Guests: John Heilemann, Mark Halperin, Chris Cillizza, Eugene Robinson, Bob Shrum, Matt Kibbe, Michelle Goldberg, Michelle Goldberg, Jonathan Allen
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Romney versus Romney.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews down in Washington.
"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Revelation. Do you believe it? A
true revelation. Did you hear? The Romney crowd has let slip the biggest
fact of the campaign, that the former Massachusetts governor is not just
proud of the health care plan he ran through up there, he wishes people
like that fellow in the new Obama ad whose wife died of cancer and
presumably everyone else living outside Massachusetts could benefit from
such a program. He wants people, no matter where they live in this
country, to have a state-driven health care plan.
Well, this is a rarity in modern politics, a stunning declaration,
what we expected to be true and now for the first time in the campaign a
candidate openly confesses. Romney long ago said he saw his Massachusetts
health care plan as a model for the country. Now his campaign spokesperson
is trumpeting that fact.
But wait a minute. Isn`t he the guy out there promising to go kill
national health care if he gets elected? And that`s the true revelation
here. We see in Romney the guy who promises one thing, believes another,
and is now confounded embarrassed by the ridiculous bad news in the forked
tongue contradiction here between the way he presents himself and the way
Joining me now is Democratic strategist Bob Shrum and "New York"
magazine`s John Heilemann, also an MSNBC analyst.
Gentlemen, I want you to look at this. Here`s the Priorities USA ad
that started this stir. We`ve seen -- we see here is (ph) been (ph)
talking about it -- been talking about it since yesterday. The ad`s
narrated by a man whose wife died of cancer. He had lost his health care
after Bain Capital took over the steel plant where he worked. His wife
died years later. Let`s listen to this ad first.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then one day she became ill. And I took her
up to the Jackson County hospital and admitted her for pneumonia. And
that`s when they found the cancer. And by then, it was stage four. There
was -- there was nothing they could do for her. And she passed away in 22
I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he`s done to anyone. And
furthermore, I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, here`s how Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul, his top
spokesperson, responded to that harsh ad today. Let`s watch closely what
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA SAUL, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: To that point, you know, if
-- you know, if people had been in Massachusetts under Governor Romney`s
health care plan, they would have had health care. There are a lot of
people losing their jobs and losing their health care in President Obama`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: If that man and his wife had lived in Massachusetts instead
of Indiana, they would benefit from a health care plan. This is a
Bob Shrum, sometimes the day-to-day tactics get confused with the
strategy. Isn`t this guy running against health care, trying to deny his
own past with health care that you were involved with fighting him on, and
now his spokesman out there saying, yes, but let`s not forget, he had
health care -- the same health care plan, by the way, he wanted the whole
country to model itself after.
Here we go, Bob Shrum.
BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, he doesn`t have any strategy
or any particular vision. They wanted this to be a one-dimensional
referendum. If you`re kind of unhappy with the economy, then give me a
try. So you`re going to get all sorts of things like this.
They`re not ready. They had 18 years to get ready for the Bain
attacks that crushed Romney when he ran against Ted Kennedy. They could
have straightened out his finances, made sure he paid taxes, closed the
Swiss bank accounts. They didn`t do it. And what`s...
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s stick to the one -- no, Bob, we`re onto something
really important here. Don`t go over the whole list of all his problems.
I think we`ve got here the most severe problem of his campaign.
He is running as the former moderate governor of Massachusetts...
MATTHEWS: ... pretending now to be a right-winger, as the ramrod
spear carrier of the right wing. If you don`t trust me, at least trust me
when I say I`m going to Washington to take away "Obama care." That`s my
number one goal.
Now it comes out his spokesperson is saying, Whoa, here. Our greatest
achievement is health care. We did the very model. They`re falling back
on where they were five years ago. It seems to me they`ve got a real
problem here. Jack Kennedy -- I`m going to say this at the end of the
show. Jack Kennedy said he felt sorry for Dick Nixon because he didn`t
know on any given day which Dick Nixon to be.
SHRUM: Well, that`s...
MATTHEWS: And that seems to be Romney`s problem.
SHRUM: That`s exactly what I`m saying. I mean, look, today they
endorsed, in essence, the central idea of the Affordable Care Act.
SHRUM: And they`ve done it because they`re in a lot of trouble.
They`ve run a campaign where they`ve had -- as I wrote in the DailyBeast
today, they`ve lost the long, hot summer. They`ve ended up in a situation
where Romney`s upside down on his favorable/unfavorable. These Bain ads
are really hurting him.
SHRUM: And they come up with this answer. It seemed opportunistic.
It was stupid.
MATTHEWS: That`s right. You`re so well said. That`s so well -- John
Heilemann, it`s a case of trying to come up and be tricky and clever and
stepping into the very admission by making the admission that they really
love health care, if you can have (ph) it. And this poor woman died of
cancer because she didn`t have health care. It`s an amazing admission, I
think, by a top spokesperson.
JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well,
Chris, you know, it`s -- a lot of people have pointed out from the very
beginning, when Mitt Romney ran for the Republican nomination, that this
health care issue was going to be a killer for him and very difficult to
You`ll remember there were a lot of people on the right who said --
precisely anticipating this kind of problem...
HEILEMANN: ... who said, You need to repudiate your Massachusetts
plan. You need to stand up and say, I got it wrong. I`m not for it. And
at least -- although that would have been shown a certain (INAUDIBLE)
created certain kind of problems...
HEILEMANN: ... at least it would have given him a consistent position
to attack President Obama`s health care plan.
HEILEMANN: Now he`s stuck in a situation where, because he didn`t
want to repudiate the plan, he know is in this middle group where he says
this thing which is kind of incoherent, which is, Well, I think the plan --
I think my plan was great. It was great for Massachusetts. It wouldn`t be
great for the country, though, although as you point...
MATTHEWS: It`d be good for Indiana!
HEILEMANN: ... although as you -- although as you pointed out, he has
said that on some occasions in the past. Now he`s in this ridiculous
position where they`re saying what they actually believe. He`s proud of
the plan. This is Andrea Saul committing a classic definition of a gaffe.
She`s saying exactly -- speaking for her boss perfectly, he believes in
Massachusetts -- in "Romney care." He thinks it`s great.
The problem for him is the contortions he`s had to go through to get
right with the right, and that puts him in a position where this -- this
thing is going to come back to kill him in the debates because you know
President Obama is going to say -- he`s going to cite this very instance
when it comes up in the first presidential debate, and Romney`s not going
to have a very good answer that I can possibly conceive of.
MATTHEWS: Well, not surprisingly, as you just pointed out, John --
and Bob, you`ve been talking -- many conservatives said they felt betrayed
today. Conservative blogger Erick Erickson, who tweets that famous -- he
does Redstate. He says, Oh, my God -- "OMG, this might just be the moment
Mitt Romney lost the election," on this very comment today by a
spokesperson. He says, "Wow."
And Rush Limbaugh had this to say on his radio show. Let`s listen to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I don`t know the people at the
Romney campaign, but I`m going to tell you, your candidate is accused of
killing a woman because -- that`s -- this isn`t about health insurance!
They`re out there saying that your guy killed this woman! And your answer
is? Well, she`d have had health insurance if she lived in Massachusetts?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And there you go, Bobby. It`s unbelievable because there
he is saying if she lived in Massachusetts, not in Indiana -- he`s
basically reminding us all -- or she is, his spokesperson -- that he said
we should have the whole country, something like health care they have in
Massachusetts, exactly what Obama did.
There is no issue in the debate now! If you listen to Andrea Saul
today, they got nothing to debate!
SHRUM: Well, here`s what...
MATTHEWS: ... in the fall.
SHRUM: Here`s what they`re going to say. And I -- John, check me on
this. They`re going to say, Well, this is a federal -- isn`t a federal
issue. Each state should decide.
But the logic of what Andrea Saul said today was that everybody should
have this. If this poor family, this man and his wife, who lost their
health coverage because Bain took over this plant and the workers all got
fired, lost their health benefits, they should have lived in a state like
They should have lived in a country like America...
SHRUM: ... which now under the Affordable Care Act does exactly what
Andrea Saul was praising, and what John says, I think, correctly, Mitt
Romney believes in. You know who stood with Mitt Romney, who worked on
that bill in Massachusetts...
HEILEMANN: Ted Kennedy.
SHRUM: ... stood there proudly and both spoke at the signing of that
bill? Ted Kennedy. That has conservatives furious.
MATTHEWS: Now (INAUDIBLE) John, do the assessment now.
MATTHEWS: You got Rush Limbaugh out there jumping up and down, like
he does, like that underwater walrus of his, and he`s jumping up and down.
And then you`ve got -- you`ve got people like Redstate, Erick Erickson, who
speaks for a lot of people on the right.
How can they now attack "Obama care," knowing that as recently as
today, their candidate, who they thought they could trust to stick it to
Obama, is out there selling "Romney care," the same thing?
HEILEMANN: Look, I`ve -- Chris, I`ve always thought it was going to
be difficult to make this work because the argument is -- there are --
there are issues on which federalism is a justifiable issue to argue, where
you say you want states (INAUDIBLE) experimentation.
But in this case, if your argument is that an individual mandate
constitutes European-style socialism, you can`t say that a European
(INAUDIBLE) it`s European-style socialism, it`s good in one state, it`s bad
in another state. Either you`re against European-style socialism...
MATTHEWS: I know.
HEILEMANN: ... or you`re for it. And if you have it in
Massachusetts, presumably you think it`s because it`s a good thing,
You know, I think it`s an intellectually unsustainable position. And
might -- for a little while, it looked like it might be a politically
sustainable position. It got him through the Republican nomination fight.
But it`s intellectually crazy.
MATTHEWS: Yes. OK...
HEILEMANN: And this shows exactly how difficult it`s going to be to
ever be able to make this argument in a coherent way going forward.
MATTHEWS: OK, here`s Saul (INAUDIBLE) Andrea Saul (INAUDIBLE) wasn`t
the only to allude to the Massachusetts plan today. The candidate himself,
Mitt Romney, brought it up. He suggested it qualified him to tackle
dealing with Obama`s health care law. Let`s watch the candidate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That doesn`t
mean that health care is perfect. We`ve got to do some reforms in health
care, and I have some experience doing that, as you know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: There you go again!
MATTHEWS: And I just -- I just don`t know how he can keep doing this.
It is getting so confusing.
And back to you, John. This campaign issue -- let`s take a look at
"The Washington Examiner," Philip Klein (ph), who writes for "The
Washington Examiner" -- it`s a conservative paper I read every morning.
Let`s listen to -- hear what he had to say about this episode.
He said it gets to a deeper problem with Romney`s campaign, which
we`ve been talking about. Quote -- this is from his column today -- "I do
think it`s an example of a broader problem. Romney consistently attempts
to make up with tactics what he lacks in vision." That`s what you said,
"Romney`s campaign isn`t driven by any core ideology or governing
philosophy, but by responding to news cycles. So if Romney thinks touting
his past support for government-run health care today can help defend
against baseless attacks on his business career, he`ll tout away even if
it`ll weaken the case against government-run health care he`ll make
Bob, that`s the point you made. He doesn`t have a plan to say where
he stands. And by the way, I can see him losing this election by a point
or two or winning by -- and then saying, You know, I really believe in what
I did up in Massachusetts. We have no idea what he believes because what
he says is no guide to what are Mitt Romney believes.
SHRUM: Well, that`s certainly true, although if he wins this
election, he would be, as Grover Norquist says, a pen who would have to
sign the things that were sent to him by the Republicans in Congress. He
wouldn`t risk, as we`ve seen him in the cynicism of this 2012 campaign...
SHRUM: He wouldn`t risk a primary challenge in 2016 by going against
it. But you know the real problem here, aside from the lack of a strategy?
The real problem is that when you run as someone you`re not, it`s hard to
keep straight who you`re supposed to be.
SHRUM: And every once in a while, the real you comes out.
MATTHEWS: I know!
SHRUM: You know?
MATTHEWS: I know. You`re so right.
SHRUM: Romney instinctively says the wrong thing. In this case, he
probably said the right thing on the merits but it`s wrong for him
HEILEMANN: I think...
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) best case for telling the truth, you can be
consistent. Just keep telling the truth. Your thoughts, John? Last
HEILEMANN: I actually just (INAUDIBLE) a little further. I mean,
it`s obviously true that they have an extraordinarily tactical campaign and
that`s gotten them in trouble on a lot of different areas. But these
aren`t even good tactics.
HEILEMANN: I mean, this -- this is -- this is -- this is a tactical
error. You would think that, at a minimum, you could get the tactics right
here. This is -- I agree he has strategic problems and he has governing
philosophy, ideological problems. But -- but this is just kind of -- this
is like Campaign 101. And to make this kind of an unforced error this late
in the campaign, when there`s not as much pressure on as there`s going to
be in September and October, I just think it bodes very badly for them...
MATTHEWS: Yes, well...
HEILEMANN: ... what the fall holds.
MATTHEWS: It`s only the evening of the day it happened, so don`t deny
the possibility that Romney will take this spokesperson of his, Andrea
Saul, to the woodshed and blame it all on her.
Anyway -- he could well -- well do that. Reagan used to do that.
Anyway, thank you, Bob Shrum...
SHRUM: You`re welcome.
MATTHEWS: ... and John Heilemann.
HEILEMANN: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: Ryan`s hope. The latest buzz is that Paul Ryan
really does have a chance to be named Mitt Romney`s number two.
Conservatives hunger for him. But can Mitt really pick a guy who wants to
replace Medicare with a means-tested voucher system and bumps the cost of
health care to the retirees? Well, that`s going to sell.
Also, the hostile Tea Party takeover of the GOP gained more momentum
last night. The House is already occupied territory by the Tea Party, now
the Senate may be about to fall to them. The Republican Party is going
through a metamorphosis to the hard right.
And to paraphrase Jim Croce, you don`t tug on Superman`s cape, you
don`t spit into the wind and you don`t pull the mask off that old Lone
Ranger. And you don`t mess around with Bill. Bill Clinton, that is.
The Romney campaign`s dishonest ad about welfare reform has stirred
the Big Dog into action just weeks before the Democratic convention.
That`s a bad move. And I love it. I love that Bill`s coming into this
Finally, check this out. Is Mitt Romney trying to take the words out
of this guy`s mouth so he can do a better job of pandering to him? The
answer -- look at this. The answer in the "Sideshow."
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: New poll numbers from some key battleground states. Let`s
check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard" right now.
Well, according to new polling from "The New York Times," CBS and
Quinnipiac, President Obama has a 4-point lead in Virginia, and that`s the
key state this election. It`s Obama 49, Romney 45 -- and by the way,
getting close to 50, which is key.
Next to Wisconsin, where the poll finds Obama up by 6, also good news.
That`s Paul Ryan`s state, 51-45. And now finally to Colorado. Some bad
news here, where it`s Romney up with a 5-point lead in a state I think the
Obama people have been counting on.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: I think they really did that to that woman. They threw her
off the cliff!
Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. Those few seconds from that single
ad, unfair as it may seem to some, sum up the Paul Ryan problem for Mitt
Romney. How can Romney pick as his VP someone who wants to turn Medicare
into a means-tested voucher system for future beneficiaries? There`s been
a lot of buzz in the last few days that Romney may well go bold and go for
Ryan as his running mate. But as that ad suggests, the young, dynamic
congressman who would excite the right comes with a big red warning label,
"Time" magazine`s Mark Halperin and "The Washington Post`s" Chris
Cillizza are here to talk about this. Both are highly regarded MSNBC
Let me go to -- let me go to Mark on this one. Mark, it seems to me
there`s a big debate about whether the price has already been paid, that
he`s going to have to defend his earlier support for the Ryan plan, so he
might as well have the face of Ryan and thereby you get the personal
courage attached to a very difficult case you have to make for really
cutting the benefit of Medicare to older people.
MARK HALPERIN, "TIME," MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I don`t think
it`s relevant to who he will pick or who he should pick. He does have to
have that fight. I think there are other problems with Ryan in terms of
whether he`s perceived as being ready to be president, whether he`s got...
HALPERIN: ... the executive experience. It`s the case that the
president`s greatest sense of confidence in going after Mitt Romney in the
fall resolves around these budget choices, the tax cuts for the wealthy, of
spending decisions, of Medicare, Medicaid. There`s no doubt that that`s
where the president`s going to go after him, no matter what.
It is the case that if they pick Ryan, Democrats will have to hook to
make those arguments even more. But I don`t think that`s relevant to the
question of whether he will pick him...
HALPERIN: ... or whether he should pick him.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get to the -- let`s get to the subsequent
question here because I think we`re -- we ought to get there eventually
People like the idea of cutting government spending. I love the idea
of fiscal responsibility. I`m a hawk generally. But most people come down
to some programs that they don`t want cut. If you worked all your life
from the time you were serving (ph) newspapers in your teens to 65 and
you`re finally getting Medicare, and you don`t have a lot of money in the
bank and you got health challenges, you don`t want somebody coming along,
like Ryan is saying, a young fit guy saying, All right, I`m in my 30s,
you`re in your 70s, now here`s the deal.
No more Medicare. What you`re going to get is a voucher which will be
means-tested. So you if got a few bucks in the bank, you`re going to get a
lot less. And by the way, we`re going to squeeze you, a lot of co-pay
there so you`re paying for half the operation.
That to me is a killer for anybody who`s retired.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Two
things. One, I think you`re right in that the idea that the Ryan plan, and
frankly, any plan that`s going to restore our fiscal health is based on, we
have to make tough choices now for the future. Well, if you`re 65-plus,
that may be...
MATTHEWS: ... if you`re a rich guy or a rich woman, you don`t depend
on government programs.
Second -- and this is important, I think, as it relates to the
political calculation here -- is, what do we know about 65-plus-year-old
voters? They are the single most reliable voting bloc. They vote in
MATTHEWS: And they are -- and I`m not knocking it, because you get in
your 80s -- imagine being in your 80s, young man.
CILLIZZA: I`m not that young...
MATTHEWS: Imagine thinking about -- you don`t drive. You don`t drive
a car. You are dependent on the mail, the news that comes in you get on
television. You hear this conversation, and you go, well, I`m not taking
CILLIZZA: And that`s the thing, is that, remember, it`s the slippery
slope argument that Democrats will make, which is, well, they`re saying
this now, but what will they say when they get in office? One other stat
that I think is important, Chris...
MATTHEWS: By the way, you know why they say that to the older people?
Because every time it comes up, a chance to cut somewhere, the Republicans
want to cut Medicare.
CILLIZZA: And that`s the danger of putting Ryan on the -- let me just
one quick thing on older folks, Chris.
In 2008, John McCain won them by four. In 2004, George Bush won them
by eight. Obviously we know in `04, Bush won, in `08, McCain lost, not
solely because of that, but they are not -- they are a somewhat swing vote
that goes a little bit Republican.
You start talking about Medicare every day...
MATTHEWS: I know. Raise the subject.
Anyway, Newt Gingrich didn`t even support Paul Ryan`s plan, not even
he. You can be sure this clip is in the Obama campaign op research trove.
Let`s listen to this. I want you to react to this, Mark. Here he is,
Newt, pounding Ryan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don`t think right-
wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social
engineering. I don`t think imposing radical change from the right or the
left is a very good way for a free society to operate.
There are things you can do to improve Medicare.
DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": But not what Paul Ryan is
suggesting, which is completely changing Medicare?
GINGRICH: I think that that is too big a jump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: There`s a guy, Mark, who had to lead a caucus in the House
and knew the price you pay every time you touch this baby.
He lost members over this. The members would come back to him from
visits home: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Leader, stay out of Medicare.
HALPERIN: There`s no question that if Ryan were on the ticket, the
Democrats would almost certainly use that clip at least in a Web video, if
not in a real ad, and that they would go hard after saying more than they
otherwise could get away with and work into the argument, the dialogue that
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are going to have defend the Ryan budget, which
Romney has basically endorsed.
But I will say again, that`s what the president is going to go after
Mitt Romney for anyway. If Mitt Romney can`t defend his support for the
Ryan budget in the debates and in the fall dialogue, he`s going to have a
very hard time winning the election. And if he wants a mandate for
governing, he is going to have to win the thing -- if he wins the election,
he`s going to have to take on that fight.
I think picking Ryan has other issues with it, as I have said before.
But there`s no doubt that this gives Democrats with the media and with the
public a real entree not just to older voters, but to all voters who
overwhelmingly oppose the Ryan budget in a lot of ways, including a lack of
new revenue from wealthier Americans.
MATTHEWS: Good point. But second point, let`s put all this together.
The latest news is Romney may be on the ropes a little bit because of the
admission by his chief spokesperson, Andrea Saul, that basically he -- or
she speaking for him thinks that that fellow who lost his wife to cancer
would be better off being if they had health care out in Indiana like they
have in Massachusetts.
MATTHEWS: Does he now have to throw something to the right?
MATTHEWS: He can`t have a guy he wants like Pawlenty or a guy he
might be able to live with and go to somebody like Ryan?
CILLIZZA: I still think the answer to that is no, Chris.
And the reason is not because of Mitt Romney, but because of Barack
Obama. That is, the right dislikes Barack Obama so much that it doesn`t
matter that they`re not super sold on...
MATTHEWS: Are you all watching out on the right? He doesn`t care
what you want. He`s got you owned.
CILLIZZA: One other quick point...
MATTHEWS: I disagree with you.
CILLIZZA: You think it matters?
MATTHEWS: I think they`re afraid of Romney. I think they`re always
suspicious he`s a deep-down elitist from the Northeast, an old liberal,
CILLIZZA: But then they stay home and not vote...
CILLIZZA: They`re not going to vote for Barack Obama.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to you. You always know this, Mark.
Which way -- is there anything developing or has that decision already
been made, do you think, on V.P.?
HALPERIN: About who he is going to pick?
I think he probably has known for awhile where he was likely to go. I
really don`t know sort of the status of who he`s told and where the thing
stands. But I am still keeping out there the notion that there may be a
surprise pick, just in the body language.
But whoever it is, I can guarantee you, I can guarantee you that they
will be seen as unambiguously qualified to be president from day one. And
that means again...
HALPERIN: ... that to some people, like a Paul Ryan, who I think
people would say, is he old enough, does he have the national security
experience? He`s a great guy. He`s talented in a lot of ways, but I`m not
sure he will meet that bar instantly for enough Americans for Governor
Romney to live up to his promise.
MATTHEWS: I think you have to be a governor to be a real executive.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, how about for body language? How about for body
language? Chris Christie, that`s body language.
CILLIZZA: I still think he`s very much in the mix, by the way. I
think we may be overlooking him.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. You didn`t get my joke.
Anyway, thank you. You didn`t want to get it.
MATTHEWS: Mark Halperin, thank you, Chris Cillizza.
MATTHEWS: Up next, what`s this story with this bizarre picture of
Mitt Romney we`re seeing now? Does he really have his hand in that other
guy`s mouth? I don`t know. I guess he`s demonstrating something.
Anyway, the "Sideshow" is coming next. We will tell you what he is
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow."
I told you yesterday about the predicting power of Wikipedia edits
when it comes to potential V.P.s. Sarah Palin`s page was updated at least
68 times the very day before McCain announced that she would be his running
Enter Steve Colbert.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": The number times a
Wikipedia page has been edited predicts the chances for the V.P. slot.
I like friend of the show Tim Pawlenty. So, to up his chances, I`m
going to get on the old Wikipedia to pump up his edit count. Let`s see
COLBERT: Let`s see here. Wait a minute. What am I doing? This is
Wikipedia. Anything you type in here becomes reality.
COLBERT: On August 10, 2012, Tim Pawlenty was named Mitt Romney`s
COLBERT: Get on Wikipedia and edit any of these guy`s pages to give
them the edge, or maybe edit the page of more of a dark horse, like Mitt
Romney`s dark horse.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Get this. Perhaps thanks to Colbert`s troublemaking
with the already error-prone Wikipedia, the Web site has locked the editing
option for the pages of many of the top contenders, Rob Portman, Tim
Pawlenty, and Paul Ryan included. The only people who can still make edits
to those pages are Wikipedia users who make changes on a regular basis.
Also, earlier this week, we got a glimpse of Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton`s dancing with local farmers in Malawi. Another leg of
Clinton`s African tour brought her to Johannesburg yesterday, where Clinton
attended a reception hosted by South Africa`s foreign minister.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What can I say? Clinton will have visited seven African
nations in all. I think she likes it out there on the road, it seems.
Anyway, finally, check out this photo of Mitt Romney at a factory in
Chicago just yesterday. In a bizarre trick of perspective, photography
perspective, it looks like that factory employee is biting Mitt Romney`s
fingernails. Look at that.
Anyway, "New York" magazine jumped in with a potential caption: "Whoa
there, you`re trimming my fingernails with your teeth. Hey, that`s OK.
You`re a hardworking American. Thanks, friend."
Anyway, it`s entirely possible Romney might have actually been saying
Up next: The Tea Party`s hostile takeover of the Republican Party
picked up steam last night. Couldn`t U.S. Senate go the same way as the
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey there. I`m Veronica De
La Cruz. And here`s what`s happening.
Syrian troops and rebels alike are both claiming control over the key
city of Aleppo tonight. What is clear, buildings have been reduced to
rubble amid fierce fighting.
The University of Colorado tells NBC it`s hired an attorney for the
psychiatrist who was treating accusing theater gunman James Holmes, a
lawyer also secured for one campus police officer.
And mixed news on Wall Street, the Dow up seven points today, the S&P
virtually unchanged. The Nasdaq closed down four points.
I`m Veronica De La Cruz -- now back to HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Did you need more evidence that the Republican Party of 2012 is a very
different party than it used to be? Take a look at what happened just last
night in Missouri. A Tea Party-backed ultra-conservative congressman, Todd
Akin, grabbed the party`s nomination to take on Senator Claire McCaskill.
Add him now to the list of anti-establishment candidates in the
Republican field this year. Others include Indiana`s Richard Mourdock, who
proudly says bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the
Republican point of view, and Texas Tea Partier Ted Cruz. He`s big-time.
Cruz defeated David Dewhurst, a conservative who was branded with the dirty
word moderate by outside groups.
In Kansas last night, it was a Tea Party takeover, as nine incumbent
moderate Republican state senators, nine Republican senators were ousted
for the sin of -- quote -- "working with Democrats."
Well, we have seen what the Tea Party has done to the U.S. House last
summer. And remember the debt ceiling disaster last summer? No deal, they
kept saying. Now it looks like they`re going for the Senate.
Matt Kibbe is thrilled. I see the smile. He is president of the Tea
Party group FreedomWorks. He is author of "Hostile Takeover." And
Michelle Goldberg is a senior contributor at "Newsweek" and The Daily Beast
who tracks this political development.
Matt, I think what`s going on in your party and it may be going on in
some -- it`ll take five, 10 years the way it`s going. There was a big
change in the Democratic Party from a centrist, even rural conservative
party back in the `20s. In the `30s, Roosevelt turned it into a social
Democratic Party for many years. It moderated it later, but it became a
social Democratic Party, a left party.
The Democratic Party shifted again in the 1960s from a segregationist
party to a pro-civil rights party under Kennedy and Johnson.
Is the Republican Party going through a metamorphosis like that,
moving from an establishment party to basically a populist party of the
MATT KIBBE, PRESIDENT, FREEDOMWORKS: I think it is a rehabilitation
that`s being pushed from the bottom up.
KIBBE: It`s a rehabilitation. We have...
MATTHEWS: Going back to what? What are you taking it back to?
KIBBE: Going back to the rhetoric that they have always run on, which
is fiscal responsibility, moving power and money out of Washington, and
making sure that individuals have that control. And that`s...
MATTHEWS: Moving money to the Koch brothers?
KIBBE: No, not to the Koch brothers.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s right. Your money`s all coming from very
wealthy establishment individuals. They`re the ones putting in the
KIBBE: You need to wade through a Tea Party some time.
MATTHEWS: Oh, I know the people are there, but who is paying for the
TV ads that win the elections?
KIBBE: We don`t do TV ads.
MATTHEWS: Oh, you don`t do it. OK. OK. Great.
KIBBE: So I don`t know. I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Well, Ted Cruz looks like a future star.
Let me go to Michelle Goldberg on this.
I saw what happened in the House last summer, we all did, when the
country had a downgrade in its credit rating because they couldn`t reach a
deal because the conservatives, like them or not, were intransigent. They
were just intransigent. They didn`t want to deal.
Boehner was out there, some sad character out of a Jack Lemmon movie,
just crying. He couldn`t get it done because he couldn`t move his troops
because they were not Republicans. They were Tea Partiers. Is this going
to happen to the Senate?
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes. Now you`re
going to see Mitch McConnell kind of crying in a similar way.
MATTHEWS: Well, that would be something I would look forward to,
GOLDBERG: One of the interesting things about the race in Texas was
that there was no substantive issue differences between Ted Cruz and his
opponent, right? It was specifically that he charged that his opponent,
Rick Perry`s deputy is too much of a compromiser and too likely to work
MATTHEWS: But the word moderate is now like a four-letter word.
GOLDBERG: And specifically said too likely to work with McConnell.
Or look at somebody like Todd Akin, who is taking on Claire McCaskill.
There was very recently -- it`s not as big as the debt ceiling debacle, but
there was recently a compromise to stop federal student loan interest rates
But during that debate, Todd Akin, who might now end up in the Senate,
said that federal involvement in student loans has thrust America into the
stage three cancer of socialism. This is not somebody who will be able to
work on federal education policy, except to obstruct it at every step.
MATTHEWS: There`s Richard Mourdock, the Tea Party candidate who could
be the next senator from Indiana, replacing Dick Lugar, who was a moderate.
This is what he had to say about working with Democrats to get things done.
Not much. Let`s watch.
(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: Well, that`s a war of annihilation he`s talking about.
Like you take over the Tokyo after the war, Second World War.
MATTHEWS: You take Berlin. That`s what they literally call wars of
annihilation. You completely defeat your opponent and you force him to
accept your will.
MATTHEWS: Let our guest here, Matt up here -- I`m sorry, Michelle.
Let Matt talk.
MATTHEWS: You smile when you hear -- you see that guy. You like the
way he talks.
KIBBE: I think that`s awesome. I would love to see the Senate come
in with some new ideas. I think the freshmen from the 2010 class in the
Senate are the only guys that actually put budget ideas on the table. So I
would love to see Richard Mourdock.
MATTHEWS: OK, give me a positive idea from the Tea Party, positive
KIBBE: A positive idea?
The Tea Party debt commission came up with a plan to deal with every
program in the federal budget, balance the budget in less than five years.
We put defense on the table. We put entitlements on the table.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go through the list, because we have put it up.
Here are the top 10 programs of the federal government. Let`s not --
let`s get away from the B.S. and generalities, right?
Tell me which one of them you would cut, as a Tea Party leader.
Defense spending, would you cut it?
MATTHEWS: Would you cut Social Security?
KIBBE: I would reform Social Security
MATTHEWS: Would you cut the amount of money that goes to it?
KIBBE: Not necessarily.
MATTHEWS: You wouldn`t cut spending regarding Social Security?
KIBBE: I would reform the program.
MATTHEWS: But would you cut the spending -- no, you say you`re going
to cut government spending. This is where government spending goes. Would
you cut government spending that goes to Social Security benefits?
KIBBE: Let me --
MATTHEWS: See your problem?
KIBBE: No, let me be clear, you can`t cut entitlements, you have to
reform them because it`s a formula --
MATTHEWS: With the purpose of reducing the spending.
KIBBE: My purpose would be to make sure that individuals actually got
real savings out of the program. The current program asks young people to
pay more and more, get less and less. That`s a time bomb. It`s not going
MATTHEWS: We`re talking about cutting government spending here.
Let`s stay on government spending. As a portion of the federal
budget, is this one of the areas to cut spending?
KIBBE: Yes. You have to.
MATTHEWS: OK, you cut spending towards Social Security.
Can you cut spending towards Medicare?
KIBBE: You have to change the system.
MATTHEWS: You`re talking about cutting government spending. I`m just
KIBBE: I`m telling you what we proposed in our Tea Party budget.
More and more of a system that charged people more, gives them less to a
defined contribution where people have more control over their health care
decisions, over their retirement decisions. That is the only way to get
the liabilities under control.
MATTHEWS: I know as a personal account, I understand that. I`m just
talking about how you cut the spending. Would you cut Medicaid?
KIBBE: I think you have to move to a block granted system.
MATTHEWS: How about benefits for federal retirees, would you cut that
KIBBE: I think you have to keep the promises we have and you have to
again move to a defined contribution system in the future.
MATTHEWS: Would you cut education?
KIBBE: Federal government has no business involving education.
MATTHEWS: You zero that one out.
How about infrastructure and building highways and all that stuff,
would you cut that spending?
KIBBE: I think the system is politicized. I would move that decision
MATTHEWS: You`re basically saying you would cut everywhere. You
would find a way to cut everywhere.
KIBBE: I would love --
MATTHEWS: Can anybody get -- are your candidates saying what you`ve
said here. You don`t run for office. Are they willing to go to the voters
this November and say, by the way, I`m going to cut everywhere including
the programs that affect you.
KIBBE: They`re willing to say we have to balance the budget; $16
trillion in debt is unsustainable.
KIBBE: I`m willing to put ideas on the table. You decide for
MATTHEWS: OK. But Romney`s running to raise defense spending.
MATTHEWS: He`s not a Tea Partier then.
KIBBE: He`s not a Tea Partier. But you have to balance the budget
and you have to make some tough choices.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you, by the way. Generally, I do.
Thank you, Michelle. Thanks for keeping track of these interesting
people that seem to be growing in strength at the expense of people like
John Boehner who`s in tears already and Mitch McConnell who I`m hoping to
be in tears at some point generally speaking, although I do fear the right.
Anyway, Michelle, thank you.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, NEWSWEEK: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Matt, you`re good. You come on. I say that for you. You
Up next, let sleeping dogs lie, especially when that dog is the big
dog, Bill Clinton. You know, Elvis, Bubba. He`s got great names.
And Mitt Romney`s dishonest ad about welfare reform violates a big
campaign rule. You don`t mess with Bill. You hear the music.
This HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: I love that. Dirty, angry money indeed, and a lot of it.
The Koch brothers group Americans for Prosperity launched their biggest ad
campaign yet against President Obama, $25 million in 11 battleground
states. The first attack ad blames the president for the rising national
debt. Why not?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three years --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Government spending --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fifteen trillion dollars --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The unfunded debt --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fifteen trillion --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifteen trillion dollars -
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will be held
accountable. If I don`t have this done in three years, then it`s going to
be a one-term proposition.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The ads will begin their run today and will last three
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)
NARRATOR: In 1996, President Clinton and a bipartisan Congress helped
end welfare as we know it, by requiring work for welfare. But on the July
12th, President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by
dropping work requirements.
Under Obama`s plan you wouldn`t have to work and wouldn`t have to
train for a job. They just send you your welfare check.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. That was the infamous Mitt Romney ad which is making
headlines for its misleading portrayal of the Obama administration`s
welfare policy. It caught the attention of one important viewer -- none
other than Bill Clinton himself. The former president released this
statement last night knocking down the ad`s accusations as not true.
He said in part, "The administration has taken important steps to
ensure that the work requirement is retained. The welfare time limit is
another important feature of the 1996 act will not be waived. The Romney
ad is especially disappointing because as governor of Massachusetts, he
requested changes in the welfare reform laws that could have eliminated
time limits altogether."
Just what was the Romney campaign ad thinking waking up the big dog as
we call him?
Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The
Washington Post" and MSNBC analyst. And, of course, Jonathan Allen is a
senior "Washington Post" correspondent for "Politico".
Gentlemen, I guess there`s a strategy here and there`s a tactic. Bill
Clinton is not playing ball with these guys. I think Clinton wants Obama
re-elected for a lot of reasons especially for the possibility his wife may
become president some day. He sees no gain in a loss.
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: But it`s absolutely nothing in
it for Bill Clinton for Barack Obama to lose. Therefore, this is not going
to drive a wedge between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Clinton came out
immediately denouncing the ad, explaining that it`s all wrong.
And I think this will fire him up. I mean, you don`t want to wake up
the big dog. You don`t want to mess with bill. So I don`t get it. I
mean, I don`t get it as a --
MATTHEWS: This is what you want if you`re Bill Clinton. Dick Nixon
was nowhere in 1966, Johnson attacked him, called him a chronic campaigner.
Nixon goes on television with all kinds of RNC money and said, this is the
most savage attack by any politician in the history of American politics.
He gets all the P.R., he basically gets the nomination because Johnson
Here`s Bill Clinton. You want to get attacked by the other side.
JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICO: Well, Bill Clinton definitely wants to get
attacked by the other side. But this was an attack on Barack Obama. I do
think there`s some distance from Bill Clinton here. He`s got to go out and
defend Obama, particularly on this issue.
He`s got this huge speaking role at the convention.
MATTHEWS: Well, he signed the welfare bill.
ALLEN: He signed the welfare bill. But if you look at -- this came
out in New York when Bill Clinton was in Las Vegas, came out of his
foundation. For most reporters, they had to get it from the Obama campaign
or from somewhere else.
If you look at the language, it wasn`t about savageness. He said it`s
not true and I find it disappointing. That`s kind of tame for politics
MATTHEWS: He wants to be the guy who`s above it all, but he also
wants to support. He doesn`t want to be the attack dog, I agree.
ALLEN: He`s walking a fine line.
MATTHEWS: What do you think his point is?
ALLEN: Bill Clinton`s point in?
ALLEN: I think Bill Clinton`s point here is that Mitt Romney is wrong
about it. This is really complicated policy when you get down to it. The
real underlying problem here is there aren`t jobs for people who go from
welfare to work right now.
MATTHEWS: That`s what I keep thinking.
ALLEN: Not in Nevada and not --
MATTHEWS: You`re waiting in line, the welfare check, your relief
check, we used to call it, and you got to say, where do you go for that?
What subway ride do I take for that one?
ROBINSON: Exactly. You have to demonstrate that you`re looking for
work, but you`re not finding work. You`re not going to find a job these
MATTHEWS: Unemployment, you got (INAUDIBLE).
ALLEN: In 1996, you`re talking about an unemployment rate, what, 4
percent? You know, it was a lot easier to find a job.
And Bill Clinton wasn`t in favor of welfare reform at first. He
rejected the first couple efforts by the Republican Congress, and then
finally came to the table, cut a deal, spoke softly about the deal, so not
necessarily something Democrats love in the first place. They certainly
don`t love the way it`s working.
MATTHEWS: Look what Bill has done. By the way, I think he looks
healthy. People are talking about his health. I think he looks great.
He tied, by they way, his all-time favorability rating at a recent
Gallup poll. Look at these numbers, 66 percent of Americans have a
favorable rating of the former president, just 28 percent unfavorable.
That ties his all-time high when he went into office in `93.
So, that`s his inaugural number there, Gene.
ROBINSON: Yes, that`s a great number.
MATTHEWS: You know that tells you? Monica and all that stuff, it`s
amazing how you outlive it, you do good like he`s done, and it`s now maybe
in the tenth paragraph.
ROBINSON: People remember the 4 percent unemployment. People will
remember the growing economy, and the --
MATTHEWS: Why do the R`s afraid attack him? Why do they use him as
their favorite? They`re saying good things about the guy.
ROBINSON: No, because they`re going after the Reagan Democrats, the
folks who might have leaned Democratic at one point, maybe Reagan sort of
sliced them off. And the idea is to get those people back, to give them
permission not to vote for Barack Obama.
MATTHEWS: I know what he`s talking to. He`s talking about people of
average means, white people mainly because minorities are really in love
with Obama, appropriate historic, I understand that completely.
They`re going for working class white people mainly, in and around
Philadelphia and the more regular suburbs, not wealthy suburbs, same thing
around Pittsburgh, and the rural areas. If they can say this guy is
nothing like Bill Clinton, they can strip away some Clinton voters.
ALLEN: That`s right. They`re not attacking Bill Clinton at all.
They can read polling. They see 66 percent. They know what Hillary
Clinton is polling.
They want to associate themselves with Bill Clinton, the Republicans -
MATTHEWS: What happens if Bill Clinton stands up on the platform in
the burbs around (INAUDIBLE), place like that? What if he`s in Bucks
County a week before the election standing next to Obama, does that kill
ALLEN: I don`t know if kills their plan, but you know what? You`re
from Pennsylvania, you know this. Pennsylvania is not very much in play
for the Republicans this year as it has been the previous years.
MATTHEWS: This ditsy thing they`re doing with photo IDs I`m worried.
ROBINSON: That`s the only wild card. But, look, Bill Clinton, I
think, is going to play a bigger role than he might have played if they
hadn`t done the ad. I think it brings him out.
MATTHEWS: If Bill Clinton was going out, Gene, and just giving
speeches for money, he wouldn`t be the Clinton he is today. Clinton Global
Initiative has been spectacular.
ALLEN: Nobody can argue against going --
MATTHEWS: My kid worked over in Rwanda, working on AIDS, fighting
against AIDS. I mean, he`s doing so much good, he`s building a hotel, he`s
working down in Haiti. My wife is involved with that down there. He does
ROBINSON: And I think he`s going to say, look, you know, whatever you
think about Barack Obama, this guy Romney is not it. Romney is definitely
MATTHWEWS: I`d like to see him give the keynote address in Charlotte.
That would really be a barnburner.
ALLEN: Who did Joe Biden from the vice president`s spot for Bill
MATTHEWS: I know. He`s the big dog. He`s Elvis. He`s Bubba. He`s
Anyway, thank you, Gene Robinson. And thank you, Jonathan Allen.
When we return, let me finish with the bind actually Mitt Romney finds
himself in. He doesn`t know who he`s supposed to be. This is confusing.
This is a revolting development for this guy with his spokesman saying he`s
really for health care.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this. Jack Kennedy once said he
felt sorry for his presidential rival Dick Nixon because Nixon could never
decide who he really was. On every public occasion, he had to decide how
to present himself, in other words, which Nixon to be. Should he be the
high tone statesman or the rabid partisan? He always had to sweat that
decision right there before the Klieg lights.
Now, fast forward to today and today`s presidential rivalry. Imagine
how hard it is being Mitt Romney. Let`s see. Which one am I supposed to
be today? Am I the Tea Party champion, the hater of Obamacare, the
crusader bent on tearing down on the nation`s capital and tearing down
everything Obama built, starting with the terrible health care plan, based
on -- uh-oh -- based on my health care plan up in Massachusetts.
Well, you see the problem here. But if it`s hard being the candidate
who at least gets the call the shots day to day, imagine trying to be a
spokesperson for this guy. How would Andrea Saul know how much trouble she
would get into by saying today that the man in the latest Obama ad who lost
his wife to cancer after getting fired in a Bain Capital operation would
have gotten health care if he were living in Massachusetts. Did you hear
that? That poor fellow`s wife might be alive if the whole country had what
Mitt Romney built up in Massachusetts, that presumably the country would be
better off if they took the lead from what Mitt Romney had done up in Mass.
How would Ms. Saul to know that it`s not right to say what Mitt Romney
the candidate said years ago before he was a candidate, that the country
should take Massachusetts as a motto when it comes to health care? How
would she know that such a public admission is in the words of a late Nixon
So, what a day this has been, the day that we can salute the Romney
team and the person of Andrea Saul for saying what we have been saying here
at HARDBALL for a year. That the Mitt Romney Mitt Romney is selling is not
the Mitt Romney his chief spokesperson is now admitting to be the very same
Mitt Romney who government Massachusetts and did what his new friends keep
telling themselves he should never have done, which just happens to be
something he should be bragging about, not hiding under the bed.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"THE ED SHOW" with Ed Schultz starts right now.
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