updated 10/25/2011 2:12:21 PM ET 2011-10-25T18:12:21

Guests: Wayne Slater, John Feehery, Michael Feldman, John Heilemann, Sam
Stein, Matt Cooper, Michelle Goldberg

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Rick Perry goes birther.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews out in Phoenix, Arizona. Leading
off tonight: Birtherism reborn. In the last few weeks, Rick Perry has
dropped to single digits in the polls after enjoying a double-digit lead.
So how did he boost your approval ratings when every debate sends you
further in the dumps? You dig up an old, moldy, discredited charge that
still has resonance with the right wing, birtherism.

Rick Perry says it`s not definitive that Barack Obama was born here in
the U.S. Rick Perry and birtherism, the last vestige of a desperate
candidate who hopes to survive. That tops our show tonight.

Also, which Republican presidential candidate back in 1996 called the
flat tax, quote, "a tax cut for fat cats"? And which Republican
presidential candidate now says, quote, "I love the flat tax"? The answer
to both questions is -- you bet, you guessed it -- Mitt Romney. Romney is
just the latest member of the Republican parade to shift the tax burden
from the wealthy to the middle class.

Plus, had enough of Republicans just saying no to anything President
Obama wants? So has the president. He`s begun a new campaign, "We can`t
wait" -- that`s what it`s called -- as in, we can`t wait for Congress to
act. The president plans unilateral executive branch actions to boost the
economy. He kicks it off today in Nevada to help struggling home owners
hang onto their houses.

And a new poll shows the country`s overwhelming support for the
sentiments of those Wall Street Occupiers.

"Let Me Finish" tonight with an easy way to understand the evils on
Wall Street.

We start with Rick Perry gone birther. David Corn`s an MSNBC
political analyst and "Mother Jones" Washington bureau chief. And we`re
also joined by Wayne Slater. Thank you, gentleman, for joining us.

Here`s a portion of that "Parade" interview, "Parade" magazine
interview that ran this Sunday. It`s catching a lot of attention. In a
Q&A in the article, Lynn Sherr asks the governor some questions.

"Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the
United States?" Perry responded, "I have no reason to think otherwise."
Sherr, "That`s not a definitive, Yes, I believe he" -- Rick Perry, "Well, I
don`t have a definitive answer because he`s never seen my (SIC) birth
certificate." Question, "But you`ve seen his." Perry, "I don`t know.
Have I?" Question, "You don`t believe what`s been released?" Perry, "I
don`t know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night." Question,
"And?" Perry, "That came up." Question, "And he said?" Perry, "He
doesn`t think it`s real." Question, "And you said?" Perry, "I don`t have
any idea. It doesn`t matter. He`s the president of the United States.
He`s elected. It`s a distractive issue."

Well, there we go, Rick Perry has ripped the scab off this issue by
saying he doesn`t really believe the president was born here.

I want to go to Wayne Slater. What crowd is this guy back on his
heels in the double digits, trying to appeal to?

WAYNE SLATER, "DALLAS MORNING NEWS": You suggested it in the intro.
And what part of the resurrection of the birther issue -- wink, wink,
nudge, nudge -- is going to cause him problems in western Iowa, in South
Carolina, in the redneck Riviera, in Florida? It`s not going to cause him
any problems at all.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

SLATER: Well, because, basically, what he`s got to do is, as you
know, appeal to those people who are not going to be with Romney. He`s got
to pull people away from Cain, so you do it with abortion. You got to pull
people away from everybody else. And what you do is resurrect the crowd on
the right, and that includes both the anti-abortion people, the anti-gay
marriage people, but also the birthers, the Birchers, the secessionists,
the militia, basically, the marginalia of the religious right and social
right in the Republican Party.

Dave Carney and the Rick Perry team believe that, mathematically, that
that is their only way, if they can coalesce all of these disparate
interests who are not the Mitt Romney folks. And there`s no better way to
do that than fall under the spell of the Donald and to start talking about
birtherism.

MATTHEWS: Oh!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to David Corn on that because it`s a hoot.
I mean, he`s treating Donald Trump like some sort of figure who can verify
the truth on matters political. I mean, the guy showed us his birth
certificate. It was embarrassing enough the president of the United States
has to show his papers, like he`s being stopped at a checkpoint. But to do
it and then have somebody who`s actually a governor of a state saying, I
don`t really believe this guy`s papers -- what`s he think, he`s an illegal
alien? Does he think he`s one of these guys he calls aliens, he ought to
be illegals? Because that`s what he`s saying.

If he wasn`t born here and he never went through naturalization or
went through any kind of green card process, he is here illegally. It`s
one or the other. And here`s a guy making the charge he might be the
other.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, with Rick
Perry, we see him today going for both the flat tax and this flat earth
theory. He just -- you know, the Republicans can`t escape the
gravitational pull of profound anti-Obamaism. You know, every time this
gets knocked away, somebody comes along and suggests -- wink, wink, nod,
nod -- as Wayne just said, that maybe there`s still something to this
story.

Donald Trump was out there last week, too, with Michele Bachmann,
holding a tele-town hall in which he was going on not so much about
birtherism, but other things, other conspiracy theories about the war in
Libya.

And so I don`t know what magnetic pull he has on these far-right
candidates. I mean, this is a guy, actually, who was more a Democrat a few
years ago than a Republican. But they just can`t resist the lure of Donald
Trump or the lure of "Obama the other," Obama the alien, whether it`s
birtherism or whether it`s the fact that he doesn`t like this country, he`s
not truly an American. They just can`t let that theme go because it`s just
too powerful for too much of their base.

MATTHEWS: You know what`s really humiliating here is a guy who`s
elected by the people of Texas -- for whatever you think of his politics,
he`s an elected official of a major state -- he goes trooping up to New
York mentally, not just physically but mentally treating Donald Trump as
the guy who decides what the truth is on whether the president of the
United States is an American or not, an American-born American.

I mean, why would he treat Trump as his expert? Why would he look up
to those big, tall buildings in New York with such profound humility as to
think one of the guys who built one of those high buildings knows more
about Obama`s legitimacy as an American than he does?

And that`s my question to you, Wayne. Why is he so intellectually
humble as to bow before Donald Trump and say he`s my expert on whether a
person`s an American or not, including the president? Why`s he do that?

SLATER: Because -- yes, look, look, Trump -- he saw -- we all what
happened to Donald Trump for a couple of weeks. The moment that he both
disgraced himself by talking about birtherism -- but in the opening couple
of weeks, made himself a skyrocket, rocketed to the top of consideration
among this -- the folks on the far right. Perry sees that as an
opportunity.

Look, they understand very well that Mitt Romney has topped out, they
believe, around 25, 30 percent. All they have to do is coalesce other
folks around him. And those folks, those most active constituents who are
going to show up at the caucuses in Iowa, who are going to show up in South
Carolina, are exactly the people who still think that Obama is the other,
and who still think that -- as extraordinary as this may seem, you go out
there and talk to folks -- that Donald Trump is a kind of sage and expert
who will talk directly to people...

(LAUGHTER)

SLATER: I know! Talk directly to people and say the truth.

MATTHEWS: OK. I mean, when I went to New York the first couple
times, and I still do this as an out-of-towner, I do look up at the tall
buildings. But I do realize that people in New York are no different than
the rest. They do have bigger money in some cases, but the idea that
they`re sharper -- well, let`s take a look -- here`s the -- here, by the
way, since the president released his long-form birth certificate out of
Hawaii, the number of Republicans who believe he was born outside the
United States has dropped. But -- and here`s the huge B-U-T, but -- still
one in five, almost one in four believe he was born in or could have been
born in another country. Twenty-three percent think he`s definitely or
probably born in another country!

I mean, another country! And nobody can figure out the physical
nature of how he did all this trick. He`s some sort of reverse Houdini
that comes from somewhere else. Forty-three percent are willing to say,
David, that he was born here. It`s just, to me, profound. I`m sorry, 40-
some percent.

CORN: This gets to the heart of a big problem in our political
discourse, which is evidence, facts don`t matter. People respond to a
question like that based on what they feel, what they hope, rather than
what the evidence is before them. There`s no reason from anyone to believe
that, let alone 23 percent of the Republican Party.

It is a measure of their profound antipathy towards the president,
that -- you know, ask them if he`s a Muslim. Ask them if they believe that
there`s a satanic agenda to what he`s doing, and you`ll probably get
between 10 and 25 percent.

And that`s -- you know, at the beginning of this race -- you and I
talked about this -- that there was a bloc of Republican primary voters who
wanted someone out there who they could relate to emotionally, with the
anger they had towards Obama. You know, Mitt Romney isn`t that guy, let
alone the positions, whether he`s conservative enough, whether he`s flip-
flopped or not, he doesn`t feel their anger.

And Michele Bachmann, Donald Trump, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, they`ve
all tried to capitalize on that. No one has done it, you know, in a
sustainable way yet. And now here comes Rick Perry again for the second
bite at that poisonous apple.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at the latest poll numbers that
explain Rick Perry`s desperation here, his desperado move here of going
back to birtherism. Here -- he`s been dropping -- I`ve never seen a
candidate drop, I don`t think, this fast in a long time.

The latest CNN Opinion Research poll, he`s dropped nearly 20 points
since just last month. Cain has picked up all those 20 points.

This must drive him crazy, Wayne.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Here`s a guy with no political background, a very -- I
mean, obviously, a smart guy, with no political baggage at all. And here`s
a guy who`s been governor of the big state of Texas all these years, good-
looking guy, younger, healthier, probably, than Mr. Cain. And yet Cain is
eating his lunch.

SLATER: Yes. Look, I mean, to be serious, it doesn`t just drive Rick
Perry crazy, it drives Anita Perry crazy, and she is the one person who can
talk to the governor. I`m serious. And she talked to the governor just
recently and said, You got to do something about this. This -- she`s very,
very unhappy with the trajectory of the campaign, as anybody would be, and
they are making changes.

That`s why we have seen Nelson Warfield (ph) and others being brought
in. And as of today, Rick Perry has personally, after Anita talked to him
-- Anita Perry, his wife, talked to him -- called Joe Allbaugh, who ran the
operation, be sure the trains ran on time, the organization of George Bush
11 years ago in the 2000 presidential race, and asked Allbaugh to come on
board and take over the campaign, which he is going to do. So they
understand that they have a problem.

CORN: He also -- he also ran FEMA during Katrina, right, Wayne?

SLATER: No, he ran Katrina -- he ran FEMA right before Katrina. He
had the good wisdom...

CORN: Oh, OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, don`t blame him for that.

SLATER: ... to leave and become a private consultant.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: No, that was the other guy.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: You know, the interesting thing is that the guy...

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) Brown.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You`re doing a great job, Brownie.

CORN: Yes. The guys that Rick Perry picked up, a lot of them worked
for Rick Scott, the governor of Florida. Now, remember, Rick Scott was
head of a company that was charged $1.7 billion in fines and damages for
defrauding Medicare, and they got that guy elected governor.

So if I were Mitt Romney, or somebody else, and I saw these guys
coming into Rick Perry`s camp, I would say, Maybe this guy does have a
second chance here. We ought to be worried about a Perry bounce.

MATTHEWS: Well, I just think it`s great that the guy who`s head of
disaster relief for W. has now come in to solve the problems of Rick Perry,
perfect job for a disaster expert.

Thank you very much, David Corn. Birtherism, it`s not the prettiest
face of America. Thank you, Wayne, for getting to the roots of this guy.

Coming up: Herman Cain`s got his 9-9-9 plan, of course, and Rick Perry
is pushing now a flat tax. And now Mitt Romney, who once called the flat
tax "a tax cut for fat cats," is warming up to the idea. These people are
all other-directed. They lean to the right on everything. The Republicans
are looking to shift the tax burden, it seems, from people with a lot of
money to the people with far less money, the middle class. What`s this
about politically? Does the GOP risk reinforcing its image as, to use Mitt
Romney`s phrase, the party of fat cats? That`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: A new poll finds Americans want to ditch the Electoral
College for a popular vote system by a margin now of 2 to 1. Gallup found
that 62 percent support a constitutional amendment now that would allow the
winner of the popular vote in this country to win the White House. Only 35
percent say keep the Electoral College. This is a big change. The poll
also found that for the first time ever, a majority of Republicans want to
dump the Electoral College, as well as Democrats.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Back in 1996, not (ph) a million
years ago, Steve Forbes ran for president on the idea of imposing a flat
tax, where every American, except the very poor, would be taxed at the same
17 percent rate. How`d that work out for him? Well, he finished fourth
place in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

The reality of a flat tax, however, doesn`t seem to sit well with most
Americans. Look at these Gallup numbers from last month. Sixty-six
percent of Americans favor increasing taxes on individuals making more than
$200,000. Only 32 percent oppose that, and 70 percent favor raising taxes
on corporations by eliminating loopholes.

And yet the Republican Party in 2011, right now, is moving toward
embracing the flat tax idea. Herman Cain, for example, backs his 9-9-9
plan, which would impose a flat 9 percent income tax on Americans, an
additional 9 percent national sales tax. Rick Perry tomorrow will unveil
his own tax plan, which he says will be a flat tax. Steve Forbes has
signed on as an adviser to Rick Perry. And even Mitt Romney, who has in
the past rejected a flat tax, calling it a "fat tax" -- "a tax plan for fat
tax," or "fat cats" -- has been talking more and more favorably about a
flat tax.

Romney already has a fat cat image problem, thanks to his background
as a turnaround artist at Bain. This photo, by the way -- take a look at
the candidate posing with wads of cash during his Bain Capital days --
continues to haunt, as it should, Mr. Romney. The flat tax overwhelmingly
helps the wealthiest Americans, obviously, while increasing the burden on
the lower income brackets, who pay less under the current progressive tax
structure.

Well, so what`s going on here? What does it mean for the Republican
Party to become the party of fat cats? For that, we`re joined by
Democratic strategist Michael Feldman and Republican strategist John
Feehery.

I`ve got to get John in here, my friend, on the defense here. Why
would your party start talking, basically, a flat rate, when right now,
Americans, as you make more money -- in fact, you make a lot more money, up
in the $200,000 bracket, you start to pay around 35, you may pay 32 on the
way there, 25 on the way there -- people in the middle -- really, the
average brackets pay around 15.

Why would the American people want their bracket to go up, their rate
to go up, to give relief to the rich?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, that`s not why, Chris.
Why they want to get a flat tax is, A, they want a tax code that creates
jobs, and B, they`re sick and tired of a tax code which they think already
favors the rich with all of these loopholes. They want a flat tax because
it`s simple, it makes sense to people, and everyone pays the same kind of
percentage, which is a progressive tax rate.

Now, you know, I think what`s going to end up happening, if we do go
to a flatter, fairer tax code, is you`re going to have something like
Ronald Reagan, where you have three or four different tax levels, that get
rid of the loopholes and actually help create jobs in this country. Our
tax structure is killing job creation, and everybody should agree on that.

MATTHEWS: But that`s not a flat tax. A flat tax is one rate.

FEEHERY: Well...

MATTHEWS: And that`s what they`re talking about. They`re talking
about a single rate. If you make billions of dollars a year, you pay the
same rough percentage, 17 percent is what Forbes has been talking about --
as a guy making $50,000 or $100,000.

FEEHERY: Right. Well, I tell you what I think...

MATTHEWS: You think that`s fair?

FEEHERY: ... things are going to get to...

MATTHEWS: Is that a fair tax?

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: Well, listen, I think a tax code that creates jobs and has -
- allows more economic growth, economic expansion, and gets rid of all
these loopholes so people who are wealthy -- the problem is the tax code as
currently instructed, the rich people can get accountants and find out ways
not to pay their taxes.

What we need is a tax code that`s fair for everybody and that actually
creates jobs in this country.

MATTHEWS: OK. I`m trying to nail you down before I go to Mike. Do
you support a flat tax, same rate for everybody?

FEEHERY: I support a flat tax if it will create jobs and create more
fairness in this country, and create economic expansion, which it has done
in Eastern Europe.

MATTHEWS: OK. We want all this too, but we always want more jobs, we
always want economic expansion. The question...

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: And a flat tax will do that.

MATTHEWS: We will see. We will see if the country likes that idea.
The poll shows they don`t.

Over the past few weeks, Mitt Romney has been talking more and more
favorably about a flat tax concept. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love a flat tax. My tax
policy -- there`s a lot about a flat tax that works, but it means different
things to different people.

The so-called flat tax that Steve Forbes championed how many years ago
was that? Any remember? Long time. Pardon?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 2000.

ROMNEY: In 2000. The flat tax has positive features. Again, you
have to look and make sure that it doesn`t raise taxes on middle-income
Americans.

It would be nice to have a very simple and flat code, but what I want
to make sure is that any kind of tax system that`s ultimately put in place
is one that reduces the burden on middle-income Americans. That`s what I
describe in my 59-point plan. There`s some steps that I take immediately.
But then there are steps that I think down the road to flatten the tax code
and to do our very best to reduce the burden on middle-income Americans.

Well, Mike Feldman, before we get to you, we should put this in
perspective. Keeping up with Mitt Romney`s changes of mind requires a real
historian`s touch. And there you heard him say, I love the flat tax. Keep
that in mind. I love the flat tax.

Back in 1996, Romney paid $50,000 for this newspaper ad, wherein he
attacked the Steve Forbes flat tax proposal as a tax cut for fat cats,
calling himself a concerned citizen. He said the flat tax was a bad idea
for the Republican Party. It`s very hard to keep up with this turning
wheel called the conscience of Mitt Romney.

Mike Feldman, he`s flipped on abortion, he`s flipped on everything,
health care, everything in the world. Now he see him flipping on something
flat. He`s no longer -- well, now he`s a flat guy. He was against that.
He was for a progressive tax system before. Where do you think he will end
up?

MIKE FELDMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, look, I think he will
continue to perform this verbal gymnastics about the flat tax, in much the
same way that John had to do.

When you really nail somebody down, the flat tax is horrible public
policy. It`s why E.J. Dionne wrote this morning it`s why most of the
people who support it have flatlined politically, ultimately, because when
you actually look at your own tax code, as most middle-class or working-
class Americans are going to do, you realize you kind of get run over by a
flat tax.

But Mitt Romney has a problem. The conservative base of the
Republican Party, the energy among the nominating electorate right now is
behind this idea. It sounds great. Throw out the tax code, start from
scratch.

It`s horrible public policy. Mitt Romney knows he`s going to have to
face real voters, moderate voters, independent voters in the fall, and so
he`s come just shy of saying, yes, I endorse a flat tax. He likes the idea
of it. But at the end of the day, I think that`s why he`s kind of keeping
his cards a little close to his vest on whether or not he`d support it.

MATTHEWS: You know, John, you and I have similar backgrounds and
values, I think, generally speaking. But let`s get to the heart of the
reality of this thing, and maybe we can reach common ground here.

The average person watching this program right now may make -- a
single person may be lucky to make $40,000 or $50,000. A family may make
about that, according to national averages. They may be retired living on
less than that. They`re looking at how this tax structure would affect
them if the new person gets elected president. And if they`re thinking of
electing Mitt Romney, they would like to know what he is talking about.

If he`s talking about a flat tax, the same percentage tax rate for
everybody, that`s serious business, because that means the rich people
won`t pay a higher percentage than the average person out there just making
a living. Do you think that`s a fair idea in concept?

FEEHERY: Well, right now, Chris...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That idea, the same percentage?

FEEHERY: Let me answer. If you think about the concept right now
about the so-called Buffett rule, according to Warren Buffett, he`s already
paying less taxes than other people.

What a flat tax does has everyone pay the same percentage. If you
strip away all the political rhetoric and all the back and forth, the one
thing about the flat tax Is it will actually work and it will actually
create jobs. And we know that because it`s worked in Eastern Europe. It`s
worked in Estonia. It`s worked in Lithuania.

It`s worked people know that they get a fair deal, they know what
they`re supposed to pay, and it leads to economic expansion. And that`s
the one thing this country needs right now is economic expansion, not this
politics of envy.

MATTHEWS: Well, I sure as hell -- we catch up to Lithuania. I mean,
John, I have to tell you, there`s been a progressive tax in this country
under Reagan, under Roosevelt, under every president, under Eisenhower.

FEEHERY: And look what it`s done. It`s screwed up...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We have been the most successful economy in the world.
Right now we`re having a hard time. Whether you change your tax system in
a difficult situation like that to go to something as fluky as the same
percentage is to me a strange time to do it.

Anyway, I`m just trying to keep up with Mitt Romney. I`m not running
for president. You`re not, John. We`re just trying to keep up with Mitt
Romney. I`m telling you, this guy is so fast at changing his positions,
you have to have a stopwatch for this guy.

FEEHERY: I think what Mitt Romney is saying is he wants a fair,
flatter tax code. What he`s probably going to get to is like I said
before, something that Ronald Reagan came up with, three tax rates, make it
fair, and get rid of all the loopholes, because loopholes are what`s
killing this country.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK, John -- look, Feehery, I`m not going to talk about
loopholes. We agree we don`t like them, they`re for fat cats.

But let me tell you something. Keeping up with this guy, you need a
stopwatch. And secondly we shouldn`t have to wait for Friday to figure out
what he meant on Tuesday. There`s an old Goldwater shot.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway thank you, John Feehery.

Thank you, Michael Feldman.

Feldman is right. Feehery is wrong. And Feehery knows he is wrong.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Up next, Michele Bachmann ha got a plan on what to do with
all those sick and poor people after she repeals Obamacare. She sounds
like Ebenezer Scrooge before the three ghosts arrive on Christmas Eve.
Wait until you hear this. Put them in a poorhouse.

That`s the "Sideshow" tonight. It`s got Bachmann, where she belongs.
You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And now to the "Sideshow."

First up, read between the lines. Last week, Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton made news for sharing some laughs with Afghan President
Hamid Karzai at the expense of GOP candidate Herman Cain.

We all remember the moment that sparked his interest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m ready for the gotcha
questions, and they are already starting to come. And when they ask me who
is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, I`m going to say, you
know, I don`t know. Do you know?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, has Clinton decided now to take a backseat to the
2012 GOP scene? Well, judge for yourself. Let`s hear what she had to say
during an interview yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST, "THIS WEEK WITH CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR": Are
you in Herman Cain`s famously designated Beki-beki-beki-stan?

(LAUGHTER)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, you know,
there`s a zero-zero-zero chance I`m going to comment on Republican
politics, but I am in Uzbekistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, she may be staying more or less tight-lipped on the
GOP race, but Clinton, the secretary of state, had nothing but praise for
President Obama this past weekend, saying that -- quote -- "He has passed
with flying colors every leadership challenge."

Anyway, next up, 2016 already. Not a single vote has been cast for
this go-round, and yet the question is already lingering for what the
lineup might be four years from now. Well, it was V.P. Joe Biden who got
hit with the question yesterday. Think the idea far off his radar these
days? Maybe not. Let`s hear where he stands.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I wonder, when you
look around, if you ever thought, hmm, four more years, 2016? Have you
totally ruled that out in your head?

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My one focus now
is getting the president reelected. That is the focus. And I will make up
my mind on that later. I`m one of the -- I`m in probably the best shape I
have been in, in my life. I`m doing pretty well. I`m enjoying what I`m
doing. And as long as I do, I`m going to continue to do it.

CROWLEY: OK, but possibility? You`re not closing that door?

BIDEN: I`m not closing anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, who knows? Get past the occasional gaffe and there`s
real common sense here, I think. He`s got his feet on the ground with the
American people, don`t you think?

And, finally, we have all heard GOP candidate Michele Bachmann`s
campaign promise to -- quote -- "end Obamacare," but does anyone know what
her alternative plan might be? Well, here she is, and Ebenezer Scrooge
said something very much like this before the three ghosts arrive on
Christmas Eve. Let`s listen to Bachmann.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will always
have people in this country, through hardship, through no fault of their
own, who won`t be able to afford health care. That`s just the way it is.

But, usually,what we have had are charitable organizations or
hospitals who have enough left over so that they can pick up the cost for
the indigent who can`t afford it. Once Obamacare is gone, this is what we
have to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Oh, this is what we have. It sounds great, doesn`t it?
Anyway, compare this to Mitt Romney, who stuck it to Rick Perry the other
day for Texas having a million uninsured children. Three cheers for what
Romney said there.

Up next: President Obama`s had enough of a Congress that just says
no. He says, we can`t wait, and he`s pushing a plan to try and fix the
economy all by himself, without Congress` help.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIAN SULLIVAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Brian Sullivan with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

Stocks gaining ground throughout the day. The Dow Jones industrial
average added 104 points, the S&P 500 up 15, the Nasdaq surging nearly 62.
Believe it or not, we are on pace for the best month for the U.S. stock
market in more than a decade and the best month for the S&P in about 20
years.

Driving the markets today, some key earnings and a flurry of M&A
activity. Caterpillar rallied after posting a 44 percent jump in earnings
and record revenue on stronger-than-expected demand both here and overseas.
FedEx said it expects to hire 20,000 more workers this holiday season to
deal with an anticipated 12 percent jump in shipments, maybe a little early
happy holidays from FedEx.

On the downside, Netflix just getting crushed after-hours. Even
though it posted a 49 percent jump in sales, it lost more than 800,000
subscribers in the third quarter. And, really, it was a true M&A Monday,
Cigna buying HealthSpring for about $3.8 billion, Oracle buying thank
RightNow Tech for $1.5 billion. And Mattel is acquiring Barney the
dinosaur and Bob the Builder`s HIT Entertainment for $680 million in cash.
I guess they just loved Barney.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m here to say to all
of you, and to say to the people of Nevada and to the people of Las Vegas,
we can`t wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job.
Where they won`t act, I will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Dysfunctional Congress.

Welcome back to HARDBALL. That`s President Obama today out in Nevada
with a new approach to dealing with Congress. Rather than waiting for
Congress to act, which it hasn`t, the president`s rolling out a series of
programs that he can enact without congressional approval.

The new campaign is called We Can`t Wait, and its first initiative
will be to help homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages. He`s
kicking it off in Las Vegas, Nevada, a state with the highest foreclosure
rate in the Americas -- I`m sorry -- in the country. That`s enough.

Sam Stein is a political editor for "The Huffington Post," and John
Heilemann is national affairs editor of "New York" magazine.

Sam, thanks for joining us.

It looks to me like he`s got an initiative out here for retooling a
program implemented two years ago with little success, the Home Affordable
Refinance Program, called HARP. The changes will loosen eligibility
standards for refinancing, so homeowners who are more than 25 percent
underwater are eligible for refinancing.

It will eliminate some risk-based fees for borrowers. In many cases,
the high cost of refinancing is keeping many homeowners from doing it. And
it extends the program through 2013. So I don`t know whether you call this
nickel and dime or an important thing he can do on his own. Where are you?

SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: So far his housing policies, the
president`s housing policies have fallen demonstrably short.

And so seeing any action on this is probably a good thing. That said,
the independent forecasts about what it would actually mean are sort of
limited. You have to have had a home loan that originated with Fannie or
Freddie or something that was certified by Fannie or Freddie in order to
qualify for it.

But, you know, this isn`t really about the policies, although it will
help some people. It`s really about the contrast. It`s about projecting
the president as someone who`s taking action, especially because Mitt
Romney, last week, was in Nevada and he said that he wants the foreclosure
process to play itself out without intervention.

And I think that`s what the president`s going for is him trying to do
something, Republicans in Congress sitting on their hands, and Mitt Romney
essentially the free market do its deed.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at the Romney bite. We wanted to get
that across. Let Mitt Romney speak here for himself about how he thinks.
This is before "The Las Vegas Review-Journal" newspaper.

STEIN: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Here`s Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: How will you help the housing and foreclosure problems in
the U.S.?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As to what to do for the
housing industry specifically, and are there things that you can do to
encourage housing -- one is, don`t try and stop the foreclosure process.
Let it run its course and hit the bottom, allow investors to buy up homes,
put renters in them, fix the homes up, and let it turn around and come back
up.

The Obama administration has slow-walked the foreclosure processes
that have long existed. And as a result, we still have a foreclosure
overhang.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: John Heilemann, I have to go through a rift
right now, because I think you and I cover -- so as Sam does -- this
incredible portrayal by the Republicans of themselves.

First of all, they look hot and horny for executions out in that
Reagan Library debate. And then they talk about letting the guy on the
gurney die because he doesn`t have health insurance. And then they mock
the gay soldier. And then you`ve got Bachmann out there saying, if you
don`t have health insurance, fine, you can go to the poorhouse.

And now this fine is saying, hip hip hooray for foreclosures!

This party has become a cartoon of Ebenezer Scrooge or worse. They
play right into the president`s hands, and he couldn`t be weaker in terms
of the economy. And they want to make him, what, are they trying to save
this presidency, these guys?

JOHN HEILEMANN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Chris, there`s nothing better
than I like than being on television with you when you`re using the word
"horny." Let`s start with that.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: OK, randy -- randy, a better word. Go ahead.

HEILEMANN: Stick with horny. Look, we`ll stick with what you`ve
got.

Look, it is extraordinary, and they do seem to be trying to give the
president a gift on a lot of these issues.

I`m more struck, in some ways, by how, in Romney`s case in
particular, how totally ignorant he seems to be about the actual public
policy implications of what it would mean to let the foreclosure crisis
play out in a natural way. He is supposed to be the guy who has private
sector experience. He`s supposed to understand the private sector better
than Barack Obama. That`s supposed to be the contrast that favors him,
that he actually understands how things happen and what he likes to call
the real economy.

There aren`t very many housing experts or economic experts that I
know of that don`t think they`re right now trying to figure out a way to
unwind the foreclosure crisis is at the core of how to set up the United
States economy for some hope of recovery in the near to medium term. I
actually don`t even think it`s that ideological. It is -- it is part of
the big deleveraging that has to happen in the America for the economy to
get back on its feet.

And so, you have people that have different kinds of proposals to try
to make that happen, but there aren`t that many people who think that it is
a healthy thing for the economy to continue to let this play out in the way
that it has played out. And I find that be a position that allows Obama
not just to contrast himself against Romney, as Romney being the Scrooge,
but also being someone who seems woefully out of touch with what`s going on
in what, again, he calls the real economy.

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: Especially because it`s in Nevada.

MATTHEWS: And, Sam, there you have --

STEIN: I was saying, especially because he did it in Nevada, which
is the state that`s been hit the hardest by the foreclosure crisis, it rang
bizarre to me -- I have to say.

HEILEMANN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Well, it seems, Sam, that what the president was trying to
do is, in effect, and also symbolically, go out there and try to help
people in trouble, even if it`s not with a lot of power. He keeps trying
to help people, whereas Romney keeps saying laissez-faire. Let the car
companies die.

Remember how he said that? Let Chrysler and the rest just to go the
heck. Go to heck, we don`t care about you. We`re going to be, you know,
Ayn Rand free enterprise objectivists -- to heck with this -- helping
companies in trouble.

And then bringing it down to the lowest level, the person who can`t
meet their mortgage because they`re underwater. Let them die too. Let
them rent, you know?

STEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I mean, that`s callousness, it seems to make the president
look more like a human being.

STEIN: Well, to bring you back to the origination of this
discussion, Obama has actually done executive orders or executive actions
throughout his presidency. He`s done 25 in 2011 alone. I think about 97
over the course of his presidency.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEIN: But he`s choosing to emphasize it now for a particular
reason, which is -- he wants to be out there. He wants to seem like the
one who has some solutions to offer.

And coming out with these, I think he`s going to announce one a week.
Tomorrow, we`re going to get one about hiring veterans. That makes him
seem like someone who`s doing proactive work.

Whereas like you said, if you`re just willing to let the market take
us where it wants, that`s not exactly presidential. That`s more
ideological.

MATTHEWS: Yes, you don`t need a president to say, don`t do anything.

STEIN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, it doesn`t take anybody. Get somebody to write a
novel to do that.

Thank you, Sam Stein. Thank you, John Heilemann.

We have the president on the road, doing it himself.

Up next, who are those "Occupy Wall Street" protesters who are
demonstrating across the country? Do they have real goals?

Let`s see, because these latest polls show that in the sentiment
department, the public is with them. Maybe they`re not clear about what
they want, but the public seems to like their sentiment about inequality.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Jack Kennedy, elusive hero, appears in bookstores next
Tuesday. It tells the story of the American president we Americans most
want to see joining Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt up
there on Mt. Rushmore.

I took the title from something Jacqueline Kennedy said in a letter
about her husband. She called him that "elusive, unforgettable man." It`s
a big book and answers the question Jack Kennedy himself said was the
reason why we read biographies -- to answer the question, what was he like?

An old friend of President Kennedy just called me and left a phone
message, and it said, after reading the earlier galleys of the book, it
brought Jack Kennedy back to life again. I love it.

You could order the book on Amazon.com right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

There is no doubt the "Occupy Wall Street" protests have ignited
support around the country. And it turns out a majority of Americans agree
with their beliefs. So, what is it about the movement that`s drawing
growing numbers of Americans? And what exactly are the protesters looking
for?

Well, Matt Cooper is managing editor of "National Journal Daily"; and
Michelle Goldberg reports for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast."

I want to ask Michelle and Matt to look at these numbers. I saw them
in "The New York Times" yesterday. It just blew them away.

Charles Blow is a smart guy runs through some of these numbers and
they`re just amazing.

Look at this number here -- 86 percent of the American people say the
Wall Street people and lobbyists have too much influence in America`s
national capital in Washington. That`s 86 percent say they have too much
clout, those Wall Street guys. Seventy-nine percent say the income gap in
this country is just too big between the wealthy and the other Americans.
Seventy-one percent think bank CEOs should face prosecution for the role in
the 2008 crisis. And 68 percent want the rich to pay higher taxes.

Let me start with you, Matt, my friend. It just seemed to strike me
as gold for the Elizabeth Warrens of this world, who`s up there running for
Congress, up against Scott Brown, in the Senate up there in Massachusetts -
- the idea that the consumer needs protection against the power of Wall
Street lobbyists, the big shot, highly paid people down in Washington just
strikes me as gold. Nine out of 10 people agree with the occupiers on that
issue.

MATT COOPER, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Well, that`s right. And it`s echoed
in our own congressional connection poll with two-thirds of respondents
saying they support the protesters. Two-thirds saying they support the
Democratic idea of a surtax on millionaires. Even a third of Republicans
we polled support that.

People, I think, Chris, got so clobbered by this recession. You
know, it wasn`t like earlier recessions where it kind of hit some regions
harder than others and spared a few people. Everybody got washed over by
this tsunami.

So, I don`t think it`s that surprising if you think about it, that
they`re pretty irate at the financial whizzes who got it into this mess.

MATTHEW: Michelle, your thoughts on the sentiments here? I know
it`s hard to define exactly what the people down on the street are saying,
the occupiers. There`s a mixed somewhat of cacophonies to some extent.
But the people in the country seem to know what those people want?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, NEWSWEEK: Right. Despite the hang-wringing about
what are their demands, the location in certain ways is their demand. I
mean, it`s pretty obvious, I think --

MATTHEWS: Got you.

GOLDBERG: -- the outline. They`re protesting against economic
inequality -- economic inequality and unchecked corporate power and kind of
corporate malfeasance. And that seems to be really, really obvious both to
most of the people down there and to most of the people watching this. You
know, the Tea Party and kind of conservative Republicans like to pretend
that they represent, you know, quote-unquote, "ordinary Americans." But
that`s always been a fiction. It`s been a fiction that a lot of the media
is complicit in.

You know, ordinary Americans are suffering in this recession and they
want the government to help them out.

MATTHEWS: You know, I was down in the Dominican Republic years ago,
Matt and Michelle, when I saw a country that was pretty poor, as we know,
Dominican Republic, when you get away from the resorts downtown. And then
I went off one day one Sunday morning and I went for lunch somewhere and I
found this neighborhood with all the Mercedes parked outside. And they
were all the country`s very elite people were in this restaurant.

I said, wait a minute, this country has like a tenth of 1 percent of
really wealthy people. I get a feeling a little bit America is getting
that feeling, like there`s a very, very small group of people living really
well and they don`t like the dis-equality of it.

COOPER: Right. And they don`t -- they don`t think these wealthy
people out there are like Steve Jobs, by creating something great and
earning that wealth. A lot of them feel that they manipulated a financial
system that gave them lots of breaks. And when they screwed it up, they
got bailed out with their tax dollars. So, I think there`s a lot of anger.

But just to out -- go back to what Michelle said, I think there is a
certain amount of overlap between what the Tea Party wanted, wants, and
what these protesters do. I think both feel that this TARP bailout was a
mess, that the Wall Street types used their influence with the government
to get special favors. They may disagree about raising taxes.

But I think on the question of: is Wall Street too powerful? You`d
find a lot of agreement.

GOLDBERG: I don`t -- I don`t --

MATTHEWS: How do you think it`s going to end up, Michelle? We have
to get to the end of this conversation. So, if you could -- I don`t like
the phrase right now, but bottom line, say it`s now the end of this year:
where are we in terms of the voice of the occupiers when it gets
wintertime?

GOLDBERG: You know -- well, the encampment itself is probably
unlikely to remain the center of attention, although you`ll probably see a
kind of a die-hard contingent who`s going to wait it out through the
winter. But the most important thing, I think, is that this conversation
is happening now.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GOLDBERG: You know, inequality and, again, kind of rampant corporate
malfeasance was something that neither party was really talking about until
Occupy Wall Street forced them to talk about it.

MATTHEWS: You know why? Because they`re getting too much money from
these people. That`s right. That`s where their main money load has been.

Thank you so much. We`re going to talk a lot more about it this
fall. Thank you -- and maybe it`s more interesting than a Republican fight
for president, what goes on with those people down there.

Thank you, Matt Cooper. Thank you, Michele. It`s going having you
on.

And when we return, let me get to the point we just talked about,
finish with this deceit now the bad guys who stuck at us, the rest of us,
during the financial crisis.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this -- deceit.

It`s one of those human behaviors everyone can get their arms around.
You know when you see it -- when a guy sells you a car with serious
problems but makes a point not to share them with you. You know, when some
guy claims not to be married but is. When someone you trust shows you they
know just how to take advantage of your trust. Deceit.

I know a great deal about politics, practically nothing about high
finance. All this talk of derivatives and credit default swaps leaves me
hanging. I still don`t get what a hedge fund guy does or what arbitrage
means.

So, when I saw "Margin Call," that movie, a powerful, clear-cut movie
about good, evil and the people that get caught having to choose and people
who get lorded to doing what they`re paid off to do or threatened with
losing if they don`t do, I loved it. Finally, I could see the basic fact
at what happened at Lehman Brothers and all the rest. I could see the
choices people were led to take, or decide to take.

I could see clearly in this movie as American as high noon, the evil
that came into being here, the evil that cost this country so much many
American Dreams.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN SPACEY, ACTOR: But, John, if you do this, you will kill the
market for years. It`s over. And you`re selling something that you know
has no value.

JEREMY IRONS, ACTOR: We are selling to willing buyers of the current
fair market price so that we may survive.

SPACEY: You will never sell anything to any of those people ever
again.

IRONS: I understand.

SPACEY: Do you?

IRONS: Do you? This is it! I`m telling you, this is it!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, it came to this. Were the masters of the universe
going to take the hit for their over-ambition, their greed? Or were they
going to pass off the big loss to someone else -- people who trusted them,
the customers out there who were willing to buy what they, the selloff boys
on the trading floor were ready and willing to dump on them, knowing they
were screwing them, knowing it was the total clarity of the morning?

I had a hard time figuring out what was going on in "too big to
fail." In this brand-new movie starring Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany,
Stanley Tucci and Jeremy Irons, you can see it all. You learn what it
looks like -- you get the full glamorous look, the "this only will hurt for
a minute" moral depravity of decisions that`s brought this country down to
its knees.

You see what the bad guys know, what they look like, what they really
are, for the first time and what they did to us.

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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