updated 5/9/2012 2:26:59 PM ET 2012-05-09T18:26:59

Guests: Chris Cillizza, Amanda Drury, Michael Steele, Howard Fineman, Nia-Malika Henderson, P.J. Crowley, Sophie Richardson, Brian Moulton, R. Clarke Cooper


Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington. And leading off
tonight: Tool of the tax-cutters, corporal to the neocons. Who is this man
the Republicans want as their president? Is he someone of deep purpose or
simply useful purpose?

Would he be a president, as Grover Norquist has proposed, who would
simply be there to put his signature on the tax cuts Grover has just
shepherded through a conservative Congress? Would he be like W., mainly a
mouthpiece for the perennial hawks? Is Mitt Romney the common carrier of
the right-wingers` agenda? Is there a "there" there, or is he just a guy
with a useful destination?

Also why did the Romney campaign`s new openly gay spokesman have to
quit? Why else? Because he`s openly gay. And the self-proclaimed "family
values" types were having none of it.

Plus, Hillary Clinton and the extraordinary drama being played out in
Beijing over that blind Chinese dissident. She`s suddenly out front in a
way we`ve rarely seen in her nearly four years of behind-the-scenes
diplomacy. It`s her chance to be visible, exquisite, but also right out
front on the front pages if things go wrong.

Plus, why are Republicans so frantic over the president`s bin Laden
victory lap? Simple. Because the GOP has been the national security daddy
party for the last 60 years and can`t afford to lose ground. Should they
give that up, and what`s left? Well, hope that the economy tanks for them?

"Let Me Finish" tonight with whether Mitt Romney is the genuine
article or simply the vessel the moneyed people of this country and the
right wing intend to use once he`s in office.

We begin with Mitt Romney. Michael Steele was the chairman of the
Republican Party. He probably still should be. Howard Fineman didn`t
think so, though.


MATTHEWS: Howard Fineman`s editorial director of the Huffington Post
Media Group, which grows by the moment.


MATTHEWS: He`s also obviously an MSNBC political analyst.

Well, at the conservative CPAC conference in February this year, the
anti-tax activist Grover Norquist laid out in clear and unambiguous terms
what his wing of the Republican Party expects from its president, whoever
that president happens to be. Let`s listen.


auditioning for fearless leader. We don`t need a president to tell us what
direction to go. We know what direction we want to go. We want the Paul
Ryan budget. We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don`t need
someone to think it up or design it. We have a House and a Senate. The
leadership now for the modern conservative movement for the next 20 years
will be coming out of the House and Senate. Pick a Republican with enough
working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States.




MATTHEWS: That is the boldest, most shameless statement by the tax-
cutting right as to what they really want in the White House, someone to
cut their taxes and stay out of the way of anything else.

FINEMAN: Well, I was in the room when Grover gave that speech. And I
thought, My God, they really don`t think they even need a president,

MATTHEWS: No. A signature machine.

FINEMAN: Except the signature, a robo -- a robo...


MATTHEWS: Robo-machine.

FINEMAN: And -- and that -- now, you may say that that`s hubristic on
-- on Grover`s part. And to some extent, it is.


FINEMAN: But if you look at...

MATTHEWS: Who came up with that word? Was that George


FINEMAN: I think it`s a word.


STEELE: I thought he came up with it.

FINEMAN: I figured it was.

MATTHEWS: OK, hubristic meaning smart-alec, yes. Go ahead.

FINEMAN: Well -- but the evidence is, If you look at the grass roots
of the party and if you look at the primaries and if you look at everybody
that Grover gets to sign his tax pledge...

MATTHEWS: Which includes Romney.

FINEMAN: ... which includes Mitt Romney, then he`s right. And this
is the core of Republican modern philosophy, drawing a hard line on taxes.
It`s simple to understand. Everybody -- almost everybody signs it. Jon
Huntsman, who ran, did not sign it. He went...

MATTHEWS: Look what happened to him.

FINEMAN: Look what happened to him. So what Grover is saying, yes,
it`s full of pride, but it also happens to be true.

MATTHEWS: You know, every time I to one of these business conventions
that you probably love to go to -- you know, the rewards weekends for these
guys -- to give a speech somewhere, there`s a bunch of -- they all play

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: They all read "The Wall Street Journal." And they all are
for tax cuts. And they all like this guy, Grover Norquist. And they think
that he`s, like, their god. And every member of Congress, by the way, all
the candidates for president of the Republicans signed this thing. And
here`s what Grover got them to sign. He got them to sign a thing that says
no taxes, just spending cuts on social programs, no tax cuts -- or tax
raises to go with it.

So why have a president?

STEELE: I don`t think...

MATTHEWS: Just pass the machine.

STEELE: I don`t think it said just spending cut on social programs.

MATTHEWS: Well, OK. What does he want to cut?

STEELE: I don`t think he said that...


STEELE: Yes, just no tax cuts (SIC). But look, I...

MATTHEWS: Well, who`s the boss here?

STEELE: Well, the boss is going to be Mitt Romney, obviously.

MATTHEWS: But he signed the Grover petition.

STEELE: The boss is going to be Mitt Romney.

MATTHEWS: But he signed on. He`s a man of honor, I assume.

STEELE: The boss is going to be -- let me-- let me -- he`s a man of
honor, but the boss is going to be Mitt Romney. And Mitt Romney is going
to run his campaign, he`s going to make the case for what he wants...

MATTHEWS: But he sold out to this guy.

STEELE: He hasn`t sold out to anyone, Chris. I mean, that -- you
know, you -- nice, you know, excitable terms, but he hasn`t sold out to

MATTHEWS: Well, if I told you, Do everything I tell you to do and you


STEELE: He didn`t -- do everything I tell you to do? What is...


MATTHEWS: I would sign your paper if you told me to...


STEELE: That`s your choice. That`s your choice.

MATTHEWS: OK, why did Romney sign a petition?

STEELE: Because he -- he believes in making the tax cuts that are
going to be necessary to start -- to spur economic growth.


STEELE: And so this is consistent with what we wants to do, number
one. Number two, the reality for everyone in this, in -- whether you`re in
the House or the Senate, is that Mitt Romney is the president, he`s going
to govern and he`s going to act on behalf of the -- what`s in the best
interest of the people of the country. And I think, you know...


STEELE: My sense is he`s his own man. So the reality of...

MATTHEWS: If he was his own man, he would have done what the other guy did
and said, I`m not signing your damn paper.

STEELE: Well...

MATTHEWS: Let`s play it again now. Let`s play it again, Sam. Here`s
Grover Norquist on what he needs from a president. He needs five digits.
Here he is saying it again. Let`s listen.


NORQUIST: We just need a president to sign this stuff. Pick a
Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president
of the United States.



STEELE: OK. So? I mean, I agree. That`s -- that`s -- that`s this
hot, fun rhetoric in front of the CPAC crowd. I mean, what`s your point?

MATTHEWS: My point is I just read Norm Ornstein`s piece about your
party and what`s gone on historically the last four or five years, at
least. And what`s going on is this guy, and Newt Gingrich before him, have
been dictating a new style Republican Party. It`s really simplistic. Do
what they tell you, and what they tell you is no tax increases, in fact,
more tax cuts for the rich.

STEELE: Well, wait a minute. This is consistent with the...

MATTHEWS: And by the way, I looked at the Ryan budget...


MATTHEWS: ... along those lines.

STEELE: This is -- this is consistent with where Republicans have
been for generations on tax cuts. This isn`t something new...

MATTHEWS: No, that`s not true.

STEELE: ... that David -- that...

MATTHEWS: Ronald Reagan was able to make compromises all through his

STEELE: When he was president. But when he ran, what did he talk
about? He talked about the tax cuts. And that`s what I`m saying. There`s
a difference between being a candidate and running...



FINEMAN: George H.W. Bush did also. The party -- the party has
changed and the process of the part has changed because, frankly, the party
apparatus and party identity means less today, with all due respect to the

STEELE: No, I...


FINEMAN: ... these outside groups who dictate...


MATTHEWS: I think there`s a lot of people in your party that believe
that this guy -- this guy, Mitt Romney, who looks good, likes like
presidents used to all look, has everything right with the family -- this
guy mainly doesn`t have a lot of interests or philosophies. What they see
is a guy who`s basically for a businessman`s point of view, less taxes, and
basically, doesn`t have a foreign policy philosophy.

So here`s a foreign policy person who has a philosophy. The foreign
policy hawks of the Republican Party have their sights set right now on
Romney. In a "Wall Street Journal" editorial today, beautifully written by
Dorothy Rabinowitz, it takes on almost -- almost a bullying tone on what
Romney`s foreign policy should be.

She writes, quote, "Mr. Romney had better spell out clear positions on
that foreign policy and in full and bold detail what the Voice of America
will be in a Romney presidency, what it will stand for in regard to Syria,
Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan. It won`t be enough to assert in passing
that we intend to stand by America`s allies."

Howard, here`s a person who (INAUDIBLE) I`ve been reading it for
years, very sharp, very broad in her thinking, very hawkish. And she`s
basically saying to Romney, Now hear this, get yourself some spine.

Now, you wouldn`t say that to somebody who had a lot of foreign policy
background, who believed in a lot of things, who`s said a lot of things in
the past. He`s basically an empty suit on foreign policy.

FINEMAN: Well...

MATTHEWS: And the hawks are going to try to use him.

FINEMAN: Well, again, to oversimplify only a little bit, the


FINEMAN: ... are the sort of foreign policy equivalent of Grover

MATTHEWS: Right. They have a strict point of view.

FINEMAN: And they have been in charge, essentially, of Republican
Party thinking for the last...

STEELE: For 12 years or so.

FINEMAN: ... 10, 12 years. And they look at Mitt Romney, they see
somebody who was derided as the Etch-a-Sketch candidate by other
Republicans. They see a guy who doesn`t have much foreign policy
experience. And they see a guy who seems to have signed a lot of pledges
and signed onto a lot of positions he didn`t necessarily have in the past.
They think, given their track record with people like George W. Bush, that
they can push around anybody.

MATTHEWS: Quayle is another example...


FINEMAN: ... push around anybody...


FINEMAN: ... especially somebody like what they think Mitt is. Now,
it`s up to Mitt Romney to prove...


STEELE: ... exactly.

FINEMAN: ... that he isn`t that person.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me tell you, here`s...


MATTHEWS: Look, I`ve done my homework here, Michael, before you came.


MATTHEWS: Take a look at what he said to make him especially
vulnerable to what Howard laid out beautifully. If you don`t have a
philosophy and somebody comes along with a strong one without a lot of
well-thought-out thinking, like they did to Bush, who had nothing, really,
going on in terms of philosophy...

STEELE: Or like they did with Obama.

MATTHEWS: Look at this -- December 2007 on Fox, Romney said foreign
policy experience simply wasn`t important to be a presidential candidate.

Here`s what he said, Romney. "If we want somebody who has a lot of
experience in foreign policy, we can simply go to the State Department and
pluck out one of the tens of thousands of people who work there. They, of
course, have been doing foreign policy all their careers. But that`s not
how we choose a president. A president is not a foreign policy expert."

Even John McCain couldn`t resist using these comments in an anti-
Romney ad in 2008. Let`s listen to McCain.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Following is a Mitt Romney issue alert. Mitt
Romney says the next president doesn`t need foreign policy experience.
Here he is in his own words.

ROMNEY: Well, if we want somebody who has a lot of experience in
foreign policy, we can simply go to the State Department.


MATTHEWS: See, there`s the point. When you`re an empty shell or an
empty suit...

STEELE: Well, that`s...


MATTHEWS: ... ideology thrown at you, you go with it.

STEELE: Look...

MATTHEWS: That`s what`s happened with W.

STEELE: I think...

MATTHEWS: That`s what happened in Iraq.

STEELE: I think -- I think...

MATTHEWS: And that`s what could happen again.

STEELE: I think that the reality is that no individual walks into the
Oval Office with foreign policy experience.

MATTHEWS: Well, if Hillary Clinton gets elected, she will.

STEELE: After being secretary of state.


STEELE: That`s true. But if she -- running for president of the
United States, she didn`t have the foreign policy experience that she has
now. Barack Obama didn`t have any foreign policy experience...

MATTHEWS: But they had interest.

STEELE: Well, you -- well...

MATTHEWS: This guy says, I have no interest. He says, If you want
somebody interested in foreign policy, go to the State Department.

STEELE: His point -- his point -- come on. You know his point is if
you want somebody who`s going to...


STEELE: ... walk in the door with all of this foreign policy on their
back, then yes, we`re (INAUDIBLE) we need to go. But that`s not the --
that`s not the...


STEELE: ... individuals he wants...


MATTHEWS: Tell me something. I want to give you an open door here.

STEELE: Come on.

MATTHEWS: Tell me something you`ve read that Mitt Romney said about
foreign policy that intrigued you, something interesting he said in his
whole life that`s of importance to you. Anything, anything he`s ever said
or thought or read.

STEELE: I`ve not read...

MATTHEWS: Any evidence he`s ever read a journal or thought...


MATTHEWS: OK, name a country in the world here he`s expressed a view.

STEELE: I`ve not read Mitt Romney`s views or musings on foreign

MATTHEWS: There aren`t any.

STEELE: Chris -- look, Chris, I mean, I get the -- I get the -- I get
the rub here. You want this guy to be a vacuous empty business suit, and
that`s just not...

MATTHEWS: Yes, that`s right.


STEELE: You`re wrong. You`re wrong on that and...

MATTHEWS: Well, prove me wrong.

STEELE: It`s not -- it`s not...

MATTHEWS: Prove me wrong.

STEELE: It`s not...

MATTHEWS: Tell me what he`s ever said on foreign policy.


STEELE: It`s not a good way to approach this election with that point
of view.

MATTHEWS: Look at him.

STEELE: Give this guy a chance, just like everyone else has --
everyone gave Barack Obama chance to lay out his foreign policy...

MATTHEWS: OK, let me tell you. You know why I like Barack Obama?
Because four years before he ran for president, he explained his position
on the Iraq war. And I said, Here`s a guy...

STEELE: Yes, which was...

MATTHEWS: ... -who`s thought through something...

STEELE: I don`t think...


MATTHEWS: Has your guy ever done that?

STEELE: That was -- that was very -- that was...

MATTHEWS: Did your guy ever express a view?

STEELE: ... foreign policy experience, I don`t support the war.

MATTHEWS: That was a lot smarter than W., your guy.

STEELE: Oh, please. Come on.

FINEMAN: A couple things here...

STEELE: Give me a break.

FINEMAN: First of all, Barack Obama...

MATTHEWS: That`s what I want, a break from these guys.

FINEMAN: ... as a candidate, even before he was a candidate for the
Senate in 2002 or just as he was starting out, Barack Obama gave a pretty
thoughtful speech about why he was against the Iraq war...


FINEMAN: ... which was pretty unusual.

MATTHEWS: He laid it out.

FINEMAN: And Mitt Romney`s -- Mitt Romney spent a year abroad. He
did live in France when he was a missionary for the Mormon church. I
haven`t talked -- heard him talk anything about that. But the other thing
he did was, he -- just in response -- maybe not response to Dorothy
Rabinowitz, but in talking about the neocon wing, he just named Dan Senor
as his new foreign policy guy. And Senor is a made man in the neocon...

MATTHEWS: Oh, he`s -- I know him very well.

FINEMAN: OK. He`s a made man in the neocon group. And that sent a
signal that even though Mitt Romney doesn`t have developed views, perhaps -
- we haven`t heard them yet...

MATTHEWS: You now will have Dan`s views.

FINEMAN: We now will have Dan`s views.


MATTHEWS: If you can`t have a philosophy...


MATTHEWS: Anyway, Dan`s a smart guy...

STEELE: This is a total hopeless...


MATTHEWS: I just hope the empty suit offers some resistance to Dan
Senor, who`s a smart guy, and probably a lot deeper than Romney on foreign
policy. Michael Steele...

STEELE: How do you know how deep...

MATTHEWS: ... come back when you`ve done your homework...

STEELE: How deep do you know that he is...

MATTHEWS: When you come back...

STEELE: You do your homework and actually listen and learn from the

MATTHEWS: I have listened to the Romney -- there is nothing there on
that front.


MATTHEWS: Nothing on foreign policy except whatever Grover gives him
to sign, he has signed. And that`s the sad part.

STEELE: (INAUDIBLE) just pitiful.

MATTHEWS: Now he`s going to sign anything Dan Senor gives him to


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you -- no, we`ve got a lot on...


MATTHEWS: The empty suit was represented by very well turned out
gentleman who can`t think of a thing that this fellow, Mitt Romney`s, ever
said on foreign policy.

Michael Steele, thank you, sir. Thank you, Howard Fineman.

Coming up: In a week where foreign policy`s dominating the headlines,
we didn`t hear much from Mitt Romney`s new foreign policy spokesman, did
we. Why? Because he`s openly gay and the GOP`s social conservatives were
having none of it. And now he`s out -- out of the Romney campaign. And
that`s ahead.

And this is HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: New poll numbers in two key states. Let`s check the
HARDBALL "Scoreboard." First to Virginia, a key battleground state in the
presidential election, very key, I think. A new PPP poll has President
Obama up 8 over Mitt Romney, 51-43. That`s very good news for the
president. And those numbers don`t change if Romney puts Virginia governor
Bob McDonnell on the ticket. Wow.

Remember, PPP automated poll is run by a Democratic pollster.

Now to a hot Senate race and latest number from Montana, where
Democratic senator Jon Tester`s trying to hang onto his seat. Tester`s up
by 5 over Republican congressman Danny Rehberg, 48-43. That`s pretty good
for him, too.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. If you needed evidence that
parts of the Republican Party are hostile to gays, here it is. Newly hired
Romney spokesman Richard Grenell out of the campaign yesterday after weeks
of criticism from the "family values" wing of the Republican Party for
being openly gay.

Here`s a brief chronology of events. On April 19th, the Romney
campaign announced the hiring of Richard Grenell to be national security
and foreign policy spokesman for the campaign. Grenell`s resume, by the
way, includes eight years serving as director of communications for the
United States at the United Nations, as a George Bush appointee.

Well, the very next day, Bryan Fischer of the American Family
Association tweeted this reaction. "Romney picks out and loud gay as a
spokesman. If personnel is policy, his message to the pro-family
community, drop dead."

After a turbulent two weeks of similar comments, Grenell yesterday
left the Romney campaign. His statement reads, in part, "My ability to
speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by
the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from
a presidential campaign. I want to thank Governor Romney for his belief in
me and my abilities and his clear message to me that being openly gay was a
non-issue for him and his team."

MATTHEWS: Well, R. Clarke Cooper is president of the Log Cabin
Republicans and Brian Moulton is with the Human Rights Campaign.
Gentlemen, both your organizations have an interest in this.

What do you make of what happened here? I mean, this is a high-
profile position, spokesman on foreign policy. Of course, we just -- I
just denigrated the possibility that -- that Mitt Romney even has a foreign
policy in his soul. But let`s move on to what he`s like as a human being.

This issue of personnel being policy, what do you make of that,

Governor Romney is on record as saying he would hire gays and lesbians in
his campaign. They were there before Rick got there. They`re still there.
It`s no different than what George Bush did in 2000, when Rick and I were
brought on. So having gays and lesbians serve is based on people`s merit
and capabilities, not their orientation. So this is not new. What`s
different is in the...

MATTHEWS: Why did he leave?

COOPER: Why he left, as you saw, is because he felt like he wasn`t
effective in his capacity. The story became more about Rick than it did
the candidate. I know that there was probably some frustration on Rick`s
part on not getting out in the field and talking about what`s happening
this week. And...

MATTHEWS: Why did they stop inviting him to meetings after the heat
came up here?

COOPER: Well, I`m not speaking on behalf of the campaign.

MATTHEWS: Why did they start in the campaign denigrating and demoting
his position simply because they were taking heat from the far right?

COOPER: Well, the campaign actually wanted Rick to stay on. They
were very aggressive about having him stay on.


MATTHEWS: They say that in statements, but in fact in the campaign
they weren`t inviting him to meetings.

COOPER: Look, Chris, I`m not speaking for the campaign. But I can
tell you, I know for sure they wanted Rick to stay.

I know this because there are colleagues of mine and Rick`s from the
Bush administration that are currently involved in the campaign.


MATTHEWS: Let`s go back.


MATTHEWS: Let`s go to Brian.

The evidence here from the inside of the campaign is that they were
demoting him in terms of -- when you are start getting frozen out of
meetings, not invited to meetings on foreign policy, which is what you are
supposed to be speaking on, you get the message.

BRIAN MOULTON, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: Well, I think what is telling
about even Rick`s statement is that, yes, maybe Governor Romney did make
clear to him that his being gay wasn`t an issue, but Governor Romney didn`t
make that clear to the American people.

He didn`t make that clear to the people who are criticizing Rick as a
member of his team. They were silent on all of that criticism and the
suggestion that an openly gay person who happened to have the audacity to
advocate for his full equality under the law through marriage is somehow a
liability to that campaign. So I think that`s what is the most telling
thing about this, is that Romney was silent.

MATTHEWS: Well, Dan Senor, the Romney foreign policy adviser, who we
just mentioned in the last segment, reflected any blame for Grenell`s
resignation from the campaign.

But he didn`t mention any involvement by the candidate himself. Let`s
listen to how he doesn`t mention Mitt Romney.


DAN SENOR, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: When the campaign learned that he
was considering stepping down, the campaign went out of its way to try to
persuade him to stay, everyone from the campaign manager to senior foreign
policy advisers to the campaign, I mean, outside advisers to the campaign.

People really -- it is a disappointment that the campaign wasn`t able
to persuade him to stay. But ultimately this was a decision that he made.
And we respect the decision, even if we are -- even if we are disappointed
by it.


MATTHEWS: Well, when Pat Moynihan, the great senator from New York,
used to get a call from the White House, he would say the White House is a
building. Who is calling?

And my question to you, to Clarke, is do you believe that there is any
evidence on the table right now from Mitt Romney he wanted this guy to

COOPER: Yes. There is evidence.

MATTHEWS: Where`s the evidence? Where`s the evidence?

COOPER: Well, again, you saw Dan talk.

MATTHEWS: No, is there any evidence from the candidate? Is he
speaking on this? Did he ask him to stay?


COOPER: I`m not speaking for the campaign. But I can tell you...


MATTHEWS: You keep saying you`re not speaking for the campaign.

COOPER: I`m not.

MATTHEWS: But two seconds later, you then read their statements to

COOPER: No. I know folks who are involved in the campaign and I know
that there was an aggressive reach for Rick to stay.

I do know that Rick was also very frustrated that he was sitting on
the sidelines as they were waiting for this story to die out. So that...


MATTHEWS: Why was he sitting? You know why? Because he was put on
the sidelines. He wasn`t invited to meetings anymore.

My question to you, if the candidate for president, again back to what
we were talking about in the last segment, is a leader, not a follower of
Grover Norquist and the neocons and Dan Senor, if he`s a leader, why
doesn`t a leader go on television right now and say, my guy Richard Grenell
is staying with this campaign, gay or straight? How come he didn`t do it?

COOPER: Well, he couldn`t do...


MATTHEWS: No, no, why didn`t he do it?

COOPER: Well, here`s -- hold on.

The moving-forward piece is there should be a reassertion by the
candidate, Mitt Romney, by the campaign...

MATTHEWS: His opportunity is now.

COOPER: Well, they`re -- hear me out here. We have said this. And
this is not new news, but here is an opportunity to discuss this.

The candidate and the campaign can reassert the governor`s position
and the campaign`s position that merit and capability trump orientation,
sex, race, and that is what important.


MATTHEWS: Well, this is his opportunity.


COOPER: Well, hold on.


MATTHEWS: You are making my point. This is his opportunity to do
that and we are sitting here on live television.

I don`t see anything coming across the news wires saying that Romney,
having heard of this departure under pressure and with all this bad noise
you talked about that put him on the sidelines -- Romney is aware of all
this now, too, you would assume, right?

COOPER: Of course he is.

MATTHEWS: OK. Why isn`t he doing something?

COOPER: Well, I can`t -- I don`t know. I can`t read his mind.


COOPER: This can be an opportunity to actually...


MATTHEWS: Would you like him tomorrow to say this was a terrible
mistake, Richard Grenell should stay with the campaign?

COOPER: That and go further and actually stand fast and stand hard on



Let me ask you this.


MATTHEWS: I respect your organization. I spoke to the Log Cabin in
the past.

Let me tell you, as president of the Log Cabin Republicans, do you
call on candidate Mitt Romney to reinstate Richard Grenell as his foreign
policy spokesman? Do you do that now?

COOPER: Rick resigned. And I can tell you, I know Rick. He is not
going to go back.

So they -- the response from Romney and the campaign would say, we
have asked him to stay.



COOPER: The bigger issue is employment nondiscrimination, so
protection of the workplace.


MATTHEWS: As head of the Human Rights Campaign, another organization
I respect, what do you think this case tells you about the Romney campaign?

MOULTON: Well, it is concerning.

If they are willing to stand aside and let the right wing of the party
influence them on a question like this...


MATTHEWS: Who is Bryan Fischer, by the way, of the American...


COOPER: He`s not a member -- he`s not part of the party. There is
some misinformation here...


MATTHEWS: What is the American Family Association?

MOULTON: They are a very anti-gay -- quote, unquote -- "family values

And if an organization like that can influence the Romney campaign
like this, what does that tell us how about they`re going to influence the
campaign on other issues?

The campaign has already signed a pledge with the National
Organization for Marriage to support a constitutional amendment to ban
marriage for same-sex couples, to put anti-LGBT judges on the bench.

So, we already have an indication that there`s an influence from this
wing of the party for the campaign. And, frankly, with the silence of the
governor on Grenell`s leaving and the influence from Bryan Fischer and his
ilk, what are we supposed to make of that? What are LGBT supposed to

MATTHEWS: OK. Anyway, I think the issue -- I think one small point
here is important.

I think personnel is policy. And who you hire tells you a lot about
who you are. And who you let have to get forced out of your campaign tells
you a lot about you are.

The Grover Norquist crowd, the right-wing Christian crowd, the neocons
that are calling the shots...


COOPER: Wait a minute. Grover Norquist -- Grover Norquist is very
supportive of gays and lesbians serving...


MATTHEWS: All these guys together seem to have more power than Mitt

Anyway, thank you, Clarke Cooper of the Log Cabin, which supports not
the firing of people like this.

And, Brian Moulton, thank you.

Up next, this is it. Today`s the end, by the way, the end of the line
for the Newtster. He finally quit the campaign. Now he says he`s going to
work to get Romney elected, a guy he despises. But what about all those
mean things he said about him during the campaign? You will be hearing
from them in weeks ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


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

At long last, Newt Gingrich made his official exit from the 2012 race
today. And his spokesman says he will be endorsing Mitt Romney. Hold on
to the excitement there.

Last month, Newt was asked what Democrats would do with the treasure
trove of brutal attacks he gave them from the primary season.


QUESTION: When the time comes, if somebody wins this nomination, can
those of you who have been running stand on stage together and honestly
with a straight face say, I support the...



QUESTION: But aren`t the Democrats going to use your words against
each other?

GINGRICH: Yes, but it doesn`t matter because they just make stuff up


MATTHEWS: Make stuff up? Why reinvent the wheel?

Here is how team Obama, by the way, commemorated Newt`s last day as a
campaign -- as a candidate.


GINGRICH: As a man who wants to run for the president of the United
States who can`t be honest with the American people, why should we expect
him to level about anything if he is president?

And I don`t know of any American president who has had a Swiss bank
account. I would be glad for you to explain that sort of thing.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Is he still the most anti-immigrant candidate?

GINGRICH: I think, of the four of us, yes.

QUESTION: Are you calling Mitt Romney a liar?



MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, fresh off the campaign trail making a case for
President Obama, that`s Newt.

Now to Mitt Romney`s search for the ideal running mate. One of the
presumed front-runners for the spot is Ohio Senator Rob Portman, but just
how much excitement would a Romney/Portman matchup bring to the table?

Just ask Stephen Colbert.


base like boring. Just look at these two together. It`s like the bland
leading the bland.


COLBERT: Although, I have got to say, now that I see them side by
side, I wonder if Portman might have too much charisma.

Maybe Romney should go with something blander, like a headless JoS. A.
Bank mannequin...


COLBERT: ... or a rice cake or a heel of white bread.


COLBERT: No, they`re all too fascinating.


MATTHEWS: Well, last night, Portman himself weighed in on that bland
leading the bland comparison.


SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: My kids love that. I would like to think
I`m a serious legislator and try to get things done. That`s -- that`s my
goal in life is to get things done. And it`s not about sizzle for me.

QUESTION: So 2012 is the anti-sizzle election?

PORTMAN: I don`t think Mitt Romney has no sizzle. Don`t get me
wrong. I think he is a dynamic guy.


MATTHEWS: Wow. When was the last time you heard the words Mitt
Romney and sizzle in the same sentence? Wow.

Up next: Republicans have been the daddy party on national security,
if you will, using that old school way of looking at things, the last 60
years. And that may explain why so many of them don`t want to see or give
President Obama his victory lap on bin Laden.

And that`s ahead. You`re watching HARDBALL.


"Market Wrap."

Well, today, the Dow shed 11 points, the S&P falling by three, and the
Nasdaq up by 9. Well, worries about the nation`s employment picture
unnerved investors, according to payroll firm ADP. The private sector
added just 119,000 jobs in April, which was well below expectations.

Well, slumping factory orders also pressuring stocks. Orders slipped
1.5 percent in the month of March. And Facebook is expected to embark on
its pre-IPO road show next week to woo investors.

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


For the past week, actually, Republicans have bashed President Obama
for making political hay on his role in the death of Osama bin Laden a year
ago. Yesterday, you would think they have actually forgotten the previous
president. Remember him? He wasn`t exactly shy about using national
security for, should by say, political purposes.

"The Daily Show" last night made that point acutely well. Let`s


this straight.

Republicans, you`re annoyed by the arrogance and braggadocio of a
wartime president`s political ad. You think he`s divisively and unfairly
belittling his opponents.

I see. I have a question. Are you on crack?


STEWART: Were you alive lo these past 10 years? It seems unseemly
for the president to spike the football.

Bush landed on a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) aircraft carrier...


STEWART: ... with a football-stuffed cod piece. He spiked the
football before the game had even started.




MATTHEWS: Well, somebody -- it is hard to imagine that guy.

Something pretty incredible is happening in this race. If you look at
the polls, actually, foreign policy has become a winning issue for a
Democrat, President Obama. For decades, it had been solidly Republican
territory, but no longer. So what is going on here?

Chris Cillizza is managing of PostPolitics.com and an MSNBC
contributor. And Nia-Malika Henderson is a political reporter for the same
great newspaper, "The Washington Post."

Let`s take a look at these numbers right now. It shows that -- the
"Washington Post"/ABC poll, the latest poll out, shows President Obama has
a double-digit lead over Mitt Romney on the question of which candidate
voters trust more to handle international affairs.

You know, years ago when we talked like this, I talked about the daddy
party and the mommy party, because daddy would lock the doors at night...


MATTHEWS: ... and mommy wouldn`t know what shots you had and what
teachers you had and all that stuff. There was that old-time -- today, it
is much more vague who has got what job.

POST": Right.

MATTHEWS: But the Republicans were always the strong guy with the gun
in the foreign policy.

CILLIZZA: No question.

MATTHEWS: And they were going to protect that door from the enemy
coming across.

CILLIZZA: And I always say, Chris, go back and look at the -- forget
the 2004 campaign, which Jon Stewart is right, George Bush ran largely on
who can keep you safer.

Go to the 2008 campaign. What was the main knock on Barack Obama by
John McCain? Can we trust him in the world? Can this guy lead in a
dangerous world? Does he have the experience?

It is a remarkable turnaround that, four years later, as that poll
points out and as lots of other polls point out, too, Obama`s clearest
strength over Mitt Romney is terrorism, national security. It just shows
you that the old alignments -- and I agree with you. Forever, it was
Democrats, education, health care.

MATTHEWS: And, by the way, it even began to morph over when Hillary
Clinton went to the right of Obama in the campaign.

HENDERSON: That`s right.


MATTHEWS: Remember the 3:00 in the morning phone?



CILLIZZA: Which was, by the way, aimed at the same kind of thing: Is
Obama ready to lead?



HENDERSON: ... he wasn`t quite ready.


HENDERSON: We are way past the point with this president where -- you
remember Dukakis felt like he had to get in the tank and drive around.

Of course, that was much lampooned.

MATTHEWS: He didn`t have to look like Rocky the Squirrel, though.



CILLIZZA: He needed to get a helmet that fit him. He needed to get a
helmet that fit him better.




MATTHEWS: He shouldn`t have the put the helmet on.


MATTHEWS: That helmet killed him.



HENDERSON: Yes, it was terrible.

But, yes, Barack Obama has taken away this aspect of the Republican
Party`s franchise. And you saw them this week. The only thing they were
really able to say was that he is spiking the football. They couldn`t
really criticize him for the policy.

MATTHEWS: You know, in politics, it is all about space. And it seems
to me he has got, the president has, got center-left, center-right now.

The only way you beat him now is say, I will go to war with Iran
tomorrow morning when I get into office.


MATTHEWS: I will bomb them to smithereens immediately.

CILLIZZA: Yes, you can`t...

MATTHEWS: You have to go that far over to get any space.

CILLIZZA: To me, the Romney campaign really does not -- again, this
is my educated guess, but they don`t want to spend lots of time talking
about foreign policy, just because...


MATTHEWS: Is that why he switcherooed the other day?

CILLIZZA: Yes. I think he has to...


MATTHEWS: Explain what he did in 24 hours.

CILLIZZA: Well, he wants to -- he has basically said that while he is
politicizing it, but then he said, "I support the president" and came out
with a statement --


CILLIZZA: Well, because, Chris, look, here is what they want to do.
You know this from politics. What do you do on things that you can`t win
it? You acknowledge and you change the subject.


what you saw him doing, that CBS this morning interview. He literally
said, what does any of this have to do with the economy?


HENDERSON: And today he was talking about the economy. Tomorrow,
he`s going to be talking about the economy.

The problem for him is, that this president wants to expand the
playing field. He wants to expand the conversation. He wants to talk
about not only foreign policy. He wants to talk about women`s issues.

MATTHEWS: OK. I got to get back to something I made before -- a
point I was making before and I will continue to make, I don`t think Romney
has a foreign policy in his soul that he could bring out to this, even if
he had one.

Take a look at this. "Bloomberg News" today wrote in its lead
editorial, quote, "Mitt Romney`s position on the war in Afghanistan will be
familiar to those who followed him or tried to on healthcare reform."
Basically I have to read down from this. To the biggest and -- let me get
back to this. Let me go back to this. Let me got back.

"And both these cases, foreign policy, Afghanistan and healthcare, he
criticizes President Barack Obama for essentially having the same policy as
he himself had. In the case of war of Afghanistan, Romney has not reversed
his former views, possibly because he is new to the foreign policy game and
has no former views. His current views insofar as they can be divined,
again appear almost identical to Obamas and where they`re not, they`re


MATTHEWS: That`s pretty well written. And I have to say, he doesn`t
have a place to go to the right of.

CILLIZZA: And here is what I would say. All candidates -- all
candidate have things that really animate them and things that they kind of
just do because they know they have to do it. In `08, McCain didn`t really
care that much about the economy, didn`t know that much about it. He was
animated by national security, foreign policy.

So, that`s why he said the fundamentals of the economy are strong
because some adviser told him to say it. He didn`t have a core and a
belief to say, wait a minute, this doesn`t make sense. That is Romney on
foreign policy.

What animates Mitt Romney, Chris? Business sensibility, the economy,
the private sector. That`s what he believes in. That`s when he talks.
That`s where I`m getting genuine article, Mitt Romney.


CILLIZZA: Abortion and gay rights, I don`t think that ultimately in
his heart of hearts, he feels passionate about --

HENDERSON: I think he talks more about China than anything else.


MATTHEWS: He`d be a really good lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of

HENDERSON: Possibly. I mean, I think at some point, I mean, we said
this before, at some point, he`s got to roll out something a little bit
more robust on foreign policy. He gave this major speech in October.

MATTHEWS: OK. Nia, you report this ever day. You analyze it, in
fact, and report it. It seems to me this campaign comes down to something
to simple. It is about the economy. We`re going to get the unemployment
rate this Friday. We`re going to get it every month, we`re going to get
the growth figures.

If those numbers go down, Romney is in great shape to exploit that in
a debate. He starts to make his case, but he can probably win on the
argument. If it stays solid or moves up a bit, Obama has a better case.
But it has to be about the economy and it has to be going down for Romney
to win.

Two things have to happen for him. The campaign has to stay focused
on the economy and economy has to go down, right?

HENDERSON: Right. That`s essentially -- yes, I mean, it`s a bad
position to be in for him because he`s got to hope that economy goes down.
You hear him start to say now that even if the unemployment rate ticks
down, that it wouldn`t be because of Barack Obama, it would be in spite of

MATTHEWS: But you said it the first time. It is better for him if
it goes down.

Thank you, Chris. Look that discerning look.

CILLIZZA: I`m just trying to look smart. That`s my smart look.

MATTHEWS: Chris Cillizza and Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you both
for coming on. You make a great team here.

And tonight, a special edition of "Rock Center" on NBC, Brian
Williams takes us "Inside the Situation Room." That room right there
during the killing of bin Laden.

Up next here, China crisis. That blind Chinese dissident, that human
rights fighter at U.S. embassy in Beijing, where he`s out now, has put
Hillary Clinton in the spotlight, like we`ve rarely seen her before as
secretary of state. She`s got the chance to really shine on or I suppose
fail. And that`s ahead.



MATTHEWS: This is odd. The United States Supreme Court at its
lowest level of favorability in a quarter century. A new Pew poll finds
that only 52 percent of Americans offer a favorable opinion of the high
court. It`s down from 58 percent in 2010. And three in 10 say they have
an unfavorable view of the court. The poll was conducted after the Supreme
Court heard arguments on President Obama`s healthcare reform law.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was landing Bin Beijing for
talks with China, a diplomatic mess was unfolding.

Here`s what we know about the case of the blind Chinese activist Chen
Guangcheng: Chen was under U.S. protection at our embassy in Beijing for
six days. He escaped from house arrest in his home, home province
actually, last month.

After the United States and Chinese negotiations, Chen agreed to
leave the embassy. American officials say the Chinese agreed to keep him
safe and allow him to study law.

However, hours after his release, he reportedly told "The Associated
Press" that he left the embassy only after U.S. officials told him his
family was in danger. The U.S. denies this and they say after he left the
embassy, he had an emotional phone call with Secretary Clinton.

NBC also reports that the blind activist now says he wants to leave

All this comes as Secretary Clinton is in China this week for talks
on a host of strategic issues. The Chen case now threatens to overshadow
those discussions.

P.J. Crowley is a former United States assistant secretary of state
for public affairs. And Sophie Richardson is a China director -- the China
director for Human Rights watch.

Thank you so much for coming on.

Sophie, let me -- and, P.J. -- let me ask you, first of all, you
first, size up the whole complicated situation right now. And then you get
into the human rights part. Let`s learn something here.

P.J. CROWLEY: Well, what Hillary Clinton is in China to do is
something called the strategic and economic dialogue. It`s the full range
of issues between the United States and China. Secretary of Treasury Tim
Geithner is there as well.

So, you know, human rights is a part of a very large and complex
relationship between the United States and China, and you drop into the
middle of this a very, very unique, intense --

MATTHEWS: How does she avoid either irritating them to the point of
danger for an East/West conflict -- we don`t want to go to war with China -
- and at he same time fight for human rights?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, she put down a marker before she went to
China, saying this is a case that`s important to us, and some very diligent
work by diplomats both at the embassy, and those who flew in for the SNED
(ph) as we call it. And I think it`s important that we`re at the beginning
of this story, and there`s a lot more that will unfold for Chen`s life,
whether he`s safe, whether he`s relocated. He`s reunited with his family,
which is very significant, whether he has a chance to study law.

We`re going to see -- there will be a lot of back and forth over
this, because this is contrary to what we`ve always seen in the past.
Usually, the United States is negotiating for an activist to be able to
leave China.


CROWLEY: Now, at least for the moment, it`s negotiating for an
activist to be able to stay in China.

MATTHEWS: My concern is what I read in the papers this afternoon,
Sophie, which is his family was threatened. They were going to take him
back to the village and beat them to death if he didn`t leave the United
States embassy where he had sought refuge.

activist in China operates under threat at all times. And, you know, our
concern about the guarantees that had been offered by the Chinese
government is that, frankly, if the Chinese government were serious about
any of its human rights, we wouldn`t be having this conversation in the
first place.

And, you know, as P.J. said, it`s been a pretty full on couple days,
but really I think the hard part is just beginning, because making those
guarantees manifest is going to require a kind of monitoring and
intervention by American diplomats for weeks and months and potentially --

MATTHEWS: Are they still a communist government in the sense that
that totalitarian state matters more than the individual?

RICHARDSON: Well, I mean, this is a highly authoritarian regime that
has no real respect in the sense that we understand it for the rule of law.
And, indeed, none of the Chen`s activism was illegal. And all of the ways
in which he and his family had been persecuted are entirely inconsistent
with Chinese law.

MATTHEWS: P.J., I heard one of the things they don`t like about this
guy, Chen, is because he has advocated against the One Child Only Policy.

CROWLEY: Sure. He is trying to create space at the national level,
you know, to have a kind of conversation between a one-party government and
the people that they`ve never had before. And there`s lots going on at the
local level. But once you get into a dynamic that the party preserves, you
know, threatens their control and their legitimacy, they get very uneasy
about this.

You know, over the past year, for example, they look at the Arab
awakening and it has made them very uneasy. They`ve cracked down
significantly over the past year or two. They don`t want to see a Beijing

They know they have to change eventually. They`re just trying to
figure out how they can do it while maintaining broad control and control
the pace of change. There`s some rationale to that. But clearly, human
rights is one of those areas that they lag behind the rest of the world.

MATTHEWS: Do they believe that a billion people can get along in a
democracy or it means trouble if people starts speaking out?

RICHARDSON: Well, I think plenty of Chinese people don`t see a
problem with that at all. I think the Chinese communist party, which is a
completely distinct animal, really does. I mean, I wouldn`t necessarily
agree with your comment that they know they have to change in the long run,
because the kinds of, you know, tolerance for peaceful criticism or
domestic debate, I think the party has made it pretty clear that it`s not
interested in making any kind of systemic change.



CROWLEY: But their tolerance level, their red lines do migrate
somewhat. I mean, a lot of this is depending on your starting point. If
your starting point is to compare China to a universal standard of rights,
they fail.


CROWLEY: By the same token, if your starting point is China of 20 or
30 years ago, this is a much different country today than it was.

RICHARDSON: But the right starting point here --

MATTHEWS: It seems to me it`s a country that just wanted to leave
you alone, but if you start thinking and talking out loud, you got

CROWLEY: If you give a political change, it gets their attention.

MATTHEWS: We have to go. Please, continue your fight, Sophie. It`s
great to have you on.

P.J., this is something we`re going to worry about the rest of our
lives, how far we`re willing to upset the Chinese.

Anyway, Sophie Richardson and thank you, P.J. Crowley.

On Friday, by the way, we`re going to be joined by former Secret
Service agent Clint Hill, the great Clint Hill, who was assigned to First
Lady Jackie Kennedy back in that terrible day in November 1963. His new
book is called, "Mrs. Kennedy and Me." What a night, a Friday night for

When we return, let me finish with whether Mitt Romney is a real deal
or just a tool of the right wing.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight where I started. I think there`s
a lot of wide open space in this fellow, Mitt Romney, wide open space. I
know he wants to cut taxes. That`s what people like him say, just as they
tend to play golf and follow pro sports news.

He`s like every other business type -- he wants to cut taxes and
regulation. He`s not all that interested in other things, those other
things that people in politics and government get so passionate about.
He`s not that interested -- let`s admit it -- in foreign policy. He`s not
that interested in the world, really, not the world beyond the areas he
needed to visit to make money. He`s not that interested in politics from
what I can tell.

Does anyone think he`d be watching this network at night, or FOX, or
CNN or anywhere, that politics is being discussed? Would he be reading the
columns where debate is occurring? I doubt it.

He`s interested right now simply because he`s running right now for
president. Well, this is precisely why he makes such a handy tool for the
Grover Norquist and the Bill Kristols in the world. They`ve got purposes,
Grover in tax-cutting, Bill in the aggressive, hawkish foreign policy.

And they can use Romney to get what they`ve never gotten from Barack
Obama, a useful tool. This is the giant reason to fear Romney election.
Not that he may turn right on his own, but that he doesn`t care about any
of the issues of government here America or America`s place in the world as
much as the guys who do care very much, and who will push and shape him to
their needs and ideologies once he`s in power.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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