Guests: Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell, Rachel Maddow, Pat Buchanan, Margaret Brennan, Roger Simon
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hillary, facing defeat, offers to be veep.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. I think our colleague Ron Allen said it best. Every time I look at my Blackberry, he said this afternoon, it seems another superdelegate has gone over to Barack Obama.
It‘s been exactly five months to the day since voters in Iowa went to the polls on January 3 and opened the primary and caucus season. Tonight, South Dakota and Montana close the curtain on the voting. No more caucuses, no more primaries.
There are two big questions for tonight. The first is, will Obama win enough delegates tonight to win the Democratic nomination? As of right now, he needs 23.5 delegates—that‘s 23.5 -- to go over the top tonight. We‘ll be watching to see if he makes it tonight.
The second big question, what will Hillary Clinton do? Will she bow tonight to the impossible math confronting her or will she keep on fighting at least for a few more days? And of course, if and when Hillary does get out, will she press for number two? Late today, the Associated Press reported she told Democrats, quote, “I am open to it.”
In one hour, Keith Olbermann joins me for complete coverage of the Montana and South Dakota primaries. MSNBC will be on the air well past midnight tonight with complete coverage and analysis. Please stay with us tonight because this is a night you won‘t want to miss.
We begin with NBC News political director Chuck Todd and NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell.
A moment of personal privilege here, and maybe you others want to join in. Everyone remembers when the bad things happened in America. We all remember—Andrea and I know where we were when JFK was killed, when Martin Luther King was killed, when Bobby was killed, remember the tragic moments, especially in the Civil Rights struggle in this country, and the changes that have gone on and the tragedies with regarding race in this country, which is the San Andreas fault of this country, racial relations.
Whatever you think of Barack Obama as a future president, whatever you think of Hillary Clinton or John McCain, the fact that we‘re verging on right now of being the first Western nation, white nation, if you will—not Australia, not Canada, not New Zealand, not England, not France, not any of the European countries—the first one in history to have a real African-American as a real 50/50 shot, a candidate of a major political party, is a stunning historic development. I just don‘t want it to get caught in the weeds in the weeds tonight as we go on, whatever people‘s positions are.
Your thoughts, Andrea.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, in fact, it‘s so smart because one of the refrains that we‘re hearing from Obama people is, This is our night. This is an historic moment. And as Chuck Todd can tell you, they are being overwhelmed by the fact that we are all focused on, What will she do?
MITCHELL: Well, of course, she‘s a major figure in American politics. She has, you know, almost 18 million votes to her credit. And she is making some big decisions. I can report tonight she‘s not going to concede tonight.
MITCHELL: She will concede. She will not concede tonight. She‘s going to rally her donors tonight. And she has told her colleagues in the New York delegation that she would accept a bid to be vice president...
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s news!
MITCHELL: ... and to put it out there—I just—I talked to Charlie Rangel. And you remember who first...
MATTHEWS: He pushed her...
MITCHELL: ... positioned her as...
MATTHEWS: He pushed her up to the plate the first time, yes.
MITCHELL: And he is now behind this. He was on that call and he said that the only way Barack Obama can win and guarantee a victory in November is to put her on the ticket.
MATTHEWS: OK. That‘s the news tonight, perhaps, as we go on. In fact, it may well be the newspaper headline as we (INAUDIBLE) I just want to repeat something. What‘s inspired me to say that personal note was something—I‘ve always been a huge fan of Archbishop Tutu of South Africa. He got South Africa through apartheid, a great man. Here‘s what he said the other day to “The Chicago Tribune.” And I‘ve never heard anybody—he said, In America, if you‘re African-American—and I‘m not, obviously—you face this wall in front of you. And you can‘t put your finger on it. It‘s there. And everybody says it‘s equal in America and everything‘s fine, you got no problems, and yet you know there‘s something there, as Bishop Tutu says, that thing that says you can‘t reach for the stars in America.
And here‘s what Tutu said. You‘ve got all that going against you America—and this guy‘s a tough critic—and yet you produce Obama. Where else in the world would you ever have had anything like that? I mean, an African-American being not just a credible candidate but one who has galvanized—I mean, the number of young people who have come out and said, Yes, we think it is actually possible to have a different kind of society only here. And this is one of the toughest guys who‘s been on the racial front his whole career in life. He‘s lived it. And he says, Yes, we got serious problems in this country. We got a wall of racial prejudice that‘s still out there in different places, and yet we‘ve done something nobody else has done.
And that‘s still in the future. It‘s still a few hours off. But I think we‘ve got to think about this. And it‘s got nothing to do with partisan politics. Americans should sort of salute themselves and say this is one of the nights we like to say, Where were you when this happened? Well, this is a time you want to remember where you were, and people are obviously watching us.
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And you know, he gets another bite at this on an even bigger night, the night he accepts the nomination. The night that he gives his speech officially accepting the nomination at the convention is going to be the 20 -- I believe it‘s the 30...
MITCHELL: The 45th.
TODD: ... the 45th anniversary of JFK—of Martin Luther King‘s “I have a dream” speech.
TODD: So you know, there‘s a lot of sort of destination type of moments for...
MATTHEWS: How about tonight, 40 years after Bobby Kennedy gets—wins the California primary?
TODD: For Obama, a lot of those goosebumps moments. (INAUDIBLE) I go to something (INAUDIBLE) Andrea just said, and you just said what the headline was, which is she wants—she‘ll accept the number two slot. She took—she may be taking the headline away from him tonight...
TODD: ... which is not sitting well at the Obama campaign.
MATTHEWS: Well, if you want to make—if you want to make—I don‘t mean—“nice” is probably not the right word here. It‘s not a courtship. But if you want to make a team work, do you take this kind of aggressive act in the first instance by saying, You‘ve got a headline? I‘m taking it away from you. Andrea?
MITCHELL: Well, she was reacting. In this conference call, she was reacting to the fact that the Associated Press put out a report that the Clinton forces felt was erroneous, perhaps leaked to, you know, box her in, a report that she was conceding tonight. And so she gets on the phone with her most loyal supporters, which is the New York congressional delegation...
MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Valezquez.
MITCHELL: Congresswoman Valezquez. And she says (INAUDIBLE) Hillary Clinton, you know, the Latinos—and this was the viewpoint of a Latina member of Congress, not our viewpoint. She said on this conference call, according to multiple witnesses, that Latinos will not support Barack Obama, exposing one of the rifts, one of the racial or ethnic divides. And the only way this will work, said the congresswoman, is if you, Hillary, get on the ticket. And she said, Well, I‘ll be open to that. Then I followed up, Chuck followed up, calling. And I talked to Charlie Rangel, and he said, Yes, this is the way it went, and we want her on the ticket. You can see the positioning...
MATTHEWS: Was it a—was it a—was it a clear statement, or was it a contextual statement? Does she really mean to say, I‘ll take a spot on the ticket, if offered?
MATTHEWS: That‘s the news.
MITCHELL: She does.
TODD: Oh, absolutely. And it was—and it was done in such a way—look, what was interesting—I was describing (INAUDIBLE) you know, so Congresswoman Valezquez asked that question. And she starts giving a very long answer and makes sure (ph) -- kind of rambling, I was (INAUDIBLE) and then came back, circles back and is sure to answer the question.
TODD: So look, she‘ll take it. She wants it. It‘s your headline tonight.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s get back to the point you raised...
MATTHEWS: I‘m sorry. Go ahead.
MITCHELL: One quick point about the historic significance. When you talk about the passion and the excitement, the symbolic importance, historic importance of what‘s happening for African-Americans...
MATTHEWS: More than symbolic, my dear.
MITCHELL: More than...
MATTHEWS: It‘s real.,
MITCHELL: It‘s real.
MATTHEWS: It‘s a real story that we are missing in this detail.
MITCHELL: But there‘s the other side. The flip side of that is that there are so many Hillary Clinton women supporters...
MITCHELL: ... who felt they were this close to it, that there‘s no other woman, they think, who is positioned...
MATTHEWS: That‘s true.
MITCHELL: ... to grab that brass ring four years or even eight years from now. They don‘t see the long view. And they feel cheated.
MITCHELL: And that is the anger that has to be addressed as a political problem and as a social problem.
TODD: By the way...
MATTHEWS: That would be one of the answers. One way to go would be to put her on the ticket.
TODD: The other thing—you know, we talk about the significance of an African-American candidate (INAUDIBLE) but let‘s just look at the pure brass tacks. It‘s the greatest political upset maybe in the history of American politics. Obama beating Hillary Clinton is easily—may surpass...
MATTHEWS: How far...
TODD: ... Truman defeating Dewey. It‘s not just how far ahead she was in the polls. It‘s that this guy comes from absolutely anywhere and beats her on money, beats her on the inside game, the outside game and everywhere in between. That, in itself, is still an amazing upset.
MATTHEWS: Well, the race began five months ago, as I said, in the Iowa caucuses. And here‘s where the polls were before Iowa. The Pew poll had Clinton over Obama by 20 points. The Fox poll had Clinton up by 29. The Cooke poll had Clinton up by 12. And our own NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll had Clinton ahead by 22, which seems to be about the average.
MITCHELL: It was name recognition, familiarity. People didn‘t know who he was. I mean, surprisingly, on some of the exit polls from some of the final primaries, people still in West Virginia and Kentucky said that they didn‘t know very much about him, so...
TODD: Puerto Rico, too, yes (INAUDIBLE) big number.
MITCHELL: There‘s a biography that needs to be filled in there. And he didn‘t campaign actively in those states.
MITCHELL: But Chuck Todd also said something that was so important on Saturday, when we were all covering the Democratic rules and bylaws committee. And Chuck said that Barack Obama and his team had taken over the Democratic Party. And that was the significance of the fact that he had 19 votes on that committee.
TODD: Can I bring up two other points? One thing I think we forget is there were two moments that will not—nobody ever talked about when they happened that we should have seen as a sign that the Clintons were in trouble. One was when Howard Dean became chairman of the Democratic Party, when a non-Clinton person took over the party. And the second was the ascension of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. When Democrats in 2006 proved they could do it without the Clintons, they did it without the Clintons, and suddenly, it was—those with were the first two breaks where you saw Democratic insiders say, You know what? We don‘t need them anymore. We don‘t have to lean on them anymore the way we thought we did.
And that gave them the opening that once the new guy came up—and it could have been a Mark Warner, could have been somebody else, didn‘t necessarily have to be Barack Obama. Once he showed that he was even, that he was the alternative, it broke.
MATTHEWS: It‘s interesting that the Republican Party has stayed absolutely loyal to the legacy of Ronald Reagan because the Reagan family did not attempt to establish—they couldn‘t—a dynast y. Whereas a family that was trying to establish something of a dynasty was challenged by Pelosi‘s rise to the speakership, which had nothing to do with them, it was an in-house matter, and of course, as you say, the Howard Dean campaign, which surprised me because I thought the Clintons would croak him. I thought...
TODD: We all expected it, and they never did.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me as—let‘s go back to what you are the man of the hour for. That‘s the count now in terms of—I‘m looking at this number change even from the time we went on the air. It‘s at 22 now, apparently, now, the superdelegate count, the magic number. Explain what that means tonight in terms of what he can win in the primaries in Montana and South Dakota tonight.
TODD: At poll—you know, at—when the polls close at 9:00 o‘clock, he should be able to get potentially five or six delegates. We‘ll see then. And polls close in Montana at 10:00 o‘clock. He could be awarded immediately six or seven delegates. So at most, he‘s going to win 17 tonight in those two primary states, minimum 15, something like that.
TODD: So he needs about 10 more superdelegates to sort of guarantee...
MATTHEWS: What happened to Nancy Pelosi‘s corral? Doesn‘t it have 10 in it anymore?
TODD: It‘s all there. I mean, they‘re rolling them out. You saw what happened. At the top of the hour was the Edwards rollout, the rest of those Edwards pledged—they‘ve been doing this piecemeal all day.
MATTHEWS: Who controls this Pez dispenser...
MATTHEWS: ... that‘s letting these things out? Who‘s got the Pez dispenser?
TODD: Some of it is controlled—some of it is sort of—it‘s sort of controlled chaos. You know, you‘re sort of kind of herding cats here. But at 9:00 o‘clock—we already—we‘ve talked to four undeclared superdelegates, are, like, When polls close, I‘ll give you my endorsement. So at 9:00 o‘clock and 10:00 o‘clock...
TODD: ... we expect another round of these guys.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk politics. Why—I‘ll ask you as a Socratic question. Why do politicians not want to make a choice between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?
MITCHELL: There‘s some loyalty there, some deference to Hillary Clinton. Obviously, he has the power now. But they still feel that a promise is a promise. I mean, you know this better than anyone in politics...
MATTHEWS: I know.
MITCHELL: ... working for Tip O‘Neill. Your word is your bond. If you said you‘re not going to do it until the voting is over, why not wait...
MATTHEWS: So these are commitments.
MITCHELL: ... a couple of hours?
MATTHEWS: These are commitments people made to the Clintons probably on the phone. Mr. President, I promise you this, I won‘t say anything until the last day.
MITCHELL: This is why they were so angry at Bill Richardson. They felt he went back on a commitment, remember, back then. Doesn‘t seem that important right now. But these are commitments. And in the larger scheme of things, Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, said, Let‘s give her her space.
MITCHELL: Let‘s stop pressuring her. Let‘s wait until the voting‘s over.
MATTHEWS: OK. I still remember how the Democrats can screw something up. Back in—I was a kid, obviously—in 1972. You weren‘t around the planet, I don‘t think, then, but...
TODD: I was.
MATTHEWS: Were you? But in ‘72, I was at the Democratic convention. I was volunteer down there in—watching things, working in the press office in Miami. And I remember that—I think at one point, Mike Gravel put his name in nomination for vice president. It was a clown show at the Democratic—it was a clown show. And it wasn‘t until 2:00 o‘clock in the morning that Ted Kennedy, who‘s having a tough time now, maybe a better time—Ted Kennedy put the name of George McGovern in nomination, like, at 1:30. He spoke at, like, 2:00 o‘clock, East Coast time, blowing the whole chance.
Are the Democrats going to have Barack Obama win on the numbers tonight around 2:00 in the morning? When‘s he going to—when‘s he going to declare victory?
TODD: No, no, no, no. They‘ve got it—they‘ve got it for 10:00 -- when he speaks tonight in St. Paul at the Xcel Center, he‘s going to be over the top (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: And will there be a magic moment, a bell going off, a whistle blowing? What will it be like?
TODD: Well, it depends on—every news organization is going to do it differently.
MATTHEWS: Are we going to have a big sign up here, do you think?
TODD: I think we will have a big banner, a campaign alert. But every news organization will do it differently. You see one setting it up. Our friends at the Associated Press have already...
MATTHEWS: Am I going to see the face of Brian Williams here around 10:30 tonight...
MATTHEWS: ... This is NBC News...
MATTHEWS: ... special report...
TODD: I think we‘re going see the face of Barack Obama. I mean, I think he‘s going to be (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Does he have to declare it, or will the news organizations...
TODD: No, they want the news organizations to declare it. It‘s more
oddly enough, as badly as everybody says that the media is viewed by the public, they‘ll still...
MATTHEWS: No, no. It‘s...
MATTHEWS: ... public that has a problem with this.
TODD: But it‘s the...
MATTHEWS: Let me—let me ask you this...
MATTHEWS: So just looking at—scoping out (INAUDIBLE) we‘ll be back in a minute with you two folks, but scoping it out—first result tonight is South Dakota.
TODD: You got it, 9:00 o‘clock.
MATTHEWS: And then Montana?
TODD: At 10:00 o‘clock.
MATTHEWS: And then the announcement that it‘s over before or after those two events?
TODD: My guess it‘ll be right after at least one of those polls close...
MATTHEWS: In order to catch the 11:00 o‘clock local news...
MATTHEWS: Everything is run now by the East Coast 11:00 o‘clock clock. Anyway, Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell are staying with us.
I‘m getting that New Year‘s Eve feeling!
Coming up: Hillary Clinton says she‘s ready to be Obama‘s VP. You can‘t beat that for a news story. Is this the biggest big foot in history? And don‘t forget, at the top of the hour, our live coverage of the—I know you‘ve been waiting for these, too, the Big Sky primary coming up tonight, and South Dakota, as well. The primaries get underway today. They‘ll be over tonight. Keith Olbermann will be joining me with results and analysis at that desk over there.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Barack Obama is even closer to the nomination than he was a few minutes ago. He‘s down to 19.5 -- this is interesting. This is beating the clock here—delegates from clinching.
That‘s 19.5 delegates. We‘re here talking about how this campaign is just
it is like New Year‘s Eve here. And here we are in New York near Times Square...
TODD: There you go.
MATTHEWS: ... and waiting for that big ball to come down, like it used to in the old days. Still does, I guess, doesn‘t it?
MATTHEWS: Well, here we have 19.5. What‘s that mean? Is this enough to close it in the two states out West...
TODD: No, he still needs about 5 more. Five more, and then it‘s—and then he can do it in the two states. But more importantly, we can‘t award all of them. If he wants us—if he wants us—all of our news organizations to do this before 11:00 o‘clock, he actually needs to roll out about eight...
MATTHEWS: OK, Roger Simon...
TODD: ... but they‘re coming.
MATTHEWS: ... how‘s your count going? Because Chuck here has got—we‘re down to 19.5 with—it‘s almost the requisite number to get to the top and win this nomination for the presidency tonight.
ROGER SIMON, POLITICO.COM: I would never disagree on numbers with Chuck Todd. He is the Dutch Schultz of numbers. Nobody disagrees with Chuck Todd.
SIMON: I want to—when Barack Obama goes over the top, I think there should be a balloon drop on Chuck Todd‘s head to mark the moment.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know. Dutch Schultz had a deathbed conversion to Catholicism.
MATTHEWS: We don‘t want any conversions around here. We want the consistency (INAUDIBLE)
TODD: No—but, by the way, no—but—and, as far as this, you know, there is a whole slew of these guys that have come out and endorsed.
We know that the five Montana superdelegates will endorse when the—when it‘s called for the winner of the primary. So, you start adding these up. There‘s a whole bunch of—we have at least four people we have talked to, superdelegates, who says they‘re coming out when the polls close. So, already, that‘s nine.
MITCHELL: Let me just make one point that the Clinton people will make.
This is not like the roll call at the convention. And she actually brought on her plane from Puerto Rico that Virgin Islands delegate who had switched twice already, a pledged delegate.
MATTHEWS: To demonstrate that it‘s fluid?
MITCHELL: To demonstrate that it‘s fluid, that anything can happen.
MATTHEWS: Right. OK. OK.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about her moves tonight. I hear, through the grapevine, that Hillary Clinton will acknowledge his mathematical advance, that he has made the requisite majority number, right?
TODD: Conceding to the math, not to the man.
MATTHEWS: But—well, what does that mean?
TODD: I think conceding to the math tonight, but not to the man.
MATTHEWS: But I hear she also will say something about his admirable qualities.
MATTHEWS: It will be a positive statement—Andrea.
MITCHELL: She will talk about him. She will praise him. We‘re now in sort of the mating game.
MATTHEWS: Will she endorse him?
MITCHELL: She will not endorse or concede. That‘s the distinction.
MATTHEWS: To what effect? What‘s the plan of stretching this out?
What‘s the game here?
MITCHELL: She wants to think. She wants to talk to superdelegates, to see—first of all, they both need to look at the numbers of what‘s coming out of Montana and South Dakota.
MATTHEWS: Oh, sure.
MITCHELL: If she wins both states, I think you will hear a much more aggressive posture from her. I think she‘s got several possible lines in her speech.
MATTHEWS: Wouldn‘t the smart move—not that I‘m smarter than she is
but wouldn‘t the smart move be, if she won one of those states, that‘s when you concede, on the highest possible moment?
MITCHELL: To come out early, in fact.
MATTHEWS: Concede after you have won?
MITCHELL: If she were to win South Dakota, come out before he, perhaps, wins Montana, before his big victory.
She knows that his big victory tonight, him going over the top, is going to be on all the networks. She has to somehow squeeze in. They have got to choreograph this from team Clinton, so that they don‘t have her in the middle of a speech, and we would switch over to Barack Obama.
MATTHEWS: Well, it wouldn‘t hurt to be a layer cake. She doesn‘t want to be the main lead, does she?
ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THEPOLITICO.COM: Barack Obama has to make sure she‘s not the main lead.
SIMON: He has to change the conversation we‘re having right now.
SIMON: He will praise her in the speech tonight, but he will move quickly, including his speech tonight, I am reliably informed...
SIMON: ... to the general election...
SIMON: ... and make clear, look, this has been a tough battle.
SIMON: She‘s a great campaigner. She‘s strong. I am running against John McCain, not Hillary Clinton.
MATTHEWS: But, Roger, Roger, Hillary Clinton has already beaten you to the punch here on that headline.
MATTHEWS: Because the minute she said that she was available, now with Andrea confirming that with Charlie Rangel, she‘s confirmed her availability for the V.P. job, from this moment forward, from that moment forward, until he says no to her, that‘s the story.
SIMON: But that‘s his challenge. He must show, even at the risk of offending some of her supporters, that he is the nominee. He must project strength and presidential qualities.
Ironically, she‘s never had a problem projecting strength. People thought she was too strong..
SIMON: ... and needed to be more human.
He has to show he‘s the nominee, he‘s in charge of this process. He will pick a vice president. It may not be her. And, you know, people are going to have to live with that, even though he would become the support of all her supporters.
MATTHEWS: Do you think the press can resist this story?
TODD: Look, I think Roger is absolutely right.
He‘s got to figure out how to change it. And I think, for the short term, he will. But we‘re going to immediately go—because she didn‘t concede tonight, he will get his moment. He will get his speech. He will be the lead tomorrow on the morning shows.
MATTHEWS: Right. OK. I know what he has to do.
TODD: And then you know what happens?
TODD: We go back on Hillary concession watch.
MATTHEWS: He can say, I owe it to the country, since we have had problems with vice presidential vetting before...
MITCHELL: To take time.
MATTHEWS: ... to take my time. I will not make any announcements to July 1, July 4, whatever. Set a date. Set a procedure that kills the media drumbeat, right?
MITCHELL: He‘s got to do something, because, otherwise, we are...
MATTHEWS: We will set the drumbeat.
MITCHELL: Once we are past concession watch, we‘re on vice president‘s watch, which we would be anyway, but...
MATTHEWS: Can he pull something like LBJ pulled in the old day and say, just set up some absolutely obvious mechanism, like, I cannot pick anyone who‘s now part of the administration; I can‘t—like he did, so like Bobby Kennedy wouldn‘t be—can he say something like, I will not pick anyone who has been part of this competition, intraparty competition, for the last six months?
MITCHELL: I don‘t think he can do that, that bluntly.
MITCHELL: He has to figure out a way to finesse this.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Roger. I‘m sorry. You‘re off camera. I didn‘t see you. But go ahead.
SIMON: No, we also don‘t know yet exactly how hard she‘s going to push for this. Saying secondhand, even though we many have witnesses, that she is opened to it is not the same thing as sort of breaking the etiquette of saying, I want to be on the ticket.
MATTHEWS: But you can‘t say that, can you?
MATTHEWS: Not even Mitt Romney will say that.
TODD: John Edwards said it four years ago.
SIMON: She can rewrite the rules any way she wants. If she wants it and goes after it, it really makes it tough on Barack Obama. I think he can still say no, but she can make it very tough on him in the days and weeks ahead.
MATTHEWS: OK. Here‘s the question. I think there might be a conundrum for the senator still, Senator Clinton. If she accepts the vice presidency, say, July 4, a very dramatic day for Americans, obviously, Independence Day, can she still challenge him, if something goes wrong, for the top job?
MATTHEWS: Is she—or does she take her name out of that possibility?
SIMON: I don‘t think he‘s going to want his running mate named before the convention.
MATTHEWS: No, you‘re missing my question.
If he does pick her and she accepts, can she still exploit a screw-up on his part, a scandalous story, between now and nominating day?
SIMON: I don‘t think so.
MATTHEWS: Do you agree that she‘s out of the running?
TODD: Yes, she‘s out of the running.
You know, I had another idea. The other way she can do this is, he might get an assist—he‘s already got Nancy Pelosi saying that the dream ticket‘s not a good idea. Maybe Al Gore comes out and does this for him, says, it‘s not a good idea to have Obama...
MATTHEWS: Oh, that‘s a good way to do it.
TODD: You get a couple of senior statesmen that are well respected by the party to go out there and try to cut this off at the pass.
MATTHEWS: He said, I‘m going to lay on you an inconvenient truth.
MATTHEWS: Well, I don‘t know if he‘s that magisterial yet, that Al Gore can rule from above, like Jehovah. Or maybe—maybe—you think he‘s that big, Andrea?
TODD: He‘s running the environment.
MITCHELL: Is he that big?
MITCHELL: He is because he has been so silent on politics.
MATTHEWS: But everybody knows he hates the Clintons.
MITCHELL: That does create a problem.
MATTHEWS: He‘s not exactly a just umpire.
Anyway, thank you, Roger. Thank you.
What a night. I‘m getting giggles. It‘s so exciting here.
Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell.
Because there‘s news in the air.
Up next: the HARDBALL “Sideshow” and another Bill Clinton outburst.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”
Is Bill Clinton trying out for a speaking gig at Trinity United Church out in Chicago? Here he is lashing out at the reporter who wrote that piece in “Vanity Fair” about his personal life.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
QUESTION: What do you think about that hatchet job somebody did on you in “Vanity Fair” at the end of the race?
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sleazy. He‘s a really dishonest reporter.
And one of our guys talked to him. And I haven‘t read it, but the guy told me there‘s five or six just blatant lies in there. But he‘s a real slimy guy.
QUESTION: Yes, it‘s all over cable news.
B. CLINTON: Totally slimy. Just blow it off.
QUESTION: But he‘s married to Dee Dee Myers?
B. CLINTON: Yes, but he—that‘s all right. He‘s still a scumbag.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: A scumbag.
MATTHEWS: From the former president of the United States. That‘s quite an encomium.
Anyway, Clinton accused the writer of “Vanity Fair” of doing a hit job for Obama. The conspiracy grows vaster.
Now to “The Daily Show,” where the B-52 front man musically interpreted Scott McClellan‘s new tell-all memoir.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)
JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW”: The Scott McClellan book is an incredibly important book, but it‘s a bit of a dry read on the audio version. I was hoping you could put a code of Schneider on this one.
FRED SCHNEIDER, MUSICIAN: yes.
(singing): Being evasive is not the same as lying in Bush‘s mind!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
STEWART: Yes! Cut and print. Now, that—that is a page-turner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Music to my ears.
By the way, that hilarious bit comes on the same day that the “International Herald Tribune” ran a story about Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev about them banning all anti-government jokes in Russia. Of course, that‘s not true here.
Marc Ambinder, by the way, of “The Atlantic” has a great scoop this week. He reported that when John McCain announced his presidential candidacy last year, he was just inches away from pledging to serve just one term in the White House. Not only that, but the one-term presidency was going to be a central thrust of the McCain campaign.
Apparently, John McCain changed his mind at the last minute. It would have been, by the way, a wild departure for most presidents, who relied on fear. Most presidential candidates rely on fear that they will be able to wield power for at least up to eight years.
The Clinton campaign may be winding down, but their press operation is apparently still in full force. Take a look at what happened on “The View” today when Whoopi Goldberg read an Associated Press bulletin that said that Hillary Clinton would drop out tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE VIEW”)
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST: We actually have some breaking news that‘s being reported by the AP, that Hillary Rodham Clinton will concede Tuesday night.
BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST: Barack Obama is the Democratic candidate.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
GOLDBERG: I have more breaking news.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh.
GOLDBERG: Hillary‘s campaign folks have just called us and said that the AP story is not true. She will not be conceding this evening. So, everything that I just said, forget it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I suspect there are Clinton people ready to give up and there are those not quite ready to give up.
And now it‘s time for the HARDBALL “Big Number” tonight.
Sometimes, you just have to step back and say, wow. Has all that time really gone by? You have been here with every evening now following this presidential campaign quite closely. Just how much time has passed since the Iowa caucuses? Five months. And how much time is there until general Election Day? Five months. Five great months down, five to go. We sit at the point of no return—tonight‘s “Big Number.”
Up next, our “RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE” panel will be here. How will tonight unfold? We‘re going to do the ticktock when we come back. Will Obama get his movie moment? Will Hillary Clinton become a candidate for vice president? It looks like she already is.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I am Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks for a second straight day on concerns about the financial sector. The Dow Jones industrial average lost almost 101 points. The S&P 500 was down eight. And text stocks took 11 points off the Nasdaq.
Stocks closed off their lows for the day, though, after securities firm Lehman Brothers said this afternoon that it did not borrow from the Federal Reserve to raise capital, as had been reported early. Lehman shares fell 9.5 percent today.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke issued a rare warning on the risks that a weak dollar poses for inflation. He also suggested interest rates are on hold for now.
General Motors says it will close four truck and SUV plants, affecting 10,000 workers.
Meantime, sales for the three major U.S. automakers plunged by double digits last month.
And oil fell $3.45 in New York‘s trading session, closing at $124.33 a barrel.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to Chris and HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Well, tonight, HARDBALL should be called hourglass, because this is all about the sand running out of the clock right now. The delegates keep coming on the way to Barack Obama. He‘s now down to 18-and-a-half delegates he needs to clinch the Democratic election for president in 2008.
So, we‘re going right now and already at the “Politics Fix.”
Our roundtable tonight, familiar faces, they‘re going to be with us all evening tonight. There‘s Eugene Robinson, one of the great columnists of our time, Pat Buchanan, a great columnist of many years ago, and Rachel Maddow.
MATTHEWS: Just kidding, Pat. You‘re alive and well.
MATTHEWS: Why don‘t you take a stab at this interesting hourglass we‘re looking at? Because we‘re really looking at something like New Year‘s Eve, in terms of the timing, because we know, from Chock Todd, that the people around Barack Obama are rationing out these delegates tonight. They‘re gradually dropping them out, so that they reach the requisite number that will allow Montana and South Dakota to take him over.
PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Here‘s what we‘re seeing, Chris.
And you‘re familiar with it.
It‘s when a candidate goes over the top at a national convention. All of a sudden, Wyoming stands up: I would like to change my vote to 100 percent.
I think Barack Obama is now going to wind up with several hundred votes lead of delegates. I think they‘re all going to move his way.
BUCHANAN: No, I think it‘s going to start tonight. And he‘s going to probably going to go over the—maybe go over top.
But I think, after that, it‘s really going to swing entirely toward him.
MATTHEWS: And then they‘re going to give full credit to Michigan and Florida at that point, right?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.
MATTHEWS: When it doesn‘t matter.
MADDOW: Yes, they reserve their right to do that, certainly.
MATTHEWS: To give it all back to them in that glitch.
MADDOW: My thoughts is that—my thoughts are that it did not actually become apparent that it was going be like this today, almost until today.
While Senator Clinton was telling the campaign plane reporters on Sunday night that she didn‘t consider super delegates‘ pledges to be valid votes, essentially, to count toward that 2,118, it was possible through Sunday night, through yesterday, that she was not going to consider that he had the ability to clinch today, no matter what happened with the super delegates.
It‘s really been changing up until the very end. Right now, it looks like they‘re going to concede that super delegates‘ votes count, that 2,118 does matter.
MATTHEWS: Rachel, wasn‘t she hauling around some Virgin Islands delegate who had switched a couple times as her object lesson? This is an example? I‘ve got a delegate in the front of the plane right now. This is a guy that proves you can do this thing.
MADDOW: Her argument was essentially saying he can‘t clinch. There‘s no such thing of clinching until the convention. To hear that on Sunday night, not have the uncertainty yesterday, today it‘s not like that. It‘s only settled in the last few hours, over the course of today‘s news cycle.
ROBINSON: I think it was settled for most Democrats and most political professionals, though, that, in fact, you could clinch, that, in fact, if you reached the right number, you had clinched the nomination. You know, what we weren‘t 100 percent sure of was that Barack Obama would get there tonight. One thing we have learned during this whole year is it really is never over until it‘s over.
But it looks like, tonight, and it‘s going to be quite a moment.
BUCHANAN: It‘s also mildly anti-climactic. We all know he‘s going over the top. He‘s very close. He‘s going to do it Wednesday or something. The big moment, tonight, though is Hillary Rodham Clinton opening the door to the vice presidential nomination. She is jamming the nominee, Chris. I don‘t know if she did it deliberately, but she‘s right now, right in front of him like in basketball; you get right in front of an opposition player.
MATTHEWS: The Boston Celtics defense. Put the hands right on the chest, put them on the chest, and if they move at all, it‘s not a foul.
ROBINSON: What you do is a cross over dribble and you go around. You got an easy lay up.
MATTHEWS: Before Pat supports the bumping rights of Hillary Clinton, I want to protest a bit here. I have a sense if I were running now for “Agence France” press or Reuters or one of the international news agencies, I would be ready now to run a big flash when the numbers are there. This is a huge international story in Cape Town, in Uganda, in Timbuktu, everywhere in the world where there are people of color, certainly. Anywhere in the world where the people are white are thinking, my god, this is brand new.
ROBINSON: This whole race has been a huge story everywhere in the world. It‘s been followed in minute detail in the most obscure places. I want to get back to the jamming defense metaphor. Or let‘s forget the metaphor. It seems to me that that‘s well and good to say now. But, in fact, the presumptive nominee does hold more cards than the prospective vice presidential nominee. And what you get—
BUCHANAN: I‘m not sure it‘s a smart thing to do.
ROBINSON: What you get is a not so subtle power shift. When one becomes the presumptive nominee, you are the de facto head of the party. You are in command.
BUCHANAN: That‘s why I think it‘s a mistake.
MATTHEWS: By her to offer herself.
BUCHANAN: Well I think by doing that; I mean, he knows she may be open to it. But you‘re sort of forcing the guy right at the night he‘s winning the nomination. I‘m not sure that‘s a good thing to do, because the natural reaction to a guy is, look, don‘t push me. I‘m the nominee here.
MATTHEWS: If it looks like he‘s pushed, it takes all the grace away from it, all of the advantage of looking graceful and magnanimous is lost if it looks like you‘re pushed into it. It does remind me of the day that George W. Bush gave his inaugural address after he had become president. There were the Clintons out at the airport still putting on some kind of show with the dual camera. They weren‘t giving it up.
Here, it looks like she‘s not giving it up. They do like the spot light. There you put it back—You, by the way, put it back on them a minute ago. You took the conversation to Hillary Clinton which is what they want. Isn‘t it?
BUCHANAN: Exactly. Again, I don‘t think it‘s a smart thing to do. To do this, I think she should have indicated the availability a little bit down the road. But you don‘t get in the guy‘s face the night he wins the nomination.
MATTHEWS: It was Congresswoman Velezquez, of the delegation of New York, who raised the issue, saying something along the lines of this may be the only way to bring the Latino community aboard. She still could have said, we will work it out without saying I‘m available.
MADDOW: Well, what‘s important here is that running for vice president is very different than running for president. When you‘re running for president you‘re appealing to the voters and in some cases to the super delegates. When you‘re running for the vice president, you‘re appealing to one person. You‘re appealing to the other campaign. That‘s the person that has to make the decision.
MATTHEWS: Are you sure that‘s what she thinks is going on here?
MADDOW: That‘s the ultimate arbiter of this.
MATTHEWS: I wonder whether she thinks she can pressure him into doing it. I‘ve been at conventions where Democrats, for example, have tried to run for VP by getting a big hotel suite, sending the press out, doing the interviews on background. The candidates hear about it, they don‘t like it.
ROBINSON: Pressure rarely works.
BUCHANAN: What she‘s saying is a very simple line; you want my people, including Hispanics, you take me.
MADDOW: She can‘t promise to deliver them after today. Her leverage is zero compared to what it was yesterday.
MATTHEWS: Pat, you‘re saying she‘s keeping the militia together.
BUCHANAN: She has 17 million voters. Many of them are fanatically loyal. She‘s just saying it. I think it was too overt and too much in your face.
MATTHEWS: Is she taking that part of the Democratic party to Taiwan with her? Is she leaving the mainland of the Democratic party?
BUCHANAN: If Obama publicly spurns here, some of them ain‘t going to come around.
MATTHEWS: A strong word. Panel‘s coming back. I think he can set up a clock, sometime July 4th, he can announce I‘ll put it together by then. Don‘t let somebody else set my time table for me.
At the top of the hour, we‘ll be back. Keith Olbermann and I will be getting together at the top of the hour for MSNBC‘s complete coverage throughout the night not only of the last two primaries, those in South Dakota and Montana, at 9:00 and 10:00, closing here in the east coast, but also the excitement about the possibility that one of the two candidates, probably Barack Obama, will get the nomination tonight. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back now and we‘re talking. We‘ve got a few month
minutes before we begin our full evening coverage, Keith Olbermann and I. I want to go to the round table here. Tonight‘s significance, it seems to me if you‘re putting together newspapers tomorrow, an old instrument of media coverage. Let‘s face it, it‘s fun to think about. You‘re the newspaper guy full time here.
ROBINSON: We still do publish every single day.
MATTHEWS: You‘re putting together the headlines tomorrow morning right now. You‘ve got the first edition ready to roll. Is the first edition Barack Obama wins the Democratic nomination? Lower headline, first African-American to win any party nomination? Is it Hillary Clinton hints at VP? What‘s the lead?
ROBINSON: The lead is Obama in the sense of history. You know, the first African-American, first minority to be a major party candidate for president.
MATTHEWS: Of any western country.
ROBINSON: That I could think of. We were talking about that the other day. I was trying to think of a counter example. I can‘t come up with one.
MATTHEWS: Except for Fujimoro in Peru, was the only one who wasn‘t white. If you take all after Europe, eastern and western, all of north America, all of Asia, what do you call that, Australia, New Zealand, all the white colonies around the world that became independent countries, not one.
ROBINSON: Can‘t think only one.
MATTHEWS: That‘s history.
BUCHANAN: Warren Harding, of course, those questions that you heard from long ago.
MADDOW: Warren Harding‘s secretly black.
BUCHANAN: Part of it is he had the African-American blood. This is different.
MATTHEWS: I haven‘t heard about that before. I have heard about Babe Ruth? I haven‘t heard about this guy.
BUCHANAN: Warren Harding once said—I won‘t use the terminology he used. It‘s a little crude. But Obama over the top is the headline. The sub-head, I agree with you. And the Hillary Clinton thing, Chris, you read us during the break something that makes me believe that when I said jamming that I was basing it on her saying I am open it this, whereas she just said, if he asks me, I‘d be interested. That sounds more less like a gracious, I would be amenable, I certainly wouldn‘t reject it out of hand, which sounds less like what I said before.
So I would withdraw my statement of jamming. We really ought to get solidly what she said.
MATTHEWS: The best quote we got so far, wasn‘t recorded—it was, I‘d be interested. We‘ve had witnesses who say it was a strong statement. It was clear she wanted to do it.
MADDOW: Early on in the process, she was very overt about the prospect of a dream ticket. She was the one who was raising it. It‘s not something that she‘s been shy about. I don‘t see a major shift from her so that she‘s pushing it more. I think the Hillary Clinton question now goes to not the front page. It moves to sort of a back burner question. If Barack Obama is lucky with his news coverage and gives a good speech, he can make the story not about her for at least a week.
MATTHEWS: Tonight is young.
ROBINSON: I think the banner—we‘re still editing the newspaper. The banner is Obama. I think there‘s a prominent side bar above the fold about the Clintons, about the Clinton era. Is this when we mark the end of the Clinton era?
BUCHANAN: What is the story with McCain now? He‘s running around giving speeches. Who is he going to pick? By the end of this week, it‘s going to be Obama won and now who‘s the vice president? It‘s going to be a huge story.
MATTHEWS: Did she set the clock, Senator Clinton, by saying I‘m available? Didn‘t that set a clock that‘s going to run on him picking her?
BUCHANAN: Maybe she advanced the clock 36 hours? After he gets this thing, that is the issue. That‘s what HARDBALL is going to be to talking about. That‘s what we‘re going to be talking about. Everybody‘s going to be talking about it.
MADDOW: The question is whether or not when we talk about it, is the entire discussion about Hillary Clinton or do we see her as one of a number of people he‘s considering? I think—
MATTHEWS: That‘s a great question. Why don‘t we start throwing some other names out to loosen it up a bit.
BUCHANAN: That‘s what McCain is doing. He is bringing three guys out to Arizona. He‘s doing work with a lot of them, giving them all publicity. Go to these various places. It‘s a great thing. It‘s all positive.
ROBINSON: Do you think there‘s going a be a barbecue in a certain backyard in Chicago pretty soon with a lot of people invited?
BUCHANAN: I think that‘s right, yes.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question. Let‘s talk national chess board time. The way it sets up is the incumbent administration always has its convention second. That‘s the protocol we still observe. The Republican party will meet second, a week after the Democrats. They‘ll go to St. Paul a week after Denver. will they wait to play the game? Will they wait and see who the Democrats pick for VP before McCain picks his?
BUCHANAN: I think they should. I think they will. I would guess
they will. Maybe, you know, maybe not. I would guess they will. You know
I really can‘t be sure. It‘s a tough call. If you pick somebody like Romney, maybe they‘re going to decide, look, we‘re going to get this ticket together and we better get rolling. We‘ve got—there are four nights that are going to be key in this election, the three debates and Obama‘s speech. He could set the country on fire with his speech. If he shows himself a moderate and a centrist, one of us guys in those three debates, I think he‘ll be very tough to beat.
MADDOW: I think you choose a vice president at this point not for positive reasons but to stop negative reasons. I think that Obama goes first with it if he is having a hard time getting the spot light off of Clinton, if all the VP stories are still about Clinton, she‘s taking too much of the spot light. I think that John McCain is going to pick a vice president largely to put to rest issues about his age.
MATTHEWS: You raised a great point. If he doesn‘t pick someone before Denver, there will be a Hillary demonstration outside the convention hall. You won‘t be able to stop it.
MADDOW: That will have 40 people at it.
MATTHEWS: Really, that‘s it?
ROBINSON: They‘ll have a few more than that.
BUCHANAN: He might have to do it a week or something before to—so that you can get the focus off Hillary and get on to this person, so that you don‘t have something.
MADDOW: The Clinton apprising is shrinking from 17 million to a very small hardcore fringe.
ROBINSON: McCain might need to use the vice presidential pick as a hail Mary, which is a possibility.
MATTHEWS: Starting, Pat, I got it finish up here now. Who predicted among the four of us that Barack Obama would be the Democratic nominee in the beginning of this fight? Not me.
BUCHANAN: I picked Hillary.
MATTHEWS: It is a huge upset if you look at the time, if you look at where these numbers were. Twenty some points ahead.
ROBINSON: After Iowa, I thought there was a good shot.
BUCHANAN: I picked McCain then I dumped him in July.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. Keep the faith. Pat Buchanan, Eugene Robinson, you‘ll be seeing a lot more of these people tonight, and Rachel Maddow. We‘ll see you all in a moment when our live coverage of the Montana and South Dakota primaries get underway. Keith Olbermann will join me after a short break for results and analysis. This is MSNBC, the place for politics.
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