updated 8/12/2013 11:14:01 AM ET 2013-08-12T15:14:01

HARDBALL
August 9, 2013
Guests: Aisha Moodie-Mills, Rick Tyler, Wendy Weiser, Debbie Wasserman
Schultz, David Itzkoff, Paul Puri

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST: Defending "Obama care."

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Michael Smerconish, in for Chris Matthews.

Leading off tonight: President Obama throws down the gauntlet on
Republicans, launching an all-out offensive against Republican threats to
cripple his signature achievement, "Obama care." In a press conference
late today, the president was defiant. At times, he almost seemed to taunt
Republicans when it came to their threat to shut down the government over
the issue. In attacks that were swift and surgical, he began by calling
out the Republican fixation of obstructionism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The really interesting
question is why it is that my friends in the other party have made the idea
of preventing these people from getting health care their holy grail, their
number one priority.

The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making
sure that 30 million people don`t have health care. That`s hard to
understand as an agenda that is going to strengthen our middle class.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: And this was his response to Tea Party leaders like Ted Cruz,
Rand Paul and Mike Lee, who are championing a government shutdown if the
"Obama care" law is not defunded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The idea that you would shut down the government unless you prevent
30 million people from getting health care is a bad idea. What you should
be thinking about is, how can we advance and improve ways for middle class
families to have some security so that if they work hard, they can get
ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: You`ll hear more from the president shortly, but the bottom
line is this. This was perhaps the most impassioned defense of the law
that we`ve seen from him to date. It has Democrats everywhere asking, What
took you so long?

To break it all down, we welcome in Chuck Todd, NBC`s chief White House
correspondent and the host of "THE DAILY RUNDOWN," and Chris Cillizza,
MSNBC political analyst with "The Washington Post."

Chuck, you know this president so well. Was this calculated, or do you
think he got caught up in the moment of responding to that particular
question?

CHUCK TODD, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/POLITICAL DIR.: Oh, you know,
it`s hard to -- it`s hard to say. I think that this has been -- this has
been getting under his skin for a while. So "calculated" is probably not
the word I would use, but I think he wanted to make sure that he drew a
line, was a bit more defiant.

He`s been getting a lot of grief behind the scenes, saying, You`ve got to
sell this law better, you`ve got to do this. And I heard more clarity from
him than I have in a while on this.

Of course, the real test of all this, Michael, is going to be, Does he
start going on the road and proactively doing this, rather than doing this
when he`s asked a question about health care, but proactively going out on
the road and selling this and selling implementation? He`s going to have
to.

He`s got to turn these poll numbers around or he`s going to find moving
Congress on this is just going to be a lot harder because Republicans sit
there and -- they just sit there and they look at the scoreboard. And they
say, Guess what? Half the country thinks it`s a bad idea. Less than 40
percent thinks this law`s a good idea.

SMERCONISH: Well, to your point, let me show some polling data on the
issue of whether it`s a good or bad idea. There it is -- good idea 34
percent, bad idea 47 percent.

Chris Cillizza, you know, I follow you in all your social media. You did
say, Get ready for the six (ph) of (ph) this (ph) or so question. I think
you had A-Rod in mind, but this was the one that ended up generating all
the news.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know,
Chuck makes the right point, which is the president has not given the sort
of passionate defense of his law that many Democrats had hoped. I -- I
think that -- this is an interesting way that he did it. He didn`t defend
-- I mean, he did defend "Obama care" broadly, but it was in the context of
sort of a dare -- and Michael, I think you used that word, sort of a
challenge to Republicans, Be my guest if you want to try to link defunding
"Obama care" to a government shutdown.

I think he`s on safer political ground there, though the law broadly is not
possible (ph). The idea of shutting down government over health care and
funding it I think is also unpopular. I think that`s why you`ve seen
people like Mitt Romney earlier this week in New Hampshire come out and
say, We should not do this. Strategically, this is a bad move for our
party. You`ve seen other governors come out and say, We should not do
this.

So I think Obama feels as though he`s on safer -- I think he feels as
though he has the higher political ground when it comes to linking that
defunding of "Obama care" to shutting down the government...

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: He probably wins that fight.

SMERCONISH: It`s not only the issue of shutting down the government,
Chuck, the president was also quick to point out that Republicans don`t
have a real alternative to his health care law. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: They used to say, Well, we`re going to replace it with something
better. There`s not even a pretense now that they`re going to replace it
with something better. The notion is simply that those 30 million people,
or the 150 million who are benefiting from the other aspects of affordable
care, will be better off without it.

That`s their assertion, not backed by fact, not backed by any evidence,
it`s just become an ideological fixation. Well, I tell you what. They`re
wrong about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Chuck Todd, what will be the response to that? And part B of
my question -- is the president also taking advantage of the fact that he`s
pretty much the only person in town, so there can`t be a coherent reply
offered by the GOP per se?

TODD: Well, that`s right. But you`re going to hear -- I think
conservatives are going to hear that and say, Hey, that`s an unfair
strawman. Look at what he`s trying to do, he`s trying to paint us as sort
of anti-poor or that we don`t want poor people to get health care.

But I tell you, it was -- yes, the president likes to use strawman
arguments, but that is a tough message for him to do. You know, both sides
use strawmen to make their arguments. We`ve heard what the Republicans do
when it comes to what they believe the health care law`s going to do,
whether it`s on the economy, whether it`s on job creation and things like
that. So the president I think pushing back.

I think it`s only going to increase the amount of rhetoric from the right
in sort of pushing back on his statement that somehow, they don`t care
about these 30 million people that don`t have health care, that they don`t
want them to see -- they don`t want them somehow to get health care.

So I think you`ll see an increase in the rhetoric. But I think this is a
case where the White House believes they may not be on the right side of
public opinion about the overall law, but as Chris pointed out, they
believe they`re on the right side of public opinion on this idea that you
gum up the works and you create more gridlock to try to stop it.

SMERCONISH: Well, Chuck, you make the point that the question remains,
Will the president now go on the road and speak with such passion? But
Chris Cillizza, I think a corresponding question is, Does he get any
support? Because the president may not have sold this to date, but he sure
hasn`t had the assistance of his own party to try and sell this message.

CILLIZZA: Well, you know, I think it`s sort of -- it`s one of those
things, like, Oh, should I take the first step? Do you want to take the
first...

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA: You know, that everyone is...

TODD: Yes.

CILLIZZA: Everyone in some ways is waiting. He is -- ultimately, Michael,
he`s the biggest politician in the Democratic Party and in either party. I
think if he wants people to follow, he is going to have to take the lead.

Now, I would say I do think he`s much more comfortable making the argument
that Republicans are cutting off their nose to spite their face on this
because -- forget what you think about the health care law, the idea of
defunding something that is law, threatening that in exchange for a
government shutdown -- that is an issue I think he feels more strongly
about.

I can tell you -- and I agree with Chuck on this. Look, "ideological
fixation" -- those are the words the president used to describe Republicans
voting...

TODD: Oh, yes.

CILLIZZA: ... to repeal part of all of "Obama care" -- yes, that`s not
going to go down so well in the Republican Party. They are not going to
have warmer relations after today.

SMERCONISH: Well, Chuck, despite the attacks on the Republican insurgency
against his health care law and the threat to shut down the government over
the issue, the president did say that he thinks, in the end, common sense
will prevail. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The idea that you would shut down the government at a time when the
recovery`s getting some traction, where we`re growing, although not as fast
as we need to, where the housing market is recovering, although not as fast
as we would like, that we would precipitate another crisis here in
Washington that no economist thinks is a good idea -- I`m assuming that
they will not take that -- that path. I have confidence that common sense,
in the end, will prevail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Chuck Todd, do you have confidence that in the end, common
sense will prevail?

TODD: No leader of the Republican Party -- and I say that -- leader of the
Republican Party wants to pursue this path. The question I have, though,
is, How do they stop it? I -- inertia (ph) -- you know, can they come up
with an alternative way? Can they rally their party in such a way that
says -- because they`re not going to get cooperation from Democrats on
trying to somehow find a stopgap measure here.

Can they find some way to appease the Tea Party wing of the party that
really wants this, that wants some sort of stand on principles and all of
this to try to force this vote -- can they come up with a compromise that
appeases them in some form, but also can get through?

And look, I think -- I know the leaders don`t want to do this, Boehner,
McConnell, you name it. I don`t know how they stop it. I don`t see a
clear plan by them on how they prevent this from happening.

SMERCONISH: One other aspect, Chris Cillizza. I thought it was
interesting that the president begins to try and manage expectations with
regard to the delivery come October 1st. You heard that reference by way
of -- to the iPhone, right, when he made reference to Apple and the launch
of a new product.

CILLIZZA: Right.

SMERCONISH: I mean, the president said today stuff -- his word -- stuff
happens. And we all know what he means because you know that the first few
glitches with implementation are going to get trumpeted on Drudge,
trumpeted on Fox, trumpeted on talk radio and could set the stage for the
2014 cycle unless they`re responded to or managed.

CILLIZZA: And look, you know, I think, Michael, they -- this
administration has struggled at times, whether it`s health care, economic
stimulus -- they have struggled to manage expectations effectively.

TODD: Right.

CILLIZZA: They`ve sort of said, Well, remember, as soon as the health care
law begins to kick in, it`s going to get more popular. Well, that wasn`t
necessarily the case. I think he`s trying to do that.

Look, the president is not unaware of that poll number that you read, 34
percent of people think it`s a good law. They are aware of that. They are
aware of the difficulties of selling this.

I will say, though -- I don`t want to sound like a broken record -- I will
say if Republicans continue to push the tying of defunding health care to
the government shutdown, they are handing on a silver platter a message
that President Obama can actually talk about health care, the health care
law, and win on.

There aren`t a lot of messages he can talk about health care and win on.
This would be one of them. I think that`s why you see -- to Chuck`s point,
Mitch McConnell doesn`t want to do this, John Boehner doesn`t want to do
this, Mitt Romney said they shouldn`t publicly do this. There`s a reason
that minds like that in the party are warning on it.

SMERCONISH: Chris, thank you. Chris Cillizza, thanks so much.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Chuck Todd, as always. We appreciate you both.

TODD: You bet.

SMERCONISH: Coming up: Four summers ago, the Tea Party rode to power by
disrupting members of Congress at town hall meetings. Their beef then was
"Obama care." And now that it`s the law of the land, they`re at it again.
They want it defunded, dismantled, destroyed, and they`re ready to take the
country down because of it.

Also, the blowback from that Supreme Court decision to gut the Voting
Rights Act. Florida governor Rick Scott is restarting his effort to purge
the voter roles in his state, something the Voting Rights Act stopped him
from doing before.

Also, this weekend marks the start of the final season of the award-winning
TV show "Breaking Bad." It`s just the latest example of a big hit -- think
of "The Sopranos" or even "Dallas" -- where we all end up rooting for the
bad guy.

And Darrell Issa wants America`s coastal waters renamed for Ronald Reagan.
But when it comes to honoring the 40th president, nobody does it like
Stephen Colbert.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Tonight, I am proud to declare that
the area between four and seven feet off the ground the Ronald Wilson
Reagan Economic Breathing Zone, right up there!

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Much more of that tonight in the "Sideshow."

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Could Hillary Clinton turn deep red Georgia blue in 2016?
Well, let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

According to a new PPP poll, Clinton leads GOP frontrunner Rand Paul by 5,
48-43. She leads Paul Ryan by 3, 47-44. She beats native son Newt
Gingrich by 4, 47-43. Against Jeb Bush, it`s a tie right now at 45 apiece.

And the only Republican who has a lead on Clinton right now is Chris
Christie at 44-42. All those match-ups are competitive. And by the way,
Bill Clinton carried Georgia in 1992, then lost it in 1996.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tea Party wants to know, where were you (INAUDIBLE)
with Mike Lee to -- and Meadows here to defund "Obama care," yes or no!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

REP. ROBERT PITTENGER (R), NORTH CAROLINA: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

PITTENGER: No. Let me tell you why. OK? You got your answer. Let me
tell you why. It takes 60 votes (INAUDIBLE) We only have 12 votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Republican congressman
Robert Pittenger explaining to disgruntled constituents at a town hall
Monday that he is voting against defunding "Obama care."

Now, four years ago, angry protests over the president`s health care law
erupted at town hall meetings across the country. They formed a Tea Party
wave that crested over "Obama care" and swept a new breed of Republicans
into power in the Congress in 2010.

And Tea Party anger wasn`t just limited to "Obama care." Remember at this
town hall, where former Delaware congressman Michael Castle was confronted
by a voter who demonstrated a new level of vitriol and viciousness?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to go back to January 20th, and I want to
know, why are you people ignoring his birth certificate?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is not an American citizen! He is a citizen of
Kenya! I am American. My father fought in World War II with the greatest
generation in the Pacific theater for this country, and I don`t want this
flag to change! I want my country back!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Angry vitriol at town halls in 2010 was an early sign of the
coming Republican sweep at the polls. Are we seeing any harbingers of a
2014 wave one way or the other?

With me now, Republican strategist Rick Tyler, who`s the president for The
Strategy Group for Media, and Aisha Moodie-Mills of the Center for American
Progress.

Aisha, read the tea leaves thus far. Are there any issues out there that
are popping? Are there any signs of a coming wave, like we saw in 2010?

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, I think that
there`s a sign of a wave that`s coming, but it`s going to be the opposite
of what we saw in 2010.

SMERCONISH: How so?

MOODIE-MILLS: You know, the Republicans have spent years making this anti-
"Obama care" bed, and now they`re going to have to lie in it. I mean,
you`re seeing this civil war of infighting happening. And you know, I
think that it`s really going -- it`s really going to crash and burn them.

SMERCONISH: But you Know, Rick, passion sells, especially in primary
season, and especially on the GOP side of the aisle. Might this mark a
reemergence of Tea Party candidates, even those who can win a primary but
never win a general election?

RICK TYLER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, aside from the latter point of
your assertion, yes, I do think this could be a harbinger, as it was in
2009. That was a real movement. And not only was it reflected in the
polls, it was clearly reflected in the vote. We won -- I think we picked
up 56. It was a historic Republican sweep.

And if -- the left is deathly afraid that we`re in repeat here because
there is a narrative here. It`s a meta-narrative. We have people who
don`t trust the government on NSA spying. We have people don`t trust the
government on -- with the IRS declining conservative organizations. We
have Benghazi, which we don`t hear enough about. And now we`re going to
have the IRS implement "Obama care."

By the way, it`s not defunding "Obama care." "Obama care" hasn`t been
funded. So the real question is, Will we vote to fund "Obama care" or not,
not defund.

And it`s certainly not the Republicans who would shut the government down.
It would be President Clinton -- President Obama. Of course, I don`t think
it would get to his desk. But by virtue of him not signing or vetoing the
budget, that would shut the government down.

SMERCONISH: Let me show you something. Congressman Pittenger took a
defiant approach to his attendees who asked him to vote to defund
"Obamacare," even though he tried to explain why it would be pointless.
And the crowd did not like what they heard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PITTENGER: (INAUDIBLE) We lose over there, then they come back to us in
the House. You win by going after (INAUDIBLE) Do you think Harry Reid is
going to pass that in the Senate?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn`t matter what Harry Reid does. We need to
show the American people we stand for conservative values.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Aisha, the passion still seems to be on the right side of the
aisle. You`re telling me that you think that there`s potentially a wave
coming of Democratic support in time for the 2014 cycle, but you don`t see
that anecdotally.

MOODIE-MILLS: Here`s what you`re seeing.

You`re actually seeing cheers and jeers coming at the Republicans there.
They`re getting flak from both sides. Americans who are Democrats and
Americans who are Republicans are really frustrated with them, I mean, for
a couple of reasons. We have a poll that came out that showed that most
people, the vast majority of people really think that we should at the very
least be improving upon -- at the most, I should say, be improving upon
Obamacare and to leave it as it stands.

And so every time they try to repeal or they try to defund, they`re turning
people off on both sides, be it Tea Partiers, who are technically on their
side of the aisle, or other Democrats. And I think this is going to be bad
news for the GOP in general.

SMERCONISH: Rick, in another part of North Carolina, Pittenger`s colleague
Patrick McHenry, a staunch opponent of Obamacare, faced his constituents in
a town hall. But in a surprising turn of events, his constituents, they
wanted to know why he won`t support Obamacare in the first place, because
some of them say it`s helping. Here`s the tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PATRICK MCHENRY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m Steve Edwards from East Asheville.

I`m 63. My wife is 63. And without Obamacare, we would have no health
insurance. I would like to ask you and the Republican Party to answer the
question, why do I not have a moral right in access to health care, if you
want to defund Obamacare, which is by law and policy going to save billions
of dollars over the next 10 years?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Rick, anecdotally, in the 2014 cycle, there will be those
individuals, whether they`re young Americans who now could remain on their
parents plan when heretofore they couldn`t do so, or maybe someone who had
preexisting conditions who could not get health insurance now who can get
health insurance.

There will be those faces to associate with stories like presumably that
man`s that the GOP will have to respond to if they thwart this from moving
forward.

TYLER: Of course, but we can fix all those things.

And we have said -- Republicans have said that from the beginning. And, by
the way, the Republican Party is not divided on this issue. Every single
Republican voted against Obamacare. Almost all the Republicans voted --
Democrats voted for it. Several Democrats actually broke ranks on this
Obama`s delaying of the mandate for employers, which has no effect on the
individual. So, I`m not sure why he did it in the first place.

But this is what`s wonderful about town halls. Look, I grew up in New
Hampshire, and this is what the town halls are for. The people who show up
get their voices heard and then you all -- you all can cover it. But what
Republicans know is that if Obamacare goes through, in the end, fewer
people will have health insurance. The average family is going to pay at
least $2,300 more.

We don`t know how that man`s going to be affected by Obamacare because we
don`t know the impact it will have on doctors, access, availability,
technology, incentives.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: Aisha, take a quick final word, because then I want to say
something, and then we have got to get out.

MOODIE-MILLS: Let me have a final word on this.

We don`t know that because the Republicans have demonstrated they`re not
interested in figuring out if there are any opportunities for improvement.
They don`t want to work on anything. They just want to can the whole
thing.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: Guys, guys, time-out.

Here`s my final thought on this. When I look at the footage from those
town hall meetings, I say to myself, who in the world would want to run for
office?

(LAUGHTER)

SMERCONISH: I think that incivility...

TYLER: There is that.

SMERCONISH: I think that incivility drives good people or keeps good
people from getting into the fray.

Thank you very much, Rick Tyler.

TYLER: Thank you. Appreciate it.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Aisha Moodie-Mills.

MOODIE-MILLS: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: We appreciate your being here.

Up next: Running out of people to alienate in this country, Anthony Weiner
is now taking on the Germans and the Brits. That`s ahead.

And a programming note. Please, remember, you can listen to my radio
program weekday mornings at 9:00 Eastern on SiriusXM`s POTUS channel, 124.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Back to HARDBALL and now for the "Sideshow."

Congressman Darrell Issa introduced a bill last month that would rename
nearly all of America`s coastline waters after our 40th president, Ronald
Reagan. The proposed legislation would include 3.4 million square nautical
miles stretching 200 miles out from U.S. shores. So if you`re hitting the
beach this summer, know that you may soon be honoring Reagan`s legacy every
time you take a dip.

Stephen Colbert liked Issa`s idea so much that he`s proposing another way
to honor the former president. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": There`s no place on Earth too
large or too arbitrary to honor the Gipper`s legacy.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: That`s why tonight I am proud to declare that the area between
four and seven feet off the ground the Ronald Wilson Reagan Economic
Breathing Zone.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

COLBERT: Right up there.

(APPLAUSE)

COLBERT: This -- folks, this is the storied swathe of American atmosphere
within which Ronald Reagan`s very own mouth was often found.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: I`m feeling a little woozy.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: I think I might sit down in the Walter Mondale Don`t Stand Up For
America Zone.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Next, New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner isn`t winning
anything in the foreign press. The candidate showed off his surly side
last night as he knocked on doors in Harlem.

Here he was making fun of Germany in an awkward exchange with a reporter
from "Der Spiegel."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: This is how they do it in
Germany. This?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no.

(CROSSTALK)

WEINER: No doors, right?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just gates.

WEINER: Just thatched huts, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Right.

WEINER: You have like plumbing and stuff like that, like indoor plumbing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no.

WEINER: Flush toilets?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

WEINER: None of that stuff?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. That`s why I`m here.

WEINER: I know. So, this must be a great assignment for you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: In fairness, he tried to clarify to that reporter that he was
only kidding. I guess it was hard to tell at the time, but then several
minutes later, he gave this snarky interview to a British reporter from ITV
who asked him about his motive for running.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it ambition? Is it a hunger for the big job, for
power?

WEINER: Hard to take you seriously.

No, it has to do with wanting to be mayor of the city of New York and
wanting to help the middle class and those struggling to make it, or the
hunger for the big...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is it you want to do for this city?

WEINER: Or the hunger for the big job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would anything stop you?

WEINER: I just have a feeling I have, like, stepped into a "Monty Python"
bit.

I don`t know. Would anything stop me? What, now is a rock going to fall
on my head? No, nothing`s going to stop me. I`m going to win this
election. Anything else I can do for ITV? You want to do the weather or
something? It`s going to be raining, cloudy and gray.

So, do what you can, guys. Try to keep your head up. Keep a stiff -- what
is it? A stiff upper lip.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: A stiff upper lip.

Good thing Weiner doesn`t need any votes from the U.K. or Germany.

Up next, add Florida to the list of states looking to make it harder for
people to vote in the wake of the Supreme Court`s decision to gut the
Voting Rights Act.

That`s ahead. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JACKIE DEANGELIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Jackie DeAngelis with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

The Dow dropping 76 points today, the S&P losing six, the Nasdaq falling
nine. Priceline shares up 3 percent, nearing the $1,000 mark, this after
topping quarterly earnings expectations. And BlackBerry stock soaring
after a Reuters report suggested that the smartphone-maker might go
private. And that Labor Day road trip, well, it may cost you a little less
at the pump.

AAA says that the national average for gas dropped 5 cents in the last week
and predicts that prices should continue to fall.

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

SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Ever since the Supreme Court effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act, we
have been keeping an eye on the ripple effects. Within hours of the
court`s decision, three states that had been covered, Texas, Mississippi
and Alabama, ushered in photo I.D. requirements that had been previously
held at bay by the Voting Rights Act.

In North Carolina, the Republican governor is expected to sign a bill
limiting early voting and voter registration opportunities and broadening
I.D. requirements any day. And now there`s Florida, where five counties
had been covered by the Voting Rights Act. The Republican governor is
restarting an effort that he says is designed to purge the voter rolls of
noncitizens, but that a lot of people believe is an attempt to purge the
voter rolls of Democrats.

When Rick Scott tried this last year, he was stopped by the Voting Rights
Act. Last time, as "The New York Times" reports, "The attempt at
unearthing noncitizens initially began with a pool of 182,000 names of
potential noncitizens. That was winnowed to a list of 2,600. Those names
were sent to election supervisors, who found that many were in fact
citizens and ultimately the list of possible noncitizen voters shrank to
198. Of those, fewer than 40 had voted illegally."

We`d like to remind you of one of the people who was caught in the dragnet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bill Internicola, a 91-year-old Army veteran of World
War II who earned the Bronze Star and Legion of Honor for his service, is
one of the voters targeted by the state as a potential noncitizen and was
ordered to prove his citizenship or lose the right to vote.

BILL INTERNICOLA, U.S. VETERAN: I was amazed when I got the letter. I
have been voting since I was 18 years old or what it was. And I never had
any trouble. I have voted here for the last almost 15 years, right here.
To me, it`s like an insult.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: If the events in these states are any indication, there will
surely be more attempts to limit voting rights since this Congress is
unlikely to fully restore the Voting Rights Act.

Joining me, Democratic National Committee Chair and Florida Congresswoman
Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for
Justice.

Congresswoman, I think that Dr. Norman Ornstein is a real smart guy. He`s
an expert on Congress, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise
Institute. And he recently published an outline recommendations for a new
national Voting Rights Act. Let me tell you what some of the components
are.

He recommends a separate federal ballot. He thinks that we should have no
more confusing butterfly ballots, there would be no more than three races
on the ballot, there would be no more provisional ballots. In a word,
there`d be uniformity. He also thinks there should be a new voter
registration regime, that the default should be that eligible decisions are
presumed registered.

He thinks that we should have a weekend Election Day, a 24-hour period from
noon Saturday to noon Sunday, with early voting the week before. And he
thinks that a Social Security card should be recognized as a valid form of
voter I.D.

What thoughts do you have on that proposal?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Well, the thoughts that I have
on the notion that we should be making voting easier rather than harder is
a notion that I fully embrace and that our party fully embraces.

Democrats have stood for years on the idea that we should be making voters
-- making the process of voting easier, and give more access to the
franchise, not less, while Republicans, on the other hand, as you have seen
recently, systemically have made it a legislative priority across the
country to make voting harder.

And, in my state, to take your example that Rick Scott has gone through
with the potential purging of so-called noncitizen voters, that amounts to
about -- on that 180,000 person list, 0.2 percent of the names on that list
came up as noncitizens, not exactly a glaring problem.

And 60 percent of those, Michael, were -- targeted on that list were
Hispanic, but only 13 percent of our electorate is Hispanic. So, clearly,
they`re not only trying to purge voters. They`re trying to purge certain
kinds of voters.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: Congresswoman, superficially, this would seem like a no-
brainer that, of course, Congress is going to take action. I look at the
fact that the time of the last reauthorization in `06, the vote in the
House was 390-33. In the Senate, it was 98-0, I assume because no one
wants to be the individual who`s held accountable for having voted against
the Voting Rights Act.

But at the time when it comes to doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes,
this can be torpedoed. Isn`t that what`s going on?

SCHULTZ: Well, Michael, I was on the Judiciary Committee during that
entire process of reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act.

And there was some resistance by Republicans, but essentially, you know,
the Republicans were in charge. They actually pushed through the Voting
Rights Act reauthorization. Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican from Wisconsin,
was the chairman.

And he has embraced the idea that we should revise Section 4, make sure we
respond to the Supreme Court`s constitutional concerns, and revamp the
Voting Rights Act so that we can make sure that we make the franchise
something that everybody has access to, not do what Republican governors
and legislatures have done across this country systemically since then,
which is, in 30 states, introduce 55 different measures to actually make it
harder for people to vote and make it harder for certain kinds of voters to
vote, Hispanic Americans, African-Americans.

SMERCONISH: Wendy Weiser, shy of Congress reauthorizing the Voting Rights
Act, what can be done?

WENDY WEISER, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: You know, it`s critical in the
first instance that Congress do something to put back in place the
protections that were lost in the Voting Rights Act. We need to have some
way to block discriminatory voting changes before they go into effect,
before they mar an election.

But there are also other critical steps that Congress should be taking to
improve the voting process for all Americans. We do have a messed up
system in many ways that`s keeping people waiting in lines one to seven
hours. And chief among them is really upgrading our voter registration
system.

SMERCONISH: But it`s not just as you well know, because at the Brennan
Center, you track this information, it`s not just the states that were
affected by the Voting Rights Act. Look at my home state, Chris` home
state of Pennsylvania, and what`s taking place in the commonwealth of
Pennsylvania wouldn`t have been effected by the Voting Rights Act which is
why I think of Dr. Ornstein and him saying, you know, we really need to do
something on a national level to right this ship.

WEISER: You know, we really need to have national protections and there
are, in fact, national protections against voting discrimination and
protect voting rights. There are some places where the problems are so
persistent and so constant that we need greater protections to be able to
stop them before they go into effect. And that`s what Congress found in
2006.

Just last year alone, we had 17 discriminatory voting changes blocked by
the Department of Justice, 17 in those states, which does pale in
comparison to what we saw in the rest of the country.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Wendy Weiser.

Congresswoman, I know you`re in New Hampshire, if you go to Iowa next we`re
going to have a big story here.

(LAUGHTER)

SMERCONISH: Thank you for being here.

SCHULTZ: Well, I spend quite a bit of time in lots of states. Great to be
here in New Hampshire.

SMERCONISH: Up next, why we Americans just love to root for the bad guys
on TV.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Anthony Weiner looks like he`s fading away in the New York`s
mayor`s race. A new "New York Times"/Siena College poll has him at his
lowest rating ever. Among Democratic voters, Weiner has fallen to fourth
with just 10 percent support. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn leads
the field at 25 percent, followed by Bill Thompson and Bill De Blasio.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Hey, we`re back.

Here`s a warning, this Sunday night, you might have a hard time reaching
some of your friends. If you don`t know why, then you`ve probably never
seen "Breaking Bad," the hugely addictive show about a science teacher
turned meth-cooking drug lord. It returns for its final batch of episodes.
And chances are, there isn`t a happy ending in store at the end of this
twisted, dark and violent saga of Walter White.

If you don`t watch, here`s what you need to know: Bryan Cranston plays
White. He`s a high school chemistry teacher struggling to make ends meet
in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when he`s given a cancer diagnosis. He turns
to meth hoping to leave a nest egg behind for his wife and children.

Five seasons later the cancer is gone, we think, but Walt`s lust for power
has only grown. The dark truth is he`s come to enjoy it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who the hell are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know. You all know exactly who I am. Say my name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do what? I don`t have a damn clue who the hell you
are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you do. I`m the cook. I`m the man who killed Gus
Fring. (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cartel Gus Fring. You sure?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s right. Now, say my name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eisenberg.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re (EXPLETIVE DELETED) right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Over the course of five season, we`ve watched him steal,
blackmail, maim, even kill or poison a child. And yet, shockingly, there
are many of us who still root for him.

What is it about characters like Walter White, not to mention Tony Soprano,
"Mad Men`s" Don Draper, and others that make us want to forgive their evil?

David Itzkoff is a culture reporter for "The New York Times" and, like me,
a huge "Breaking Bad" geek.

And Paul Puri is a psychiatrist in Los Angeles. He loves "Breaking Bad."

Doctor, why are we loving this guy? We should hate him by now.

DR. PAUL PURI, PSYCHIATRIST: We absolutely should, Michael. But the thing
about it is these are not evil men, including Walter White. These are
flawed men that do bad acts or evil acts. And we all have impulses just
like that. And just like within, you know, there`s a book that came out a
few years ago "Bad Men Do What Good Men Dream" written by a forensic
psychiatrist Robert Simon that goes into, you know, we all have these
certain impulses. Only certain people act on them.

So, with that, you know, is the fantasy fulfillment in the show of watching
something get carried out that we all wonder what if I did that and
watching it out.

And the other --

SMERCONISH: All right. You`re really saying that David Itzkoff wants to
break bad, and because he can`t because he`s a "New York Times" guy, he`s
living through Walter White, is that a fair assessment?

DAVID ITZKOFF, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I was carefully vetted before "The
Times" brought me in. So, I think that`s safe to say.

SMERCONISH: Do you buy into this?

ITZKOFF: Oh, yes. I`m not going to disagree with a psychiatrist.

But I think there`s also -- we`ve seen the progression of the Walter White
character over these seasons. And when he started out, he was a very
humble man. He was making choices that we could almost understand.

He was a teacher who had been sort of shut out by the economy. He had
health care problems. We could all relate to that in circa 2008, 2009.

And little by little, he makes minute but increasingly, you know, morally
problematic choices until the point where he is the drug lord he is now.
He`s had opportunities to bail out and he doesn`t want to take them.

SMERCONISH: David, for the benefit of those who haven`t seen "Breaking
Bad," first of all, don`t start at the end. Go back to the beginning.

ITZKOFF: Absolutely.

SMERCONISH: There`s Dexter, there`s Tony Soprano. You could say it was
J.R. in "Dallas" who started this trend of rooting for the bad guys.

ITZKOFF: Well, I think it`s something that really comes out of the modern
era of cable television, both basic cable and subscription cable, really
sort of dominating the field in terms of -- you know, these serialized
narratives. They have the opportunity to show things you can`t show on
network. And the short-runners of these programs are taking advantage.

SMERCONISH: By last season, it became clear that far from helping his
family, Walter White was driving it apart in this pivotal scene after his
wife Skyler suggests that he turn himself into the police for protection,
White makes it clear that she doesn`t really know who he is after all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Walt, please, let`s both of us stop trying to justify
this whole thing and admit you`re in danger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who are you talking to right now? Who is it you think
you see?

Do you know how much I make a year? I mean, even if I told you, you
wouldn`t believe it. Do you know what would happen if I suddenly decided
to stop going into work? A business big enough that it could be listed on
the NASDAQ goes belly up, disappears. It ceases to exist without me.

Now, you clearly don`t know who you`re talking to so let me clue you in. I
am not in danger, Skyler. I am the danger. A guy opens his door and gets
shot and you think that of me? No, I am the one who knocks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: That was a great line.

Hey, Dr. Puri, is part of the attraction of someone like David Itzkoff, not
only that he wants to break bad but that he still wants to see if Walter in
the next eight episodes is going to turn it around and somehow get back on
the straight and narrow?

PURI: Absolutely. I think with all of these guys there`s always been
something redeeming about them from the very beginning that hooks us. And
once we are connected, it`s so hard for us to disconnect or give up on
them. The same reason a person has trouble letting go of an abusive family
member or someone with a drug addiction, it`s hard for us to be able to l
go on the possibility of them redeeming themselves.

SMERCONISH: David, I came to your "Times" talk seminar. I stood up to ask
a question and they cut off the microphone before I could ask it, which is
the real reason you`ve been summoned to HARDBALL because I`m going to ask
you what I would ask Vince Gilligan.

ITZKOFF: OK. I`ll answer in his voice.

SMERCONISH: OK, cool. What kind of pressure has been brought to bear on
him given the seemingly disappointing "Sopranos" ending? Do you think that
they feel some kind of a requirement to appease the fans? And if so, how
do you do that?

ITZKOFF: Well, I don`t know if they want to appease the fans specifically,
but I`m sure the "Sopranos" ending lingers in everyone`s mind. That was
one that took years for people to kind of make peace with. I think people
expect something much more conclusive with "Breaking Bad," and I don`t want
to speak for Vince Gilligan, but I have a sense they are going to deliver
something with finality.

Whatever number of cast members are in the show now, I suspect there will
be fewer by the end of the season.

SMERCONISH: You may know the answer, so I shouldn`t ask you.

ITZKOFF: (INAUDIBLE)

SMERCONISH: Let me ask Dr. Puri. Truly, do you want to see him live or
die at the ends of this?

PURI: I think he has to go, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Really?

PURI: I think he has to get cancer. The cancer has to recur and he needs
to go, maybe with Hank chasing him, just like, you know, Ahab.

SMERCONISH: You know, Hank`s the only guy who`s maintained his scruples.
I`m not rooting for Hank.

PURI: Amazing, isn`t it?

ITZKOFF: Really? You don`t want to see Hank --

SMERCONISH: No.

ITZKOFF: You don`t want to see Hank finally save the day for everything
he`s gone through?

SMERCONISH: We sound ridiculous at this point chitchatting about this.

(LAUGHTER)

SMERCONISH: But the person I`m really rooting for is Jesse. I think Jesse
is a redeemable soul and I really want Jesse to survive and succeed. I`m
heartbroken he lost his girlfriend. Quick final thought.

ITZKOFF: Do you think Jesse represents something he lost his moral compass
a long time ago? He has -- he has to pay for his choices, too.

SMERCONISH: Maybe, maybe. Thank you, David Itzkoff. This is great stuff.

Dr. Paul Puri, we appreciate you being here.

PURI: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Let me finish tonight with this.

After my radio program ended today, I visited the National September 11
Memorial at the location we used to call Ground Zero. I`ve been to that
location many times since September 11, but not since the memorial opened
two years ago.

Here is some good news. Nine million visitors beat me to it. That`s how
many have flocked to pay their respects in just that last two years. And
they have come from 180 different nations.

Today, under threatening skies on a hot Friday in August, it was nice to
see the memorial was crowded.

Designer Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker are to be
commended. There is tremendous attention to detail.

I`m sure you`ve seen the photographs and the film footage of the two pools
set in the footprints of the original Twin Towers. Water constantly flows
into both pools, masking the sound of the surrounding city and providing
the appropriate backdrop for reflection.

Two thousand nine hundred and eighty-three victims are remembered here,
including six from the 1993 attack. Their names are arranged in meaningful
adjacencies and climate control bronze which allows visitors to touch their
remembrance in any weather.

I saw many today looking for the names of friends and family and American
heroes like Todd Beamer who lost his life aboard Flight 93. I myself
wanted to pay homage to Victor Saracini, the captain of United Flight 175.

White roses are placed on a daily basis to commemorate birthdays at an
average of nine per day.

The actual facade of the buildings is represented by a ring of trees. And
speaking of trees, there is the survivor tree. That`s a Callery pear that
originally stood on the eastern edge of the site. It was planted in the
1970s, and it was found after the attack by workers when it had been
reduced to just an eight-foot stump. It has since been nursed back to
health, and it stands 30 feet tall.

Next spring, the museum will open underground. It will house Engine 21.
That`s a fire truck from the FDNY, the survivor`s staircase, the last
column, and the cross of steel.

Hey, we`re one month away from the 13th anniversary of September 11th. Go
see the memorial. And support it with your donations. The memorial is a
national nonprofit that doesn`t receive city, state or federal funding for
its operations.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thank you for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
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