'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Friday, September 10th, 2010

Guests: Mark Halperin, Howard Fineman, Jane Wells, David Weigel, Steve Stone, Brent Walker, R. Clarke Cooper, Aubrey Sarvis, David Corn


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Blaming Obama—again.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

Leading off tonight: Republicans say building a mosque is the same as burning the Koran.  Well, we all remember how the Bush administration conflated 9/11 and Iraq to gain support for the war they always wanted to fight against Saddam Hussein. 

Now Republicans are at it again, this time creating a moral equivalency between burning Korans and building an Islamic center two blocks rounds from Ground Zero.  It‘s their way of saying that President Obama is as wrong backing the rights of those building the Islamic center as the Florida pastor was about burning Korans.  We‘ve heard it before.  And just this week John Boehner, Sarah Palin, and today Newt Gingrich joined the team, Republicans exploiting our fears again.  That‘s our top story tonight.

Plus, if you watched HARDBALL last night, you know by now that the whole affair involving the Florida pastor, who is or isn‘t going to burn Korans tomorrow, has become a never-ending saga.  This afternoon, Pastor Terry Jones insisted, he‘s convinced—why, we don‘t know—that he‘s going to meet tomorrow with the New York imam in charge of the planned Islamic center near Ground Zero and work out some kind of deal.  That‘s what he says.  That‘s what he hopes.  We‘ll have the latest in a moment.

Also, another battle front has opened in the war against “”don‘t ask, don‘t tell.””  A federal judge has ruled the policy violates the constitutional rights of gays and that she will issue an order to halt the policy.  So what happens now?

And how did we get from 9/11 being a politics-free zone to it becoming a talking point for Republicans to exploit?  The truce is over and it looks like conservatives are winning it.

And “Let Me Finish” tonight with my own thoughts on how Obama tried to defuse this plan to burn the Islamic holy book and how his opponents refused to join in common cause even on this.

Let‘s start with Republicans conflating the burning of the Koran with the building of that mosque two blocks from Ground Zero.  “Time‘s” Mark Halperin is MSNBC‘s senior political analyst and “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman, also a MSNBC political analyst.

When you read through the statements mentioned by the three people I‘m going to mention now, Gingrich, Boehner and Palin, what surprises me is the resonance of them all.  Each one of them refused to take sides with the president against the preacher who wanted to burn the Korans.  They could have simply said, This time, the president‘s right.  The guy on the other side is dead wrong.  Instead, they played games.

Here‘s newt Gingrich today on ABC.  Let‘s listen.


NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  It‘s wrong to burn the Koran and it‘s wrong to build the mosque at Ground Zero and both should be stopped.  I‘m glad to see that the pastor took a big step back.  I wish that Imam Rauf would have the same courage and the same commitment to America and take an equally big step back from the Ground Zero mosque and build the mosque somewhere else in New York.


MATTHEWS:  What a moral disaster!  Here‘s John Boehner conflating the Koran burning and the Islamic center near Ground Zero.  They‘re all singing from the same non-prayer book.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  To Pastor Jones and those who want to build the mosque, just because you have a right to do something in America does not mean it is the right thing to do.


MATTHEWS:  And here is Sarah Palin on her Facebook page.  Quote, “People have a constitutional right to burn a Koran if they want to, but doing so is insensitive”—I‘d say so—“and an unnecessary provocation, much like building a mosque at Ground Zero.”

Howard, that preacher down there, whatever we think of him, whatever we think of the quality of his mind of his heart or his purposes, never mentioned the mosque, never came up, ever, ever, ever, until these folks started—the Three Stooges of America decided that they were going to make this the issue.  And they did it successfully to the point where he got the message and his congregation, such as it is, began singing from the same prayer book that they were singing from.

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, this is dominating the news once again.  I talked to a top adviser to the president about what their goal was for the press conference today.


FINEMAN:  I went over to that press conference.  It was to deal with the economy and deal, as this guy said, with some stray cats and dogs.


FINEMAN:  This issue is not a stray cat and dog.  The Republicans are turning it into a lion and tiger.

MATTHEWS:  And they‘re turning it to get—why are they turning it to the mosque?  Because they know that issue‘s going to continue?

FINEMAN:  That issue‘s going to continue—that issue continues, and the numbers—the numbers, quite frankly, just the raw numbers on that—

MATTHEWS:  Oh, sure.

FINEMAN:  -- in New York and elsewhere, are good.  So they‘re going to drive it.  And Obama is living in a different world—

MATTHEWS:  But maybe he—

FINEMAN:  -- from the one they‘re living in.

MATTHEWS:  OK, but the world they‘re living in establishes in their minds politically a moral equivalence between an obviously controversial decision to build an Islamic center somewhere near the World Trade Center.  But there‘s no controversy about the evil of burning a Koran.

FINEMAN:  No.  I think—

MATTHEWS:  Burning a Koran is indisputably aimed at causing trouble.

FINEMAN:  Let me say, Chris, you know, I‘m an analyst, not an editorial writer.  But this is an outrageous comparison.  It‘s an outrageous comparison on moral grounds.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Mark Halperin.  The politics of this, see it through.  Where are they going with this?  They‘re, in a way, incriminating President Obama by putting him on the same moral stage as that preacher down there.  He wants to burn Korans.  He wants to support the building of a mosque, an Islamic center.  It seems like they‘re playing pretty nasty here.  It‘s at least hardball.  I think it‘s a little tougher.

MARK HALPERIN, “TIME,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Chris, I‘m not sure which I would prefer, whether they actually believe there‘s a moral equivalency there or they don‘t and they‘re using it for political purposes.  Either way, whichever it is, this is not just bad domestic politics for the president—and it is and they know it, for a variety of reasons, including it takes him off the economy and it divides them from the Democrats, which is an increasing problem, I think, for the president and the Democrats in the mid-terms—


HALPERIN:  -- on a range of issues.  But you know, I almost resist talking about this as a political issue.  This is a national security crisis.  Both of these issues are.  You have General Petraeus get involved in that domestic matter, the 1st Amendment issue, shows the extraordinary extent to which people in the military are worried about the—our men and women overseas think this is a big deal.

MATTHEWS:  Of course.

HALPERIN:  And to have it to be brought into domestic politics and inflamed by Republicans—again, out of principle, maybe, out of political purposes maybe, whatever the reason—is really a national and international tragedy.  And unfortunately, the president, for a variety of reasons, is too weak on his own to deal with it.

MATTHEWS:  I think you‘re right.  Let me—Howard?

FINEMAN:  Well, sitting there in the press conference today with President Obama, you can almost hear sort of the classical music in the background.  I don‘t mean to be facetious.

MATTHEWS:  No, I get you!

FINEMAN:  But you know what I mean?  It was a stately thing and a mature discussion, and you can agree or disagree.  Let‘s all be reasonable about this—

MATTHEWS:  He‘s an Oxford don.  He‘s so well—look how he comes in there, elegantly presenting himself, elegantly expressing himself on a very high-level tone—

FINEMAN:  And he gave a very—

MATTHEWS:  -- against this menagerie that‘s biting at his heels.

FINEMAN:  That‘s what I‘m saying.  Those people that you cited, Boehner and Gingrich and Palin, are not playing the same ballgame that Barack Obama is.

MATTHEWS:  I shouldn‘t call them the Three Stooges.  They‘re a lot smarter than that.  I think they know what—they‘re not stupid.

FINEMAN:  Sure, they know what they‘re doing.

MATTHEWS:  Stooges are the people who buy their act.

FINEMAN:  But they—

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at the president.  He‘s trying to regain the high ground here.  Here he is talking about the—Pastor Terry Jones.  Let‘s listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Although this may be one individual in Florida, part of my concern is to make sure that we don‘t start having a whole bunch of folks all across the country think this is the way to get attention.  This is a way of endangering our troops.  I hardly think that we‘re the one who elevated this story.  But it is, in the age of the Internet, something that can cause us profound damage around the world.


MATTHEWS:  This isn‘t partisan.  This isn‘t a philosophical argument, Mark and Howard.  We all know we‘re not fighting an army in uniform over there.  The terrorists are not paid—they‘re not paid regular salaries.  They‘re not put into uniform.  They‘re people that are either recruited or volunteer.  And they volunteer out of a desire either to kill themselves in their holy cause or to kill lots of other people in a holy cause, or both.

They‘re driven by a belief that our side is evil and anti-Islamic and out to destroy the faith they‘re born with.  Is there any easier thing to do that with than to say, We‘re going to prevent them from building a holy center, and by the way, we‘re going to burn their holy book, and we‘re going to all do it in an international debate?

FINEMAN:  Well, it‘s about that, but it‘s also about going after Barack Obama.  Let‘s not kid ourselves here as to what Newt and Sarah and John are doing.  There‘s polling out there that says people are a little unsure of who Barack Obama is and where he comes from, and so forth.

MATTHEWS:  Especially Republicans.

FINEMAN:  Especially Republicans.  Barack Obama at the press conference today was kind of forced to go out of his way a little bit to talk about his Christian faith.

MATTHEWS:  Wasn‘t that awful that he has to say—

FINEMAN:  Well, he—

MATTHEWS:  -- This is my religion?

FINEMAN:  That‘s the situation he‘s in.


FINEMAN:  They know it.  And they know it.

MATTHEWS:  Howard, you‘re so smart to bring this—this is so rare in American politics, to have to come out and say, Here‘s my religious faith.  I have to put it out here as a shield against those who are denying I have it.

Here‘s the president today on his faith.  Let‘s listen.


OBAMA:  As somebody who, you know, relies heavily on my Christian faith in my job, I understand, you know, that—the passions that religious faith can raise.  But I‘m also respectful that people of different faiths can practice their religion, even if they don‘t subscribe to the exact same notions that I do.


MATTHEWS:  You know, Mark, the sad thing is, I know the president went in there, as we who are all professionals know—he went in with certain words he wanted out, he wanted to punch out like middle class and tax cuts held hostage.  The sad thing is, he may have well been warned, admonished by his people, You better remind everybody you‘re a Christian.  That‘s the sad thing.  I mean, whatever religion you are in this country, you shouldn‘t have to brandish it in self-defense.

HALPERIN:  Yes.  If that was an ad lib, Chris, I‘d be shocked.  Look, a few weeks ago, I thought moving the Islamic center bad for America.  Then I evolved to the view that said, whatever the result, it needed to be managed by the president and it needed to be managed with unity.  Now I think it probably should move and has to move, which is unfortunate.  The other thing I‘d say—

MATTHEWS:  Explain that view because I am a little bit surprised by that.

HALPERIN:  I just think that there‘s too much opposition to it and the feelings are too raw.  And frankly, I think, most of all, the people—the people who are in charge of building it are not handling themselves well enough to build it the right way, to build it in a show of unity, rather than a show of division.


MATTHEWS:  Are you up there in New York?  Do you know what it looks like up there?  Do you have a sense, when you‘re walking past it, it‘s going to be a big object of the news tomorrow on “NIGHTLY” and other programs or over the weekend—when you walk by it and you look at that building—it‘s in a row of buildings—does it seem like it‘s facing the World Trade Center?  Does it seem like it‘s in the face of?

HALPERIN:  Chris, I jog down there all the time.  That‘s where I end my runs.  And it‘s really close.  When people say it‘s two blocks—it‘s steps away.  And it‘s just too raw.  I‘m fine if it‘s built there, if it‘s built the right way, but I just have no confidence that the president and the mayor and the city and the country can come together and build it the right way.


I just want to say one thing about the politics, which is if this were a cold war issue and there was a vulnerable—a Democratic president who was vulnerable on the cultural and national security issues of the type that are implicated here and politicians were saying these kind of things who were Republicans, we‘d have no doubt that they were doing it on purpose, that they were doing purely to discombobulate the president and undermine his image.

And again, I‘d like to give those three the benefit of the doubt, but you saw what the president had to do today.  As Howard and you pointed out, he had to brandish his Christian faith.  And that shows the extent to which he‘s discombobulated by this.


MATTHEWS:  That‘s called a religious test, by the way.

FINEMAN:  Not only that, today the president moved slightly back in the direction of saying they should build it at that spot.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, they pushed him into that.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  He tacked back a little bit by saying if you could build a church there—

MATTHEWS:  Newsmax, a conservative blog site, Web site, put that out today, that he took his strongest position for the mosque so far.

FINEMAN:  Yes, because if you can build a church there, if you could build a synagogue there, build a Hindu temple there—so the president—

HALPERIN:  He‘s still not saying—

FINEMAN:  -- who doesn‘t like to be pushed—he doesn‘t like to be pushed on these kinds of things, on the one hand.  On the one hand, he does the Christian riff.  On the other hand, he says they should be able to build it there.  And that‘s the—


MATTHEWS:  Mark, respond to this.  I‘m sorry, Mark.  We‘ve got a little time here.  Mark, respond to this.  Here‘s the president on the mosque.  A lot of people didn‘t hear this yet today.  Let‘s listen.


OBAMA:  With respect to the mosque in New York, you know, I think I‘ve been pretty clear on my position here, and that is, is that this country stands for the proposition that all men and women are created equal, that they have certain inalienable rights.  One of those inalienable rights is to practice their religion freely.  And what that means is that if you could build a church on a site, you could build a synagogue on a site, if you can build a Hindu temple on a site, then you should be able to build a mosque on the site.


MATTHEWS:  Way too strong, Mark?

HALPERIN:  If he were my—way too weak.  If he were my professor at

the University of Chicago, my law professor, I‘d say, Man, I love that

teacher.  He‘s really eloquent.  That‘s not what‘s needed now from the

president of the United States.  This is not a local issue.  It‘s not a

national issue.  It‘s an international issue.  And he‘s—I mean, if

that‘s his strongest position, I still don‘t know what he actually thinks

should be done.  What I do know is it cannot be solved now—whether it‘s

going to be moved or build there, it cannot be solved without his

leadership.  And leadership is not taking a theoretical, lawyerly position



HALPERIN:  -- which is what he‘s still doing.

MATTHEWS:  I worry about what will happen internationally if we do move it.  Who knows.  Anyway, thank you, Mark Halperin.  What a hot subject.  We thought this had a lid on it today.  It does not.  This is still hot and fiery.  This weekend, it‘s coming.  Howard Fineman, thank you, sir.

When we return, the latest on Pastor Terry Jones.  He says—well, he says he won‘t burn the Koran, but for some reason, he‘s still claiming he‘s got a meeting up in New York this weekend.  There isn‘t going to be a meeting.  What happens when he comes to that realization?  We don‘t know how reality hits this guy.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Chuck Todd and the NBC News political unit has updated

their list of the top 10 Senate takeover possibilities.  And for the first

time, all 10 are Democratic seats that have a good shot of going

Republican.  At number 10, the least likely to change, Washington state,

where Patty Murray faces Dino Rossi.  Number 9, the ninth possible change -

ninth—least—least expected, Wisconsin, where Russ Feingold is fighting for his political life.  Number 8, Nevada, where Harry Reid still can‘t shake Sharron Angle.  She‘s still on his tail.  Number 7, Colorado, where Michael Bennet and Ken Block look to be a toss-up.  And number 6, Illinois, and the fight between Mark Kirk and Alex Giannoulias that President Obama‘s—that was his old Senate seat.

We‘re going to have the top five.  These are the ones most likely to shift to the Republican side coming up in an hour—in this hour.

HARDBALL returns after this.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  It looks as if that Koran burning scheduled for tomorrow is off, but the vitriol is stirred up—that it stirred up will be much harder to put off.

Steve Stone is pastor of the Heartsong church down in Memphis.  When a new Islamic center came to his town, Pastor Stone put up a sign that read, “Heartsong church welcomes Memphis Islamic center to the neighborhood.”  Also with us is Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee.  Reverend, thank you—Reverend, should I call you both reverend?  I think I should.

Reverend, what do you think is the way Americans should look at this -

Reverend Stone, at this situation in New York right now?

STEVE STONE, HEARTSONG CHURCH:  The situation in New York?  You know, the situation in New York to me is whether or not somebody is going to hurt somebody‘s feelings, which is important.  But the situation in Florida was about whether or not someone was going to get killed.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Because the burning of the Koran would be so outrageous to some people.

STONE:  Oh, definitely.  You know, the Jesus I know and love gave us two whole (ph) commandments.  They‘re both about love.  And the second one‘s about loving your neighbor.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me go to Reverend Walker—rather, Brent Walker.  Let me ask you the same question.  What do you think about these two issues?  Put them together, because some politicians, as we mentioned, have done that.

BRENT WALKER, BAPTIST JOINT COMMITTEE:  They are related in that they both involve fundamental 1st Amendment rights, the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion.  But the effect of them, of each, is going to be completely different.  I think they‘re apples and oranges when it comes to the effect of the two.  But I think they—they are related in this sense, and this goes to the question you asked Reverend Stone.

I think building the mosque in Manhattan would be a monument to American democracy, to religious liberty that we treasure in this country, to the plush pluralism that we have.  You know, far from being a detriment, I think it would be a monument to the—the goodness of America, in part to counter the notion abroad that we are all like Reverend Jones. 

I mean, 99.99 percent of the American people think he‘s crazy.  And we need to get that message out.  What better way to do it than to embrace the mosque in Lower Manhattan?

MATTHEWS:  How do we deal with—with people of faith and people not of faith in this country? 

It seems to me there‘s two or three reactions, Reverend Stone.  If you have a deep faith in your Christianity, for example, you might come away from that or elevate yourself from that, so confident of your faith and the righteousness of your beliefs, that you can account for the possibility of other people having, if not the true faith, a faith. 

And you respect a faith.  You don‘t say it‘s the right one.  But you say, well, that person is being led in that direction by some conscientious decision or upbringing, and I will respect it, even though I don‘t have faith in that faith. 

And other people say, no, if you give any kind of countenance to other religions, you‘re denying your own. 

How do you—how do you square that at the pulpit? 

STONE:  Well, what we teach at Heartsong is that the way we follow Jesus is not a religion in itself.  Religion is just rules and regulations that people have made up to try to control other people.  But we respect everybody‘s faith.  And, you know, we deal with people as human beings.  And what their faith is, is way down the line for us.

MATTHEWS:  But I‘m told that some, say, group a people called—call them, if you will, fundamentalists, in this country, evangelicals even, believe so strongly in their Christianity that they believe that Islam is wrong, it‘s even evil, because it‘s a wrong faith, and it should be, if not denied—maybe more than denied, it should be repressed. 

STONE:  Well, to me, I don‘t have the right to judge a heart of another human being.  And the people across the street from us in Memphis tell us they worship the one true God.  And I don‘t have a right to judge that.  I can‘t look inside their heart and see what‘s they‘re doing.  I take them at face value. 

MATTHEWS:  Your thoughts on that, Brent Walker?

WALKER:  It doesn‘t water down the validity of my faith and my belief to concede to somebody else their right to believe as they see fit, as long as they don‘t try to impose it on me. 

So, I think that you need to think—to recognize the fundamental Christian virtue of humility.  We often forget that.  And I think Pastor Jones is ignoring that principle.  It seems to me he‘s following bad theology, bad churchmanship, and bad citizenship in the way he‘s handling this situation. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me offer you something maybe you gentlemen will agree with.  And I think you will.

You know, people came to this country to get away from religious intolerance, to get away from 2,000 years of European religious wars, where you had the Huguenots thrown out of France because they were Protestant, and you had the same kinds of things going on, on both sides, Protestants being repressed, Catholics in some cases. 

It was the same kind of thing.  We all said, no, enough of that. 

We‘re coming over here. 

Why are we getting that sort of crusading mentality brought to America, both in New York and down in Florida?

Reverend Stone, first.  Isn‘t this a recurrence of something we all hoped in our religious hearts we were all getting away with, in many cases, generations ago?

STONE:  Yes, I think so. 

And, you know, I have a friend in the Islamic community, Ali (ph).  He and I were talking on the phone.  And he said, you know, it hurts me so much for people to look at me and think I‘m un-American.  He said, I came to America because I love the freedom here.  I could not worship in my faith as I wanted to where I lived. 


Well, thank you, gentlemen. 

Thank you, Reverend Stone. 

And, thank you, Brent Walker.

It‘s great to have two men of—

WALKER:  Thank you. 

STONE:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  -- deep belief and tolerance on the same program tonight. 


MATTHEWS:  Up next:  It may just be the craziest stump speech you‘ve ever seen, a little comic relief coming up here.  Hope it doesn‘t hurt the man involved to see himself again on television, because he‘s been all over MSNBC today. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Now to the “Sideshow.” 

First: old-school tie.  Guess who Pastor Terry Jones had for a classmate back in his Missouri high school?  Well, Rush Limbaugh.  Both were students at Cape Central High School, both class of ‘69.  And there they are as young guys.  Fascinating. 

Next:  Some jokes never get old.  Arnold Schwarzenegger last night posted this photo on Twitter. 

And here‘s what he tweeted: “Over Anchorage, Alaska, looking everywhere, but can‘t see Russia from here.  We will keep you updated as search continues.”

Well, I‘m surprised that Arnold tweets, but Palin responded late today with this tweet—quote—“Arnold should have landed.  I could have explained our multibillion-dollar state surplus and U.S. energy security efforts.  What‘s he‘s been up to?”

Wow, kind of dry. 

Anyway, moving to the Midwest, perhaps the wildest political speech you will ever watch on television.  It happened Wednesday night at a meeting of the Stark County, Ohio, Republicans. 

Phil Davison didn‘t get the nomination that night when the committee voted, but you don‘t see many stump speeches like his.  Here it is. 


PHIL DAVISON ®, STARK COUNTY, OHIO, TREASURER NOMINEE:  My name is Phil Davison!  And I am seeking our party‘s nomination for the position of Stark County treasurer!

I have been a Republican in times good, and I have been a Republican in times bad!

Albert Einstein issued one of my most favorite quotes in the history of the spoken word, and it is as follows. 

In the middle of opportunity—excuse me—in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. 

I‘m going to repeat that, so I have clarity tonight. 

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity!

If nominated tonight, I will win this election!  And I‘m going to say that again, so there‘s no miscommunication tonight!  If nominated tonight, I win!



MATTHEWS:  Take Jim Cramer, me, multiply it by 1,000, and you get Phil Davison. 

Anyway, he pointed out during that speech that he holds a master‘s degree in, guess what, communications. 

Anyway, finally: hitting below the belt.

Tea Party Christine O‘Donnell is hoping upset popular Delaware Congressman and former Governor Mike Castle during next week Senate‘s primary.  The state‘s Republican Party, which backs Castle, has filed an FEC report saying or claiming that O‘Donnell has coordinated her campaign activities with an outside group, in this case the Tea Party Express, which is against the law. 

Catch O‘Donnell‘s reaction yesterday on “The Mark Levin Show.” 


CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  You know, these are the type of cheap, underhanded, unmanly tactics that we have come to expect from Obama‘s favorite Republican, Mike Castle. 

You know, I—I released a statement today saying, Mike, this is not a bake-off.  Get your man pants on. 


MATTHEWS:  Hmm.  She might have gotten tips from Sarah Palin, who, you remember, just last week called certain critical reporters impotent and limp. 

Anyway, yesterday, Palin endorsed O‘Donnell—big surprise—in her primary bid, which brings us to tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

What does Sarah Palin‘s endorsement record look like so far?  Well, so far, she‘s backed 15 winners and 11 losers, which makes for a winning percentage of 58 percent, pretty good in baseball, actually.  Smart money is on Palin‘s picks, a 58 percent winning percentage—tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next:  In another big victory for gay rights, a federal judge rules that the military‘s “”don‘t ask, don‘t tell”” policy is unconstitutional.  Is in the beginning of the end of don‘t ask? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


JANE WELLS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Jane Wells with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks extending the September rally, the Dow climbing 47 points, the S&P advancing five, and the Nasdaq tacking on six. 

The rally rolls on, but we have been looking at unusually light volume all week.  A lot of investors are staying on the sidelines ahead of an avalanche of economic data due next week.

But, in today‘s economic news, wholesale inventories soared to their highest level in two years in July.  It‘s a bullish sign that businesses are expecting demand to pick up in the months ahead, but maybe not so much for certain electronics.  Chipmakers took a beating today in the wake of some analyst downgrades and weak outlooks from National Semiconductor and Texas Instruments.

Energy stocks, however, soared, despite low gas prices, because oil spiked after Anchorage said a leaking pipeline from Canada to the Midwest will remain shut down. 

And as Nokia goes after the Apple iPhone, its shares rose on word that it‘s replacing its CEO with a new hire from Microsoft. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Late Thursday night, a federal judge in California ruled that the military‘s “”don‘t ask, don‘t tell”” policy is unconstitutional.  The judge said the policy hurts recruitment and doesn‘t help military readiness. 

It‘s the latest development in a much larger fight to end the 17-year-old policy. 

The Log Cabin Republicans were the plaintiffs in this case. 

We‘re joined right now by the group‘s executive director, R. Clarke Cooper.  We‘re also joined by Aubrey Sarvis, who is the executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Gentlemen, it‘s great to have you on.

It seems like the winds keep coming your way. 



Tell me about this case and what was up against you.  What was the argument that this will cause bad morale among the more conservative members, more traditional members of the military, they won‘t feel comfortable with gay soldiers alongside them?  What happened to that argument in court?  Because it‘s the old argument.

COOPER:  Well, it is an old argument. 

For starters, you have got the lower base of the personnel pyramid, the younger soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, don‘t care.  It‘s becoming a nonissue.  It is a nonissue.

MATTHEWS:  You are getting the poll data on that, or how do you know? 

COOPER:  We are getting the poll data.  It exists.  And actually there is raw data from DOD.  If one looks at the Department of Defense data that they‘re collecting in their surveys—

MATTHEWS:  But don‘t the Marines hate this? 

COOPER:  The Marines as a whole?  That‘s not fair. 


MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking.  This is an asking question.  I provoke. 


MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know the answers.

COOPER:  OK.  Sure you do. 

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.

COOPER:  But you can‘t castigate an entire service branch based on this.  There is difference of opinion across the board. 

However, the polling data does show inside the service branches and externally within the general public—


COOPER:  -- open service.

MATTHEWS:  OK, you‘re being honest with me.  So, where‘s the problem?  What is the rub?  What is the resentment in the services that can get to the courts and make a case that there‘s a disrupting factor here? 

COOPER:  The issue isn‘t resentment.  There was a weak case made by the Department of Justice, which was saying that our case lacked standing because there was no harm to any Log Cabin Republican members, based on the statute. 

MATTHEWS:  None of you guys tried to enlist?

COOPER:  Well, heck, there‘s tons of our members who are service members.  We‘re Republicans.  We‘re pro-defense.

MATTHEWS:  Well, why don‘t you have standing then?  Why don‘t you have standing then?

COOPER:  We do have standing.  That‘s why we won the case. 

MATTHEWS:  I see. 

COOPER:  Yes. 

The standing that we had is that we had members, Log Cabin Republican members, service members, who were discharged under this statute.  So, that actually blew that out of the water, out of the—the DOJ‘s case.

MATTHEWS:  So, how‘s the case look like right now?  I will get to Aubrey in a minute.

COOPER:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  What does the case look like, because you‘re the plaintiffs?

COOPER:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  It goes to the Ninth Circuit, right? 

COOPER:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Is the government going to fight this or are they going to wait for that review by the commission that is looking at it at the Pentagon? 

COOPER:  Well, as a Log Cabin Republican, I‘m not going to speak on behalf of the Obama administration.  But I would gander that they‘re probably going to try to appeal it.  Hopefully not. 

MATTHEWS:  But why would they do—let me go to Aubrey on this. 

Why would the military—you‘re an expert on this.  Why would the U.S. government, knowing they‘re facing a review themselves and probably on the road to getting rid of don‘t ask, why would they fight this court ruling? 


NETWORK:  Well, like Clark, I‘m not going to second-guess what the Justice Department is going to do, Chris. 

SARVIS:  However, I think, in all likelihood, they probably will appeal. 

But back to your earlier question—and, first of all, a big shout-out to Clark and the Log Cabin Republicans and also to Servicemembers United. 

The judge found, not only did they have standing, but she rejected the arguments with respect to military readiness, unit cohesion.  She not only found no basis for those arguments.  She also said that the “”don‘t ask, don‘t tell”” statute was an overly broad infringement—infringement—upon the First Amendment rights of service members—i.e., straight service members, he or she can talk about their sexual orientation, but, under “”don‘t ask, don‘t tell”,” a gay or lesbian service member cannot speak to their sexual orientation. 

She rejected that.  We will see if this administration appeals.  I don‘t know if they will or not.

MATTHEWS:  So, just to make this so everybody understands, a guy can go back to the dorm—or not the—back to the barracks and say, I had a great weekend with what‘s her name, with Mary and all this.

SARVIS:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  But a gay guy can‘t come back and say, I had the same weekend with John. 

SARVIS:  You cannot do that because you‘re speaking to your sexual orientation.  And that is a violation of “”don‘t ask, don‘t tell.””  If you speak to your sexual orientation, you can and, in all likelihood—

MATTHEWS:  So, even if you don‘t say, “I‘m gay,” if you make any

reference to that—

SARVIS:  Anything.  If you speak to your sexual orientation, you are

likely to be discharged under “”don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”” 

And let me say, while this decision is welcome, “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” is still the law.  And service members are still at risk.  I cannot tell you what the Justice Department is going to do.  But I can tell you this. 

This month, next week, the Senate is coming back to Washington.  There‘s a bill on the Senate calendar that would repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  It‘s the Defense Department authorization.  That bill should be taken up and debated.

As you know, Chris, it‘s extraordinary for a Congress to go without authorizing the defense spending for the Department of Defense.

MATTHEWS:  And explain to me why this should come up before the election?

SARVIS:  Well, first of all, the Defense Department authorization bill passes every Congress—


SARVIS:  -- irrespective of whether Democrats or Republicans control the Congress or control the White House.  That bill is about far more than “”don‘t ask, don‘t tell.””  “”don‘t ask, don‘t tell”” is part of the bill.  “”don‘t ask, don‘t tell”” was originated 17 years ago in the Senate Armed Services committee, passed the Congress.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Where is Colin Powell right now?

SARVIS:  He is—

COOPER:  He‘s against the “”don‘t ask, don‘t tell”” policy.  He‘s on record on that.


COOPER:  So that he‘s one of many voices from that period.

MATTHEWS:  Even though he was for it in the beginning.

COOPER:  Well, he isn‘t now.  Just like we were talking the other day

MATTHEWS:  So, what‘s changed?  Because usually our debates over abortion rights are back and forth, they don‘t really change.  You know, why is this changing service, open service?

SARVIS:  The American people have changed on this issue.  Seventeen years ago, when this law was enacted, only about half of the American people supported open service.  Today, by all professional polls, nearly 80 percent of Americans already—

MATTHEWS:  What happened?  Aubrey, I‘ve known you.  What happened?

SARVIS:  Because the younger generation, which Clarke referred to earlier, this is not a big deal for them.  They don‘t care about—

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s true among serving people as well in the military?

SARVIS:  Absolutely.  Of course, it is.  Where did they come from?  They came from the civilian sector.  Whether it‘s in the courts or on Capitol Hill, the House passed the bill repealing “”don‘t ask, don‘t tell.””

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re doing good work, guys.

SARVIS:  Thank you very much.

COOPER:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, gentlemen.  I‘ve also said, I‘m big on freedoms. 

I love this country.

Anyway, thanks.  Everybody knows my views.

Thank you, Clarke Cooper.

And thank you, Aubrey Sarvis.

Up next: on the eve of the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, how do we go from 9/11 being free of politics, and it was for about seven or eight years, to becoming a talking point—talking point for Republicans?

And a program note, tonight at 10:00 on this network, a premier of the new documentary on MSNBC, “Brian Williams Reports: New Orleans, An American Story.”  Brian goes back to New Orleans to report on the recovery from Hurricane Katrina which devastated the city five years ago.  By the way, didn‘t they have a big football game there last night?  That‘s tonight, 10:00 on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Back now to first 10 most likely Senate takeovers this November.

We‘re going to work our way to the likeliest starting at number five. 

Pennsylvania, where Joe Sestak has his work cut out for him.

Number four, Indiana where former Senator Dan Coats is in the lead.

Arkansas, where even Bill Clinton may not be able to save Blanche Lincoln.

Delaware, where Mike Castle looks like a winner if he can beat his primary opponent, Christine O‘Connor who was endorsed by Sarah Palin today.

And the number one Senate likely takeover, North Dakota, the former governor, same as ever, he‘s likely to win.

All 10 takeover possibilities are Democratic seats that the Republicans have a good shot to pick up.

More HARDBALL after this.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I recognize the extraordinary sensitivities around 9/11.  You know, I‘ve met with families of 9/11 victims in the past.  You know, I can only imagine the continuing pain and anguish and sense of loss that they may go through.  And tomorrow, we, as Americans, are going to be joining them in prayer and remembrance.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back now.

That was President Obama today at the press conference, talking about the anniversary of 9/11 tomorrow.

But some people will be engaged in much more than just prayer and remembrance tomorrow.  Opponents and supporters of the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero are using tomorrow‘s date to stage big rallies near the site.

Tea partiers plan to gather in the National Mall in Washington.

Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are up in Alaska at an event that costs 225 bucks to attend.

And Newt Gingrich is premiering his documentary, “America at Risk,” which features searing images of the World Trade Center attacks.

Are conservatives trying to define and own September 11th?

MSNBC‘s political analyst David Weigel wrote about this in “Slate.”

And David Corn is the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones.

David, tell me how it‘s being used.  This seems like this is part of the script now of the Republican Party after eight years of nonpartisanship and high regard for the national reverence toward 9/11 and what happened there.  It is now become a turf for fighting on.

DAVID WEIGEL, SLATE:  Well, this isn‘t entirely new.  When George Bush was president, and David probably remembers this, he would use the days around the 9/11 anniversary and make a couple of statements about foreign policy.  In 2002, it was about—it was about Iraq frankly.  And then in later years, in 2006, when Republicans were in trouble, it was going to some intelligence centers.

And Republicans were not quiet about the fact they thought this would remind people how why they needed to keep George Bush‘s party in power.

So, Republicans have always been—always been confident about this. 

And liberals have not been confident about it.

I mean, a theory I have as to why they‘re a little bit taken aback by it being politicized is I think when liberals, when this country elected a president like Barack Obama, who—you know, when he ran for Senate thought he would—you know, people joked that he would never get elected because of his last name, they thought the country moved on a bit from the hyper-partisanship and the hyper-ideology around 9/11.  It just hasn‘t happened.  Republicans are back to what they were doing before.

MATTHEWS:  David Corn?

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES:  Well, remember, in 2004, too—I think it was 2004 -- they found a PowerPoint presentation that Karl Rove would put together about how the Republicans could exploit 9/11 for their electoral purposes.

And, you know, it does seem that, you know, the further we get away from it, the less sacred, so to, speak it‘s become politically.  And so, you get to what is kind of a sorry spectacle of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin holding an event in Anchorage where they‘re actually charging people to come.  Now, if they want to have an event and mark 9/11 whatever way they think possible, that‘s fine.  But charging to do this?

And you have on 9/11 -- you mentioned some tea partiers rallying, and the Oath Keepers, these anti-government groups.  Anti-government groups are rallying, you know, just blocks away from the Pentagon on the same day that the—that the Pentagon, you know, was shot, was attacked.  And the U.S.  Capitol, the White House was targeted as well.

MATTHEWS:  Take a look at Sarah Palin‘s Facebook.  Here it is, quote,

“I hope my fellow Alaskans and anyone visiting from outside will join me

this Saturday, September 11th, 2010.  Glenn Beck will be there.  You won‘t

want to miss it.  Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com.  You can count

on Glenn to make the night interesting and inspiring, and I can think of no

better way to commemorate 9/11 than to gather with veterans—or actually

with patriots who will, quote, ‘never forget.‘”

I just always wonder, David, 9/11 was used to sell the Iraq War and country music in all kinds of ways—remember how you felt.  Everything was to try to get people jacked up for some kind of payback if their anthrax didn‘t work, they tried using 9/11, and I think effectively so to sell that war as to get even, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

Now, what is the long-term goal of those who exploit the horror of 9/11?

WEIGEL:  Well, I talked to some conservative 9/11 family members and some conservative activists who are protesting that mosque.  And they feel like if they don‘t do anything, this liberal media narrative makes us forget 9/11 and become a more—tolerant, I guess, is the word they use with more pejoratively than the rest of us use it.  We become a tolerant, weak country that forgets how we need to be—


MATTHEWS:  What do they want us to be intolerant toward?  How broad do they want intolerance to reign?  Do they will know there‘s 1 billion Islamic people in the world?  That every time you make an anti-Islamic move, whether it‘s about burning their holy book or about denying them the right to build a center somewhere, they will see that obviously as an insult.  How many—do they know there‘s 1 billion Islamic people on this planet who have nothing to do with even Arab issues?

WEIGEL:  Well, they have trouble threading that needle honestly.  If you listen to Newt Gingrich talking, he was speaking today at Ralph Reed‘s event in Washington in preparation for this thing tomorrow, he was saying we need to talk about radical Islam.  It‘s a problem that this administration refuses to talk about radical Islam and that‘s one of the things that weakens us.

MATTHEWS:  They have no shame.


MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry, David.  Here‘s Newt.

Well, they‘re not in government right now.  They‘re in opposition.


MATTHEWS:  Here‘s Newt Gingrich‘s new documentary, a bit of it from “America at Risk,” it‘s called.  It premieres tomorrow.  It features images of the World Trade Center attacks.  But we chose not to air them.

But listen to this.  It‘s part of it.  Let‘s listen.


NEWT GINGRICH ®, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER:  And many of our elites are afraid to even identify our adversaries by name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What we used to call the “war on terror,” we are clearly losing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Despite our successes and sacrifices, lives lost and billions spent, the “war on terror” and the ideology behind it have only just begun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This war will go on and until the whole of the world embraces Islam or submits to Islamic law.


MATTHEWS:  Newt is excellent at fishing in troubled waters, David Corn.

CORN:  Well, yes.

MATTHEWS:  I‘ve watched him for years.  He‘s very good, if there‘s horror out there, he‘s there to catch it.

CORN:  You know, it‘s interesting.  About a year and a half ago, I wrote a piece for “Mother Jones” right after the beginning of the Obama years, where he seemed to be taking a different tact.  He was all about post-partisan and working with the president and attacking Republicans who are coming on too strong on one of these peripheral issues.

But he certainly has put his finger in the wind, maybe he‘s thinking about 2012, which seems ridiculous to me, and he‘s airing this—you know, this movie which says basically there can be only one resolution, which is, you know, either defeating Islam or being defeated by Islam which sends the wrong message to Muslims in America, but I think to the billion Muslims, you mentioned, around the world.

We can‘t draw these hard and fast lines without isolating ourselves, which is a point that Obama made today.  If we‘re going to defeat Osama bin Laden and the small band of terrorists, you‘ve got to get the rest of the Islamic world on your side.  Otherwise, it‘s—we‘re doomed to fail.

MATTHEWS:  David Weigel, you know this world.  How soon will the right wing pull back from their trouble-making when something breaks bad on this?  How quickly will they return to their ramparts if people start getting killed over this stuff?

WEIGEL:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  That was almost a question, I think.

WEIGEL:  Yes, I know what you mean.  But you saw it a little bit.  No one got killed over this Koran-burning that probably is not going to happen, might happen.  But—


WEIGEL:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  Didn‘t somebody just get killed up in Iraq over this?

WEIGEL:  Well, I‘m saying, in this country, there hasn‘t been a lot of violence.  The point I want to make is that they use that to say, look, we‘re not that bad, we‘re not actually bashing all Islam.  We‘re going to go out on a limb here and say it‘s a bad idea to burn the Koran.


WEIGEL:  I think they find ways to wedge against the really bad stuff, that‘s not really that convincing.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thanks, David Weigel.

Thank you, David Corn.

Have a nice weekend, both of you, gentlemen.

When we return, what game has John Boehner, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich been playing trying to establish a moral equivalence between what Pastor Terry Jones did and what the president is supporting, the right of somebody to build an Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero?  What‘s the game?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with the bad turn the news took this week.

Until early Thursday, neither Pastor Jones nor his associate, Pastor Sapp, mentioned the proposed Islamic center in southern Manhattan in regard to their plan to burn the Korans.  Other people had other ambitions for this saga.

John Boehner, who plans to be speaker of the House, was not seen as speaker for this country when he placed the burning of a Koran on the same moral level as building of an Islamic center two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center in New York.

Former Governor Palin went further and said people have a constitutional right to burn a Koran if they want to, as if that would be something any good person could want to do.  A good person could want to build an Islamic center two blocks from the World Trade Center.

These politicians had done what the pair of pastors had not—paired together in morally equivalent terms the building of a religious center with the desecration of a religious book.

On Thursday, Pastor Jones did what they did, tied together the threat to burn Korans with the plans to build the Islamic center.  He said that if they agreed to move the center, he would scotch his plans to burn the Korans.  Pastor Jones was not being original on this, simply doing what he heard a pair of politicians do: play it cute.  Instead of simply condemning the threat to burn the Korans, they seized the on the opportunity to equate a simmering dispute over a religious site in New York to a threatened action that‘s endangering troops and adding to our problems worldwide.

The question is: why?  Why Palin and Boehner couldn‘t simply condemn that guy who wanted to burn those books and leave it at that?  What game are they playing?

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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