October 16, 2012
Guests: Bob Shrum, Steve Israel, Jen Psaki, Maggie Haberman
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Battle stations.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews at Hofstra University in...
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: ... (INAUDIBLE) New York, site of the second presidential
"Let Me Start" with this. I don`t think there will be a more
important few minutes in this presidential campaign as important as those
coming tonight just after 9:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time. We will see a
spirited defense by Barack Obama of his four-year record, or we won`t. If
we see it, this election campaign will take a strong new life. If we
don`t, something historic will begin to die.
Obama has much to say in his defense. He inherited the economic
carnage of a recent Republican president, a catastrophic loss of jobs, a
collapse in the U.S. stock market, the death rattle of the auto industry.
He, Barack Obama, then brought a financial and economic collapse back from
the brink, changed the course of the economy from job destruction to job
creation, doubled the American stock market, saved the auto industry.
He did it all with a dramatic change of policy, a stimulus program
that varied 180 degrees from the austerity measures that have humbled
Europe, an intervention into the auto industry that reinvigorated an
industry that means more than jobs to Americans, it means pride.
Obama needs to make this defense. He needs to underline the fact that
his opponent and his party fought him every inch of the way -- on the
stimulus, on the auto industry, on health care, on equal pay for women --
and that it disagrees in fundamental ways on the future course of American
On health care, on Medicare, on Social Security, on equal pay for
women, he has got to both defend and hold his opponent accountable for his
and his party`s obstructionism from the first day he took office. It is a
tall order, one worthy of an American president in a troubling but still
I`m joined by New York magazine`s John Heilemann, Joan Walsh with
Salon and David Corn with "Mother Jones." It`s an honor to be with you
guys tonight. It`s an important night, maybe the most important night of
this whole election season and cycle.
Joan -- let me show you some polls to everybody, first of all. The
new "USA Today" Gallup poll has some troubling numbers for Chicago. That`s
Obama. Take a look. Among likely female voters in swing states -- likely
female voters in swing states -- the president`s lead has almost
evaporated. It`s a virtual dead heat now. He`s got a 1-point technical
advantage, 49 to 48. This is among women in these states.
Joan, my contention was that he never made the case to women in the
first debate. What do you think?
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He didn`t. He didn`t
make the case to women in the first debate. It was campaign malpractice,
Chris. He didn`t -- Biden didn`t make the case in the second debate.
This is his crucial -- maybe his most crucial asset next to African-
Americans as his base is the women`s vote, and he could have taken it to
him on Lilly Ledbetter and equal pay. You do not support equal pay for
He could have taken it to him on "Obama care." Arguably, the most
important thing about "Obama care" is that it means that being a woman is
no longer a pre-existing condition. We have contraceptive...
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
WALSH: Yay! We have contraception. See? That`s the line.
MATTHEWS: See, women hear you and they didn`t hear him the other
night. Look at this...
MATTHEWS: ... let me show you how extreme it is.
WALSH: I mean, women want to be brought into this race, and they`re
not doing anything to do it.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: I think he`s failed to point out the true extremism of his
MATTHEWS: Not just Paul Ryan. Romney`s running mate, Ryan, has an
extreme position on abortion rights. He co-sponsored a bill with Todd
Akin, of all people, that said human life begins at fertilization. He
tried to soften his language in last week`s debate, but just barely. Take
a look at what he says.
Here`s Paul Ryan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I believe that life
begins at conception. That`s why those are the reasons why I`m pro-life.
Now, I understand this is a difficult issue and I respect people who don`t
agree with me on this, but the policy of a Romney administration will be to
oppose abortion with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: David Corn, it`s an extraordinary statement. "I respect
other people`s opinion," I`m going to ignore them and outlaw it.
DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right!
MATTHEWS: And I`m going to criminalize it because I want to give 14th
Amendment rights to the fetus the second after conception.
MATTHEWS: 14th Amendment rights to life, liberty and -- what does it
mean to give property rights to a fetus at conception?
WALSH: At conception.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, the Republican platform is just as extreme in
regards to abortion. Again, listen to what the official position of the
party is. "We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and
endorse legislation to make the 14th Amendment`s protections apply to
This makes abortion murder, in effect, and they have gone this far,
and they have been able to get by it in two debates now. This president
better call them on that tonight, I think.
CORN: For the last two years, Obama had a game plan, make this
election about a choice. There are lots of choices, not just in foreign
policy, on abortion, on economics, on education, do you want Pell grants or
don`t want Pell grants, choice, choice, choice.
He did none of that, really, in the first debate. So when people
start asking him questions tonight, he`s going to have to address the
average voters` concerns in those questions, but you have to come back
again and again, You have a choice to make here, and outline it in very
stark terms on abortion, and don`t let Romney just say, I`m better than
Barack Obama. He`s going to have to find a way to tether Mitt Romney to
his positions, past, present, those of Ryan, those of his party...
MATTHEWS: ... let`s get to this point, John Heilemann. You cover
this campaign. You`ve written great books about this kind of campaign.
How can a president and his vice president skip the issue that for many
women is the issue, the right to choose, just skip it?
JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don`t
HEILEMANN: I don`t know. And look, I -- I think there`s a bigger
thing that the president has to do that actually gets to a broad -- all of
these issues, right? In Denver, he did not look like he wanted to continue
to be president.
HEILEMANN: He didn`t look like he wanted to fight for the job. You
know, there`s a reason why Bill Clinton and a lot of great strategists over
the years, probably people you`ve worked with, have said you got to be a
happy warrior. And that means two different things. The optimistic
candidate always wins. And the one who`s fighting, fighting for all of
their constituencies and fighting for themselves, right? That is what
Obama did not do in Denver. He did not fight. He did not fight...
MATTHEWS: Did somebody tell him not to talk about women`s issues?
Did somebody say, on the larger issue you just raised, Don`t talk about the
auto industry? He didn`t. Don`t talk about what you`ve done to the
economy. You got it down from double digits. You got the stock market
doubled. You`ve done this. Say so! If you don`t toot your own horn,
nobody else will!
WALSH: I don`t know what...
MATTHEWS: Doesn`t anybody tell him this stuff?
WALSH: I don`t know what they told him.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, the president needs to stand up for his record, I
believe, of his accomplishments. And those include -- let`s go through
them again, Mr. President, if you`re watching -- saving the auto industry,
which resulted in over 100,000 jobs being created. The president brought
the economy back from the brink.
In the first half of 2009, the country was losing over half a million
jobs a month. Thank you, Republican Party. He brought the unemployment
rate down to 7.8 percent, when it was in double digits. That rate, as I
said, peaked at over 10 percent in October of 2009, when he basically just
came in. And of course, the president`s gutsy decision resulting in the
death of Osama bin Laden.
Is he allowed -- his campaign released a great new ad, by the way. I
want to watch this ad. This is my favorite ad -- don`t do "USA Today,"
right now, OK?
Let`s watch this Morgan Freeman ad because it`s the best ad of the
WALSH: It`s a great ad.
MATTHEWS: ... on either side. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: Every president inherits challenges. Few have
faced so many. Four years later, our enemies have been brought to justice.
Our heroes are coming home. Assembly lines are humming again. There are
still challenges to meet, children to educate, a middle class to rebuild.
But the last thing we should do is turn back now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, and it is about that. No, that is -- this is an
objective fact. Romney is basically offering "W" recooked.
MATTHEWS: He`s basically saying laissez faire on health care, back to
the emergency room. He`s saying even further, Let`s go to vouchers on
Medicare. He`s saying, Leave the market alone, Don`t intervene in the auto
industry and places like that.
MATTHEWS: Let it ride. The old tax cuts for the rich, otherwise let
it ride. That isn`t new. That isn`t an alternative. That is not change.
CORN: But the problem that you`re talking about tonight is a problem
this White House has had for a long time. After the November 2010
shellacking, how did they explain it? The president said this, his aides
said this, We weren`t good at selling our accomplishments. We weren`t good
at selling our policies. They took pride in the stimulus, they took pride
in passing "Obama care," but they acknowledged they lost the battle for
And that`s exactly where we are today. You run down that list...
MATTHEWS: Well, who told them? Is there a pollster out there, Joan,
CORN: And they`re just not doing this.
MATTHEWS: ... Don`t even brag slightly, don`t even say we`re in the
right direction, be humble pie? That`s not working.
WALSH: I don`t think any -- I don`t think anybody told them that. I
mean, I think it was important to him not to look arrogant, not to sneer,
not to look like he was too good to be there. But actually, what happened
was that he did look like he thought he was too good to be there and he
didn`t have to engage.
I also think he doesn`t like Mitt Romney. I think that part of his
inability to look at him and his...
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s do that part. We`re going to do the theatrics
right now. We`re going to do the dumb part of politics.
WALSH: But it`s not dumb!
MATTHEWS: Could it be he can`t stand looking at the guy?
WALSH: He can`t stand to look at him. I`m looking...
HEILEMANN: Yes, but David`s point is right, though. I mean, it`s
systematically -- why would he suddenly start to be able to sell his
accomplishments well on this debate stage, when he hasn`t done a good job
of selling them for three-and-a-half years?
WALSH: But he has, John! Wait a second.
HEILEMANN: He has not done a good job of selling...
WALSH: Ever since he got his butt kicked in the debt ceiling debacle,
he`s been much better. He`s been much better at pushing the line...
CORN: You`re both right!
WALSH: That`s David Corn.
CORN: No, seriously, he had a terrible -- they learned from...
MATTHEWS: Are you from CNN or...
CORN: They learned from the November 2010 election, and they did
HEILEMANN: Marginally better.
CORN: The moment that he had...
WALSH: I`d say much better.
MATTHEWS: ... Candy Crowley will say that tonight. Hi, I`m Candy
Crowley. Both you guys are both right. Let`s move on.
MATTHEWS: ... seriously though, I thought when I`m studying Ronald
Reagan and really trying to figure out how good he was at what he did...
MATTHEWS: It`s the old rule of speech making -- you tell them what
you`re going to tell them, you tell them, then you tell them who you told
MATTHEWS: You sell them the product by pre-marketing. They buy it.
Then you tell them what a great decision they made. And you do it over and
over and over again until they finally, finally buy what you bought (SIC)
after the fact.
HEILEMANN: But there`s a...
MATTHEWS: And he didn`t ever do it.
HEILEMANN: But there`s another problem, though, which is -- again, to
go back to a point David made about the choice, right? If you say, We`re
going to make a choice. This is about visions and values and policies.
The problem -- a lot of the problem has been the president`s very good at
defining Mitt Romney as being a throwback, as you said, to the Bush
administration, but there`s got to be an alternative. The alternative is,
What is the president`s plan for the next four years? Where is the
MATTHEWS: More jobs program, more stimulus programs.
HEILEMANN: Well, not laid out in any -- with any kind of -- there`s
very little that voters -- that undecided voters can sink their teeth into
and say, This is what Obama is going to do in the next four years. This
MATTHEWS: Why is he saying -- a lot of us...
HEILEMANN: These are people who aren`t sold on him!
MATTHEWS: Why isn`t he saying rebuild America? Why doesn`t he say,
We`re going to put rail in, we`re going to build high-speed...
CORN: Innovate, infrastructure, education...
MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t he say that?
WALSH: Right. Why doesn`t he bring out his infrastructure plan? Why
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what he`d like to do, it seems.
WALSH: Right. He`s got plans.
MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t he say it?
WALSH: He`s got a jobs bill. He`s got plans to rebuild
manufacturing. I don`t know why he didn`t say it. I really don`t know.
All I can hope is that he knows how badly he did, and I think he does.
CORN: Look at all the ground -- we`ve just described about 20
different things he has to do tonight.
MATTHEWS: No, no, no, no, no, no. Don`t complicate it. We have said
he has to offer a spirited defense of his record.
CORN: And also talk about where he wants to go...
CORN: ... and also define Mitt Romney. You know, these are, like,
MATTHEWS: Yes, OK.
CORN: ... major components, while addressing the individual
questions, while Mitt Romney only has to come out there and say, I will do
better. He doesn`t care about his policy. He doesn`t have to defend his
specifics. If he`s called on it, he just doesn`t tell the truth. So the
president will be juggling, and the other guy will be...
MATTHEWS: It`s his job description.
HEILEMANN: And it`s also a position he put himself in.
CORN: I know.
HEILEMANN: I mean, this is the corner he`s backed himself into. It`s
nobody`s fault but his.
WALSH: I hope he likes playing comeback ball because that`s what he`s
doing. But he can do it. Unless that...
MATTHEWS: OK, first 10 minutes tonight, first 10 -- is it important?
WALSH: Yes. Listen, I...
MATTHEWS: A lot of people were saying the first 10 minutes...
WALSH: I want to say...
CORN: It`s all important. It`s all important.
MATTHEWS: First 10 minutes?
CORN: He needs to set a tone for the whole night when he comes out...
HEILEMANN: But the questions that -- because this is a town hall
debate, the questions are going to come throughout the entire hour-and-a-
half, and the big -- whatever that question is that could be a game-
changer, that could -- either one of them evoke a response that is the
moment -- that could come an hour and 20 minutes in.
MATTHEWS: Like the "Are you better off" question.
HEILEMANN: Well, or -- or...
HEILEMANN: ... challenge to either one of them. One of his
supporters, Obama`s, saying, I`m really deeply disappointed in you. Tell
me why I should believe in you again. Someone challenging Romney on the 47
percent. I work every day, but I`m in the working poor and I get the
Earned Income Tax Credit so I don`t pay the income taxes. Am I a moocher?
What is Romney going to say to that? How`s he going to react in that human
moment? That could come in the first 10 minutes or...
MATTHEWS: If you show up there in the crowd, I`m not going to give
MATTHEWS: I don`t know that guy. He looks like a regular person out
WALSH: I think he`s also got to find a way -- if we get -- if Mitt
gets up there and it`s the six studies and it`s all the lies and My tax
plan isn`t really factual, he`s got to figure out a way...
MATTHEWS: I think it`s the first two minutes.
WALSH: ... to fact-check him.
CORN: He has to call him out.
MATTHEWS: I say it`s the first few minutes. People are watching the
Yankees from 8:00 to 9:00. They`re going to tune this at 9:00. They`ll be
a little late, but they`re going to be looking to see the tone of it. If
it looks like the guy`s getting beaten again, they`re going to back to the
HEILEMANN: Well, that`s...
MATTHEWS: Thank you, John Heilemann. Thank you, Joan Walsh, and
David Corn. The guys agree it`s baseball first if this guy blows it.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: Mitt Romney seems comfortable running a campaign
of misstatements, clearly fuzzy math, total vagueness. Two weeks ago, the
president failed to effectively challenge him, call him on some of this
unbelievable stuff, like the idea of his health care plan, which some --
and it doesn`t even exist, his health care plan, by the way -- would cover
preexisting conditions. How does nothing cover anything? We`ll take those
claims up in just a moment.
Also, Hillary Clinton took some heat off the White House last night
when she said that she, as the secretary of state, not the president, was
responsible for the lack of security in Benghazi, where the U.S. ambassador
was killed last month.
Republicans are trying to make this a major political attack against
the president. They`ll probably do it again tonight. If they fail, the
president owes a lot of thanks, of course, once again, to the secretary of
state, Hillary Clinton.
Plus, heading into the debates, the president had a clear lead in the
polls. That`s changed, and we now have a very, very tight race. In fact,
it`s even. If the president loses next month, historians will almost
certainly look at the debates as the key reason. One thing is clear, the
stakes couldn`t be higher tonight for President Obama. This is the most
important, I think, half hour of the election tonight.
And "Let Me Finish" with this heavyweight battle coming up tonight.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics, live from Hofstra
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: We`re back at Hofstra University at the second presidential
debate. We don`t want to (INAUDIBLE) By the way, let`s listen to this for
a minute, every time you say "Hofstra" here.
But there were times in that last debate matchup that President Obama
did leave Romney`s questionable and at times flat-out incorrect statements
unanswered. Well, tonight, we`re going to look at a few from the last
debate and what the president has got to do now this time around tonight at
And we`ll look at some of the Republican positions, particularly on
abortion rights, where the president needs to make sure voters see the
clear distinction between his Democratic and the Republican platform
positions. They`re very different.
Maggie Haberman is a senior political reporter for Politico and Bob
Shrum is a Democratic strategist out in LA. Thank you both.
Well, anyway, the biggest Romney assertion that went unanswered -- and
I think it`s totally un-honest, dishonest -- in the last debate had to do
with coverage for what we call pre-existing conditions, when you have a
heart problem, you have a cancer of some kind, and you try to get insurance
and it`s impossible. Well, now under "Romney care," (SIC) it is doable.
The other guy says -- Romney says he`ll do the same. That`s what he says.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM LEHRER, PBS, DEBATE MODERATOR: Let`s let the governor explain
what you would do if "Obama care" is repealed. How would you replace it?
MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, actually -
- actually, it`s -- it`s -- it`s a lengthy description -- description. But
number one, pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan. Number two,
young people are able to stay on their family plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I was stunned when I heard that. I couldn`t believe he
just said a bald-faced lie, and I never say that. (INAUDIBLE) you know how
we know it wasn`t honest? That night, by the way, later on, the person
working for him, Eric Fehrnstrom, came out and put the real statement out.
Here it comes. Here comes -- he actually admitted that Romney`s plan to
cover everyone with pre-existing conditions wasn`t as cut-and-dried as
Romney suggested in the debate.
Fehrnstrom said -- quote -- "With respect to preexisting conditions,
what Governor Romney has -- has said is for those with continuous coverage,
he would continue to make sure that they receive their coverage. We`d like
to see states do what Massachusetts did. In Massachusetts, we have a ban
on preexisting conditions."
Anyway, here`s the story, Maggie. He lied. He said something which
twice now -- he said on the weekend -- one of the weekend shows. I think
it was "Meet the Press" -- we covered -- that night, the guy who works for
him, Fehrnstrom, says that`s not true.
He must know he can continue to say things on national television in
debates that aren`t true.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICO: Well, see, this is the problem, right, in
terms of President Obama and his supporters having said the fault was Jim
Lehrer and he wasn`t moderating appropriately.
Obama is going to have to -- if he feels that Mitt Romney is saying
things that are not right or not true or misrepresentative of his
positions, it`s the candidate`s job to make that case. I know you talked
about this earlier in the show. That is going to be something I suspect
you will see President Obama hit very hard tonight.
This is a key issue. This is something that -- as you said, this has
been twice now the governor made the statement and one of his aides walked
it back. I think the president will address this in full.
MATTHEWS: You know, Shrum, Bob Shrum, that`s always been a weakness
of television, local or national, and the advantage of print. Print the
next day does a very good job or the second day of clearing up the facts.
Television is live and phenomenal, and rarely do you find an anchor or
a host or a moderator with the whatever it takes to say, whoa, I know that
fact, and you`re wrong. It`s a factual thing you`re getting wrong there.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That`s why Maggie is absolutely
right. The president has got to do it in the debate.
It wasn`t -- it wouldn`t have been a hard lift to look at Romney and
say, what are you talking about? You cover preexisting conditions for
people who already have coverage. What good is that? That`s not the
But I don`t think when the president enters into this kind of argument
that it should be purely defensive. I think he should then take it on and
really lay out the differences between him and Romney on health care more
broadly, seniors paying $600 more on prescription drugs, for example.
MATTHEWS: Escalate, say, by the way, you say the emergency room. I
say health care. That`s the big difference.
SHRUM: That`s exactly right.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, tonight, President Obama needs to make clear where
the Republican Party stands and the opposing ticket stands on abortion
He should hammer home these lines of the Republican platform that
calls for -- quote -- this is what the Republican platform just agreed to,
a human life amendment to the Constitution and supports legislation to --
quote -- "make clear that the 14th Amendment protections apply to the
unborn children," in effect declaring abortion murderous, because you`re
saying this is a person with the rights of the 14th Amendment, life,
liberty, and property, whatever that means for a fetus, and anybody that
kills that person is a killer.
Now, they don`t seem to want to admit that. And then Romney comes on
and gives this blah, blah, blah about all we will do is get rid of Roe v.
Wade and throw it back to the states. But then they`re for outlawing it in
MATTHEWS: They want it in the Constitution.
HABERMAN: Right. This is an issue where Romney actually is not
completely in synch with the party platform. And I suspect if this does
come up, that will be one of his pushbacks, but Romney, remember...
MATTHEWS: Well, Ryan is.
HABERMAN: Ryan is more conservative than Romney.
MATTHEWS: Ryan support the personhood amendment, exactly the same
And Ryan actually said something in the debate last week with Joe
Biden that I suspect you will hear more of. Joe Biden has been pushing it
on the trail, which was about abortion rights. I think this is going to be
something where the president is going to...
MATTHEWS: No, I`m sorry, Maggie, you`re missing a point.
HABERMAN: Tell me.
MATTHEWS: And I missed it, too.
Eric Fehrnstrom -- Andrea Saul this time did the same darn thing, the
same damn thing. Romney said that he doesn`t have any legislation in his
agenda dealing with abortion. She comes out and said, he`s pro-life, he`s
pro-life, he`s pro-life.
HABERMAN: And the next day, Romney went back and said actually we
will defund Planned Parenthood. And that is what I think...
MATTHEWS: Yes, OK.
Shrum, again, the cleanup crew comes in a few hours later, covers up
the problem, but it`s too late because the big audience got it in the next
day`s paper or they got it on the tube that night in the evening news.
SHRUM: Yes. Well, that`s why the president`s got to do this and he`s
got to do it in the debate.
He`s got to do it on the issue of choice. He`s got to do it on a
whole range of women`s issues, including equal pay, for example, and Lilly
Ledbetter, which Paul Ryan voted against. He`s got to do it on
immigration. I think those questions are going to come up because so far
what we had in that first debate especially were questions that older white
men kind of focus on.
I think we`re going to get questions from the real America tonight,
and they`re going to range beyond those kinds of issues to fundamental
questions like how we treat women, how we treat immigrants, how we treat
minorities and whether we`re going to have an equal society.
MATTHEWS: I hope they`re good questions. I hope they`re wide open.
I hope they`re not the problem revolves around my brother-in-law
MATTHEWS: In the last debate, Romney made a promise about taxes and
middle-income families that have proven impossible to fulfill. It`s
flimflam, if you will.
And that`s not what they`re really offering. Let`s listen to some
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will not under any
circumstances raise taxes on middle-income families. I will lower taxes on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Maggie, you`re the expert.
The people who compute this stuff say you cannot cut all the top --
all the rates down by 20 percent and not have to deal with big cuts and
deductions for regular people.
And this has been an ongoing issue in terms of what independent issue
studies have said vs. what Mitt Romney has said. I think Mitt Romney will
again repeat that.
The challenge for Romney, two things -- if the president pushes him
the way I think he will because on the middle-class tax cut, that`s a key
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, here is the president trying to do just that,
unmask the flimflam here. Let`s watch the president take an effort.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the fact is that if
you are lowering the rates the way you described, Governor, then it is not
possible to come up with enough deductions and loopholes that only affect
high-income individuals to avoid either raising the deficit or burdening
the middle class. It`s -- it`s math. It`s arithmetic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Bob, here I wouldn`t go into the weeds here, for the
simple reason -- I know you want to make the fight here, and you have made
it tonight. The trouble is he will cite his six studies that all say that
he and Gillespie and Reince Priebus and everybody has been bandying about
saying, I`m right, you`re wrong. And what does the public do watching
television? How do they know who to believe?
SHRUM: Well, I think the president is going to reference the six
studies or go after Romney on the six studies which are mostly flimflam
from what Gillespie calls right-leaning think tanks.
But I have been thinking about this, and I suspect the president may
do something Biden did in that vice presidential debate. When Biden looked
into the camera and said, folks, who do you really trust on Medicare,he did
exactly the right thing.
SHRUM: And the president could say, who do you really trust on this
issue, those of us who have been fighting to cut middle-class taxes or
those who have been holding middle-class tax cuts hostage to tax cuts for
people at the top?
I think that would be a very effective technique. And I think the
president has got to use it either in terms of talking to members of the
audience or looking into that camera and talking to America.
MATTHEWS: Yes. We got to go.
And the bigger point is, are you going to trust the party that never
believed in Social Security in the first place, never believed in Medicare
in the first place, or the ones that created it?
Anyway, Maggie Haberman, it`s great to have you on.
HABERMAN: Thank you, sir.
MATTHEWS: You`re always right.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Bob Shrum.
SHRUM: Thank you. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next: more from Hempstead, New York, the home of Hofstra
University, and our coverage of the second presidential debate.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: This is great.
MATTHEWS: This is HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We`re back at the site of tonight`s big presidential
debate. We want to hear from the people here at Hofstra University.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Every time.
What do you want to see tonight? What do you want to hear?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want both of the candidates to talk about
poverty. Lyndon Johnson started a war on poverty back in the 1960s. And I
feel it`s being virtually ignored now. Both candidates aren`t mentioning
it. It`s a lot of mention of the middle class. We need to focus on
poverty and the poorest people in this country as well.
MATTHEWS: Great. Thank you.
Miss, what do you want to hear?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want them to talk about what they`re going to
do about the troops, bringing them home and...
MATTHEWS: You want to come home from Afghanistan?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, definitely.
Sir, what do you want to hear tonight?
What do you want to hear tonight?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to hear more about the personhood
amendments and how Romney...
MATTHEWS: Are you concerned about that bill that basically says you
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am very -- I am very concerned about.
MATTHEWS: You`re pro-choice?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m very pro-choice.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to hear about education costs and what`s
going to happen...
MATTHEWS: Are you on student loans?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I`m on student loans.
MATTHEWS: What kind of rate do you pay? Do you know?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not sure yet, but when I graduate, I`m going to
need a job to pay those student loans. And if I don`t have a job, I don`t
how I`m going to pay those student loans.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well said. I have heard that before.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to hear Obama speak about what he`s
going to do for women who feel they can be pro-choice loud and clear for
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.
You ready for -- what do you want to hear?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I also want to hear about student loans. Like,
this school isn`t the cheapest in the world.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like, it`s a lot of money and I want to know --
I want to feel confident that when I leave, it`s not going to take forever
and an arm and a leg to pay back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
They`re talking about Libya and everything. I want to hear what
they`re saying about Haiti that -- and which they never say -- because now
people are dying.
MATTHEWS: What do you want the president, the candidates to do?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To do -- because now they have to give the
proper aid to Haiti.
MATTHEWS: OK. Fine. Thank you.
And who is the next person?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to see if Romney is going to flip-flop
MATTHEWS: Oh, you want to see if Romney is going to flip-flop again,
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to see them actually talk about LGBT
issues because we haven`t seen them talk about that at all.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I specifically don`t want to hear them just
talk about gay marriage. It`s only one small part of the issue.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, we will see if either does.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to hear about women`s issues. I want to
hear them explicitly discussed because they haven`t been yet.
MATTHEWS: Are you upset that in the last two debates, with the Romney
debate and the Biden debate, nothing about women?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, they have been completely glossed over.
MATTHEWS: OK. I agree with you completely.
We are going to be back. This debate is getting close. We will be
We will come back in about an hour-and-a-half for you guys.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: We will be back with more people later -- HARDBALL back in
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Amanda Drury with your CNBC
Well, the Dow surging 127 points today, the S&P adding 15 and the
Nasdaq up by 37. Well, Citigroup shares gained more than 1 percent after
the announcement that the CEO, Vikram Pandit, is leaving the company.
Elsewhere, Goldman Sachs reporting third-quarter earnings and revenue that
exceeded estimates. And Apple is hosting an event on the 23rd, where it is
widely expected to unveil an iPad mini and other smaller devices. Their
invitation reads, "We have got a little more to show you."
That is it from CNBC. We`re first in business worldwide -- now it`s
back over to HARDBALL.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL live from Hofstra University for
the second presidential debate.
After mounting Republican criticism of the four American deaths in
Libya in September 11, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last night said
that she ultimately is responsible for the safety of American diplomats.
Here she was on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I take
responsibility. I`m in charge of the State Department, 60,000 plus people
all over the world, 275 posts.
The president and the vice president certainly wouldn`t be
knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security
professionals. They`re the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks
and the needs and make a considered decision.
And what I want to avoid is some kind of political gotcha or blame
game going on because that does a disservice to the thousands and thousands
of Americans not only in the State Department and USAID, but in the
military, who serve around the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, this comes -- her statement comes as "The New York
Times` reported again today that witnesses and participants on 9/11 told
their Libya reporter that they -- that day that they were acting as a
result of an American-produced video, you know, the movie made in L.A., and
they didn`t bring up al Qaeda to the reporter.
Well, Hillary Clinton`s taken some of the heat off President Obama,
but he also most come out early in the debate, I believe, and strongly
defend his administration`s response to the attack.
U.S. Congressman Steve Israel is chairman of the Democratic
Congressional Campaign Committee. And Jen Psaki is the traveling press
secretary of the Obama campaign.
Let me go to Jen on this.
You`re the official spokesperson. It seems to me that it was a murky
situation. There was a combination, according to "The New York Times," of
protesters who were angry about the video and local terrorists. What`s the
case being made that that isn`t the case? If that`s not the case, what is
JEN PSAKI, OBAMA CAMPAIGN TRAVELING PRESS SECRETARY: Well, Chris,
look, as information is becoming available, the administration is making
that available to the American people.
This is a case where no one wants to get to the bottom of this more
than President Obama, more than Secretary Clinton. And that`s what they`re
focused on every day, because he ultimately...
MATTHEWS: Aren`t we at the bottom of it? What`s complicated now? It
was a combination of protesters angry about a video and a group of local
terrorists who saw an opportunity.
PSAKI: Well, look, I think it`s a case -- I obviously don`t work for
the national security team. It`s a case where they`re continuing to
There`s an FBI, a congressional investigation going on right now.
But, ultimately, look, there`s only one political party and one candidate
who is making this a political issue. And that`s unfortunate.
MATTHEWS: Well, I wouldn`t take that -- I`m independent. Let me just
tell you what I think. Stop saying there`s an independent commission
looking at this. People are going to say, when are you going to have your
report, after the election?
That`s what I would thinking if I was on the other...
PSAKI: As soon as it becomes available, the American people will be
the first one to know.
MATTHEWS: No, no. What it sounds like is, the report is coming out
after the election. That`s what it sounds like.
Congressman, what`s the right way to deal with this in tonight`s
debate? That`s the biggest question.
REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: You say -- the president says, we
need accountability, we need transparency, and we need responsibility.
But, fundamentally, this election, when it comes to national security
and foreign policy, is about, has the president made us safer? Has he made
us more secure? This is a president who made the tough choice to eliminate
Osama bin Laden. This is the president who
REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: But fundamentally, this election,
when it comes to national security and foreign policy, is about -- has the
president made us safer? Has he made us more secure?
This is a president who made the tough choice to eliminate Osama bin
Laden. This is the president who ended the war in Iraq.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: But what about Libya?
ISRAEL: And this is a president who is winding down in Afghanistan.
We`re on Long Island, you know, my hometown.
MATTHEWS: But what about Libya? They`re going to say, well, you`re
dodging the question. You`re changing the topic. You got to answer it
directly I think and boldly and finally tonight. Finally say where it
stands. It looks like a combination of events were occurring.
What do you have to know?
JEN PSAKI, OBAMA CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: Look, I think the
president is going to make an evaluation based on information that`s
gathered and he`s not going to jump the gun on that.
MATTHEWS: When is he going to do it?
PSAKI: He`s focused on it every day as is his team. I think, Chris,
the important point here is that, you know, this is something --
MATTHEWS: You know that Biden lost the debate on this issue the
other night. On that point, he was his weakest.
PSAKI: Biden said what was true and what Secretary Clinton said,
which is that she received the request and that`s where those type of
requests land and where they`re denied or approved. Biden had a pretty
fired up debate.
MATTHEWS: What do I find it so unsatisfactory? Because it reminds
me of the kind of kernel issue that gets blown up to the biggest thing in
the world right before an election and becomes a symbol of weakness and
incompetence. And unless you straighten it out now and hit this at the
butt and say something strong tonight, I don`t think you get away with it.
Anyway, last night, Secretary Clinton previewed the big debate
tonight. Let`s hear what she had to say.
(BEGIIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC NEWS)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think he`ll do fine. I think
he just has to get out there and talk about what he`s done for the country
and what he wants to do for the next four years. You know, I am out of
politics but I care deeply about what happens to the country that I love
and that I have served. And I think that he will do fine in explaining
what needs to happen next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: One of the fun things to worry about besides Libya, which
is not fun, it`s a tragedy, is watching that two Clintons as they do the
two cops, not good cop/bad cop. Bill Clinton is as randy for this
presidential campaign to get over so he can get into the one he`s really
interested in, his wife running for president.
She actually does ask diffident, like she hasn`t decided about
Your thoughts, Congressman? You know here. You served with her in
ISRAEL: I don`t know what her plans are, but I`ll say this, it`s
appropriate that this debate is on Long Island. This is the home of the
undecided voter, the defiantly independent suburban voter, the Bucks County
moderate voter. And tonight, the president will win the debate when he
talks about policies that he`s pursuing to reignite the middle class, as
opposed to Mitt Romney who is trying to take Medicare away from the middle
He needs to focus on talking about how we need to stop giving big
corporations tax incentives to outsource jobs and instead give middle class
families some incentives to send their kids to college. On those
fundamental middle class issues, this president has performed.
Mitt Romney is talking about protecting tax breaks for millionaires.
This president is talking about protecting Medicare. And when he make that
is case, he wins, the middle class wins, and that`s why it`s so fitting
that this debate is here on Long Island.
MATTHEWS: To that point, Latest polling we got from Quinnipiac today
in my home state, where I grew up, Pennsylvania. We`re -- well, the
Democrats are losing the working class, non-college people, especially
PSAKI: Well, look --
MATTHEWS: Why is that happening?
PSAKI: There`s a lot of polls outs there about Pennsylvania and most
of them have us up by a few points.
MATTHEWS: Four, that isn`t a lot.
PSAKI: Look, Chris, I think across the country, working people are
looking at the choice between them. They`re looking at, you know, the
president`s fighting for middle class families --
MATTHEWS: Why were they shifting away in the last few days?
PSAKI: I don`t buy into a lot of numbers in some of these polls.
MATTHEWS: So the polls you like, you like and the ones you don`t
like, you don`t like.
PSAKI: No, no, there`s a lot of state polls out there. There`s a
lot of national polls.
PSAKI: We don`t get too whipped up and down with every poll that
comes out. Ultimately, it`s about the argument you`re making on the
ground. Tonight, as Congressman Israel said, is a good opportunity for the
president to say to people at home why he`s a better fighter for them.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s agree on something. I think Bill Clinton
should spend the last two weekends with the president campaigning through
Youngstown, Pittsburgh, Norfolk, the gritty areas of the key states.
ISRAEL: With House Democrats.
MATTHEWS: With House Democrats. We agree. They should be together
out there holding their hands in the air.
PSAKI: What about the other places President Clinton could reach and
engage them while the president is in other places?
MATTHEWS: I put them together.
PSAKI: Two birds.
MATTHEWS: They got to look like a team. I disagree. Don`t divide
Anyway, thank you, U.S. -- well, you decide, I watch. Anyway, thank
you, U.S. Congressman Steve Israel, a fighting Democrat for the DNC --
DCCC, of Long Island actually.
ISRAEL: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: And thank you, Jen Psaki of the Obama campaign.
Up next, it`s do or die time for the president.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics live from Hofstra.
MATTHEWS: We`re back at Hofstra University for the second
presidential debate coming up at 9:00 Eastern in a few hours. We`ll see
what round two of the presidential debate looks like. A lot of Americans
will make up their minds not long after the town hall style question and
answer gets under way. Could just a half hour tonight decide who our next
president for four or even eight years be?
With me now is MSNBC host Martin Bashir, who`s my great preview every
night. And MSNBC political analyst, "Bloomberg View" columnist, the great
historian Jonathan Alter.
Jonathan, I just want to ask you -- we`ll do it your way, you know,
as a historian -- tonight`s importance.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hugely important.
Sometimes the seventh game of the World Series is the big one, sometimes
it`s the sixth game.
This is the big contest, as they used to say in the 1950s, for all
the marbles. But it`s not just about which man becomes president. It
truly is about the direction of the country.
If you need health insurance and Mitt Romney wins and Obamacare is
repealed, you`re going to get sicker faster. More people are going to die
for lack of health insurance depending on the outcome of this election.
Student loans, the Ryan/Romney plan, massive cuts in student loans.
A lot of people won`t be able to go to college if this election goes in a
Medical and scientific research -- they can`t make their numbers
without deep cuts in that.
ALTER: A lot is on the line. Real people`s lives are on the line.
And then you have the reputation of our first African-American
president. If he loses this debate tonight, and if he loses, he`ll lose
the election, it will be the humiliation of a historic figure. That`s a
major pivot point --
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s one thing I`m glad somebody brought up. I`m
not going to say it`s the only thing that matters in this election. But
there`s been some slimy aspects of this election, on the crazy right moving
into the center right. People like Trump talking about the president being
from another country, in Africa, and monkeying around, phrases like that,
food stamp president -- the kind of language that works with some people.
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: The rhetoric has been nonstop.
MATTHEWS: I think it`s going to be a bad backlash if the president
loses and that`s in people`s memory bank.
BASHIR: Of course it is.
But the president has two burdens today. He has to paint two
pictures. He`s actually two artists. He has to paint and define his own
four years, the substantive achievements that mark that.
MATTHEWS: Yes, yes.
BASHIR: And then he has to paint down his opponent, who so far has
been something like a ghost.
As I follow this, it`s been like a circus. The president looks
behind, the audience says he`s behind you, you turn around, he`s
BASHIR: We don`t know who this man is. It`s incumbent upon the
president to paint both those portraits.
And I think if he does that with definition and with clarity, but
there`s no doubt this man, the president, has the intellect and the vocal
and articulate skills to be able to do it. That`s how he wins the debate.
MATTHEWS: It`s a strange situation --
BASHIR: That`s not the same burden for Romney.
MATTHEWS: But just think about the case they`re going into tonight.
You got a moderator, a strong moderator, I think -- Candy Crowley from CNN,
who apparently is going to follow up. So, it`s going to be a little bit
like "Meet the Press," the Sunday show. It`s going to be a bit of that.
It`s also going to be a bit of personal chemistry.
MATTHEWS: You know, it`s a bit of that.
And then it`s a bit of using every Q&A opportunity to expand the
message that you just used, I`ve been successful, this guy`s trouble.
ALTER: So, Romney`s challenge is two-fold. He has to relate --
remember, this is a guy who has trouble relating to average people. So, he
needs to get over that barrier. He has to relate and he has to obfuscate,
because his positions on the issues are not --
MATTHEWS: Is that that Hollywood expression, concern if can you fake
ALTER: -- a lot of chat about Medicare and these other things.
Obama`s challenge is to elevate, as Martin said. He`s got to be
president. Be a strong leader with a vision for the future and he must
eviscerate. He has to take Romney down.
MATTHEWS: OK. Question, will the other guy, will both guys go for
the title tonight?
MATTHEWS: Will anybody pull back?
BASHIR: No, I don`t think so.
MATTHEWS: I think they go for the title. I think Romney goes for
BASHIR: This is a big one. They`re up for it. They`re warmed up,
they carved up, they pumped up, they`re ready to take each other on.
The critical thing I think is that Romney has run a campaign that`s
flipped and flopped and moved all over the place. And by so doing, I`m not
sure the American voter really knows what this man is about.
MATTHEWS: Maybe they don`t want to know.
BASHIR: Well, here`s the thing, during that debate with Joe Biden
who came out and threw some punches, guess what? Paul Ryan revealed in
that debate that he doesn`t think judges should have decided on the Roe v.
MATTHEWS: It`s not --
BASHIR: That`s what he said. That`s what you get when you throw
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think it got him shook up enough to say he didn`t
think that reproductive rights were rights. They could be legislated by
any states --
BASHIR: Paul Ryan said he didn`t think the judges make that
decision. Who should?
ALTER: A lot of cosmetic, though. These issues are important, but a
lot of it is -- remember George Bush looking at the watch in one of the
town hall debates in 1992.
MATTHEWS: Do you think President Obama can stare down? This is what
Andrew Sullivan of "The Daily Beast" said this weekend, he said, I said,
should he look down at his papers, like he did which didn`t work?
MATTHEWS: Should he make jokes or laugh like Biden? And he says,
no, he must look him in the eye and stare him down. That`s pretty rough
for a president.
ALTER: Well, I think he has to do that and he also has to pivot from
answering the question from the audience to his agenda of what he needs to
ALTER: There`s five or six things, the 47 percent. Even another 47
number that Romney was 47th out of 50th in job creation when he was
governor of Massachusetts.
MATTHEWS: Can brain power do this? I`ve always thought -- Jon, I
always thought he has tremendous intellectual ability. I mean, more than
any president we`ve ever had. His ability to think in the arcania (ph) of
what we think about.
MATTHEWS: Is that what this calls for?
MATTHEWS: What does it call for tonight?
ALTER: It`s agility and an ability to think in the moment and
respond and pivot from one point to another.
BASHIR: In a sense. It`s the prosecution of a political argument
using passion and personal skill. That`s what has to happen.
BASHIR: Right. That`s what has to happen. I think he`s going to do
MATTHEWS: You`re smiling.
BASHIR: I do.
ALTER: I do, too.
BASHIR: I do.
ALTER: He is a talented politician who`s badly --
BASHIR: Oh, yes.
ALTER: -- off his game in the last debate. But he`s a fourth
quarter player. He likes to hit that jump shot at the buzzer.
MATTHEWS: He`s up against a towering man of enormous, superior ego,
who believes he`s much greater than this man.
It`s going to be great to watch.
Thanks for the wonderful buildup. You should be Don King.
MATTHEWS: The boxing talent (ph).
Anyway, thank you, Martin Bashir. Thank you, Jonathan Alter.
When we return, let me finish with a heavyweight championship that`s
going to be fought tonight at 9:00.
You`re watching HARDBALL live from Hofstra University, the second
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this -- here we go. Tonight`s
the night, the heavyweight championship.
President Obama knows the challenge and so does Mitt Romney. I have
a sense that the challenger, that`s Governor Romney, may go for the
knockout tonight. Why? Because everyone thinks he`ll merely try to subdue
the president, to keep him from a significant comeback victory.
So, what happens if Obama comes into the arena tonight knowing he
must win, and Romney determined -- resolute, is his word -- to do again
what he managed to do two weeks ago? What happens then?
Well, a true heavyweight bout, a real reach for greatness on the same
night by two men, one of whom will take the oath on January 20th and the
one who won`t. Perhaps the one, that would be President Obama, will have
to sit there across from the one who does. Tonight, we will learn how
smart President Obama is, how tough a performer Governor Romney is, and
which of these two assets will conquer -- surely a night to remember, a
night even more to matter.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
I`ll be back one hour from now with a live edition of HARDBALL.
Then, at 8:00, Rachel Maddow and I will lead MSNBC`s pre-debate coverage.
The debate starts at 9:00 Eastern, and Rachel and I will be back at 10:30,
after the debate, for all the reaction and analysis. And stay up late with
us tonight for a special edition, a midnight edition of HARDBALL.
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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