IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Thursday, May 1

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Andrea Mitchell, David Shuster, Roger Simon, Susan Molinari, Ken Blackwell, Mark Green, Kevin

Miller, April Ryan, Dana Milbank, Michelle Bernard

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Render unto Caesar.  So Barack was right about the Iraq war but wrong about the minister.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews.  Welcome to HARDBALL tonight, five years to the day after President Bush stood on that aircraft carrier and declared victory in Iraq.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.  In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re still at war, of course, and with enemies we had never heard of—special groups, criminals, the Sadr army, the Qods Force from Iran.  Stuck in the quicksand of Arabia, the more we squirm, the more we sink.  We nation-build over there as our own nation heads deeper into economic danger at home -- 4,000 Americans lost, 30,000 wounded, $3 billion week sunk into the Arabian sand as we Americans spend historic amounts filling our gas tanks.  That‘s another thing we were promised that wasn‘t delivered, cheaper gas.  Another sales pitch for the war, by the way.  Remember that one?

Tonight, we cover the latest rumblings in a race for president that‘s divided by one issue more than any other, the war in Iraq.  Barack Obama opposed it, Hillary Clinton voted to authorize it, but has said she wants her vote back, and John McCain, who today admitted the mission has not been accomplished but still pushes to finish the war Bush told us he had won.

Three days since, by the way, Jeremiah Wright‘s performance at the National Press Club, the Gallup poll has Barack Obama trailing Hillary Clinton by 4 points.  That‘s the first time that she‘s been that far ahead in weeks.  Other polls show Clinton gaining ground in both Indiana and North Carolina, who are holding primaries next week.

Obama did get some good news today, a big superdelegate switch from Clinton to him.  We‘ll have that and the latest on the Democratic race in a minute.

Also, do you remember who coined the term “vast right-wing conspiracy”?  That was, of course, Hillary Clinton.  Now is it just me or does it seem that right-wing conspiracy members in good standing have been lining up behind her?  Have conservatives fallen in love with Hillary Clinton, or just with the idea of running against her in November?  We‘re going to look at that love tease a little later.

And is John McCain an independent-minded Republican or just an ally of this war president, George Bush?  The answer to that may go a long way towards deciding whether McCain wins in November or loses.

And who would Hillary Clinton date—this is sort of the funny part of this show—if Bill gave her one night off?  Well, we‘ll let you into that secret answer—it‘s not very impressive—when HARDBALL gets to the “Sideshow.”

But we begin tonight with the latest developments in the 2008 presidential race.  Roger Simon writes for Politico and NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell covers the Clinton campaign.  You know, every once in a while on this show, I remind myself, I pinch myself, I‘m with the heavyweights.  I mean, really.  You are the best.  You are the best writer in politics, you and Ron Brownstein, and maybe...


MATTHEWS:  ... maybe you, too, and Balz maybe.  Maybe—I think you three.  Anyway, and Andrea on air...


MATTHEWS:  Yes, you‘ve been good since the days of KYW radio.  I can‘t miss with you.

Here‘s what—here‘s the big switch today.  Joe Andrew, of course, a former congressman from Indiana, a big force out there in that state, in the Hoosier State, wrote in the Huffingtonpost today, quote, “No amount of spin or sleight of hand can deny the fact that where there has been competition, Senator Obama has won more votes, more states and more delegates than any other candidate.  Only the superdelegates can award the nomination to Senator Clinton, but to do so risks doing to our party in 2008 what Republicans did to our country in 2000.  Let us be intellectually consistent and unite behind Barack Obama.”

Roger, that‘s apparently—I don‘t know Hoosier politics that well, but people tell me that‘s a big plus for Barack Obama going into next Tuesday.

ROGER SIMON, POLITICO.COM:  It is a big plus...

MATTHEWS:  Joe Andrew.

SIMON:  ... for Barack Obama.  It‘s not just another superdelegate but it‘s the chairman of the Democratic National Committee under Bill Clinton.  And it‘s not just a pick-up of one superdelegate, it is a switch from Clinton to Obama.  And his reasoning is, Hey, you can‘t overturn the voice of the people.  You really can‘t tell black Americans and young Americans that we‘ve got an escape clause to keep Barack Obama out of the White House, and we‘re going to exercise it.

MATTHEWS:  And you have written, and others have written, I believe VandeHei and Harris in Politico, that basically, no matter what happens between now and the first week or so of June, the cards are in.  Barack‘s going to win elected delegates.

SIMON:  He‘s going to win elected delegates.  It almost is a mathematical certainty.  And in fact, the Hillary Clinton campaign admits that.  However, you can‘t get to the nomination with just elected delegates.  You got to have superdelegates too.  He may, at the end of this thing, be leading in superdelegates yet not have enough for the nomination.

MATTHEWS:  Andrea, what seems to me at war with that mathematic fact, which is a fact, which is the numbers are not there for Hillary, is events.  We‘ve had one event in the last several weeks, this crazy former—or minister who‘s out there just demanding our attention, Jeremiah Wright.  Is he big enough, or do we need more to shake loose these superdelegates from Barack Obama?

MITCHELL:  At this point, the trend lines have certainly been in Hillary‘s favor since the Wright think broke, since “elite” and “bitter” and all of those things came up in the Pennsylvania primary.  This is showing up in our polls.

But he is ahead in the pledged delegates.  He‘s ahead in the numbers

of primaries and caucuses that he‘s won.  So you would need to see a big

shift in superdelegates.  And with all of these things going in her favor -

she‘s in her zone, she‘s campaigning well, he seems somewhat tentative—you‘re not seeing these switchovers.  You know, where has there been a switch from a Clinton superdelegate—rather, from an Obama superdelegate the other way?  I interviewed Joe Andrew today, and he said he not call Bill or Hillary Clinton.  I said, Doesn‘t simple politeness require that you do that?


MITCHELL:  And he said...

MATTHEWS:  Well, why get a tongue-lashing?

MITCHELL:  ... this is politics...


MATTHEWS:  ... get yelled at on the phone.  But look at the Indiana polls here...

MITCHELL:  He said, Look what happened to Bill Richardson.

MATTHEWS:  I want you both to talk about these polls because, obviously, we‘re getting down to perhaps Hillary Clinton‘s last chance to blow this guy out, to really upset the juggernaut that seems to be going in his direction.  I love the name of those polls.  The Halley-Gauge (ph) poll, or is it the Gauge poll, has Obama up by 2 points.  In the “Indianapolis Star” poll, that‘s Obama up by 3 points.  The Realclearpolitics average out there in the Hoosier State of Indiana is Clinton by 3.

I‘m thinking that if Hillary wins in Indiana, that‘s a win.  We don‘t get too clever about it.  There‘s no spread here.

SIMON:  It‘s a win, but if she doesn‘t win North Carolina the same day, will we say she can‘t close the deal?


SIMON:  I mean, I think it‘s going to be...

MATTHEWS:  No, open up the deal is what we‘re talking about.  Can she break open the inevitability, the juggernaut of Barack Obama next Tuesday?  And if so, what does she have to do to do it?

SIMON:  I think Indiana is a good state for her.  I think it‘s going to be a very hard state for Barack Obama to win.  Indiana, unlike the other states that border Illinois, like Wisconsin and Iowa and even Missouri, is a totally different state.  It‘s a much more conservative state.  It‘s a lunchpail state.  It‘s a rural state.  And I don‘t think it‘s—even though we always talk about the Chicago media market going into Indiana, that doesn‘t mean everyone who sees you likes you.  I think Barack Obama‘s going to have a tough time.


MITCHELL:  I disagree slightly.  A quarter of the voters live in that media market around Gary, Indiana, that...

MATTHEWS:  South Bend.

MITCHELL:  They‘re familiar with him.  His big problem, as Michelle Obama said today in Jeffersonville, Indiana, is, We have to introduce ourselves to people.  We have to tell people who we are and get away from, you know, the way people are trying to define him.

The people in that area, in the Chicago media market, they know him and presumably like him.  They‘ve seen him over a number of years.  So it‘s the rest of the state, correctly, who are rural.  And you know, you see him today in his shirtsleeves in several rural areas talking to farmers.  That‘s what he‘s trying to do today.  He‘s not doing big rallies.

I think that she needs to win both states, which would go against...

MATTHEWS:  To do what?

MITCHELL:  ... to blow it open.  She needs to win Indiana to survive and keep on going.  She needs to win both to really shake the inevitability.

MATTHEWS:  So if we get up Tuesday night, and Keith Olbermann and I are waiting around 10:00 o‘clock at night and we watch the confetti drop somewhere in Indianapolis or wherever she‘s going next, and we watch Barack at Chapel Hill or Durham somewhere, the confetti‘s—I don‘t know if he has confetti or not, but whatever‘s dropping there, what‘s that?  That‘s a win for Barack.

MITCHELL:  Sure.  If he—it‘s a win for both of them.  She keeps...

MATTHEWS:  No, no, no, no, no, no.  No.


MATTHEWS:  It can‘t be a win for both.

MITCHELL:  No, let me bottom-line it.  He can put her out of misery, or put her into misery.  He can end this race, if he wins Indiana.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I think.

SIMON:  I think he has to win...

MATTHEWS:  That‘s my humble opinion.

SIMON:  ... both states.

MITCHELL:  He has to win both states to end the race.


MITCHELL:  If she wins both, he‘s got serious trouble.  If it‘s a split, they keep on going.

MATTHEWS:  She‘s headed toward the nomination if she wins both, you‘re saying.

MITCHELL:  I think possibly yes.



MATTHEWS:  What do you think?

SIMON:  I still don‘t think she can get ahead in pledged delegates, and I think she might have hard time getting ahead in superdelegates.


MATTHEWS:  The Democratic Party can‘t deny the nomination to the person who has the most pledged delegates.  You hold to that?

SIMON:  That‘s my belief, yes.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t hold to that belief, do you.

MITCHELL:  No, I think...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not sure I do, either.  I think that these people make a move that‘s cynical, perhaps, they‘ll make the right move.


SIMON:  I think it will shatter the Democratic Party.  You‘re talking about a Democratic Party...

MATTHEWS:  They might do it, though.

SIMON:  The superdelegates, who 56 percent of which are the DNC itself, Democratic National Committee itself, you‘re going to ask them to...

MATTHEWS:  Well, why are they waiting?

SIMON:  ... shatter the...

MATTHEWS:  If they‘re going to back Obama, why haven‘t they done it yet?

SIMON:  They‘re pols.  They want to see what‘s in it for them.  What are they going to get out of this?


MITCHELL:  ... nervous.

MATTHEWS:  Speaking of pols, here‘s the greatest one of our time, former president Bill Clinton, speaking in North Carolina last night.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  She‘s going to end this thing roaring.  And what are they going to say if she wins the popular vote, I‘m sorry, we‘re going to give it to the caucus states that are going Republican in November?  No.  So all these people that tell you she can‘t win, they‘re rushing, trying to get all these people to declare (INAUDIBLE) and cut you off and stomp your voice, don‘t you believe it.  You‘re still in the driver‘s seat.


MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s Bubba at large there.  And I got to tell you, the key line in there was “the popular vote.”  He‘s claiming the popular vote to include...

MITCHELL:  Well, that‘s changing the rules.

MATTHEWS:  ... Florida and Michigan.  This is Clinton taking another mulligan!  The guy‘s unbelievable!

SIMON:  Also, the line about how—you know, the caucus states are going to go for Republicans—how is Hillary Clinton, if she gets the nomination, going to win Iowa, a purple state, after what Bill Clinton just said?  You know, they both slapped Iowa in the face ever since...

MATTHEWS:  Trashing anything they lost.

SIMON:  Exactly.  Caucuses don‘t count.  Caucuses are undemocratic because we lost them.

MATTHEWS:  Can you imagine playing golf with Bill Clinton, what it‘s like?

SIMON:  I think a lot of mulligans.

MATTHEWS:  It must be unbelievable!  Well, that doesn‘t count~!


MATTHEWS:  That was a bad shot.  I mean, look at this North Carolina

poll, to do all the polls tonight, Mason-Dixon—there‘s a familiar poll -

has Obama by 7.  That‘s not as high as it was.  Insider Advantage has Clinton up by 2.  Now, that is trouble making down there in the Tarheel state.  And Realclearpolitics had an average of all the polls recently of plus 7.  That‘s our marker.  So Hillary‘s up by 2 or 3 in Indiana in the average of polls, and he‘s up by 7.  You say—you say she has to win both to break this thing wide open, but if it splits, there‘s still the game goes on.  You say?

SIMON:  I think the game goes on anyway.  Hillary Clinton‘s not going to drop out.  She‘s just not going to drop out.


SIMON:  She‘s got six more contests after Tuesday.  She‘s going to keep going until the end.

MATTHEWS:  I just can‘t believe we‘re going to wait for Puerto Rico, a state that can‘t even—and maybe it should be part oft he union, if it ever chose to be part of the union, it would be part of the union.  But the fact that a part of our country—you know, they‘re U.S. citizens, but they‘re going to decide the nomination...


MATTHEWS:  I don‘t get it!

MITCHELL:  They‘re very favorable to her.  I mean, that—that is a very good place for her.

SIMON:  She‘s going to win Puerto Rico.

MITCHELL:  She‘s going to win Puerto Rico, and they‘ve got a lot of delegates.  They actually have a lot of delegates to the convention.

MATTHEWS:  What do they drop there?  It‘s not confetti, it‘s got to be something else!


SIMON:  I‘m not going there.


MATTHEWS:  I love Puerto Rico, of course.  What else am I going to say?  Anyway, thank you, Roger Simon.  Thank you, Andrea Mitchell.

Coming up: With the Republican Party running ads against Barack Obama, are they trying to tank his candidacy because they really secretly deeply are in love with the idea of taking down Hillary in November?  That‘s always been my suspicion, I admit it, that they deeply—Rush Limbaugh and company, Bill Kristol, Pat Buchanan, our colleague here, are all dying to run against Hillary come November.  That‘s next.

And Sunday on “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert has got an exclusive interview with Barack Obama for the whole hour.  Get ready, Barack.  He‘s going to for the documents and previous statements.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Lately, some of Hillary Clinton‘s most ardent admirers were once her and her husband‘s harshest critics.  Conservative, or neo-conservative, if you will, Bill Kristol praised Clinton in his column in “The New York Times” Monday headlined, “Hillary gets no respect.”  Richard Mellon Scaife, who tormented the Clintons back in the 1990s and was part of what Hillary Clinton then called the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” says he was won over by Clinton, Senator Clinton, at an editorial board meeting at his paper, “The Pittsburgh Tribune Review.”

Here‘s a clip from that meeting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We sure appreciate you coming in today, taking so much time with us.  And I know that you basically...

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, it‘s so counterintuitive, I just thought it would be fun to do.



MATTHEWS:  Last night, Senator Clinton appeared on “The O‘Reilly Factor” on Fox, and Rush Limbaugh has launched what he calls “operation chaos”—although I would argue that everything to do with Rush Limbaugh is operation chaos—encouraging his listeners to vote for Clinton in the primary.  So does the GOP, the Grand Old Party, want to run against Hillary Clinton?  What‘s going on here?

To try to give us straight answers—it will be hard—Susan Molinari, former U.S. congresswoman from New York, including Staten Island, who‘s now chairman and CEO of the lobbying firm The Washington Group, and Ken Blackwell, a very popular fellow in Ohio, former Ohio secretary of state and chairman of the Coalition for a Conservative Majority, he said very seriously.

Let me go to this question.  I want to put you both under sodium pentothal.


MATTHEWS:  So I‘ll just put you under the seal of whatever.  You‘re laughing.  You‘re—OK, here it is, Susan.  Why does Rush Limbaugh tell his dittoheads—proudly self-defined—to go out and vote for Hillary in the primaries?

MOLINARI:  I don‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  To register as a Democrat, if you have to.

MOLINARI:  Let me tell you something...

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t know?

MOLINARI:  Let me finish.  Let me tell you something.  A few months back, I would have thought that was the woman we would want to run against, would be Senator Clinton.  I don‘t think that‘s true now.  I think...

MATTHEWS:  Well, what‘s Rush (INAUDIBLE)

MOLINARI:  I don‘t know what Rush is thinking.  I think she is a much tougher opponent now.  I think running against Barack Obama—I mean, come on!  You get an endorsement from the Steelworkers saying you‘ve got testicular fortitude?  That‘s going to sell to a lot of Reagan Democrats on Staten Island.  I think she‘s a much more formidable candidate than he is right now.

MATTHEWS:  Can we go back to the question on the table?  Because I may agree with you.  In fact, I think I do.  I think Hillary‘s a much better candidate than she was a month ago.  I think she proved her stuff, not her testicularness, but she proved her stuff as a regular working woman, almost, up in Pennsylvania.  And I think she basically pushed back from Barack‘s stupid statement about small-town America effectively.  She came off better off than she would have.

Let me go to you on this, Ken.  But I do think that there‘s still, in effect, a right wing, if you will, a conservative push to trash Obama and to get Hillary the nomination.

KEN BLACKWELL ®, FORMER OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE:  Well, I think you‘re right, Chris, if you‘re saying that, Is there a tug-of-war going on now between conservative strategists and pundits as to which would be the easier candidate to run against?  The answer to that question is yes.  But just as many folks would like to see Barack Obama, who is now damaged goods, as there are folks who would like to see Hillary Clinton, there is a real debate.

The real problem is if McCain gets sucked into this.  As you know, he can‘t pick his opponent.  He has to be ready for whoever the Democrats choose.  I think what he can pray for is that this thing goes on, you know, another two months.

MATTHEWS:  The thing that makes me think that the old attempt by the conservatives, and including non-party people like Pat Buchanan, to run against Hillary is every time I sit against Pat Buchanan here, he doesn‘t give it away, I just know what he‘s up to because Pat Buchanan has a number of brains.  One brain is for analysis, which he uses.  The other one is for strategy.  He is giggling at the idea of going against Hillary Clinton in the general.

And here‘s my theory—I don‘t know why I‘m saying this.  You‘re supposed to say this.


MATTHEWS:  Look, the war‘s not going to be any more popular in November.  It may be somewhat OK with 30, 40 percent of the people, but it‘s never going to be a winner.  The economy‘s not going to be a winner.  So what do you have with McCain?  Integrity.  Who‘s the best person to run against on integrity?  Hillary, based upon all the numbers we have, she has a candor, an honesty problem.  Isn‘t that the smartest move for you guys?

BLACKWELL:  Susan is absolutely right when she said a couple months ago, they were probably rooting on Hillary because she had known negatives.  And they thought she had a ceiling of about 52 percent.  But what this Reverend Wright incident has done, you know, has brought down his popularity, risen—has pumped up his negatives, and he is now...

MOLINARI:  And the other thing that she‘s been able to do in this race both—he‘s enabled her to do, obviously, is to appear much more moderate, doing Bill O‘Reilly, you know, getting union endorsements, seeming like the reasonable—again, you know, this is the woman that can win, you know, a lot of those Reagan Democrats in Pennsylvania, right?


MOLINARI:  There are a lot of them in Staten Island, New York, who will not vote for Barack Obama now, as a result of the Reverend Wright... 


MATTHEWS:  Are they anti-Barack votes or are they pro-Hillary votes?  In other words, are those people ready to vote for Hillary now, but they really are planning to vote for McCain later? 

BLACKWELL:  I think it‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Even if it Hillary the nominee?

BLACKWELL:  I think, on the Democratic side, she is winning this argument:  Who is more like me? 


BLACKWELL:  And she is now winning the argument that she is more like the base of the Democratic Party.  And, you know, she is starting to say, I can turn the page just as well as Barack. 


MATTHEWS:  I think you guys are right. 


MATTHEWS:  I just want to know why people like Kristol, who—who will vote for McCain—he and McCain are connected at the hip—why people like Richard Mellon Scaife, why people like Pat Buchanan, who will never vote Democrat in their whole lives, why they are pushing Hillary.  I‘m just asking, why are they pushing Hillary? 

BLACKWELL:  Because they‘re analysts.  And they are cheerleaders.  And they have different—different data that says which one of these candidates would be the easiest to run against.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Here‘s a thought.  We might agree on this.  Could it be that people like Rush Limbaugh, the pundits, the people like me on the right, who will benefit by a Hillary presidency, because they will be like the Polish government in exile in London during World War II...


MATTHEWS:  ... and they will be so huge trashing this evil woman running the country every second of their lives? 

MOLINARI:  And even if that—it doesn‘t get to that point, that‘s—that‘s who their listeners are.  That‘s who their readers are. 

MATTHEWS:  The scared, angry, mad people.

MOLINARI:  Bash the Clintons.  Please continue to bash the Clintons. 

And you‘re betraying me if you don‘t... 


MATTHEWS:  Will O‘Reilly‘s numbers go up, will Rush‘s numbers go up, will Sean‘s numbers go up if Hillary is president, bottom line?

MOLINARI:  Oh, absolutely.

BLACKWELL:  Either one, because, let me tell you, what Barack brings with him, I know that you want him to be able to separate from his associates, but he brings Bill Ayers.  He brings Reverend Wright.  He brings a lot—a whole host of folks who are—quote—just “tailor-made” for Rush Limbaugh and the other pundits. 



MATTHEWS:  The way I look at it is from this desk here.  I mean, if Dick Cheney were president, I would be—I would be levitating here. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Susan Molinari, my friends, Ken Blackwell.

I think you were pretty honest.

Up next—given the nature of the discussion.


MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Who‘s the celebrity, dead or alive, that Hillary Clinton says she would want to go on a date with if Bill gave her a break for the night?  This is so interesting, I guess.


MATTHEWS:  We will have the answer next when we come back on the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

MOLINARI:  Interesting, huh?



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow,” as you just saw.

Take a stand.  In the upcoming issue of “People” magazine, Hillary Clinton tries to show her lighter, softer side.  One, shall we say, notable question—quote—“If your husband gave you a pass for one night, and you could go on a date with any celeb, alive or dead, who would it be?” 

Hillary‘s response: “That‘s such a dangerous question.  How about Abraham Lincoln?”


MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know what to say.  Talk about playing it safe.  Why didn‘t she go all the way back to Hannibal? 

Asked who she liked better, Tina Fey or Amy Poehler, or which show she liked better, “American Idol” or “Dancing With the Stars,” Hillary also refused to get herself pegged. 

Well, I think it‘s something about her, Hillary Clinton, that runs a lot deeper than whether she tells the truth or doesn‘t tell the truth.  I think, when it comes to who she is, Hillary Clinton actually is, she doesn‘t want to say.  How is that for a profound—profound comment?

Anyway, speaking of Hillary, remember that gas station stop she made yesterday?  Well, here she is at the same gas station trying to work the automatic coffee-maker inside.  She‘s running into little bit of trouble there, as you can see. 

If that had been Obama, you can imagine what Republicans would do with that.  Anyway, you know, he‘s an elitist.  He can‘t work the local gas station coffee machine. 

As a side note, apparently, Clinton is not the only one getting the cheap coffee at the gas stations these days.  Starbucks just reported that its earnings dropped 21 percent during the second quarter of this year. 

When the economy is bad, $5 for coffee doesn‘t seem like a good deal.  It

isn‘t just that the coffee has gotten too expensive.  It‘s that the dollar

let‘s face it—just isn‘t worth what it was. 

Cindy McCain went on “Jay Leno” last night and revealed one of her husband‘s shortcomings.  Let‘s take a look. 


JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”:  If he was elected president, he would be the only president ever to do a burnout in my Corvette. 



LENO:  You know, he...


LENO:  He had a Corvette when he was a kid, like in ‘59.  So, I drove my Corvette one day.  He goes, oh, can I borrow it?  And I go, yes.

And he goes...

C. MCCAIN:  Yes. 

LENO:  He just does a burnout all the way up the street. 

M. MCCAIN:  He‘s not the best of drivers either.  I drive most of the time. 


LENO:  Oh.


LENO:  Wow.  That‘s good to know.  Wow.  That‘s good to know. 


MATTHEWS:  Not good at driving?  Hmm.  Come on now.  Here, the man flew Navy jet over North Vietnam, and he can‘t drive a car?

And now it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number” tonight.  As we discussed earlier, on May 1, 2003 -- that‘s five years ago tonight—

President Bush made this declaration on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.  In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. 



MATTHEWS:  Well, major combat operations had only begun, it turns out. 

We‘re still very much in the thick of this terrible war in Iraq.  And the death count continues to rise.  As my colleague Keith Olbermann notes each night here, and as I share in noting on this fifth anniversary of that declaration of victory on the aircraft carrier, how many days have passed since President Bush declared mission accomplished in Iraq? -- 1,827 --

1,827 days ago.  We have had a war that wasn‘t declared, wasn‘t admitted, wasn‘t predicted—tonight‘s “Big Number,” horrible number.

Up next:  The new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll shows George Bush is a bigger liability for John McCain then the Reverend Jeremiah Wright is for Barack Obama.  Put that together in your head.  So, can the Democrats beat McCain by running against Bush?  We will see.

Come back and watch HARDBALL a minute from now on MSNBC.


MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I am Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks rallying, as the dollar strengthened and oil prices continued to fall.  The Dow Jones industrial average surged almost 190 points today, with the S&P 500 gaining more than 23, the Nasdaq also seeing a huge gain today, up nearly 68 points, tech stocks really rallying. 

Oil prices dropped for a third straight day, falling 94 cents in New York‘s trading session and closing at $112.52 a barrel. 

ExxonMobil reported, first-quarter profit rose 17 percent, to $10.9 billion.  But that was actually short of analyst estimates.  And shares of the oil giant fell almost 4 percent today. 

Meantime, GM, Ford, and Chrysler reported double—digit sales declines in April, while Toyota and Honda saw their sales rise. 

And Home Depot announced that it‘s closing 15 underperforming stores, affecting about 1,300 employees.  It‘s also dropping plans to open 50 new stores this year.  Home Depot shares rose 3 percent today on that news. 

That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to Chris and HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

One of the T-shirts now popping up at Obama and Clinton rallies show John McCain together with President Bush, though McCain‘s name has changed to “McSame.”  Democrats clearly intend to make President Bush part of the 2008 race, as McCain tries to create some distance. 

HARDBALL correspondent the inimitable David Shuster has this report. 


DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Today, in Ohio, John McCain toured the Cleveland clinic and tested a new surgical robotic arm. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So, we would have an expert that would just be able to do the complex surgery remotely. 

SHUSTER:  This on a day when the senator and his presidential campaign faced new reasons to keep at least an arm‘s-length distance away politically from President Bush. 

According to the latest NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll, the president‘s job approval rating is now down to just 27 percent, the lowest ever in the history of the poll.

But, on “MORNING JOE” today, McCain‘s reaction was muted. 


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I really believe that, at the end of the day, the American people are going to judge me on what they think I will be as president of the United States, not on anybody else. 


SHUSTER:  But, according to the poll, the McCain/Bush connection will be a factor.  When voters were asked about their major concerns regarding McCain, Obama, and Clinton, 43 percent pointed to McCain‘s alignment with President Bush‘s policies.  That‘s higher than the 36 percent who cited Hillary Clinton flip-flops and the 34 percent who believe Barack Obama is out of touch with small-town voters, based on his bitter remarks.

Democratic groups see an opportunity and have been linking Bush and McCain in television ads. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years. 

MCCAIN:  Maybe 100. 

NARRATOR:  If all he offers is more of the same, is John McCain is right choice for America‘s future?


SHUSTER:  Today, the group released this. 


MCCAIN:  I don‘t think Americans are concerned if we‘re there for 100 years or 1,000 years or 10,000 years. 

NARRATOR:  One hundred years in Iraq, and you thought no one could be worse than George Bush. 


SHUSTER:  McCain has broken with President Bush on several issues, including campaign finance reform, the administration‘s policy on torture, global warming, and judicial nominations.  And, last week in New Orleans, McCain spoke about the delayed reaction to Hurricane Katrina. 

MCCAIN:  In all candor, if I had been president of the United States, I would have ordered the plane landed at the nearest Air Force base, and I would have been over here. 

SHUSTER:  But, on the biggest issues going forward, including health care, the Bush tax cuts, and Iraq, John McCain and President Bush are joined at the hip.  Both also have fierce tempers, as President Bush underscored this week when questioned about problems in Afghanistan. 

Watch his hand.

BUSH:  And the notion that, somehow, we can let these people just kind of have their way, or, you know, let‘s don‘t stir them up, is naive or disingenuous, and is not in our nation‘s interests. 

SHUSTER:  Still, McCain is trying to distance himself from the president‘s Iraq mistakes, including mission accomplished. 

MCCAIN:  I thought that phrases like a few dead-enders, last throes, all of those comments contributed over time to the frustration and sorrow of Americans, because those statements and comments did not comport with the facts on the ground. 

SHUSTER (on camera):  McCain‘s effort to separate from the president may be helped by current public opinion.  The NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll found that McCain is viewed as independent and voters say he shares their values more than Obama or Clinton. 

The question is, can McCain keep his numbers strong in the face of Bush fatigue? 

I‘m David Shuster, for HARDBALL, in Washington. 


MATTHEWS:  I love Shuster.  That‘s David Shuster reporting.

Kevin Miller is a conservative radio talk show host out of the first ever radio station in the world, at least, the KDKA station in Pittsburgh.  And mark is president of Air America Radio—he built this place—and author of the book “Losing Our Democracy,” which is now in paperback.

OK.  I don‘t know who has the harder argument here, but I‘m going to let Kevin start off.

You have all the time you need, up to about 30 seconds. 


MATTHEWS:  How does John McCain run a trilateral campaign, away from both the Bush record...


MATTHEWS:  ... and the Democrats? 

MILLER:  Well, Chris, we—I think we saw that last week in Pittsburgh, the beginning of this—or two weeks ago, when John McCain gave a speech on economics. 

On one hand, he‘s appealing to the Bush base, the Bush voters, by talking about free trade and fair trade, which really hits home here in Pennsylvania.  On the other hand, he has started going to, I don‘t know, like the new Pat Buchananism, if you will, talking about the incredible high salaries of corporate CEOs, and how his administration, he, in fact, is going to take a look at that.  That resonates real well on the ground here in Pennsylvania.

MATTHEWS:  So, he‘s going to be the next Teddy Roosevelt, not the next George W. Bush?

MILLER:  I think that plays well.

Of course, he‘s got to appeal to the Republicans, and that—you know, the conservative base, Chris.  And we will see that at the convention.  We will also see that with who he picks for V.P.

The Republicans are just—you know, it‘s kind of like me waiting to go to the Golden Corral, the buffet, if you will.  They‘re dying for something to get excited for.


MILLER:  They‘re waiting for the—the big appetizer. 

MATTHEWS:  Mark Green. 


MATTHEWS:  Can they escape the—I mean, every presidential election in which we have had a bad economy—and we have a bad one now—the party in has lost. 


You know, Chris, how John McCain likes to show his boomer sensibilities.  He‘s Herman‘s Hermits, second verse same as the first. 

MATTHEWS:  Could be better, but it‘s going to be worse. 

GREEN:  Look, the John McCain of 2000 was unlike George W. Bush for reasons that are now historic. 

The John McCain of 2008 overwhelmingly agrees with George Bush merely on the war, terrorism, taxes, regulation, Social Security, health care, and choice.  And, so, if Mr. 27 Percent, George W. Bush, thinks he‘s not going to be—and he is not on the ballot, obviously—but, if Reverend Wright is an albatross, George W. Bush is like three metal albatrosses around John McCain‘s neck. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you have George Bush speak at your convention if you were John McCain, come the Saint Paul convention in September, Kevin? 

MILLER:  Yes, I would, because the base will rally around him. 

And John McCain, Chris, has proven his independence, talking about the idea of a gas tax relief, you know, getting rid of the federal gas tax over the summer months.  You would never have seen George Bush do that.  Bush adopted it a couple days afterwards, after Hillary Clinton did it.  We‘re going to see more of this.  But again, to the base, Chris, Bush plays very well. 

MATTHEWS:  You raised an interesting point.  If John McCain, as the nominee of the Republican party, picks someone—does he have to pick a Bushy, someone who is closer to the president, less of a maverick?  If that is the case, won‘t that hurt his independent image? 

MILLER:  Chris, I think he‘s going to go with somebody very socially conservative, not like Lindsay Graham, but perhaps the governor of South Carolina, maybe somebody out west. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘ve heard that the governor of South Carolina has a quail problem. 

GREEN:  As in the bird or the candidate? 

MATTHEWS:  As in the weight. 

GREEN:  Let me agree with Kevin on that.  My mind can‘t wrap around this, but were I running the Republican convention, I would have Bush speak as a matter of courtesy at the McGovern hour, 2:00 to 3:00 am.  If Kevin thinks he can rally the Republican base, that may be true.  The 25 percent of political dead enders who think it was great to have gone into Iraq, here comes Iran—McCain to get 50 percent plus one of the electoral college has to expand, and by tethering himself to this elitist economics of you vote against tax cuts and now he‘s for tax cuts being permanent. 

MATTHEWS:  How does John McCain say he‘s going to change the one thing people all agree in this country on?  Forget about ideology.  They don‘t like the economy.  Four out of five Americans, according to our new “Wall Street Journal”/NBC poll last night, believe we‘re in a recession.  How does he say, I‘m different than George Bush on economics.  How does he do that and get away with it, since he‘s now for the Bush tax cuts, the main part of the president‘s economic philosophy?  He supports him 100 percent.  How can he claim he‘s not a Bushy? 

MILLER:  I think he does that very simply by continuing his John McCain tour in Youngstown, Ohio, and Selma, Alabama, talking to the folks, trying to appeal to them and saying, I feel your pain.  But, again, unlike other politicians, Chris, John McCain doesn‘t pander.  He was the guy in Michigan that said, your jobs aren‘t coming back.  There‘s nothing we can do about it. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s not pandering, but he‘s getting rid of the tax gas for the summer?  What do you mean he‘s not pandering?  He‘s not even going to pay for that loss of revenue.  We‘re going to have 300,000 people out of work.  The highway is going to be hell by the end of summer without any repairs done on it.  What is he talking about?

GREEN:  I know what you mean by not pandering.  The Straight Talk Express has become the Sweet Talk Express.  He‘s totally switched on tax cuts.  He‘s totally switched on the Republican religious right being the agents of intolerance.  I don‘t recognize this John McCain.  And if he keeps this up, what principals are left other than whatever works? 

MATTHEWS:  I just think the party label is a challenge, Kevin.  You don‘t agree?  This time around, I looked at the numbers of our Journal poll, NBC poll—it‘s an amazing poll.  For some reason, I haven‘t seen the Democrats do a lot to deserve this.  But their numbers are very high, 56 to 36 favorable to unfavorable.  The Republican party is the flip side of that.  Maybe that‘s just a lack of confidence in this president.  But the party label is important right now, it seems. 

MILLER:  Chris, I think we‘re going to see the Republicans wanting to play to win.  They‘ve had eight years in power.  Again, Republicans will have to ask themselves at the polls, do they want John McCain?  Do they want Barack Obama?  Do they want Hillary Clinton?  McCain has that great appeal to bring home the independents. 

MATTHEWS:  I just wonder about all those moderates Republicans switching over to Democrat in places like Pennsylvania, what that‘s going to do in the general.  Kevin Miller, it‘s great to have you on.  You‘re a man of great, good sense.  And you can go eat anyone you want, as far as I‘m concerns.  Kevin Miller, Mark Green, thank you sir. 

Up next, is Barack Obama able to get the Reverend Wright controversy behind him in time for Tuesday‘s primaries?  Well, if we keep talking about it, he won‘t.  Let‘s talk about that with the politics fix.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.



BUSH:  Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.  In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, if we weren‘t in Iraq right now, would any of our leaders take us in?  Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix.  Tonight, our round table, April Ryan of the American Urban Radio Networks, MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard, and Dana Milbank, the best new writer in the “Washington Post.”  He is not new, but he is the best writer. 

Let me go to this question about Iraq.  My premise, and I will let everybody argue against me, the back story of the 2008 presidential election, which we don‘t always address, because we get caught up in Jeremiah Wright, et cetera, et cetera, is this division over our role in the world.  Barack Obama, whatever luck got him to do this, said he was against the war back before he was in the Senate.  Hillary Clinton, whatever led her to do it, voted to authorize the war, and has since said, I wish I had my vote back.  John McCain, knowing everything he knows, says full speed ahead, fight this war; Bush couldn‘t win, I am going to win it. 

I believe that‘s in the back of everybody‘s head.  Bob Woodward, your colleague, the great Pulitzer Prize winning sleuth who broke the Watergate story, he believes it‘s the background story.  When you say change, that‘s what it‘s about.  Your thoughts, Dana, from the “Washington Post.”

DANA MILBANK, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  He‘s right.  Occasionally, something intervenes, like the fireworks with Reverend Wright or, more to the point, the economy, which pushes it into the background.  But let‘s face it, John McCain wouldn‘t be here had things not started to improve in Iraq.  That‘s why if you could tell me right now exactly what‘s going to be going on in Iraq in October, I think we could safely say who is going to win that election.  It almost certainly will come down to that. 

MATTHEWS:  The fireworks better be diminished by then over there? 

MILBANK:  Yes, if the situation has vastly improved—

MATTHEWS:  We just had another terrible month.  We lost a whole bunches of troops other there, American patriots.  April, your thoughts about the defining nature of this election?  I think the word change means, I hate this war. 

APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS:  Yes, that, too.  But you also have the economy.  And people are concerned and wondering now, why is it that we‘re hearing more about gas prices, more about the food crisis and not as much about the war right now?  The reason why, you know, the war is there.  Unless there‘s something major, more so than what‘s happening now, it‘s going to be there.  But now we‘re dealing with something that‘s affecting us immediately, the pocketbook. 

Gas prices are going up.  Food prices are going up.  People are really concerned about what hits their pocketbook, as well as their loved ones in Iraq.  Right now, the economy—and whoever has a fix is the one. 

MATTHEWS:  The promises made at the beginning of this war were legion.  “The insurgency is in its last throes;” “We‘ll be greeted as liberators;” “mission accomplished”; “we‘ll get cheaper gas;” “the Iraqis will pay for the reconstruction of their country with their own oil supplies.”  They did anything to sell this war, in terms of fear, anything to sell it, in terms of thriftiness.  It would be good for us economical.  None of its come true. 

MICHELLE BERNARD, INDEPENDENT WOMEN‘S VOICE:  We were also told that we would see an Iraqi government by, for, and of the people.  It has not happened yet.  I disagree with April.  I‘m not going to disagree with you.  But I do think that, when we get down to it—hopefully by the time we have a Democratic nominee, we will see that issues of national security are going to trump whatever is going on with the economy. 

People do not like to be scared.  What is happening in Iraq, what is happening in Afghanistan, what is happening with Iran—and depending on who the Democratic nominee is, and what Senator McCain is going to do, I believe that their philosophies about whether or not they‘re going to go into Iran and obliterate the Iranians, as Senator Clinton has said, what we‘re going to do with Iraq, how we are going to get out, and how we are going to get out of Iraq in a way that makes us stable at home, are going to, I think, trump certain economic issues in the fall. 

MATTHEWS:  As we go to the debate, you believe those will be the hot wire issues? 

BERNARD:  I do, particularly for women voters. 

MILBANK:  It should also be said that Iraq is driving a lot of this economy.  The main thing people are paying attention to is not the GDP numbers.  It‘s the gasoline prices.  Why are gasoline prices going?  Well, there happens to be something going on in the Middle East right now. 

MATTHEWS:  The war and war always spikes prices.  We were supposed to

by the way, the real cynics who backed the war said, hey we will get out hands on the number two source of oil in the world, Iraq.  We will own that baby.  We‘ll be like post-colonialists.  It turns out, we haven‘t gotten a nickel of it.  We‘re still paying three billion dollars a week to them.  They‘ve got the oil.

MILBANK:  We‘re up to 600 billion dollars now, and it was supposed to pay for itself. 

RYAN:  Chris, you know, Dana is absolutely right.  Some people are saying, what came first, the chicken or the egg?  Because we‘re spending all this money on the war, we‘re going out of the rough with the costs of the war, we don‘t have money for jobs, for local governments and money going from the federal government into local governments, as well as many people are seeing what‘s going on, gas prices going out of the roof, because of problems in Nigeria, problems with oil in Iraq, problems with oil in the Middle East. 

Everything is going up.  So the cycle continues.  Right now, it‘s the economy, as well as the Iraq war.  But the economy is big right now, very big. 

MATTHEWS:  You said the secret word.  It hasn‘t been spoken on this show.  You‘ve won 100,000 dollars.  Nigeria.  We were waiting for somebody to say that.  Just kidding. 

RYAN:  Show me the money. 

MATTHEWS:  When we come back—just kidding.  We‘ll be back to talk about who is going to win next Tuesday and what winning means.  Indiana and North Carolina could be the final throws of this campaign.  By the way, catch me tomorrow at 8:30.  I‘m going to be an “MORNING JOE.”  I start in the morning.  I go right through the day.  You‘re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with the round table for more of the politics fix.  I want to start with April.  Let‘s get it nailed here.  Next Tuesday, primaries in Indiana and in North Carolina; what would be a big win for Hillary?  Let‘s put it this way—let‘s start with Indiana.  What does Hillary have to do to get a big victory in Indiana?  Just win it? 

RYAN:  Win it by a large amount.  You know, it can‘t be, especially with this Jeremiah Wright issue, Barack Obama‘s numbers have been eaten into.  She would really have to win huge to say, OK, look, I deserve this.  And let‘s overturn anything. 

MATTHEWS:  You are tough.  You have said that.  I‘m laughing because you‘ve set that bar so high.  You‘re like Donald Trump, huge, huge. 


BERNARD:  I‘m going to be contrarian.  I think if Hillary Clinton even wins it by a point, Hillary Clinton wins Indiana. 

MATTHEWS:  Just by the nose. 

BERNARD:  Just by the nose, it doesn‘t matter. 


MILBANK:  We don‘t have that same thing like in Pennsylvania, where there‘s an obvious.  We have that in North Carolina. 

MATTHEWS:  Can we get to North Carolina in a minute?  Slow me down here.  What about Indiana?  The Hoosier state, a win is a win?  Two out of three say a win is a win.  Let‘s go to North Carolina, Chapel Hill, the Tar Heal State; what do you say?  Does she have to get him down to below nine?  Where are we at on that one. 

BERNARD:  I don‘t think it matters.  Here‘s my philosophy on North Carolina: Barack Obama is going to win North Carolina.  It doesn‘t matter if he wins by five points or ten. 

MATTHEWS:  Suppose she says it‘s the African-American vote.  It doesn‘t count.  African American votes don‘t count?

BERNARD:  That‘s what my point was going to be, was that North Carolina, nobody is really talking about it.  Nobody really cares.  People are saying, forget about North Carolina; African-Americans are going to vote for him.  It doesn‘t matter.  That‘s where we are right now.  I think people are ignoring the state, because we‘re expecting such a high turnout among black voters.  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that right?  It doesn‘t matter what she does or he does, he‘s expected to win?  Unless she wins—

MILBANK:  If she wins, it‘s an earthquake.  I think if she comes close, it will be worth a few minutes of chatter on the airwaves, but just for parsing of how it went by class, education, race. 

MATTHEWS:  April, your thoughts on that, does he have to win that by near double digits to call it a win. 

RYAN:  If she wins North Carolina, exactly like Dana said, it‘s a lot more chatter, because Barack Obama was expected to win, because it‘s predominant African-Americans who are putting him over the top there.  But again, this Reverend Jeremiah Wright story has cut into a lot of states. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go now to the end.  You start, April.  If Hillary Clinton wins both events next Tuesday night, what does it do to the campaign?  Anything? 

RYAN:  Well, yes, one thing I‘ve heard from a high-ranking Democrat in the House—they‘ve told me, look, no matter what, the only way that Barack Obama would not get this is if the old guard Democrats wind up taking it away from him.  I‘ve been told that, look, you have a lot of people on the Hill that Hillary Clinton can‘t even catch up with the super delegate count, and this is unofficial numbers.  So right now it still looks like Barack Obama has won it. 

MATTHEWS:  No matter what happens.  Dana, is there anything she can do on Tuesday night to change the results of this election, this nomination fight? 

MILBANK:  I think she can send us to Puerto Rico with our sun tan oil, but -- 

MATTHEWS:  In other words, the beat goes on.  Can she shake them loose and win anything?  You guys all agree that he‘s won this thing.  I can tell. 

BERNARD:  I think he‘s won it, but her psychological argument, people are listening. 

MATTHEWS:  Michelle Bernard, they are listening.  The media keeps playing this as even Steven.  Maybe we have to.  Anyway, April Ryan, Dana Milbank, join us—Michelle Bernard.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now, it‘s time for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE and David Gregory.


END ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.>

Watch Hardball each weeknight