Guest: Ed Schultz, Mark Green, Phil Bronstein, Jim Warren, Jennifer
Donahue, Roger Simon, Maria Teresa Petersen
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Does it get any better than this? The 2008 story has it all. Let’s hope the best person wins.
Let’s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I’m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. Not only didn’t Hillary Clinton produce a game-changing moment in last night’s debate, but she raised a lot of eyebrows at the end when she said she was honored just to be alongside Barack Obama. A lot of people interpreted that to mean Senator Clinton is thinking of getting out of this race. Is she? Or is this just a conciliatory moment in the debate?
Here’s what she said on this morning’s “Today” show when asked if she’ll continue the campaign, no matter what happens in Texas and Ohio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don’t make predictions. I never have. I never will. I just get up every day, and you know, do the best I can to, you know, let people know what I have done and what I am doing and what I will do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: In just a moment, we’ll try to make sense what’s going on behind the scenes of the Clinton campaign. We’ll also talk to two people with very strong opinions about whether Senator Clinton actually out to get out of the race right now for the good of the Democratic Party, radio talk show host Ed Schultz, who thinks she ought to, and Air America radio’s Mark Green, who says “No way.”
Plus: It’s been a day since “The New York Times” published its story about John McCain’s relationship with a lobbyist, and it’s the paper, not the senator, still taking the heat. We’ll talk to two top newspaper editors about whether the story should ever have been run and how this incident may actually have helped McCain with the people he needs most.
But first, last night’s debate. Let’s turn to NBC News political director Chuck Todd and NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who’s been covering the Clinton campaign. I’ll open the door to greatness from both of you. I want Andrea first, then Chuck. What happened last night? This was supposed to be an opportunity to change the course of mighty rivers. What happened?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: She didn’t change the course. And I think that she has realized that without winning both Texas and Ohio, that she can’t go on.
MATTHEWS: Is she getting tracking numbers telling her that she might be losing, at least in Texas?
MITCHELL: Yes. And they are seeing a steady decline in Texas. They’re seeing that Hispanics are divided, that the younger generation of Latinos are not siding with her, that her deep roots in Texas really don’t mean as much to her as she had thought.
Now, there still is time. She could still make it up, but the trends are going against her in Texas. And I’ve been there for the last couple of days, just flew back, and what you’re seeing as you talk to people, is that the fact that she went in 1972 and was a field organizer...
MITCHELL: ... for McGovern, and that’s where she and Bill, you know, first laid their claim to politics—they were at Yale Law School, it doesn’t matter to the younger people in Texas.
MATTHEWS: It’s history.
MITCHELL: It’s not connecting.
MATTHEWS: And today, Chuck, saying “That’s history” is a knock.
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It is. No, I got that sense. You know, she paid homage to Barbara Jordan in her opening statement, and the first thing I thought—and Barbara Jordan is somebody my mother looks up to...
TODD: She loves Barbara Jordan.
MITCHELL: The airport is named after her.
MATTHEWS: I think we all do. Anybody does who grew up with her around.
TODD: And yet I thought, I wonder how many people under the age of 40 know who Barbara Jordan is?
MATTHEWS: And here’s Barbara Jordan, known best for her rhetoric, for her ability to speak on platform at the conventions and places like that.
TODD: And what she did at the Watergate hearings and...
MITCHELL: How heroic she was.
TODD: ... things like that. I mean, and so—and when she said it, it was sort of, like—it was almost as if she was talking about the past almost too much in that early statement. And was she connecting to the right people?
MATTHEWS: I do that too much, and people correct me and say, Nobody knows, nobody cares.
MATTHEWS: Let’s take a look now at something that happened last night. Here’s how Senator Clinton finished up the debate last night. She got a lot of applause fro this crowning end of the debate last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: No matter what happens in this contest—and I am honored, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
CLINTON: And you know, whatever happens, we’re going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends. I just hope that we’ll be able to say the same thing about the American people. And that’s what this election should be about.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, I get in trouble for expressing my feelings in this business, but those moments touch me. I mean, I don’t care if she thought about this before. I think it’s so wonderful that people fight it out like this, they’re both heavyweights, and she acknowledges that this other guy’s doing really well.
MITCHELL: A couple of quick points...
MATTHEWS: What’s wrong with saying that?
MITCHELL: Nothing’s wrong. And in fact, tactically—let’s just say that the good Hillary, the one who was on the Los Angeles debate and the one who ended up in that debate, that’s the Hillary, the one who is emotional and emotive in New Hampshire.
MATTHEWS: She’s going to be...
MITCHELL: That’s the one who...
MATTHEWS: ... a goddess (ph) in the Democratic Party, if she loses this race—if she loses—I don’t know who’s going to win this thing...
MATTHEWS: ... and loses like that.
MITCHELL: That Hillary is the one that attracts voters. So if she has any chance now of winning in Texas and Ohio, tactically, it’s not to muddy he up because he’s been bulletproof. He’s been teflon.
MATTHEWS: OK. So think this might be strategically to her advantage to be that conciliatory.
MITCHELL: That’s one point. The other point is that her surrogates are going out and hammering us with e-mails all day about the mistakes—alleged mistakes, quote, unquote—that he made on Cuba. Was that tactically wrong...
MATTHEWS: Was she good-copping him and her people were bad-copping him?
MITCHELL: That’s part of it.
MITCHELL: But I think that there has been a decision made. And you heard Bill Clinton say, We have to win Ohio and Texas. There is a decision made. The money is drying up. They can’t do it if they don’t win Ohio and Texas. And why continue, why make the party...
MATTHEWS: Well, we’re breaking—we’re beating “The Nightly News” here with a news report, actually, but if you’re...
MITCHELL: It’s not...
MATTHEWS: If you can report now, Andrea Mitchell—you’ve been with these people—that they’ve made the decision that they—well, the president himself said this. President Clinton said—we’ll show the tape in a minute. He said they got to win both. Let’s watch him now. He’s the one making the news, but you’re analyzing here. Let’s take a look at former President Clinton talking about the importance of these two states on the 4th of March.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If she wins in Texas and Ohio, I think she’ll be the nominee. If you don’t deliver for her, I don’t think she can be. It’s all on you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL: Now, let me tell you where the division is inside the campaign. There are those in the campaign who believe that if she wins the popular vote marginally, even though he’s ahead in delegates, that she fights on. And I think that she may come down there, as well, because...
MATTHEWS: When will she know that, in June?
MITCHELL: Well, you won’t know...
TODD: No, what she means, this is all this crazy caucus system.
MITCHELL: The Texas...
TODD: She’s not going to win the delegates out of Texas. He’s probably going to win more delegates out of Texas, as...
MATTHEWS: What’s the headline going to be?
TODD: Well, that’s the point...
TODD: ... is that he may net more delegates on March 4...
TODD: ... and she could win the popular vote in Texas and Ohio.
MATTHEWS: Wednesday morning, on the 5th of March and they’ve split, what will they say?
TODD: If it’s split but she won the popular vote in both Ohio and Texas, Hillary Clinton survives and can move on and can stay in this thing. I think that’s the headline they can get. But it’s a narrow headline.
MATTHEWS: Will they give her the doubleheader if she wins in Ohio and Texas on the popular vote?
TODD: The problem is, she’ll be broke on March 5. That’s the really big issue.
MATTHEWS: But won’t she got out and the till, then, if she wins those two?
TODD: Maybe. It depends on how well she wins and it depends on how bad this delegate math is.
MITCHELL: I saw a lot of very wealthy contributors in the last couple of days in Texas, who all congregated for this debate, to show the flag. They were very upset by the front page story about the overspending of the Clinton campaign and mismanagement.
MATTHEWS: Upset at the mismanagement.
MATTHEWS: What about the $1,300 doughnut bill? Is that a funny line or what?
TODD: Here’s the thing. I mean...
MATTHEWS: Is that a lot for doughnuts?
TODD: In all fairness to them, don’t forget, a losing campaign always wastes money, a winning campaign always spends it smartly. But—and...
TODD: And guess what? And guess what? And everybody probably overspent too much money on doughnuts. But it’s about your volunteers. You feed your volunteers.
MATTHEWS: Yes, doughnuts are a cheap price for a volunteer.
Let’s take a look at Senator Clinton here, when asked about her most tested moment. This was a big moment for her last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Well, I think everybody here knows I’ve lived through some crises and some challenging moments in my life and...
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Now, I want to ask you two pros. This is a tough one. The joke is, she went through a horrendous period of embarrassment in 1998. We know all about it. Everybody it knows all about it.
MITCHELL: (INAUDIBLE) joke.
MATTHEWS: It wasn’t a joke at the time. It wasn’t a joke for the country to be embarrassed. Why is that a punchline now for her? Would it be a punchline if Bill Clinton were in that audience last night? Could she have done that with him there? And that’s the weirdness of this campaign.
MITCHELL: No, she couldn’t have, but...
MATTHEWS: Because if he was in the room—he was the cause of the embarrassment. Therefore, what?
MITCHELL: Well, she knew, first of all, going in that an Austin audience was an Obama audience. That’s the way the state is divided. So when she was jeered for her really bad line about the Xeroxing and the plagiarism, you know, that was the worst case of it. This was not a sympathetic audience. She won their sympathy with that line. It’s women that she needs, and that is a reach out to women.
MATTHEWS: But this is the strangeness of that political—of marriage. Political in the sense they’re—the fact of the way they work together, not their marriage itself, but the fact of the way they work politically. He’s out there saying she’s the best she is, in fact, the one woman of our generation, the one person of our generation (INAUDIBLE) if I didn’t even know her, I’d be for her as president. At the same time, she’s using him as the butt of a joke. How does that work?
TODD: Well, you know, it’s interesting. I’ve always thought, when you write the history of this campaign, if she doesn’t make it, ultimately, it’ll be because he couldn’t answer one question, which was, How do you properly use Bill Clinton? How to properly...
MATTHEWS: But she used him this way as the butt of a joke, and it worked.
TODD: Every once in a while, it works. But the problem is they never figured out how to use the whole package and...
MATTHEWS: You know what I think the problem is? When you see them separately, they’ve very impressive people. When you see them together, it’s hard to get your eyes in focus. Now, what are we watching here, a political marriage? We obviously see a real marriage. But what is the political marriage? What is it about? He’s supporting her. He’s—you know, he helps her become an object of sympathy, as she was last night, or what?
MITCHELL: Do you know what he said last night after -- (INAUDIBLE) actually wind up with the debate? He said, That’s my girl.
MATTHEWS: Well, how—this is unbelievable! After she tells a joke that he’s the butt of a joke!
MITCHELL: That’s my girl.
MATTHEWS: That’s why it’s so—it’s cognitive dissonance. It’s hard to figure out what’s going on here!
TODD: One other thing you need to understand about Hillary Clinton is that, I think, she has more of a sense of her political future, maybe than the people inside the campaign right now. And you got the feeling...
MATTHEWS: Is she looking forward to being the head of the Senate some day, if this doesn’t work?
MITCHELL: I don’t know...
TODD: It could be that or it could be head of the party someday again. But you got the sense that she called the audible. I’m not 100 percent convinced...
TODD: ... that everybody on her campaign knew she was going to be as soft as she was last night.
MATTHEWS: OK, let’s take a look at where she tried not to be soft, she tried to be tough and nail him, and it didn’t quite work. Here’s the exchange between Senator Obama and Senator Clinton over whether he took credit for someone else’s words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The notion that I had plagiarized from somebody who is one of my national co-chairs, who gave me the line and suggested that I use it, I think is silly.
OBAMA: This is where we start getting into the silly season in politics, and I think people start getting discouraged about it.
CLINTON: Lifting whole passages from someone else’s speeches is not ‘Change you can believe in, it’s change you can Xerox.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK, he caught the audience tenor, as you were saying, with that “silly season” line. Like, This is small potatoes. She didn’t hear that. Her tuning fork wasn’t working. I mean, how many’s are that good? But she should have said, I get it, this audience think that was a stupid thing. And then she comes through with this set piece about the Xeroxing, which just fell like a clinker.
MITCHELL: Someone who’s been in these campaigns said to me that was a classic case, because up until now, her tone has been—her pitch has been really good in these debates. She’s won most of these debates, all but that one in Philadelphia.
MATTHEWS: I think she’s been debonair in most of them...
MATTHEWS: ... solid. But...
MITCHELL: This was a case of a campaign slightly on the ropes with too many people in the room, too many advisers now chiming in and maybe not listening to the people who had been advising her through all of these debates. Somebody gave her that line. That was no a natural line.
MATTHEWS: You can’t order up jokes like pizzas...
MATTHEWS: They have to fit the moment.
TODD: By the way, no offense, I haven’t Xeroxed anything. You cut and paste things. It was also oddly generational to use the word Xerox, and I think that’s another reason why it actually didn’t come across very well.
MATTHEWS: ... you trump me, Chuck. What do you mean by—you don’t Xerox anymore?
TODD: Right. People don’t make copies.
TODD: ... but this idea that you Xerox—I mean...
MITCHELL: You and I use paper.
TODD: You know, when Xerox was the entire copy—you know, but it was just sort of an odd—you can tell that...
MATTHEWS: Are we talking Western Union now?
MATTHEWS: Are we the Western Unions...
TODD: But it was somebody—but it gave it away of who gave her the line.
MATTHEWS: Here was Obama’s best moment. We showed, I think, Senator Clinton’s best. Here’s Senator Obama’s best moment. It’s when he sort of turned the tables on her shot at him with her latest riff on getting real.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Senator Clinton of late has said “Let’s get real,” and the implication is, is that, you know, the people who have been voting for me or involved in my campaign are somehow delusional...
OBAMA: ... and that, you know, the...
OBAMA: ... the—you know, the 20 million people who have been paying attention to 19 debates, and the editorial boards all across the country at newspapers who’ve given me endorsements, including every major newspaper here in the state of Texas...
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: You know, the thinking is that, somehow, they’re being duped and that eventually, they’re going to see the reality of things. Well, I think they perceive reality of what’s going on in Washington very clearly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK, I’m getting one of those chills, one of those great political moments. There’s a political person, Hillary Clinton, who’s just recognized—it’s as if she were saying with her face, Touche, God, you’re good. You have just trumped me on what I thought was my best line of the last two days, which is “Get real” and all this, and all this stuff about - - (INAUDIBLE) in other words, the people out there are being duped by me? The newspaper editors of this state in Texas have been duped by me? He turned the tables of her shot against the people. And she laughed. She said, Damn it, you’re good! I just love that moment~!
MITCHELL: In that, she’s like her husband, who really appreciates a good political move. The thing that’s so great about her in these debates, by the way, is not just what she says, but her reaction shots.
MATTHEWS: They’re better than his.
MITCHELL: She really...
MATTHEWS: He’s kind of cold out there.
MITCHELL: She really knows how to play that camera...
TODD: He still hasn’t figured out the camera...
MATTHEWS: He’s kind of chilly, he doesn’t like that she’s scoring points.
TODD: He’s stiff. He stiffens up and...
MATTHEWS: He acts like he’s not there.
TODD: He can look—particularly when he’s seated because he’s got the height advantage, he can look...
MATTHEWS: Can’t touch him.
MATTHEWS: Voters pay attention to that with him. He ought to be able to take a shot.
Anyway, thank you. This is great stuff.
MITCHELL: One quick addendum to what Chuck said. Chuck is really on to something about the turning point, if this turns out to be a losing campaign, which is a big one. Bill Clinton and the way to use him, but it’s also that it resurrected all the...
MITCHELL: No, it’s the idea of how he would be in the White House...
TODD: No, but if you haven’t figured it out in the campaign, then that means you haven’t figured it out in the White House.
MATTHEWS: And part of the campaign is like a courtship and marriage. You show people what it’s going to be like you’re married to them. That’s why you should always behave in the marriage like you did in the courtship. But in this, they’re showing us a strange picture. We don’t know what to make of Bill Clinton’s future role, watching the way he’s behaved.
MITCHELL: Because it’s unprecedented.
MITCHELL: It’s an historic role.
MATTHEWS: You don’t know what to make of it. Anyway, thank you, the pros, Chuck Todd—where would we be without you, Chuck?
MATTHEWS: Andrea, my pal—I’m feeling very—what’s a—give me a good Yiddishism. I’m feeling verklemt.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, before we take a break, some sad news to report. And this is this morning in Dallas, a police officer was killed in a road accident while escorting Senator Clinton to a rally as part of her motorcade. It was senior Corporal Victor Lozada-Tirada. He died after he struck a curb and lost control of his motorcycle. He served the public honorably. Senator Clinton cut short her scheduled rally, by the way, and went to the hospital to personally show her condolences and express them to the family. Corporal Lozada-Tirada was the father of four children. He was 49 years old. What a sad story. What a service this man was rendering when this happened.
We’ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, Senator Clinton trails Senator Obama in delegates right now, and the new “Washington Post” polls have been tied now in Texas. And Senator Clinton’s lead’s shrinking in the state of Ohio. She did not have, as many people think, a game-changing moment in last night’s debate. So right now, should Senator Clinton press on in her quest for the Democratic nomination for president, or should she call it quits even now?
Ed Schultz is a radio talk show host who says she should quit now. Mark Green is the president of Air America. He’s professionally neutral in this race, but he says Clinton should keep on going.
Ed Schultz, you’re a hard man, a hard man.
ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You know, Chris—well, you know, Chris, this is a business. This isn’t about personalities. It’s not about who you like or don’t like. The Clintons right now are in denial. I don’t know how you can softpedal this. How do you lose 11 straight contests by an average of 33 points? You got superdelegates jumping off the wagon. You got money drying up. And no one in the Clinton camp is explaining how they’re going to turn this around.
Everything they have tried has failed. The plagiarism thing has been absolutely a campaign-killer. They have gone after his background in Chicago. They have gone after his speeches. They have gone after what they claim to be a lack of accomplishments. They say he doesn’t have the experience. They’re trying to say he can’t be commander in chief.
But why does he keep winning? He’s winning because he’s the nominee.
MATTHEWS: OK, your point—and your point is, Mr. Schultz?
SCHULTZ: It’s over.
MATTHEWS: It’s over, and she should acknowledge this.
Let me ask you, Mark Green, your view of this campaign. Should Hillary Clinton do what Ed Schultz says she should do, call it quits, head for the showers?
MARK GREEN, PRESIDENT, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Of course not, because it’s not a business. It’s a democracy. Polls and pundits and the press don’t pick nominees or presidents.
A legal process does. The process says, when you get to 2,025 delegates, you’re it. Right now, no one is close to 2,025. Senator Obama, of course, is closer, maybe closing in, has, as everyone can see, momentum.
But, since when do—would the Giants quit in the fourth quarter when they fell behind 14-10 to the Patriots? And even if the odds are steep, you don’t quit.
SCHULTZ: This isn’t a football game either.
GREEN: One second.
GREEN: The process isn’t completed.
SCHULTZ: This isn’t a football game either.
GREEN: And Ed Schultz doesn’t pick the nominee.
SCHULTZ: You know, if the Clintons are trying to make this the Super Bowl, Mark, it’s not going to work.
GREEN: Let’s continue.
MATTHEWS: Let Mark finish.
GREEN: If ed and others want to risk a “Dewey Beats Truman” headline, be my guest.
Eight months ago, most of us, including me, said John McCain, no chance. Now, of course, he’s the nominee. If Barack Obama had listened to the tea leaves, had read them, he couldn’t be the nominee. He’s doing great.
Our problem is, of the four greatest Democratic candidates for president in my lifetime, John Kennedy and Bill Clinton, two are now running against each other, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Let voters decide. And if—why preempt the race?
SCHULTZ: They have decided.
GREEN: Have you heard of the states of Texas, Ohio, or Pennsylvania?
SCHULTZ: You know, this is exactly what I’m talking about, Mark.
You’re in absolute denial. You’re a typical Clintonite.
You’re trying to paint a picture that just isn’t there. The voters are speaking in droves. We have not seen a Democrat like this perform since FDR. The fact of this is that...
MATTHEWS: Are you afraid, Ed, that—Ed...
SCHULTZ: ... everything that Clintons have done, they’re going to split the party if they keep doing this.
MATTHEWS: Ed, are you afraid that she’s going to pull a comeback, and you want her out before she pulls her comeback?
The bigger story—you know what, Chris? Chris, is she comes back, the big story isn’t going to be the comeback. It’s going to be the demise of Barack Obama’s camp. We’re going to have to ask, what in the heck did you do to lose that?
The fact is, we’re not even talking about Michigan and Florida delegates anymore.
GREEN: Chris, Ed has never run for office. When Ronald Reagan ran in ‘76, he was...
SCHULTZ: And how many elections have you won, Mark?
GREEN: Two, two more than you.
GREEN: You don’t understand what happens in a campaign. When Ronald Reagan ran in ‘76, he was 100 delegates behind Gerald Ford.
GREEN: He went to the convention. When Ted Kennedy ran in 1980, he was 300 to 400 delegates behind.
SCHULTZ: You are yesteryear.
GREEN: I don’t know why, Ed, you’re afraid...
SCHULTZ: You are so yesteryear.
GREEN: Ed—stop interrupting me, Ed.
MATTHEWS: OK, Ed, stop interrupting.
GREEN: Why are you afraid of...
SCHULTZ: How are you going to turn this around?
GREEN: One sentence.
GREEN: It’s not for me to turn it around.
MATTHEWS: Ed, you have to relent here. You have to—you have to withhold until he finishes his thought.
Let him finish his thought.
SCHULTZ: All right.
GREEN: I don’t know why Ed is afraid to let voters in Ohio and Texas vote. And, by the way, if Barack Obama does well...
MATTHEWS: OK. Let him respond to that.
MATTHEWS: Let him respond to that.
MATTHEWS: Why are—why are you—are you afraid to let voters in Ohio and Texas vote? That’s what he’s saying, asking you.
SCHULTZ: I think the Clintons run the risk of damaging the party and dividing the great unity and momentum that is out there that could really bring change to this country.
This is not about Hillary or Bill. This is about the party. The party continues to speak. Everything the Clintons have tried has not worked. They need to step up in front at least to the Democratic leadership and explain to them, this is how we’re going to win. It ain’t Texas.
SCHULTZ: And it ain’t Ohio.
Let me ask you. Let me go to a middle case here, Mark. If, if, if, if the Clintons can’t pull it off in Texas, in terms of the popular vote, in Ohio, in terms of the popular vote, President Clinton has said they will lose. Do you go along with that? That’s the time to admit defeat, if they lose both of these on March 4. Is that the time to throw in the towel? Bill Clinton suggested that the other day.
MATTHEWS: Is he right?
GREEN: It’s my personal view—although it’s very hard to lecture candidates when they’re in the middle of it, it’s my personal view that when it hits the odds of 20-1, when it’s either mathematically or near mathematically impossible to win, then a candidate should say, it’s not worth it, and they will unite.
By the way, if Barack Obama—Barack Obama is not—and his campaign are not calling for her to withdraw. Ed’s is an eccentric view. Even the Obama people aren’t asking what he’s asking.
Should he win...
SCHULTZ: And you’re out to lunch.
GREEN: Should he win Ohio and Texas, he will be a stronger nominee because he’s won everything. If Hillary Clinton should come back, she will be a stronger nominee. I don’t know why Ed is afraid of democracy.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you, Ed, do you think...
SCHULTZ: I’m not afraid of anything. I’m a realist, and you’re not, Mark. You’re not a realist in this.
And you run the risk of damaging the party and ruining all this momentum. The more she says about Barack Obama, and the more negative she gets, the more it’s going to hurt the party. How many in a row do you have to lose? Give me a number.
GREEN: 2,025, and then you’re the nominee.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Mark Green.
GREEN: That’s the rule.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Ed Schultz.
Up next: Oscar-nominated actor George Clooney says he feels a little like Hillary Clinton these days. We will tell you what he’s talking about when we return.
You’re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
So, what else is new out there in politics?
Well, is George Clooney going to win best actor this Sunday night?
Here he is in “Michael Clayton,” which is up for best picture.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MICHAEL CLAYTON”)
GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: There’s no angle. There’s no champagne room. I’m not a miracle worker. I’m a janitor. The math on this is simple. The smaller the mess, the easier it is for me to clean up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: One guy isn’t betting on Clooney. That’s the man himself. He says the Oscar will probably go to Daniel Day-Lewis for “There Will Be Blood.”
Clooney told “TIME” magazine—quote—“For me, it’s like being Hillary Clinton. If it weren’t for Barack Obama, it would have been a very good year.”
I love that line.
I do think Clooney’s movie, by the way, personally, “Michael Clayton” will win the Oscar this Sunday night.
Speaking of Obama, are you looking for a boy’s name for your baby-to-be? Well, Laura Wattenberg, who is creator of the Baby Name Wizard—the Baby Name Wizard—a very popular online trend-tracking tool, has just named “Barack” the baby name of the year. Even though the name doesn’t appear on the Social Security Administration’s official roster yet, the Baby Name Wizard predicts a huge rise in the number of babies named Barack, after the Democratic candidate for president.
All week long, by the way, we have been giving you unforgettable highlights of President Bush’s Africa tour. Back by popular demand tonight, this moment of the week: President Bush getting his groove—getting his groove on, I should say, with a little Liberian dancing.
In fact, it looks as if President Bush even managed to inspire Barack Obama. There’s Barack dancing at an Austin fund-raiser after last night’s debate.
Is he? When he’s going to start dancing? There. I guess that’s dancing. Anyway, not bad. There he goes. I don’t think that’s a frug.
Anyway, speaking of Texas, by now, you have no doubt seen this clip of Texas State Senator Kirk Watson having a tough time right here the other night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You’re a big Barack supporter, right, senator?
KIRK WATSON (D), TEXAS STATE SENATOR: I am. Yes, I am.
MATTHEWS: Well, name some of his legislative accomplishments.
MATTHEWS: No, Senator, I want you to name some of Barack Obama’s legislative accomplishments tonight, if you can.
WATSON: Well, I—you know, what I will talk about is more about what he’s offering...
MATTHEWS: No, no. What has...
WATSON: ... the American people right now.
MATTHEWS: ... he accomplished, sir? You said you support him.
MATTHEWS: Sir, you have to give me his accomplishments. You have supported him for president. You’re on national television.
MATTHEWS: Name his legislative accomplishments, Barack Obama, sir.
WATSON: Well, I’m not going to be able to name you specific...
MATTHEWS: Can you name any?
WATSON: ... items of legislative accomplishment...
MATTHEWS: Can you name anything he’s accomplished as a congressman?
WATSON: No, I’m not going to be able to do that tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, now, apparently there’s a T-shirt out there to commemorate that moment. There it is. It costs $20.99. And it looks as it there are eight colors to choose from. I want my royalties.
I should smile when I do those kind of interrogations.
And now it’s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number” tonight.
Barack Obama is clearly enjoying a swell of momentum right now, and, after a string of victories, the races in Ohio and Texas are now very close. Now Obama has yet another win under his belt, bringing his 10-contest streak to an 11-contest streak. Did you miss the 11th win? Well, it was easy not to notice that Obama won the Democrats Abroad global primary among Democrats living outside the country.
How many delegates did he pick up in the process? Two-point-five. As if it weren’t complicated enough, now we’re splitting delegates in half—
2.5 more delegates for Obama, tonight’s “Big Number.”
Up next: One day after running a front-page story implying that John McCain had an improper relationship with a female lobbyist, “The New York Times” tries to explain why they published it on the front page, top of the fold, nonetheless.
You’re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I am Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks made a dramatic turnaround late in the session, after CNBC reported a deal could be announced next week for a consortium of banks to bail out troubled bond insurer Ambac. With that, the Dow Jones industrials finished up 96 points. For the week, the Dow about gained 32. The S&P 500 was up 10 points on the day. The Nasdaq added 3.5.
The AAA reports that gasoline prices rose almost three cents overnight, to a nationwide average of $3.11 a gallon. That’s the highest level since last June. Meantime, oil rose 58 cents to $98.81 a barrel.
And the FDA gave accelerated approval to Genentech’s drug Avastin to treat breast cancer. They drug has already been approved to treat lung and colon cancer.
That’s it from CNBC, America’s business channel—now back to Chris and HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, the fallout from that “New York Times” story yesterday about John McCain’s relationship with a lobbyist continues to reverberate across Washington and on the campaign trail.
HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster joins us live here in the studio with more—David.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, on this day two about the story about McCain’s relationship with a lobbyist, the debate, at least for now, seems to be as much about “The New York Times” as about John McCain.
SHUSTER (voice-over): Today, in Indianapolis, John McCain was back to his wisecracking style, joking about Fidel Castro’s health problems.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I hope that he has the opportunity to meet—meet Karl Marx very soon.
SHUSTER: The humor underscored that, if the “New York Times” story is weighing on McCain, he isn’t letting it show. And, at a news conference, McCain calmly side-stepped the questions.
MCCAIN: I had a press conference yesterday morning. I answered every question. I’m moving on. I’m talking about the issues and challenges of America and the big issues that Americans are concerned about. I addressed the issue. I addressed every question that was addressed me. And I do not intend to discuss it further.
SHUSTER: Meanwhile, on Web sites, blogs, and conservative talk radio, “The New York Times” is getting hammered by the right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW”)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You are a Republican. And, at some point, the people you cozy up to, either to do legislation or to get cozy media stories, are going to turn on you. They are snakes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUSTER: On Thursday, “The Times” reported that McCain confidantes eight years ago were so concerned about what they saw in the senator’s relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman, they confronted McCain and warned him he was risking his campaign and career.
McCain flatly denied the story.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) staffer was ever concerned about a possible romantic relationship?
MCCAIN: If they were, they didn’t communicate that to me.
QUESTION: Did you ever have such a relationship?
SHUSTER: The denial means that either McCain is lying or “The New York Times” got the story wrong.
And with the front-page report based on anonymous sources, the top editor of “The Times” is playing defense.
BILL KELLER, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Obviously, you would like to have not just on-the-record sources, but documentary evidence, for everything you put in the newspaper. But if—you know, if you—if you refuse to publish stories that—that included anonymously-sourced information, most of the important things we know about, you know, how our country is run would not get reported.
SHUSTER: “The New Republic” is reporting, “The Times” went with the story after it appeared other news organizations knew the basic allegations and were ready to disclose the internal “New York Times” debate.
But, today, in a Web site chat, “The Times”‘ political editor said—quote—“There were a lot of people speculating for months about what kind of story we were pursuing and whether and when we were going to publish it. This didn’t influence the timing or the substance of the story at all.”
Still, an online chat is usually no match for the heavy fire raining down from prominent conservatives.
SHUSTER: And, today, even a spokesman at the White House attacked “The New York Times” and accused the paper of being unfair to Republicans.
As it stands, Bill Keller’s reputation and the reputation of his newspaper is on the line. The question is, is this just the beginning of the war between “The New York Times” and John McCain over a lobbyist, or is this just round one, and round one is coming to an end? -- Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Chris.
Phil Bronstein is vice president and editor at large of “The San Francisco Chronicle.” And Jim Warren is the managing editor of “The Chicago Tribune.”
Gentlemen, I want to read to you the second paragraph that ran in the “New York Times,” front page, top of the fold, left-hand side, yesterday, quote, “a female lobbyist had been turning up with him, John McCain, at fund-raisers, visiting him at offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself, instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said, on the condition of anonymity.”
Phil Bronstein, talk about the journalism here?
PHIL BRONSTEIN, “SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE”: Chris, your piece said that either McCain was lying or the “New York Times” got it wrong. The fact is that the convergence of sex and power has been of interest to people for people for what, 5,000 years. The problem is that the “New York Times” led with the notion of sex and they kind of ended with the notion of sex, but they didn’t get the sex. They didn’t actually get the sex in the story.
They didn’t confirm it. So when McCain says he didn’t have a romantic relationship. Maybe that’s true, and it’s also true the “New York Times” didn’t establish that he had one, so they didn’t necessarily get it wrong. So, you know, there’s that part of the journalism.
You also can’t claim that, gee, I’m shocked that we’re having this reaction, that it’s been turned into a circus, when you lead with the idea of a romantic relationship.
MATTHEWS: So when he said yesterday, Bill Keller, the much respected executive editor of the Times, that the story speaks for itself. What does it speak to the average reader who reads it once, Phil?
BRONSTEIN: Well, I think the problem, Chris—I was more interested in the reform institute, which is in the middle of the story, where Senator McCain set up an institute to clean out politics and finance the politics, and then took money into that institute. And he later indicated that he thought that wasn’t such a good idea. That seemed to be getting it more the romantic relationship part.
But the truth is when Bill Keller or any other editor says, you know, we stand by our story, it’s not enough to say that these days. Why? Because the playing field has been leveled and the public can weigh in as heavily as they’re weighing in on this one. So, you know, I’m not going to second-guess Bill Keller. He’s a great journalist. But instead of coming out the day after and defending your story, these days you really have to think about when you publish the story, you have to say more about the process.
MATTHEWS: Jim Warren, your view of this journalism, this front-page story, top of the fold, with the word romantic relationship right up there at the top?
JIM WARREN, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: Well, you know, it’s interesting, we get the “New York Times” wire service. We could have put that story in the Tribune. We looked at it; we decided not to.
It’s not that smart folks can’t disagree on this one. It would have been my call not to run it. In fact, I thought that the stronger stuff was somewhat obscured, namely, in making the case of a certain amount of hypocrisy by a self-styled reformer. I thought the stuff about money and stuff about his involvement with lobbyists other than this woman was more potent and somehow ultimately got obscured.
That said, again, reasonable folks can differ on this, which is why I’ve got to applaud the Times. If you go on NewYorkTimes.com, Keller, Jim Abramson (ph), another editor there, took a slew of questions today from readers and they touch all the points that we’ve been talking about for the last few days. They talk about the matter of sexual innuendo and why they thought it was important to put that in. They talk about the use of anonymous sources.
They admit to having been very surprised not just by the amount of criticism they received, but by its ideological breadth, the number of Democrats and independents who are unhappy with that story. But, again, for those out there who think there is a big media liberal conspiracy, I think that’s a little bit unfair to these folks at the “New York Times.” I think the Bob Bennett attack dog, little quickie catch phrase about, oh, they’d rather be wrong than be scooped, is just absolute hogwash.
And if one wants to be reminded of the difficulty when it comes to just something like anonymous sources, go this morning and look at their own pages, their most prominent conservative columnist, David Brooks, weighing in on this, a column largely built upon anonymous sourcing.
MATTHEWS: Let’s take a look at what we heard on the Q and A in the online today from the “New York Times” executive editor bill Keller. This is what he said; “the point of this long-run installment,” that was the piece, “ was that according to the people who know him well, this man who prizes his honor above all things and who appreciates the importance of appearances also has a history of being sometimes careless about the appearance of impropriety, about his reputation. The story cites several examples and quotes friends and admirers of talking of his apparent contradiction in his character, that is why some members of his staff were so alarmed by the appearance of his relationship with Ms. Iseman and that it seems and it still seems to us was something our readers would want to know about a man who aspires to be president. Clearly, many of you did not agree.”
What most people don’t agree with was, Phil Bronstein, is that the perception left by that front-page story wasn’t just that some staffer were worried about a PR problem; they were worried about something they deeply believed was a romantic relationship?
BRONSTEIN: Again, it’s unclear. The staffers who were concerned about the romantic relationship, those were the anonymous sources. So when you get involved in the discussion about anonymous sources and the credibility of the story, that’s a bit of a problem for some readers.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Phil Bronstein.
WARREN: If I can add, Phil. If I can quickly add. Take a look at Jill Abramson, a friend of mine, the managing editor, her defense of the use of those quotes, saying it would have been an inaccurate reflection of the concerns of those aides to leave out the sexual innuendo, that that was part and parcel of their concerns. One can debate whether that was the right tack to take, but I thought she was very forthright in explaining it.
MATTHEWS: Let me say, we all assume that Bill Keller asked his reporters, when those sources of yours said they were concerned, in fact, they were convinced there was a romantic relationship, you can bet your bottom dollar that the editor of the “New York Times” asked the reporters to ask the sources how are you convinced? They know more than they reported.
Up next, back to the Democratic race. Barack Obama’s coming in strong in Texas and getting closer in Ohio. Is this race over if he wins in either one? The politics fix is coming up right now on HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time now for the politics fix. Well, Roger Simon is with “The Politico.” Maria Teresa Petersen is with the non-partisan group Voto Latino, and Jennifer Donahue of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. All three of you joining us.
Let’s take a look at the latest polls. This is the new ABC/”Wall Street Journal” poll. Before you look at this number, Ohio and Texas—just remember before you look at these, 80 percent of this polls was taken before the Wisconsin results come in. And even so, look at this, Barack Obama behind Hillary Clinton in Ohio, 50-43. She has a seven-point lead on him before got the word from Wisconsin.
Down in Texas, again, 80 percent of this—four out of the five polled here before the numbers came in from Wisconsin, although here it’s a very close one, 48-47. What do you make of these numbers, Roger? Are they influencing what we saw from Senator Clinton last night when she seemed to be somewhat resigned to the bad situation she’s?
ROGER SIMON, “THE POLITICO”: Yes, I think both she and that little valedictory, if that’s what it is, at the end of the debate and Bill Clinton’s very direct statement in Beaumont, Texas a couple days ago, saying, look, if she doesn’t win both states, it’s over. She’s serving no whatever backers she has in both states. Plus, just --
MATTHEWS: What’s the purpose of putting all the chips on the table like that?
SIMON: Because if she doesn’t win both states, she’s out.
MATTHEWS: But what’s the purpose of doing it?
SIMON: Do or die to your supporters. You got to get out. You got to do it. In Texas, you can vote in grocery stores right now. You got to do it if you want it to go on. Forget about winning the nomination, if you want it to go on past March 4th, you got to get out and vote.
MATTHEWS: Is that retrievable, Marie Teresa, can Senator Clinton or former President Clinton comes back and says, if they lose one of these, we didn’t really mean it, the definition of is kind of thing? Can they waffle?
MARIA TERESA PETERSEN, VOTO LATINO: I think they can waffle. I think the reason they went after Texas and said, we need all you support is because they know that they like the little guy. I think right now she is positioning herself as the little guy.
MATTHEWS: You think this last night valedictory, as its called, was a call for help?
PETERSEN: No, I think more she was trying to coalesce. I think she was trying to position herself, because if she doesn’t make it --
MATTHEWS: To be fair to her, let’s give her the full intent and portent of what she said last night. Here she is, Senator Clinton closing debate last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: No matter what happens in this contest—and I am honored -
I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored.
And, you know, whatever happens, we’re going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends. I just hope that we’ll be able to say the same thing about the American people. And that’s what this election should be about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Jennifer, you know, I do have feelings and I think there was a moment there at that 10, 20 seconds in there, where I thought, my god, this is politics at its best.
JENNIFER DONAHUE, NEW HAMPSHIRE INSTITUTE OF POLITICS: Yes, I see what you’re saying, because I think that Senator Clinton gave something to Senator Obama. The problem, though, is that even when she shows emotion, it seems to be too late. But for the example of my state, New Hampshire, where she showed the emotion in time to get the voters. Here I think she’s been so negative now for so long, frankly, and her husband, too, and the campaign has been in an underbelly, you know, really a very ugly operation.
MATTHEWS: I think it’s called a bottom-feeding operation.
DONAHUE: That too, thank you. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: The clinker last night on the Xerox was bottom feeding. That’s what its called bottom feeding, when you go to the bottom of the ocean and look for something to use.
DONAHUE: That’s exactly right. But it’s really hard when you go down that road to lift back up. It takes time. And the closer this race gets to every state, the more they want to see kindness and community.
MATTHEWS: I know.
DONAHUE: And the less these negative attacks work.
MATTHEWS: We’ll be right back. We’ll be right back with you fellows.
We come back with Roger and Maria Teresa and Jennifer in a moment.
MATTHEWS: We’re back with the round table on the politics fix. I will now promote the next and perhaps last debate of this entire campaign next Tuesday night, with Tim Russert and Brian Williams moderating. I want to start with Jennifer. I’ll start with you. I promised I would. Is this going to be the final bout of this season politically? In other words, when they go head to head --
SIMON: Obviously, if she doesn’t win both Texas and Ohio, that’s it. She’s not going to have the money to go on. She’s not going to have the delegates to go on. The Super Delegates are already deserting her. There’s no conceivable way that Michigan or Florida, not to get too deep in the weeds, will be seated in a way to give her the nomination.
MATTHEWS: Jennifer, short of coming into the debate with a giant mallet to knock out Barack Obama, how does she change the course of this mighty river? How does she do it. Imagine coming like this, I’m going to just put the guy out. Is that what she’s going to do?
DONAHUE: I think the one thing she could and should do, Chris, is to go into that debate show us a strong, confident, intelligent woman who barely notices her opponent, who looks directly at the camera and says, I’m ready to be your president. That’s the only line we’ve heard before and then all her ideas are new, hers, and she’s her own woman.
MATTHEWS: As opposed to this other night on the CNN debate, she was 90 degrees toward him most of the night. That bothered you, Jennifer, 90 degrees all night long? She started to stare him down.
DONAHUE: Yes. Here is why. She’s got part of the base. He’s got the rest. If she wants the mushy middle, which is what it takes to win a general election in the United States of America --
MATTHEWS: You mean the white guys? The mushy middle, now we’re the mushy middle?
DONAHUE: Oh, I didn’t mean it that way. But if she wants either one of those, she needs to get right in there and take it. The only way to get it is to define herself by her terms, get empathy, sympathy and stop fighting the guy they like.
MATTHEWS: Maria Teresa, what show she do next Tuesday night when Brian and Tim are moderating?
PETERSEN: I think she needs to have a clear message and she has to, again, differentiate herself from Barack in a way of saying, look, it’s not just about experience, but I understand you and I want to lead you and I can and I have that ability.
MATTHEWS: Great Friday night here, Roger Simon, Maria Teresa Petersen and Jennifer Donahue up there in New Hampshire. Anyway, join us again Monday night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for HARDBALL. Once again, its the final debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama before Texas and Ohio Tuesday night right here on MSNBC. Right now it’s time for “TUCKER.”
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