updated 10/25/2011 2:10:54 PM ET 2011-10-25T18:10:54

Guests: Hampton Pearson, Mark Halperin, Patrick Murphy, Michael Hirsh, Manuel Roig-Franzia, Joe Conason,
Jon Huntsman, Julie Mason

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Bye-bye, Baghdad.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Out of Iraq. Barack Obama`s campaign for president began with his
opposition to the war in Iraq. Well, today, without the embellishment of a
self-serving "mission accomplished" banner, President Obama announced all
American troops will be out of Iraq by the end of the year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After nearly nine
years, America`s war in Iraq will be over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow! Well, the president made the announcement one day
after the killing of Moammar Gadhafi. That strengthened his bona fides on
foreign policy and allowed him to say to the Republicans, essentially, Go
ahead, try to oppose me on this one.

Plus, Castro convertible. Maybe we now know why Senator Marco Rubio
keeps insisting he`s not a candidate for vice president. Rubio has dined
off the story that his parents fled Fidel Castro`s Cuba. Now we learn they
fled Fulgenzio Batista`s Cuba, years before Castro took power. Rubio`s
explanation, such as it is, simply doesn`t pass the sniff test. How does
he survive this bit of revisionist history?

Also, Herman Cain is against abortion rights. No, wait, he`s for
them. Well, actually, he`s for them and he`s against them. Or maybe it`s
the other way around. Cain`s self-contradicting positions and confounding
explanations even have conservative Republicans asking how many do-overs
does this guy get?

And the Republican presidential candidate Democrats seem to like the
most, Jon Huntsman, joins us here tonight, right here, to play HARDBALL.

"Let Me Finish" tonight with the Iraq war that we never should have
fought.

We start with today`s dramatic announcement, however, that all
American troops will be out of Iraq by the end of this year. Patrick
Murphy is the first Iraq war veteran to serve in the U.S. Congress, and
today he`s a candidate for attorney general of Pennsylvania. And Michael
Hirsh is with "National Journal." Thank you, gentlemen, for joining us.

Let`s take a look at the president`s comments today, and they begin to
dovetail from, We`re getting out of Iraq, and I wish you`d put these young
men and women to work. Here`s the president making clear that jobs for
veterans is priority number one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: As we welcome home our newest veterans, we`ll never stop
working to give them and their families the care, the benefits, and the
opportunities that they have earned. This includes enlisting our veterans
in the greatest challenge that we now face as a nation, creating
opportunity and jobs in this country, because after a decade of war, the
nation that we need to build and the nation that we will build is our own,
an America that sees its economic strength restored, just as we`ve restored
our leadership around the globe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Patrick, I merely thought of you today because you
were one of the people heroic enough to make the right statement on Iraq
from the beginning. And you`re, of course, an Iraq veteran who then got
elected to Congress. And now, of course, I assume you`re concerned about
the unemployment rate in Pennsylvania.

Tell us how these two issues come together, cheering the troops as
they come home, but also offering them an opportunity here in this country.

PATRICK MURPHY (D-PA), FMR. U.S. CONGRESSMAN, ATTORNEY GEN. CANDIDATE:
You know, it`s interesting, Chris. I got a comment today from a young
woman, Lakeisha Watson Moore (ph), on my Facebook page. And she said, Why
don`t we take that money we were investing in Iraq and invest it here in
job training programs for these heroes coming home?

You know, for these heroes who I served with in Iraq and who are now
coming home finally, you know, we need to make sure -- they served our
country. They fought for us over there. They shouldn`t have to come home
and fight for a job here at home. And we need to do all we can.

I will tell you that Mrs. Obama, the first lady, has done a tremendous
job, and Dr. Jill Biden, the second lady. They have teamed on this effort
to make sure that these heroes -- because the unemployment rate for
veterans coming home is even higher than the general population. We have
to take care of these heroes. We have to give them opportunities, whether
it`s the GI bill that I voted for and we helped pass or whether it`s, you
know, tax breaks for small businesses to hire these veterans.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Michael Hirsh, reporting on this nationally.
This question of concern for veterans -- the Republicans are very good --
and I do respect them on this. They do care about the soldiers, and
visiting them when they get hurt and they get wounded, and of course,
grieving their deaths.

This question about creating an opportunity at home -- was it
interesting -- well, it was to me. I`ll ask you the open-ended question --
the president tying these two issues together, respect for the soldiers and
opportunity for them.

MICHAEL HIRSH, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": I mean, this has been a consistent
theme, Chris, for months now. When he announced the Afghanistan drawdown
back in June, I think it was the first time he used the phrase, We need to
do nation building at home.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HIRSH: And that obviously is something that ties together with the
biggest critical issue in his political future, which is the economy and
the jobless rate, as well as winding down these two wars. So I think
you`re going to see him repeat that again and again as these withdrawal
timetables continue.

MATTHEWS: Now, here`s President Obama pointing out that he`d kept a
campaign promise in ending the war. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HIRSH: As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in
Iraq to a responsible end. Today I can report that, as promised, the rest
of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly
nine years, America`s war in Iraq will be over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: On October 2nd, 2002, then-Illinois state senator Barack
Obama, made an anti-war speech in Chicago. He said, quote, "I don`t oppose
all wars. What I`m opposed to is a dumb war. What I`m opposed to is a
U.S. to -- is a rash war. What I`m opposed to is the cynical attempt by
Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair weekend warriors in
this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our
throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and the hardships borne."

Patrick Murphy, that could be me speaking, but obviously, it`s more
impressive when the about-to-be president says it. A lot of us had that
thought from day one, that this was an ideological war talked us -- we were
talked into, some of the American people were -- first of all, the
president was talked into, and then we went to war, basically, on an
ideological jag. Your thoughts? It`s over.

MURPHY: My thoughts, Chris -- you know, I was on active duty when
9/11 happened, and my best friend growing up in northeast Philadelphia lost
his girlfriend and her father, who were murdered along with 3,000 other
innocent Americans.

And I deployed. I volunteered. My first deployment was with General
Petraeus, came back from that deployment. Then it was -- that was 2002.
Then there was the ramp-up in 2003, as you know, to the Iraq war.

And I remember being back home on our soil, on active duty, thinking
to myself as a young captain, Why are we going to Iraq? We`re not -- we
haven`t brought bin Laden to justice. And next thing you know, I shipped
out with the 82nd Airborne Division. And unfortunately, 19 of my fellow
paratroopers never made it home. And I saw firsthand in Baghdad in 2003
and 2004 how short-handed we were and how it was not the right war.

And I came home and I stood up for that, for my beliefs and what I
saw. And I tell you, it was not easy, and you know that, Chris. It was --
you know, serving in a Republican district, and you know, sometimes you get
your patriotism questioned.

But what is important is that you do the right thing for the right
reasons, and that`s what Barack Obama has done since day one. He was very
clear to the American public that we will focus on bin Laden. We will
bring our troops home from Iraq. He did that. He kept that promise.

But he also -- and very important to note, he said, We will bring bin
Laden to justice. He did that even though people like John McCain
criticized him because remember that question, Michael Smerconish said,
Well, what happens if bin Laden`s in Pakistan? And John McCain said, No,
no, we can`t tangle with that. And Barack Obama said, We will bring him to
justice, period. And we did that. We brought number two of al Qaeda to
justice.

He has continually made America safer. And the news just yesterday
with Gadhafi -- and let`s be very clear. Bringing Gadhafi to justice is an
important step to keep our world safer.

And I will tell you, Chris -- and you know why this is important,
because we have people that -- unfortunately, American service members who
were murdered by Gadhafi. We have people that, unfortunately, were killed,
Americans -- there`s a young girl who was 21 years old, Miss Johnson (ph).
She`s from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, a semester abroad in Scotland. She
was on that flight coming home when she came to her death because of
Gadhafi. Finally, he was brought to justice. This guy was a madman.

Do the Republicans give the commander-in-chief, Barack Obama, credit
for any of these things? Absolutely not. They continually politicize this
thing. Today is a day to say, Thank God these troops are coming home from
Iraq. Thank God, frankly, we were able to bring bin Laden and Gadhafi to
justice. And let`s make sure that we invest our money, our time, our
talent, and our lives of our Americans here at home.

MATTHEWS: This is why politics today stinks so much. You know,
Michael, when you`re growing up, you`re taught to play by the rules. When
you`re playing cowboys and Indians, you shoot each other and you say, You
got me. When a political leader, the president of the United States
especially, achieves an American national success in terms of foreign
policy, why does the other side not just give him that day, move on and
argue about something else the next day?

HIRSH: You know, it`s quite remarkable, Chris, both that he hasn`t
gotten more of a jump in the polls from what I think has been clearly a
series of successes -- particularly the bin Laden takedown and -- the
Gadhafi mission, let`s face it -- I mean, this was very carefully
calibrated. It wasn`t expensive. There wasn`t a single American life
lost. And a dictator was brought down. Compare that to the $2 trillion
Iraq war.

But what`s also striking is, as you suggest, the lack of graciousness
on the part of some of the Republicans. I was very struck to hear Mitt
Romney come out today and say that this was either a naked political
calculation--

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HIRSH: -- on Obama`s part or it was just incompetence in the
negotiations. I mean, I was with President Bush back in early 2008 when he
announced the beginning of these negotiations.

MATTHEWS: Yes, the deal.

HIRSH: And who were negotiating -- David Petraeus was then the
general in charge of the Iraq war, and Ryan Crocker was then the Iraq
ambassador. And these are two figures that are now serving the Obama
administration.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HIRSH: You know, these negotiations were a continuum, and there was
really very little that Obama could have done. The Iraqis were resisting
extending the troop presence at all.

MATTHEWS: Right.

HIRSH: So I think it was -- Romney`s--

MATTHEWS: It`s really knee-jerk.

HIRSH: -- criticism was somewhat off the mark.

MATTHEWS: It`s knee-jerk criticism, and it`s really pathetic for
Romney to be so pathetic.

MURPHY: And -- and--

MATTHEWS: Very short thought, 10 seconds.

MURPHY: And Chris -- Chris -- Chris, I mean -- real quick. That`s
why people hate politics because you`re absolutely right, when you have
people like Mitt Romney, who whatever President Obama does, he`s against --
and that`s why people are tired of it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MURPHY: They want people who stand up for the core of their
convictions, people like Barack Obama, and hopefully, people like Patrick
Murphy, you know, for attorney general. But I tell you, there are people,
both Democrats and Republicans, who get it that we need to invest in, but
especially, I would say, on the Democratic side.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thanks so much, Patrick Murphy, who served in
Congress, the first Iraq war vet to do so, who`s now running for attorney
general. Thank you, Michael Hirsh, as always, from "The National Journal."

Coming up: Senator Marco Rubio, a once rising star, perhaps now a
shooting star in the Republican Party, has long told the story -- and it`s
a good one, the story -- that his parents fled Castro`s Cuba, were exiled.
The trouble is, they didn`t. They actually came to this country two-and-a-
half years before Castro took over, so they left for other reasons. How
damaging will this be to Rubio, having ridden so long on this inflated
resume of national heroism?

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: For the second time in 10 days, Senate Republicans have
blocked President Obama`s jobs bill. By a 50-50 vote, Republicans rejected
a $35 billion provision to allow state and local governments to hire
teachers and first responders. Sixty votes were needed to overcome a
Republican filibuster to offset the cost. The bill would have imposed a
surtax of .5 percent on people earning more than $1 million a year. Three
Democrats voted against it, Ben Nelson, Mark Pryor, and Joe Lieberman.
That`s 5.6. (ph)

President Obama put out a statement after the vote saying that every
American deserves an explanation as to why Republicans refuse to step up to
the plate and do what`s necessary to create jobs and grow the economy right
now.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio is scrambling right now to undo the damage
of a "Washington Post" report that he embellished his family history to
benefit politically.

Rubio has peddled the story for years that he`s the child of parents
who fled Cuba some time after Fidel Castro took power in 1959. But "The
Washington Post" uncovered documents showing that Rubio`s parents actually
arrived in the United States in May of 1956, two-and-a-half years before
Castro. That makes them ex-pats, not refugees from communism.

What does it make Rubio? That`s a great question.

Manuel Roig-Franzia broke this story for "The Washington Post," and
Joe Conason is editor-in-chief of the Nationalmemo.com. Gentlemen, thank
you for joining us.

I want to show you something now that really puts it in perspective.
This is clear-cut. For a long time, Marco Rubio, once considered a
possible VP nominee this coming year for the Republicans, has made it clear
that he`s one of those people who comes from an anti-communist past, a cold
war past. His parents left Cuba because a communist stole that country,
Fidel Castro -- which, of course, occurred, but his family left well before
that.

Here he is, bragging on who he is, and he ain`t. American Bridge 21st
Century has put together a montage of Rubio`s statements about his family
history. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I think that the direction that we`re
going now in Washington, D.C., would make us more like the rest of the
world, and not like the exceptional nation that my parents found when they
came here from Cuba in 1959.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your father came here from Cuba.

RUBIO: My parents both did, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Came here from Cuba--

RUBIO: In 1959.

And my parents and grandparents came here from Cuba in `58, `59.

As the son of exiles, I know firsthand that it`s possible to lose your
country.

I was raised by exiles, by people who know what it is like to lose
their country.

And no matter what titles I may achieve in my life, I will always be
the son of exiles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s pretty clear-cut, Manuel.

EMANUEL ROIG-FRANZIA, "WASHINGTON POST": It is. You know, I got into
looking at this because I`m working on a biography of Senator Rubio for
Simon and Shuster and came across some documents that had that `56 date.
And I was skeptical at first. I thought it could have been a typo -- 6, 9,
56, 59--

MATTHEWS: Sure.

ROIG-FRANZIA: -- could have been a mix-up. But there was one document
after another after another that had the exact same date, and it was clear
that that was when they came.

MATTHEWS: I`ve caught politicians doing this, lying in their resume
to make themselves look like something they`re not. What happened when you
-- did you confront him? How -- did you confront his people? How did you
get him to deal with this, or did you get him to deal with it, this
dishonesty?

ROIG-FRANZIA: I talked to Senator Rubio`s staff. They invited me
over to their office to look at some passports, copies of passports. They
didn`t want me to take them with me, but they said that I could look at
them. And what was interesting about the passports is that they showed
that during this period, between 1956 and 1959, the Rubio parents were in
Miami all the time.

MATTHEWS: OK. Then they put out -- Joe Conason, what do you make of
this? Because we`ve got a lot more documentation to show you here about
this ruse that went on here, to make him look like a real anti-commie.
Your thoughts?

JOE CONASON, NATIONALMEMO.COM: Well, I mean, I`ve seen Senator Rubio
give different dates for when he knew his parents came over, or when he
said his parents came over. At different times, he`s given different years
for when his parents and grandfather came.

And you know, I think most of the children of immigrants have a pretty
clear idea of when their families came to the United States and under what
circumstances. I mean, it`s easy to imagine little Marco growing up and
saying to Mommy, What was it like under Castro in Cuba?

MATTHEWS: Yes!

CONASON: And why did we leave? And Mommy probably saying to him,
Well, we weren`t really there then, son.

MATTHEWS: How can you not have had that conversation, What was it
like when Castro took over?

CONASON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I mean, everybody who saw "Godfather II" knew what that was
like. Why wouldn`t you ask your parents, what was it like when Castro --
what did he do, did he shoot -- I noticed he shot 600 people, what was that
like? Do you know any of them?

CONASON: Right.

MATTHEWS: You`d always ask that stuff.

CONASON: It`s like the immigrant Jews or the Irish not knowing about
the potato famine or the pogrom. I mean, you know, it`s -- this is part of
the immigrant mythos. And if you didn`t hear that that way as a child,
then you`re missing something. So I -- it`s hard for me to believe that he
didn`t know the real circumstances--

MATTHEWS: Well, I don`t think it`s--

CONASON: -- even though--

MATTHEWS: I don`t think it`s that fuzzy, Joe. You`re being a little
kind here around the edges -- unusually for you.

But look at this. A biography of Rubio on his own Web site leaves no
wiggle room as to when the Rubio family came to the U.S. It reads -- quote
-- "In 1971, Marco was born in Miami to Cuban-born parents who came to
America following Fidel Castro`s takeover."

CONASON: Right.

MATTHEWS: "Following Fidel Castro`s" -- it`s his own official
document. We should also note that the same wording can be found in the
biography which appeared on the Senate campaign Web site back in 2010.

So, he keeps putting out this folderol, this cover story, and over and
over again. Now, look, here -- I want to give the guy a chance to respond
to this, but I think this makes him look even more foolish. When you`re
caught, you ought to admit you`re caught. He doesn`t admit he`s caught,
Manuel, when you caught him. He lashes out at you.

Here he is lashing out at the reporting in "The Washington Post,"
calling it outrageous in a statement yesterday, saying he won`t stand for
it. He lashed out again, writing in "Politico" -- quote -- here`s what the
senator said in his cover -- "If `The Washington Post` wants to criticize
me for getting a few dates wrong, I accept that. But to call into question
the central and defining event of my parents` young lives, the fact that a
brutal communist dictator took control of their homeland and they were
never able to return is something I will not tolerate. Ultimately, what
`The Washington Post` writes is not that important to me. I am the son of
exiles. I inherited two generations of unfulfilled dreams. This is a
story that needs no embellishing."

Then why did you do it? How can people put out this pompous,
indignant, nonsense when they`re caught dead to rights?

ROIG-FRANZIA: Well, I don`t know if I would use those exact words,
but I will say this. There`s an interesting story whether they came before
or after Castro.

In fact, in some respects, if they came before Castro, it`s an
immigrant story that would be understood by a lot of people in the United
States right now, millions of people in the United States right now who
came here looking for economic improvement, a better life, all of these
things that we hear when we hear interviews on the Mexican border, for
instance.

MATTHEWS: Sure.

ROIG-FRANZIA: And it appears that based on the timing of this, that
the motivation would have very likely been for the Rubio family to come
here and find work and have a better life, all those same reasons.

But it`s not the narrative that the senator`s comfortable with.

MATTHEWS: This is, obviously, Joe, very ideological, not so much
ethnic, because he`s already Cuban-American. He doesn`t have to argue
about that. That`s a fact on the record.

But he had to be part of this right-wing struggle against communists,
and he has to appeal to the Tea Party types. It seems like what`s going on
is an attempt to foist an unfactual history to win over the approval of
right-wingers across the country.

CONASON: Yes, of course. He wants to cloak himself in that history,
Chris, and in that ideology. And I guess that`s OK. The problem is that
it`s not true.

And the second problem is, you know, that Senator Rubio has had other
integrity questions raised about him in the not-so-distant past about his
use of credit cards, Republican Party credit cards. You know, the former
party chairman went to prison in that same scandal.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CONASON: And, you know, he`s -- this is not Rubio`s only problem.
And I think it`s, you know, it`s a good day today for anybody else who
wants to be in the vice presidential slot on the Republican ticket next
year.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s a decent day for Chris Christie and probably a better
day for John Thune, who is my long shot.

CONASON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Manuel, for a big story for "The
Washington Post." You ought to get some kind of Pulitzer for that anyway.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And Joe Conason.

By the way, don`t worry about them attacking back. That`s what they
do when you catch them.

Up next, what`s the death of -- yesterday of Moammar Gadhafi have to
do with the New York Yankees? Well, really, it`s a little sick, but it`s
been pointed out that the kid who killed him was wearing a Yankees cap.
Well, that`s one victory for the Yankees this fall.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up, looks like GOP candidate Herman Cain has a way of bringing
in some extra personal cash during the 2012 season. Apparently, the
candidate is still very much available for motivational speaking gigs.
Think he`s trying to stay under the radar on this one? Far from it.

According to the candidate -- quote -- "I`m still doing paid speeches,
but I have not raised my prices. This economy`s on life support, so I`m
very mindful of those companies that would like to have me come and speak,
but I`m not going to take advantage of my newfound popularity just to put
more dollars in my pocket."

Well, the Hermanator experience, a phrase Cain trademarked himself,
doesn`t come cheap. Cain estimates that he`s raked in $250,000 in speaking
fees this year.

Next up: front-page frenzy. With the news of Libya dictator Moammar
Gadhafi`s death yesterday, it was time for the press to get creative, "The
Washington Post" with, "For Gadhafi, A Bloody End in Libya." And "The
Chicago Tribune" went with, "With Gadhafi Gone, Libya Exhales."

The always tasteful "New York Post" had "Gadhafi Killed By Yankee Fan:
Gunman Had More Hits than A-Rod." And actually it showed Gadhafi`s killer
wearing a Yankees cap. It`s all true.

Though there are still lingering questions about the sequence of
events that lead to Gadhafi`s death, many are handing credit to this 20-
year-old member of the rebel forces. There he is.

And now for the "Big Number." Did you notice that each of those
headlines went with a different spelling for the former Libya leader`s
name? Does it start with an a K or G or a Q, and does it end with a Y or
is it an I?

And there`s quite an array of options for his first name as well. So,
in his 40 years as dictator, how much English translations of Moammar
Gadhafi`s name have popped up? -- 112. That`s just in the English
translations. The Library of Congress alone lists 72 of them -- 112 right
ways or wrong ways to spell Moammar Gadhafi.

That`s tonight`s "Big Number."

Up next: Jon Huntsman is the Republican presidential candidate
Democrats seem to like the most. As his own party moves further and
further to the right, he`s coming here next.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Hampton Pearson with your
CNBC "Market Wrap."

Stocks ending the week on a high note amid Eurozone optimism and
strong corporate earnings here at home, the Dow Jones industrials soaring
267 points, the S&P 500 adding 22, the Nasdaq picking up 38 points.

Another winning week makes four in a row for the Dow industrials,
three in a row for the S&P, but the first weekly loss for the Nasdaq since
the end of September.

Nobody`s expecting any big breakthroughs at this weekend`s economic
summit in Brussels, but anything coming out of that meeting could set the
tone for trading on Monday. Here at home, we had strong earnings from
McDonald`s. It`s been gobbling up market share from other fast-food chains
for months.

GE delivered a revenue beat, with earnings coming in, in line with
expectations. And hard drive maker Seagate surged on analysts showing its
factories are still operating at full capacity, despite widespread flooding
in Thailand.

That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to
HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

So, was Tuesday night`s debate in Nevada a presidential forum or a
dogfight? Candidates attacked each other personally and everyone seemed
like they were trying to outflank the others to the far right on issues
like taxes, immigration, and even religion. And one candidate absent was
Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah and ambassador to China under
President Obama, who boycotted, actually, because Nevada was planning to
move up its caucus date close to New Hampshire`s.

Governor Huntsman has focused his resources on New Hampshire, where
polls show he will have a tough time coming out ahead. But according to
the latest NBC News/Marist poll, Huntsman is trailing Mitt Romney by nearly
40 points up there. And, nationally, in the latest CNN poll, Huntsman came
in last place with just 1 percent support.

When it comes to the Republican Party in 2011, it`s lonely at the
center.

We`re joined now by Governor Jon Huntsman.

As I was saying beforehand -- and I always speak the same off-air as
on, I know a lot of Republicans in Pennsylvania, where my brother is very
active as a Republican, who are very good on science, well-educated,
believe this country`s got to compete with countries like China. They have
to know technology and science. They can`t become Luddites.

FORMER AMBASSADOR TO CHINA JON HUNTSMAN JR., REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL
CANDIDATE: So how do you break through?

Yes, you`re not going to break through in a straw poll. This is
artificiality at the extreme in politics. You go to Iowa, you bus people
in per capita, you pay them, you put Randy Travis in a tent, you give them
a good movie, and you ask for their vote. Who`s not going to vote for you
under those conditions? So, you might win Iowa, you might lose Florida,
but eventually we are going to get to New Hampshire, where you have got to
earn the vote.

There`s no artificiality associated with New Hampshire. You have got
to get in there, grind it out, town hall meeting after town hall meeting,
house party after house party. Chris, we have got 80 events now in New
Hampshire. And you can begin to feel when you connect with people on the
street. When you`re in those town hall meetings, you can feel the energy
when you`re making your presentation.

And when you do the hour of Q&A, they want to drill down. They want
to know your heart and soul. They know what makes you tick.

MATTHEWS: Are there still those live free-or-die Republicans, those
old Yankees up there who are not right-wingers?

HUNTSMAN: Oh, of course. You have got 30 percent Republicans, 30
percent Democrats, 40 percent who are unaffiliated. And that number is
expanding.

So, if you want to do well in New Hampshire, you have got to have a
message that sells.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at this quote of yours, which I found
quite winsome. Back in August, in response to some statements by
others in your party, you tweeted the following.

"To be clear, I believe in evolution. And I trust science --
scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."

HUNTSMAN: Call me crazy.

MATTHEWS: Well, that was a delightful comment, but it was basically -
- you`re whisking away the rest of these people in your party, because they
began to look crazy, by the way you said that.

HUNTSMAN: Well, I was being true to who I am, Chris.

This is what I talked about as governor. It`s out of the Teddy
Roosevelt view of the world. The Republican Party, we forget, draws a
heritage that goes back to 18--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Name me a few Teddy Roosevelts in the Republican Party of
Tea Party day today?

HUNTSMAN: Well--

MATTHEWS: Can you name any reasonable people?

HUNTSMAN: Well, the party -- well, Tom Ridge, who is out campaigning
for us.

MATTHEWS: OK, former governor of Pennsylvania.

HUNTSMAN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Who else? Keep going.

HUNTSMAN: I`m not -- we`re not going to play the name game.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I`m just wondering if there are many more than a couple of
you guys. Christie Whitman, perhaps. I just don`t think there`s many.
Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe. You lost Specter.

HUNTSMAN: Listen, it`s ideas that matter. And ideas are going to
carry the 2012--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s what ideas concern me. This is about
compassionate conservatism, which Bush Jr. ran on.

Let`s watch some examples from past debates of what I consider
outrageous performances by the audiences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie
about who I was, because I`m a gay soldier, and I didn`t want to lose my
job.

My question is, under one of your presidencies, do you intend to
circumvent the progress that`s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in
the military?

(BOOING)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, HOST, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": Your state has executed 234
death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you-
-

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WILLIAMS: Have you struggled to sleep at night on -- with the idea
that any one of those might have been innocent?

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, sir, I have never
struggled with that at all.

PAUL: That`s what freedom is all about, taking your own risks. This
whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody--

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR AND MODERATOR: But, Congressman, are you
saying that society should just let him die?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!

PAUL: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Yes, let him die, the guy who was comatose at 30 because he
didn`t have life insurance or health insurance, death penalty, executions
by the hundreds in Texas being cheered on, a gay soldier in uniform on post
in Iraq booed.

Why didn`t you stand up and say, this isn`t my America? Why didn`t
you personally stand up when you`re surrounded by this horror show?

(CROSSTALK)

HUNTSMAN: Chris, you`re on stage, and, oftentimes, there`s a lot of
banter out there. You don`t know where it`s coming from.

So, you get off the stage, you`re asked about it, and I responded. I
said, turn to that soldier and thank him for his service. Thank him for
his service, along with all the other soldiers.

MATTHEWS: Good for you.

HUNTSMAN: We all wear the same uniform and salute the same flag.

MATTHEWS: Well, what do you make of your party? Are you proud to be
in the party right now that you`re watching in these debates?

HUNTSMAN: Listen, I have been a Republican since I was 18 years of
age.

And there are twists and turns ahead, but let me tell you about where
the Republican Party goes. The Republican Party follows leadership. It
follows vision. 2012 is going to be a visionary election. It`s going to
be about getting this economy back on its feet. It`s going to be about
securing our position in the world.

I also believe it`s also going to be about addressing our two wars
abroad. We have got to be realistic about our deployment patterns. I
mean, we`re at the second decade into the 21st century. You still have
50,000 troops in Germany. I mean, the Russians aren`t coming.

MATTHEWS: What do you think we should do in Afghanistan? Come home?

HUNTSMAN: We need to draw down. We need to pull them back and we
need to say, this is a counterterror effort. We need to say, this requires
intelligence gathering, special forces response, a much smaller presence.

We should not be nation-building at a time when this nation needs to
be built. So what we need to do in Afghanistan--

MATTHEWS: OK, look at the last years, starting in 2001, when
President Bush came in after 9/11.

We went to Iraq. We went to Afghanistan. We went to Iraq, which I
never understood going to Iraq logically. Do you think the pattern was
wrong, led by George W. Bush, of too much aggressive foreign policy, too
hawkish?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, do you think so or not?

HUNTSMAN: Don`t need to re-litigate that.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

HUNTSMAN: You say, when it follow our key national security interests
like Afghanistan -- absolutely. In Afghanistan -- what have we done in
Afghanistan? We`ve routed the Taliban, we`ve dismantled al Qaeda, we`ve
killed Osama bin Laden, we had free elections in 2004.

I say we`ve achieved our objective. It`s time to come home.

MATTHEWS: OK. Was Iraq smart or not?

HUNTSMAN: I don`t want to relitigate that, Chris. A lot of us felt
that it wasn`t a good thing.

And here we are. You make the best of it. You have to clean up the
mess. You have to move on and secure our interests. And that`s where we
are.

MATTHEWS: I look at this campaign and the way it`s gone to the
Republican side and I find a disconnect. I look at Romney getting big
numbers and I see no love for him in the party. I so no love for him among
the other candidates. I see a guy who may well be the nomination the way
Nixon did in `68, a loveless candidacy.

Is that possible? Is it possible your party would nominate someone
they just didn`t like?

HUNTSMAN: It`s too early to tell. We haven`t had a single vote cast.
We haven`t had a single caucus or primary state event yet.

When New Hampshire rolls around, I think that`s going to be a very
telltale sign. This is again, where it`s got to be earned, it can`t be --

MATTHEWS: Who would be a better president, Barack Obama or Michele
Bachmann?

HUNTSMAN: Don`t get me into that game.

MATTHEWS: I`m asking.

HUNTSMAN: Don`t me get into that game.

MATTHEWS: OK, Michele -- Herman Cain or Barack Obama? I think it`s
about one or two guys in the party besides yourself you might vote for.
And I don`t think I would include Herman Cain. I don`t think I would
include Bachmann.

I might include Mitt Romney, but I`m not sure.

HUNTSMAN: Listen, anyone who has a founding, a grounding in how this
economy works and can get it back on its feet, understands the need for tax
reform, regulatory reform, energy dependence, and addressing our
international needs.

MATTHEWS: But you`ve been surrounded by loony tune arguments. I
mean, Michele Bachmann said we shouldn`t pay any taxes. How can you sit
next to a person who says there shouldn`t be any taxes and have a
reasonable conversation with her?

HUNTSMAN: It`s the primary phase of this campaign. All voices ought
to be heard.

MATTHEWS: The primitive phase.

HUNTSMAN: Look at the Democratic Party. Same thing, all voices are
heard.

MATTHEWS: You know what I had to say to you, thank you for your
service. Thank for your service. For being the same man in the Republican
Party, who reminds us there`s actually someone who has their feet on the
ground. We all think we like. We won`t destroy you by saying you`re doing
well, because that`ll probably kill you.

Tell your friends come over, too, we`d like to get some of them.

HUNTSMAN: Of course.

MATTHEWS: Those guys you hang around with on debate night.

HUNTSMAN: Of course.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. Very impressive, Governor. I`m very familiar
with your top politics. You were a great governor, and enormously popular
out there. I think you did a fabulous job as a United States ambassador to
China. Thank you for your service.

HUNTSMAN: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Thank you for coming to HARDBALL.

HUNTSMAN: Appreciate it.

MATTHEWS: And thanks for being crazy, as you put it, in other words,
sane in the Republican Party.

Up next, Herman Cain`s leading the Republican field in a lot of new
polls, but he can`t seem to stay consistent on the issues. I can`t
understand this guy. I don`t think he even knows anything about these
issues he`s talking about. We`ll prove that in a moment. We`ll be right
back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Mitt Romney`s not conceding Iowa after all. Romney
campaigned there yesterday. For the first time in months, saying he`d love
to win there.

The big question for Romney is how much campaigning he does there. If
he invests too deeply, a loss in Iowa would be a big blow to him. But with
his rivals struggling, a Romney victory in Iowa followed by a win in New
Hampshire could be a knockout punch for the former Massachusetts governor.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Presidential candidate Herman Cain is now getting the kind of vetting
that comes from being a top-tier candidate, but it doesn`t seem like he`s
thought through some of his positions. This week, he tied himself in knots
regarding his position on abortion rights, and appeared not to notice,
actually, what he was doing.

Mark Halperin is an MSNBC senior political analyst, and Julie Mason
writes for "Politico."

Thank you both for joining us on this Friday.

On Wednesday night, Herman Cain described -- and this has hard to
follow -- his position on abortion rights. Let`s listen to this and study
it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that life begins
at conception. And abortion, under no circumstances, and here`s why.

PIERS MORGAN, CNN: No circumstances?

CAIN: No circumstances.

MORGAN: Because many of your fellow candidates, or at least some of
them, qualify that.

CAIN: They qualify, but --

MORGAN: Rape and incest and so on.

CAIN: Rape and incest. But --

MORGAN: Are you honestly saying, again, you know, tricky question, I
know,

CAIN: Ask the tricky question.

MORGAN: You`ve had children and grandchildren, if one of your female
children, grandchildren, was raped, you would honestly want her to bring up
that baby as her own?

CAIN: You mixing two things here, Piers.

MORGAN: Why?

CAIN: You`re mixing two things --

MORGAN: But that`s what it comes down to.

CAIN: No, it comes down to it`s not the government`s role or anybody
else`s role to make that decision. So, what I`m saying is, it ultimately
gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make. Not me
as president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So he`s pro-choice. In an attempt to clear up his
position, Herman Cain tweeted yesterday, quote, "I am 100 percent pro-life.
End of story."

Julie, I don`t get it. He says he`s pro-choice, with great detail, in
fact, and in great personal terms says it`s up to the family, and then he
says he`s pro-life, which means it`s up to the state and they have a right
to outlaw it. What`s he saying here?

JULIE MASON, POLITICO: Well, I think what he`s saying is that he`s a
Republican running for president who doesn`t have a coherent stance on
abortion, which is -- you know, for a lot of these Republican primary
voters, is just a deal breaker. And then to end the conversation on
Twitter -- I mean, is this what it`s come to in the Republican Party? I
still don`t know what he stands for.

MATTHEWS: Mark, can you decipher?

MARK HALPERIN, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, Chris, if this -
- if this is adjudicated by shows like this and on serious Web sites and
newspapers, the guy`s dead, not just because in the Republican Party, you
have to be pro-life, you can`t sound like Kate Michelman, but because he`s
showing a lack of consistency on a range of issues. That, so far, though,
is not where Herman Cain`s campaign status is being adjudicated. It`s
being adjudicated out with crowds who love him. And so far, don`t seem
bothered by his inconsistencies.

This one may change it, but I don`t think so.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s see what the pro-life crowds, which is most of
the religious right. Here he is this summer, Herman Cain appeared on the
FOX Business Network and baffled host John Stossel with his answers on
abortion. Let`s listen to him there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: I`m pro-life from conception, yes.

JOHN STOSSEL, FBN: Any cases where it should be legal?

CAIN: I don`t think government should make that decision. I don`t
believe that government should make that decision.

STOSSEL: People should be free to abort a baby --

CAIN: I support life from conception. No people shouldn`t be just
free to abort, because if we don`t protect the sanctity of life from
conception, we will also start life from conception, we will also start to
play God relative to life at the end of life.

STOSSEL: So I`m confused on what your position is.

CAIN: My position is I`m pro-life, period.

STOSSEL: If a woman is raped, she should not be allowed to end the
pregnancy?

CAIN: That`s her choice. That is not the government`s choice. I
support life from conception.

STOSSEL: So abortion should be legal?

CAIN: No, abortion should not be legal. I believe in the sanctity of
life.

STOSSEL: I`m not getting. I`m not understanding. If it`s her
choice, that means it`s legal.

CAIN: No. I believe -- I don`t believe a woman should have an
abortion. Does that help to clear it up?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK, Julie, that guy was going both directions at the same
time. It wasn`t like he was flip-flopping. He was flip-flopping
simultaneously. I`ve never seen anybody -- he said it shouldn`t be legal
but it should be up to the family.

Well, how can that mean anything which makes you wonder has this guy
given any thought to any public debate on anything except business issues.
And I think that`s a fair assumption.

MASON: I think that`s a fair question, Chris. And here`s the thing.
Some of the parties are going bananas about this right now are Republicans
in Iowa. He`s heading there tomorrow for the first time since August. I
think he`s going to face a lot of questions when he gets there, about just
what exactly he stands for. He better have a better answer when he gets
there.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s Rick Perry -- you respond to this Mark -- Rick
Santorum who has been consistently, I mean, totally pro-life all these
years. Here he is telling "The Associated Press" the following.

Let`s listen, "It`s basically the position that just about every pro-
choice politician has in America. I don`t know too many pro-choice
politicians who are for abortions, who want more abortions, but they say
the choice is a decision government shouldn`t be involved in. That is
Herman Cain`s position, which does not make him pro-life. That is the
quintessential pro-choice position on abortion."

Well, he`s cutting him a lot of slack. He has found in the midst of
all that back-and-forth a consistent position which is really what my dad`s
position was, he used to say I`m pro-life, but it`s up to the woman -- ha!
Which is a contradiction, as well.

Your thoughts, Mark.

HALPERIN: Well, I think it`s where a lot of Americans are. It`s not
a great position to have in general in the Republican Party. Julie is
right. We`re going to get a quick test of this. Part of why I`m here
headed to Iowa is because tomorrow night, there are six Republicans
speaking before the same audience of religious conservatives, social
conservatives, and I think he is going to have to address it in his remarks
and as he deals with reporters.

There`s a range of issues on which his answers are not you have to
snuff for a normal big time presidential candidate, but I`ll say it again,
I`m not sure it matters right now.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HALPERIN: The people who like him like him for a range of reasons.
And abortion is not front and center for some Republican voters right now.

MATTHEWS: Well, you take the first shot on this one. Well, here he
is talking about GITMO -- we`ll get away from the social issues to the
security issue. Here he is speaking on GITMO with Wolf Blitzer. He
completely contradicted himself here on you how to handle a hypothetical
situation -- sort of like what the Israelis just had to go through, that
heart-wrenching decision that Netanyahu had about getting his captive back
at the price of releasing a lot of killers.

Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Could you imagine if you were president -- we`re
almost out of time -- and there were one American soldier who had been held
for years and the demand was al Qaeda or some other terrorist group, you
got to free everyone at Guantanamo Bay, several hundred prisoners at
Guantanamo? Could you see yourself as president authorizing that kind of
transfer?

CAIN: I could see myself authorizing that kind of transfer.

I said that I believe in the philosophy of we don`t nobody negotiate
with terrorists. I think -- I`d been saying -- I would never agree to
letting hostages in Guantanamo Bay go.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS: There you have a situation which is as hard as rock, Mark.
Two opposite positions on the same question -- trading terrorists to get
free an American service person -- Mark.

HALPERIN: I think this one could hurt him because he must if he`s
going to be a credible candidate. Republicans are now getting to that
period we call time to pick a president. And if he on national security
questions is all over the map and says at one point with apparent
conviction, yes, I`d negotiate with terrorists and free al Qaeda in a
hostage negotiation, that is to me is going to hurt his possibility of
growing his support and will diminish his support. It`s too serious an
issue, not that abortion isn`t serious. But this is a threshold question
being commander in chief.

MATTHEWS: Well said.

Thank you. Great having you on, Mark Halperin and Julie Mason. It is
amazing. This guy is finally getting vetted and he`s not looking good.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with an end of an era in Iraq.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with Iraq, the war in Iraq. George
W. and neocon`s war to get Saddam Hussein -- the war that took us away from
fighting the terrorists who attacked us to fighting a war the hawks wanted
us to fight.

What an embarrassment the decision to fight this war has been, a war
we were brought into by someone of limited ability using odd-sounding
phrases like WMD. Phrases that forever conflated for propaganda sake,
nuclear weapons -- with the building of nuclear weapons, to the possibility
of building nuclear weapons, to the desire to use nuclear weapons to, OK,
chemical weapon, plans to have chemical weapons, history of having used
chemical weapons, to a possible desire to have chemical weapons to -- OK,
we got it all wrong.

There was nothing there. We knew that because of the defense
intelligence estimate before the war that said Saddam had no nuclear
weapons, had no effort under way to build any, and no effort underway to
buy any nuclear weapons.

It was this endless dissembling and word game that got a thin majority
of the American people to back the invasion and takeover of another
country. It was the total support of one political party, the Republicans,
and the pathetic collaboration of the second, the Democrats, that allowed
this American war in Iraq to take place in the first place.

And today, the president who ran against the war announced that it
will be overcome Christmas.

Good. Bad that it was ever fought. Good that it is over. Good.
Good for Obama -- just good.

But again, and never to be forgotten -- bad that we ever did it, bad
that so many Americans were talked into it by double talk and cheap
propaganda that should have been cut through by the media like a knife
through soft butter.

That`s HARDBALL for now. 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
BE UPDATED.
END

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