Guests: Mark Halperin, John Heilemann, Joe Conason, Michael Crowley, Martin Luther King III; Judith Browne Dianis; Pete Simi; Brian Levin
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Get nasty!
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this hot war over Mitt Romney`s tax
returns. Quote, "When you`re in a hole, stop digging." Well, the
Republican candidate keeps breaking that rule. He refuses to show his tax
returns, offering no reason except personal attitude. He allows his
critics to question what he`s hiding.
Harry Reid said someone told him that Romney`s sitting on 10 years of
tax returns in which he paid no taxes whatever. Now, there`s a good reason
to keep a secret -- if it`s true. I love the politics of this donnybrook.
You`ve got the Senate majority leader jumping in on Obama`s side. That`s
the first and best news of this kind for the Obama side. He`s a full-
fledged ally in the field now for the president, the kind of confederate,
political confederate, Obama needs in this fight. He could use more of
them and may well get them now that the action`s under way.
Showing up on the other side is Reince Priebus, the chairman of the
Republican Party, calling Senator Reid a "liar" on national television.
Lindsey Graham`s also joining that chorus, also calling him a liar. And so
we have a fight here about Mitt Romney`s tax returns that`s escalated to a
very nasty scene all about one issue. Is the man hiding something? Maybe
a lot of things. And it`s only begun.
Let`s hear from the "Game Changers," what they think about it. Mark
Halperin writes for "Time." John Heilemann writes for "New York" magazine.
Both are seasoned analysts for MSNBC.
Mark, I want to show you right now -- let`s begin where we left off
Friday night. Harry Reid cited an extremely credible source, he called it,
who said -- who told him that Mitt Romney didn`t pay taxes for 10 years.
If Reid`s goal was to keep the issue alive, he succeed big-time. First
Romney told Reid to, quote, "Put up or shut up."
Then yesterday, RNC chair Reince Priebus came out swinging in Romney`s
defense. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIR: As far as Harry Reid is concerned, listen,
I know you might want to go down that road. I`m not going to respond to a
dirty liar who hasn`t filed a single page of tax returns himself, complains
about people with money but lives in the Ritz Carlton here down the street.
So if that`s on the agenda, I`m not going to go there. This is just a
made-up issue and...
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, ABC "THIS WEEK": Well, Mr. Chairman...
PRIEBUS: ... the fact that we`re going to spend any time talking
about it is just ridiculous.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say you`re not going to respond, but you just
called him a "dirty liar." You stand by that? You think Harry Reid`s a
PRIEBUS: I just said it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, there you go. And South Carolina Republican senator
Lindsey Graham, as I said, also attacked Harry Reid yesterday on CNN.
Let`s watch him in action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I actually like Harry, but
what he did on the floor of the Senate is so out of bounds. I think he`s
lying about his statement, knowing something about Romney. So this is
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, CNN "STATE OF THE UNION": That`s pretty stiff.
CROWLEY: You think the leader of the Senate is lying?
GRAHAM: I really do. I think he`s created an issue here. I think
he`s making things up at a time when the country is just about to fall
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The country`s "just about to fall apart." Now, there`s a
news announcement. I didn`t know that one was coming.
Anyway, in response to Priebus and Graham, Reid`s chief of staff told
Politico last night, "They`re a bunch of cowards and they`re avoiding the
issue. Lindsey Graham, Reince Priebus, they`re a bunch of henchmen for
Romney and they`re all reading off the same talking points. They couldn`t
hold a candle to Harry Reid. What Harry Reid is -- what Harry Reid -- what
Harry Reid said is the fact of what he has -- was told. To turn it around,
all these childish rants this weekend about calling Reid a liar and all
that, it just shows you how scared they are that Harry Reid was telling the
Now, that`s a good staff guy there, Mark Halperin. That`s the kind of
guy I (ph) was (ph) trying to be for years. You`re standing up for the
boss. You`re sticking it to the other side, and you`re making some points,
such as how can you call a guy a liar if he says, I talked to someone I
have great -- I assume great credibility on their part and they`ve told me
Now, if you`re saying that you made up that you talked to somebody,
that`s one thing. What do they mean when they say Harry Reid`s a liar
about this? I don`t get their meaning, even.
MARK HALPERIN, "TIME," MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, their --
whatever their meaning is, they`re behaving in such a self-destructive way
that it trumps everything else right now. There`s a real debate about
whether Romney should have to release more than the one year and the
additional year he`s going to release of his returns. The Democrats have
the better of that argument on the politics and probably on the substance,
Then there`s another thing, which is what Reid is doing, which even
some Democrats will tell you privately, using the Senate floor this way, is
out of bounds and it`s something that most Senate leaders wouldn`t do.
Those are totally trumped by the fact that Republicans have so badly
mishandled this -- not just the ones you showed but Mitt Romney himself
saying "Put up or shut up, Harry." They`re turning this into at least 10-
day story, getting significantly more attention than the economy, including
the unemployment numbers for Friday.
This is one of the biggest mistakes the Republicans have made. It`s
going to chew up a tenth of the general election time on this fight because
they`re punching at Harry Reid, who`s got no business drawing them in, and
he totally has.
As a matter of pure politics, my hat`s off to him. It trumps
everything else here.
MATTHEWS: As pure politics, I think you`re right. Let me go to --
let me go to John on this. I mean, what`s your view about the whole
shebang right now, this donnybrook (INAUDIBLE) It`s -- people are going to
forget what it`s about. It`s going to be about people calling each other
liars (INAUDIBLE) Later in the show, we`re going to talk about who hates
who. This got a lot of heat in this campaign so early on.
JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes,
look, I mean, you know, it`s a lot of name calling. And nothing Americans
love more than name calling among our elected officials and party
representatives. So you know, I think it`s -- to some number of voters,
they`re going to look at this and see this as just another outcropping of
the partisan food fight.
But I think Mark is correct on two levels. I mean, I think
Republicans are right to be privately -- not publicly because publicly is a
different matter, political -- that`s (INAUDIBLE) a political issue --
privately to be outraged by what Reid has done.
I think what -- Chris, you asked the question of what they think he`s
doing. I think what they`re trying to say is that either he has made this
entire story up, or he`s simply wrong, and that they`re believing Mitt
Romney when Romney has said that he`s paid -- he`s never had a year when
he`s paid no taxes.
Now, you know, that Reid used the Senate floor in this way, it is on
some basic level -- it`s kind of outrageous to make an unsubstantiated
claim like this. But as Mark said, as a matter of pure politics, what we
know about this campaign is that every day that is not spent talking about
the Obama economy, from the Romney point of view, is a lost day. This is
now five or six days that have been lost days. And the way the Republicans
are handling it, it could go on for another two or three.
HALPERIN: And Chris, it`s not just...
MATTHEWS: Well, I think the only fair thing about -- let me just tell
you what my standard would be with Senator Reid. It isn`t just politics.
I don`t forget anything and forgive anything in politics. This person he`s
saying his source he has that says 10 years, the Republican candidate for
president did not pay any taxes, is a hell of a charge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MATTHEWS: The only basis he could have for actually putting it out on
the floor or anywhere else he puts it out is, given his situation, his
position, he must have it -- he must be getting it from a source that would
have access to Romney`s taxes, that would know a person working in -- a co-
investor, a partner, somebody very close in, or else that person wouldn`t
know what they were talking about.
MATTHEWS: And he shouldn`t be quoting him.
HALPERIN: But what`s so ludicrous about that, Chris, is the reason
Mitt Romney doesn`t want to release more tax returns is because he`s
extraordinarily private about his tax returns. There`s only a handful of
people who know them. The notion that someone who actually knows what`s in
the returns is telling Senator Reid seems pretty farfetched.
HALPERIN: But look, I`ll say one thing I meant to say in my first
answer, which is not only, as John said, are they winning by moving it away
from discussion of the Obama economy, they`re moving it on to their central
theme of Mitt Romney is weird and secretive and doesn`t play by the rules
and is a rich guy.
I mean, this is so good. And whatever discussions there were between
the Obama campaign and Harry Reid and the White House, whether there were
discussions or not, anyone involved in planning this, including Harry Reid
himself, could not possibly imagine that this would have succeed already
the way it has. And again, I don`t see it stopping because now we can have
all this guessing game, who told Harry Reid. There`s so much more to...
MATTHEWS: It`s so rich. It`s great. It`s begun a whole chapter
here. But let -- you guys have to write the book! But I`m thinking this
sort of -- everybody`s who`s not tethered now by the Republican Party, who
isn`t hoping for a job, whether it`s the Vatican, or I don`t know what
Newt`s up to, I don`t know what Pawlenty wants, but they all want a job --
but everybody who knows they`re not going to get a job is saying (ph)
opposite of them.
Now, here he is on Fox, good old Ed Rollins, Republican consultant.
He said this about Romney. (INAUDIBLE) to put an end to his misery by
doing one simple thing. Let`s watch what he recommends.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, FOX POLITICAL ANALYST: I would
have put out five or six years. I would not put out 20 years, and I
obviously wouldn`t respond to anything that Harry Reid speaks.
I think at this point in time, it`s going to dog him all the way, and
he needs to get it behind him. He`s paid a lot of money in taxes. He`s
made a lot of money...
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": Wait, wait. Do you think he
should release more taxes?
ROLLINS: I think he should release more taxes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So perfectly done there, John Heilemann, by a real pro, a
little towel snap at Harry Reid to show you`re still a Republican, and then
say, But then bring it on downtown! You got to release five or six years.
Now, there`s a nice, precise number. Not 10. Maybe you haven`t paid it
for 10 years, but show us five or six years where you haven`t paid it. I`m
just teasing. But it is -- it is really a classic donnybrook, as I say.
HEILEMANN: Look, I would bet a million dollars that Ed Rollins in his
private moments is shaking his head not at the fact that Romney hasn`t
released any of his tax returns of (ph) five or six years now, but that
they didn`t take care of this a long time ago. Every political
professional looks at this and says, Why didn`t they do this in 2011? Why
didn`t they clean the taxes up when he knew he was going to running for
reelection -- running president again in 2012, back at the end of 2008,
All those questions are really good questions. I don`t know and I
don`t think anyone literally knows or conceivably could know what the
actual political balance here is, though. You know, look, only Mitt Romney
and a few people around him know what`s in those tax returns. As bad as it
has been for him so far and as bad it could get for him every day he
doesn`t release them, it could be that there`s something worse in the tax
returns than all the incoming he`s taking now.
We have to only make educated guesses. We know it could get really
bad for him. It has been bad for him. But unless you know what`s in the
tax returns, you can`t actually criticize Romney`s political judgment here
because there could be something so horrific that he`s right that keeping
them out of the public by just hunkering down and taking all this heat is
the smart play. We just don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Well, just remember how he handled that stupid situation
over in London, where he just couldn`t handle not saying something critical
of the London Olympics in comparison to his Olympics.
He is fundamentally a business guy, and a business guy is not going to
give away millions and millions of dollars so it`ll look good later on if
he gets elected president.
Anyway, hearing these Republicans accuse Reid of lying reminded me
that you never say your opponent is a liar. It`s one of my cardinal
beliefs. Once you say it, the conversation`s over. You`re certainly not a
gentleman anymore. And it just sort of ends things for you. It always
sounds worse on the lips of the person who says it than it is for the
Here`s a classic example. And I like Bob Dole. We all do. But this
didn`t help. Here he is when Tom Brokaw asked if he had a message for his
rival back in `88 during the primary in New Hampshire he had just lost --
if he had anything to say to his noble rival. And here`s what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, ANCHOR, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": It`s Senator Bob Dole, who is
standing by in his headquarters. Anything you`d like to say to him at this
GEORGE H.W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, just wish him
well and meet him in the South.
BROKAW: And Senator Dole, is there anything you`d like to say to the
SEN. BOB DOLE (R-KS), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, stop lying about
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Hey, Mark, that was pretty Mephistophelean there, the look
on that guy. I don`t know if you could see it, but it was Bob Dole at his
most demonic by going -- you know, when you call -- I think he was finished
after doing that, myself.
HALPERIN: You`re right, Chris. It`s a word you don`t want to use
lightly. But the hilarious thing is they`re not using it even about
somebody they`re running against.
HALPERIN: They`re using it against Harry Reid, who most Americans
don`t care about. They`re focusing on Reid -- even if they destroy Harry
Reid -- and Harry Reid more than anyone else in politics could not care
less what they call him. He`s laughing all the way to the bank.
The only other thing I think is as funny as their going after Harry
Reid and calling him a liar, which is useless to them, is that you have
David Axelrod and Jay Carney and Robert Gibbs and Harry Reid saying, You
know, this whole thing could end if Mitt Romney would just put out his
HEILEMANN: Go to Kinko`s.
HALPERIN: The whole thing would go away.
MATTHEWS: I know. It`s not going to -- let me ask you...
HALPERIN: It`s hilarious.
MATTHEWS: They`ll tackle him the minute he does it. Last question,
very briefly now, this Plouffe thing -- he gave a speech for a group that`s
a subsidiary of a group that does business with Iran. Is that an issue or
not, John Heilemann, Plouffe?
HEILEMANN: No. Zero issue whatsoever to any average voter. There`s
no voter in the world who could care less.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much for that summation. Thank you,
Mark Halperin, and thank you, John Heilemann.
Coming up, a new book says President Barack Obama has developed a
genuine disdain, even hatred, for Mitt Romney. Why? Because he doesn`t
stand for anything, according to the author, and that drives Obama crazy.
It`s not just business anymore, it looks like it`s getting personal.
Also, exclusive new details about the man who`s accused in yesterday`s
shooting rampage at that Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Wade Michael Page had
ties to a white supremacist movement. Wow. And we`re going to hear from
someone who`s been tracking him for years in that regard.
And the beat goes on. When Democrats in Ohio tried to give all voters
the same expanded voting opportunities as members of the military,
Republicans saw an opening. They`ve called it an effort to keep servicemen
and women from voting. Not really.
Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with a campaign now driven by charges
of liar and a word that one candidate hates the other.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Well, Dick Morris says that Mitt Romney`s winning this
campaign after all, and he`s seen it in the polls that prove it. Well,
Morris says these so-called real poll numbers he`s got in 13 swing states
show that Romney`s picking up speed. In 9 of those, according to him, of
those 13 states, Romney`s improving or Obama`s slipping in the polls.
Well, Morris isn`t saying who the pollster is he`s quoting, only that
it`s an organization he personally trusts. But Nate Silver, who we do find
credible, at "The New York Times" isn`t buying it. Nate tweeted this
response to Morris`s phantom polling. "Don`t think Romney has reason to
panic, but Dick Morris citing real poll numbers showing him -- showing him
-- showing him up equals a hugely bearish sign."
In other words, I translate, Don`t believe Morris, he`s desperate.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Who says politics isn`t
personal? According to a fascinating new account, President Obama has
developed a genuine disdain for his Republican rival, Mitt Romney. That`s
what Politico reporter Glenn Thrush reveals in a new e-book on the
campaign, excerpts of which were released over the weekend.
He writes, quote, "One factor made the 2012 grind bearable and at
times even fun for Obama. He began campaign preparations feeling neutral
about Romney, but like the former governor`s GOP opponents in 2008 and
2012, he quickly developed a genuine disdain for the man. And that scorn
stoked Obama`s competitive fire, got his head in the game, which came as a
relief to some Obama aides who had seen his interest flag when he didn`t
feel motivated to crush the opposition."
Well, there seems to be one common denominator for Republicans and
Democrats who have faced off against Romney. They come to dislike him.
And now it seems President Obama has joined the group.
Joe Conason`s editor-in-chief of NationalMemo.com and Michael Crowley
-- love that name Crowley -- is deputy Washington bureau chief for "Time"
magazine. Don`t you love Mary Crowley on "Downton Abbey"? Mary Crowley...
MATTHEWS: Anyway, you know what? This doesn`t surprise me. I
remember somebody saying to Jack Kennedy -- I read this, where they said,
You know, Rocky likes you -- Rockefeller. And he said, Don`t worry, once
we get fighting each other, he won`t anymore.
So hating your opponent, or using modern words like "disdain"...
JOE CONASON, NATIONALMEMO.COM: Dislike, yes.
MATTHEWS: ... the disdain -- what`s this about? How do you read
this, that he`s into it now?
CONASON: Well, look, I think it`s not surprising that he dislikes
Mitt Romney because as the intro said, all the opponents have come to
dislike him. I mean, imagine what the Republican primary opponents think
of Mitt Romney. Imagine what John McCain thought of Mitt Romney. He made
it very clear...
MATTHEWS: That`s why he picked Sarah Palin.
CONASON: You know, he...
MATTHEWS: Because he wouldn`t -- he wouldn`t pick Romney for his
CONASON: Right. And you look at Obama`s other opponents, they`re --
you know, Hillary Clinton -- a lot of people like her. People in the
Senate came to like her...
CONASON: ... even Republicans. John McCain, everybody -- I don`t
know anybody who doesn`t like John McCain who knows him at all, except
possibly people he`s yelled at. But in general, he`s a likable guy. And
Mitt Romney doesn`t seem to...
MATTHEWS: I think...
MATTHEWS: ... how about the word "respect"? Because you can respect
John McCain even when he`s -- you know, he`s hosing you because you know
he`s got standing to do it. He`s served his country well and he`s been in
public office so long. And he`s been an admirable man. But what has
MICHAEL CROWLEY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, I think -- right. And I
think from Obama`s point of view, he hasn`t really paid -- actually, not
just Obama, a lot of past rivals -- he didn`t really pay his dues. He
bought his way into politics quickly. And he`s a guy who`s changed his
positions. He`s not -- from the perspective of the Obama campaign, he`s
not a man of principle.
I think, you know, Barack Obama might respect Paul Ryan as an
ideologue, a guy who stands on a certain set of principles that Obama
disagrees with. I think that they see Romney as a guy who`s just a
MATTHEWS: I think that`s it. I think chameleon, his willingness to
say absolutely anything to get elected -- well, anyway, Glenn Thrush, who
wrote this, wrote this about Obama`s feelings towards Romney compared to
some of his previous opponents. "When he talked about Romney, aides picked
up a level of anger he never had for Clinton or McCain, even after Sarah
Palin was picked as his running mate. There was a baseline of respect for
John McCain. The president always thought he was an honorable man and a
war hero, said a long-time Obama adviser."
So you`re right. That backs it up. But this Romney thing, I have
noticed it in these primaries. These guys of whatever caliber who are
opposed to him come out of those debates with him really hating him.
MATTHEWS: Yes, because he does something that they think breaks the
rules. It`s something about saying anything that works, not having any
A lot of them are a little loosey-goosey, but he seems to have none.
He`s switched on every single issue.
CONASON: Well, you said, what has he done, Chris?
MATTHEWS: And that`s another question.
CONASON: And the answer is, whatever he`s done, he`s running away
CONASON: And that also causes a loss of respect.
He doesn`t want to talk about when he was governor of Massachusetts,
because that angers his own base. He can`t sell any of that to the
Republicans. And he couldn`t sell that to win the primary. So it`s as if
he never was governor of Massachusetts. That I think also causes disdain.
CROWLEY: And, Chris, he hits hard. He puts a lot of money behind his
hits. In 2008, he threw big negative advertising campaigns against his
rivals particularly in Iowa. He savaged Mike Huckabee.
I looked up a great "New York Times" article.
MATTHEWS: What did Huckabee say about him?
CROWLEY: Well, Ed Rollins said he wanted to knock Romney`s teeth in.
There is a remarkable "New York Times" article on this very subject, the
disdain he engendered.
Charlie Black, Republican strategist, said he doesn`t play by the same
rules as everybody else. And there were a couple other quotes to that
effect. Big negative advertising campaigns -- to be sure, President Obama
has run some very negative ads. But I do think the Obama campaign feels
that some of these hits, particularly "You didn`t build that," were pretty
unfair and misleading.
And I think that that has been a consistent pattern, expensive
negative advertising campaigns that leave -- that Romney rivals feel are
unfair and dirty, that leave them very angry.
CONASON: Well, he questioned the president`s patriotism. He said, do
you -- you know, is he really an American?
And that`s kind of -- and doesn`t attack the Tea Party. He tolerates
all that stuff, all those attacks on Obama. And then they cry when Obama
says something about Bain.
MATTHEWS: Here`s an excerpt from the book. Is Mitt Romney the
moderate former governor of Massachusetts or is he a severely conservative
Republican who buys into the Tea Party hype about cutting government
spending being the nation`s top priority?
Well, sometimes it`s hard to tell. Here was Romney last week in a
suburb of Denver painting a picture of himself as a bipartisan, almost
post-political figure. Now, keep an eye on this and watch what he says
here and then I will show you something he said like hours later, which is
the opposite of it. Here he is, Mitt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have got to have someone
that goes to Washington that buries the hatchet and says, you know what?
They`re good Democrats and they`re Republicans that care about America.
Let`s work together to get the American people working.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: See, that`s in the suburbs of Denver, where people actually
do want to see bipartisanship, who are not madly left or right. They`re
looking for somebody in the middle.
Now, just two days later, the same guy, Romney, shows up campaigning
for one of the worst anti-bipartisan Tea Party candidates in history, this
guy Mourdock out in Indiana. There was no talk from Romney in that speech
of any bipartisanship whatsoever. Instead, he echoed the Tea Party message
that federal spending is the problem and Romney praised the would-be
senator as a man Washington needs, a guy who says I`m not going to make any
deals, any compromises, anything.
Here he is doing his whipsaw.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: We have got to get this guy elected in the U.S. Senate. You
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ROMNEY: He has proven as the treasurer that he knows how to make sure
and balance books. He`s also proven as a campaigner that he can take his
message to the people of Indiana. They will support him. This is a man
who I want to see in Washington to make sure that we cannot just talk about
changing things, but actually have the votes to get things changed. Will
you help me elect this guy?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And so what exactly is that message Mourdock took to the
people of Indiana? Take a look at the Senate candidate earlier this summer
talking to our own Chuck Todd. Let`s listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD MOURDOCK (R), INDIANA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Bipartisanship
ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view. We
entered this campaign wanting to be a voice and hoping to give more of a
national voice to the idea that Republicans and more specifically
conservatives would be in the majority of the United States Senate and the
House and hopefully that we have a Republican in the White House.
If we do that, bipartisanship means they have to come our way. And to
me the highlight of politics frankly is to inflict my opinion on someone
else from a microphone or in front of a camera to win them over to my point
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He reminds me of a guy with a shotgun in some line shack
somewhere waiting for the federal government to come. And this guy wants
to go to Washington and make the government work better.
CROWLEY: Well, and the other note to drop here is the guy that he
beat, Richard Lugar, wrote as his sort of farewell document after he lost a
pretty moving statement about how bipartisanship is dying in Washington.
We need to work together...
MATTHEWS: So, who`s Mitt Romney?
CROWLEY: This is the guy who wiped him out.
MATTHEWS: No, the guy that has the disdain of the president, of the
Democratic Party, the president of the United States, the candidate now is
-- now recognized to have disdain for a guy for the same reason all the
Republican candidates. Politicians of conviction don`t like those without.
CONASON: That`s a fact.
And it`s what Teddy Kennedy said about him. He`s multiple-choice
Mitt. He`s whatever you need him to be that day.
CONASON: And that does not engender respect.
MATTHEWS: And what does the voter make of this? What`s the voter
make of a guy that`s despised because he has no convictions?
Are they hoping he`s probably a secret moderate, he`s not really as
right-wing and as wacky as he talks? He`s not really going to stick to his
deals with the right? What do they want? Do they want a man of conviction
on the right or a guy who pretends to be on the right that can sneak down
the middle afterwards?
CROWLEY: I think what voters generally speaking say that they want is
corporation in Washington. They like that bipartisan message.
But people ask me all the time, Chris, they say is Romney going to
govern from the middle or to the right? They can`t figure it out. They
see him going both directions at once. And I would say frankly I don`t
think you can tell right now which way he will go. I think a lot depends
on what the Congress looks like and how hard he gets pulled by the right.
CONASON: In the House, they think he`s going to rubber-stamp the
MATTHEWS: I think he is going to stays put. My hunch is he stays
put. I go by what he says.
That`s my belief. I think he`s signed so many papers with so many
right-wingers like Norquist and the neocons, he`s reading their stuff. He
is not even thinking anymore.
Thank you, Michael Crowley.
CROWLEY: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Joe Conason. I like your attitude.
CONASON: My pleasure.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Does Mitt Romney talk like the rest of us Well,
wait until you hear this latest attempt to sound like a regular guy there.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And now to the "Sideshow."
First off, Mitt Romney might have been going for some average Joe
appeal in New Hampshire today. Curious what Romney picked up at a local
hardware store? Good luck finding out from his response upon exiting the
store, bucket of goods in hand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Governor, what`d you buy?
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hardware stuff.
QUESTION: What are you building?
ROMNEY: Going to the grocery store now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Hardware stuff from the hardware store. What are the odds?
The candidate didn`t divulge much more after going to a grocery store.
What did he buy there? One word, according to him: groceries. You would
think they were asking for his tax returns.
Next: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in the midst of an 11-day
African tour. During a stop in Malawi, she was presented with some
traditional garb by a local official. Here`s how she reacted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That`s a real African song. I love the sound of those
Anyway, it seems that one local newspaper went a bit too far in
recounting the presence of some bees as Clinton boarded her plane to leave
Malawi, saying there was a slight panic as the bees winged across the
airport. People could be seen running away to keep cover as the secretary
of state swiftly boarded her plane to avoid any stings.
Well, the State Department, along with other members of the press
corps who were there, denied any panic over a small contingent of bees.
Well, finally, let the celebration begin. A NASA mission control team
sat with bated breath early this morning as they waited news that the space
rover Curiosity had touched down on Mars. The final phase was called the
seven minutes of terror because of all the new never-before-used
Curiosity`s cost, $2.6 billion, distance traveled, 352 million miles -
- mission control`s reaction when it landed safely? Priceless.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Touchdown confirmed. We`re safe on Mars.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what happening.
President Obama took his new trip on the newly refurbished Air Force
One. The president thanked the members of the Logistics Squadron that
performed the restoration between leaving for two campaign events in
Jared Loughner is due in court tomorrow, where he is expected to plead
guilty to the 2011 shooting rampage in Tucson. The shooting left six
people dead and nearly killed Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
The Dow expanded 21, the S&P adds three, and the Nasdaq is up 22 --
back to HARDBALL.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Balding male with glasses may have gone inside
with a gun, and there were shots fired.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ambulance up. Subject down. (INAUDIBLE) down!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have one officer shot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we can get any further description if there
is an additional shooter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One subject is down that took a shot at 845.
Unknown if any other subjects.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
Welcome back to HARDBALL. The shooter there described in that
frightening 911 call left six people killed and left three critically
injured, including a policeman at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin yesterday.
The gunman himself was killed in a police shoot-out. The Southern
Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization we have had on before,
monitors hate groups and had the suspect shooter, Wade Michael Page, on its
The SPLC described Page this way, a member of two racist skinhead
bands, End Apathy and Define Hate, and was a frustrated neo-Nazi. And the
SPLC also reports that in the year 2000 Page attempted to purchase goods
from the neo-Nazi National Alliance, then America`s most important hate
Well, Brian Levin is director of the Center for the Study of Hate and
Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino. And joining me on the phone is Pete
Simi, who is professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska.
Simi knew the shooter, Wade Michael Page, whom he met while doing research
in the hate rock scene -- on the hate rock scene. There is actually such a
scene in Southern California.
So I want to get to that in a minute.
But, first off, Brian, give us a sense of this. There`s a lot of this
atmospherics in the air. And I don`t want to draw straight lines between
comments made by congresspeople about Islamic infiltration in the United
States and Muslim Brotherhood and all that stuff. I don`t know how much
even these people, these killers do even pay attention to the news.
What`s your sense of the connection between atmospherics and
individual criminal action?
BRIAN LEVIN, THE CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF HATE AND EXTREMISM: Great
First thing, with these kinds of folks, they have already opted out of
the mainstream to a large degree. So their hatred is there. They`re also
in a subculture that glorifies violence. Interestingly enough, as people
will tell you, he was more -- one of the more quiet types in the
established hate rock music scene, kind of like the adult contemporary
version of these hate rockers.
That being said, for most of these guys, I would say to you the
Islamophobic rhetoric would have virtually no effect. For this guy,
though, as people tell you, he actually did read the current affair
journals and things like that.
So I think, if anything, it wouldn`t catapult him toward this violent
extremism, but certainly validate it. And that`s the problem. The
extremism is going on a two-way street from the mainstream to the extreme
and from the extreme to mainstream.
MATTHEWS: So when people like this -- we`re talking in very general
terms -- people who have real hatred in their hearts, when they hear other
people voice that, it gives some sort of clinical sort of support for them
saying, yes, yes, that`s what I think, and this big shot agrees with me?
And for most hate offenders, that`s actually true. It`s the least
true for what we would call mission hate offenders. But this offender in
particular was someone who did -- as Pete will tell you -- he`s a dear
friend of mine -- he is on our advisory board -- he actually read what was
going on in current affairs and was very insensitive about 9/11 and used
derogatory terms about Muslims, Jews and blacks.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go to Pete.
Thank you for joining us, Pete Simi. You`re with the University of
Nebraska. Tell us what you know about this guy who was killed yesterday in
the act of terrorism really against his own country.
PETE SIMI, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA: Thanks for having me.
I met Wade Page in about 2001 and spent quite a bit of time with him
off and on between 2001 and 2003 doing interviews and actually staying with
him at the home where he lived.
He was a relatively quiet guy, but pretty friendly. He was -- a lot
of the folks that I spent time with were -- would be hesitant to talk with
me at first, whereas he was actually pretty willing to talk with me and
MATTHEWS: Who`d he hate? Who`d he hate, Pete?
SIMI: And his demeanor was pretty, pretty open.
MATTHEWS: Who`d he hate? Who got under his skin?
SIMI: Jews, Jewish people, blacks, and especially, as Brian already
mentioned, after 9/11, the issue of Muslims became something that he was
very angry about.
MATTHEWS: Well, Sikhs aren`t Muslim, are they?
SIMI: No. Yes, exactly.
But that distinction is not necessarily one that folks are necessarily
going to make. And, in fact, after 9/11, we saw this mistake made. And
there were victims of hate crimes that were mistaken as Muslims. So,
there`s definitely -- and I don`t know if that to be the case here with
Page. But that -- there`s certainly precedent for that mistake to be made.
MATTHEWS: What do you think drives people in this direction? Is it
economic insecurity? Is it a sense of too much change?
What drives -- well, I`m asking a pretty fundamental question. I will
go back to Brian on this.
What drives this kind of I`m going to kill these people hatred. Not
disturbed by change, a lot of people are disturbed by any change. I
understand that completely. If a neighborhood changes, something like that
happens. You get, well, why is this happening but going out and killing
people, what`s that about? Brian.
LEVIN: OK. Yes. Look, I had a fascinating conversation with Pete
about this. He fits very much what we see with these kinds of folks.
They`re not insane. They`re not delusional. They might be depressive and
part of a subculture that amplifies and directed their anger.
And for someone who likes Page, Wade Michael Page, he was someone who
had problems with alcohol. He had dead end relationships. He had a work
history and even could not reenlist if the army. So, for people with these
personal setbacks, career setbacks, and frustrations that fester, there`s
circum-stereotype that will direct where the aggression goes.
And when you`re in a hate subculture like the hate rock subculture,
which he was a very meaningful part of, he was not only into racist band.
He also plays a session player in others. And he went as far as Germany
where thousands of people would watch him play.
So, this is someone who is --
MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. What are the lyrics like? The hate groups.
I don`t know anything about hate rock. What are their lyrics like? Are
they specific to different ethnic groups?
LEVIN: Oh, yes. (INAUDIBLE), stuff like that. Look, he was at Fort
Bragg. There were two soldiers who murdered. They were not soldiers.
They murdered a black couple in December 1995. Wade Michael Page said that
kind of stuff was justified. And Burn Meinster (ph) who committed the
double homicide, he listens to hate rock, got drunk before he went out and
killed those people.
Drinking and hate rock is a large part of this sliver of the
subculture. It amps people up and directs where the violence goes. You
have groups called aggravated assault, boot boys, definite hate,
screwdriver where a whole operation holy war. So the name of the groups
and the music itself describe people who are alienated and angry and
directs them to be warriors for their race against anyone who`s different
that they regard as enemies or traitors.
MATTHEWS: OK, Pete. Tell me about when you first heard the other
day, this horrible news out of Wisconsin and you heard that name come
across the air waves, what was your reaction?
SIMI: To tell you the truth, I didn`t realize the shooter was Wade
Page until about three or four hours ago. And I saw his photo on the
southern part of rock center Web site and at first, you know, I thought
that looks a lot like Wade. And then I took a closer look and I realized
it was him. And I literally, just felt sick to my stomach. I mean --
MATTHEWS: Put it together. The guy you knew back then and the guy
who did this. How does that coincide with you now?
SIMI: You know, as angry as he was and as hateful as he was, you
still don`t necessarily see something like this happening. So it`s a
shock. Like I said, he actually came off as being relatively friendly. He
was easy to talk to. He was seemingly open. He -- this was unexpected.
You know, this is not anything that I saw happening with this particular
LEVIN: But let`s just look at doubt here. Pete and I are in complete
agreement when we see kind of these hesitant reports saying possible hate
monger. This guy was a neo-Nazi and he was in the core of the hate rock
world, much of which is here in southern California which is why Pete comes
out is on the advisory board of our center.
This guy was a repented neo-Nazi. He might have been quiet and shy,
had problems in relationships. But the subculture he was in was one that
glorified violence against minorities and actually directed where that
goes. And I`m going to have an exclusive interview with Pete tomorrow in
the "Huffington Post."
MATTHEWS: Well, go for it. We will know more about this tomorrow.
Thank you, gentlemen. Couldn`t be more timely with this disturbing
Thank you, Brian Levin. And thank you, Pete Simi for joining us
Up next, voting rights. Another big American issue right now and the
rights and wrongs of the Democrats in Ohio for example wanting to extend
the same voting opportunities to the members of the civilian people out
there as the military people are getting. And they`re getting attacked by
Republicans for being called anti-military. This is getting rough. It is
getting dishonest. We are going to find out about it in a minute.
Ohio, everybody should get to vote. We`ll be right there in a minute.
MATTHEWS: Well, the Republican Party has released a partial list of
speakers in this month`s convention down in Tampa. By the way, it is this
month, later this month. And in it, there may be a clue whose Romney`s
won`t be picking as his running mate.
Here`s the list. Condoleezza Rice, South Carolina Governor Nikki
Haley, New Mexico Governor Suzanne Martinez, Mike Huckabee, Florida
Governor Rick Scott, John McCain, Ohio governor John Kasich.
Rice, Haley, Martinez and even Huckabee have been talked about at
least as possible running mates for Romney. But today`s news may mean
they`re officially off the list. Probably a good bet. We`ll be back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to "Hardball."
Today`s the 47th anniversary of the signing of the voting rights act.
Can you believe it? Yet still the fight goes on in the crucial swing state
of Ohio. A Republican sponsored law mandates that early in-person voting
for the full three days before Election Day is no more. You can`t vote
Monday, Saturday, Sunday anymore except those in the military.
The Obama campaign filed a lawsuit to restore early inference and
voted for all those days for all Ohioans. The suit does not seek to take
away anything from the military simply to give it to everybody. Mitt
Romney has characterized this effort, unfortunately as an affront to
members of the military. Another cheap shot, totally dishonest.
He said in the statement, President Obama`s lawsuit claiming it is
unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women extended early
voting privileges during the state`s early voting period is an outrage.
And nearly, by the way, nearly sputtering David Axelrod pushed back on FOX
News Sunday. Let`s listen to David.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANCHOR: You don`t think that members of the
military who are serving this country deserve special consideration to
DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CHIEF CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: I absolutely do and
the way you stated it and the way frankly Governor Romney has stated it is
completely false and misleading. What that lawsuit calls for is not to
deprive the military of the right to vote on the final weekend of the
campaign. Of course, they should have that right.
What that suit is about is whether the rest of Ohio should have the
same right. And I think it`s shameful that Governor Romney would hide
behind our servicemen and women.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: FOX News and the truth are two different animals.
Anyway, Martin Luther King, of course, is the president of the Martin
Luther King Junior center for nonviolent change, and also joining us is
Judith Browne Dianis is co-director of the advancement project before.
You start, Martin, sir. And this is quite an anniversary, 47 years of
the most important act in the civil rights act.
MARTIN LUTHER KING III, KING CENTER FOR NONVIOLENT SOCIAL CHANGE: My
dad often said a vote-less people is a powerless people and that one of the
most important step that we can take is a sure step to the ballot box. As
we approach this election, it`s very important for us to figure out how we
create the climate and the opportunity for all people to vote. And in this
context where it seems like one set of voters are being --
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the weekend. The patterns of the black
churchgoers. People go to church on Sunday. How does that work out where
Saturday and Sunday and Monday being taken away? It hurts the black
community especially in.
KING: Well, I think it hurts all of communities. I mean, the reality
is anyone who has to work every day, which is most of us, it hurts. The
reality is we should look at having voting on Saturday for everyone. Not
just early voting, but we may need to change. Why are we voting on Tuesday
in fact? Just because it is tradition.
MATTHEWS: Because I heard it. Tell me about it Judith. Do you tell
anybody, somebody taught me this. The black community, people don`t often
vote on Sunday.
JUDITH BROWNE DIANIS, THE ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: That`s right. I mean,
the cut-backs to early voting really hurt the African-American community.
Because in places like Florida and Ohio, you had a program called take your
souls to the polls where the churches would get together and caravan to the
polling places to vote in unity. It would become a community thing to do.
And now, we see these roll-backs in early voting. Why are we making it
harder to vote? Where in fact, we`re doing it because for partisan game.
It`s all about trying --
DIANIS: That`s right. I mean, look at Pennsylvania. When we look at
the voter ID law that was passed in Pennsylvania, the smoking gun evidence
of that trial was the fact that the GOP in Pennsylvania said, yes, this is
about Mitt Romney winning.
MATTHEWS: You know, I am scared for our country if we have a close
election and Ohio or Pennsylvania is the decisive state and we find out
afterwards it`s because of this Mickey Mouse-ing, this game they`re
playing. What are we going to do? What happens to the election society,
Pennsylvania had a screwy new law that said blacks couldn`t vote,
DIANIS: That`s right. I mean, we are back, you know, I don`t want to
be in a 2000 situation. We were there, been there, done that. And you
know, we need to be in a place where we`re celebrating the 47th anniversary
of the voting rights act. And what we should be doing is increasing our
turnout, increasing participation. But instead, for partisan gain, there
are those who want to cut back on democracy, and we all lose in the end.
MATTHEWS: Are we going to have a big turnout in the black community,
KING: I think we can.
MATTHEWS: Like we did last time?
KING: We certainly can. That`s part of what I`m involved in, not
just for the black community, but for all of the community. I mean, my dad
and others gave their lives so we would have the right to vote. And so,
the reality is as we approach this Election Day, I think more and more
people are going to get excited. I think more and more people are going to
have the potential for turnout.
MATTHEWS: You know what I think? I think parents and everybody, not
just your vote. Everybody watching the show, I know, votes, but we
wouldn`t watch the show if you weren`t a voter. Why would you do it?
MATTHEWS: I`m serious, but you have to tell your kids. You got to
tell your brothers and sisters and your cousins, you know, get out and
DIANIS: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: You got to encourage the people who are less interested
than you are. Because it`s not going to be decided just by the people who
are passionate. The people who aren`t quite as passionate have to get out
there. Right? Say it is.
DIANIS: That`s right. We can`t sit home in this election. We all
have to participate, and we really have to fight back against the laws. We
had some victories and we`re going to keep fighting.
MATTHEWS: When is the Pennsylvania Senate decision?
DIANIS: The court decision, we`re hoping in the next week or two
weeks. Because the state -- we found out the state can`t even implement
this law. They can`t get ids in the hands of voters.
Anyway, thank you very much. Martin Luther King, as always.
KING: Thanks to you.
MATTHEWS: And Judith. Thanks so much for coming in.
When we return, let me finish with the lies and hatred in this fight
for the white. It`s getting hot out there.
You`re watching "Hardball," the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.
This campaign is getting hot. We`ve got the Republican national
chairman calling the Senate democratic leader a liar. We have Senator
Lindsey Graham, usually a gentile sort, backing him up.
Now, we have word that the president hates the Republican candidate
for president. So, here we are in our early August, the convention hasn`t
even started and the heated words that often come late in the race are
already out there.
There are people who say they don`t like this kind of politics, the
same people who said they don`t like that you are advertising. But there`s
another group that wants to see them fight it out, fight for it. They
don`t think politics should be a show on public television. They figured
ought to be like it is right here most nights, people with strong opinions,
passionate about who they should be voting about, who should be running the
country, about what the country stands for.
I don`t like to see someone call another politician a liar for the
simple reason ends the discussion. How do you respond to somebody says you
are not a man of your word or a woman of your word. And oftentimes, it
hurts the person who called the other one a liar far more than it does the
one he`s calling a liar.
Well, this thing about a candidate hating a guy also gets to me. But
let me throw in a butt here. Have you noticed that the Republicans have
gone up against Romney this time and less tend to have very negative
attitudes against the guy?
McCain certainly didn`t like him. Huckabee didn`t like him. Santorum
certainly didn`t either. And the only people who can get chummy with
Romney are the folks looking for his patronage. And that would be Pawlenty
who wants on the ticket and Newt, who wants on anything he can get. He
just wants to be in the loop.
So here we go. Temperatures rising, anger in the air, nasty words
being spoken. They can`t be easily taken back. Excuse me, sorry for
saying your word is no good. Now, that`s a tough one to take back.
The fact that the Romney side is making such charges is a sign that
his guy is getting hurt. I don`t want this tone his own defenders whether
he paid taxes or not. It would be the right thing to do given what they`re
saying about the other guy. Don`t you think?
And that`s "Hardball" for now, thank you for being with us. "The Ed
Show" with Ed Schultz starts right now.
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