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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for March 27

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Linda Douglass, Stephen Moore, Jason Furman, Michael Scherer, Eamon Javers, Chris Cillizza, E. Steven Collins, Maria Teresa Petersen

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Last chance saloon.  Are Hillary and Bill Clinton behaving like politicians who know the only way they can win is to change the game?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL.  A convention fight?  That‘s what Hillary Clinton has advanced in her interview with FOX News.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, you know, you can always go to the convention.  That‘s what credential fights are for.  You know, let‘s have the Democratic Party go on record against seating the Michigan and Florida delegations three months before the general election?  I don‘t think that will happen.


MATTHEWS:  Well, Democrats are terrified of a party battle that goes all the way to Denver in late August, fearing it could well kill their chances come November.  They‘ve been waiting for someone, anyone, to step in and end this.  But Hillary is saying, in effect, Why stop the game?  Why not let the unelected superdelegates decide this thing?  So what is the right answer?  We‘re going to talk about the Democrats‘ predicament in a minute.

Also, all three candidates are talking about the economy.  And why not?  Gas prices are through the roof.  Home prices are down to the basement.  The stock market is teetering every day.  And have you looked at what it costs to send a kid to college lately?  In the end, all the talk about Iraq and superdelegates and a convention battle to come, perhaps, but history tells us the economy will decide this election, like it has so many before.  We‘re going to talk to two experts with very different views on who has the best ideas on how to fix the economy.

And in the “Politics Fix”: Why did some Clinton fat cats tell Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to let the unelected superdelegates pick the nominee, and what did they threaten to do if she doesn‘t?

Also, one programming note before we start.  I‘m so proud to say this.  Next Wednesday, we‘re going to resume a grand old HARDBALL tradition with the “HARDBALL College Tour,” and our first guest will be none other than Senator Barack Obama.  We‘ll be coming to you from Westchester University in Pennsylvania, right near Philadelphia.  That‘s next Wednesday, Barack Obama on our “College Tour” for the full hour at 5:00, then at 7:00 replayed again and replayed at 11:00 Eastern, so you get a full chance to see Barack Obama for an hour, answering questions from me and the students of Westchester University.

But we begin tonight with the Democratic race.  Tucker Carlson is MSNBC‘s senior campaign correspondent, and Linda Douglass is with “The National Review.”  I‘ve got to ask you this question about Hillary Clinton and what‘s going on right now...


MATTHEWS:  “National Journal.”  What did I say?

DOUGLASS:  “National Review.”  I‘m sorry.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I‘m still thinking about Bill Buckley‘s funeral coming up.  Let‘s talk about this.  Hillary Clinton—is she willing to fight this all the way to the finish because she really believes she has a shot, or is this scorched earth, she‘s going to make sure Barack Obama doesn‘t have a shot in November?  How rough is she playing this?

DOUGLASS:  Well, what she said clearly about going to the credentials committee is playing about as rough as you can play because that takes it to the convention, where a very emotional scene would unfold on live television.  I mean, unlike...

MATTHEWS:  Describe it at its worst.

DOUGLASS:  Well, you know, think about past convention fights, Ted Kennedy, then President Jimmy Carter, 1980.

MATTHEWS:  Horrible day.

DOUGLASS:  People were very, very emotional.  A lot of Democrats...

MATTHEWS:  They wouldn‘t shake hands.

DOUGLASS:  ... went out and voted for John Anderson after that was over...


DOUGLASS:  ... they were so angry.  But this is about race and this is about gender and this is about personal identity.  And certainly, African-Americans who believe that Barack Obama has won, those kinds of emotions...


DOUGLASS:  ... would be played out on the floor.

MATTHEWS:  So “The New York Daily News” announces the day before, the next day, Barack Obama, who goes into the convention ahead in elected delegates, loses because something called the credentials committee has met behind closed doors and has come to the floor with the announcement, Guess what?  We‘re giving it to the other candidate.  I can imagine the newspapers in this country with the headlines.

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC SENIOR CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT:  She is in full kamikaze mode.  Did you see that Fox bite?  She means it!  I think, though...

MATTHEWS:  Kamikaze means she‘s willing to destroy herself or is willing...

CARLSON:  She is willing to go all the way, whatever it takes.  We‘ve suspected this from the beginning.  She‘s just proved it.  I do think she has a legitimate argument, though.  She‘s taking a ton of heat from everyone...


MATTHEWS:  Listen to her argument.  Listen to her argument.


MATTHEWS:  Then comment on it.  Here‘s Hillary Clinton today on Fox.


CLINTON:  We have 10 contests ahead of us, plus, don‘t forget Florida and Michigan.  You know, I keep beating this drum.  We cannot disenfranchise two of the most important states for Democrats, Florida and Michigan.  I don‘t think we can win if we don‘t win Michigan and Florida, so...

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, “ON THE RECORD”:  Meaning you can‘t win?

CLINTON:  I don‘t think a Democrat can win.

VAN SUSTEREN:  In November.

CLINTON:  In November.  And we are essentially saying to the voters—we, the Democratic Party, are saying to the voters, Your votes don‘t count.  We‘re not going to have a re-vote.  You‘re out of luck.  I don‘t think that the nominee of the party will be considered legitimate if we don‘t figure out how to count those votes from Michigan and Florida.


MATTHEWS:  In other words, Barack Obama is not legitimate.  She‘s legitimate because she‘s willing to forgive all the travesties of misbehavior by those states, give them back their delegates and forget all because that‘s what she will do to win.

CARLSON:  Well, but hold on.  This is the Democratic Party.  It still feels the sting of 2000...


CARLSON:  ... the slogan “Count Every Vote.”  The Clinton campaign,

whatever its, you know, disingenuousness—and there‘s a lot of it there -

has said, We‘ll pay for a new vote.  You can vote.  The Obama people were against it.  What‘s their—look, I‘m not taking Hillary‘s side...

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) the Florida legislature refused to hold the vote.

CARLSON:  OK.  Right.  But—and Michigan, too.  But the Obama people weren‘t, as far as I could tell—and I don‘t think they were—in favor of a re-vote.  That‘s a very...

MATTHEWS:  So the point now is, should Barack Obama be punished as illegitimate because he didn‘t push for a re-vote?  Hillary Clinton has said, It‘s too late to have the re-vote.  All we can do now is punish Barack Obama by giving the nomination to me.  I agree with the argument she‘s making, but her bottom line is, It‘s too late to vote, give the nomination to me.

DOUGLASS:  Well, I mean, clearly, many in the party thinks there‘s got to be a negotiation between the two camps, and that‘s a legitimate way to settle this, is some divided...

MATTHEWS:  What is the solution?


DOUGLASS:  ... is the Obama solution, some kind of allocation of the delegates...

MATTHEWS:  You talked to Chris Dodd, one of the top Democrats in the country.

DOUGLASS:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  What‘s he say to do?

DOUGLASS:  What Chris Dodd said today—he‘s chairman of the Banking Committee, big Obama supporter, ran for president, used to be the chairman of the Democratic Party.  And he said that after the next three contests, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Indiana, the senior party officials, leaders of Congress and the Democratic Party, in April need to sit down with each other and pick a nominee.  Who do we think has won at that point?  Then he went quick to say...

MATTHEWS:  Once you do that...

DOUGLASS:  ... he thinks Obama has won.

MATTHEWS:  ... of course, you can deal with—you can deal with Michigan and Florida.

DOUGLASS:  Well, but...

MATTHEWS:  No, the minute you can do that and say, Now—we will now allocate the delegates accordingly.

CARLSON:  But Hillary Clinton wants to go all the way—and maybe she

you know, maybe she‘ll change her mind between here and then, but she can still make the argument that‘s a fundamentally un-democratic—small and big “D”—system.

MATTHEWS:  How so?

CARLSON:  Because you‘re basically saying it‘s an aristocracy.  We‘re going to let the wise men decide.  Her argument is going to be very simple, and you hear some of her surrogates making it now: Why not let all the Democrats vote?  What‘s wrong with voting?

MATTHEWS:  Because if you have all the primaries and all the caucuses and have a re-vote in Florida and in Michigan, it‘s still highly implausible that the results will change.

CARLSON:  Yes, but it‘s possible.  Look, I‘m not defending her.  I‘m just saying she has a principle on her side.  She does.



MATTHEWS:  ... punish those states, and only now that she needs their votes does she decide to get religion and say that she‘s championing their cause.  And I would argue she doesn‘t expect that cause to be won, she simply wants to have it as a hammer to blame Barack with.

But let‘s take a look.  Here‘s Hillary Clinton on Fox News again, talking about how far she‘s willing to go to win this thing.


CLINTON:  We‘ve been trying to support what‘s going on in Florida because the people there want their voices and votes to be heard.  And again, you know, Senator Obama doesn‘t want to support that.  But Michigan is really the clearest example of getting right up to the brink of doing the right thing and having Senator Obama say, No, I won‘t do it.

VAN SUSTEREN:  And if he says, No, I won‘t do it, that leaves Michigan and Florida out, and does that leave you out?

CLINTON:  No, not at all, because we‘re going to make sure those votes get counted one way or another.


CLINTON:  Well, you know, you can always go to the convention.  That‘s what credential fights are for.  You know, let‘s have the Democratic Party go on record against seating the Michigan and Florida delegations three months before the general election?  I don‘t think that will happen.


MATTHEWS:  So we‘re going to have a fight the last week in August, right on the eve of Labor Day, where a credentials committee comes out of nowhere and perhaps flips the results.  But even if you do have that vote on the credentials, she‘s still short on delegates, probably, which means she‘s willing to say, I‘ll win that credentials fight with my inside power, and then I‘ll win with the superdelegates because I‘m not going to let this thing be decided by democracy.  She‘s not going to let that happen, is what she‘s saying.

DOUGLASS:  Well, yes, I mean, it‘s—you know, again...

MATTHEWS:  She‘s not saying she‘s going to end up in the elected delegates top.

DOUGLASS:  No matter how they apportion Michigan and Florida, it still is unlikely that she winds up getting the most delegates.  But some Democrats are really worried that by carrying forward this argument, you are further inflaming Michigan and Florida, which are states that sort of like John McCain.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s face it, Florida is a long stretch for the Democrats this year.  Charlie Crist is in great shape down there.  Jeb Bush was a very popular governor.  Barack Obama is probably not going to win down there anyway, so this is all talk.

But Michigan—if the Democrats lose Michigan, they will lose the general election.  But does anybody really think that people in Michigan, hard put as they are to deal with the economy up there, where they‘ve been in a recession for years now, are going to vote to keep the current economic policies because they‘re mad at Howard Dean?

CARLSON:  Well, you know, people don‘t always vote in their perceived economic interests.  But what do you do with someone like that, Hillary Clinton?  Seriously, it‘s like your dad‘s advice when you‘re little, Don‘t ever fight someone who will go all the way, you know, someone who will just pull out a gun, someone who just—who just doesn‘t care, for whom there is no logical end point.  She‘s basically saying, I‘ll wreck the party, and I will.  She‘s just right in the camera like that.  What do you do with someone like that?  How do you stop that person?

MATTHEWS:  I know that phrase, but I can‘t repeat it.  I know exactly the phrase.


DOUGLASS:  One thing that the Clinton campaign is very, very good at, is they keep pressing an issue until it finally catches on.  I mean, right now, the rest of the country says, What is this about Michigan?

MATTHEWS:  I‘m watching the polls every day...

DOUGLASS:  But they keep pressing it.

MATTHEWS:  ... and I‘m going to keep watching them.  I get a sense that, as we say in our business of television, we‘ve jumped the shark, which is at some point, people say, I think I see who the leading candidate is.  I think I see who the probable winner is.  I think this is over.  But we‘ll see if we‘ve reached that point.  I‘m watching the polls every day.  I think we‘re getting close to that.

But here‘s Senator Clinton—well, thank you, Tucker.  I was going to do another bite of the Clinton senator.  Oh, here she is, talking about the situation there about the campaign.  Let‘s listen to one more bite from Senator Clinton today.

OK.  I want to thank Linda Douglass.  Oh, “It‘s clear the election—

this election they‘re having is not going to count for anything.  But just”

well, I can‘t read it.  Anyway—that‘s what I can‘t read.  Anyway—

“I just personally did not want to set up a situation where the Republicans are going to be campaigning between now and whenever, and then after the nomination, we have to go in and repair the damage to be ready to win Michigan in 2008.”  Yes?  Last thought for her.  Thank you, Tucker Carlson.  Thank you, Linda Douglass.

Coming up: Gas prices are through the roof.  The mortgage crisis is crippling the economy.  What are the presidential candidates going to do for you?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Both Clinton and Obama made economic speeches today.  McCain made one earlier this week.  So how will the economy affect the 2008 race?  Let‘s go to David Shuster.

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, most Americans know personally that the high gas prices are squeezing their pocketbooks, and a lot of Americans are feeling the crunch from the housing market.   So how bad is it?  Well, first let‘s talk—let‘s take a look at gas prices.  At the end of 2002, before the Iraq war, the average price for a gallon of regular was $1.40.  Now the average price is $3.25.  That‘s a jump of almost 150 percent.

How depressing is the housing market?  Well, normally, owning a home helps you financially.  Housing prices on average go up about 6 percent.  Over the past year, the median house price has dropped 8.2 percent, and that is the steepest drop in 40 years.  And leading economists believe that 15 million Americans now owe more on their mortgage than the value of their home.

So here‘s what the candidates are promising to try and do about it.  In New York today, Barack Obama proposed tougher and more modern regulations to crack down on mortgage fraud, predatory lenders and reckless financial institutions.  He also promised a $30 billion economic stimulus package, including direct help for homeowners.  Obama said it‘s important we realize we are all in this together.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It‘s an agenda that starts with providing a stimulus that will reach the most vulnerable Americans, including immediate relief to areas hardest hit by the housing crisis and a significant extension of unemployment insurance for those who are out of work.


OBAMA:  If we can extend a hand to banks on Wall Street when they get into trouble, we can extend a hand to Americans who are struggling, often through no fault of their own.


SHUSTER:  Hillary Clinton spoke about the economic crisis in a speech today in North Carolina.  Clinton is proposing a $30 billion fund to help states deal with foreclosures.  She has called for a 90-day halt on subprime foreclosures and a $2.5 billion job-training program.


CLINTON:  I will make universal worker adjustment assistance available to every single dislocated worker.  No American should be left on the side of the road.  If you‘re willing to work hard and to retrain yourself, then we will reward your hard work by helping get you trained, find a new job, and make the adjustment to a new field or industry.


SHUSTER:  John McCain has been blasting the Democrats, saying they believe that government should do everything.  McCain says the government should do as little as possible.  That opened up McCain to criticism from both Obama and Clinton today, who said that the Republicans‘ presumptive presidential nominee would simply watch the economic crisis happen or ignore the economic crisis altogether—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, David Shuster.

Stephen Moore is on the editorial board of “The Wall Street Journal.”  Jason Furman is a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution.  We couldn‘t have two greater institutional rivalries going here.  You are the free market man, right, total free market, tax cuts are good for America, self-reliance, pioneer individualism, all that...

STEPHEN MOORE, “WALL STREET JOURNAL”:  I don‘t even have to make my point!


MATTHEWS:  I mean, looking—the president was surprised that gas was getting close to $4 a gallon.  Housing prices—values are down 8 percent.  What happens when a family realizes they have a lot less wealth than they thought they had a year or two ago because the house is what they own, and they got to pay a lot more into this thing into the gas tanks that doesn‘t make their car go faster, doesn‘t do anything for them except cost them money.  They are paying out more and they‘ve got less wealth.  That kills, to me, consumer confidence and American confidence.  What can you do about it as a free marketer?

MOORE:  Well, you‘ve diagnosed the problem.  All of those things are happening, and I think one of the big problems is the fall in the value of the dollar, which is the reason gas prices are high, and so on.  I think...

MATTHEWS:  But you guys are running the show.  Bush has been running the world on free market and killing us...


MOORE:  John McCain has to run as a change agent.  He has to run on a new...

MATTHEWS:  This whole export economy, this thing about how we‘re going to reduce the price of the dollar to nothing so that—you know, the cab drivers in Cuba won‘t take dollars.  The snake charmers in Marrakech won‘t take dollars, they only want euros.  What kind of policy is this?


MOORE:  The Canadian dollar is worth more than the American dollar.  So we have to, you know, put more confidence in the U.S. dollar.  I think if I‘m John McCain and I‘m responding to Hillary and Obama today, I say, Look, number one, we don‘t bail out people.  We don‘t bail out the bad actors.

MATTHEWS:  How about Bear Stearns?

MOORE:  Well, I mean...


MOORE:  I didn‘t agree with that.  I didn‘t agree with the Fed‘s decision on...

MATTHEWS:  Would you vote for a third term of Bush-onomics?

MOORE:  If it was between Hillary and Obama...

MATTHEWS:  No, third term of this, of what we got?

MOORE:  I think the tax cuts were extremely important...


MATTHEWS:  Should we have four more years of what we got?  Can we afford four more years of this?

MOORE:  We do need those tax cuts, and I think we need a strong dollar policy.

MATTHEWS:  You didn‘t answer my question.  The way the economy has delivered for the last seven years, do you think the American people could take four more—if you extrapolate...

MOORE:  Don‘t forget...

MATTHEWS:  ... gas prices will be up to $12 a gallon, the way they‘re going.  Home prices will be down to a quarter of what they are.

MOORE:  But wait a minute.  When George Bush took office, the economy was in a recession from the Clinton years.  We had the technology bubble burst.  We had 9/11.  I think the economy has performed really amazingly well over the last six years.

MATTHEWS:  Jason, your proposition here is—can it get worse than we have now?

JASON FURMAN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION:  It can certainly get worse than what we have now, and I think it‘s going to be harder and harder to take the stance that we‘re not going to do anything for homeowners while we‘re doing what we‘re doing with Bear Stearns and while housing prices are falling.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you do with a guy who went out there and bought a balloon mortgage, he thought he could keep the ARM down to 3 points, all of a sudden, it goes up to 7 or 8?  What do you do with that person? 

FURMAN:  I think what we have to do is have a deal.  People are write down—services will write down the value of mortgages.  People will agree to make those payments.  And the government will step in with a guarantee, an insurance, to make that happen. 

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.  If you borrowed $100,000 to buy a house, the government is going to say you only owe $80,000? 

FURMAN:  You have to do it with...


MATTHEWS:  Who—where does that $20,000 come from?

FURMAN:  That $20,000 is the $20,000 that is not going to be collected right now.  If a house goes into foreclosure, you lose 30 percent to 40 percent of the value just paying the lawyers and the administrator cost. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, where does that money come from...


FURMAN:  That‘s the—that‘s the problem we‘re trying so hard... 

MATTHEWS:  Where does the money come from to pay for the reduced value of the house? 


MOORE:  The taxpayer.  It comes from the taxpayer, Chris. 

FURMAN:  We are going to have to put some federal money at risk. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, that federal money is all borrowed money. 

FURMAN:  That‘s—that‘s—we have a big deficit problem. 

MATTHEWS:  So, the federal government is going to borrow money to help people who have overborrowed? 

FURMAN:  The federal government will guarantee it.  If it turns out badly, definitely, taxpayers will be at risk. 

MATTHEWS:  No, no, you‘re saying reduce the cost of their mortgage.  You are saying, if a person owes $100,000, say you only owe $80,000 because your house is worth less, you‘re saying. 


FURMAN:  You go to a financial institution and say, you have a choice.  You could get—you could foreclose on this person and lose 40 percent of the value of the house, or you could write the mortgage down by 20 percent.  You‘re going to get less money.  But you‘re going to have more certainty in what you have. 


FURMAN:  This is the type of solution that economists at the...


FURMAN:  Economists at the American Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank, are supporting this sort of solution. 


MOORE:  What Jason just described, that‘s already—that‘s happening in the private sector, this Paulson plan, where they‘re basically bringing borrowers and lenders together and renegotiating the terms of these contracts.

MATTHEWS:  The terms or the principal? 

MOORE:  Well, they‘re—they‘re bringing down the principal, because, look, it is not in the interests of the lender...

MATTHEWS:  So, you guys agree that the compromise here is...

MOORE:  I just don‘t want the—the taxpayer to have to bail out these people. 

I do think it‘s in the interests of banks and borrowers to bring down these loans, so people don‘t foreclose.  I don‘t want people foreclosed.


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a question. 


MATTHEWS:  Supposed somebody mortgaged their house, they bought a mortgage at a straight mortgage rate.  They paid the full rate, right, the straight-line rate.  They didn‘t go for the ARM or the balloon.  They said, OK, I will pay the rate because I‘m not taking any chances. 

The person who said, I‘m going to take chances, and got hurt is now going to rewarded by the person who didn‘t take the chance.  I mean, you‘re kidding me. 

FURMAN:  You have—the person next door to you gets foreclosed upon, your housing value goes down.  It affects the entire community.  It‘s a problem that we all with. 


FURMAN:  And so we‘re trying to solve that problem for our economy as a whole. 

MOORE:  Right.  It is an issue.  Chris, you put your finger on the issue.

It‘s an issue of fairness.  Ninety-five percent of Americans are paying their mortgages on time.  Sometimes, people are taking a second job to make those mortgage payments.  Why should they have to pay more taxes to bail out people who actually are financially irresponsible? 


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s face it.  We‘re just going to borrow money from the Chinese to pay for these things.


MATTHEWS:  That‘s all we do.  And the dollar goes down. 

I‘m wondering, at the end of this sort of funny money the president comes up with, money from China to pay for the war, we borrow, we borrow, we borrow to pay for a war we can‘t afford, and that he will not ask us to pay for by taxing, and we end up with a dollar that‘s worth something like the old Portuguese escudo. 

That‘s where we‘re at right now.  Europeans are coming to New York to shop.  You hang around New York, you see—we have become, economically, kind of a Third World country, where people come to buy stuff cheap. 

Is that a smart economic policy? 


MOORE:  But, Chris, you have diagnosed the right problem. 

The point I would make is, OK, you don‘t raise capital gains taxes.  You don‘t raise dividend taxes.  You don‘t raise the income taxes if the dollar is falling.  One of the reasons I think that people are selling America right now is they see this storm coming next year with higher taxes. 


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you.  Let me give you a good chance here, Jason. 

FURMAN:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  For the person out there having a problem paying their mortgage right now, can the government afford to bail them out? 

FURMAN:  With a problem that‘s a once-in-a-century problem—this is not something we see every day.  This is like three hurricanes all at once hitting these families. 

MATTHEWS:  It can be done?

FURMAN:  We can‘t afford not to do it.

MATTHEWS:  Can we afford to do it?

FURMAN:  We can‘t afford not to do it. 


MATTHEWS:  I would like to hear a... 


MOORE:  now people are going to want to take out even bigger-risk mortgages in the future.


MATTHEWS:  Pardon me?

MOORE:  There is something called moral hazard here.

FURMAN:  Well, I think we can afford to do it.

MOORE:  When you bail out people for making bad financial decisions, you know what they do?


MATTHEWS:  Was Hoover right or was Roosevelt right? 


MOORE:  Neither of them.  Neither of them were right.



FURMAN:  We did a $160 billion stimulus package last year.  We can do a $10 package on housing now. 


MATTHEWS:  I liked it about five minutes ago, when you were negotiating how to reduce the money people owe to their banks as a way to work this thing down, so we don‘t have foreclosures. 

I thought I saw some—as Jesse Jackson would say, some common ground there.

Anyway, thank you, Stephen Moore, of “The Wall Street Journal” editorial page—now, there‘s a frightening thought—and Jason Furman of Brookings. 

Up next:  Democratic voters have spoken.  Would they accept the nomination of the candidate with fewer elected delegates?  The “Big Number” the Clinton campaign may not want to hear—next. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

So, what else is new out there?  Well, remember a while back when Mitt Romney let us all know that he would love nothing better than to play backup to his victorious rival, John McCain?


MITT ROMNEY ®, FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR:  I think any Republican leader in this country would be honored to be asked to serve as the vice presidential nominee, myself included. 

Of course, this is a nation which needs strong leadership.  And, if the nominee of our party asked you to serve with him, anybody would be honored to receive that call, and to accept it, of course. 


MATTHEWS:  Romney is ready to serve.  And, today, he did, by joining McCain for $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser in Salt Lake City, Utah, home of the Mormon Church and where Romney won the February primary out there with 90 percent of the vote. 

Well, it‘s smart politics—let‘s face it—for McCain to keep open the idea that he just might pick Romney for his running mate, even if, come September in St. Paul, he decides to name someone else.  Better to keep them all hoping. 

Terminated.  California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has dumped his brother-in-law, Bobby Shriver, and Oscar winner Clint Eastwood from the state‘s Park and Recreation Commission.  Arnold said he wants to give others a chance to serve. 

But, according to “The Los Angeles Times,” both Eastwood and Shriver believe they got the hook for opposing a plan to build a toll road through a coastal state park.  Eastwood said there are no hard feelings, telling “The L.A. Times”—quote—“I think it was just somebody got a bee under their bonnet at the right time, so there we are.”

Eastwood is one guy, of course, whose reputation and ego doesn‘t depend on being on some board. 

“The New York Post”‘s “Page Six” reports that “30 Rock” star Tina Fey wants to get the woman who made Eliot Spitzer famous—Or was it the other way around? -- a role in her hit TV show.  Fey told “The Post” that said would—quote—“love to get Ashley Dupre on the show,” but she has no idea how to get in touch with her.  Those were her words, get in touch with her.  According to the newspapers, Tina may be the only person in recent history who has had a problem doing that. 

And finally tonight, it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number.” 

Last night, 20 supporters of Senator Hillary Clinton, all big party fat cats, sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that read—quote—

“You suggested that superdelegates have an obligation to support the candidate who leads in the elected delegate count as of June 3, whether that lead be by 500 delegates or two.  This is an untenable position that runs counter to the party‘s intent in establishing superdelegates in 1984.”

As Clinton supporters pressure Pelosi and party insiders, they may want to pitch the same thing to voters.  Why?  Well, our latest NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll has a “Big Number” they should think about:

32 percent.  Less than a third of Democratic voters said they would consider their party‘s nominee would be legitimate if that person trailed in elected delegates, but still won because of superdelegates. 

Thirty-two percent, those who think it who be legitimate to overrule the elected delegates -- 32 percent, tonight‘s HARDBALL “Big Number.” 

Up next;  John McCain has made his reputation on ethics and lobbying reform, but is he vulnerable on what should be one of his biggest strengths?  Is McCain too close to lobbyists?

And, on Wednesday, by the way, Barack Obama joins me on the HARDBALL “College Tour.”  It‘s Obama for the full hour, live from West Chester University in Pennsylvania, Wednesday night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern and 11:00 Eastern. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Mary Thompson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.” 

Wall Street seeing red across the board today, the Dow losing 120 points, the S&P 500 down 14, and the Nasdaq off 45 -- a down day coming after the Commerce Department announced the U.S. economy grew by just sixth-tenths-of-a-percent in the fourth quarter of last year.  Corporate profits in the same period actually fell 3.3 percent, the data adding to concerns about a recession. 

Google among the big losers in technology—shares down more than $14 on news that the rates of users clicking on ads is flat year to year. 

And the Federal Reserve conducts the first of its new auctions to big investment firms to help support credit markets.  Seven-five billion dollars in Treasury securities were exchanged today for poor-quality mortgage debt—the next such auction, a week from today. 

That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

John McCain built his reputation as a maverick who pushed through lobbyist and campaign finance reform, but he‘s also vulnerable, some say, when it comes to his connections and lobbyists and fund-raiser. 

Michael Scherer wrote about McCain‘s ethics test in this week‘s “TIME.”  And Eamon Javers is with “The Politico.” 


Michael, you first.

What—what music does he have to face between now and November, John McCain, for his ties to lobbyists? 

MICHAEL SCHERER, “TIME”:  He spent better part of a decade campaigning against improper influence in Washington. 

And test he always used when he went to the Supreme Court with McCain-Feingold, when he fought for lobbying reform, was the appearance of impropriety.  And if you apply that test to him, there are a lot of places where it looks like he appeared to be doing favors for people who were giving him money.  At the same time... 

MATTHEWS:  Have you ever caught him with his hand in the cookie jar, doing something unethical?  Has anybody ever caught him doing that?

SCHERER:  I‘m just talking about appearance.  You go back...


MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking the tough question.  Do you have any evidence he has ever done anything wrong? 

SCHERER:  Go back to the Charles Keating affair in the late 1980s, John McCain said it was a mistake afterwards.  He met with regulators.  It wasn‘t illegal.  He wasn‘t committing any crime.  But he—he—he was rattled by it.  I mean, he realized that he put himself in a difficult situation. 

He‘s put himself in other situations like that since then.  He has written letters on behalf of contributors the day after he flew on their jet.  I mean, he says that he always believed the issues on the positions that he was—he was writing letters on behalf of, but he still was—was doing these things. 

EAMON JAVERS, “THE POLITICO”:  The problem, Chris, as you know, in Washington, you can‘t go two feet without bumping into a lobbyist in this town. 

It‘s almost impossible to run a modern presidential campaign without having lobbyists involved on the campaign, which McCain clearly does.  But, even when he‘s been at his most...

MATTHEWS:  Why is that?  Explain that to my grandmother, who is not alive anymore.  Why do you need to have a private plane?  Why can‘t you sign up for the next United flight or whatever, American Airlines flight, and go where you have to go?  Why do you need somebody to put you in a little plane with a couple well-turned-out whatever executives aboard? 



JAVERS:  Well, because, honestly, the little planes are much more convenient.  The congressmen, senators, their schedules are incredibly compact.  And, if they can get from point A to point B in—real fast, without waiting in line, and they can do it for a fraction of the price of what it would cost you and me to hire a corporate jet, they jump at that chance. 

MATTHEWS:  But that puts them in bed with these guys. 

JAVERS:  It absolutely does.  And the lobbyists love it, because they can ride on the plane with the congressman.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I have heard this before.


JAVERS:  And they have got three hours with him to make their point. 


MATTHEWS:  ... three hours to lobby you in your head.

JAVERS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  So you are reverberating with their B.S. by the time you get off the plane. 

JAVERS:  Right.  You are drinking the nice Scotch out of the nice decanter.  And you‘re having...

MATTHEWS:  Well...


MATTHEWS: ... too.

JAVERS:  Right.  Right. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, look, this isn‘t the John McCain that he sells, is it?  Michael, that‘s not who John sells.  He sells the maverick who doesn‘t want earmarks, who doesn‘t want to have big money being spent on TV commercials for issues right before elections, that kind of thing. 

SCHERER:  But John McCain is complicated when it comes to this. 

John McCain is also the person who fought to ban this practice of the private planes.  Now, if senators want to take private jets, they have to pay full charter price.  They can‘t just use a first-class airfare.  John McCain was at the front of that effort, even though, if you go back to his 2000 campaign, when he really didn‘t have money, he was depending heavily of his contributors...


Again, I have got to get back to the question everybody would ask if they were sitting here.  Has he ever done anything that you know, Michael, having looked at the story and reported it, that would hurt the public interest, that you know, in the interest of some lobbyist?  Has he ever taken the side of the lobbyist against the public because of these favors, these trips, these whatever? 

SCHERER:  The problem with this issue is that you‘re going—you‘re going towards motivation.  Why did he take a position on one thing?  And it‘s between him...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Why did he believe that some telecommunications giant should have access through two outlets in the same market, when that was against the rules? 

SCHERER:  He believed that—that the changes in technology, beginning in the 1980s, had made those rules obsolete.  He‘s maintained for a lot of years...

MATTHEWS:  Because there are so many ways to get information, it‘s OK for the same tycoon...

SCHERER:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... to own a TV station and a newspaper in the same market, right? 


MATTHEWS:  So, that‘s the point. 

SCHERER:  Exactly right. 

And then he—so, he believes that.  But then he invites the people who also—who are fighting that side on the Commerce Committee to come into his office and meets with them.


MATTHEWS:  Maybe that‘s the problem. 

I always thought it was easier for Republicans to get the money from business, because they basically bought the business argument. 


MATTHEWS:  So, you can give me a campaign contributor.  You can give me a ride because I always agree with you, whereas the liberal Democrat basically sells himself or herself as a critic of that kind of corporate power. 

JAVERS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And then, when they go along with the corporation‘s interests, it looks like they have been bought. 

JAVERS:  And the problem with railing against lobbyists in this country is that lobbying is protected in the Constitution.  The First Amendment says that you have a right to petition the government for redress of grievances.  And that is what...

MATTHEWS:  But senators don‘t have a right to free—cheap rides on airplanes, with well-appointed whatever. 

JAVERS:  Well, that‘s right.  Well, that‘s right. 

And when—but whenever McCain‘s been at his most aggressive going after lobbyists, he‘s said, I‘m only going after lobbyists with the bad stuff. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, on a scale of 10, one to 10, how clean is John McCain? 

SCHERER:  Ten being cleanest? 


SCHERER:  I would give him like an eight.  I think he‘s actually cleaner than a lot of others.

MATTHEWS:  Where do see him?  Where do you put him?

JAVERS:  You know, I talked to one of the do-gooder groups today, who

said, his Senate staff, the guys who actually run these investigations, are

are incredibly clean and incredibly aggressive, and they have less faith in his political staff, the ones who are running his.

JAVERS:  The fund raisers are going to be.

MATTHEWS:  It sounds like he‘s at the upper end of cleanliness. 

Thank you, Michael Shear.  Thank you, Eamon Javers.   

Up next, what‘s the Clinton campaign trying to do with 20 big time supporters—we used to call them fat cats—take aim at the House speaker for suggesting that the super delegates back up the candidate who gets the most elected delegates?  What‘s wrong with letting democracy rule?  What will happen if Nancy Pelosi insists on that?  Is she going to take heat?  Will she be punished by the Clinton folk?  The politics fix is next.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.  Joining us for the politics fix, my favorite

part of the show, right up there with that stuff we do in the third block -

Maria Teresa Petersen is founding director of Voto Latino.  E. Stevens Collins is a radio talk show host, a graduate of West Catholic High School in Philadelphia.  And Chris Cillizza, he writes for the  We read him all the time.  He‘s an up and comer.  He‘s almost come.  I think you‘re there.


MATTHEWS:  I want to start with you, Maria Teresa, and then go around the room here.  It‘s fascinating to me that somebody like Terry McAuliffe or somebody came up with the idea, why don‘t we get Bob Johnson, who is well known as head of Black Entertainment, to put a letter together trashing and threatening the only constitutional officer who will survive this next election, Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, saying, if you don‘t let this election be decided by the super delegates, if you insist on it being decided by elected delegates, you‘re in trouble with us. 

Boy, that‘s kind of a gallish—I think that‘s the right word for this. 

MARIA TERESA PETERSEN, VOTO LATINO:  But I think it‘s also a transparency of the Democratic party and the Republican party.  The way we fund elections is mostly private donations.  Barack Obama‘s a phenomenon. 

MATTHEWS:  They‘re threatening to cut off the water. 

PETERSEN:  No, basically they are singing the toll, saying, it‘s not only Nancy Pelosi, but it‘s also the mayors. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you realize what you‘re saying, an unelected wealthy guy, who gives money to the party, a successful business guy, a billionaire, many people say, is saying, are you going to let democracy rule in this party? 

CILLIZZA:  Chris, that‘s what I was going to say.  I think, first of all, it‘s a valid point.  These people have a lot of power within the party.  That said, if you are running against the candidate whose messaging is power of the people, the people are rising up and ready for a change, it is not good symbolically then to have a very small group of very wealthy people, down from their financial plateau saying, saying, no, let‘s do it a different way. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know who wrote this letter.  I would bet a staffer at the DNC, or Terry or somebody.  The letter from Clinton‘s fund-raisers to Speaker Pelosi as follows, quote, “You, Madam Speaker, suggested super delegates have an obligation to support the candidate who leads in the pledged, that means elected, delegate count, as of June 3rd, which is the end of the primary season.  This is an untenable position that runs counter to the party‘s intent in establishing super delegates in 1984.  We have been strong supporters of the DCCC—that‘s the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee—we therefore urge you to clarify your position on super delegates and reflect in your comments a more open view to the optional independent actions of each of the delegates at the national convention in August.  We appreciate your activities in support of the Democratic party and your leadership role in the party and hope you will be responsive to some of your major enthusiastic supporters.” 

E. Steven, they‘re holding her up. 

E. STEVEN COLLINS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I think so.  And I think they‘re trying to intimidate her.  But you got to look at the fact that Senator Obama has been able to go out here and ask people individually to raise millions of dollars.  I met some people here in Philadelphia who are every paycheck giving 25, 50, 100 dollars out of their pay.  That talks about engagement and a lot more people who are supporting a candidate, versus these kind of bullying tactics that these fat cats, as you called them earlier, are doing with the speaker. 

MATTHEWS:  I want to be kinder.  Future ambassadors. 

COLLINS:  It seems a little unfair there. 

PETERSEN:  But, I mean, I think what we‘re missing is that we definitely have, you know, super delegates that are—you know, that they‘re elected officials. 

MATTHEWS:  No, a lot of them are just party guys. 

PETERSEN:  Some of them are party guys, absolutely.  But the elected officials, Nancy Pelosi in tow, want to make sure that we‘re going to elect as many Democrats come November. 

MATTHEWS:  You analyze the super delegates, everybody, E. Steven, too.  When you go through the list of super delegates—the “New York Times” did the analysis—it turns out that among elected officials, governors, members of congress, senators, they are about even between Obama and Hillary Clinton.  It‘s only among those unelected party characters where Hillary has her advantage. 

Let‘s take a look, by the way, at Obama‘s comment today: “this letter

he‘s talking about the letter from Bob Johnson to the speaker—is inappropriate and we hope the Clinton campaign will reject the insinuation contained in it.”  The insinuation being? 

CILLIZZA:  The insinuation being that there‘s a threat involved here. 

COLLINS:  Exactly. 

CILLIZZA:  If you do not—we are rich; we are powerful within the party.  If you do not step back, I guess would be the kindest way of saying it, something will happen.  The other quick point, Chris, that I wanted to touch on, because you made it with the elected officials who are super delegates being undecided—look, we‘ve covered politics long enough, and I know you have, to know these people are politicians.  They will ultimately do what they believe is in their own long-term self-interest.  So if it looks like Barack Obama—after we finish with all these votes, if it looks like Barack Obama is the nominee, I guarantee you the elected officials will go with Barack Obama. 

And I would say the same thing about Hillary Clinton.  These people care much more about getting, fill in the blank candidate, senator, governor or House member elected. 

MATTHEWS:  Great point.  This is where I think the Clintons made a mistake.  A Clinton spokesman said today, quote, “few have done more to build the Democratic party than Bill and Hillary Clinton.  The last thing they need is a lecture from the Obama campaign.”  The only problem with that is they came into office in 1992 with the Democratic party that controlled all branches of government, the Congress, the Senate, whatever.  They left in—

After a couple of years, they‘d lost it all.  They had lost seats in both Houses and the Senate.  They lost control of the government of the United States.  They end up with subpoena power being used against them, as the president was to learn, right?  And yet they claimed to have built the party?  In what sense can they make the claim stick? 

COLLINS:  I think at this point right now, they are kind of—Bill is out campaigning for his candidate.  The person who is the de facto leader of the national Democratic party really is Al Gore.  And don‘t forget, Al Gore is sitting there waiting to see which way things are going to go.  He could play a pivotal role in the outcome of this whole mess. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Maria, your turn.  Let me ask you if Al Gore is the enforcer—he‘s a big guy these days, in many ways.  He‘s a Nobel Prize Laureate and everything.  He‘s wealthy beyond imagination for most people—most politicians can‘t dream of this kind of money.  And he made it after being a politician. 

He walks into the next room right next to the only constitutional officer who will survive this next election, Nancy Pelosi, and they two together say, this thing is over after the primaries and caucuses.  We can‘t deal with the Florida thing and the Michigan thing until we get together on the candidate.  Once we do that, we can make sure those people are represented.  We can‘t be diddling around any further.  What happens?  Does that have power? 

PETERSEN:  Absolutely.  I think what Nancy Pelosi did say that—she did it in a very kind way.  She created a framework for folks on how they should decide the super delegates.  That‘s exactly what—

MATTHEWS:  What is that framework?  I‘m sorry. 

PETERSEN:  The framework, it‘s code word saying we should vote as the popular vote or as the delegates.  That‘s a framework.  And so if Gore comes to the table and creates another framework, then all of a sudden, I think, we half to step back and say, who is the nominee. 

MATTHEWS:  There is a leadership? 

PETERSEN:  Absolutely.

CILLIZZA:  I was going to add, too, Chris Dodd, an Obama supporter, but Chris Dodd, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is out now too saying we need to follow—this is dangerous for the party as it goes along.  It‘s your point.  It‘s your point.  You set the goal posts and then you compromise.  So I think what you are doing is you are setting sort of the standard.  And then when it ends on June 3rd, when South Dakota and Montana vote, they then step in.   

MATTHEWS:  Chris Dodd said that to Linda Douglass today in an interview.  She just shared it with us.  E. Steven, that is the question.  What used to be in the old days, the ‘50s, my mom would say, you just wait until your father gets home.  I know that‘s old-time and paternalistic.  But do the Democrats still have such a figure, patriarchal or matriarchal, who actually comes home and makes a decision?  That‘s the question.  Is it Al Gore, with Nancy Pelosi, together?  Are they the political parents of the Democratic party? 

COLLINS:  I think Bill Richardson said it.  He kind of put it in a perspective that allows us to begin to look at this the way you‘ve just described it.  But you got to remember, here in Pennsylvania, where, after all, in three and a half weeks there will be a major primary, people are still concerned about bread-and-butter issues.  In the middle of the day, Chris, they are not talking about a lot about this.  They are talking about public safety issues. 

There was a guy killed in the streets about half a minute from the mayor‘s office yesterday.  They are concerned about health care.  They are concerned about economics.  Where are their jobs?  That‘s what they‘re talking about.  That‘s what they care about. 

So while all this stuff is being played out nationally, where it matters here, and I‘m sure in the other states where primaries are coming up, the concern is where is the presidential discussion about these issues that matter to them? 

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be talking about that all next Wednesday on the HARDBALL college tour, Westchester University, Barack Obama for the whole hour.  Please come, E. Steven.  We‘ll give you a good seat.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  We‘ll be right back.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the round table for more of the politics fix.  Let‘s listen to former President Bill Clinton.  He‘s sort of laying out the rules of engagement here.  Catch this act. 


WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If a politician doesn‘t want to get beat up, he shouldn‘t run for office.  If a football player doesn‘t want to get tackled and risk the occasional clip, he shouldn‘t put the pads on. 

All these guys that say bad things about her in the other campaign, should they resign?  My answer is no, they are repeating the party line.  They ought to stay right where they are.  Let‘s just saddle up and have an argument.  What‘s the matter with that?  That‘s what America‘s about, right? 


MATTHEWS:  There you have it.  How do we interpret those words at this point in the campaign? 

CILLIZZA:  I think there‘s two things.  I think, as always at this point in the campaign, you have a primary way of thinking about it and a general election.  The primary way is basically saying, hey, if you‘re Barack Obama and you‘re watching this, it‘s going to get worse before it gets better.  It‘s like the weather.  It‘s going to start raining harder before it starts raining less. 

MATTHEWS:  Why is that important for the former president to be the one who basically blows the trumpet and says it‘s going to get really dirty?  Why is it in his interest to do that? 

CILLIZZA:  I don‘t think he‘s saying it‘s going to get real dirty.  I think what he‘s trying to do—again, I do think it‘s a primary and a general election.  I think he‘s both trying to say, get ready for it Barack Obama.  But he‘s also trying to say, and this has been the Clinton line throughout, she‘s fighting.  She‘s tough.  She‘s beaten the Republican attack machine back.

Subtly, of course, or not so subtly, making the argument Barack Obama isn‘t up to this fight.  I think all of that stuff is aimed at trying to—again, at this point in the campaign we‘re talking about perceptions more than we‘re talking about reality. 

COLLINS:  Chris, you got to remember, Barack said time and again that he is not going to go in the gutter to fight this battle. 

PETERSEN:  Right. 

COLLINS:  He is above it.  There‘s a question about who looks more presidential.  Is it somebody whose nose is growing like Pinnochio?  Or is it somebody who is telling you, I‘m not going to go in the gutter.  I‘m going to be straight-forward and tell you what you need to hear.  He‘s done that every time that red phone rings.  He‘s there.  He answers.  He‘s presidential. 

MATTHEWS:  How long can he play St. Francis?  I wonder.  He‘s surrounded by really tough pols. 

PETERSEN:  Hillary came into this campaign knowing that she had baggage.  Whereas, Barack was a fresh face, untarnished.  This is her opportunity to show, look, he definitely has baggage, and this is my opportunity.  The longer this goes, the only winner is Hillary. 

CILLIZZA:  Or John McCain. 


COLLINS:  I think every time Hillary goes there, her polls go down, because people don‘t see her as a fighter.  I think people see her as kind of whining and acting in a way that we don‘t expect from her. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t agree.  I‘ll tell you why.  I‘ve been tough on her and the guys, especially her sometimes, but I‘ve got to tell you something:

I think every time she comes out of one of these fights, she looks less elite, less seven sisters, less Ivy League, and more like a regular pol, like Marcy Kaptur or Barbara Mikulski, a regular neighborhood person.  I think the fighting she‘s taking now, E. Steven, is going to hold her well in those neighborhoods in Pennsylvania. 

When she goes out in the country in Pennsylvania, they are going to like the fact that she‘s a fighter, because that shoes she‘s not an elitist. 

COLLINS:  When you consider the way Mr. Obama has in every one of those states with limited African-Americans turned people around and caused them to look at him and not his race.  He‘s moved up and he‘s won the states.  I think he‘ll do that.  As you know, this weekend, a six-day tour on a bus all over the state.  I think that‘s his best appeal, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  I do, too.  I think she‘s running as more Allentown than Cambridge, and I think it‘s working.  Anyway, Maria Teresa Petersen, E.  Steven Collins, Chris Cillizza, join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now it‘s time for the “RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE” with David Gregory.



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