'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Friday, July 24, 2009

Guests: Chris Matthews, Rebecca Jarvis, Dominic Carter, Ron Brownstein. Rev. Eugene Rivers, Charles Blow, Michelle Bernard, Michael Smerconish, Bob Tyrrell

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Can‘t we all just get along?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight: Let the peace-making begin.  From the moment President Obama said at his news conference that the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police acted “stupidly” in arresting Henry Louis Gates, he guaranteed that the story, both the arrest and his comment, would become larger than life, and it has.  In fact, it has trumped everything, including health care, which is what Mr. Obama wanted to make news about this week.

So this afternoon, the president made a rare appearance in the White House briefing room, and though he never said the words “I‘m sorry,” that was clearly the message.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  In my choice of words, I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department, or Sergeant Crowley specifically, and I could have calibrated those words differently.


MATTHEWS:  Well, the president says he still believes that Sergeant Crowley overreacted, but he also believes that Dr. Gates overreacted, as well.  The president seemed open to having a beer at the White House with both the sergeant and the professor.  We‘ll have much more on the president‘s latest comments in a minute.

For his part, Sergeant Crowley says he does not want people to see him as a monster or a bigot, that Gates gave no choice to him but to arrest him.  That‘s what he says, the sergeant.  Gates says the incident was a battle of the wills on his part, and he sensed a series of unspoken slights—“unspoken slights,” the words of the professor—he saw them in the way that Crowley treated him that evening.

Also, we‘ll button up this week‘s debate involving the wingnuts who insist President Obama is not an American—I don‘t know about that story, but it is something—and the dozen elected members of the U.S.  Congress who are pushing this damn story, not to mention the on-air—on-air agents provocateur who love pushing the nativist buttons every night and every afternoon.  The editor, by the way, of the conservative “American Standard” (SIC) magazine says these so-called “birthers” should take a road trip back to reality.  My friend, the legendary R.  Emmett Tyrrell, joins us to chat about that and what he‘s been saying in his magazine.

Plus, if you think the birthers are the only ones crying conspiracy, wait until you hear what some people now think the government is hiding about the UFOs.

And Sarah Palin‘s last day in office comes this Sunday.  I have a suspicion we‘re going to hear a lot more from her once she‘s flying down here among the lower 48.  That‘s in the “Politics Fix” tonight, where it belongs.

We begin with President Obama, our president, heading back in front of the press people to continue the conversation the whole country is involved in about the arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates.  Dominic Carter is a senior political reporter for New York 1 and Ron Brownstein is the political director for Atlantic Media.

Gentlemen, let‘s listen to the president.  He‘s the most important person in the country, especially on this issue.  Here he is today and what he said about his choice of words.


OBAMA:  I want to make clear that in my choice of words, I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically, and I could have calibrated those words differently.  And I told this to Sergeant Crowley.  I continue to believe, based on what I have heard, that there was an overreaction in pulling Professor Gates out of his home to the station.  I also continue to believe, based on what I heard, that Professor Gates probably overreacted, as well.


MATTHEWS:  You know, the amazing thing, Dominic, is how quickly you can turn a “him,” a stranger, into a guy you just talked to on the telephone.  And that‘s what the president did with Sergeant Crowley.  What do you make of the way he handled this latest development that he was at the head of this afternoon, sir?

DOMINIC CARTER, NY1:  Well, Chris, today was a well-scripted moment out of the White House, out of the president, as compared to the other day, when the fact of the matter is, you can agree or disagree, but the president was speaking from the heart.

What‘s interesting about the situation—Mr. Obama, the president is someone who has transcended race.  We saw that, Chris, during this campaign, and yet this is the most racial moment we have had from this president.  He‘s African-American—and I just want to say this Chris up front, a strong supporter of law enforcement I am, but you have to understand, I venture to say that about 98 percent of African-Americans in our country have had some type of situation or they know someone where they feel that individual has been treated unfairly by the police.

And so I think we‘re looking at someone—a rare occasion where the leader of the free world was speaking candidly from the heart.

MATTHEWS:  I was listening to the radio today.  I think it was CNN. 

I‘m not sure which nation—which station I was listening to...

RON BROWNSTEIN, ATLANTIC MEDIA:  Sometimes you‘re not sure what nation you‘re listening to when...


MATTHEWS:  ... pretty intelligent comment.  Somebody said, Suppose instead of (INAUDIBLE) professor—listen to this, Dominic.  Suppose it was, instead of Professor Gates, it was Professor Henry Kissinger, a white guy, who was in his house and he was accosted by a black police sergeant, and that police sergeant came into his house and started having words with him and then arrested him.  What would be the reaction to white America, with every—all this talk about chip on your shoulder and all this kind of attitudinal study going on here by the country?

I just thought—I thought that was a shockingly brilliant way to set it up as a different perspective.  I might say, be honest about it, this cop‘s got an attitude.  What the hell is he arresting the great Henry Kissinger for...


MATTHEWS:  ... because he showed some words of anger when he was addressed—accosted in his house by a police officer?

BROWNSTEIN:  Chris, but don‘t you think it is a completely separate issue whether the president, regardless of the circumstance, should be commenting on a specific local case?  There‘s no doubt that President Obama has been interested and concerned and engaged in the broad subject that Dominic talked about throughout his career.  He sponsored legislation on racial profiling in Illinois.

I thought where he was off-key and a little off his usual precision was on being so specific and commenting on this individual case.  A, as he said today, he didn‘t necessarily have all the facts.  But B, even if he did, is it really appropriate for the president of the United States to be offering that detailed of an opinion about...


BROWNSTEIN:  ... an individual law enforcement decision, as opposed to saying...

MATTHEWS:  I agree with you.

BROWNSTEIN:  ... as opposed to saying, There is a broader issue here that we need to discuss as a society, which is where he came back to today?  And I think it was more in tune with the way—the kind of the care with which he‘s handled racial issues...

MATTHEWS:  Well, don‘t you occasionally, Ron, regardless of the

racial—in this city, especially, don‘t you ever want to sort of dust

somebody up and say, Is there a person inside there?  Does everybody

have to talk like a slot?  Well, here‘s the president today.  We‘re all

slots.  His slot‘s president.  But at some point, it‘d be nice to know -

on a touchy moment when he was a little tired, maybe a little edgy, you find out who he is.  It‘s not a bad thing to know once in a while, even if he didn‘t—I‘d rather he made a mistake occasionally so we could find out who he was.

Here he is tonight—again today, talking about how he wants to weigh in on this thing.


OBAMA:  I have to tell you that that thing—that part of it I disagree with.  The fact that this has become such a big issue I think is indicative of the fact that, you know, race is still a troubling aspect of our society.  Whether I were black or white, I think that me commenting on this, and hopefully, contributing to constructive, as opposed to negative, understandings about the issue is part of my portfolio.


MATTHEWS:  Dominic, I can‘t think of a parallel—we always like to find parallels about somebody else being president and having to talk for their group, the group they came from within our country, their community, in a way that he has to do this.  I think it is a challenge for him to be both a black man in America and president and he has to find out a way to do it.  He‘s taking time to figure that out, when he‘s tired at night, when he‘s not tired, when he‘s thinking with his staff, when he‘s thinking on his feet.  It all has to come together into some general notion of who he is.  It‘s going to take time.  What do you think?

CARTER:  It is going to take time, Chris, and that‘s something that this president, unlike any other president before him, is going to have to deal with.  He is the president, the leader of the free world, but the fact of the matter is, he‘s the first African-American president.  And this guy is walking a fine line with almost every word that comes out of his mouth.

But again, you know, the point that Ron made—and I do have to agree, he does have a history of dealing with these issues in terms of his past as a state senator.  Now, the police unions, you know, they‘re upset, and one can understand their point of view.

But Chris—and I know you‘ve been talking about this, but just think about this for a second and as it relates to race relations in our great country.  A professor from Harvard University, a man who walks with a cane, in his mid-20s, (SIC) in his own home, who identifies himself.  So then what can happen to the 16-year-old kid with his hat to the side and jeans perhaps hanging off his backside that hasn‘t done anything wrong?

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re an evocative speaker, sir.  What do you think, Ron?

BROWNSTEIN:  I want to disagree with you.  I think he has figured out from the beginning how to talk to America as the first black president, as a candidate.  And the strategy has been, from his very emergence in 2004, to make very clear that his goal is to be the president of all America, without in any way denying his heritage or without in any way failing to bring that experience to the national stage, but always trying to integrate that in the broadest sense into an identity that encompasses all Americans.

And I thought what was a little unusual about this comment was it seemed to kind of slip off of that.  And where he was today, I think, took him back to where he has been most successful.

MATTHEWS:  Why he had to call the cop...

BROWNSTEIN:  Yes.  He‘s talking about...

MATTHEWS:  Because you have to feel that your president—I mean, this is ideal—that no matter who you are as an American, if you could sit down with the president of the United States, he would be sympathetic to your situation.  That‘s an ideal.

BROWNSTEIN:  Right, and I think—I think—I think—and the analogy—the kind of reverse analogy of Henry Kissinger—I would kind of find the reverse analogy to be if there was a case of police discrimination and he absolved—as the president, you know, spoke and said, Well, I think they acted appropriately.  When Rudy Giuliani did things like that in New York, people were outraged in the minority—it just—it just really isn‘t...


BROWNSTEIN:  ... the role of the leader, I think, of the free world...

MATTHEWS:  To be the arbitrator.

BROWNSTEIN:  ... to be the arbitrator on the specific case, as opposed to the perfectly legitimate issue of raising the broader problem.

MATTHEWS:  OK, here he is, I think, getting back to true north. 

Here‘s President Obama late this afternoon about his—the invitation -

well, actually, it was proffered by Crowley, the cop, who had—what do you call it—the stuff, the chutzpah to say, Why don‘t you have us over for a beer?  Here he is responding to that proposition.


OBAMA:  At the end of the conversation, there was a discussion about—in my conversation with Sergeant Crowley, there was a discussion about he and I and Professor Gates having a beer here in the White House.  We don‘t know if that‘s scheduled yet...


OBAMA:  ... but we may put that together.


MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s the question to you, Dominic, my friend.  It‘s late tonight.  It‘s 11:00 o‘clock tonight.  We‘re at a saloon somewhere in New York, a couple African-American guys sitting around, old friends.  They‘ve had a couple beers—not a lot, a couple beers each.


MATTHEWS:  And they‘re talking about this thing.  What are they saying?  Speak for everybody here.  What are they saying about the president, the way he handled this, the way he had to handle this, whether he had to back down, whether it was society that forced him to ameliorate—or what do you call it...

BROWNSTEIN:  Ameliorate.

MATTHEWS:  ... modify, modulate, whatever—what do you think people were saying, regular guys, about him tonight, black fellows?

CARTER:  OK.  OK.  That‘s a great question, Chris.  You know, I was getting a haircut today and when I was listening to the gentlemen say—these were Latino gentlemen—they said, You know, police officers have to understand that we want to be treated like everybody else.  It would go a long way to show us the same respect that you show everyone else.  That‘s the first thing they‘re saying.

African-Americans in barbershops and in beauty salons across America are saying, Wow, this guy is—meaning the president—is standing strong.  They understand that he had to, if you will, walk away from the issue of race during the campaign, but he‘s not avoiding it as the president of the United States.

MATTHEWS:  OK, as of tonight (INAUDIBLE) the latest iteration of this, when he went over to the press room, are they saying he had to kowtow this afternoon or he made a reasonable step back?  What do you think they‘re saying, regular guys?

CARTER:  Well, regular guys, I think they say that the president had to do this today, it‘s good damage control, that he couldn‘t go into the weekend with this hanging out there, that he is...


CARTER:  ... the leader of the free world—African-Americans understand that—and that he can‘t step on his own message of health care.

MATTHEWS:  I love America!  God!

BROWNSTEIN:  Obama‘s great strength from the outset and his ability to deliver for minority communities is based on his capacity to understand and show empathy for all viewpoints and not be an advocate...


BROWNSTEIN:  ... simply for one.  That...

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t you love...

BROWNSTEIN:  That has been his strength from the outset, and anything that takes him away from that is a mistake...

MATTHEWS:  This is the greatest thing about having this job, to be in on this conversation right now, the greatest thing, because this is America talking.  And we‘re all going to be talking all night about this.  Thank you, Dominic Carter, sir.  Have a good weekend in New York.  And Ron Brownstein, have a good weekend down here.  I‘m going to the movies tonight.

Coming up: We still really don‘t know what exactly happened between Sergeant Crowley—we‘re talking around a conversation none of us were in—and Professor Gates.  So how do we see this case depends greatly on our race, I guess, our experience, our conjecture, and what we‘ve figured out from experience.  Can this be a teachable moment, as the president said?  Well, let‘s get back and talk about it.  We‘re going to go to local, up to Boston, and talk to some people up there.  We‘ll get into that coming up.  We‘re going local in Boston.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


OBAMA:  My hope is, is that as a consequence of this event, this ends up being what‘s called a teachable moment where all of us, instead of pumping up the volume, spend a little more time listening to each other.




OBAMA:  The fact that it has garnered so much attention I think is a testimony to the fact that these are issues that are still very sensitive here in America.  And you know, so to the extent that my choice of words didn‘t illuminate but rather contributed to more media frenzy, I think that was unfortunate.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  The Reverend Eugene Rivers is with the Azusa Christian Community Church up in Boston, and Charles Blow is a columnist with “The New York Times.”  Gentlemen, thank you for joining us.  I‘m sure you have thoughts.  I won‘t get in your way.  Take it away, Reverend Rivers, your thoughts about this whole thing from a Boston perspective.

REV. EUGENE RIVERS, AZUSA CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY CHURCH:  I think that the president today engaged in perfect political choreography.  He made a mistake.  He put the word “stupid” in the same sentence with “police.”  He understood that this was a major problem.  He was smart enough to regroup and reposition himself because this was cascading into a major crisis in terms of racial division.

There was a misunderstanding between Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowley.  This misunderstanding morphed into a major racial, you know, kind of a fight nationally.  It was getting away from us.  And the president, to his credit, brilliantly regrouped.  He understood he had stepped in a cow pie.  He got out of the cow pie and said, Look, we‘ve got to back away from this, we‘re going to stand down.

He brilliantly called the sergeant, extended the olive branch, so that there was peace in the valley.  The professor and Sergeant Crowley will get together, they‘ll have a beer, and that‘ll be the end of the story.  Brilliant.

MATTHEWS:  Charles Blow, your take on this as a journalist?  What‘s your view of what we‘ve watched here in America?

CHARLES BLOW, “NEW YORK TIMES”:  That won‘t be...

MATTHEWS:  These last several days.

BLOW:  That won‘t be anywhere near the end of this story.  I mean, I think it‘s a—I think you‘re right, Reverend, it‘s a brilliant move on the part of the president to call and to extend—and to say, basically, I‘m sorry, although he didn‘t use those words.  But this issue doesn‘t go away, the issue of racial profiling in America in general, and very specific to this case the sergeant has said that he will not apologize and he has done nothing wrong, and the professor says that his account, which is completely—very different from the sergeant‘s, is the truth.

Somebody‘s lying, and whoever is lying, it has profound consequences either for the people who are under the jurisdiction of the Cambridge police and everyone that Sergeant Crowley has come into contact heretofore, or for all the scholarship that the professor has been taking part in over a very long and distinguished career.

I mean, set aside what President Obama did or did not do.  There‘s still a big story here, and we have to find out the truth.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me—let me ask you, Reverend, suppose it was Henry Kissinger, not Henry Gates...

RIVERS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... who was in his house, and the police officer was African-American.

RIVERS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And it got out of hand.  And Kissinger lost his temper and started screaming at the black cop...

RIVERS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... screaming at him in a way that made the cop feel inferior and indignant...

RIVERS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... and he had to stand up for himself, to the point of...

RIVERS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... using his office to arrest him. 

What—what would that have told us?  I mean, it seems to me—it seems to me it‘s almost impossible to imagine that society wouldn‘t have come down on that sergeant, if he was black, in that situation. 

RIVERS:  Oh, absolutely.  Absolutely.  Look...


MATTHEWS:  I mean, but an American majority would say that cop has got an attitude.  He caused this incident.  Henry Kissinger of course was in the right...

RIVERS:  Of course.  Listen, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  ... because it was in his house. 

RIVERS:  No, Chris, obviously, this was a terrible arrest.  It was a clear-cut case of bad policing. 

Had it been Kissinger and the black cop forced the issue, the black cop would have had an attitude problem, and Kissinger would have been within his rights to complain. 

Look, Henry Louis Gates was arrested in his house for breathing while black, bottom line, understood.  Poor policing.  Now, the—this incident morphed into a—a racial problem that we have got to pull back from. 

I want to pick up on a point that Charles Blow made.  Look, in the real world, out of 02318, Harvard Square, in the real world, the way this would be handled is that, as his rhetoric got away, some cooler heads would prevail, call both of the parties in.  There would be an apology.  The concession would be that there was a misunderstanding. 

We would not racialize the thing to the extent to which you get unnecessary polarization. 


RIVERS:  There‘s a real issue of black people...

MATTHEWS:  Well, I...

RIVERS:  ... being—black men in particular being...


MATTHEWS:  I think we‘re going to court on this, Reverend.  I think we‘re going in a totally different direction with this, no matter what the president said today.  This ain‘t patty-cake time.  This ain‘t beanbag.

I have a sense the lawyers are circling up there, going to the professor—your thoughts, Charles—and saying to him, you have got a case here.  That picture of you in handcuffs is a hell of a case to take before a jury, and that that cop has got a lot of explaining to do.

Your thoughts, Charles Blow.

BLOW:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know this is over.  I agree with you.  I don‘t think this is over.

BLOW:  I don‘t think it‘s over.  I don‘t know if it‘s a court case. 

I talked to the professor for a long time yesterday.


BLOW:  After the president‘s speech today, I called him back.  I spoke to him for about 30 minutes. 

He‘s not a rabble-rouser.  He‘s very much interested in getting that point across.  I mean, he is a scholar.  This is an awkward position.  He—he feels like this is an awkward position for him.


BLOW:  But, at the same time, you know, he‘s in an—he feels like he‘s in an awkward position, in the sense that his words are that the police report is an act of fiction, you know, that pretty much everything—or most of what‘s in it is just a lie. 

And that‘s...


MATTHEWS:  Well, what‘s the main thrust of it?  Is he saying that he wasn‘t tumultuous?  That‘s an odd word for a police report. 


MATTHEWS:  The sergeant said he was behaving tumultuously.  Was he exploding at the guy in a way that made the police officer feel he had nothing else to do but end the situation? 

I‘m not defending the cop.  I‘m wondering what he said happened was different than that police report.

BLOW:  What he...

MATTHEWS:  How is it different?

BLOW:  What he said to me was, not only was he not tumultuous the first—when the officer entered his house, the first words that—that professor Gates said, he said to him was, can you please step out of your house?

It wasn‘t that I‘m in your house for a 911 call, which is—you know, none of that.  And, after he said, no, he said, I‘m here investigating a 911 call. 

You know, was that an initial attempt just to arrest, because, after you get outside your house, you can do that because he didn‘t have a search warrant?  I have no idea, but that—that‘s kind of the underlying point there. 


RIVERS:  So, where does this go? 


BLOW:  What‘s that? 

RIVERS:  Now—now, see, where does that go politically?  My point is that there was an injustice done.  It was poor policing.  What‘s the political endgame of the discussion? 

BLOW:  Well, I think that—I think that Barack Obama is interested in making this a teachable moment.  I think professor Gates is interested in making this a teachable moment. 

I think that if we, as a country, can use this incident as a teachable moment, it would be great.  But...

RIVERS:  Agreed. 

BLOW:  But, to get to that point, somebody has to admit that they were wrong. 


BLOW:  Right now, both sides are saying that they will not do that.  I would love to be in that room with a beer to find out who is going to say that they‘re wrong.


MATTHEWS:  Yes.  The problem is, gentleman, what happens when they‘re both lawyered up, and they both have got their stories the way they know will make it look good?  And then we will never get to the truth, will we, Charles?

RIVERS:  What happens—Chris, what happens if they lawyer up is that you get more racial polarization. 


RIVERS:  The country gets more racially polarized. 


BLOW:  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  On this issue, though—on this issue, though, I think we have to—you know, there‘s a body of evidence that it‘s a real phenomenon, right? 



BLOW:  ... whether or not we‘re lawyered up or not, that is not going to change the past, which is that we...

RIVERS:  Right. 

BLOW:  ... have been able to document...

RIVERS:  Yes. 

BLOW:  ... that this is a real phenomenon. 

RIVERS:  Absolutely agree with that.

BLOW:  That‘s—that‘s just—we have to accept that as fact.

MATTHEWS:  Hey, look, everybody I know who is African-American...

RIVERS:  Agreed.

MATTHEWS:  ... everybody, confirms that...

BLOW:  And, so—so—so...

MATTHEWS:  ... through personal person. 

Gentlemen, we could take a—we could have a whole town meeting on this.  I would love to actually—I would like to have it at the scene of the house, in fact.  I would to have...

RIVERS:  You should do it.

MATTHEWS:  ... a thousand people at the house.

Well, give me some money.


MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Reverend Eugene Rivers and Charles Blow.

Up next:  It‘s been a week of conspiracy theories, but none as zany as this White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs—well, he gets asked why the Obama administration has been covering up the existence of UFOs.  Well, this is not a new American story, but it‘s always in the ether. 

That‘s next in the “Sideshow.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  



MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL, and time for the “Sideshow.” 

First up: one for the conspiracy theorists.  White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is used to out-of-left-field questions, but this one from a C-SPAN viewer today may just take the cake. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good morning. 

My question might seem a little bit silly, but it‘s very serious. 

And I was wondering if you could take it very seriously. 

There‘s a—there‘s a massive movement right now of hundreds of colonels and ex-CIA officials and Air Force pilots who are demanding that—that Obama administration live up to its promise of transparency, and let the American truth know—let the American people know the truth about the existence of UFOs. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And we will get a response.  Thank you for the call from Seattle. 

Robert Gibbs?


your question seriously, not simply because of the topic, but also because, if you‘re calling from Seattle, and it‘s a little after 7:00 here, it‘s a little after 4:00 in the morning there. 

Look, I—I have not been briefed on whether or not there are the existence of UFOs.  I haven‘t talked to the president about this topic. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, I think it was useful that Mr. Gibbs pointed out that the caller was up at 4:00 in the morning worrying about UFOs. 

Personally I would be open to any hard evidence that the Earth has been visited from abroad.  Some people simply believe in cover-ups and conspiracies generally, especially in the wee hours of the morning.

Maybe the best solution here is simply a good night‘s sleep. 

Next up:  Looking for love this weekend?  Well, if you‘re one of Congressman Ron Paul‘s die-hard libertarian followers—and there are a lot of them out there—look no further than this new online dating site.  It‘s called Ron Paul Singles, and it claims to put the love in revolution. 

Congressman Paul says that, while he doesn‘t know who created this site—quote—“I suppose it‘s all about freedom bringing people together, spiritually, politically, and now romantically.”

Well, what a Romeo.  What a Cupid.  I can‘t second that one too much. 

Now for tonight‘s “Big Number,” a blast from the past. 

You recognize this scene?  That‘s then vice President Richard Nixon standing along Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow at an American-model house exhibition meant to show off the fruits of capitalism back in ‘59.

The unscripted starring—or sparring between these two leaders over the merits of communism vs. capitalism came to be known as the great “Kitchen Debate.”  So, how long has it been since this historic day?  Fifty years exactly, that Cold War showdown, a half-century ago.  The first real political use of the TV medium happened on July 24, 1959.  It‘s the 50-year anniversary of the great “Kitchen Debate”—tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next:  How big a political problem do Republicans have with this so-called birthers movement, those wackos who insist President Obama is not an American?  We will talk to one prominent conservative who thinks, enough is enough next—coming here on HARDBALL.

And, this weekend, on “The Chris Matthews Show,” we will be talking to our panel of top reporters about why former President Bush refused to pardon Scooter Libby, and what Bush people think Libby and Cheney are hiding—hiding. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


REBECCA JARVIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Rebecca Jarvis with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

The Dow Jones pulls out a gain in the final hour of trading, but the Nasdaq snaps its 12-day winning streak.  The Dow Jones industrials finished almost 24 points higher.  The S&P 500 added three points, and the Nasdaq lost about seven points. 

Disappointing results for Microsoft and Amazon dragged the Nasdaq lower, after its longest positive run in more than a decade.  Shares in Microsoft and Amazon both ended the day more than 8 percent lower. 

A dip in consumer confidence rattled investors.  Analysts say the economy may be on the mend, but consumers don‘t expect to see improvement in their personal financial positions any time soon. 

In Washington, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Fed Chair Ben Bernanke staked out opposite sides in a debate over who should be the nation‘s top consumer watchdog.  Geithner wants to create a new federal agency, but Bernanke says that responsibility should stay with the Fed. 

That‘s it from CNBC.  We‘re first in business worldwide—now back to HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

All week, we have been investigating why right-wing talk show hosts and almost 12, actually, a dozen, members of Congress are pushing the conspiracy theory that President Obama was not born in the USA.  They‘re called birthers.  They have a name, in fact.  And they want to force the president, I guess, to produce an authentic, as they say, birth certificate.

But he did, actually, during the campaign do that.  Here are the pictures to prove it.  Plus, Hawaiian officials have verified its authenticity.  But the birthers don‘t let the facts get in the way. 

Listen to conservative radio talk show host G. Gordon Liddy here last night on HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  So, if he wasn‘t born here, and he‘s never gone through a naturalization process, right, that you know of...


MATTHEWS:  ... therefore, he‘s here illegally. 

LIDDY:  That would follow.

MATTHEWS:  Then you‘re saying he‘s an undocumented alien?

LIDDY:  Illegal alien. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s an illegal alien?  So, the president—so, he should be picked up. 


LIDDY:  Well...


MATTHEWS:  No, but I‘m serious.  I mean, let‘s go all the way.

And, by the way, who do you think is in on this, Gordon?  Do you think his wife is in on this?  Do you think his mother is in on this?  Who is in on the—how many people are in on this conspiracy to make him look like he was born here? 

I figure his mother must be involved, his grandparents must be involved.  How many people are part of this cover-up? 

LIDDY:  Well, his mother is dead. 

MATTHEWS:  No, how many people were part of this presentation to us that he was born here? 

LIDDY:  I don‘t know. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, some conservatives have had enough of this. 

By the way, here is President Obama‘s birth announcement from 1961 in “The Honolulu Advertiser.”  It‘s a big newspaper back there. 

Tom Costello, who works with me, thought of this point this afternoon.  He stopped me in the hallway and he said, why would Gordon Liddy say, which he did last night, that the mother put an advertisement in the local newspaper that her son was born here so that he could be an American?  Everybody wants to be American.

And my brain wasn‘t working yesterday.  And it turns out—well, common sense tells you, the kid would have—Barack Obama, the president of the United States, would have been an American anyway. 

We have joining us right now—because you have a son. 

Anyway, Bob Tyrrell is the founder and editor in chief and actually a legendary name in this business of journalism in one of the oldest, most respected conservative magazines, “The American Spectator.” 

What do you think this is, this seedling—it‘s not even a conspiracy theory?  It‘s like—people like Lou Dobbs are out there saying, oh, I think he‘s an American.  I just want to know more.  I want to see some more documentation. 

Rushbo is out there having some fun with it. 

But what bugs me is elected officials, Bill Posey, Richard Shelby, Neugebauer, all kinds of people.  Take a look at what some Republicans have said about President Obama‘s birth. 

Republican Congressman Bill Posey of Florida said: “I haven‘t looked at the evidence.  It‘s not up to me to look at the evidence.  I can‘t swear on a stack of Bibles whether he is or he isn‘t.”

Senator Richard Shelby said: “Well, his father was Kenyan, and they said he was born in Hawaii.  But I haven‘t seen any birth certificate.  You have to be born in America to be president.”

Thank you, Senator.

Congressman Randy Neugebauer of Texas said he didn‘t know whether the president is a citizen, and added, “I have never seen him produce documents that would say one way or the other.” 

And a spokesman for Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said her constituency “were losing faith in the American system because of the absence of a requirement that a president show some documentation.”

This goes on and on.  Why are thee guys doing it? 


Well, I—I—I guess because they‘re not reading “The American Spectator,” because last—during the election, we looked into this story, and we found no evidence supporting it, in fact, evidence to the contrary, that he was, indeed, born in the United States. 

I think, Chris, it‘s...

MATTHEWS:  You dug up “The Advertiser” piece, didn‘t you, the birth announcement?

TYRRELL:  I don‘t know whether we were original, but we did dig it up. 


MATTHEWS:  That is a pretty good indication that somebody was born, when it says so in a local newspaper back in ‘61.  We‘re looking at it right now.

I mean, you would have to believe, as Costello, my colleague, points out, that the mother said, “I want my son to be president in 48 or so years, so I‘m going to claim he was born here, not just he‘s my kid.”


To me, it demonstrates one of my deepest held insights into politics, that more often than being about ideas or ideals, politics is about a person‘s psychological needs.  And in this case, they have a psychological need to have enemies.  A lot of people in politics do.  That‘s I think what‘s behind these Congressmen and senators also to believe in conspiracies.  It makes it a lot easier to believe in conspiracies than to be an empiricist and actually look at the facts. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of conspiracies and people that believe in them? 

TYRRELL:  I share the same views you have.  I think it‘s a lazy way of looking of things.  I think it‘s a demonstration of another great motivation in history that‘s unsung, and that‘s the motivation of boredom. 

MATTHEWS:  Ha.  How about this guy that called in the other day, yesterday, actually, this morning to C-SPAN, which is a great network, calling in to Robert Gibbs, the president‘s press secretary, at 4:00 in the morning talking about UFOs?  I thought Gibbs was brilliant.  He said, I notice it‘s 7:00 back here, so it must be 4:00 back there.  So you got up at 4:00 in the morning to ask a UFO question. 

TYRRELL:  It demonstrates to me that I wouldn‘t do a good job in that man‘s job, Gibbs‘ job. 

MATTHEWS:  I think about conspiracies and this idea that the president—the thing about it comes down to this; you know when you‘re young especially, maybe your whole life, you walk into a party or somewhere, and you have this notion everybody there knows each other, but they don‘t know you.  You usually get over that when you recognize and realize that everybody there is as lonely as you are and as individual as you are.  And they don‘t all know each other. 

Some people never get over that idea.  They think everybody is out to get them.  So they believe there‘s meetings going on at all times among everybody they don‘t know against them.  That there‘s meetings involving, when Kennedy was killed, the Secret Service was involved, the FBI, the CIA, the Irish Mafia.  Everybody was involved with killing Kennedy. 

How do people think—they think there‘s something called the government, by the way.  You and I know there‘s no such thing as the government, there‘s just a bunch of scared bureaucrats waiting for 5:00 in some cases. 

TYRRELL:  That‘s right.  I think—I‘ll pick up on what you just said.  Let me pick up on the fact that you‘re an author and I‘m an author.  We‘ve written about history.  We‘ve read history.  We‘ve even rubbed up against a few historic figures, and we know that history is filled with great stories.  And in all those great stories, very few of them that are conspiracies were ever proven. 

The facts disprove all of these conspiracies.  Can you think of one conspiracy that was ever proven to be valid?  How about the conspiracy Roosevelt is behind Pearl Harbor?  Was there ever any proof to that?  No.  Yet it‘s hung on year after year after year.  But you and I know, those who read history and care about history—and it‘s wonderful that history books are very popular—

MATTHEWS:  My dad believed that one.  I‘m ashamed—I‘m not ashamed.  My dad believed that.  He used to believe it.  I‘d say, wasn‘t Roosevelt great?  He stood up during the Great Depression.  He got us into the war.  He said, you know, I still think he knew about that Pearl Harbor thing. 


MATTHEWS:  But the problem with that theory is it assumes that Franklin Roosevelt would risk being hanged, which he would be—he would have been, no matter how great it was, if it ever got out that he actually had one phone call or one conversation where he said, why don‘t we put the American Pacific fleet in one simple place, and why don‘t we tell the Japanese Navy to come in there, and the Air Force, and tell Yamamoto about it, but don‘t tell anybody else about it. 

TYRRELL:  American presidents of either party don‘t treat their armies that way.  They don‘t treat their citizens that way.  Most of our presidents have been pretty moral—

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you—I‘ll give you a stage.  The conservative movement in America right now; you lost the last selection with sort of a middle of the road conservative like McCain.  Where do you see it coming back, as a magazine man, over the next four years, eight years?  How do you come back to power?  We know this country rotates.  It alternates in power, left and right.  How do you guys get the next turn?

TYRRELL:  Remember, I wrote a book called “The Liberal Crackup.”  Then I wrote “The Conservative Crackup.”  Now I‘m actually writing another book on it. 

I think the cracked up state—look at the whole field.  You have the conservatives diminished by corruption and overspending and things like that.  But over here you have the liberals.  Now, I think Sean Willen (ph) is the great liberal historian, and I agree on this.  The liberals are still in a rather fragmented, cracked up state.  We‘ll see over the next couple of years if they can keep their fragmented—

MATTHEWS:  Who is your leader four years now?  Is it too early to know?  Who is the leader of the right?  Who is the Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan?  Who is the next one of those?

TYRRELL:  There are some very good leaders in the House of Representatives right now, Paul Ryan, Pence, people like that. 

MATTHEWS:  Everybody says Ryan. 

TYRRELL:  This guy McCotter is very good.

MATTHEWS:  I hear Ryan a lot.  Maybe because he‘s Irish and we like him.  But Ryan I keep hearing the name.  Thank you, R. Emmett Tyrrell, a famous name.  We call him Bobby.  Sir, thanks for coming on. 

Up next, President Obama and the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates.  It ain‘t Henry Kissinger that got arrested.  Well, we‘ll see.  Will his comments today quiet his critics.  The president who blamed first the stupidity of the police; is off that one right now?  The politics fix coming in next. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.  Time for the politics fix, with Michelle Bernard, who is the president of the Independent Women‘s Voice and an MSNBC political analyst, and a syndicated radio host and my friend Michael Smerconish, who is an MSNBC contributor. 

I want to start with Michael here.  Your views about this.  I have been trying to find a parallel for us white people, if you will, although we don‘t usually talk like that, because this is so racially divided in a sense.  If this professor in this story we‘ve been talking about at Harvard had been a—say an unknown but prominent—someone like Larry Summers, the economist, someone like that, who‘s equally prominent, and the officer had been a black police officer, and everything else was exactly the same, would our reaction are—how is this black cop giving a hard time to this prominent guy here?  He obviously was coming in there with an attitude. 

I‘m trying to figure out how much baggage we all carry and trying to equalize it a bit.  Your thoughts Michael Smerconish? 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  My hunch is we probably would.  I base that, Chris, on the fact that I have just spent two straight days, that‘s two radio programs a day, six hours of live talking each day.  This is the only subject people have wanted to talk about.  And when I hear the inflection of someone‘s voice, and if I can determine their race, I can pretty much tell you what they were going to say about this case.  So I think that if you reverse the roles, the result would have largely been the same. 

MATTHEWS:  Meaning?  The whites would have taken the pro-civilian position, and the blacks would have taken the pro-cop position?  Is that what you‘re saying? 

SMERCONISH:  Meaning we have come—meaning we have come a great distance in this country with the election of the first African-American president, and we still have a lot of territory to cover, that these lurking suspicions are still out there.  And all it takes is the right set of circumstances to bring them to the surface, unfortunately. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I—I look at this and I think, cops, you know—you know, the trouble—my father was a court reporter.  Every day he wrote in court.  A lot of people in criminal court were black.  You get a certain attitude and it encrusts you.  It gets around your head.  So you begin to start making what are prejudicial comments that are based on experience, but when you apply them to the next stranger you meet, they‘re prejudicial.  Even though they‘re based on statistics or anything else, it‘s still prejudicial to make an assumption about a human being base on the other people‘s behavior.  Go ahead. 

MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I watched Sergeant Crowley do an interview this morning on “THE TODAY SHOW,” and I couldn‘t help but have empathy for him.  But I think one of the most important things we‘ve heard throughout the whole day today was the term you just used, which is baggage. 

I think that what is missing in the larger conversation about this whole thing is that racism hurts.  It literally, physically, and emotionally hurts.  I think that I would be reticent to say you‘ll ever meet an African-American, particularly of a certain age group, who hasn‘t been looked at funny or stopped in a grocery store—

MATTHEWS:  I‘m curious.  Is it true that a 25-year-old African-American hasn‘t had to face the weird stares you get going into a restaurant that was mostly white, the weird stares you get when you go into a circumstance that‘s mostly white, the weird attitudes people face when you try to get a cab, the weird attitudes you have on a subway.  Is anybody free of that at a any age?  Are you saying the younger people have not experienced that bad vibe? 

BERNARD:  No, it depends on where you live and the type of younger people that we‘re talking about.  If you‘re a younger person who‘s wearing a skullcap and you‘ve got your pants hanging down your behind, like I heard somebody say earlier today, you absolutely have experienced that and you have probably experienced it from whites and African-Americans. 

MATTHEWS:  Because that‘s a social statement in itself. 

BERNARD:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s like long hair for us in the ‘60s.  If I had long hair, people would assume a certain politics. 

BERNARD:  And it‘s a stereotype.  My brother was stopped in our own neighborhood, predominantly white.  You know the area.  I‘ve told you where my parents live.  Stopped in the neighborhood; he was driving my mother and father‘s car.  The police wanted to know what a young black man was doing driving that car in that neighborhood, and they let him go when I pulled up. 

MATTHEWS:  Did they do a trunk search too? 

BERNARD:  No, they didn‘t do a trunk search.  I happened to pull up at the same time.  Because I‘m assuming—and again this is a stereotype.  But because I‘m a black woman, and I got out and could verify this was my brother, and we lived in the home, they said, I‘m sorry, you‘re a nice, polite young man, and they let us go.  What I‘m saying—

MATTHEWS:  Do you ever feel it? 

BERNARD:  Absolutely, working in law firms and people walk up to me and automatically assume tall, black woman, must be the legal secretary, not the partner in the law firm.  Could you get me a cup of coffee? 

MATTHEWS:  What about the streets in terms of do people give you weird looks or—well -- 


MATTHEWS:  You don‘t get negatives? 

BERNARD:  Well, yes, sometimes. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re obviously a very attractive person.  I just wonder whether people in this society still feel—I think it‘s there. 

BERNARD:  The bottom line, Chris, is it hurts emotionally and physically.  And I think that when people are out there to go after Henry Lewis Gates, just try to have a little empathy for a man of his age and what he has gone through to make the career that he has, and be arrested in his home. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the cop do after the guy screams his lungs at him?  What‘s he supposed to do?  That‘s a question I don‘t know the answer to.  What do you do when you‘ve been humiliated yourself?  Michelle is staying with us.  Michael is staying with us. 

We‘ve got to talk about Sarah Palin.  She‘s going to be on the loose as of Sunday.  By the way, on Sunday, on “Meet the Press,” Hillary Clinton‘s going to do a rare big, full hour discussion with our colleague David Gregory, this Sunday, all hour with her on Sunday “Meet the Press.”  You‘re watching HARDBALL now, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Back with Michelle Bernard and Michael Smerconish. 

Sarah Palin leaves the governorship of her own decision this Sunday. 

We‘ve got a new poll out that shows she‘s down to 40 percent favorable.  She had been up as high as 58 percent—that‘s not that high—back in September, after her nomination.  You first, Michelle, will she fly or fall politically the next year? 

BERNARD:  She‘s going to make a lot of money in the next year.  I think she‘s got nowhere to go but up.  If she started off high and remained at the numbers were she was right after the convention, we‘d see her implode the way Hillary Clinton‘s campaign did.  I think she‘s going to rise. 

MATTHEWS:  Michael, will she be a big star out there on the circuit? 

SMERCONISH:  She‘ll be a huge star out there on the circuit, but she‘ll only attract support from the GOP conservative base.  The worst aspect of those numbers are the internals that show that a majority of Americans believe that she‘s lacking in substance.  And I don‘t know how outside of office she can improve on that number. 

MATTHEWS:  If you are Pat Toomey running for the Senate next year, would you like her to come in and do a lunch for you? 

SMERCONISH:  I‘d like—Yes, I‘d like her to come in central Pennsylvania or the northern T, out of a media market, attract the conservative money, and leave. 

MATTHEWS:  Michelle, would you want her to campaign for someone you liked? 

BERNARD:  I agree with Smerconish. 

MATTHEWS:  Triple A ball.  Thank you, Michelle Bernard.  Thank you, Michael Smerconish.  As always, join us again Monday nights at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz. 



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