Guests: Roger Simon, Jim Warren, Michael Crowley, Jill Zuckman, Ryan Lizza
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The “prince” punches. Obama goes boom-boom.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. And welcome to HARDBALL. With Iowa just weeks away, who knows who evil lurks in the heart of Bob Novak? This past weekend, the “prince of darkness” wrote a column in which he said, quote, “Agents of Sen. Hillary Clinton are spreading the word in Democratic circles that she has scandalous information about her principal rival for the party‘s presidential nomination, Senator Barack Obama, but has decided not to use it. The nature of the alleged scandal was not disclosed,” close quote.
Barack Obama swiftly responded with this statement under his own name. Quote, “The item did not identify these ‘agents,‘ nor did it reveal the nature of the charge. It was devoid of facts, but heavy on innuendo and insinuation of the sort to which we‘ve become all too accustomed in our politics these past two decades.” Obama‘s statement added, quote, “Senator Clinton should either make public any and all information referred to in the item, or concede the truth, that there is none.”
Plus, later in the show, the art of opposition research. We‘ll show you how campaigns dig up dirt and how they use it. We‘ll also talk to Tom Brokaw about the 2008 race for president.
But we begin with HARDBALL‘s David Shuster on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just 45 days until the Iowa caucuses, and Barack Obama is accusing Hillary Clinton of launching a smear campaign.
Sen. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our campaign will not tolerate this kind of slime politics.
SHUSTER: On Saturday, columnist Robert Novak published an on-line column that said, quote, “Agents of Sen. Hillary Clinton are spreading the word in Democratic circles that she has scandalous information about her principal opponent for the party‘s presidential nomination, Senator Barack Obama, but has decided not to use it. The nature of the alleged scandal was not disclosed.”
Novak‘s column was quickly picked up by popular Internet sites like The Drudge Report. Obama jumped on it and issued this written statement. Quote, “Senator Clinton should either make public any and all information referred to in the item, or concede the truth, that there is none. She of all people, having complained so often about ‘the politics of personal destruction,‘ should move quickly to either stand by or renounce these tactics.”
Clinton responded through campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson. Quote, “We have no idea what Mr. Novak‘s item is about and reject it totally.” Wolfson described Novak as a Republican-leaning journalist. And Wolfson added, quote, “Experienced Democrats see this for what it is. Others get distracted and thrown off their games. Voters should be concerned about the readiness of any Democrat inexperienced enough to fall for this.”
Barack Obama‘s team then hit Clinton again, this time through Obama‘s campaign manager. Quote, “The experience America‘s looking for today is not the practiced Washington art of evasion and deflection. Once again, the Clinton campaign refuses to answer two simple direct questions. Are agents of their campaign spreading these rumors? And do they have scandalous information that they are not releasing? Yes or no.”
On Sunday, Obama ratcheted up the attack on Clinton by bringing the criticism to voters.
OBAMA: I think it is very important to send a clear message that whether it is coming from our party, the other party, third parties, 527s, that our campaign will not tolerate this kind of slime politics.
SHUSTER: The Clinton campaign spokesman then called all of this “silly” and said their denial on Saturday had been clear. But Obama hit back at that, as well.
OBAMA: The Clinton campaign didn‘t come out and deny it initially. I mean, it would have been great if we had just sat back and they had indicated it wasn‘t true.
SHUSTER: Bob Novak says he does not know what the scandalous information is, and today he added that he did not actually get it from the Clinton campaign but rather from, quote, “a well-known Democrat who is neutral so far in ‘08 primaries.”
Still, “The Des Moines Register,” Iowa‘s most influential newspaper, today picked up the controversy and the attacks and wrote, “Democrats fret over candidate bickering. Iowa‘s the only state where Clinton is not leading Obama by a double-digit margin, and her campaign seems worried. They have doubled their staff in the state and have increased Clinton‘s advertising buys.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He called Senator Clinton and asked for help. Her office called the next day.
SHUSTER: Campaign officials have also pledged that from now until the caucuses, Iowa voters will see either Hillary Clinton or former president Bill Clinton nearly every day. But Barack Obama‘s also ratcheting up the intensity of his campaign, and Obama has repeatedly said he‘s not going to repeat the general election mistakes John Kerry made three years ago when Kerry considered Swift Boat attack ads so ridiculous that he didn‘t challenge them for weeks.
OBAMA: We‘ve seen how stuff starts, and if you don‘t nip it at the bud, then it ends up growing. And you know, we want to make sure that everybody understands I don‘t play this stuff and I won‘t.
SHUSTER (on camera): For months, Obama‘s supporters have been urging him to show more passion and guts. Clearly, Obama is now on offense, leveraging opportunities, including those from Robert Novak, to challenge Hillary Clinton and make this race a fight.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in New York.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David. Roger Simon is chief political columnist for the Politico Web site and Jim Warren is deputy managing editor of “The Chicago Tribune.”
You know, both you fellows, I‘ve been thinking for a while that the one way Obama can beat Hillary is if he can trap her into an attack on him, and here he is accusing her of slime politics. Is that the game here, to call a foul and make Hillary look bad, Roger?
ROGER SIMON, POLITICO.COM: I think it is. I think it‘s also designed to change the conversation away from a pretty poor debate performance in Las Vegas, get reporters off that story line, get reporters not writing about immigration and driver‘s licenses, but get them writing about Hillary Clinton being a mud thrower and a hypocrite.
MATTHEWS: The word “slime politics,” Jim, is pretty strong.
JIM WARREN, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: Yes, but I‘m not sure there‘s a motive that‘s so much tied, as Roger suggests, to, you know, perhaps not a sterling debate performance. I think there really is the shadow of the Kerry campaign looming all over this and the belief, at least the conventional wisdom, that in this Internet age, you must react instantly to any stuff like this.
Now, that said, up to now, obviously, Obama has benefited from what‘s been a bit of a choirboy image. If you look at a biography by my colleague...
WARREN: ... David Mendell (ph), he looks at his state legislature days. I mean, there‘s a really interesting tale about a regular poker game he had. And one night, a lobbyist showed up with a drunk woman not his wife, and Obama was actually very, very upset.
And with all the investigating we‘ve done into him here in Chicago, both “The Tribune” and “The Sun-Times,” what one has is really one very unsavory connection, one bad business deal involving his Southside mansion, and that involves his relationship to a guy who gave him a fair amount of money and was a patron of sort and who is now an indicted businessman named Tony Rezko.
MATTHEWS: You worked with—as a competitor to Bob Novak, a different paper. He‘s with “The Sun-Times.” Jim, it seems to me—I‘ve watched Novak over the years. You don‘t have to love the guy to know that he‘s a journalist and he does rely on sources and they do exist, whether it‘s Richard Armitage, whoever it is, they turn out to be true. And he does have a prominent Democrat who told him that somebody in the Clinton campaign is pushing slime.
Now, let‘s go there from that fact. One, does that tell you that that‘s a strategy on the part of the Clinton people, or simply somebody‘s out there, had a few belts at some bar and starts talking out of school? Jim Warren.
WARREN: It‘s hard to (INAUDIBLE) necessarily a conscious strategy, although I have to quote a prominent American political analyst, namely Roger Simon, who I once remember telling me that a University of Illinois fellow alum was a partner in a column that some cynics called “Evans and No-Facts.” There was a...
MATTHEWS: I know that.
WARREN: ... belief that...
MATTHEWS: “Errors and No-Facts” it was called.
WARREN: Yes, right. Bob at times is a little thin on the attributions. Certainly, this attribution was one that a lot of us in, you know, moth-eaten mainstream journalism would stay away from. But that said, your point about Valerie Plame is a good one, and now we know the relationship of Novak and Richard Armitage.
WARREN: So for sure, I don‘t doubt that there is some guy who told him that and some guy who, you know, heard something from the Clinton campaign. But were they thinking of this like some great billiard player and thinking a couple of shots ahead of this would play out this way?
WARREN: I‘m not sure because I think, in the short term...
MATTHEWS: I‘m not, either.
WARREN: (INAUDIBLE) rebound to Obama‘s favor.
SIMON: The danger in...
MATTHEWS: It‘s also—it‘s quite—it‘s quite a bank shot. Let me ask you—let me ask you, Roger—you know what it reminds me of, a peculiar thing we all remember back from ‘88, the rumor that Mike Dukakis had got psychological counseling. And remember “The Washington Times” jumped on that and put it—a conservative paper, put it at the top—not an especially responsible paper—put it at the top of the front page. And then all of a sudden, Ronald Reagan comes out and says, I don‘t want to talk about a man who‘s sick. You know, they really played that baby.
SIMON: Sure. But the danger in responding to everything—this reminds me of World War I and “The Guns of August.” You go to war not because there‘s a need to go to war, but because you‘re prepared to go to war. Both staffs have huge operation research arms. They both have huge rapid-response teams. And the tendency is to always use them, to always throw them into battle.
But there‘s a danger here. This item might have been dismissed as just another Robert Novak item about Democrats, but Obama ratcheted it up instantly by announcing it himself. Didn‘t use a staff member. He released the response under his own name.
MATTHEWS: That‘s right.
SIMON: A certain number of people are always going to say, Where‘s smoke, there‘s fire. A certain number of people are always going to say, He protests too much. And then you get another problem. It leads to ripples in the pond.
Marc Ambinder of “The Atlantic Monthly” has a story in the issue on the stands now that he was in Iowa—Ambinder is a very highly respected journalist. An Obama aide sat down next to him and said, When are you going to start investigating Bill Clinton‘s post-presidential sex life?
Now, how is that different than the Novak? In fact, it‘s worse. It mentions sex life.
SIMON: Novak just says an unnamed scandal. There‘s a problem with riding a high horse down a low road. If you‘re going to accuse Hillary Clinton of doing this...
SIMON: ... you better be sure your campaign has never done it.
MATTHEWS: Well, then, of course, the question...
MATTHEWS: Let‘s be honest about facts here. Does the Clinton campaign have something on Obama? Does—is there something out there on Bill Clinton that could be useful to this campaign, if you‘re Obama‘s guy? Speculation, but is it accusation, as well? You‘re saying that Obama, according to this reporter for “The Atlantic Monthly,” accused Bill Clinton of messing around.
SIMON: An Obama aide said to a reporter, When are you going to start investigating Bill Clinton‘s post-presidential sex life?
MATTHEWS: Yes. Oh, an Obama aide.
SIMON: An Obama aide. But you know, how is that any different than just scandal mongering?
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you—let me—let me—go ahead, Jim.
WARREN: It‘s funny, Roger. It‘s funny, Roger and Chris. I‘ve been at a dinner table in Chicago a couple of months ago with some, you know, prominent pols, and who just threw out the same notion. Did they have any facts? Oh, no, you better check into Bill Clinton in London and this woman and that woman. I mean, that was out there.
But there‘s a difference between, you know, dinner table chat and then sticking something in “The Chicago Tribune” or Politico.com.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I think so.
WARREN: And when one speaks about ripples in the pond, as Roger did, there‘s also the possibility that this would inadvertently, even if it‘s something emanating from the Clinton camp, conceivably play and enlarge the notion among some Democrats on the fence about sort of, you know, ruthless expedience of the Clinton camp in a negative way.
SIMON: And both campaigns...
MATTHEWS: And also, we‘ve learned about the Iowa vote—I got to go
we‘ve got a news bulletin here that plays into my notion about the Iowa voter. We‘ve all been told that the Iowa voter is very averse to negative campaigning, to any kind of slime campaign tactic. Well, here it is, a new ABC News/”Washington Post” poll just out this moment shows Barack Obama leading in Iowa now 30 points for him among expected caucus voters, Hillary down to 26, Edwards at 22. And you‘ve got a jump of four points for Obama since July.
Jim Warren, your thoughts? Obama is now on top in Iowa.
WARREN: Yes, I mean, I think it‘s real interesting. Obviously, a lot of time. And when one talks about the general thrust of what you just suggested among the Iowa electorate, and Roger knows them very, very well, take a look at the position of someone like John Edwards, who had that upbeat campaign four years ago. Now I think there are a lot of folks going, Gosh, what‘s happened to him? And in a similar vein, you know, Obama would run the risk, having positioned himself as somehow the, you know, New Age alternative, if he starts getting down in the mud with anybody, of putting some folks off.
So I think after, you know, he gets through this, better keep being upbeat, upbeat, upbeat and try to position...
WARREN: ... Hillary Clinton as the old expedient politics that you have had eight years of with her husband and want no more of.
MATTHEWS: Roger, only 15 seconds. Is Hillary now being targeted as a slimy politician by Barack Obama?
SIMON: What do you mean now? Hasn‘t she always been?
SIMON: I think both campaigns...
MATTHEWS: Well, I mean verbatim now.
SIMON: ... instantly use this to enforce, you know, their message of the day, Hillary Clinton is a hypocrite and a mud-thrower of the old politics, Barack Obama is inexperienced, can‘t handle attacks, panics easily, and you know—and immediately slings mud back. Everything is pounded into the frame of the message of the day, and both know how to use it well. The question is, Do voters really want to hear this?
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, it looks to me—Roger, it looks like—Jim, like Obama‘s had a good weekend. Anyway, thank you very much, Roger Simon and Jim Warren.
Coming up: Digging up the dirt. How are the top campaigns using opposition research right now to take on their rivals?
And later: Is this presidential campaign of ‘08 beginning to look a lot like one 40 years ago next year, 1968? Are the frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani running like Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon? NBC‘s Tom Brokaw is going to join us.
And tune in tonight at 7:00 Eastern for the HARDBALL “Power Rankings” as we tell you which candidates showed power this week and who lost it.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. With 45 days to go before Iowa, how are the campaigns gathering and dishing dirt on their opponents, and how‘s the game changing over the years?
Chuck Todd‘s the political director for NBC News and Michael Crowley is a senior editor with “The New Republic.”
Chuck, I have to tell you, I am impressed by these new numbers coming out of Iowa, the break (ph) news poll. Here it is, the new ABC News/”Washington Post” poll—it‘ll be a headline tomorrow in the paper—shows Barack Obama now leading the Democratic field with 30 percent of the vote, Hillary Clinton at 26 percent, Edwards at 22 percent. That‘s a four-point drop.
And it‘s interesting, by the way. The poll also shows that people prefer new and change over experience. They really want a new kind of candidate out there. They don‘t want the traditional experienced person.
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, it‘s interesting. I‘ve been wondering...
TODD; I‘ve been wondering, Chris, whether, you know, early on in this process, we‘re going to see Democrats voting with their hearts, and then later, as the process goes on, eventually making—you know, deciding that the experience thing matters more, that early on, Obama can overcome experience, but he‘s still going to have to prove it somewhere down the line. And I think that that‘s what makes Iowa more open to him than any other place, where you have a stronger anti-war bent, a stronger, probably...
TODD: ... group of folks that want change. Chris, the other thing in that poll, by the way, he‘s leading her two to one on being honest and trustworthy. Well, this all happens, Chris, on the same day that Hillary Clinton unveils an ad with a supporter who says that, you know, This idea that others say that you can‘t trust Hillary Clinton, well, I trusted her. You know, her themed ad on trust coming out of—I mean, this is an issue that‘s hurting her, I think, a little bit in Iowa.
MATTHEWS: Let me go—same question to you, Michael Crowley. It seems to me that the whole mess over the thing we‘ve been talking about for the last 10 minutes, this little stinkbomb that came through the Bob Novak column—whoever threw the bomb, it came through the column, and it‘s obviously been exploding into the face of Barack Obama, and he‘s exploiting it. Is he going to be able to say that, I‘ve been slimed by Hillary Clinton? That‘s going to help him move further in this direction.
MICHAEL CROWLEY, SENIOR EDITOR, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”: It might.
I mean, I—I do agree. I think it might have been Roger who said it in the last segment, but this changes the subject from a debate, after which I heard a lot of people say, well, Hillary got her groove back, she staunched the bleeding, and Obama couldn‘t go in for the kill, and he blew his moment.
But that story over the weekend changed the subject. This poll is going to renew a sense that Obama actually can get over the hump. And I think you‘re exactly right. I mean, I think one way in which that—this weird Novak story works for him is that what you get with the Clinton campaign, according to him, is more of these old inside-Washington sleazy tactics, playing ball with Bob Novak, you know, triple bank shots, and those are the politics of the ‘90s and of impeachment and all this stuff that went to put behind us.
And, so, I think that plays very nicely into what he‘s doing. Now, the one last thing I would say is, is this maybe—is this poll maybe a lagging indicator from that couple of weeks of terrible coverage Hillary got after the Philadelphia debate?
MATTHEWS: No, that‘s a good point.
CROWLEY: And it possible people are going to be coming back around even as speak?
So, you know, you always wonder if you‘re a step behind when these polls come out.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at Obama this Sunday responding to that Novak column over the weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it is very important to send a clear message that, whether it is coming from our party, the other party, third parties, 527s, that our campaign will not tolerate this kind of slime politics. We just won‘t tolerate it.
Now, Senator Clinton‘s campaign, after three iterations of it, said they do not engage in these practices, and that they don‘t have any information that is scandalous, as was referred to in the Novak column.
And we take them at their word. But we don‘t want anybody to have any doubts that, when it comes to, you know, these kinds of practices, I won‘t tolerate it.
You know, I—I have lived for 46 years now, and been in politics for close to two decades, and I really value my reputation and my character and my family. And, in the era of the blogosphere, we have seen what happened with John McCain in 2000. We have seen what happened with John Kerry in 2004.
You know, if you don‘t get on this stuff quick, then it starts drifting around. And that‘s not something that I‘m going to accept, because that‘s exactly the kind of politics that I think we need to change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know—let me start with Chuck—you know, when Bob Novak begins a column with the word “agents,” “agents of Hillary Clinton” are spreading this story, according to a well-known Democrat, that they have got some dirt on Obama, and then you read the references to the Barack study group, another name for the Hillary Clinton opposition research team, is this all fair? Is this building up a case? Or are the people in the Clinton campaign really tough guys who are putting together some stink bombs?
TODD: Well, look, I mean—look, they‘re not the only ones. And don‘t think the Obama campaign, which—them—took credit in a piece in “The Atlantic” took credit for helping get the—the Norman Hsu story about fund-raising, to get that into the mainstream press.
But I want to go back to what Obama did this weekend. I agree with
Michael and with Roger before that, saying that, yes, this was about
changing the subject. But one thing that Obama does is, they do a lot of -
they have emphasized the process story a lot. They talk about the campaign and they talk about tactics.
But, sometimes, he fails to do that second punch. You know, the one is, sort of, OK, this is dirty politics, and I‘m not going to tolerate it. But what‘s to follow? How come he—you know, he needs to say why this is bad politics. This is why we couldn‘t get health care done or we couldn‘t get the economy, or we can‘t do this or we can‘t do that.
He‘s not pivoting when he talks about this stuff enough. And I think, sometimes, he looks like he‘s just focused on process and not talking about why that process matters to the general public.
MATTHEWS: Mike, last word, Michael Crowley. Who won this big bout?
MATTHEWS: Is this going in—it looks like it might be going in Barack‘s direction. He seems to want to play it a lot more than Hillary does. She hasn‘t shown up on camera on this. He has shown up on camera. He seems to want to wallow in this baby.
CROWLEY: You know, I don‘t know who‘s won. I think you‘re right.
He‘s a little more eager to talk about it.
But I want to say, I think Chuck made a great point about the second -
second punch. But I do want to say, the first punch, the process question, is so essentially important to Democrats right now, because I think they believe, fundamentally, process is the reason that Gore and Kerry lost in 2000 and 2004, that they got slimed.
There was the Swift Boats smear, that the press turned on Gore in 2000. And, so, I think that is what‘s so interesting here is, you‘re seeing this kind of military exercise happening about a nonexistent scandal, where both campaigns are trying to show, we—we fight back hard and fast, and we squash things right away.
And the Hillary people in particular are trying to say, we have been through this before and we know how to handle these kind of stories. Obama is trying to say, I‘m ready for this kind of thing, even though I haven‘t really been through the meat grinder before.
And it‘s a reminder how important it is, how traumatized Democrats are by the kind of media circus that they feel killed them off in the last two elections, and how determined they are to avoid letting that happen again.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me tell you, let me tell you, there‘s two—
Michael, there‘s a big difference between what happened to Al Gore and what happened to Bob—John Kerry.
John Kerry got hit unfairly by the Swift Boat, attacking his service to his country. They conflated his opposition to the war when he came back, which we can all argue about, and his service to a country, his country, which is not really arguable. They trashed him.
But, in terms of Al Gore, he is the one who said he created the Internet. He‘s the one who put out the word that he was the subject or the role model for “Love Story,” that he pointed the—the country‘s attention to Love Canal. He stuck himself into that story.
And when Martin Peretz‘s daughter wrote that piece in the “Vanity Fair” a couple months ago, I‘m sorry. She didn‘t make the case. Gore got himself in those problem areas...
MATTHEWS: ... by vanity and showing off and trying to make himself cool. But John Kerry got unfair treatment. I think there‘s a big difference, guys, big difference in how those two were treated.
CROWLEY: That may be so, but not...
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Chuck Todd.
CROWLEY: That‘s not how most—many Democrats feel.
MATTHEWS: Well, why would you expect a partisan to think anything more than partisan? That‘s what partisans do think.
MATTHEWS: Of course you think you were rooked.
MATTHEWS: Everybody that loses an election says they were rooked, OK?
MATTHEWS: And they blame it on the umpire.
MATTHEWS: Keep it up.
Thank you, Chuck Todd.
Thank you, Mike Crowley.
CROWLEY: That‘s the audience they‘re speaking to.
MATTHEWS: Up next: Barack Obama—well, you know what? How about getting into the land of truth and understanding?
Anyway, Obama hits hard on the voter in Iowa. Let‘s watch it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I have got a 9-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old daughter. Don‘t think that I don‘t—that I care any less than Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney about making sure that my daughters don‘t get blown up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We will show you happened and what prompted Obama‘s reaction.
And what else is new out there in politics?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
So, what else is new out there politically? Well, Barack Obama got tough in Iowa over the weekend when a 64-year-old woman gave him a rough time about fighting terrorism. Here‘s the exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to know specifically what you would do to protect this country from terrorism. And are we going to close the borders, and are we going to get rid of the illegal immigrants?
OBAMA: Iraq didn‘t launch the Twin Towers. Neither did Saddam Hussein.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (OFF-MIKE)
OBAMA: No, I‘m sorry. I‘m sorry. Ma‘am—Ma‘am, I‘m sorry, but this is an area that—this is a part of the world that I have studied deeply. And this is part of the misinformation that‘s been coming out of this administration.
Don‘t think that I don‘t—that I care any less than Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney about making sure that my daughters don‘t get blown up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Speaking of Obama, he‘s throwing a big bone to senior citizens. Up in Iowa, he‘s promising to end—end the income tax for seniors who make $50,000 or less, which is practically everybody.
The likely reason? A recently released “USA Today”/Gallup poll shows Obama with just 15 percent—one in six—support among voters 55 and older. Hillary has almost half of those voters, older voters, at 48 percent.
Rudy Giuliani is out with a new ad touting, of course, his 9/11 leadership, but he‘s getting some blowback today in New Hampshire. FDNY—that‘s the Fire Department of New York—Deputy Fire Chief Jim Riches and six families who lost someone on 9/11 are holding a town-hall meeting at Dartmouth to take on Rudy, specifically over what they call—quote—
“the mismanagement of the emergency response to the attacks by Giuliani and his political appointees”—close quote.
Well, Mike Huckabee has got a new ad out there featuring action star Chuck Norris which is getting a lot of play.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, HUCKABEE CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: An important policy message from Governor Mike Huckabee.
MIKE HUCKABEE ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My plan to secure the border, two words: Chuck Norris.
CHUCK NORRIS, ACTOR: Mike Huckabee is a lifelong hunter who will protect our Second Amendment rights.
HUCKABEE: There‘s no chin behind Chuck Norris‘ beard, only another fist.
NORRIS: Mike Huckabee wants to put the IRS out of business.
HUCKABEE: When Chuck Norris, he isn‘t lifting himself up. He‘s pushing the earth down.
NORRIS: Mike is a principled, authentic conservative.
HUCKABEE: Chuck Norris doesn‘t endorse. He tells America how it‘s going to be.
I‘m Mike Huckabee, and I approved this message. So did Chuck.
NORRIS: Chuck Norris approved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Yes, that‘s cool, of course. But let‘s not forget that we are talking about something deadly serious here.
Huckabee says the way to lower the horrendous murder rate in this country is by arming every citizen with a weapon.
Here is my interview with Governor—Governor Huckabee back in September.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUCKABEE: No, you don‘t outlaw the guns. What you do, you make sure that people aren‘t defenseless when they are approached by somebody who does have one. That‘s why many of us have concealed carry permits.
MATTHEWS: So, you think in a big city like Philly or Baltimore, where they have these horrendous murder rates right now, the secret is to put more arms in the streets, to have more people carrying with right to carry so that they can protect themselves when some bad kids come down the street?
HUCKABEE: If a bad kid thinks that he‘s the only one with a gun and that he can go unchallenged, he‘s more likely to have that gun, more likely to use that gun. If he thinks that there‘s a policeman on the corner or that there‘s an armed citizen on the corner, he‘s going to be less likely to try to use that firearm in some nefarious way.
MATTHEWS: This is unbelievable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I love that phrase “armed citizen.”
What if the armed citizen on a corner is a gang member out looking for blood?
Come on, Governor.
Up next: Are the Democrats of today still hampered by the weight of the 1960s? NBC‘s Tom Brokaw joins us next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MICHELLE CARUSO-CABRERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Michelle Caruso-Cabrera with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Another sell-off today triggered by a downgrade of Citigroup on concerns $15 billion in mortgage losses still lie ahead. The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 218 points, closing below 13000 for the second time since August. The S&P 500 fell 25 points. And the Nasdaq lost almost 44 points.
Also pushing stocks lower, more gloomy news from the housing sector. The National Association of Home Builders‘ November housing forecast remained unchanged, at its lowest level ever.
And home improvement retailer Lowe‘s cuts its earnings forecast for the second time in two months.
Some positive earnings news, though, after the closing bell—
Hewlett-Packard reported, quarterly profits rose 28 percent and earnings beat analyst estimates. In after-hours trading, H.P. shares are up more than 1 percent.
Oil prices climbed again today. Crude rose 80 cents in New York trading, closing at $94.64 a barrel.
That‘s it from CNBC. We are America‘s business channel—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Former “NBC Nightly News” anchor and managing editor Tom Brokaw wrote extensively about the greatest generation in World War II, of course. And now he‘s taking on the tumultuous ‘60s in a new book called “Boom!: Voices of the ‘60s.”
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: Thank you, Chris.
You were a junior high school student with your nose pressed up against the glass of all that time, right?
MATTHEWS: Tell me about your memories, because I‘m very curious about you and—and ‘68 especially. The ‘60 -- I think—I thought it was great the way you said the ‘60s began with Kennedy‘s assassination and ended with Nixon‘s resignation.
Tell us about those bookends, first of all.
BROKAW: Well, I was in Omaha when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. And I was racing out to the Strategic Air Command headquarters to see if they were on extra alert.
And I began to talk out loud to myself, saying, this doesn‘t happen in America. I think it will change us. I‘m not—I didn‘t understand how, but I thought we were in a different country after those gunshots rang out on the streets of Dallas.
By 1965, I was working in Atlanta, covering the civil rights movement through the South. Sixty-six, I‘m in California, the rise of the counterculture, simultaneously, the rise of Ronald Reagan pushing aback against all the liberal expectations of what the middle class would finance in the future.
By ‘68, I‘m in Chicago covering the Democratic convention, having witnessed in effect the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, as a journalist working out of California. And of course, Bobby Kennedy who was shot down as he won the California primary. So I felt a little bit like Forrest Gump moving through those times.
MATTHEWS: What won—action or reaction?
BROKAW: Well, action or reaction, I remember it was as a citizen, as well as a journalist, that everything that I had grown up was coming down around me. Some of it was pretty exciting. The gains that were being made in the civil rights movement, for example. The passion of the young people, both the people who were going against the war and those who were going off to the war and believed in that cause.
On college campuses, it was disquieting because they have the privilege of being able to go to school and have deferments, and times were good for their parents so they had plenty of money. They were not as morally conscious as I thought that they ought to be about what was going on in the inner city and among less privileged people. In Chicago—
MATTHEWS: When you look at today—yeah, go ahead.
BROKAW: I‘m just looking at some of these anti-war demonstrations. In Chicago, I remember walking down the night after the big riots outside of the Hilton hotel. There was a cordon of National Guardsmen and five feet away who were the students screaming at them. They were all the same age and I thought I was walking on the dividing line of this country. I didn‘t know whether it could ever be put back together again.
MATTHEWS: When you look at the—at the ‘60‘s and the way they began, I think in a lot of ways the ‘68 campaign began with the march on the Pentagon in ‘67 and Gene McCarthy challenged the New Hampshire primary against President Johnson and Bobby. But it all ended with two pretty much centrist politicians running against each other. Pretty much no change politicians, Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon.
Do you think we‘re going to end up that way this time with Hillary and Rudy going against each other, after all the ferment and excitement of Obama and possibilities that it‘s going to end up being a relatively safe country down the middle again?
BROKAW: Chris, you‘re not going to draw me into that one. We have a long way to go before we settle that one.
MATTHEWS: But do you feel the possibilities, at least? As a great journalist, do you sense our times are ripe for these possibilities?
BROKAW: I think that that‘s always possible. They‘re both in the race, Giuliani and Mrs. Clinton. So there‘s a possibility that—both of them could get the nomination and end up running against each other.
Then the larger question is, would they say that we‘re going to just stay on the same track at a time when I think the country is signaling almost every day that they‘re desperate for some change beginning with tone and then moving towards solutions and getting away from the ideological food fights that have defined American politics for far too long, I believe.
But again, Chris, you‘re not going to pull me into that—into that bubble of making a prediction.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go back to the safe canal, the NBC/”Wall Street Journal” polling, which I know you‘ve studied for years. The right track/wrong track, you alluded to that.
When a country votes in our poll, three out of four people saying they think we‘re headed in the wrong direction, does that tell you they‘re willing to back that up with their vote?
BROKAW: It tells me that they really want to change. What I say have been saying as I go around the country is that I think the ‘60s really defined what we‘re still living with in many ways and it is time in 2008 to have a referendum on what‘s worth saving, and what we should leave behind or just discard—whatever choice you want to make.
I think that‘s where the country is as well. That‘s a desperate longing out there to be called to a higher ground, Republican and Democrat alike, to find some common cause that everyone can join in on. You find that much more at the state level than you do at the national level. At the national level, both parties have still put forward these litmus tests for admission to those parties and to participate.
BROKAW: I think a lot of the country feels excluded from what should be the most important decision of their lifetime.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about as a reporter and as a journalist, you had clearly memories going back into the research for this book and all the interviewing you did with all the interesting people. What surprised you the most between what you remembered and your feelings about the ‘60s in memory, and what surprised you that came up against that in reporting and doing all the interview for the book?
BROKAW: I think what surprised me the most is that I thought that the young activists of that time who are now in their mid to late 50‘s, would have a hard time letting go of what they did, but most of them are in a more reflective mood.
For example, Mark Rudd who became not just the leader of the Columbia strike, but a violent weatherman said that was wrong. I am now a pacifist, I don‘t believe in violent revolution of any kind. And as he put it succinctly, they won and we lost.
Others from the ‘60s say what were we thinking when we didn‘t support Hubert Humphrey against Richard Nixon? How could we have walked away at that time? But we so angry with Humphrey even after he made the speech in Salt Lake City saying that he would call for negotiations with the North Vietnamese, that they couldn‘t bring themselves to support him.
Bottom line, I think a lot of people on the left felt that they were very good at tactics and awful at long-term strategy. While on the right, they saw the ‘60s as an opening, took full advantage of it, seized the party from the eastern establishment Republican Party, and took it west, took it farther to the right.
Organized themselves, and these scenes that were playing out were unsettling to a lot of people in what Pat Buchanan called the silent majority and they rode that to victory in six of the next eight elections.
MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, Tom Brokaw is going to stay with us. His great new book is called “Boom! Voices of the 1960s,” an incredibly well-reported book. Tom is sticking with us for the roundtable. And much more on this weekend‘s big fight between Hillary and Obama. He‘s going to stay with the roundtable for the next two segments. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s get right to the roundtable. Former “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS” anchor, Tom Brokaw is the author of the great new book “Boom! Voices of the ‘60s,” personal reflections on the ‘60s and today.
Jill Zuckman is with the “Chicago Tribune” and Ryan Lizza is with the “New Yorker.”
Here is that brand new poll out of Iowa, lady and gentlemen. It is from ABC News and “The Washington Post,” and it shows Barack Obama now leading the Democratic field in Iowa with 30 percent of the vote. Hillary Clinton is at 26 and Edwards at 22.
Tom, you first. It seems like that 30 percent barrier is significant.
BROKAW: Well, I think it‘s a very good pop for Barack Obama. But O would remind you that it falls right within the margin of error, and I think that what we‘re seeing now is the weigh in for the Iowa caucuses.
The first round will begin probably about a week today, right after Thanksgiving and it will be a very fast countdown then until January 3. And we‘ll see where those numbers move. But this is a good move for him at a time when he has been trying to kick start his campaign against Senator Clinton. It‘s not very good news for John Edwards, obviously.
MATTHEWS: Jill Zuckman, it‘s coincidental with his strong attack this week and obviously it didn‘t affect the polling. But it‘s coincidental in terms of the news cycle, with his attack on Hillary, blaming her for slime tactics. Maybe those were overcharged words, but he did go nuclear on this. He obviously thinks he wins when he challenges her by calling a foul.
JILL ZUCKMAN, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: I think they have decided they have got to be aggressive. I think they feel like it‘s working for them. They just announced a few minutes ago that they‘re starting a new Web site which is a fact check Web site on Barack Obama so that they can set the media straight and set anybody else straight about whatever rumors are out there. I mean, they do not want to let anything interfere with their trajectory.
MATTHEWS: Ryan, go ahead. Put it together, the poll data—go ahead.
RYAN LIZZA, THE NEW YORKER: I think one of the things that we learned this weekend is that they‘re taking a lesson from the Clintons in ‘92. Remember what Carla used to say about the famous war room in that campaign? That was one way to let the media in on that and to sort of exaggerate and go nuclear on one of these incidents.
That‘s a way to show strength. And at a time when people are wondering if this is—if Obama is a killer or if he‘s Bambi, you have to take these moments to actually show and to signal that you‘re going to lie down and take a hit, to mix a metaphor there.
MATTHEWS: Ryan, do they have someone as skilled as George Stephanopoulos was in running that war room?
LIZZA: I don‘t know. We won‘t know unless they win. Those guys, Carville and Stephanopoulos, weren‘t Carville and Stephanopoulos until they win. There‘s nothing like winning to prove that you‘re one of those people. I think the jury is still out on that.
Look, one more thing on the poll. If you look inside it, there‘s some other good news for Obama. To the extent that this election is about experience versus new ideas shows that people are more interested in new ideas than experience.
The other thing is the Iowa caucus, it‘s not just important who your first choice is, but the second choice is important as well, and Obama is the leading second choice as well as the first choice.
MATTHEWS: You‘re right, Ryan, the real distinction between the two points of view is 55 percent of Iowa Democratic caucus attenders want to see change. Only 33 percent prefer what they call strength and experience, that‘s Hillary‘s profile.
We‘ll be right back with the roundtable and up next, Rudy Giuliani courts the southern vote and the cowboy vote. Maybe it‘s everybody, showing up at the track at the last day of the NASCAR season. So just how many NASCAR events has the former New York mayor attended?
That‘s our big number next. How many times has Rudy shown up at NASCAR?
You‘re watching HARDDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Time now for the HARDBALL big number tonight. Tonight, our big number is three. That‘s the total number of NASCAR events that Rudy Giuliani has attended this year.
We‘re back with the roundtable. Let me go back to Jill Zuckman. First of all Jill, it strikes me that Rudy Giuliani has been very effective in moving over to the cultural right. Not only is he a NASCAR fan all of a sudden, he‘s a second amendment fan. Having fought for gun control in New York City, he‘s now out there saying that the court ruling the other day striking down the D.C. handgun control bill was bad—was good, actually. The court ruling they should be allowed to have handguns in D.C. What is he up to? Can he get away with this?
ZUCKMAN: Chris, he‘s got the tough guy vote locked up. He is presenting himself as a tough guy and I think that male voters really like him. And going to NASCAR and talking about guns just works. It fits in with his image, even if it‘s inconsistent with his past positions.
MATTHEWS: Tom, you lived during his past positions in New York. How can a guy who was Mr. Handgun Control in New York become a guy who wants to use the second amendment now, not just for shotguns and sporting rifles, but for handguns.
BROKAW: Well, I think when he arrives at something like a NASCAR event or goes into South Carolina, especially the southern states, he brings a big celebrity with him and a big name recognition.
And they don‘t look at his record as much as they do as he portrays himself as America‘s mayor from 9/11. And he talks the talk with them. That‘s what they‘re concentrating on. And that‘s exactly what he wants them to concentrate on and not to look too carefully at his record.
LIZZA: That‘s why, I agree with Tom. That‘s why I think it‘s strange that he‘s moving into this sort of flip flop mode. The thing that he had on Romney is that we‘ve all sort of nailed Romney for changing his position. By contrast, Rudy has looked steadfast and principled and he‘s gone to voters and said, hey, you may not agree with me on every issue, but you respect me for other reasons and you respect me for being sticking to my guns.
Meanwhile that guy Romney over there, he‘s just letting the market determine his positions. And so now to hear him sort of move far to the right on guns or some of the issues, he‘s in danger of losing that sort of sense of authenticity that he‘s cultured.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s stay and watch. Thank you Tom Brokaw. The name of your book of course is “Boom!” And thank you and thank Jill Zuckman, thank you Ryan Lizza. In one hour, we‘re going to hear and we‘re going to tell you about the big power question tonight. Who‘s got the power tonight? Who‘s leading in the power rankings as we unveil this week‘s HARDBALL power rankings. And tomorrow on HARDBALL, the hot man in Iowa, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is going to come here. Right now it‘s time for “TUCKER.”
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