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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Buck Lee, David Corn, Joan Walsh, Jim Webb
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Council of war.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight:
Rally ‘round the flag.  Yesterday broke with everyone agreeing President Obama was in a no-win situation.  If he ousted General McChrystal, critics would charge he‘s losing control of the war in Afghanistan.  And if he didn‘t, he‘d look like he was losing control of his own military.  But the snap (ph) of presidential authority and the choice of David Petraeus to head the mission in Afghanistan has been hailed from all corners.  Could it be that the “Rolling Stone” article was the best thing to happen to this president in a long while?
Plus, it‘s one thing to not be able to stop the oil from flowing into the gulf, but can we stop it at least from getting to our shores?  We‘ll talk to an official in Pensacola, Florida, who‘s furious that globs of oil are hitting his beaches today.
Also, why do I think that when conservatives try to talk up Hillary Clinton in 2012, what they‘re really trying to do is talk down President Obama?  We‘ll get to that one, the right wing stirring up trouble, Hillary trouble.
And out on a—out onto a Limbaugh.  It‘s been 44 days since we first issued that challenge, out on a Limbaugh.  We asked any Republican—I mean any Republican—to come forward and say simply that, Rush doesn‘t speak for me or my party on this issue, any issue -- 44 days and still counting, still waiting for one Republican to come forward.  And Rush is loving it, by the way.  Rush can‘t believe it, how Rush can cow an entire party and still keep up his golf game and never lose his tan.  He‘s loving the fact that no Republican‘s dared to challenge him in 44 days.  That‘s later in the show.
Finally, Joe Biden advises school kids, Don‘t settle for number two. 
That‘s in the “Sideshow.”
Let‘s start with President Obama showing leadership over the Afghan war.  Senator Jim Webb of Virginia‘s a Democratic senator and member of the Armed Services Committee.  Senator Webb, it‘s an honor to have you on the show.  Thank you for your service.  And let me ask you this.  Was yesterday a good day for America, the signing up of Petraeus for the Afghanistan campaign?
SEN. JIM WEBB (D-VA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:  Well, I think it was something that the president was right to do.  In terms of the situation with General McChrystal, this was his third bite out of the apple.  I think people tend to forget that.  The way that he handled the Pat Tillman incident, I had mentioned that during his confirmation hearing.  And what he did last fall, when there actually was a council war going on in the White House and he was off in London making a speech and doing “60 Minutes.”
So it wasn‘t just one incident.  I think it was a pattern of behavior.  And it was appropriate for the president to do that because of the command environment.  And the selection of General Petraeus I think was very solid.  I met with General Petraeus today.  I told him I was going to give him all the support that I could to make sure that this can move forward smoothly and maybe we can get this thing in a little better place.
MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a question about the chain of command.  I noticed, watching the president‘s performance yesterday in the Rose Garden, when they came out there on the steps—we‘re just watching the pictures on camera—that Jim Jones did not come out.  Now, he‘s the director of national security.  Usually, in the tradition of American authority now, he‘s the one that delivers the president‘s policy day to day, hour by hour to the Joint Chiefs, to the armed forces of the country and to the State Department.  He gets things working.
How come Jim Jones, called a “clown” in this article, wasn‘t there yesterday?  Is he clearly the guy, the person who is the president‘s chief operating officer on national security?
WEBB:  Well, he‘s his adviser.  I have tremendous regard for Jim Jones, as you know.  I‘ve known him for a very long time.  And I said at one point during the spin-up (ph) last October, I think Jim Jones has more actual on-the-ground combat experience than any general officer in the military today.  But the appropriate chain of command was present with the secretary of defense and also with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the vice president.  I don‘t think there was any indication of disrespect to Jim Jones in that line-up.
MATTHEWS:  I just have a hard time imagining this president and how he runs our foreign policy.  Do you know how he does it?  How does he get word to Secretary Clinton?  How does he get word to Secretary Gates?  How does he keep them doing what he wants them doing all the time?  How does he—who is the person who‘s the link between him and them?
WEBB:  Well, that would be technically Jim Jones.  He‘s the national security adviser.  He‘s the coordinator.  And I think this administration is working very well together.  And I think it—obviously, I think it was a cheap shot at Jim Jones in this article.
MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you about a bigger question.  How do we get what we want done in Afghanistan over the next year or so, or years, after we leave?
WEBB:  Well, I think the big question has been what is it that needs to happen so that we can have a hand-off with the Afghanis.
WEBB:  It‘s a question that I raised a year ago.  And there are two sort of unquantifiable elements from our perspective that need to be addressed.  One is the actual shape and design of the Afghani government.  Henry Kissinger had a quote in “The Washington Post” today that asked a point that I had also asked about a year ago, and that is, does this structure that now exists in the Karzai government compatible with the history of Afghanistan?
It was a success in terms of the 2002 period at Bonn (ph) when we created it, but eventually, either formally or informally, you‘re going to see a devolution of power in Afghanistan.  How do we play into that?
And then the second is, how do you grow a national army of 400,000, if you include national police, in a country that does not have a tradition of a national army?  I asked General Petraeus and General McChrystal a year ago, what was the largest national army that the Afghanis had ever had before this period, and the answer was about 80,000 to 90,000.
So those are two huge unknowns.  And we are a little bit prisoner of those unknowns in terms of moving to the point where we can move our people out.  And I think we need to reach the point where we move out people out.  We should not be an occupying force in that part of the world, whether it‘s Iraq or Afghanistan.
MATTHEWS:  OK.  Senator, let me read to you that article of Henry Kissinger.  I was ready to read it anyway, but you‘ve raised it up here.  Here‘s a quote from it.  “The central premise is that at some early point, the United States will be able to turn over security responsibilities to an Afghan government and national army whose writ is running across the entire country.  This turnover is to begin next summer.  Neither the premise nor the deadline is realistic.”
So there he is pooh-poohing the idea that we can put together a truly national government with a truly national army in Afghanistan and get the heck home.
WEBB:  Well, that‘s almost exactly the point that I made more than a year ago, and I wrote an article also in “The Washington Post” where I laid out four different concerns, and those two were principal among them.
WEBB:  So this may be a time—as you actually said in the lead-in, this may be a time to shake the jar and figure out what is actually doable not simply in the time period now into ‘11, but for us as a nation.  We aren‘t very good nation builders.  You know, we should be trying to fit in the war against international terrorism, and hopefully, some stability in the region, but we can‘t rebuild that country.  I just don‘t think we can do it.
MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think you‘re going to be having to build a lot of countries in years to come if we start now.  Thank you very much, Jim Webb.
WEBB:  Thank you.
MATTHEWS:  Great to have you on the show.  Senator from Virginia.
Howard Fineman is “Newsweek‘s” senior Washington correspondent and political columnist, and of course, MSNBC political analyst.  Howard, it‘s always great to have you, and this is a very interesting time.  Is this time for a council of war?  Is this time to review what we can actually get done in Afghanistan before we leave?  Because we‘re going to leave.  No Republican that I know of says, Stay there permanently.
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think you‘re right, Chris.  I think that the accident of the “Rolling Stone” article and the replacement of McChrystal with Petraeus, who is a much more politically aware guy, I think is going to inevitably lead to if not a—you know, a war council by name, it‘s going to be an ongoing review of everything we‘re doing there over the next few weeks and months.
MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you the question I put to Senator Webb.  Who‘s running the show in this country and how‘s he doing?  The president of the United States—let‘s use the usual business formula.  He‘s CEO.  He‘s the boss.  But every organization, you get a sense of how it works, a chain of command.  You can visualize it.  You read the paper.  You watch television.  You get a sense of how he commands what‘s going on.
OK, Afghanistan.  What‘s between the president and Afghanistan?  I didn‘t see Jim Jones there yesterday.  He was called a “clown” in this article in the “Rolling Stone” by those people with McChrystal.  What‘s going on?  I guess that‘s one of the things I‘m having a problem with the oil problem down there in—in—I don‘t feel this chain of command.  I don‘t feel the—I see him talking somehow to his cabinet, you know, Napolitano over there somewhere, you know, Salazar over here somewhere.  I don‘t sense this strong chain of command.  Is there one in the war front and on the diplomatic front put together?
FINEMAN:  I don‘t think there is on either.  And I‘m not sure there is in the gulf, either, although since that‘s more domestic, yes.  I‘d say Rahm Emanuel, who‘s chief of staff, and who some other—in some other White Houses, the chief of staff would be clearly the—you said CEO.  You can make it chairman and CEO.  He‘d be the CEO and the president would be the chairman.  That‘s not the...
MATTHEWS:  He‘s the enforcer.
FINEMAN:  Yes.  That...
FINEMAN:  That‘s not the way this operates, and it‘s ironic since Rahm has such a reputation as a butt-kicking guy from Chicago.  I think Rahm is that way when it comes to the Hill, when he wants to be.  That‘s what he knows.  He knows politics.  He knows Capitol Hill.  He knows domestic policy from his days in the Clinton White House.
FINEMAN:  I think he‘s much less that kind of guy on foreign policy. 
My sense on foreign and military policy, it‘s a floating crap game here.  You‘ve got Jones—and by the way, if you were listening closely to Senator Webb, he said that Jones was “technically” the guy.  Did you hear that word, “technically”?
FINEMAN:  That means, you know, nobody listens to Jones, is basically the way I understand it.
MATTHEWS:  Well, who does the job...
MATTHEWS:  Who‘s doing it?
FINEMAN:  Well, I don‘t know that—you know, Donilon, Tom Donilon, his assistant, is also a very careful guy, a very shrewd but very cautious political guy, a master of bureaucratic disguise, if you will, and is not going to take risks...
FINEMAN:  ... either for himself or on behalf of Jones.
FINEMAN:  So it‘s not the vice president alone.  It‘s not Jones alone.  It‘s not Clinton alone.  It‘s not Gates alone.  It‘s not going to be Petraeus alone.  It‘s everybody, spokes around the hub...
FINEMAN:  ... of Barack Obama.
MATTHEWS:  This is the frickin‘ problem.  The American people want to see their government transparently and apparently.
FINEMAN:  Right.
MATTHEWS:  They want to look at Washington, read the paper, watch shows like this and have a strong visual, tangible sense of how the government‘s working.  This is a self-governing country.  We want to know how we‘re doing it.  All I see is a president who‘s articulate at the top.  I see Hillary Clinton doing a heck of a job.  I see Gates doing a heck of a job.  But I have no sense of how this president is running the country.
If it‘s not through Rahm Emanuel, who has the title chief of staff, who is the chief of staff?  Who is the person who‘s the enforcer, who makes sure that the cabinet secretaries, the NSC, everybody‘s doing their job?
FINEMAN:  Well, I think to some...
MATTHEWS:  I guess that‘s a problem—if you can‘t answer it, I don‘t think anybody can.
FINEMAN:  Well, I—you know, I—for example, on Petraeus, you know, I asked Rahm Emanuel directly, I said, you know, Whose idea was Petraeus?  Was that your idea?  Did you push that?
MATTHEWS:  Good question.
FINEMAN:  Yes.  And he said, Well, you know, I don‘t discuss presidential conversations, which I understand.  But I agree with you here.  You know, there‘s precious little in-the-room reporting—which used to be a tradition in Washington journalism, by the way—out of this White House.  You know, they ran a hermetically sealed presidential campaign.  They came in this way.  And you know, the flip side of that, though, is now when you‘ve got everybody wanting to know how this is working, it‘s not clear.
The other thing you‘ve got here is that the Pentagon is basically running diplomacy in Afghanistan.  The whole idea of COIN, of counterinsurgency...
FINEMAN:  ... theory, which is Petraeus‘s theory and McChrystal‘s theory, is that the Pentagon is in charge, basically.  And ironically, Hillary Clinton has kind of supported that and protected her own turf at the State Department.
FINEMAN:  But the Pentagon‘s in charge here, but nobody really wants to really admit that.  So one reason why you‘ve got all these other lines of authority that seem confusing is nobody wants to say what‘s really going on here, which is that the Pentagon, especially now with Petraeus, is in charge of nation building and war fighting in Afghanistan, having taking over the functions of the State Department, AID and everything else.  I mean, the Pentagon for next year‘s going to have a $700 billion budget.
MATTHEWS:  Yes.  You know what?  I was trying to think of the great visual.  We all grew up with John Ford Westerns.  I want to see the guy with the hands on the reins of the stagecoach—with the reins.  I want to see how he holds onto those reins.  I want to see how this president rules this country.  And I don‘t see it.  I see a very ethereal, brilliant president giving speeches.  And then I see cabinet secretaries sort of doing their own thing.  I do not sense he‘s got his hands on the reins.  I want to know who the reins are.
FINEMAN:  Well...
FINEMAN:  What‘s going to happen in this situation, Chris, I think, is that Petraeus is going to be the guy to gather those reins on the stagecoach.  And I think Colin Powell‘s in the background.  As you know, the president spoke with Colin Powell.  You know, people I know close to Powell and who know Powell say that he and Petraeus like each other, even though Powell‘s not a fan of COIN, of counterinsurgency doctrine.  They together took on Dick Cheney a few months ago on TV, you may recall.  It was Petraeus on one channel and Powell on another, both telling Dick Cheney to go jump in a lake.
MATTHEWS:  Not a bad recommendation anyway, in that case.
MATTHEWS:  Thank you very—by the way, his name is “Cheeney.”
MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Howard—just to have a little fun here.  Thank you, by the way.
MATTHEWS:  It happens to be his name.
Sunday on “DATELINE NBC,” Richard Engel—what a great reporter he is
reports from Afghanistan on one of the deadliest battles of the Afghan war and the affected it had on the father of a fallen soldier.  That‘s “A Father‘s Mission.”  What a mission that is.  Sunday night at 7:00 on “DATELINE NBC.”

Coming up now: Down along the gulf, oil has now washed up onto the shores of Pensacola, Florida, the home of Joe Scarborough.  It‘s been gushing onto the gulf for two months now, plenty of time to keep it from hitting the beaches, but they haven‘t done that.  They haven‘t kept it from the shore.  We‘re going to talk to one Florida official who‘s angry about the response and that oil is all over his beaches now.  It is getting out there.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS:  Pressure (ph) off (ph) helping to rescue senator Blanche Lincoln down in Arkansas.  Former president Bill Clinton is turning his attention to Texas.  Clinton‘s endorsing former Houston mayor Bill White in his bid to unseat secession-minded Rick Perry as governor of the Lone Star State.  Boy, that‘s wild.  Clinton‘s endorsement is just the latest sign of life for White, who‘s now even with Perry in a recent poll.  That is amazing.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  The cap, by the way, is back on BP‘s blown-out well, but after two months of oil gushing into the gulf, the federal response effort still couldn‘t manage to prevent tarballs and thick pools of oil from reaching Florida‘s Pensacola Beach.  In a moment, we‘ll talk to a Florida official who says this didn‘t have to happen.
But first let‘s turn to NBC‘s Kerry Sanders, who‘s down in Grand Isle, Louisiana.  Kerry, we haven‘t had you on in a while.  This is amazing down there, but I‘d—I‘d like to be down there.  You‘re there.  What‘s the smell and feel of it down there right now after all these weeks now of this bad story?
KERRY SANDERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  It‘s horrible.  And the smell and the odor is overwhelming.  We went further out, 1.7 miles from the source, and the noxious fumes caused me to get dizzy.  It‘s that strong of an odor.  And then of course, the oil comes in, and it comes in in waves.  I mean, the general belief in most people‘s minds are this black crude makes it to the surface and it all comes in together, but it doesn‘t.  It breaks up.  It gets emulsified, which means that the oil and the water mix, and then it comes in in waves.
And so at one point not far from here, they go to the beach and there is no oil coming in, and the people leave.  Then they come back two hours later, and there‘s oil coming in.  So there‘s vessels, as you know, on the water looking for the oil, trying to skim it up.  But it‘s been a very difficult cat-and-mouse game trying to catch the oil.  More oil looks like it‘s coming ashore than is being captured out there on the water.
MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know what these numbers mean, but I‘m looking at the number now in my notes, 60,000 barrels a day.  Is that the current guesstimate of what‘s coming out of that well?
SANDERS:  It goes all over the place.  That seems to be the generally accepted number, 60,000 barrels every 24 hours.  And it‘s 42 gallons to the barrel.  And the numbers get very confusing.  So I reached out to Tulane professor Hank Ashbaugh (ph).  Now, think about this.  You have a gallon of milk at home and then you drop it on the floor and it spills all over the place.  And it‘s that thin amount.  So we‘re talking about the volume.
If you take 64 days of the volume of the oil at 60,000 barrels a day, it would be enough to fill up 20 Washington monuments.  He calculates it would be 245 Olympic-sized swimming pools, 50,000 dump trucks, and, because this is Louisiana, 2.6 billion hurricane drinks, which are very popular here in the French Quarter. 
SANDERS:  But it gives you an idea of trying to conceptualize how much we‘re talking about. 
And, remember, the scientists and now the government confirms there are these underwater plumes of oil that are at 3,600 to 4,200 feet below six miles long.  So, that‘s oil we haven‘t even seen, Chris.   
MATTHEWS:  Where does that end up?  I just did a math—did my arithmetic.  That‘s a half-a-billion gallons of oil.  Where does it end up?  Does it evaporate?  Does it biodegrade?  Does it sit on the ocean floor?  Where does it end up?  Maybe that‘s a kid‘s question, but it‘s mine.  Where does it go? 
SANDERS:  No, it‘s—it goes to a lot of places.  It does evaporate. 
You know that sheen that we keep talking about on the top, that‘s what is evaporating, and it is very hot here, 100-plus degrees.  So, that actually evaporates it.  And then it leaves that thicker stuff, the carbon C5 to 19 is what they told me. 
This is the stuff that is not just going to break up and disappear.  And that‘s what we see coming in.  And when it comes into the marshlands over here, it doesn‘t break up.  It doesn‘t disappear.  And that‘s what chokes those marshlands. 
And then, of course, there‘s the oil that‘s down below.  It‘s being hit by that dispersant called Corexit.  That is the big question mark.  Nobody knows what the long-term effect of that Corexit is, other than the manufacturer, which says there‘s no long-term effect. 
But a lot of scientists are scratching their heads saying we‘re not so sure, because it‘s never been used in a volume like it is here. 
MATTHEWS:  Well, I don‘t know how a company can pay for such what seems to be enduring, maybe centuries of damage.  I don‘t know.  This is horrendous. 
It‘s great to have you on, though, Kerry Sanders.  I did the fact of what it smells like down there, because you can‘t see it on TV.  And you say it‘s horrible.  And I take your word for it. 
Thanks so much, Kerry Sanders.
Buck Lee is the executive director of the Santa Rosa Island Authority over in Pensacola. 
Buck, thank you for coming on.  This mess, tell me what it‘s looking like and feeling like and smelling like now in Pensacola.
We‘re on Pensacola beach.  There is no smell. 
Yesterday, we had a lot of this product, this mousse or whatever you want to call it from the shore up into the high tide line.  Most of it has been picked up.  They‘re working hard at it.  But look what they have done to our beautiful beach.  We‘re going to have it cleaned up one way or the other.
We‘re going to forward with July 4 fireworks.  We are going forward with our Blue Angel air show.  Things are coming fine.  But right now this should have never happened, Chris. 
MATTHEWS:  What could have been done to stop it? 
LEE:  Well, it‘s been over two months now.  You probably could have brought in somebody that knew what the heck they were doing, like a foreign country. 
They have to know how to deal with oil spills over there, whether it‘s Denmark or anybody else or that deals with the North Atlantic and what they go through over there.  There was no plan in place over here.
MATTHEWS:  Well, I have been asking that for that two months.  I‘m not getting an answer.
So, let‘s talk about the near-term problem. 
LEE:  Sure.
MATTHEWS:  What could have been done to keep the oil once it was out of the well from reaching Pensacola Beach? 
LEE:  First and foremost, the first line of defense was going to be these skimmers out in the Gulf. 
If they ever get a shot, you can see there‘s one vessel out there.  And that‘s it.  The second line of defense, which we just sent up today to see if it will get approved, is what we call pom-poms.  Basically, they‘re rubber-coated that absorb the oil.  They stretch up about 10 feet out in the Gulf along the beach.  That would be our second line.
Our third line of defense, unfortunately, is these workers behind us, and they can‘t do much because they have got big shovels, and they can only work 10 minutes out of an hour.
MATTHEWS:  Why not?  Why not more? 
LEE:  That‘s OSHA‘s rule, that if it gets like 90 degrees and 85 percent humidity, they can only work 10 minutes after an hour—an hour.  We have been hit by a lot of hurricanes.  And can you imagine a roofer going up to replace the roof on a house working 10 minutes, then coming back down for 50.?
It‘s not working.  We hope to get some heavy machinery in this week. 
That‘s what we need.  We‘re going to need surf rakes to come through here.  We‘re going to need backhoes.  We‘re just going to need some heavier equipment, because these folks with these big shovels, that just doesn‘t make it, Chris. 
MATTHEWS:  Well, make your shout-out right now.  Which government agency in Washington do you have to deal with?  Who should send you stuff that hasn‘t done it?  Who are you making your orders from? 
LEE:  Unified Command, which is both the federal government and BP. 
And it‘s over in Mobile, Alabama, which is about an hour‘s drive from us.  Hopefully, next week, they‘re going to have a system set up in Tallahassee where we go to one person, and that‘s the United States Coast Guard. 
The red tape is unbelievable.  Chris, I‘m sure you have heard it up and down the Coast Guard of what we have to go through to try to get equipment.  And it‘s terrible. 
MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about your political sense of this, just roughly, without going into parties, Democrat, Republican, that sort of thing.
LEE:  Right. 
MATTHEWS:  Do you have a sense that this has been BP‘s disaster from day one, or there part of it that‘s been Barack Obama‘s disaster? 
LEE:  It‘s been both BP‘s and it‘s been the federal government‘s. 
And I don‘t care if it‘s a man or a woman or if they‘re Democrat or Republican in charge.  They should have taken something and run with it at the very beginning when they realized after a week, oh, my God, all this oil Is coming into the Gulf of Mexico.  It‘s got to go somewhere. 
And, unfortunately, it‘s been to Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.  And we don‘t know where else it‘s going to go. 
MATTHEWS:  You know the White House phone number, sir.  Good luck. 
Thank you very much, 202-456-1414. 
MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Buck Lee.
LEE:  Thanks, Chris. 
MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Joe Biden‘s advice for high school kids, it‘s kind of funny.  He says don‘t settle for number two.  Obviously, he did.  We will explain that in the “Sideshow.”
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  
MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL and to the “Sideshow.” 
Well, the comedians couldn‘t lay a glove on President Obama and his dealing with the unfortunate behavior of General Stanley McChrystal and his team yesterday.  Here they are, though, taking their tries. 
JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”:  Well, hey, folks, after a week of searching, President Obama finally found it, somebody‘s ass to kick.  Yes. 
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”:  The general is in trouble for shooting off his mouth.  So, once again, another hole Obama can‘t plug. 
LETTERMAN:  It‘s another hole Obama can‘t plug, ladies and gentlemen.
JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”:  Way to play it close to the vest, McChrystal. 
STEWART:  You know, while I may be a four-star general, and you may be a reporter for some hippy magazine, but I feel like I can trust you. 
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, “THE COLBERT REPORT”:  This might shock you, folks, but I actually agree with the president‘s decision to replace McChrystal.  After all, under General Petraeus‘ command, we have already defeated one hostile Muslim nation.  I‘m referring, of course, to Algeria. 
COLBERT:  Goooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaallllll!
MATTHEWS:  Well, actually, Algeria is not hostile to the United States, but three cheers for the U.S. team.
Next:  Do as I say, not as I do.
Vice President Joe Biden was hosting a ceremony for high school students at the White House yesterday when he offered up some of his trademark off-the-cuff advice. 
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You know about doing the right thing.  You‘ve done it spontaneously.  I admire the devil out of you. 
And I want you to know, if you decide to go in public life, be president, instead of vice president. 
BIDEN:  And I‘ll tell you why.  The reason why I have to go is I‘m supposed to be in the Situation Room, literally, right now with the president on a press briefing.  And when the president says you should be there, there is a certain obligation to be there. 
MATTHEWS:  Well, Biden at least clearly respects the chain of command. 
Now to yet another foot-in-mouth moment from Rand Paul.  Back in 2006, a Kentucky judge had ruled that then Governor Ernie Fletcher could not be tried on accusations that he had violated state hiring laws while in office. 
Well, Rand Paul then penned an op-ed in “The Kentucky Post” with some sage advice.  This Rand Paul writing—quote—“What would I do if I were governor?  First, I would have pardoned myself and everyone included nearly a year ago.  Without a pardon, the case goes on and on.”
Well, the only time a politician should say pardon me is when he or she has bumped into somebody. 
Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.” 
It serves as a lesson to Republicans like Joe Barton.  You don‘t want to be on the side of BP.  In our new “Wall Street Journal”/NBC poll, how many Americans said they have a favorable view of the oil giant BP?  Six percent.  In the entire history of our poll, NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll, only Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, and Yasser Arafat have scored lower.  Just 6 percent of the American people are pro-BP.  And that includes Rush Limbaugh—tonight‘s not-so-“Big Number.”
Up next:  It‘s been 44 days since I challenged any Republican officeholder to come on this show, HARDBALL, and disagree with Rush Limbaugh, and, so far, no takers.  Why are Republicans so afraid of disagreeing with El Rushbo? 
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only...
MATTHEWS:  Look at him.  Unbelievable—only on MSNBC.  
AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Amanda Drury with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
A jittery sell-off accelerating towards the close, leaving stocks sharply lower, the Dow Jones industrial tumbling 145 points, the S&P 500 slipping 18 points, and the Nasdaq falling nearly 37. 
Lingering concerns about European debt still hovering over the U.S.  markets, with Greece‘s credit default swaps, the cost of keeping the country out of bankruptcy hitting a record high.  Back here at home, new jobless claims fell by 19,000 last week, much better than expected.  Retailers, however, taking a hit, with Nike and Bed Bath & Beyond leading the decline on rising costs and disappointing outlooks. 
Two big names in tech reporting just after the closing bell—software developer Oracle shares soaring after-hours on some very impressive earnings end revenue. 
And BlackBerry maker Research In Motion beating on earnings, but falling slightly short on revenue, RIM shares heading sharply lower in after-hours.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now it‘s back to
MATTHEWS:  Wow.  It‘s back to HARDBALL. 
It‘s been 44 days since we invited Republican officeholders to come on our show, HARDBALL, and say that Rush Limbaugh is not the leader of the Republican Party or to simply disagree with Rushbo on just about anything they can think of.  We thought we had something when Rush went out there and took the side of BP, even after they had crushed the economy of all those shrimpers and fishermen and all those other people down there in that area of the Gulf of Mexico.
Here he was, by the way, trashing the $20 billion escrow account the Obama administration got BP to set up for those hurt by the disaster. 
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Because I‘m telling you every time—this is just another bailout fund called something else.  And we will see who gets it.  If Obama‘s past is prologue, and it is, then this is going to be used as a little miniature slush fund. 
It was a shakedown.  It was a shakedown, pure and simple.  And somebody had the audacity to call it what it was.  And everybody is running for the hills. 
MATTHEWS:  Well, joining us right now for more on El Rushbo, David Corn from “Mother Jones” magazine and 
David, I don‘t understand it.  I would think that somewhere out there
the Republican Party has got about 200 congressmen and senators in Washington. 

MATTHEWS:  I would have thought that one of them would say, I can score a point by showing I‘m an independent.  That‘s supposed to be one of the attributes of a good Republican, self-reliance.  And yet they all come off as ditto heads. 
CORN:  Chris, it is easier for a pelican to praise BP than for a Republican to criticize Rush Limbaugh. 
MATTHEWS:  You have been working on that one. 
CORN:  Yes, for about 10 seconds. 
Listen, how many—if you‘re going to create as a threshold to get on the show as a Republican you have to criticize Rush Limbaugh, you‘re going to make life very hard for your bookers and producers.
MATTHEWS:  Did you see that bumper we showed coming in where he‘s up there in the black shirt dancing and doing that incredible sort of rock ‘n‘ roll dancing? 
MATTHEWS:  Look at him.  He‘s supposed to take flight here at some point.  Look at—there he goes.  He‘s like trying to take off.  He is so proud of himself. 
And I just wonder, what is going on?  First of all, let‘s take a look at something.  He took the side of BP at a time that our NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll says that only 6 percent of the country thinks BP is in the right here, because everybody has looked at who caused this thing. 
CORN:  Right, and the arrogance, and the fact they didn‘t have a plan to deal with what would happen when you make a hole in the ocean‘s floor. 
Put it this way.  If this happened under the Bush administration, would he be—or Reagan administration, would he be saying these things?  Is he blinded by an antipathy towards Barack Obama?
CORN:  To call this a mini slush fund, who is going to get this money?  Well, Kenneth Feinberg will be overseeing this.  And the question is, will it be workers?  Will it be business owners?  Those are the questions, not whether it‘s going to go to bail out...
MATTHEWS:  You know how we got into this thing?  Because, back months ago, when we started this, we did it—we were triggered by the fact that there‘s a guy named Phil Gingrey, a congressman, who took the side of the Republican leadership against Rush Limbaugh. 
And after a few hours of withering attack from Rush and his people...
CORN:  Sure.
MATTHEWS:  ... the ditto heads, he buckled and apologized to Rush Limbaugh for taking the side of his party leadership against Rushbo.
CORN:  I remember it well.  Yes. 
MATTHEWS:  Here he is, by the way, it happened again the other day when Republican leadership, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, both took on the Rush-Barton shakedown line, which they said BP‘s bad (ph) -- we thought Republicans had their chance to take their stand with their leaders and say, “Rush, oh, Rush, we hate to say this, but you‘re wrong.”
So, this Tuesday, two days ago, I asked U.S. Congressman Scalise from Louisiana if he agreed with Rush or his leadership.  Look what he did.
MATTHEWS:  What about the big news that the federal government has asked BP to set aside a $20 billion escrow account?  Some Republicans, like Joe Barton, have said that that is a shakedown, that that‘s wrong.  It‘s a slush fund.
Rush Limbaugh agrees with that point of view.  Your party leadership doesn‘t.  Who speaks for you—your party leadership on that point or Rush Limbaugh on that point?  Who‘s your leader?  First of all, will you answer the question, is Rush right here or wrong?
REP. STEVE SCALISE ®, LOUISIANA:  Well, again, I didn‘t listen to his comments earlier, Chris.  But what I‘ve said is, I want real transparency and accountability with the money.
MATTHEWS:  He called it a shakedown.  Is it a shakedown?
SCALISE:  I wasn‘t in those meetings, Chris.
MATTHEWS:  I wasn‘t in those meetings.
By the way, in all fairness to Congressman Scalise and thanks for coming on, he did say he speaks for himself.  Rush doesn‘t speak for him, but he would say he disagreed with Rush.  Those words will not come out of the mouth of any Republicans so far.
CORN:  I think the Republican leadership, the official leadership, is really, really weak, you know, whether it‘s John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, these are national leaders.
MATTHEWS: Is this the first political party in the history of the country which is media-based.  FOX News, Rush Limbaugh is really the Republican Party today.  And those people from Ohio or Kentucky who have seats in Congress are not really their leaders.
CORN:  I would say—
MATTHEWS:  I would argue they don‘t know those people.
CORN:  I would say that the base of the party looks for support, leadership, inspiration for from Rush Limbaugh, FOX News and other media figures than they do when they look at Michael Steele or John Boehner or Eric Cantor.  Those people—the media people are more prominent to them.  They‘re—you know, Glenn Beck, whoever you name—they‘re more part of their lives than the Washington Republican elite.  You know, they‘re not engaged.  They‘re not enthused by the Washington Republican elite.
MATTHEWS:  So, that sort of tribalist right-wing view you hear on FOX, that you get from Beck, that you get from Rush Limbaugh particularly, that is the Republican doctrine today.  And the moderate voices you hear in the suburbs of the northeast to the Midwest or California where Republicans get elected not as one of those people is really not that strong in the Republican Party.
CORN:  Well, there are few Republicans in that stripe.  Actually, in this coming election, we may see a few more moderate Republicans win than the last few cycles.  They‘ve been at a complete disadvantage.
MATTHEWS:  Anyway, I‘ve got to salute Rush.  I‘ve never seen the guy on a radio, he doesn‘t do television.  He has one median of expression, the voice.
CORN:  He doesn‘t put on guest either.
MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t put on guest.  He has a good golf game.  I figure he‘s kept up his tan.  He‘s got a good lifestyle—and congratulations on your marriage.
He enjoys his life and with like his left hand he runs the entire Republican Party.  Congratulations until somebody dethrones you Rushbo, congratulations on ruling an entire political party of ditto-heads.
Thank you, David Corn.
By the way, our invitations to any Republican office holder—I never thought this would last this long.  I‘d be glad it was over next week.  Please come on the show and end this gambit of ours and tell us there‘s an independent thinking Republican alive in this country.
Up next, there‘s rumbling on the right that Hillary Clinton should challenge President Obama in 2012.  Are these conservatives pro-Hillary or are they simply anti-Obama?
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS:  Well, despite President Obama‘s struggles in the polls right now, there‘s no nostalgia for George W. Bush.  Get this: our NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll finds the former president, that‘s W., still upside down in favorability—just 29 percent favorable versus 50 percent unfavorable.  That‘s minus 21 in favorable.  And the only entities worse than Bush are oil companies and BP, still hasn‘t made its comeback yet.
And for political candidates supporting Bush, economy policy could be a kiss of death.  Just 5 percent of the country said they‘d be enthusiastic for a return of that kind of thinking in the candidate who comes around and says, “I agree with Bush‘s economy policy.”
HARDBALL will be right back.
MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Some conservatives have been talking up a Hillary Clinton presidential run next time around in 2012.  “Wall Street Journal” columnist Peggy Noonan wrote this weekend, quote, “Among Democrats—and others—when the talk turns to the presidency, it turns more and more to Hillary Clinton, quote, ‘We may have made a mistake.  She would have been better.‘  Sooner or later, the secretary of state is going to come under a fairly consistent pressure to begin to consider 2012.”
Now, Peggy Noonan is a Republican.  Keep that together on your head. 
This is nothing more trouble making on the right, I would argue.
Joan Walsh is editor-in-chief of  Michelle Bernard is an MSNBC political analyst and president and CEO of Independent Women‘s Forum, not Democrats.  So, make sure we‘re not letting her see herself as a Democrat here because you are an independent, right?
MATTHEWS:  OK.  So, Joan, I think you might be in a Democratic Party generally.
MATTHEWS:  So, let me start with you.  Who‘s pushing this story, was it about a big chasm in the Democratic Party between the Clinton folk and the Obama folk?
WALSH:  Crazy Republican people with wishful thinking, Chris, because, you know, it is the only way that they defeat Obama in 2012.  He‘s going to be strong.  He‘s going to have his ups and downs.  His poll numbers are a little bit challenging right now.  But he will be nominated.
And the only—the only way they can think to weaken him is to root for this kind of fight.  And, of course, it has to be Hillary.  The she-devil is always waiting in the wings for her chance, which is completely preposterous.  She‘s been a wonderful secretary of state.  She‘s been a loyal secretary of state.  Her husband has done anything the president has asked him to do.  They are a team.
This is not going to happen.  This is Peggy Noonan‘s wishful thinking.
MATTHEWS:  I was just thinking, Michelle, that the problem, if you want to speculate—
MATTHEWS:  -- for trouble making, you would have to assume, this isn‘t like Ted Kennedy, an independent senator taking on Jimmy Carter.  Fair enough.  I didn‘t like it at the time, but he did it, OK?
MATTHEWS:  And it ruined the party, OK?  This would be a person who‘s been appointed to the highest position you can appoint somebody to responding by trying to kill the guy.  It‘s unimaginable.
BERNARD:  It‘s unimaginable, but I don‘t think that the speculation means that‘s a bunch of crazy Republicans speculating.  This is what people do.  The president‘s ratings, favorable and job ratings—job approval ratings are down for the—
MATTHEWS:  Have you heard in your circles—
MATTHEWS:  -- they‘re probably saying it‘s mine—but have you heard in your circles, any real talk of Hillary Clinton challenging Barack Obama?  Quitting her job, walking away from the greatest job anybody can appoint you to on the planet?  I mean it.
MATTHEWS:  And maybe short of U.N. secretary general, which I don‘t think is as good as this one.
WALSH:  But really, Michelle, you‘ve heard—you‘ve heard talk from people who are well-informed about what—
MATTHEWS:  No, I‘m asking her—
BERNARD:  He actually asked me, Joan.  I hadn‘t answered the question yet.
WALSH:  Oh, I‘m sorry.
MATTHEWS:  She has not—she has not abided by even my question. 
Your thoughts?
MATTHEWS:  I like your alacrity, though.
MATTHEWS:  OK.  Michelle, yes or no?
BERNARD:  She was ready to turn me into the she-devil.
WALSH:  Never.
BERNARD:  I haven‘t—I have not heard anybody discuss that Hillary Clinton would seriously actually do this.  The musings have been—what happens because the president‘s hardest, hardest critics have been the far-left and that people are saying he hasn‘t delivered on Gitmo, he hasn‘t delivered on Afghanistan.  All of a sudden, Hillary Clinton has actually finally eclipsed him in job approval, on favorable ratings.  The question has been: what if?
Even Peggy Noonan‘s article said she didn‘t think Hillary Clinton would actually do it or even want to do it.  She said that the president has been snake bit and he‘s got a problem.
MATTHEWS:  Yes.  By the way, I think Secretary Clinton has done a fabulous job.  And, by the way, I think former President Bill Clinton, Joan, has done a fabulous job as sort of just a spouse, as a family member, and as well as a citizen around the world.  He‘s done nothing but help this administration.  He‘s gone out there for Blanche Lincoln, a moderate Democrat.  He‘s going out there for Jack Murtha‘s successor, out there in western Pennsylvania, and he‘ll be here all over the place, I assume, don‘t you, this fall, including helping Bill White down in Texas knockoff that character down there, Rick Perry, the secessionist.
WALSH:  That would be fantastic.  I know.  That would be fantastic.
MATTHEWS:  Wouldn‘t that be a messianic (ph) time?
WALSH:  He will be out on the trail.  He‘s an important senior Democratic figure.  He is beloved by those who beloved him, who love him.  And so, you know, I think this is—this is preposterous.  I think—
WALSH:  And I—frankly, I am a Democrat and I‘m in San Francisco, which was like the headquarters of Hillary love, and I‘m not hearing anybody say that, you know?
WALSH:  So, I really—I really can‘t imagine that.
MATTHEWS:  OK.  I think Peggy lives in New York and she hears the scuttlebutt.  But I she does hear it from some of her friends on the Democratic side.
BERNARD:  It‘s interesting.
MATTHEWS:  Because she doesn‘t make stuff up.  Let make ask you this, let‘s go to more fun because it‘s more—Nikki Haley.
MATTHEWS:  She‘s just won the governor‘s nomination down there in South Carolina.  She‘s probably going to win the general down there.  She is this rising star on the right.  Is she going to be the king or queen maker come—this coming cycle?
There she is, winning this nomination, probably winning this election.  She is at the gateway to the Republican Party.  You have to get through South Carolina.  John McCain couldn‘t get through there.  Bush did and won.  It‘s a killer state if you‘re a moderate.
Can she define the victor for next time?  Will she say it‘s Sarah, it‘s not Mitt?  Does she have that power?
BERNARD:  She—I mean, she could possibly do it, and it‘s interesting because Mitt Romney endorsed her, Jenny Sanford endorsed her, Sarah Palin has endorsed her.  We‘re going to have to see, number one, does she win?  And number two, what does she do on the national stage?  Everybody was building up the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, and look what happened to him when he gave his first—
MATTHEWS:  Well, he didn‘t do a good job.
BERNARD:  He did a terrible job.
MATTHEWS:  Let me think, I guess he‘s—here‘s my thinking, well, your thoughts, Joan?  My think is it‘s great being a governor because you don‘t have to vote on things.  You don‘t have to be ideological right up front.  Your thoughts—can she be a powerhouse?
WALSH:  But she‘s very ideological.  And, you know, Chris, I wouldn‘t put her in the state house quite yet.  I mean, she‘s having a hard time raising money.  That should end now that she‘s the real candidate, but, you know, there are people emerging as Republicans for Shaheen, Vince Shaheen, the Democrat.  He‘s very moderate.  He‘s very well liked.
I didn‘t know this until today, but the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Shaheen.  So, she is a little a bit to the right of Mark Sanford and that has people worried.  Now, this is South Carolina and I‘m not going to pretend to have special knowledge of it.  But I think it‘s going to be a very interesting race to watch.
She‘s a fascinating and really compelling candidate.  So, it will be exciting.  But I would—I can‘t say that she‘s going to walk away with it.
MATTHEWS:  I would bet right down there in Florida and South Carolina.
WALSH:  I know.  I know.
MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Joan Walsh.  Thank you.  I think it might happen down there.
Anyway, she looks great.  We‘ll see if she‘s going to be on the show and see if she can answer some HARDBALL questions.  That would be interesting.
Thank you, Joan Walsh.  Thank you, Michelle Bernard.
When we return, let me finish some thoughts about why Republicans live in fear about disagreeing with Rush Limbaugh.  What a sad case for that party, what that says about the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln.
You‘re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with our lively interchange with Rush Limbaugh.
As I said earlier on the show, I think this is a dazzling question.  Who are these elected politicians who fear this man on the radio?  We come up with this idea and can‘t go on forever, can it?  We asked all of the Republican officials in Washington.  There are hundreds of them, for just one of them to step forward and say that he or she disagrees with Rush on anything—anything.
We got this idea when a U.S. congressman from Georgia had to tiptoe backward on something he‘d said.  He actually dared to defend the Republican leadership against Rush‘s charges, but not for long.  After a few hours of withering nervousness, the congressman decided that it was the better part of valor to tell Rush that he was sorry for what he‘d done.
How could this happen in a democracy?
But, listen up.  It continued like this.  I thought, for sure, it might stop, this kowtowing to the radio man down in Florida.  When Rush went so far as to back BP and the oil mess.  He went out there and took BP‘s side, attacking the president for being so unpleasant with the big oil company by getting it to set aside $20 billion to the people whose lives have been sunk by the oil spill.  Well, not even that got a single congressperson to step up and say this is where I get off, where I cut Limbaugh loose.
When we had a congressman from Louisiana on this week, not even he would side with his party‘s leadership and take on Rush.  While saying Rush didn‘t speak for him, that he spoke for himself, he still would not complete the thought and say, darn it, Rush is wrong, couldn‘t do it.
Perhaps, he can‘t do it.  Maybe no Republican can do it, the way things are today.
We continue to look for that lonely Republican to stand up against big, bad BP and win one for the folks who are really getting messed with, the folks the chairman at BP calls the small people.  Hmm.
That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.
Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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