Guests: Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell, Pat Buchanan, Michael Eric Dyson, Margaret Carlson, Perry Bacon, Ruben Navarrette, Robert Wexler, Debbie Wasserman Schultz
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: McCain‘s top guy says a terrorist attack would help them win. Can you get in trouble for telling the truth? You bet you can.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. Well, the columnist Michael Kinsley said it 16 years ago and no one since has said it better: A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth. In this case, the impolitic truth telling came from John McCain‘s strategist, Charlie Black, who said this about the political implications of an election eve terrorist attack. Quote, “Certainly, it would be a big advantage to him,” meaning John McCain.
As expected, Black has apologized now, and as expected, John McCain has denounced this remark, which many people believe is absolutely true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I cannot imagine why he would say it. It‘s not true. It‘s—I‘ve worked tirelessly since 9/11 to prevent another attack on the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The Democrats meanwhile are shocked, even though Hillary Clinton said the same thing last August, that a terrorist attack would help the Republicans. But how much will that kind of straight talk from the straight-talking McCain hurt his campaign?
Obama, meanwhile, who‘s trying to win over religious conservatives, got attacked by one of the usual suspects on the religious right. Evangelical leader James Dobson said this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JAMES DOBSON, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: I think he‘s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world view, his own confused theology.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Add to that the story in today‘s “New York Times” that Muslim groups, at least some of them, say they‘re being snubbed by the Obama campaign. Obviously, the candidate doesn‘t want to be seen too much with the Muslim people because a lot of people still think he is a Muslim, and that hurts him with certain groups.
And even before Obama and Hillary Clinton campaign together, which is
going to start this Friday in the felicitously named Unity, New Hampshire -
that‘s where they‘re going to begin to campaign together—Bill Clinton has finally offered some vaguely kind words about Obama. First thing he said so far about Obama that‘s positive, but he said it through his spokesman, no less. Will Bill Clinton campaign all out for Obama, or will his support be as tepid as today‘s statement?
In the “Politics Fix,” Charlie Black‘s comments aside, which candidate would Americans trust more if the United States is attacked? And in the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight, some thoughts about one of the most original comedic minds ever, although he bothered a lot of people with his language, George Carlin.
We begin with that comment from McCain‘s campaign chairman, Charlie Black. NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell with us, along with NBC News political director Chuck Todd.
You‘re smiling, Chuck, because here‘s a guy that got in trouble, Charlie Black, for saying to a reporter at “Fortune” magazine, yes, if we get hit by a terrorist attack right before the election, it‘ll probably help my guy because he‘s the tough guy on terrorism.
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: (INAUDIBLE) I‘m smiling (INAUDIBLE) I‘m disappointed because Charlie Black is one of these guys that always sort of speaks his mind, which is why we in the media like talking to him. Now I have a feeling he‘s no longer going to be speaking his mind very often and we‘re going to have a harder time getting him to talk.
But absolutely, he said—he may have even been baited into it, but look, I talked to some other folks, McCain (INAUDIBLE) like, Look, he shouldn‘t have said it. He should know better. He shouldn‘t have...
MATTHEWS: ... when confronted with an obvious question...
TODD: Well, he could have said it this way...
MATTHEWS: ... that has an obvious answer...
TODD: He could have said it this way...
MATTHEWS: ... which is, of course, it always helps the right when the country‘s threatened militarily.
TODD: But you say it easily. Say it this way. If there‘s a national security crisis that the public is focused on in the last two weeks of the election, people are going to look to John McCain for that leadership. That is—you can say it that way and I think that...
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: ... phrase as if there‘s a national security crisis, which none of us want to happen...
MITCHELL: ... which John McCain has been leading the charge against in all of his votes in Congress—I mean, you can frame it.
MATTHEWS: She made basically the same observation a long time ago, last August, that if there‘s an attack, it‘s going to help the Republicans. And she was using that as an argument for why—here she is. Let her speak, Senator Clinton, for herself. Here she was last August, almost a year ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, it‘s a horrible prospect to ask yourself, What if, what if? But if certain things happen between now and the election, particularly with respect to terrorism, that will automatically give the Republicans an advantage again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s what he said, for those who didn‘t follow this story today. Here‘s what Charlie Black told “Fortune” magazine, an excerpt from the magazine, says, quote, “‘The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December was an unfortunate event,‘ says Black, ‘but McCain‘s knowledge and ability to talk about it reemphasized that this is the guy who‘s ready to be commander-in-chief, and it helped us,‘ as would, Black concedes with startling candor after we raised the issue, another terrorist attack on the U.S. soil. ‘Certainly, it would be a big advantage to him,‘” meaning McCain.
Black really did walk into it. And why did he do it?
MITCHELL: Because he was, as...
MITCHELL: Yes, he was being honest. And clearly, from that quotation, he was asked about it. It wasn‘t that he volunteered this, and then he...
MATTHEWS: So here we are, watching politicians do what we say we want them to do, tell the truth, and then wallow in their distress.
TODD: Well, the polls back this up. I mean, there‘s this—the most recent “USA Today” Gallup poll on issues, the only issue McCain leads on...
MATTHEWS: OK, here it is...
TODD: ... is on terrorism...
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at this because this...
TODD: ... by 20 points.
MATTHEWS: This the conundrum. Here‘s where John McCain said in the -
in—on the—let‘s take a look at this new Gallup poll. It asked voters which candidate would do better in certain issues. Look at the advantage Obama has on the top issues -- 25 points on this on health care, 16 points on the American economy, which is in trouble, 19 points on energy and gasoline prices. Now, here it is, Obama/McCain tied on the question of who would handle Iraq better. Iraq is tied. It‘s so interesting. But on the issue of terrorism, look at that leap. Look at that advantage on terrorism!
But when it‘s your advantage, then you at least want to say it is your advantage, right, Chuck?
TODD: Right. You want it to be a commander-in-chief election. I mean, you know, what Black did—and he did it inadvertently. This idea that he, you know, somehow wanted to sneak in this conversation—no, he did it inadvertently. But it is reminding us of this conversation that if the election is about international issues and if the election is about a commander-in-chief question, that is a good...
MATTHEWS: If we get hit...
TODD: ... that is a good thing...
MATTHEWS: ... two days before the election...
TODD: ... for John McCain.
MATTHEWS: We‘ve had this argument...
TODD: If it is a commander-in-chief—I mean, he brought up the Bhutto assassination. That had nothing to do with anything in the United States, but it made the commander-in-chief question center.
MITCHELL: The Obama campaign, many Democrats are very concerned about a, quote, “October surprise,” about something involving Iran, done by Israel, perhaps, with a wink and a nod and an assist, in fact, a military assist from the United States quietly, overtly or not. So they are concerned about that.
And in fact, I interviewed Ed Rendell earlier today on MSNBC about who would be the right kind of vice presidential choice, and he said, Well, you need a foreign policy person for Barack Obama. They acknowledge...
MATTHEWS: He‘s pushing—he‘s pushing Biden, isn‘t he.
MITCHELL: He‘s pushing Biden, but a lot of Democrats are saying...
TODD: ... chatter we‘re hearing now is that, look, they‘re going to pick a national security guy.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s...
TODD: And it‘s going to be an obvious...
MATTHEWS: ... go back to the basic question...
TODD: ... national security guy.
MATTHEWS: ... here, so that we all let everybody know what we think, all right? Can we all say what we think? History shows, as recently as the 2004 election, that—things haven‘t changed that much—that the party that has the strongest suit when it comes to security issues benefits when there‘s stress, when there‘s a threat. We had a recording come out of the Obama headquarters—not Obama, I‘m sorry—bin Laden...
MITCHELL: I know what you mean.
MATTHEWS: Bin Laden.
MITCHELL: It was October 30.
MATTHEWS: It came out of bin Laden‘s headquarters over there in Pakistan or whatever, in the hills...
MITCHELL: Right before the election.
MATTHEWS: Right. And people believe that that did help—help Bush get reelected.
MITCHELL: In 2006 (SIC), right.
MATTHEWS: So it is in reasonable assumption by anybody that it helps the Republicans.
TODD: Well, not only that. Look, are we at war? Are we a country at war? And that is a question I think that is going to be part of this debate between Obama and McCain. It is an essential question. I think they disagree on whether we‘re at war, as a country, and I think some of their supporters disagree because McCain, I think, believes that we are at war right now, both in Iraq...
TODD: ... and in terrorism. And if the country believes—or a majority of the country believes we‘re at war, then he‘s more likely to get elected.
MATTHEWS: OK. Suppose this election gets down after the three
debates, the presidential debates, into a very close contest. I think it
might, even though the times, people want change. Barack Obama is a new
candidate, new kid on the block, people might say, We‘ll go with the more -
the person we‘re more comfortable with for whatever reason. And then it‘s a 3-point difference. And all of a sudden, the weekend before the election, there‘s an attack somewhere, whether it‘s here or it‘s Spain, wherever it is. It does help, doesn‘t it, McCain? Is that a reasonable assessment?
MITCHELL: ... depending on the context...
TODD: And it depends on who initiates, where it initiates from.
MITCHELL: Right. And if it‘s something that someone could logically infer stems from Iraq policy, a bad Iraq policy, just think of the ways in which it could not redound to McCain‘s favor.
MATTHEWS: Well, if it‘s Iraq—if it‘s al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the direct enemy we face over there in the field, McCain could say we didn‘t stop them tough enough.
MITCHELL: But you could also argue to the voters—I mean, I think that you really can‘t game this too narrowly. You could argue to the voters that if not for the foreign policy of the Bush White House, which many people attach to John McCain, that perhaps we‘d be in a different situation.
TODD: Look, don‘t...
MITCHELL: I think it‘s too soon to make these kind of judgments.
TODD: Don‘t underestimate the voter in this election. They‘re paying
more attention. We know it. We see it. We feel it just in how we interact
with viewers. But they‘re paying more attention, so I do think it is not -
it is not a guarantee that somehow, some international crisis will be an automatic for McCain.
TODD: I think what Democrats do assume is that in case something like that happens, you want to have someone with a lot of foreign policy experience on the ticket with Barack Obama. That‘s at least...
MATTHEWS: ... brutal about this...
TODD: ... why Biden...
MATTHEWS: No Democrat‘s going to say this, but the fact is if you have a very bad unemployment number that Friday before the election—which often comes, you know, the first report may—well, usually comes that Friday after the election because it‘s the first Friday.
TODD: (INAUDIBLE) quarter, right.
MATTHEWS: You get bad news, that also—that would help the Democrats, right?
MATTHEWS: That‘s a fair assessment, isn‘t it?
TODD: Absolutely. Or gas creeps up another dollar...
MATTHEWS: So bad economic news—it‘s almost up to $5 now for super.
MITCHELL: And the other part of this is that there is—if there is some interruption, some military action in the Middle East, your gas prices are going to shoot up even higher on the spot market and...
MATTHEWS: By the way, you raise that issue because you‘re the Middle East expert. You know all this foreign policy stuff. If Israel does attack, and there‘s all these rumblings because they have the concern of—they‘re right in the neighborhood there...
MATTHEWS: ... their exercise would show they have the ability to do it, apparently, to demonstrate that. How does that help either side? I‘m curious about it. Do you think that helps our foreign policy, therefore, helps the incumbents?
MITCHELL: It depends on the circumstances. But one thing is pretty clear, that they couldn‘t do it without a wink and a nod from us.
MITCHELL: In fact, the American military would probably have to take out the Iranian anti-aircraft guns in order for the Israeli jets to get in.
MATTHEWS: Well, then we get blamed, right.
MITCHELL: And we get blamed.
TODD: No matter what, we‘re going to get blamed with any...
MITCHELL: Anything that Israel does, the U.S. is going to get blamed.
TODD: Exactly. I mean, this idea that somehow we...
MATTHEWS: It‘s more likely—you know, do you think that one would hurt or help? How about an assessment here?
TODD: Whether that—look, I...
MATTHEWS: If we have a fighting war in Iran...
MITCHELL: Depends on how...
MATTHEWS: ... Iran and Israel, right before an election, does that help the militants or (INAUDIBLE)
TODD: See, I think this is what makes this so difficult to game out. I think you could easily argue this helps Obama by saying, Hey, wait a minute, we got to get these people to sit down. We got to have a little more diplomacy here. We cannot start World War III...
TODD: And then you‘re going to have some that are going to say, No, no, no, no, no, we got to have a tough guy in there for World War III.
MITCHELL: One of the concerns of some Democrats is that Obama‘s engagement, I‘m willing to sit down with people without preconditions, however you want to explain that, becomes a more difficult position...
MATTHEWS: It sounds soft-line.
MITCHELL: It sounds soft if there is—and it wouldn‘t be an all-out war. It would be military air—you know...
MATTHEWS: OK. But if you voted—if you ask the American people to vote right now, I think they would vote against a war with Iran.
TODD: Oh, I think that‘s right.
TODD: Look, even as they think Iraq‘s going better—Iraq is going better, they admit it, an they still say -- 60 percent of them still say it was a mistake from the beginning, even right now as things go well, so...
MATTHEWS: Doesn‘t surprise me.
TODD: And I think that—and I think that that‘s why any war with Iran would be seen as...
MATTHEWS: I think we‘ve already got two wars. A third war? I think the people don‘t want it. Anyway, thank you, Chuck Todd. Thank you, Andrea Mitchell.
Coming up: Double trouble for Barack Obama. He‘s got conservative Christian leader James Dobson accusing him of distorting the Bible—we‘ll get to that, that is an interesting debate—while some Muslims are saying he‘s snubbing them. And we know why, because of all those people out there that still believe he is himself a Muslim, and that is not a positive thing for some of the people who think that. Let‘s look at those twin challenges on the religious front facing Barack Obama when we come back.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Barack Obama took heat today from conservative Christian leader James Dobson. Dobson accused Obama of distorting the Bible. While some Muslim leaders, by the way, say they‘re being snubbed by Barack Obama.
Pat Buchanan is enjoying the crossfire here that‘s facing Obama. He‘s an MSNBC political analyst. And Michael Eric Dyson is an Obama supporter and a Georgetown University professor preparing notes even now for that first day of class.
MATTHEWS: Am I right?
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY, OBAMA SUPPORTER:
MATTHEWS: OK, let me talk about this, Pat. First of all, let‘s start with the Christian fight here. James Dobson—describe him, will you?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Dobson really has clout as a Christian leader. He has 1,500 radio stations, or had them. He‘s got tremendous sway with an awful lot of people. However, he doesn‘t have the controversy attendant to his name that Pat Robertson or the Reverend Jerry Falwell did. He‘s a very powerful voice in the Christian community.
And I‘ll tell you what I think he‘s doing, Chris. He has said he cannot vote for John McCain, and I think he‘s moving in another direction, in other words, to assist the conservatives by going after Barack Obama and driving his own constituency away from Barack Obama. Barack Obama sees his strength. I think he wanted to meet with Dr. Dobson.
BUCHANAN: And so Barack Obama‘s a very smart man, if he went to try to meet with Dr. Dobson.
MATTHEWS: Well, Dobson‘s obviously not going to play ball because Dobson‘s now whacking him for his interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount, apparently. They‘re disputing—this is classic Christian debate here.
MATTHEWS: There‘s a lot of Christianities out there.
DYSON: Yes, right, debating how many angels can dance on the head of the needle, as it is in the middle (ph) centuries (ph). The point is that Barack Obama has proved that he‘s willing to reach across the aisle, religiously speaking. I think that Mr. Dobson has taken offense to a speech that Mr. Obama made in 2006, where he said, Look, we have to couch our arguments in terms of universally appealing to all human beings who have moral sentiment. That is to say, it‘s not denying the legitimacy of Christianity. It happens to forge connections between Muslims and Christians and Jews and all people of faith in this country. So I don‘t think there‘s anything wrong with that. I think that Anybody who takes offense at the attempt to forge that kind of coalition when we have a nation...
MATTHEWS: What‘s the counterargument to pluralism, Pat?
BUCHANAN: Well, the counterargument is this. Ecumenism, an ecumenical spirit to bring everybody together, is a good thing. However, there are clear conflicts of right and wrong. Let‘s take the Dr. Dobson case. He took up the issue of right to life and abortion. Either one side is wrong and the other right. They both can‘t be right. And what he‘s saying is, Look, you cannot put an ecumenical spirit, bring us all together, above right and truth, especially when it comes to innocent human life.
MATTHEWS: Well, but it comes to a question of rights and the Constitution is decided by the Supreme Court.
MATTHEWS: But then how do you argue about—how do you have elections about it?
BUCHANAN: Well, this is—all right, if you want to talk about the Constitution, we know how that should be settled, I think, by constitutional amendment. But if you‘re arguing theology and right and wrong, Chris, we might disagree on, say—not only that but homosexuality and homosexual marriage. We know how it‘s decided politically. But morally, Christians divide. Some of us believe it‘s morally wrong. I don‘t care what the voters say. And that‘s what Dobson‘s point...
MATTHEWS: How do you prescribe human behavior, though? How do you stop a person from doing what you don‘t think they should be doing?
BUCHANAN: Well, as you know...
MATTHEWS: Do you put them in prison?
MATTHEWS: ... not a definition of a good Christian, someone who will put someone in prison for having an abortion?
TODD: As you know, Chris...
MATTHEWS: Is that a—is that a definition of a good Christian, by your standards?
BUCHANAN: Well, here‘s the thing. To quote Thomas Aquinas, Not everything that is immoral should be illegal, OK?
MATTHEWS: Well, but...
BUCHANAN: However, it‘s a good question. You‘ve got...
DYSON: Let me jump in...
BUCHANAN: What should happen in the case of an abortion? I believe innocent life ought to be protected, and I do agree with the laws that existed in the 1960s. I believe they were overturned unconstitutionally.
DYSON: Well, as usual, the African-American perspective on religion, which has been obscured not only here in America but across the world, has also been turned to. Martin Luther King, Jr., wanted to use his Christian faith to make this a more just nation. He spoke to people who disagreed with him, white Christians who believed in killing people, who believed in murdering black people because they differed with them not theologically. They had the same religious beliefs but they had separate beliefs about our morality.
So, black people could never rest ultimate authority in white Christians, how have proved to be willing to forego their religious beliefs in deference to their prejudices.
MATTHEWS: He didn‘t say it was OK to kill people.
DYSON: No, no, no, but—well, but the Ku Klux—no, the Ku Klux Klan did.
DYSON: I‘m saying the Ku Klux Klan is.
All I‘m suggest to you is that black people who are Christians believe that we should reach across orders to everybody...
DYSON: ... because we don‘t believe in ultimately sanctifying one particular religious tradition, even though we are participating in that tradition.
And to make the litmus test for whether Barack Obama is a Christian whether or not—whether he comes down on abortion rights or gay rights misses the whole spectrum of moral and ethical concerns...
MATTHEWS: But you would argue that during the fight for abolition that those people who took the contrary position were not being Christian, wouldn‘t you?
DYSON: Well, they took what position? They said...
MATTHEWS: That they supported slavery.
DYSON: No, no, no, they said—no, Christians said the slavery was good. Many Christians argued that. And many other Christians argued it wasn‘t.
DYSON: I‘m saying to you—when two sets of Christians were fighting, when white Christians were trying to lynch black Christians, it wasn‘t the church that stepped in. It was the state. LBJ,JFK were just as important as people appealing to Jesus at that point.
MATTHEWS: I would say that he was playing that role in terms of the right-to-life movement.
MATTHEWS: He would say that he was intervening.
BUCHANAN: Your slavery argument, Chris, it‘s a very good one.
Let me talk for a second. Your slavery argument is very a good one. There‘s no doubt it was condoned and accepted by Christians all the way up until—up until the 19th century.
And the point is, was it intrinsically evil? I believe it was intrinsically evil. But it was something that Christians did accept. And there was a tremendous argument there. And it was one in which we couldn‘t say, well, look, you believe in slavery. We don‘t. If you want to practice it.
It was something that had to be stopped, Christians believed. And they did.
MATTHEWS: And they found it in the Bible, too.
MATTHEWS: They found biblical reference to slavery.
BUCHANAN: Sure. There was—Christ talks about servants. Who do you think he‘s talking about?
DYSON: No, he said, slaves, obey your masters. And black people said, no, we‘re not going to do that. So, I‘m saying to you, the ultimate adjudicator or force here is not simply biblical literalism, against which Mr. Obama rails. He‘s for creating ecumenism.
MATTHEWS: I think, 1,000 years from now, we will be arguing this. I think we will be arguing 1,000 years what Christianity means to popular—to secular government.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. Is Barack Obama being put into a catch-22 here by being told that article in “The New York Times” today suggesting he‘s doing something wrong by not showing up in mosques?
If he gets his picture taken in a mosque, will that add to the belief by some of his critics, who don‘t like what they believe to be his religious background, that he‘s a Muslim?
DYSON: Of course.
MATTHEWS: Will he walk into the trap?
DYSON: But here‘s the point. The problem is not Barack Obama‘s. The prejudice is against Muslim brothers and sisters in this country. And, therefore, the smearing of them and Barack Obama by suggesting that, somehow, for the average American out there, if Barack Obama were found out to be a Muslim, which he is not, and he is a Christian, that, somehow, he would be—have untoward beliefs and that his American beliefs would be undercut.
MATTHEWS: Well, 10 percent of the people, according to the Pew Research poll, believe he is. I have seen higher numbers believe he is.
DYSON: Right. But I‘m saying the radical right wing has manipulated this to the advantage of them and not being honest about Barack Obama‘s religious beliefs.
BUCHANAN: Let me speak to the radical right wing here.
MATTHEWS: You‘re starting to smile here, Pat.
MATTHEWS: You know they‘re trapping him. Do you want to trap him into a mosque, where he can get his picture taken?
BUCHANAN: I don‘t want to trap him into a mosque.
What he is doing is, he‘s treating Muslim people very shabbily.
DYSON: Oh, my gosh.
BUCHANAN: He‘s driving...
BUCHANAN: He doesn‘t want to be associated with them. The reason he is because...
BUCHANAN: Let me talk.
DYSON: Because of people who share your side of the aisle.
DYSON: Because people have made it such an offensive thing to be a Muslim...
BUCHANAN: Let the students talk, professor.
BUCHANAN: Look, the point is, he‘s treating them shabbily, because, in a way, he‘s got to, because if he‘s seen be with Muslims, it will reinforce the impression that he‘s a Muslim.
And with a lot of Americans, that‘s fatal. So, they are treating these people, frankly, the same way a lot of liberal folks treated African-Americans. They would say, look, don‘t show up at the rallies. We will try to help you out. We have got to win this first.
BUCHANAN: That‘s what is taking place.
DYSON: He‘s responding to the rabid anti-Muslim feeling that is in this country since 9/11 and the knee-jerk reactionaryism quite frankly that has been perpetuated...
MATTHEWS: What would you do if you were his campaign manager?
DYSON: Well, I would say this. You embrace all human beings. You are for the whole human race.
MATTHEWS: Would you have your picture taken in a mosque?
DYSON: Well, he‘s going to have his picture taken. He‘s had his picture taken in a mosque.
DYSON: He‘s trying to now repudiate the nasty smear campaign that‘s going on.
MATTHEWS: My exhibit A is, he goes to East Africa. And, God, Prince Charles could have gone to East Africa and got his picture in these costumes.
MATTHEWS: He gets his pictures taken in a local costume over there, and it‘s used to demonstrate he‘s some sort of Third Worlder or something.
MATTHEWS: I know what the game is.
DYSON: Right. Right. Let‘s be honest about that.
BUCHANAN: But he‘s caving—he‘s caving into the game and he‘s treating people very badly, when you take two women with scarves and say, get out from behind the podium.
DYSON: He apologized...
MATTHEWS: It‘s a tightly wrapped he‘s running on.
BUCHANAN: You talk to that Muslim congressman. Let him talk, congressman...
DYSON: Wait. Ellison of Minnesota certainly would understand.
Here‘s my point.
BUCHANAN: Understand. He doesn‘t understand. Read “The New York Times.”
DYSON: I‘m telling you, there‘s anti-religious bigotry in sentiment that Barack Obama did not create. And now that we have put the...
BUCHANAN: He‘s responding to it.
DYSON: ... vacuum into which he responds, we pretend that we didn‘t create the situation against which he must respond.
MATTHEWS: For the caliphate, Pat J. Buchanan, who taking an unusual position once again.
MATTHEWS: But I always am mystified at your ability. You are a
Whirling Dervish when it comes to taking positions around here. Professor
MATTHEWS: Pat Buchanan, Michael Eric Dyson, professor at Georgetown.
Up next: Barack Obama shows the world what he‘s got in his pockets—you have got to catch this display—while John McCain explains what happened to his head. The “Sideshow” is coming up next, the best part of the show.
There he is.
You‘re watching HARDBALL. And you‘re watching the bandages, I guess, or whatever.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Time now for the HARDBALL “Sideshow.”
First up, tonight, a tribute. Every night in this part of the show, we look at what people are talking about and how they‘re saying it. George Carlin loved to watch politics. And he loved words. Sadly, he passed away Monday at the age of 71.
But here‘s George Carlin on HARDBALL back in 2004 talking about his latest book.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE CARLIN, COMEDIAN: And I want you to see page 77, because it‘s a three-part thing called politician talk. And it is an exercise that‘s written in a descriptive kind of narrative way, using all that Washington language. I indicated to the president. He suggested to me that, as I pointed out—all that lawyer talk.
It was a lot of fun writing. And it‘s very precise. I think you would enjoy it. It‘s page 77.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Carlin worked in the tradition of Lenny Bruce, trying to say things society says you‘re not supposed to say in order to get people to see a truth that society would prefer to hide.
As my friend George put it, I think it‘s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn, and cross it deliberately. Well, we will miss his nerve and we‘re going to miss his heart—George Carlin.
Back to the campaign trail.
Monday in Albuquerque, Senator Obama played show and tell. Check this out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These, I usually don‘t show these in these town hall meetings.
But I carry around all these—I have all these things that people give me. This is like a—all these different little good luck charms that I get handed, you know, from—a Native American woman gave me this eagle. And this person gave me a lucky poker chip.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, one thing he doesn‘t have in his pocket, he better never forget. It‘s those 270 electoral votes he needs to win the election.
Speaking of personal matters, what is going on with those Band-Aids on John McCain‘s head? Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: I‘m sorry to ask sort of a personal question, but I noticed a bandage on your head. Is there any way you can...
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was getting out of the car—out of the car in Canada, and I hit the roof of it a teeny bit. And it was—the car was much smaller than the one I‘m usually being ferried around in by our beloved Secret Service.
QUESTION: OK. Thank you. Just, we‘re checking on the skin cancer thing.
MCCAIN: Oh, no. It was a brush with a low-hanging door.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I guess that‘s why the police always hold the head of the guy they‘re putting into the car. Even grownups sometimes go boom.
Now it‘s time to “Name That Veep.”
This potential Republican running mate comes from a big state. And he has big approval ratings. In recent days, he changed his mind to agree where John McCain about offshore drilling. He‘s also flexing his conservationist muscle by pushing his state to buy and preserve 187,000 acres of wilderness. And, by the way, he‘s also getting tough on Cuba, enacting new penalties for companies that arrange travel to that country.
So, who‘s this guy? The man with the tan and the fan, Florida Governor Charlie Crist.
And, finally, tonight, the HARDBALL “Big Number.” It‘s a funny one.
Hillary Clinton officially dropped out of the presidential fight on June 7. Even after all this time, Democrats are giddy about her joining Barack Obama. This coming Friday, they will campaign in a New Hampshire town called Unity, you know, like, I believe in a place called Hope?
So, what about that other Clinton? What about Bill Clinton? He had a lot to say during the campaign. But, for weeks, we haven‘t heard a peep from him.
Well, today, President Clinton ended his fast of words, you might say, sort of—quote—“President Clinton is obviously committed to doing whatever he can and is asked to do to ensure Senator Obama is the next president of the United States.” That‘s a statement from President Clinton‘s spokesman, Matt McKenna, not the president, himself, his spokesman.
So, how many days passed between Senator Clinton‘s official departure from the race and today‘s statement by her husband‘s spokesman? Seventeen days, Bill Clinton has waited to have even his spokesman say something positive about Barack Obama being the next president.
Well, 17 days between Senator Clinton‘s exit and President Clinton‘s blessing through his spokesman -- 17 days.
When we return, we‘re going to talk about Bill Clinton and how much Barack Obama would want the former president campaigning for him. Would Bill be a boon or a bust for Obama?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I am Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks closing lower ahead of tomorrow‘s decision by the Federal Reserve on interest rates. Policy-makers are expected to hold current rates steady. The Dow Jones industrial average, while it had a volatile trading session, it‘s managed to just end the day 35 points lower. The S&P 500 lost more than three, the Nasdaq down by 17-and-a-half points.
A widely watched index shows that home prices in the top 20 metropolitan areas plunged a record 15 percent in the month of April. That‘s compared to a year ago, same time. Prices are now back where they were in August of 2004.
Oil prices edged higher, rising 26 cents in New York‘s trading session, closing at $137 a barrel.
And Yahoo! shares retreated after CNBC‘s Jim Goldman knocked down a report that Microsoft is back in talks to buy the company. Still, Yahoo! shares gained more than 2 percent, while Microsoft shares closed down just fractionally.
And consumer confidence tumbled this month to its lowest level in more than 16 years.
That‘s it from CNBC, America‘s business channel—now back to Chris and HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Barack Obama and his former rival Hillary Clinton will make
their first joint campaign appearance Friday—that‘s three days from now
in Unity, New Hampshire. Isn‘t that a great town? It‘s called Unity.
But Bill Clinton will be a no-show. The former president‘s spokesman did, however, issue a statement that read—catch this language—
“President Clinton is obviously committed to doing whatever he can and is asked to do to ensure Senator Obama is the next president of the United States.”
You always wonder who writes these things, not a person, really.
Does Bill Clinton really want to campaign for Obama? And does Obama really want Bill Clinton out there campaigning with him?
Florida U.S. congressman Robert Wexler is an Obama supporter. He has also written a new book called “Fire-Breathing Liberal.”
REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), FLORIDA: You don‘t look like a fire-breathing liberal.
Anyway, and another—I don‘t know if this other person is a fire-breathing liberal or not, the Florida Congresswoman, U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
How would you describe yourself if you had a book?
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: I‘m right up there with
fire-breathing liberal Robert Wexler, no question
MATTHEWS: I like this...
REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), FLORIDA: We should have done it together, now that I hear that.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I know.
MATTHEWS: Wexler, you‘re easy to cast on this show.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I‘m going to have to come up with my own cool book title.
MATTHEWS: Get me a liberal!
MATTHEWS: You know, not one of these vague people.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Bill Clinton, because Bill Clinton, I thought, was the greatest politician of our times, I mean the greatest. After Mrs. King‘s funeral, when she—when he went there and said there‘s a woman in there, and he beat out the black minister, because he was more in touch with the situation than anybody was, I said, nobody can do it like he can do it.
Congresswoman, has he still got it as a politician?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Oh, absolutely.
I mean, I think Bill Clinton could campaign anywhere in this country and he would be warmly and widely received. And I think he‘s going to do exactly that.
And, you know, Chris, you kind of just alluded to—to President Clinton‘s statement as if it was, you know, not enough or not meaningful.
MATTHEWS: Yes. It seemed a little vague. It seemed like it was written by a staffer without heart.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, my God, what else do you want him to say? He‘s willing to campaign anywhere—anywhere that he‘s asked, and he‘s wholeheartedly supporting Senator—Senator Obama, the campaign for president.
MATTHEWS: Well, it doesn‘t sound like he‘s randy to help the guy, does it?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I mean, he does—he‘s been out on the campaign trail for over a year with Senator Clinton.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And he‘s got a foundation and other things to do.
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, you...
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: So, whenever they ask him, I‘m sure he‘s going to step up.
MATTHEWS: Well, you two people are better informed than I am. I will say that, as a gesture of kindness and generosity.
MATTHEWS: But we all know that Bill Clinton is ripped at Barack Obama, because he holds him responsible, it is said in the caverns of this city in politics, that he suggested he was a racist by the way he identified Barack Obama with Jesse Jackson, sort of belittling him as a marginal candidate. We know all this. So Bill Clinton‘s silence doesn‘t betoken silence. It betokens silence.
WEXLER: There is nobody more persuasive than Bill Clinton. I actually talk about it in my book, “Fire-Breathing Liberal,” about how persuasive Bill Clinton can be. Give Senator Clinton and Senator Obama a chance. They‘re having their unity event on Friday in Unity, New Hampshire. Let Senator Clinton and Senator Obama together bring the party together, as they already have. Senator Clinton has been brilliant in doing so. And I think you will find a very smooth transition to President Clinton then weighing in in a very positive way.
MATTHEWS: I‘m hearing, Congresswoman, about a conflict, a real friction going on over the issue of money. A lot of marriages break up over money. Here we have a campaign, it seems to have a hard time coming together with another campaign over money. Hillary Clinton apparently wants help in paying off her huge campaign debt, which she rolled up near the end, mainly. The Barack figure, I hear, that if she quit a couple weeks before, she could have dealt that. She could have gotten some credit for quitting early.
But since she dragged the thing out to the very end and then some, they figure why should they pay for her long good-bye? That‘s the way they look at it.
SCHULTZ: I‘m hearing different things than you are.
MATTHEWS: Are you hearing that the Barack people are happy to pay Hillary Clinton‘s—for her long good-bye in the campaign.
SCHULTZ: I think they want to make sure Senator Clinton is financially in a strong enough position to be able to get out there and travel the country for him and be the strongest advocate she can possibly be. Obviously, with the need to retire her debt, and his ability to help her do that, they‘re going to work together to help raise money for Barack Obama‘s campaign for president and also retire Senator Clinton‘s debt.
But the focus here is going to be on electing Barack Obama president.
The rifts that you‘re talking about I really haven‘t heard.
MATTHEWS: Will Bill Clinton help? Where will he help?
WEXLER: I think he will help enormously. I think he‘ll help in our home state of Florida.
MATTHEWS: Where would you put him?
WEXLER: I would put him in south Florida. I‘d love him to be in my district. I couldn‘t think of a better person to come, other than Barack Obama. I think he would be terrific in central Florida. He clearly—I think he‘d be very helpful in North Carolina. I think he would be helpful in states like Missouri. He certainly would be helpful in Arkansas. He would be helpful in Nevada. He would be helpful in Pennsylvania—in Nevada. He would be helpful in Pennsylvania, Ohio. President Clinton—
WEXLER: President Clinton is a phenomenal spokesperson.
MATTHEWS: I agree. I agree. He had a bad couple months. But he‘s back, right.
WEXLER: He is back.
MATTHEWS: OK, there‘s one theory—we‘ll talk about it in the next segment—that Barack Obama may be the guy to bring him back like Lazarus, because he may give him another shot this year to prove he‘s the greatest politician of our time. I always thought he was. I think he‘s had a bad season. He‘s had a slump, as we say in baseball.
Anyway, Congressman Robert Wexler, author of “Fire-Breathing Liberal”
I know a lot of fire-breathing liberals watch this show. There it is, what a great guy. You‘re clear. You‘re a clarion call, a certain trumpet. Thank you, sir, for coming on. Congresswoman Schultz, we‘ll help you. We‘ll get you a ghost. We‘ll get that done. You can have a book like that too.
SCHULTZ: I need a few more years in Congress.
MATTHEWS: Up next, McCain aide Charlie Black says John McCain would benefit politically from a terror attack on U.S. soil right before the election. Is he saying the truth? Is the truth OK to say? Or is it impolitic? Or is there a different between factual truth and political incorrectness? We‘ll get back with that when the politics fix comes up.
We want to know, by the way, what you think about the Democratic race for president? Will Barack Obama choose Hillary Clinton to be his running mate? Vote in our MSNBC text survey using your cell phone. Text number one for yes, number two for no, to the number on your screen, 622-639. Standard text messaging rates apply. We‘ll give you the results tomorrow. Do you think Barack should pick Hillary as his running mate? Should? Or no, the question is, will he do? Will he pick her? This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the politics fix. Let‘s bring in the round table, Bloomberg‘s Margaret Carlson, the “Washington Post‘s” Perry Bacon and the “San Diego Union Tribune‘s” Rubin Navarrette.
Let me ask you, Ruben—you start. Hillary Clinton—well, first of all, let‘s let Hillary Clinton start. Here she was last August saying something that sounds remarkably prophetic of what the top man in the McCain campaign said that got him in so much trouble, Charlie Black.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: You know, it‘s a horrible prospect to ask yourself what if, what if? But if certain things happen between now and the election, particularly with respect to terrorism, that will automatically give the Republicans an advantage, again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That is exactly, plus perfect, what Charlie Black said the other day, and everybody‘s jumping up and down about it. If Hillary can say it, why can‘t Charlie Black, Ruben?
RUBEN NAVARRETTE, “SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE”: Well, I think he‘s correct. Obviously, when you look at the polls, terrorism is still a strong suit for the Republicans, particularly for John McCain against Barack Obama. But Charlie Black should not have said it, not because it sounds ghoulish, but because it sounds desperate, as if somehow that‘s your last, best hope to help resurrect John McCain‘s presidential campaign.
I don‘t think he should have said it. It‘s no wonder John McCain distanced himself from the comments immediately.
MATTHEWS: I go back to my question; Hillary Clinton said it last August. We can play that again and again. We‘re not going to do it. She said what Charlie Black said, which is if we‘re attacked right before the election, it helps the Republicans.
MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG”: It‘s not to her advantage. It‘s not as if she‘s saying something—
MATTHEWS: It‘s like you can tell ethnic jokes about your own crowd, but not somebody else‘s. I get you.
CARLSON: Also, Democrats often find themselves rooting for the economy to get bad, in that that‘s their strong suit. Remember last time it said, if the economy, if the GDP—
MATTHEWS: Would anybody on the Democratic side, would one of the top people, would David Wexler come out and say, if we have the unemployment rate spike up to seven percent the Friday before the election, that will help us?
CARLSON: They wouldn‘t quite say it that way, no. But they do say that about the economy. The other thing is when somebody now says something, it‘s totally the perception, completely obvious, the grievance police are out there on top of them. It goes on for a good 24 hours. Then we‘ll forget about it.
MATTHEWS: Perry Bacon of the “Washington Post,” which keeps score on a lot of these things, is there such a thing that‘s factually correct but politically not?
PERRY BACON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Yes, “Slate Magazine” used to write about the honest gaffe often. Remember when Hillary Clinton a few months ago said that white voters were voting for her more than—more than Obama? It was, again, something that was probably true. It was something we were saying on TV. It probably wasn‘t the right thing for her to say. I think Charlie Black was probably in the same spot here.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at these numbers and why it may be a faux pas. Take a look at this Ruben, “USA Today”/Gallup poll; McCain would do a better job on terrorism, 19-point advantage. Look at that, he‘s down on everything else, tied on the war in Iraq, which is interesting itself, 19 points ahead on terrorism. Is there a special problem, Margaret says, in underling your own advantage. It‘s one thing for Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, to say, sure the Democrats benefit from an attack. But a Republican campaign chairman can‘t do that.
NAVARRETTE: Chris, I think it is a real difference here. I go back to the Vietnam experience. John McCain, as you recall, told John Kerry, listen, don‘t bring up the fact that you‘re a Vietnam veteran. People know that. Let other people bring it up. Same thing here, people know that John McCain‘s better on terrorism, that people view the Republican party as better on terrorism. Don‘t bring it up. It only cheapens that message. I think that‘s what happened here.
CARLSON: It looks like there‘s a little bit of rooting for it to happen. You‘re 19 points up in one thing? OK. Are you rooting for that one thing to happen so you get the advantage of it? That‘s the ghoulish part.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s start with Perry Bacon, objective reporter, no column, no attitude, no opinion. Sir, objective assessment, if we‘re hit by any attack by a terrorist near election time, which party benefits? Objective assessment, sir, as a reporter.
MATTHEWS: You hate to discuss this, but yes, one assumes—you remember in ‘04 when the bin Laden tape came out. The Kerry staff all thought that hurt them a few days before the election. I think it‘s similar to some extent, particularly John McCain over Barack Obama. Probably that‘s an advantage on that.
MATTHEWS: I tricked you. You‘re the only one I ask to do that. You are the only one who will have to register an opinion. You happen to be correct objectively. We‘ll be right back with the round table, with more of the politics fix. We‘re out of time this segment. We‘ll be back to talk about the Clintons and Obama, again, the question of Bill Clinton‘s role. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the round table for more of the politics fix. Again, the question—by the way, to get the quote directly, this is from a spokesman for the Clinton Foundation on the question whether President Clinton will help Barack Obama win the presidential election this year: “President Clinton is obviously committed to doing whatever he can, and is asked to do, to ensure Senator Obama‘s the next president of the United States.” Margaret Carlson?
CARLSON: It says everything. If there‘s anything you need, do not hesitate to call. It‘s such a kiss off. Matt McKinnon (ph) is such a generous guy. This is such a --
MATTHEWS: You think this was dictated from the boss, keep it pinched?
Perry, you look positive on this subject. Are we overestimating the underestimated tone of this?
BACON: I‘m not sure. I guess we‘ll find out. I‘m genuinely not sure what to make of this one statement.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you a question almost out of Sir Thomas Moore about the meaning of silence. Does Bill Clinton‘s silence these last 17 days betoken support for Barack Obama or tight disapproval?
BACON: I suspect it shows—it shows support, but sort of like, reluctant support because my wife just lost. I‘m sure at some point in this campaign we‘ll see him speaking on behalf of Barack Obama. Maybe not Friday, but I‘m pretty sure we‘ll see him at some point speaking on behalf of Barack Obama, if only because I think it will help him as well.
MATTHEWS: Maybe if they pay him back that 12 million, he‘ll be speaking in tongues for all I know. It seems to me, Ruben, that maybe the guy‘s waiting for the money. He‘s waiting for the 30 plus million dollar debt to be paid off, including the 12 million owed to his account. Maybe if Barack pays ball on that account, pays the piper, Bill is going to get a new excitement about his potential here. What do you think, Ruben?
NAVARRETTE: I hear what you hear. I hear a tepid response, a statement from a spokesperson issued from the Clinton Foundation, written in the equivalent of the passive voice. This is like the political equivalent of the passive voice. It really doesn‘t say anything. I think that he—I think he, Bill Clinton, is a sore loser, sorry to say. I think he proved that. His worst days during the campaign, you‘ll see, were after Hillary Clinton had lost certain primaries. I don‘t think he‘s forgiven Barack Obama. He doesn‘t much like the fact that Barack Obama is the party nominee. There‘s no way to sugar coat that. I think that‘s what the statement really says.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he‘s mad at Barack Obama, who is now sort of the hero of the world, who he was once?
NAVARRETTE: I think you have one natural politician, Bill Clinton, in awe of another natural politician, Barack Obama, who neither needs Bill Clinton or wants him. I think that‘s the significance. Hillary Clinton does everything that Bill Clinton would normally do for Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton is the new star of that family.
MATTHEWS: The irony here, Perry, is that if Bill Clinton had said to Hillary Clinton—I‘m just suggesting the nature of the relationship as a former president, not as a husband but as a former president. If he had argued to Hillary Clinton, your best bet here is to vote against that war authorization of Iraq back in 2002, she would be the nominee. Do you think he knows that, that he gave her the wrong advice in all probability?
BACON: He might know that, but that‘s such a hard thing to say, looking back. I mean, John Kerry, John Edwards—you could have a list of people who wish they had cast the vote differently. I‘m not sure that the president would have—I‘m told he didn‘t buy it at the time. I‘m surprised to think—it‘s hard to look back on that vote. Every Democrat who was running for president voted for that war, essentially.
CARLSON: We don‘t really know that would have made the difference, that she would be the nominee.
MATTHEWS: No, let me make a statement here. If she had opposed the war, she would be in position to be the change candidate. But since she supported the war by her vote, she was unable to do what had to be done, offer herself as the true change candidate. I think that was the issue. You know what—go ahead, Perry.
BACON: Chris, it‘s hard to—running against Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton would never have been the change candidate. They were in the White House for eight years. It‘s hard to say that one vote—
MATTHEWS: Fair enough, I guess. I disagree. Margaret Carlson, Perry Bacon, Ruben Navarrette, thank you all for joining us.
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