Guest: Roger Simon, Margaret Carlson, Hilary Rosen, Jamal Simmons, Michael Isikoff, Michael Shear, Michelle Bernard, James Carroll
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: George Bush declares Barack the winner.
Let’s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I’m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. Kentucky and Oregon will be getting ready to vote in Democratic primaries tomorrow, but if you didn’t know better, you’d swear the general election campaign was already heading under way. Today John McCain took Barack Obama to task for his willingness to negotiate with Iran, and Obama struck back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us, and yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Such a statement betrays the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: There you have it. All this while Hillary Clinton was saying to Obama, Not so fast, our race—her words now—“is nowhere near over.” And we’ll take a look at these final days of the Democrat race and the early days of the general election, which, of course, clearly have been overlapping the last couple of days.
And what happens to Hillary Clinton’s supporters if, as expected, Obama does go on to win the nomination now? Will they close ranks behind the Democratic nominee, Barack Obama? Will they vote for McCain, the Republican, or vote for neither? Today’s Gallup tracking poll has Obama leading Clinton now by 16 points. Look at that. It’s opened up again, although this thing’s been hard to follow. That’s the largest lead that Barack has had in the national polling.
Also, what is the deal with John McCain and all those lobbyists on his staff that he said were not supposed to be on that staff? He was supposed to be a lobbyist-free zone. Well, five—count ‘em, five—advisers have now left the McCain camp due to their ties to lobbying organizations. It’s embarrassing, no doubt. The question is, do voters really give a damn about this stuff?
In the “Politics Fix,” we’re going to take a look at Hillary Clinton’s new math, why she should still be the Democratic nominee. Interesting math she uses. And which candidate just got compared to Jesus? Well, that’s always a dangerous proposition. We’ll have that when we to the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”
And remember, tomorrow night, Keith Olbermann joins me for complete coverage of the Kentucky, Ohio—well, Oregon primaries starting at (INAUDIBLE) I love these election nights. I hope you do, too. Every Tuesday night is Christmas Eve for me. Anyway, MSNBC will be live well, into the morning hours. That’s tomorrow night, MSNBC. We’re going to, by the way, get the results from Kentucky fairly early, then we’re going to have to wait for the results from Oregon. We could have another split doubleheader tomorrow night, as the polling would suggest, but who knows.
But first, on the eve of the Kentucky and the Oregon primaries, the fight is on between Obama and McCain. Roger Simon writes for “The Politico,” which is extremely hot these days. Margaret Carlson writes for Bloomberg, which is extremely well funded.
MATTHEWS: And CNBC’s John Harwood reports for “The New York Times.” He’s author of the new book “Pennsylvania Avenue Profiles and Back Room Power.” Gentlemen—congratulations on the new book, John. There it is.
JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC, “NEW YORK TIMES”: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: It’s a great book. This guy’s...
MATTHEWS: Well, no, no, no. Get out and sell it now, buddy.
MATTHEWS: That’s the hard part. Let me ask you all about this thing with what’s going on right now. It seemed to me last Thursday, something really changed. It’s like—I compared it a million times, this moment, in the Mohammed Ali fight with Liston, where all of a sudden, Liston’s on the ground. The guy that was unbeatable is beaten and never rises again, but we didn’t see the punch.
What happened last Thursday with Barack, Bush and McCain that somehow took Hillary out of the fight?
ROGER SIMON, POLITICO.COM: They’ve decided she’s not a contender. They’ve decided this is thing is over. They’ve decided it’s the general election campaign and that Hillary Clinton has no way of changing the game. There’s no game-changing event. There’s no primary that gives it to her.
She won West Virginia by 41 percentage points...
MATTHEWS: Was this the guys ganging up, or was it the moment? What was it? Was it the event of the president attacking, apparently, one of the Democratic candidates and thereby coronating him the Democratic challenger?
SIMON: We don’t know if they’re attacking Barack Obama because he’s the most vulnerable of because they would prefer him as an opponent...
MATTHEWS: Or they made a mistake.
SIMON: ... to John McCain.
MATTHEWS: Or they made a mistake.
SIMON: That’s always possible (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Margaret, sometimes the Democrats make the assumption of thinking Republicans are always smart because they’ve been winning presidential elections. But could it be that President Bush didn’t know? He thought, according to his staffers, A, he was really attacking Jimmy Carter, and then B, he wasn’t really saying negotiating with the enemy was appeasement.
HARWOOD: Oh, please!
MATTHEWS: He was saying...
MATTHEWS: Oh, I love the way—I love—well, I can’t wait for John now. I want to get to the “please” in a minute.
MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG: He knew what he was saying. I mean, has anybody thought about Jimmy Carter for a long time? And he’s giving an international speech. He follows politics. He knows who he was talking about. That’s completely disingenuous to say that. It didn’t look like it was having the effect he wanted, so then he says, Oh, I think it’s about Jimmy Carter.
MATTHEWS: And then he had Gillespie put out a letter. Did you see that? Gillespie at the White House, John—I know that’s where I got your “ugh” from. Gillespie puts out this letter complaining to NBC News, This isn’t really about—this is misunderstood, in the Richard Engle interview. He was really saying it was wrong to believe the lies of dictators, when, in fact, if you look at the Knesset speech, he was talking about the dangers and evils of negotiating with bad guys. John?
HARWOOD: You know, I think that’s completely disingenuous. I think the president knew what he was doing. I think he did it purposefully to try to help John McCain to set out the contours of a general election debate. And you know what, Chris? It might not be a bad debate for John McCain when you look at the available alternatives he’s got.
MATTHEWS: Well, let’s (INAUDIBLE) It’s better than talking about the price of gas.
HARWOOD: It’s better than talking about the price of gas?
MATTHEWS: There’s not an up side to that one, is there.
HARWOOD: It’s better than talking about the economy when 80 percent of the American people think that we’re in a recession.
HARWOOD: It’s better than talking...
HARWOOD: ... about your own policies when you’re at 27 percent.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, let’s take a look at the senator...
CARLSON: He tried...
MATTHEWS: ... because, obviously, John McCain thinks this is, as they say in economics, the least comparative disadvantage. Here he is.
HARWOOD: Exactly so.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Senator Obama has declared and repeatedly reaffirmed his intention to meet the president of Iran without any preconditions, likening it to meetings between former American presidents and the leaders of the Soviet Union. Such a statement betrays the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment. These are very serious deficiencies for an American president to possess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So he was going to go after Hillary Clinton’s dishonesty.
Now he’s already turned his guns on this guy’s inexperience.
CARLSON: He used the word “betrays.”
MATTHEWS: Oh, and now he’s going to say Hillary was really a great pal of his, right? That’s coming, too. Boy.
SIMON: This is the contour of the campaign. Who will kill us quicker? The young, inexperienced, reckless guy, who will appease dictators, or the old guy who will plunge us into endless unwinnable wars because he won’t negotiate? Take your choice, America. That’s it.
CARLSON: We’re at a crossroads...
SIMON: Yes, we’ve got six months to decide.
CARLSON: Yes, that is (INAUDIBLE)
HARWOOD: Chris, we’re going to hear those lines throughout the campaign.
CARLSON: He used the word...
MATTHEWS: ... versus Jerry Lewis?
MATTHEWS: What is this race about?
SIMON: There ought to be a rule in politics—to go back to the last point—that whenever you’re going to make a comparison to Hitler, don’t make a comparison to Hitler.
MATTHEWS: Another one is Jesus, by the way.
MATTHEWS: ... somebody else talking about Jesus here.
CARLSON: When people are...
MATTHEWS: Don’t compare anything to Hitler, whether it’s abortion, whatever it is, don’t do it.
CARLSON: Holocaust? No, no.
CARLSON: What people are left with, though, is that Bush and McCain being joined on foreign policy this past week—Obama came out swinging. It almost doesn’t matter. The more you yoke those two people together on the Middle East, it goes...
MATTHEWS: So they’re the Doublemint twins now.
MATTHEWS: They’re going to sing around the—sing together. I think that’s great. But here’s the question. Negotiating with the enemy—I don’t know who you negotiate with, if it’s not with the enemy. But I thought it’s interesting that Fareed Zakaria, John, in this week’s “Newsweek”—I just got it—makes the point that Robert Gates, the president’s defense chief, and all the other members of the Iraq study group, the bipartisan group, agreed one on few things but they agreed on one thing, the importance of opening contact with Iran.
HARWOOD: Exactly. And you know, the administration is already talking to Iran about issues related to the—Iran’s involvement in the Iraq war. The question is whether they talked to them about the nuclear program, which we’ve been trying to hold out and let our European allies sort of drive the train on that.
HARWOOD: But you know, when you have the president of the United States trying to draw a line on terrorism and protecting the United States, that is the best of the available arguments that John McCain has right now. And he’s trying to help McCain and McCain—the reason that you know that this was coordinated was McCain so quickly jumped in behind President Bush and carried the same argument. And these—the lines that he was using there about, you know, reckless, inexperienced, and dangerous and all that, we’re going to be hearing that for months.
MATTHEWS: Well, the 100-year progress of our operation over there has now been shortened to 2013, which is coming on fast, rather than 100 years from now. So whatever the definition of our struggle over there, the conditions in which our soldiers perform, clearly, the time preference is clear now. Get out of there faster than you ever thought we would, right?
HARWOOD: In fairness, though...
HARWOOD: ... he wasn’t really talking about 100 years.
MATTHEWS: No, no. He was talking about 100-year occupation post—post violence, post belligerence. But how he was going to get to that—as Rick Hertzberg said in “The New Yorker,” we’re going to fight there as long as we could fight there, until we couldn’t fight there, nobody was fighting anymore, then we’d stay another 100 years. That was maybe an absurd way of putting it, but now he says 2013, it gives us a light at the end of the tunnel.
SIMON: Look, McCain’s views have genuinely been misrepresented on that. He’s correct, he never said we’d stay there for 100 years with casualties. On the other hand, you can’t compare it to Korea and Germany and Japan, occupation without sectarian violence.
MATTHEWS: OK. Eisenhower was elected in ‘52 on a promise that he could end an unpopular war. He said, “I will go to Korea.” He went to Korea before inauguration, and within six months, we had an armistice and the war was over. Is that what McCain’s offering? Because if that’s what he’s offering, that’s dramatic. He’s offering a 100-year occupation a la Korea without an armistice. That’s the tricky part.
SIMON: But the problem is, he faces problems that Korea didn’t actually face.
MATTHEWS: Right. A multi-front war.
CARLSON: And where we...
SIMON: And a religious war.
CARLSON: And a religious war, where we can’t have a DMZ and we can’t have troops...
CARLSON: ... forever. It’s part of the problem.
MATTHEWS: Let’s take a look at Senator Obama. Here he is responding to McCain. This fight has become a tit for tat. This seems to be the beginning of the general. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It’s time to restore our security and our standing in the world. And you can vote for John McCain and nothing will change. We’ll keep fighting a war in Iraq that hasn’t made us safer. We’ll keep talking tough in Washington while countries like Iran ignore our tough talk. Or we can turn the page. We can restore the tradition of tough, disciplined and principled direct diplomacy that we’ve always used to protect the American people and advance America’s interests. That’s what Kennedy did, that’s what Reagan did, and that’s what I will do as president of the United States of America. That’s the fundamental difference between myself and John McCain.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Margaret and gentlemen, what he’s clearly doing is saying, I’m not going to argue about who we negotiate with, I’m going to argue about whether this administration’s policies have worked or not. I’m going to broaden the question, Roger.
SIMON: Campaigns are often about what you don’t like. And right now, Americans don’t like the status quo. They don’t like the current president. They don’t like the Iraq war. And Barack Obama offers change. I mean, that is...
SIMON: ... his whole campaign.
CARLSON: He won this war because...
HARWOOD: ... key phrase there, Chris...
CARLSON: ... he went back to the problems that the war caused and where we are now, as opposed to what we’re going to do. I think Obama would be better off walking back a little bit and saying, Yes, I would put some conditions on talks with dictators.
MATTHEWS: Yes. John...
HARWOOD: The key phrase there is “turn the page.” The second thing he’s counting on, people believing his argument that this war has not made us safer. And third—and this may, at the end of the day, become very important in this argument—is that they’re very tired of spending the amount of money that we’re spending at a time when the U.S. economy is struggling madly.
MATTHEWS: What is it, $3 billion a week, or what is it, some incredible amount of money. Anyway, thank you all, Roger Simon. Thank you, John Harwood. The name of your book, John?
HARWOOD: “Pennsylvania Avenue: Profiles in Backroom Power.” Buy it a on Amazon.com.
MATTHEWS: Or wherever.
HARWOOD: Anywhere you find it.
MATTHEWS: It’s straight reporting. It’s inside stuff. Let’s go.
Coming up, polls show—any straight reporting is inside stuff.
Coming up, polls show a good chunk of Clinton supporters say they ain’t going to vote for Barack Obama if he’s the nominee. Is that just bluster? Is it anger? Is it going to cool off? Is it for real? Are we going to have people not voting at all in November? We’ll get to that in the very next segment. This is going to be a hot one.
Also, Senator Clinton’s going after the media. I want to watch that incoming. And remember, tomorrow night with Keith Olbermann, we’re going to be working together for complete coverage of the Kentucky and Oregon primaries. As I said, for me, it’s Christmas morning. I don’t how it feels to Keith. Anyway, starting at 6:00 PM Eastern, MSNBC. We’ll be live into—I love that phrase—into the night with results and analysis.
You’re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The Clinton campaign continues to look for votes in Oregon and Kentucky and the primary states remaining. And now the Clintons are back to a strategy they’ve tried in the past, attacking the national press corps. HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reports.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While Hillary Clinton has changed her tone towards Barack Obama, her shots at the media have intensified.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And you know, all those people on TV who are telling you and everybody else that this race is over and I should, you know, just be, you know, graceful and say, Oh, it’s over, even though I’ve won more votes—those are all people who have a job.
SHUSTER: But not only is the media different from you, said Clinton, at every campaign stop this weekend in Kentucky, she charged that the pundits wanted the primaries to stop.
CLINTON: There were some folks who didn’t want Kentucky to vote. They wanted this to be over before we got to Kentucky. In fact, there are some folks—you can see it on TV every night—who wanted it to be over for me after Iowa.
HARWOOD: Attacking the media is not new. Presidents and politicians have been doing it for a long time, usually to deflect their own problems, often to tap into a perceived voter hostility towards journalists. The problem for Hillary Clinton is that her charges may reinforce concerns about her credibility. On the night of Obama’s landslide victory in North Carolina and near draw in Indiana, it is true that top media figures noted the delegate math was over.
TIM RUSSERT, HOST, “MEET THE PRESS”: We now who the Democratic nominee is going to be.
SHUSTER: But nobody in the mainstream media asked then or has ever asked for Clinton to quit. Furthermore, primary coverage has generally been a ratings win for cable TV news. If it were up to the media, the race would keep going all the way to the convention, as Chris Matthews pointed out last week to a heated Clinton co-chair, Terry McAuliffe.
MATTHEWS: So when you guys come hour after hour, complaining about the pundits who want this over with, you’re arguing with no one. Terry, no one.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIR: Then people should not...
MATTHEWS: No one!
MCAULIFFE: Well, let me say, Chris...
MATTHEWS: Terry, no one is arguing with you!
MCAULIFFE: It’s nice for you to say that, but it means nothing.
SHUSTER (on camera): Whatever the media thinks of the Clinton campaign’s strategy or their statements, it doesn’t really matter because Hillary Clinton’s going to keep going until she thinks it’s appropriate to get out. And at this pace, that will be long after the math made it clear she will not win.
I’m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster. Joining me now is Hilary Rosen, Clinton supporter and political director at the Huffingtonpost blog, and—
I’m sorry, was that wrong? Did I do something wrong, Hilary?
HILARY ROSEN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, CLINTON SUPPORTER: No, I was laughing at Shuster.
MATTHEWS: Oh, OK. Well, he’s the best. Anyway, we’ve got Jamal Simmons here. He’s an Obama supporter, worked for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential race.
So Hilary, what are your thoughts?
ROSEN: Well, I think, first of all—you know, I think blaming the media thing is probably a little overstated, and no candidate does very well blaming the media. Having said that, I think what Senator Clinton’s reacting to is this notion that she very much believes she’s talking to voters that people are ignoring and she’s getting a lot of support. You know, we’re supposed—this is supposed to be over, and we’re still splitting states here between her and Senator Obama.
ROSEN: And I think from her perspective, it’s kind of about respect.
MATTHEWS: Interesting. Jamal, is she not getting respect?
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT, OBAMA SUPPORTER: Oh, I think she’s getting a lot of respect. The reality is, if Hillary Clinton wasn’t the one running this race, most people would have asked for her to get out of the race a long time ago. But people haven’t. I think...
MATTHEWS: Give me a precedent on that. Who would have been asked—who in the past has been told to leave who’s getting almost as many votes as the one in the front?
SIMMONS: Well—well, I guess the question is, getting almost as
many votes as the one in front is all—is all relative. If you look back
over previous times—I mean, I worked for Wesley Clark in 2004. He was -
he actually won a state in Oklahoma and had to get out of the race a week later in Tennessee when they lost.
I mean, there are times when candidates lose, they’re asked to get out of the race. And she lost 11 races in a row. We all sat on these different TV shows and watched her lose 11 states in a row. And people said, OK, well, Hillary Clinton is back again next week. Here we go. So, the reality is, nobody has a right to tell Hillary Clinton to get out of the race. She can get out when she wants to get out.
But, at the end of the day, the delegate math is what it is, and Barack Obama is going to be the nominee.
MATTHEWS: Do you have a sense, Hilary Rosen, that—that the president decided—I mean, Roger Simon was just on. He’s a damn smart political reporter.
He believes—and I think John Harwood agreed—in fact, I think he was the first to evince that sort of argument—that the president knew exactly what he was doing last week in attacking Barack Obama? He was making direct shot at him, accusing him of appeasement by wanting to talk to Ahmadinejad. He was picking the winner, because of whatever reason? What do you—do you buy that?
ROSEN: Well, sure.
And we heard from multiple sources that they actually backgrounded it a bit. Hey, the president is going to take a shot at Barack Obama today. Pay attention here. So, I think that...
MATTHEWS: Well, why do you think they want—why do they want to bring him up to the front by giving him all that recognition, as if he’s Mr. Democrat?
ROSEN: I don’t think they were even thinking about Senator Clinton. I think they were mostly thinking about how to advance the interests of Senator McCain.
I think what—the issue with Senator Clinton is a very different one. It’s that, who are her supporters? Why do they keep going to the polls for her? Why do they keep coming out to these rallies? And how are we going to unite a Democratic Party if people are ignoring that? And I think that’s the—kind of the effective message that she has been giving, among all of the rest of the noise that people don’t like hearing?
ROSEN: Well, do you think it’s possible, Jamal, that she believes she can win the election, and she deep down, personal—deep down, under sodium pentathol, does not believe that Barack Obama can win the general; that’s why she’s in this fight?
SIMMONS: Yes, I can’t people speak to what her mind-set is. But, certainly, she must think that she can win this election, or else she wouldn’t be in the campaign at all anymore.
The question is, is she really the best person to win? And I don’t know. When you talk to people who are in states like Georgia, Nevada, some of these people and red states, they’re a little nervous about having a Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket. They would prefer to have a Barack Obama. It looks like that’s what they’re going to have.
And Democrats have to be concerned about the presidency, which I think we could win with either one of these candidates. But, clearly, Barack Obama is the one who has been winning, so he’s the one most likely to win.
Well, let’s take a look at what is coming up in the day here.
MATTHEWS: Here’s the latest—Hilary, I’m sorry.
Here’s the latest poll average from RealClearPolitics.com. Senator Clinton leads by an average of 30 points in Kentucky, another wipeout for her, like we saw in West Virginia. Senator Obama leads by an average of 11 points in Oregon.
It looks to me like a split doubleheader again, to use baseball lingo, tomorrow night. Hilary, is this going to get any closer to ending this? Or do we have to wait until the first week in June?
ROSEN: Well, I think Jamal’s point is well taken, which is that, you know, there are going to be a lot more delegates in Oregon. And it’s going to put him closer. And he’s obviously had more superdelegates out there.
But I go back to my earlier point, which is, when all is said and done leer, he will have won this by maybe 150 delegates out of the, you know, over 2,000 that have been pledged. So, I think that we have got to focus on how we bring folks together. Who are the Hillary Clinton voters and why where they not jumping on board with Barack Obama right now?
And that’s the piece that I think that Senator Obama’s starting to focus on. I think women, in particular, we have seen stories, just today, about how women are passionately saying that they’re not going to be enthusiastic about Barack Obama. Why is that? What are we going to talk about when—why is Barack Obama not focusing on that?
And that, I think, is the piece that over the next two weeks you’re going to see Senator Clinton try and address a little better.
MATTHEWS: Well, we have another situation developing. Perhaps by tomorrow night, Barack Obama will have won the majority of elected delegates. Is it possible to deny him the nomination if he gets the most elected delegates, Jamal?
SIMMONS: I don’t think it’s possible to deny him the nomination. And most people would agree. Hilary likes to talk about—a lot of the—
Hilary Rosen likes to talk about and a lot of the Clinton campaign talk about this notion of, will women come back and vote for Barack Obama? What about white voters?
The reality is, this is a Democratic primary. Democratic voters, some Democratic voters like Hillary Clinton. Some like Barack Obama. If Hillary Clinton had been the one who would win, we would be talking about whether African-American voters were going to turn out for her in the fall. So, both of these candidates would have work to do. Barack Obama is going to need Hillary Clinton to get across the finish line.
ROSEN: And that would be a legitimate discussion.
MATTHEWS: Was the Democratic fight for the nomination fair, Hilary?
ROSEN: Sure. I don’t think that we’re talking about it being unfair.
Look, I think there have been a lot of operational and problematic issues with the Clinton campaign. I don’t think, at least as a Clinton supporter, I would never go out and say that this race was taken from her. I don’t think that’s the case at all.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you something. I’m going to appeal to your generous thought process here. If Hillary Clinton had taken a position on the war like Barack Obama, like a lot of people, a position, it was wrong, voted against the authorization in 2002, could she have won this nomination?
ROSEN: Wow. That’s a bit question.
MATTHEWS: She could have been the—if she were the change candidate, in other words, she were the one in 180 opposition of President Bush, not in that sort of vague, vague, sort of purgatorial world somewhere between her and Joe Lieberman, somewhere in there, where you support the war in one—and declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard the hostile enemy and all that, if she weren’t playing that sort of double-sided way...
MATTHEWS: ... if she clearly took a position against that point of view, that mind-set, wouldn’t she be the change candidate, and would there not be even room for a new kid like Barack Obama in this race?
ROSEN: It’s a good question. I just don’t know the answer.
Clearly, a lot of the initial energy behind an—the alternative candidate in this race, because Hillary Clinton was clearly getting in from the start, were people unhappy about the war. And it’s a good question. I don’t know the answer.
MATTHEWS: I think she got horrendously bad advice from Mark Penn, from Bill Clinton and others, horrendously bad advice. It was the one time in her life she should have followed her ideological instincts to be a liberal, I think. And maybe she’s not a liberal. I don’t know.
ROSEN: You know, you have just got to take her at face value, that maybe she actually thought he was making the correct vote at the time, and her view evolved on that. I don’t know about the advice from...
MATTHEWS: Well, then she will get a chapter in the next edition of “Profiles in Courage.”
MATTHEWS: But I don’t think it was the right decision. Thank
you very much, Hilary Rosen. It was great to have you on.
Thank you, Jamal Simmons.
Up next: John McCain takes a page out of Ronald Reagan’s playbook, making fun of his own age, on “Saturday Night Live.” Oldness—more from McCain on “SNL” next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have the courage, the wisdom, the experience, and, most importantly, the oldness necessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Oldness—more from McCain on “SNL” next on the “Sideshow.”
You’re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”
How important is a candidate’s age when it comes to picking a president? Well, Ronald Reagan knew how to deflate the issue with just the right blend of humor and grace. Remember this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was his line, by the way.
This past weekend, John McCain tried to take a page out of Reagan’s campaign book.
Here he is on “Saturday Night Live.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)
MCCAIN: It’s about being able to look your children in the eye, or in my case, my children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, and great-great-great grandchildren, the youngest of whom are nearing retirement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that’s what Bobby Kennedy used to call hanging a lantern on your problem. Don’t try to hide what everyone else sees anyway. Flaunt it.
Now to the most absurd analogy of the day. In praising John McCain for his stoicism while he was tortured in Vietnam, Georgia Republican Party chair Sue Everhart had this to say about her candidate—quote—“John McCain is kind of like Jesus Christ on the cross.”
Well, I think John Lennon made that mistake when he said the Beatles were more popular that Jesus. Let’s cool it with those comparisons.
By now, you have no doubt seen my HARDBALL video with conservative radio talk show host Kevin James, the one in which he tried to compare Barack Obama to Neville Chamberlain, even though he couldn’t say exactly what Neville Chamberlain did.
Let’s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What did he do?
KEVIN JAMES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Neville Chamberlain, his—but his policies, the things that Neville Chamberlain supported, all right energized, legitimized...
MATTHEWS: Just tell me what he did.
JAMES: ... energized, legitimized, and made it easier for Hitler to advance in the ways that he advanced.
MATTHEWS: I have been sitting here five minutes asking you to say what the president was referring to in 1938 at Munich.
JAMES: I don’t know what the—Chris.
MATTHEWS: You don’t know. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Well, in the latest issue of “Newsweek,” that interview earned an up arrow. That’s where they do things up or down. As you see right there, the caption reads, “Chris Matthews blows away right-wing radio blowhard on appeasement history—a HARDBALL fastball.”
Well, thank you very much, “Newsweek.” In fact, in this business, I will take any up arrow I can get.
Now to a fascinating Senate race up in Oregon. Steve Novick, a Democrat who is very running very strong up there, is an unlikely candidate. He’s never run for office before. He’s 4’9“, and he has a hook for a hand, the result of a birth defect. But he’s brilliantly managed to turn his shortcomings into a political asset.
And his TV ads are getting a ton of attention. Let’s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)
NARRATOR: U.S. Senate candidate Steve Novick fought corporate polluters and defeated Bill Sizemore. But you would want to have a beer with him?
STEVE NOVICK (D), OREGON SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I agree. I think most Democrats are still pretty frustrated. We’re just not seeing progress on the big challenges we’re facing. If we’re going to get out of Iraq, fix the broken health care system, stop global warming, we can’t afford just politics as usual. It’s going to take a whole different level of...
NARRATOR: Steve Novick, he’s always found a way to get things done.
NOVICK: I’m Steve Novick, and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I like that. Talk about hanging a lantern on your problem.
This fellow is the master.
And now it’s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number.”
He may be having some trouble finishing off Hillary, but you wouldn’t know it from the size of his crowds. This past weekend, Barack Obama held a rally up in Oregon that can only be described as a political Woodstock. Take a look at this video, which captures something we haven’t seen in politics in a very long time, an endless sea of supporters crammed in to hear their candidate speak.
Just how many people showed up for that Obama rally in Oregon? Seventy-Five thousand. That’s a couple of packed baseball stadiums during the hot season—tonight’s “Big Number,” 75,000.
Up next: John McCain is stung after five campaign officials in his campaign had to leave because of lobbying ties. Is the McCain campaign practicing what it preaches? Apparently. The question is, should it be preaching so tough? And do the voters care?
You’re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I am Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
The Dow slipped after initially posted triple-digit gains, finishing up still in the green by 41 points, the S&P 500 up by more than a point, but the Nasdaq in the red by 23.
Wall Street’s early boost followed data showing that the economy is expanding and not in recession, at least yet.
Oil hit another record high, which did put some weight on stocks, with oil prices closing over $127 a barrel. Goldman Sachs now predicts $141 a barrel later this year.
And Microsoft and Yahoo! are talking again about a partnership that could lead to a takeover.
That’s it from CNBC, America’s business channel—now back to Chris and HARDBALL.
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
A network note right now: This weekend, NBC News foreign affairs correspondent Richard Engel did an interview with President Bush that aired sometimes in full, sometimes edited, on various NBC News programs.
The interview touched on the president’s speech last week to the Israeli Knesset, where appeared to link senator Barack Obamas willingness to negotiate with Iran with the discredited World War II-era policy of appeasement.
The White House today complained that the editing of the interview was selective unfair.
Well, this afternoon, NBC News issued the following statement:
“Richard Engel’s interview with President Bush has been available,
unedited, in its entirety, for the past day on our Web site. Our reporting
accurately reflects the interview. Just as the White House does not
participate in the editorial process at ‘The Washington Post,’ ‘The Wall
Street Journal’ or ‘USA Today,’ NBC News, as part of a free press in a free
society, makes its own editorial decisions.’
By the way, you can see the entire interview on MSNBC—MSNBC.com.
Now back to the campaign.
John McCain’s national finance co-chair, Tom Loeffler, has become the fifth person forced to leave the campaign now due to his lobbyist ties. His firm counts Saudi Arabia as one of its clients. And, two years ago, he and the Saudi ambassador met with McCain to discuss U.S.-Saudi relations.
Do lobbyist ties to McCain’s campaign run counter to his image as a reformist? And will this new policy of cleaning house put him at a fund-raising disadvantage?
“Newsweek’s” Michael Isikoff and the “Washington Post’s” Michael Shear both covered this story. Michael, you’re behind all this, aren’t you? Really—I’m talking to my Michael sitting here. Michael Isikoff goosed these people—are they setting a standard that’s too high or what?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, “NEWSWEEK”: I think they’re a bit tied up in knots over this. Listen, this issue of lobbying ties to the McCain Campaign has been out there for quite some time. And people have flagged it. McCain has been hit by it. There have be stories wren about it, and they’ve kind of slapped it off and said it’s an inside the beltway thing.
MATTHEWS: Doesn’t Peoria care about the fact he’s got K Street boys all around?
ISIKOFF: What happened is a week ago, in our issue that came out last weekend, I was writing about the choice of the convention manager. McCain -- they were going to go with Paul Manafert (ph) who is Rick Davis’ business partner. He had run Republican conventions before.
MATTHEWS: He was formerly of Black, Manafert and Stone, former partner with Charlie Black, who is now chairing the campaign?
ISIKOFF: Exactly. But they nixed him at the last minute because he represents former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yanukovych, who’s a Putin ally, who has been accused of being a thug and allegations of corruption have surrounding him. They decided that would be too much, having as the face of the convention somebody who has these kinds of foreign connections.
So they turn around and they pick this guy, Doug Goodyear, who runs the DCI group, and I discovered that he headed the group at the time it was lobbying for the Burmese Military Junta. Now, to some degree, they got caught by really bad timing there. Look, the Burmese Junta is one of the brutal authoritarian governments in the world.
MATTHEWS: Every guy or woman who has ever ran against the establishment in Washington says they’re a bunch of pig lobbyists, representing these sleaze-ball, frightening foreign governments. They’re not looking at for America’s interest. They’re just taking money. They’re bad guys. They are the bad guys. How come there are so many of these bad guys surrounding McCain that he has to fire them all?
ISIKOFF: You know, it was the week of the cyclone catastrophe, where the Burmese Junta is not letting anybody in. McCain goes ballistic. You know, these two guys get fired. There were two guys from DCI Group who were working for the campaign. He orders this new conflict of interest policy that’s pretty draconian. It says you can’t lobby at all and work for the campaign. You can’t receive compensation.
MATTHEWS: I can’t believe there’s lobbying going on in my campaign?
ISIKOFF: I think some people are going to make that argument, saying, look, why did it take you so long? You’re were surrounded by lobbyists and you have been for the last year.
MATTHEWS: Is he a fraud?
ISIKOFF: Is John—
MATTHEWS: Yes? Are you making that case? You’re the investigative reporter.
ISIKOFF: I’m saying, look, the problem for John McCain is he ran in 2000 as the foe of special interest, the guy who was going do smash the iron triangle of lobbyists and law makers and special interests. He runs in 2008 and he’s got a very different cast or background to who his people running his campaign are.
MATTHEWS: Let’s take a look at Obama. Here’s what Obama said about McCain’s lobbying ties on Sunday, yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It does appear that over the last several weeks, John McCain keeps on having problems with his top advisers being lobbyists, in some cases for foreign governments or other big interests that are doing business in Washington. That I don’t think represent the kind of change that the American people are looking for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Here’s the McCain spokesman’s response to that: quote, “just a few years ago when Barack Obama was beginning his career in politics, he was launching it at the home William Ayers, an unrepentant domestic terrorist. If Barack Obama is going to make associations the issue, we look forward to the debate about Senator Obama’s associations and what they say about his judgment and readiness to be commander in chief.”
Is William Ayers running the campaign? I forgot. That was a wet noodle coming back. You know what, are you saying that Barack—last thought, I’m a movie buff. Was John McCain’s 2000 race the Straight Talk Express race, sort of like “Lawrence of Arabia” with the Arabs in the first part of the movie, and second part when he goes out and hires the thugs? Is this 2008 campaign corrupt and the first one was clean? Is that what you’re saying? You’re the investigative reporter.
ISIKOFF: I have not made that analogy. I don’t think it quite holds up.
MATTHEWS: I forgot. Michael, what do you think?
MICHAEL SHEAR, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: My colleague from “Newsweek” doesn’t have to be the one making that claim, because Senator Obama is going to make it. Senator Obama began this campaign claiming to be the outsider, the guy that’s going to come in and fix up the special interests in Washington. Now that it looks like the race is going to be against the two of them, Senator McCain needs to make sure that he’s right on that issue. He can’t afford the last several months of people talking about the lobbyists that are surrounding him, running his campaign.
I think putting the policy in place was an attempt to get right on that issue.
MATTHEWS: He wouldn’t have had to do this if he was facing Senator Clinton.
SHEAR: Maybe he does it anyway, but I think it’s particularly important when he faces Senator Obama. This is going to be a key issue and it’s not—look, regular people don’t care about what one, you know, aide or adviser did.
MATTHEWS: But they do worry about sleaze in Washington.
SHEAR: They do, exactly. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: They don’t like the idea of our guys getting elected, women getting elected to public office and being surrounded by people who are, what we used to call in the ‘60s, quite accurately, pigs. Michael Isikoff, thank you, sir. Michael Shear, thank you.
Up next, after tomorrow night, Barack Obama could have the majority of pledged delegates. What will Hillary Clinton’s case be to stay in the race? If it’s a Democratic party, lower case D, and the most votes go to the other guy who is elected, how can you take the nomination away from him? That is the challenge to be addressed when we come back. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and the politics fix. Tonight our round table, MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard, James Carroll of the “Louisville Courier-Journal,” one of the great newspapers of the country, and MSNBC senior campaign correspondent Tucker Carlson.
Tucker, you start. It seems to me that a moment has occurred in this campaign that hasn’t occurred before, a sense of completion, that it’s time for the two parties to go after each other. Both parties now have their nominee.
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC CAMPAIGN CORRESPONDENT: Right, that is absolutely the consensus. Everybody in Washington thinks that. I think many people in the Democratic party think that. Hillary Clinton’s campaign is beginning to argue—and I spoke to someone from it earlier today—that she’s going to wind up with the majority of the popular vote, and that matters. Now, what she’s going to do with that is another question.
I think even in the campaign, they have internally conceded they’re going to lose. I think she’s going to keep running. Moreover, think about what the results, as expected tomorrow, mean. If she wins Kentucky, and it looks like she is going to, why are people voting for someone they know is going to lose? That’s a significant act that is occurring there. I think they’re reading that as a weakness on the Obama camp side. They’re probably right. They’re going to parlay that into something. God knows what.
MATTHEWS: Here’s Hillary Clinton speaking for herself, today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will tell you where this race stands right now, because I want you to tell your friends and neighbors, because I want you to encourage everybody to come out and vote. Right now, I am leading in the popular vote. More people have voted for me. And the states that I have won are states a Democrat has to win if we’re going to be elected in the fall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that’s the argument. Michelle? First of all, just to be fair, her definition of states where she got the vote, she’s technically accurate, however not official. She won in Michigan, for example, where there was no other name on the ballot but hers. She won in Florida handily, in a state where they were told not to campaign in. By definition, the way she draws it, yes. What does she do with that information?
MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: She’s a good lawyer. Every lawyer, your first year of law school, you learn how to make an argument from both sides of the aisle, whether the argument passes the sniff test or not. This clearly doesn’t pass the sniff test. I think it’s all about symbolism. She gave a very important speech last week. I sort of had an ah-hah moment, where she talked about a woman that she met in a hospice center, really hanging in there, fighting to the end. I think this is what Hillary Clinton is doing in her campaign. It is for women. I don’t know if the argument is to say, I’m not going to get it, and it’s because they’re picking on me, because I’m a woman, or whether she’s just saying, I’m a fighter. I’m going to hang in there until the end. I’m not going to give up. She will gracefully bow out after Barack Obama is formally nominated.
MATTHEWS: If you’re going to get into this whine game, why doesn’t Barack Obama complain that some white people won’t vote for him because he’s black?
BERNARD: He’s above it. He can’t make that argument. If he does that, people are less willing to accept it from an African-American, I believe, than hearing that argument from a woman.
MATTHEWS: A lot of people don’t vote for somebody because they don’t like them, Jim. That’s another reason people don’t vote for somebody. They don’t like them.
JAMES CARROLL, “LOUISVILLE COURIER-JOURNAL”: Sure. Sure. Your first question about, you know, she’s going to win—all the polls are showing she’s probably going to win Kentucky tomorrow. Obama didn’t really compete there. Yes, he’s got offices on the ground.
MATTHEWS: How do you answer the question: why do these people in these states—maybe it’s racial or ethnic voting in some small percentage of the case. I’m going to assume it has some role, but I don’t know how big a role. They’ve voted for a person they know is going to lose. Is it a protest vote?
CARROLL: It may be a protest vote. It will be fascinating to watch the exit polling tomorrow. Hopefully, they’ll ask a question, something like that, to say, why are you doing this? It’s over. Everybody says it’s over. Of course, she’s blaming the media for saying it. The numbers are the numbers.
Back to the point about the popular vote. It’s a great academic question or a great academic footnote to the 2008 campaign. But the Democratic rules are—
MATTHEWS: It did didn’t do Al Gore any good, did it, back in 2000. In fact, tomorrow, there’s this—we’re going to get back to this. What happens if tomorrow night, what the Barack people say could happen, he’ll end up with the most elected delegates. He’ll have a majority of them. There will be no way he can lose. It will be like fighting for a division championship where you’ve locked it in. You’ve won it.
We’ll be right back. What happens then? Do you tell African-Americans get out of here? There’s something called super delegates? You’ve never heard of them before, but now that you guys have won one, I’m going to tell you about them. We’ll be right back with the round table for more of the politics fix. You’re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We’re back with the round table for more of the politics fix. I want to go to Tucker for, you know, what might be the Kentucky Derby tomorrow night. If tomorrow night, the Barack people announce that on their tote board, and Tim Russert and Chuck Todd and everybody else comes out, objectively, and points out that now we have reached an end of part of this process; the elected delegates, the pledged delegates, have now given a majority of their support to Barack Obama. Henceforth, nothing can happen, really, to stop him from winning the most elected delegates. The only thing that can give this now to Hillary Clinton or someone else is the decision of the unelected delegates, the super delegates.
MATTHEWS: Does that create a problem for Hillary Clinton to say I’m still in the race?
CARLSON: Well, we’re already there. We all know where this is headed. It’s headed exactly where you describe. Their thinking is this:
A, there’s nothing that she loses by staying in the race. She gets to act tough and dignified. That helps her no matter what she wants to do from here on out.
Two, Obama is really, really new. Let’s get some perspective. When you started this show, practically, tonight, he was in the Illinois State Legislature. You don’t know what we’ll learn about him, what could happen. Acts of god take place. They are essentially running an act of god campaign at this point, hoping that something bad happens to his campaign.
MATTHEWS: Spring those elected delegates, even, that they’ll switch even if something horrendous happens. So, she stays in it how long, based on that theory?
CARLSON: Why not till South Dakota, June 3? It doesn’t hurt her.
MATTHEWS: Jim, three months of opportunity for something to go hellaciously wrong for Barack Obama and she’s sitting there as the default.
CARROLL: I think it’s a bad strategy. Other campaigns have been built on pretty thin gruel like that.
MATTHEWS: Take the vice presidential nomination and hope that some time between now and November something goes wrong.
CARROLL: I don’t want to go near that.
BERNARD: Hillary Clinton is going to become the Ron Paul of the Democratic party. There’s no way the super delegates can take this away from Barack Obama. There will be race riots in the streets if he wins enough super delegates --
MATTHEWS: Michelle Bernard, ladies and gentlemen. Get that quote on Youtube. You just saw a wonderful way of describing things. Thank you, Michelle Bernard, James Carroll, Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL, and then at 6:00, throughout the night, Keith Olbermann and I—these are fun nights—complete coverage of the Kentucky and Oregon primaries throughout the night. Kentucky probably first, then Oregon later in the evening. MSNBC will be live through the night, into the night. I love that. Now, it’s time for RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE with David Gregory.
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