voters
decide who`s going to be best suited for this country and to take it in a
new direction by stopping the spending spree and the scraping of Obamacare,
I`m confident that we`re going to choose a nominee that has governed with
conservative principles. Not one who`s health care policies paved the way
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I think the word, Governor, is scrapping -- the
speechwriter put in there, with trying to talk to the speechwriter once in
a while and get to know what he`s talking about.
Anyway, Perry plans to be more aggressive against President Obama and
against Romney, of course, as he gears up for the big debate in 11 days.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Obama spent part of his week reaching out to voters in
Florida, North Carolina, and Colorado. Three states he won back in 2008,
but now, he`s struggling to reconnect with voters concerned deeply about
Today, the president spoke to voters in the Rust Belt state of
Pennsylvania, where according to the latest head-to-head matchups in the
Quinnipiac poll, Obama`s in a statistical dead heat with Mitt Romney. Rick
Perry`s within striking distance, just six points behind the president.
The president spoke with MSNBC political analyst and radio talk show
host Michael Smerconish about the economy, the war on terror, and making
sure no one is disenfranchised in the upcoming elections.
Smerconish joins me now, along with the Comcast Network`s Washington,
D.C. bureau chief Robert Traynham to talk more about the president`s
Here`s the president, Michael and Robert. Let`s take a look here at
the questions about voting rights and the 2012 election. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some of these moves in
some of the other states that we`ve seen, trying to make it tougher to
vote, restricting ballot access, making it hard on seniors, making it hard
on young people -- I think that`s a big mistake. And I have made sure that
our Justice Department`s taken a look at what`s being done across the
country to ensure that people aren`t being denied access to the franchise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Michael, let`s talk about that. You know, this is going to
be, everybody thinks, Robert, a very close presidential election next time
around. It may not be. It may be a wipeout in either direction. But it
looks like it`s going to be close.
And therefore, the groundwork matters, the election procedures matter,
Is the president -- does he seem to be worried that the Republicans in
a close election can take it from him by making it harder for older people
and minorities to actually vote and get counted?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if it`s a game of
inches in this election, and I agree with you that it might be, I
predicated that question by asking him: are you worried about the goalposts
being moved? Because, you know, Chris, the combination of these things, of
requesting voter IDs for the first time in certain states or limiting the
pre-voting that can take place.
Or look at what the move afoot here in Pennsylvania is, where the
president in `08 left with 21 electoral votes. By the new standard, he
would have had a net gain of one.
And so, I think they need to be focused on these things. And I hadn`t
heard before that he had asked the Justice Department to take a look. I`m
also not that surprised.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Robert. That whole question gets down
to the questions about minority voting and older people voting, and it`s a
fact. Most people in big cities that live in row houses, for example, and
they get older, they don`t have driver`s licenses, they don`t drive cars.
My grandparents didn`t drive cars generally most of their life.
Big city people don`t own cars. Therefore, they don`t have government
ID cards. Therefore, they can`t vote if you start making that a
ROBERT TRAYNHAM, COMCAST NETWORK: Yes, look. At the end of the day,
this is -- this is a numbers game that when you run for president. We all
know that. And what the president and the White House are very concerned
about, Chris, you know this, is that the African-American vote and senior
vote in west Philadelphia, in north Philadelphia, in Detroit Michigan, in
Miami, Florida, in Norfolk, Virginia, this is a numbers game.
So, if, in fact, minority votes are, quote-unquote, "disenfranchised"
or oppressed, that means that those people probably would not be able to
vote obviously, presumably for the Democratic candidate. That`s what the
White House is concerned about, and rightfully so.
MATTHEWS: Do you think -- Michael, last point on this -- do you think
they have any case about corrupt voting? Now, we have that problem in
Pennsylvania, that state Senate vote a couple of years back.
Is there any case on behalf of the Republicans -- let`s be honest here
-- is there any concern that`s real about crooked voting, by phantom
voting, people driving around in cars and making sure people aren`t voting,
and then voting for them, that old-style stuff that went on back in the
`60s -- still going on?
SMERCONISH: I think there are always a handful of cases. I mean,
economies of scale. When you have millions of people voting, there`s bound
to be some shenanigans. But I have yet to hear some make a case that
warrants the level of overhaul that is being recommended.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s take a look at the issue. Here`s the president
talking about jobs and his plan on jobs, the American Jobs Act in the
interview with you today. He also talked about tax increases for the
Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
OBAMA: There are wealthy Americans who I think are patriots and are
willing to do their part as long as, you know, they are knowing that their
money is going to closing the deficit or for programs that are going to
help make us more competitive. And if we make modest adjustments, closing
loopholes, making sure that the wealthy are paying their fair share, making
sure that a guy like Warren Buffett is paying the same rate as his
secretary, then we can actually stabilize our debt and deficits for at
least a decade if not more.
And that`s the plan that I put forward. I`m hoping that Congress will
act on it.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Do you think that`s credible, Robert, that argument? Is
that going to sell with middle-income people, that the president is saying
that if you get the rich to pay their fair share, you can actually get them
to do it because there are people in Congress who will agree do it? I
mean, there`s a lot of proposal here, get him to do it. He`s got to get
Congress to pass the bill. It`s got to get it to happen, and then he`s got
to hope it will close the deficit significantly.
Is that pie in the sky?
TRAYNHAM: Absolutely. Look, listen to what he said. He said modest
adjustments. That is a nod to independents out there that are a little
skeptical about this and don`t really understand it.
But, look, at the end of the day, we know this is not going to pass.
We know that the Republicans are not going to allow this type of jobs bill
to pass -- and the president knows that.
So, this is going to be a wedge issue between him and the Congress,
and he`s going to be running against the Congress -- basically back like in
1948, saying this is a do-nothing Congress, you need to reelect me, so we
can clean out the House of Representatives and actually get something done.
The White House knows that. And that`s exactly what they`re trying to do.
MATTHEWS: That`s the way it looks right now, a Harry Truman-type
campaign. Well, we`re going to be debating this, by the way, Monday night
here on HARDBALL, the great Democratic debate about how he is going to run,
down to the left or in the middle. We`ll see.
Thank you, Michael Smerconish. And thank you, Robert Traynham.
TRAYNHAM: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: When we return, "Let Me Finish" with an incredible night we
all when we had this week on Wednesday, maybe the most historic night in
the history of sports.
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with the astounding excitement of
Major League Baseball. I was out Wednesday night this week with Kathleen.
We had just seen "Moneyball," the movie starring Brad Pitt as the general
manager of the Oakland A`s. It`s a stunningly subtle movie co-written by
the genius Aaron Sorkin who wrote "West Wing" and more lately wrote "Social
Network." It`s about baseball and something really important.
What a night to see "Moneyball," perhaps the most exciting night in
the history of the game. We walked out of "Moneyball" into the Bethesda
night, head over to our sports bar called the Tap Room, and by the time
we`re heading out, all three overhead TV sets are showing three fantastic
games all at the same time. There`s Boston battling for its life with the
Orioles. There`s Tampa Bay coming out of a nowhere September and taking a
last-game leap for the wild card. There`s Atlanta fighting for its life
against the 100-plus game wining Philadelphia Phillies. The Braves had to
win because St. Louis had already won big that night.
I get home in time to see the O`s win with two after the night, the
first time all year the Red Sox blow such a lead. Still, the Sox had a
playoff chance if the Rays lose. Then just minutes later, all hope is lost
as the Rays win 8-7 in the 12th inning, having overcome a 7-0 Yankee eight
inning lead. The Yankees haven`t kicked away a game like that since 1953.
What a night!
First, the Braves lost. Then, Boston. Then the Rays winning three
games. This incredible night, there are three ninth-inning comebacks.
Tonight, the playoffs begin. Texas hosts Tampa Bay. The Yanks host
Tomorrow, there`s four games with St. Louis, and Philadelphia, and
Arizona and Milwaukee. Plus, the two games in the American League. A
month of playoffs and league championships and the World Series all lay
ahead. A team has to win 11 games to be a world champion, but it will be
hard to beat what happened this Wednesday night.
As Mike Dodd of "USA Today" put it in this morning`s paper, it was the
first time in the 17-year run of the wild card the teams in both leagues
were tied for the final playoff game entering game 162, two extra inning
games and a come-from-behind victory in the bottom of the night. Two teams
down to their last strike before coming back.
Why am I talking about sports on a political show? Because this is
about America. I can remember, and it wasn`t 1,000 years ago, when people
talked about baseball not having a future, people talked about it being
killed by the excitement of the NFL and by the lightning speed of the NBA.
Well, you can forget all about that. Go check the attendance numbers.
I check them a lot. I check them because when I was growing up, you saw
the park practically empty so many nights. Well, it`s a good bet that
everyone in the seat Wednesday night is coming back. And that`s maybe the
biggest come-from-behind story of all.
And that`s it for HARDBALL. Thanks for being with us.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>