Guests: John Harwood, Courtney Reagan, Chuck Todd, Michelle Bernard, Maria Teresa Petersen, Jill Zuckman, Thurston Clarke, Ron Brownstein, Jenny Backus, Rich Masters
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: They say that making up is hard to do. So let‘s watch.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. It wasn‘t exactly a smoke-filled room, but last night‘s secret behind-the-scenes meeting between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had all the makings of that classic political image—minus the smoke. Oh, to be a fly on that wall. Whatever happened in that meeting should have an effect on what happens tomorrow here in Washington when Senator Clinton takes center stage again to do three things. One, she‘ll officially bow out of the presidential race. Two, she‘ll support Obama.
And three—well, that‘s the question. What then? Will she fully endorse Obama? Does she want to be VP? Will she go back to the Senate like Ted Kennedy did after he lost a race for president, or will she start planning for her next presidential race?
And speaking of Hillary, how did something so right go so wrong? She had it all—the name, the money, the party, even a former president as her top aide and supporter. We‘ll talk to two top Democratic strategists about where Hillary zigged when she should have zagged. And since she lost, why exactly is Hillary creating a—catch this, this is hard to believe—a transition team? Isn‘t that what winners do? We‘ll look at that in the “Politics Fix.”
And then there‘s this.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Harry Reid is not giving up his job—can you believe that the trash compactor has pulled up behind me!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) the big trash talk (INAUDIBLE) And what exactly what our own Andrea Mitchell doing this morning reporting in front of a dump truck? We‘ll have that story in the HARDBALL “Sideshow,” where it belongs.
Also, we‘ll look back at the life of Robert F. Kennedy with memories and some remarkable footage and photos 40 years to the day after he was killed in Los Angeles.
And a programming note. Tomorrow morning, Keith Olbermann joins me with complete coverage of Hillary Clinton‘s speech tomorrow beginning at 11:00 Eastern time. Hope to see you then for a couple hours of whatever. But it is an end to something.
But first, NBC News political director Chuck Todd and “The National Journal‘s” Ron Brownstein. I have to ask you about this meeting of intrigue last night at Dianne Feinstein‘s house—we call her DiFi, the senior senator—I think she‘s senior senator from...
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: ... is she? From California—by two months over Barbara Boxer. What happened? Ron Brownstein, you know this stuff. You‘re good at this stuff.
RON BROWNSTEIN, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”: Well...
TODD: Come on, Ron!
BROWNSTEIN: I left the transcript back in the office, unfortunately. Look, everybody‘s trying to figure out exactly what occurred, but it certainly was a first step after what I think most people even in the Clinton world would agree was a misstep on Tuesday night, when she did not go far enough toward acknowledging reality, that Barack Obama had won the nomination.
And it begins a process of defining a relationship between them that is probably going to take a great deal of sorting out over the next few months and probably will require the Clinton side to kind of lower the temperature and calm down. All of these independent efforts to put pressure on him to draft her, and so forth—I cannot imagine this is really what the Obama team wants to see at this point, a drama about what happens to Hillary Clinton being the principal story of the next few weeks, rather than Barack Obama beginning...
MATTHEWS: Do the Clintons...
BROWNSTEIN: ... the general election...
MATTHEWS: ... have to get hit up the side of the head before they knew they blow it? On Tuesday night, they didn‘t do the right thing, a lot of people—I didn‘t realize this at the time as much because maybe I‘ve gotten to expect certain things of that campaign. But it seems to me that everybody—very favorable people—Rendell, Rangel, Vilsack—all those insiders who have their own minds, not the staffers but people with their own minds and freedoms, expressed that Hillary did something wrong Tuesday night. She didn‘t congratulate the winner.
TODD: You know why? Because all of those folks had won before, when they‘ve won, and they realized, wait a minute, the loser isn‘t supposed to be the center of attention. And not only that, this wasn‘t just any winner, this was an historical milestone that was being televised on national—you know, right there in front of everybody, the first presumptive nominee of a major party an African-American. This was a major moment in history...
MATTHEWS: And look at the Clintons~! They‘re celebrating what?
TODD: Exactly. And it seemed—it just seemed ungracious.
MATTHEWS: But isn‘t this exactly what Bill Clinton did the day that George W. Bush was inaugurated? He held a counter-rally out at the airport, right in the middle of the inaugural speech, to—and we had a split screen here! You‘re embarrassed to admit it, but this is their MO! This is the Clintons‘ MO, upstage the winner, whoever it is!
TODD: But at the same time, he didn‘t lose anything that night. And he was going away. And there seemed something appropriate about it because it was the time, I believe the youngest ex-president we were going to have, who hadn‘t—longest ex-two-term president. And we‘re all curious, What is this guy going to do? So there‘s an extra curiosity. But we don‘t...
MATTHEWS: ... to throw it back at me, but it is an MO I‘m used to.
Here‘s Senator Feinstein, somebody that everybody respects, the senior senator from California, talking today about that interesting meeting she hosted at her house here in Washington between Barack and Hillary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CA: In the life we lead, this is a very big deal. And she wants to see that their issues, their interests are represented. And in the convention, in terms of, I think, credentials, obviously, if Florida and Michigan are going to be seated, obviously, with respect to issues in the platform. She also wants to do everything she can to bring unity to the ticket. And this is difficult because she got so many popular votes, actually more than Senator Obama, and it makes it a little—no one‘s ever been in quite this situation before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, we‘ve had close elections before, and the loser—it‘s all the more painful for the loser, but the loser admits the pain and endorses the winner. What is this about, a negotiated endorsement we‘re getting here?
BROWNSTEIN: And of course, that‘s a no-win situation for Obama because then anything he does to reach out to Senator Clinton in interests of unifying the party can be perceived as weakness or bowing to pressure. I mean, the best way for Senator Clinton and her supporters to get what they want is not to seem to be pushing so hard to get what they want, to kind of back off at this point, because they will put the nominee in an impossible position. If he is seeming to pick her out of pressure from his own party, for example, as vice president, then you look weak. If you are making concessions on the platform or anything else, credentials, under pressure, again you look weak.
Look, there is a lot of logic for these two candidates working together. They divided the Democratic coalition almost exactly in half. They have different, contrasting strengths. They could be a powerful team, whether they are on the ticket or not. But I don‘t—I think it is less likely to come together in a positive way for Democrats it if it looks like Obama is negotiating with something like a gun at his head.
MATTHEWS: Yes, well, let me ask...
TODD: And there‘s another—there‘s another big meeting that has to occur with Barack Obama and a person named Clinton, and that is the first time he meets privately with the former president of the United States. That is something that every presumptive—any presumptive Democratic nominee would have to do. It‘s a little more intriguing this time. And you would think, after getting this one out of the way last night, he probably ought to be thinking about trying to get that out of the way pretty soon, as well.
MATTHEWS: Because Bill Clinton the other day referred to 80 times that Barack Obama said something nasty about his wife, about Bill Clinton‘s wife, Senator Clinton.
TODD: If anything—look, Senator Clinton knows when not to say certain things, knows when not to—I think her judgment in this, oddly enough, is clearer than President Clinton right now. I think he‘s angrier about...
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s turn over the pillow to the positive side of this thing, and I think there is a positive side. The fact that Dianne Feinstein, who is a grown-up, was able to put these two people together last night at her home without any cameras or klieg lights going suggests to me that the message now to her peeps, her people who are very upset and sad, is these two people are talking. My boss, my candidate‘s talking to the other guy. Therefore, my attitude has to be somewhat leavened by that, right?
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Absolutely. Look, before there was Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, there was George Bush, George Bush with an approval rating among Democrats in the single digits since 2005. There was a passion among Democrats to change the direction of the country. It‘s very hard to for me to believe that once we get past this immediate period, that there will be much tolerance in the Democratic Party for anything that seems to endanger the prospect...
BROWNSTEIN: ... of winning back the White House after eight years...
MATTHEWS: So the road back...
MATTHEWS: Are we on the road back in the Democratic Party? Are we watching them on the road back to unity? Did it start last night at Feinstein‘s house?
BROWNSTEIN: I believe they‘re on the road back to unity between each other, but that doesn‘t guarantee, Chris, that Obama as nominee can win the constituencies that resisted him in the primary. This is not a deliverable asset. Hillary Clinton cannot necessarily transfer to him support among many of the groups that he struggled with in the primary. Ultimately, he‘s going to have to cross that threshold himself with Latinos, with seniors, with working-class white voters.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s start...
MATTHEWS: ... triage in the hospital right now and you got treat the most seriously wounded and easiest to save. Right now, I think you go to older women, white women, and Hillary Clinton can really salve that, can‘t she?
MATTHEWS: She can—she walks around Scranton with him next week—
TODD: Absolutely. And what he‘s doing next week, he‘s launching this economic tour for two weeks. That is the issue he‘s got to find his voice on because if you want to win over, in this case, it‘s downscale white women—and I‘ve talked to the McCain campaign. They believe that this is the swing demographic group. It is non-college-educated...
MATTHEWS: They‘re not going to vote Republican, are they?
TODD: Well, they could, or they could not vote...
TODD: Or they could decide not to turn out. But the economy is the way in to talking to these people. It‘s why Hillary Clinton was able to be so effective, not because she was a woman but because she was talking about the economy. This was the group that Bill Clinton was able to hold very strongly, and it‘s why he carried...
MATTHEWS: How can you...
TODD: ... places like West Virginia an...
MATTHEWS: How can you be a working woman and vote for a guy who‘s voted against minimum wage relentlessly, who‘s pro-life all the way down the road, against a woman‘s right to choose, on every issue, the Supreme Court, every economic issue like trade...
TODD: He can talk to them. Barack Obama does not have a voice yet on the economy, and that‘s the issue.
BROWNSTEIN: The answer is security. And those women are less socially liberal than the college-educated women. They did vote for Bush in 2004. There was such a thing as “security moms.” And this is one area where Clinton is stronger in polling again McCain than Obama. They‘re both weak among blue-collar men. She has an opportunity—you know, she has more opportunity right now among those non-college women.
MATTHEWS: I think Bill Clinton‘s got to campaign with Barack Obama, two guys together...
MATTHEWS: ... two guys moving around together. I think they can really do it. Southern accents work well with conservatives.
TODD: It‘s the next secret meeting.
MATTHEWS: They just do. Ron Brownstein, Chuck Todd.
Coming up: What went wrong with the Hillary campaign? We‘re going to look back a bit and sort of do a—what do you do call that thing they do on a dead body?
MATTHEWS: An autopsy. Why did the prohibitive favorite in this Democratic race end up losing? Well, take a look. I like to get—I get these guys to do this—look at the Clinton campaign‘s miscalculations.
MATTHEWS: As Chuck Todd calls it, we‘re going to do an autopsy here.
And tomorrow, Keith Olbermann joins me for live coverage of Senator Clinton‘s concession speech. We‘ll wait and see if she concedes, beginning at 10:00 o‘clock -- 11:00 o‘clock tomorrow morning.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. This is a tough week for Hillary Clinton, her staffers and her supporters. On top of dealing with the end of her campaign, there is the inevitable and painful look backward at the past six months. Several crucial issues came together to doom the Clinton campaign, obviously. HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster, despite his sore throat and raspy voice, which you will hear, has this report.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first issue that hurt Hillary Clinton was one of credibility. It started at the MSNBC debate in October, when Clinton was questioned about a plan to give driver‘s licenses to illegal immigrants. She seemed to endorse the plan, then oppose it.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just want to add I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it. This is where everybody plays gotcha.
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You said yes!
DODD: You thought it made sense to do it.
CLINTON: No, I didn‘t, Chris.
JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: America is looking for a president who will say the same thing, who will be consistent, who will be straight with them.
SHUSTER: Clinton‘s credibility also got smacked after she made claims about a trip to Bosnia as first lady.
CLINTON: We just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.
SHUSTER: The video proved there was no threat of sniper fire and no running to vehicles. And it also proved to be a big embarrassment to the Clinton campaign as the video ran repeatedly.
Another key issue, race relations. In January, while the nation was celebrating the Martin Luther King holiday, many Democrats thought Clinton diminished Dr. King by stressing the importance of Lyndon Johnson in the passage of Civil Rights. Quote, “It took a president to get it done.” A few days later, Clinton was trounced in the heavily African-American South Carolina primary. Then Bill Clinton deepened the racial divide.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice, in ‘84 and ‘88, and he ran a good campaign and Senator Obama‘s run a good campaign here.
SHUSTER: Another problem for Clinton was her campaign‘s failure to plan for caucus states. Part of that was due to top Clinton strategist Mark Penn. Late last he, he thought California‘s primary was winner-take-all. He was wrong. And by the time Penn and his team realized the mistake, it was too late to build solid caucus state organizations, the places where Obama piled up delegates that proved to be his cushion.
The other key issue that plagued the Clinton campaign was the failing to plan beyond February Super Tuesday. Clinton and her team thought from the start that she would essentially wrap up the nomination by Super Tuesday.
KATIE COURIC, CBS NEWS: I know that you‘re confident it‘s going to be you, but there is the possibility it won‘t be. And clearly, you have considered that possibility.
CLINTON: No, I haven‘t.
SHUSTER: The overconfidence left Clinton‘s organization without any plans for a long battle. Obama, though, was planning on a lengthy fight, and from mid-February through March, he won 11 primary contests in a row. In the midst of it all, some of Clinton‘s statements became more desperate and harsh.
SHUSTER: I have a lifetime of experience that I will bring to the White House. I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002.
SHUSTER (on camera): In the end, it wasn‘t any single statement, issue or problem that doomed Hillary Clinton, but rather the collection of them dragging down the frontrunner just enough to help make her the runner-up. I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Shuster. Let‘s bring in Democratic consultants Jenny Backus and Rich Masters. Jenny, it seems like they had a strategy for a quick victory. They never had a long-term strategy.
JENNY BACKUS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that‘s right. I think they though they were going to be the inevitable nominee. They started off the primary race focusing on the general election and not focusing on the primaries.
But I also totally don‘t think it‘s Hillary‘s fault. I think that her campaign was using the 2004 elections as a model, not the 2006 races, which were change elections, which were anti-Washington, anti-incumbent races. And I think that ended up impacting them negatively going forward.
MATTHEWS: Didn‘t she let the war become the issue? Barack‘s against the war, she refused to apologize for her vote. She let him be the change candidate on the war?
RICH MASTERS, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: She definitely did early on. I mean, I think the biggest mistake that they made—or two. First of all, they underestimated Barack Obama. It‘s the worst thing you can do in any political race. You cannot underestimate your opponent. They underestimated Barack Obama. They underestimated the anger in the Democratic Party about Iraq, which is why she refused to back away from that. So you‘re absolutely right on that.
And then, of course, the third thing, I think, is they didn‘t have any long-term strategy. But oddly enough, Chris, if you look at it, she actually did better after Super Tuesday with no strategy. They actually went back to their basics. They went back to their gut. If they‘d have started out that way, as opposed to this kind of cookie-cutter campaign they ran for the first part, I think she‘d have been in better shape.
BACKUS: I also think she found her message in the end. I mean, I don‘t think she had a message that was believable or was coming from her heart. Once she started losing, she went to message that‘s, like, I‘m not a quitter. I‘m not going to quit on you, America. And she also moved into some states which were demographically much more friendly to her—Ohio, Pennsylvania—where the Clinton last name is actually a benefit because the people remember the Clinton economy. I mean, Bill Clinton wasn‘t totally a drag on her ticket. There were some advantages, and she found a way to sort of parlay those advantages later on.
MATTHEWS: What do you think about her strategy of outright hostility toward the media from day one? I mean, outright hostility. And the conservatives have done that before. Spiro Agnew did it. Nixon did it. (INAUDIBLE) conservatives, as a rule. This is the first time I‘ve seen a candidate from day one assume hostility and practice it from the beginning.
MASTERS: Well, it worked, Chris. I mean, if you look...
MATTHEWS: It may have worked in New Hampshire.
MASTERS: Yes, I think it absolutely worked in New Hampshire and it worked kind of throughout because keep—I mean, Barack Obama did get a relatively cool ride, I mean, in the front part. But it wasn‘t until they started hitting the referees and hitting the referees over and over again that you saw the referees back up and you started seeing critical looks. You started seeing Jeremiah Wright.
So, I mean, from a tactical, from a purely political...
MATTHEWS: So, riding the refs worked?
MASTERS: Absolutely. Riding the refs worked. I mean, I think there‘s no question it did.
MATTHEWS: I wonder whether, eventually, the refs get mad at the players after a while when they‘re ridden too hard?
MASTERS: I think they did.
MATTHEWS: I‘m just wondering.
BACKUS: Well, but that being said, I think people are also forgetting that Clinton had a huge advantage from the media in 2007. I mean, leading up to it, everyone was saying she was the inevitable candidate.
MATTHEWS: Bill Clinton rode to the White House on—like a surfer on top of the media.
BACKUS: Well, and, I mean, so, I think—I do think, though, that something‘s changed with the Internet.
BACKUS: And I do think now you‘re seeing—Republicans have done it for years, Dick Cheney going after “The New York Times,” going after Dan Rather. The right has done it well.
The left is starting to rise and come out against the media, too.
MATTHEWS: And I see McCain is now taking the side of Hillary against the media. That‘s kind of an interesting switcheroo.
BACKUS: Well, there‘s a lot of victimization in this cycle. I‘m not exactly sure the public...
MATTHEWS: OK. Here‘s one. Suppose you had been Mark Penn. Suppose you had been Patti Solis Doyle in the beginning. Well, you be Patti Solis Doyle right in the beginning.
If they had put all their troops into the caucuses, if they had put everything they had into this—those college-aged people that sort of dominate this caucus, If Hillary had apologized for the war, would she have won?
BACKUS: There‘s a chance she could have.
I think the change message was too much, And Barack Obama had captured it so much, that it might have been hard to capture it. But if Hillary had a real field organization—they didn‘t think they need to run a field organization.
MATTHEWS: OK. I think the failure of John Edwards to divide up the
anti-Hillary vote I thought was going to be important. It turns out that
Barack didn‘t win, it seems to me, because of the anti-Hillary Clinton vote
because of the positive Barack vote. And I think it did grow.
MASTERS: Yes, it absolutely grew.
And the thing about it is, Chris, when you look at—from—from the early onset of this thing, the biggest mistake, again, was the fact that I think Mark Penn and the top echelons of the campaign team looked at polling, and they said, experience will trump change.
And, look, John McCain is doing the exact same thing: experience over change. And I think that‘s a dangerous road for him to go down. I encourage him to keep down there.
MATTHEWS: ... ended up looking like Crocker Jarmon in the movie” The Candidate,” the Don Porter candidate.
MASTERS: They have got it.
MATTHEWS: The guy who had it made. He had all the authority, all the establishment forces behind him and the money. And then this young guy, played by Robert Redford, beats him.
BACKUS: Well, I think the other thing is, is that Barack Obama had a team that was very—they were things that we‘re not used inside a Democratic primary.
They were disciplined.
BACKUS: They had a plan. They went into places—he lived his 2004 convention speech.
MATTHEWS: Do you ever read this great line by the Egyptian guy who lost the Six-Day War to Israel? He said, our whole strategy was, we‘re going to win easily, right? We‘re going to not lose easy.
MATTHEWS: They told us, our enlisted men, just go in there and kill all the Israeli men and rape all the women. He said, that wasn‘t very useful in retreat.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Jenny Backus.
Thank you, Rich Masters.
Up next: John McCain may have the reputation of being a maverick.
But tonight‘s “Big Number” tells a very different story.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: I love that stuff.
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”
By now, we have all gotten familiar with Obama‘s campaign slogan. It‘s “change we can believe in.” Well, apparently, that message is so popular, even John McCain is a fan. Check out the first page of McCain‘s new Web site—quote—“a leader we can believe in.”
John McCain and his people may have seen the success Obama‘s had with his strong claim of authenticity. McCain, too, wants to be someone we can believe in.
There are some moments in political history that, as embarrassing as they are to all parties involves, will be seared into some embarrassed part of our memory, like this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, APRIL 20, 1994)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, the world‘s dying to know, is it boxers or briefs?
BILL CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Usually briefs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Thankfully, those details about the presidential undergarments are behind us. Or so I thought.
“The New York Daily News” reports today that a trendy underwear-seller has started selling Barack Obama boxer briefs with the candidate‘s face. There it is emblazoned right on them. The designer mailed a pair of the unmentionables to his inspiration himself. But Obama‘s spokesman was quick to say his candidate would not be wearing the gift.
I guess they figure a schmata ought to be smarter.
Is there a cosmic force guiding the 2008 presidential campaign? I‘m not one to read too much into symbols, but, sometimes, you just have to stop and say, wow.
Take a look at NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell reporting this morning outside of Hillary Clinton‘s home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Harry Reid is not giving up his job.
Can you believe that the trash compacter has pulled up behind me?
MITCHELL: Take-out-the-trash day at Whitehaven Street.
MITCHELL: Hi, guys.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: I‘ll tell you what, a lot of shredded documents from the campaign leaving us right now. Andrea. You have—you have missed three weeks of stories.
MITCHELL: I just want to tell you, I am the all-purpose NBC correspondent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t that amazing? The end of the Clinton campaign, and a dump truck moving in live.
Well, that‘s what I like about live televisions, no retakes, no edits.
You get it when it‘s happening, Andrea Mitchell dealing with the elements.
And now it‘s time for tonight‘s “Big Number.”
So, how are the Democrats going to run against John McCain this fall? By seizing on things like his 100-years statement about the Iraq war and by nailing his candidacy as George Bush‘s third term.
McCain has made a point of touting, of course, his maverick credentials, but his actual Senate record may indicate otherwise. According to “Congressional Quarterly”‘s voting tally from last year, what percentage of the time did John McCain cast votes in support of Bush‘s policies? Ninety-five. John McCain voted with President Bush 95 percent of the time last year, at least, a statistic that could haunt him right up to Election Day.
That‘s tonight‘s “Big Number.” Look at that big 95.
Up next: Today marks the 40th anniversary of Robert Kennedy‘s death. We will talk about his 1968 run for president and the similarities with the 2008 campaign.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
COURTNEY REAGAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Courtney Reagan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
A major sell-off, as oil prices soared and the nation‘s unemployment rate took its biggest jump in 22 years. The Dow Jones industrials plunged 394 points. The S&P 500 fell 43 points. And the Nasdaq dropped 75.
Oil soared $10.75, the biggest one-day dollar gain ever. Crude closed in New York at a record $138.54 a barrel, all as the dollar weakened. Morgan Stanley predicted crude would hit $150 a barrel by the Fourth of July, and amid tensions in the Middle East.
The day got off to a rough start to disappointing news on unemployment. Employers cut 49,000 jobs in May, the fifth straight month the economy has lost jobs. Meantime, the nation‘s unemployment rate jumped a half-a-percent to 5.5 percent. That‘s the biggest monthly jump since 1986.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to
HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
I was in Montreal 40 years ago tonight. I turned on the radio in the middle of the night to find out who had won the California Democratic primary for president. For several minutes, I thought I was listening to a rerun of a broadcast five years before about an assassination, about a Kennedy being shot.
And then I realized I was listening to real life in real time. Incredibly, Robert Kennedy had been shot, just as his brother had in November, 1963, a day none of us would ever forget, forget where we were, what we felt, everything.
I remember flying back from Canada the next morning, back to Chapel Hill, where I was a grad student. I remember sitting a few days later, like so many Americans, all day long on that grim, gray day, as that train rolled down from New York to Washington, and the feeling of that day, not the stark, Gothic Technicolor tragedy of the JFK loss, that a prince had died, but something closer to earth, closer to home, something just downright sad, without the offsetting grandeur, like the loss of a family member.
Two memories linger in my mind tonight, the picture of people watching along that train tracks, the black faces, the white faces in grief, but also with pride at a fallen compatriot. And I think of something else I will not easily forget, what I just read of, of Bob Kennedy in this new book by Thurston Clarke. He was dying on the floor of that kitchen in Los Angeles.
And, even as he was dying, he kept asking about other people. “Is everybody else all right?” he kept whispering. “Is this guy all right?” He named someone. “Is everybody all right?”
I don‘t think any of us are going to forget that moment or this legend, this legacy.
Thurston Clarke‘s new book is “The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and the 82 Days That Inspired America.”
Thurston, I just read this wonderful book. I heartily—and I mean that—recommend people read it, especially people of my generation who want to remember this. John Harwood is CNBC‘s—of course, my colleague here—CNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent.
His father, Richard, was covering the RFK campaign for “The Washington Post” and was with RFK that incredibly sad night.
Let‘s take a look at something really upbeat. And this is something that maybe has been recalled in this amazing campaign of Barack Obama.
Here‘s Robert F. Kennedy speaking in Indianapolis, a white guy, telling a black crowd—and this is before we had, you know, cell phones and 24/7 cable reporting—telling the crowd that Martin Luther King Jr. had just been killed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT KENNEDY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do they know about Martin Luther King?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To some extent.
KENNEDY: I have some very sad news for all of you, and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world. And that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: An incredible story.
John Harwood, your dad was covering him. And that decision to go into the—we called them ghettos in those days, in a tough neighborhood in Indianapolis, was not advised by the Secret Service or anybody. And he did it.
JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think that was a moment when a lot of people in the country, some of the people even covering Bob Kennedy, really began to see greatness in him, something different than they had seen in other politicians.
My dad had been assigned by “The Washington Post” to cover Kennedy, because he was skeptical. They wanted somebody tough on Kennedy. And, over the course of the campaign, punctuated by very special moments like that, he began to develop an incredible admiration and affection for him. By the end of the campaign, he asked to be taken off, because he felt he be objective anymore. That‘s the kind of effect that Bob Kennedy had on a lot of people in 1968.
MATTHEWS: You know, Thurston, that moment in your book—I mean, I read every page of your book. I just finished it last night.
I have to tell you, it‘s a great bit of reporting, because what you did in your book was go back to the records of people, the reporting by people like Richard Harwood, John‘s father, a lot and a lot of recorded information there, a lot of direct testimony as what it was like to campaign with Bobby Kennedy for 82 days.
THURSTON CLARKE, AUTHOR, “THE LAST CAMPAIGN: ROBERT F. KENNEDY AND THE
82 DAYS THAT INSPIRED AMERICA”: Yes, the most really astonishing thing about that particular evening was that there was about 1,000 people on the edge of the crowd that already knew about King‘s death. And they were ready to riot. They were armed. They had Molotov cocktails. They had chains.
The people who were organizing the rally were so worried that something was going to happen to Bobby Kennedy that they had some teenagers shimmy up trees to look in the open windows, to make sure that there were no—nobody there with a gun that was going to shoot him.
Police had sharpshooters on the roof of a community center nearby. So, he was taking a physical risk. I mean, this was at a time when a man was able to demonstrate both physical courage and also the moral courage to speak extemporaneously and to try to give these people some comfort and hope.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at you, John, as you appeared in a Kennedy campaign ad. This, of course, is 40 years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, KENNEDY CAMPAIGN AD)
HARWOOD: How much help do you think the federal government should give to the schools?
KENNEDY: I think that the federal government can‘t take over direction or control, but it can help in the construction of facilities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Where did you get those lines from?
HARWOOD: I think I got them from my mom, Chris.
HARWOOD: My mom had been involved in some anti-war work. There were connections between people she worked with and the Kennedy organization.
HARWOOD: They asked for some kids to go to St. Albans School here, sit in a room with Kennedy, talk to him and be filmed. And she raised my hand and volunteered me and gave me some lines to ask him.
MATTHEWS: What did the great Richard Harwood say about this conflict of interests?
HARWOOD: You know, I didn‘t focus on it as a sixth-grader.
HARWOOD: But, you know, think about it in our contemporary journalism terms. That could never happen, one of my kids...
MATTHEWS: That‘s a blog issue. That‘s a blog story right there.
HARWOOD: Yes. I was appearing on ads in that Indiana primary...
HARWOOD: ... where Bob Kennedy was speaking and my dad was covering.
It would never be allowed today.
MATTHEWS: But your dad had the reputation, as you pointed out, of being a tough guy, a Marine, a guy who was really challenging him point by point.
And it was only when he felt that he was being won over by Kennedy that he said, get me out of this.
HARWOOD: He asked to taken off the assignment.
MATTHEWS: He said told, Bradlee, get me off this case.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Thurston here.
You know what strikes me even now? I have got a—I did a piece on it myself years ago. But, somewhere, I dug up this picture. There they are at the—right before he was shot there. That‘s with Jesse Unruh there.
Let me ask you about this question here. There was a lot of—what‘s all that noise in the background? Where are you?
Anyway. OK. You know, there‘s a lot of talk now about race in American politics. Bobby Kennedy, the one struck me was not just he across the board appeal to African-American, but working white people, a phrase made infamous in this campaign, along that railroad track saluting him as a compatriot, a fellow patriot. It was so emotional from both sides of the color line.
CLARKE: I think it was courage. I think the American people appreciate courage and Bobby Kennedy had courage that really went beyond his politics. He a the courage to tell the American people, for example, that the Gross National Product doesn‘t measure really what‘s important in life, what really leads to happiness. He had the courage to go to the Indianapolis Medical School and tell a bunch of medical students, who were heckling him because he wanted to increase the clinics in poor communities. They said, where‘s this money going to come from? He went around the room pointing to them and said, from you, from you, from you.
He had these moments of courage throughout the campaign. I think the result was that people, even if they didn‘t agree with his politics, they respected him.
MATTHEWS: What do you think? You heard about it. How did you hear about it, John, when you were a kid?
HARWOOD: I woke up. We were home in Summerset, Chevy Chase, Maryland. Our dad was in Los Angeles. The shooting took place at about 3:00, a little after 3:00 a.m. Eastern time. My sister woke us up to the television on and said, come here and watch. It was very early, I don‘t know how early it was. It‘s a little fuzzy. But they were talking about Kennedy being shot. They also said a reporter was shot. There was a period of time there we didn‘t know what happened to our dad. He finally called.
After the shooting occurred, there was this crazy scene there in the pantry where he was with other reporters. He went to file his story. Bradley said it was the only time in his career he ever actually shouted stop the presses, because he called from Los Angeles to say this had happened. We found out about it waking up in our PJs with the TV on.
MATTHEWS: Yes, “the Last Campaign” by Thirsten Clarke, a great book if you want to remember a period in American life. As I said, it wasn‘t like JFK‘s funeral. It was much sadder, much sadder. John Harwood, thank you for that family memory. Thank you Thirsten Clarke, a great book by you,sir, great reporting, lots of facts.
I think I liked another book. Who was the other guy? Jack Newfield wrote a great book about Bobby years ago.
Up next, the politics fix. What does Hillary Clinton need to do and say tomorrow? We‘re going to watch that tomorrow like a religious procession tomorrow to see what she says. We want to hear the words tomorrow. Let‘s talk about the words, the magic words that Hillary Clinton needs to say, having not said them Tuesday night. How can Barack Obama win over the Hillary people? This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the politics fix. In fact, we‘re starting with it. The round table tonight, Jill Zuckman of the “Chicago Tribune,” Maria Teresa Petersen of Voto Latino, and MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard, whose also the president of Independent Women‘s Voice.
Let me all in order—we‘re going to start in the order everybody‘s watching. You see your order, your third, Michelle, you‘re first, second. Tell me what you think Hillary Clinton—I mean, under the ritual of politics, what does she have to do tomorrow?
JILL ZUCKMAN, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”: Chris, I think that Senator Clinton is going to go out there. She‘s going to say why it‘s important for Democrats to win in November. She‘s going to say why it‘s important for everyone to get behind Senator Obama, and why she is behind Senator Obama. And I think she‘ll also say what she will do to help him get elected in November.
MATTHEWS: Will she say, vote for Barack Obama? Will she say, I endorse him? Will she, in some language, urge people to support him?
ZUCKMAN: I believe so. I think she will say all those things. She knows this campaign is over. You can say she suspended her campaign or ended her campaign, but the bottom line is it‘s over.
MATTHEWS: She just won‘t salute him on his good showing. She won‘t just say, good work. She‘ll say vote for Barack Obama in some way.
ZUCKMAN: Her reputation is at stake. She has to do that.
MATTHEWS: I‘m playing moderator here. I‘m just asking because I‘ve been told by people something like what you‘re saying. It‘s all—this a new world for me. I‘ve never been in a situation where the concession speech was giving four days after the election.
MARIA TERESA PETERSEN, VOTO LATINO: I think you‘re absolutely right.
What she has to do, though—she‘s too politically savvy not to do that. I think what we should be seeing is what she says, compared to what she actually does behind the scenes. That means, is she going to actually encourage her super delegates to go for Barack? Is she committed to go on the campaign trail? Those are the things. Is she going to ask her donors to start donating to Barack Obama.
One thing I think everybody can be clear, she‘s too politically savvy not to say that.
MATTHEWS: OK. The women out in Scranton who voted for her as the hometown girl, because she grew up there in the summer, the person who sees her as her sister, regular older woman, regular person, girl next door, whatever; is she going to tell that person, in so many words, I was wrong about Barack Obama? You‘ve got the wrong idea if you thought I didn‘t think he would be president. He‘s certainly better than McCain. Will she say something that‘s positive to that person?
PETERSEN: She has to. Everybody‘s going to be reading between the lines. MSNBC tomorrow, you guys are doing full coverage and you guys are going to be detailing everything. The American public—
MATTHEWS: You bet your bottom dollar we will. We‘re doing three hours tomorrow.
PETERSEN: But the American public is quite savvy, and that woman up in Scranton, she is going to be paying attention.
MATTHEWS: I just think people who are looking for signals. Here‘s a guy with the name Barack Hussein Obama. He‘s from somewhere else. He‘s got an interesting background. He‘s black. You got to convince somebody who‘s right, to be blunt about this, the language we talk in these days, so graphic, that this guy‘s OK; he‘s one of us.
Michelle, Obama? I‘m sorry, Michelle—Michelle Bernard. That‘s not the worse mistake I‘ve ever made. I keep calling Clarence Paige Clarence Thomas, so I‘m hopeless.
MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No offense taken.
MATTHEWS: None meant.
BERNARD: Look, Chris, I think that what Hillary—what Hillary Clinton needs to and what she does tomorrow could end up being two very, very different things. We have been saying all along, when Hillary Clinton lost primary after primary and caucus after caucus, we‘ve looked for her to be gracious. We haven‘t seen it yet.
Tuesday, I was absolutely astonished. I thought that we were going to be watching Hillary Clinton give a concession speech. She didn‘t do it, and, quite frankly, I don‘t believe she‘s going to do it until the fat lady sings. I‘m talking about the convention in August. I think we will see something very similar to what we saw when she gave an interview and she said, I don‘t have reason to believe that Barack Obama is Muslim, something to that affect. I think she‘s going to give a sort of concession speech. I just don‘t see it happening.
I think she‘s going to suspend her campaign and she‘s going to wait and hope and see what happens at the convention in August. Maybe behind the scenes—
MATTHEWS: You believe she will withhold an outright endorsement?
BERNARD: I do. I do. I do.
ZUCKMAN: Chris, can we go back to this issue of graciousness? Obama was winning. He was going to win the nomination. It was clear. It was easy for him to be gracious. He needed to be gracious, because he wants her supporters to support him. She was fighting for her political life. I don‘t think she needed to be lavishing praise on Obama during those final few weeks, when he was trying to take the nomination away from him.
I think tomorrow is a different story. There‘s no reason to have this event tomorrow, unless you‘re going to do the things you need to it.
MATTHEWS: Tough. It‘s not just about niceness. As long as she withholds, if she does what Michelle Bernard said she might do tomorrow, she denies him what he needs, legitimacy, as the winner. I remember this very clearly, having written about it, that when Jack Kennedy won that very close election in 1960, he needed to go visit Nixon down in Florida to get that approval from the guy he beat.
In an odd thing about American elections, there are no referees. The loser has to say the winner won. There has to be that—people don‘t understand all this super delegates stuff. They don‘t believe the newspapers. But they‘ll believe it if Hillary says he won. He‘s the nominee. I‘m going to support him.
PETERSEN: Right, but I think what‘s more at sake is whether or not she was a candidate for president but also the Clinton legacy. If she doesn‘t support him and come fast forward in November, he loses, they‘ll blame her for a lot of it.
MATTHEWS: So, you say what he‘ll say, Michelle Bernard, is that he has won; he has done—he‘s brought the most delegates. He‘s run a great campaign. Therefore, I am suspending my campaign. But stop short of an endorsement.
BERNARD: I think she‘s going to stop short of an endorsement. I think we‘re going to see something very similar to what we saw on Tuesday night. She will also thank the people who worked hard. She will talk about uniting the Democratic party. But I think she will just stop short of endorsing him, because maybe she‘s look for a summer surprise. Maybe there many be another Reverend Wright. Maybe something else will happen that will implode his campaign and that she would be the natural person to step in as the Democratic nominee.
MATTHEWS: As Charlie Rangel said, you can‘t run for VP until you endorse the other guy for president. You can‘t do both at the same time. We‘ll be right back with the round table for the final question about tomorrow. I‘ve got one more pregame question. It‘s about the same thing we‘re talking about right now; what she has to do tomorrow to continue the legacy of the Clintons. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the politics fix. You know, we got bad economic news tonight, hugely bad. I want to go Jill, starting with, we had a five percent unemployment rate. These numbers may not mean a lot to people. It jumped up to 5.5, a 10 percent hike. We‘ve been arguing about the word recession. It looks to me like that word is going to be employed heavily now.
ZUCKMAN: I don‘t think there‘s much of an argument about recession anymore. I think everybody acknowledges it. The Republicans are basically acknowledging that we‘re in a recession and that the word doesn‘t really even matter, because if you look at the statistics, if you look at how people are feeling right now—
MATTHEWS: No money. People are out of money.
ZUCKMAN: People are very worried. They are very concerned about the future and it‘s going to have a huge impact on this campaign.
MATTHEWS: Maria Teresa, it‘s a huge backdrop. You‘ve got the war, you‘ve got gasoline prices, and now you‘ve got huge unemployment growing. It‘s not huge yet, but it‘s heading there.
PETERSEN: No, it‘s huge. I think what McCain did today, he took out two ads, one in English, talking about the war, and the other one in Spanish, all talking about—it‘s not a matter if you‘re a Republican; it doesn‘t matter if you‘re a Democrat. It all talks about wages and gas price.
What Barack has, he has an opportunity to link McCain to gas and Iraq.
I think that‘s an opportunity for him.
MATTHEWS: It seems like, Michelle, that they are going to nail him, as I said in the C block tonight, earlier in the show, to this 95 percent voting record with Bush. It may not be fair entirely. But, for some reason, 95 percent of the time this year he backed Bush on legislation.
BERNARD: This will be difficult for John McCain. We know his strength in the Republican party and with independents and moderate Democrats is really foreign policy and national security. I think there‘s a very good chance that this election is going to boil down to economic issues, pocket book issues, and given the fact that we are at the end of a second term of a George Bush presidency, it makes sense that the Obama campaign is going do everything they can to link John McCain to President Bush. It will be very difficult for McCain to break out of that mold.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s McCain trying to do that. Here‘s his break out ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The Palestinians need a state that is—
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That would have been a hell of an ad. Anyway, we know what‘s going on. John McCain knows what he has to deal with. He knows he has to play defense. I‘ve never heard of an administration or a party getting reelected in any time in modern history during a recession. It doesn‘t happen.
ZUCKMAN: That‘s right. That‘s why this is such a huge hurdle for him. One of the things Democrats are trying to do is strip away the word maverick from John McCain. They don‘t want the press saying maverick John McCain. They don‘t want McCain—
MATTHEWS: As promised, here‘s the McCain ad, out now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I was shot down over Vietnam and spent five years as a P.O.W. Some of the friends I served with never came home. I hate war and I know how terrible its costs are. I‘m running for president to keep the country I love safe.
I‘m John McCain and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Jill, for joining us. Thank you Maria Teresa Petersen, and Michelle Bernard.
Finally, it‘s a bittersweet day on HARDBALL. We‘re losing one of our best and brightest producers. Jeremy Bronson has taken a job with Comedy Central. He‘s off to Hollywood in the morning. We love Jeremy. He‘s been great. All we can say is god speed Jeremy Bronson. You will be missed. Join me tomorrow for full coverage of Hillary Clinton‘s speech.
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