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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Amanda Drury, Pat Buchanan, John Harris, Chris Cillizza, Todd Harris, Steve McMahon, Todd Harris, Steve McMahon, David Corn, Jared Polis, R. Clarke Cooper

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Uncle Bill‘s well tried advice.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews up in New York. 

Leading off tonight: Bill Clinton, pitching coach.  Former President Bill Clinton, who outsmarted Republicans who tried to make him a one-termer, has some political survival advice for President Obama. 

He says there‘s still time for Obama to hold off a Republican tidal wave but he said the only way to stop that Republican wave is to tell voters not to let their disappointment cloud their judgment, that Obama‘s got to explain to voters that our economy is improving faster than most of the world‘s, that he‘s got to be optimistic about the future of this country and make the argument about Republican ideas being no good.  He‘s also got to nationalize the midterms, the way Newt did ‘94.  That‘s Bill Clinton‘s advice today.  And also, the president has to ask for two more years to get the job done.

Can this president pull off a popularity comeback in the way that Bill Clinton did?  That‘s our top story tonight.

Plus, House Republicans unveiled their “Pledge to America” today, and it could be the biggest cover-up since Watergate.  Their manifesto showcases all the predictable soft sell proposals you‘d expect from establishment Republicans but goes radio silent on the more radical ideas of their party, the wild stuff, you know, about changing the Constitution.  And make no mistake, the fringe on the right will have a strong voice if Republicans win control of the Congress.

But there are a lot of races getting awfully tight out there, and the tight races are in places you‘d think wouldn‘t be close.  Have some incumbents simply reached their “sell by” date?

Also, what does it say when someone sitting in the office of a Republican U.S. senator from Georgia sends out a menacing anti-gay comment to the blog of a gay rights advocate?  Well, an unsigned statement put out by Saxby Chambliss‘s staff admits that someone sitting in his, the senator‘s, office, was apparently behind the incendiary gay-bashing slur, and now the Senate sergeant-at-arms, who was appointed by a Democrat, is investigating the matter.

And Sarah Palin talks about the reason she would run for president. 

Well, that‘s in “Sideshow” tonight.

All that‘s ahead, but first, let‘s check in on the hot races around the country to see where they stand right now tonight.  Here‘s the HARDBALL “Scoreboard”—I love this stuff—starting in New York in the Senate race between incumbent Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican Joe DioGuardi.  Quinnipiac now has the race at just 6 points.  Gillibrand leads by just 48 to 42.  Wow, that‘s a tight race for a state as blue as New York.

And it comes just a day after Andrew Cuomo‘s lead in the New York governor‘s race was also cut down to 6 points.  Now look at the Sienna (ph) poll in the New York Senate race.  Gillibrand‘s up by 57 to 31.  So why the difference in the polls?  Sienna polled registered voters while Quinnipiac was smart.  They polled likely voters.

Now to Arkansas, where Senator Blanche Lincoln trails badly.  She‘s down 53 to 39 to Republican Joe Boozman in a new Ipsos Reuters poll.  Finally, to California, where the Field poll is out, and it‘s a damn good poll.  It shows a dead heat now, literally dead heat, between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman, both at 41 percent, with a lot of undecided out there.

We‘re going to continue to check the HARDBALL “Scoreboard” on all the big races each night leading up to election day, November 2nd.

Now to Bill Clinton‘s advice for President Obama—hot stuff here.  John Harris is editor-in-chief of Politico.  He interviewed President Clinton Wednesday.  That‘s yesterday.  And Chris Cillizza‘s with the

Let‘s look at something that happens at our network this morning, a great get by Joe Scarborough on “MORNING JOE.”  Let‘s look at some of the advice that the president—the former president gave.  Here‘s Bill Clinton, what he said Obama should do to nationalize, as he put it, the midterms, the way Newt Gingrich did in ‘94.  Ask the country for patience to get the country moving in the right direction again, acknowledge voter disappointment and anger, explain how our economy‘s actually doing better than the rest of the world‘s, and show optimism about the future of the country.

Well, there he is.  Let‘s take a look at the quote from the president.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think that the Democrats ought to put on one card no more than five and no fewer than three things that will be their priorities.  I know how easy it is to lose control of the debate.  It happened to me in ‘93 and ‘94.  But remember the gift Newt Gingrich gave America, political science gift.


CLINTON:  Political science gift.  Newt Gingrich proved with that “Contract for America” that you could nationalize midterm elections.  So I think that the president and the Democrats, even at this late date, should view this as an opportunity and an obligation to say, All right, they‘ve organized their national plan.  Here‘s what ours is.  If you hire us for two more years, here‘s what we‘re going to do.


MATTHEWS:  That could be well stated, but let‘s see if it‘s smart stuff.  Let‘s go to Joe—to John Harris and then to Chris Cillizza, both with the same question.  Can President Obama unite the party, the Democratic Party, his party, behind a single message, or at least a common front going into these elections, or is it already too scattered, John Harris?

JOHN HARRIS, POLITICO:  Chris, President Clinton‘s message to me was that they should at least urgently try this.  I think the people around him privately do acknowledge what I think most people here in Washington acknowledge, that it‘s very, very hard to change the fundamentals of this election with so little time left and with so much of it resting on the economy, which isn‘t likely to appreciably change before the midterms.  So President Clinton, I think, has no illusions about how dire—

MATTHEWS:  So he knows it‘s every person—

HARRIS:  -- the situation is, but he thinks you‘ve got to try.

MATTHEWS:  But he knows—

HARRIS:  They‘ve got a month left.


HARRIS:  You‘ve got to try.

MATTHEWS:  On the very point of nationalizing the election, Chris Cillizza, has the president—President Clinton knows as much about politics as any of the three of us, certainly.  Does he know or does he know something we don‘t know about the potential of Barack Obama to unite his party at this point, or is it every man, every person for himself at this point?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, “WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, I think he knows that every man or person for itself will not work out, Chris, because you‘ll see people going in lots of different directions, and that‘s not what they need because the reality, whether Democrats like it or not, is this is a nationalized election.  It is going to be, at least in part—maybe large part—a referendum on Barack Obama and the Democratic-led Congress.

What I think Bill Clinton is smart about, the advice he‘s trying to give is to say, You need to focus like you did in 2006 and 2008 on Republicans.  Remember, Chris—


CILLIZZA:  -- this has to be about—if this—I say this is—it‘s a bear election.  You don‘t have to be faster than the other guy, you just have to be faster than the bear.

People don‘t like Democrats.  They also don‘t like Republicans.  Bill Clinton, think, is saying, Focus on Republicans.  Focus on what they‘d be doing.  And Barack Obama, to his credit, is trying to do that.  He‘s gotten more in campaign mode lately than he has.  Democrats would have liked him to be in there sooner.  So they‘re trying to do it.

I think, though, to John‘s point, you‘re going to see some splinters because there‘s going to be panic.  Some of these Democrats are going to look at their poll numbers and say, I got to do what‘s good for me, and that‘s going to make it harder to nationalize it and make it just about Republicans.

MATTHEWS:  You got people like Heath Shuler, the former quarterback for the Redskins, out there on his own.  You got Chet Edwards on his own.

John, they already have skipped town, some of these guys.  They don‘t want to identify themselves with Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, or with Barack Obama, and there‘s no way to get them back on the reservation.  Is that your view?

HARRIS:  In many cases, it is.  And what President Clinton was saying to me is that, Look, you‘ve got to give Republicans some credit.  You know, we‘re giving a lot of attention to sort of hard-core Republican base, some of the most strident Tea Partiers and all the rest.  But he said a lot of this election is being determined by fiscally conservative independents, and Republicans are appealing to those people by portraying Barack Obama as a European-style big government—

MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes, I know that.

HARRIS:  -- (INAUDIBLE) socialist.  He said, You‘ve got to respond to that.  Implicit in what he was saying was Democrats have been off the field.  They have not had an effective, sustained response to that.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s take a look at Bill Clinton—

CILLIZZA:  Hey, Chris—


CILLIZZA:  -- can I just really quickly—


CILLIZZA:  To John‘s point, really quickly—Pew poll today looking

specifically at independents, plus 13 to Republicans on the generic ballot

for self-identified independents, a huge shift, 18 points.  Remember, they

went by—to Democrats by 18 points in the 2006 midterms, so Bill Clinton

and John Harris, frankly, are exactly right.  They have got to find a way -

they‘re not going to win independents, but they can‘t lose them by that kind of margin—

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a 31-point shift.

CILLIZZA:  -- and hope to hold the House.

MATTHEWS:  A 31-point shift.


MATTHEWS:  Amazing.

HARRIS:  It‘s remarkable.

MATTHEWS:  Bill Clinton said the Democrats should ask voters for patience, two more years to get the country moving forward.  Let‘s listen to his call for patience for his friend, Obama.

Lost the sound on that, but the point was, he said two more years, we can explain (INAUDIBLE) Is that something a president can ask for, John Harris, at this point?

HARRIS:  I think that a president can.  Probably, the presidency only politician in the country who has the kind of platform who can make that case.  Give us time to see what—

MATTHEWS:  Well, Reagan used to say—excuse me.  Reagan used to say, “Stay the course.”  He only lost 26 seats in ‘82 by saying, “Stay the course,” hang with me, you—

HARRIS:  And people thought in 1982, Chris, it was going to be much, much worse.  What Clinton says that is interesting—he said Obama needs to acknowledge people‘s anger, including his disappointment—many people‘s disappointment in him, not run away from it, run into it.  He said he was happy the other day on CNBC when President Obama got confronted by that woman who said she‘s getting tired of defending him.  He said Obama needs to hear that.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me—

CILLIZZA:  But Chris—

MATTHEWS:  Let me run through this—

CILLIZZA:  Chris, all of that is—


CILLIZZA:  -- about empathy.  All that is about empathy.  That‘s what Bill Clinton—


CILLIZZA:  -- specialized in.  Bill Clinton was the empathizer-in-chief.  Barack Obama, even to the question on CNBC the other day about exhausted (ph), he gave kind of a long answer about why his policies (INAUDIBLE)  He‘s not the glad-hander, hugging the women, kissing the babies kind of (INAUDIBLE) That‘s just not who he is.  And so I don‘t know if Bill Clinton‘s kind of (ph) be more empathetic, embrace the anger, embrace the motion—it‘s not Barack Obama, and I wonder if it wouldn‘t look a little bit inauthentic if he tried it.  Not to say it doesn‘t work for Bill Clinton—


CILLIZZA:  -- I‘m not sure it works for Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s what he said to you, John.  Quote, “He‘s being criticized, President Obama, for being too disengaged, for not caring.  So he needs to turn into it.  I may be one of the few people that think it‘s not bad that that lady said she was getting tired of defending him.  So I just him to sort of try to get the country up again without, you know, naming (ph) or being too la-la about it, but be optimistic about our future.  Embrace people‘s anger, including their disappointment, and just ask them to not let the anger cloud their judgment.  Let them concentrate their judgment and then make the right case”—

You know, all of this is hard stuff, given the realities.  We have a 9.6 percent unemployment rate.  It seems to me, gentlemen, as long as that‘s hanging up there, between now and election day, the rest of this is really trying to cut your damages.  Isn‘t that the case, Chris?

CILLIZZA:  Yes, and—

MATTHEWS:  You‘re basically trying to—OK.

CILLIZZA:  Look, Chris, if you look at the—since World War II, the first midterm election of a president, every single president has lost 16 to 20 House seats, with the exception of George Bush.  That was in 2002, after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Yes, Democrats are going to lose seats.  These sorts of strategies—empathy, focus on Republicans, talk about what you‘ve done on the economy - - all of those things are aimed at mitigating their losses, not eliminating them.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to John Harris on this.  You guys at Politico really do a good job.  Let me ask you about this thing about—about the problem this president faces.  I think we did see in that CNBC town meeting the other day with Velma Hart—that stood up there and asked that tough question about having to go back to hot dogs and beans because she had broken into the middle class and now was going to go back into the working class, and she feared that, she and her husband, facing college tuition bills ahead as their kids got older, a real-life experience in America.  I think she really got us to the kitchen table.

The president spent about an hour in that interview with John Harwood sort of poking in the chest, poking him back.  Every time he asked a serious question, he poked him back and pushed him back.  And when that woman asked the question, very intelligently and very clearly, he sort of pushed her back, like, Oh, you don‘t know what I‘ve done about credit cards.  You don‘t know all the information I have.  He seemed more like George Herbert Walker Bush than Bill Clinton.  Your thoughts, John Harris?

HARRIS:  Well, it‘s very, very hard to communicate in a country as divided in this one, with so many different information channels that proliferate.  It‘s harder, frankly, than when Ronald Reagan was doing it in the midterm of 1982, as Chris mentioned.  It‘s harder than the environment that Bill Clinton faced during the 1990s.  I don‘t think there‘s any doubt that Obama is frustrated.  He feels he—his message is not getting through, that his own policy—policies are being charactered (ph) by Republicans and not fully appreciated by the—by the electorate.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, well—

HARRIS:  But that‘s what this job is about.

MATTHEWS:  You know, Chris—

CILLIZZA:  It‘s not an easy job—

HARRIS:  And it has been—


CILLIZZA:  -- or anybody would have it.

MATTHEWS:  Chris, you know, it strikes me that his best advice is to do what he did, which is feel your pain.  He was the best at that there is.

CILLIZZA:  But Bill Clinton is—look, Chris, I agree, but remember, Bill Clinton was good at that because it came from who he naturally was. 

That is not—I don‘t believe—I spent probably too much time studying

Barack Obama.  That is not who Barack Obama is.  I‘m not saying that he

shouldn‘t take a little of the Bill Clinton advice, port (ph) it over, do

the “I feel your pain” bit.  But you have got to in politics—I think the

reason that Barack Obama ultimately won this presidency in the first place



CILLIZZA:  -- because he was true to himself, because he didn‘t pander


MATTHEWS:  Gotcha.  Well said.

CILLIZZA:  -- he did do the sorts of things that are expected of politicians.

MATTHEWS:  I think sometimes advice is better—you know, you‘re basically saying, I can do it, you can‘t do it.  Anyway, so—


MATTHEWS:  It‘s not exactly advice, it‘s more like bragging.  Anyway, thank you, John Harris.  Thank you, Chris Cillizza.

HARRIS:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Coming up: The Republican Party unveils its so-called “Pledge to America,” and it may be just the biggest political cover-up since Watergate.  It‘s a modest plan full of familiar proposals—you know, the good stuff, cut taxes, cut spending.  But the big question is, does it really hide or disguise the much more serious, more radical proposals that the Republican Party has, that it has, that it has in mind, the Tea Party stuff we hear about all the time?  How come that‘s not on the paper?  Let‘s talk about what‘s being covered over in this “pledge.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Well, first it was Lisa Murkowski up in Alaska running as a write-in candidate after getting bounced in that Republican primary.  But is Mike Castle next, in Delaware?  The one-time favorite to win the Delaware Senate race says he hasn‘t ruled out running for Senate as a write-in candidate and says a lot of people have approached him about it.  Though, he adds, that it‘s not likely he‘d run.

Well, Castle was beaten by Tea Party favorite Christine O‘Donnell, who now trails badly in the polls to Democrat Chris Coons.  Castle had led Coons in most polls before losing the nomination to O‘Donnell.  Boy, what a break for Chris Coons this whole thing has been.  He‘s a double-digit leader right now.

HARDBALL back after this.



REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  We get it.  We get it.  And this was why when we outlined in here our pledge to America, I can tell you, we are very serious about implementing our pledge.


MATTHEWS:  I love it.  They take off the suits when they get serious.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was House Republican leader John Boehner introducing the Republicans‘ “Pledge to America.”  And here‘s what Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina had to say about it.


REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC), MAJORITY WHIP:  After reading over it last night, it occurred to me that if this is implemented, what we are going to see is the infliction of a plague on America.


MATTHEWS:  Wow.  What effect will this new pledge have on the midterms?  Who gets an edge?  Well, joining me right now is Democratic strategist Steve McMahon and Republican strategist Todd Harris.  Buddies, thanks for joining—let‘s take a look at what‘s on the paper.  Here are some of the points made in the pledge on paper.  On tax cuts, it calls for making the Bush tax cuts permanent.  No surprise there.  On business tax cuts, it calls for giving small businesses a deduction equal to 20 percent of their business income.  It calls for cap on new government spending, for the repeal of the health care bill—repeal! -- and fully funding—I don‘t know where this came from—missile defense—full funding of missile defense.  There‘s an odd one for you!

Now let‘s go—you‘re not laughing, Steve.  You‘re not, Todd.  Here‘s what I think is being hidden under the table.  Here‘s what Republicans have actually been talking about during this campaign—changing the 14th Amendment that guarantees citizenship to people in this country.  Let‘s listen to somebody making that proposal.  It‘s not on the paper here.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  People come here to have babies.  They come here to drop a child.  It‘s called “drop and leave.”


MATTHEWS:  And Republicans are talking about actions that would shut down government if they take control of Congress.  Let‘s listen again.


NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Stage one of the end of Obama-ism will be a new Republican Congress in January that simply refuses to fund any of the radical efforts.



MATTHEWS:  Shutdown.  Some talk about repealing the 17th Amendment, which allows for direct election of U.S. senators.  They‘re also talking about privatizing Social Security, which is addressed in a number of places, but particularly in Republican congressman Paul Ryan‘s so-called “Roadmap to America‘s Future.”

It seems to me, Todd Harris, that a lot of the nice stuff is put on this paper here, but the stuff we‘re hearing out at the meetings, the Tea Party meetings, the more radical voices, have been muffled here.  Your thoughts.

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, you know, one of the nice things about actually being in—in control of—of your party campaign apparatus is that you get to decide what you‘re going to run on and what you‘re not going to run on. 

And, you know, no—no Democrat gets to decide that.  No one in the media gets to decide what the Republican message is going to be.  And, clearly, what the leaders of our party have said is that this campaign is going to be about cutting spending, reducing the size of government, repealing—


HARRIS: -- and replacing Obamacare. 

So, you may not like it, and you may want to ascribe things that others have said to what our party‘s going to run on, but that doesn‘t—that doesn‘t make it so.  So, the—

MATTHEWS:  So, now you have—now you have got the argument, Steve, which is adult supervision will be at hand.  All the crazy stuff we have heard for months now isn‘t going to happen, because, according to Todd, according to his argument—now, what‘s your argument?  His argument is, they‘re going to keep all these people in the playpen.  There‘s not going to be any trouble for them. 


MATTHEWS:  Is that—what is the argument of the Democrats going to be?

MCMAHON:  Well, it‘s funny, because Democrats have been saying for a while that the choice in this election is a choice between the future and the past, and, if you want to go back to the policies of George Bush, vote for the Republicans.

And I think what the Republicans have done now is, they have actually proven that case.  They were objecting to it before and saying, oh, no, no, no, no, we‘re not going to go back to that, but now they‘re proving it.  They want to cut taxes for the rich.  They want to cut taxes for business.  They want to build the dang fence.  They want to build the anti-ballistic missile system. 

Why in the world that is needed is anybody‘s guess.  And the Tea Party candidates are even more insidious extreme.  Many of them want to do things like get rid of Social Security, get rid of Medicare, because they think it‘s unconstitutional.  Rand Paul in Kentucky thinks the Civil Rights Act is unconstitutional. 

So, you‘re right.  They‘re keeping the crazies in the closet, but they are still there, and they have got an R next to their name. 

MATTHEWS:  Why are we talking about—at a time of fiscal austerity that the Republicans are pitching, why, Todd, are we talking about high frontier?  High frontier is basically missile defense against ICBMs, the kinds the Soviets have and really no one else has.

Why—ICBMs, not cruise missiles, not other kinds of tactical or medium-range, but ICBMs.  Why are we building a missile defense system against Putin and Medvedev?

HARRIS:  Well, because the missile defense system isn‘t squarely aimed at Russia.  And at a time when you‘ve got Iran—

MATTHEWS:  Well, who else has ICBMs that could come to the United States?


HARRIS:  Well, look, I for one am not just going to sit and cross my fingers and hope that Iran does not get the technology to both create a nuclear warhead and create the kind of missile system where they can deliver it. 

And so I think it‘s totally reasonable and rational that we would prepare for something like that.  But there‘s no question that missile defense is not going to be at the core of what Republican candidates are talking about this year. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Look, Steve, you take over.  They‘re talking about missile defense for the whole continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, all of the homeland they like to call it.  I call it civil defense.

But they‘re talking about the whole country, they‘re going to have missile defense for.  The cost of that, I would imagine, is unimaginable.  And there‘s the question.  Is that something to spend money on, because somewhere down the line, someone‘s going to get an ICBM, the kind of missile they warned us that Iraq had that got us into the Iraq war, by the way.  They said they had a deliverable weapon as well that could reach here. 

MCMAHON:  That‘s—that‘s right.  That‘s exactly the point I was going to make.

You know, the party, on the one hand, wants to be party of fiscal conservativism and smaller government and more restrained and responsible spending.  And, on the other hand, they come up with this—this idea from the 1980s.  I mean, it was Ronald Reagan who first proposed this in 1984 or 1985. 

And it was something that we didn‘t need then.  It‘s something that, frankly, we don‘t need now.  And it‘s something that we certainly can‘t afford right now.  And I think that the Republicans—Paul Ryan, who—who thinks of himself as a fiscal hawk, would be hard-pressed, I think, to explain why it is we should spend all this money at a time when we really can‘t afford it. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, at the time we‘re trying to get the Soviets to reduce their missile supply and their weapon—their arsenal, and we‘re trying to reduce ours, you know that know putting up a big wall around the United States against their kind of missiles is going to create another—another acceleration, which we don‘t need in the 21st century, in the U.S.-vs.-Russia missile race, because the minute we put up that big, high wall that stops ICBMs, if we could afford or had the technology to do it, they would immediately say, we need more missiles to make sure some get through. 

Why is the United States reengaging in the Cold War, is what I would ask if I were Medvedev, or if I were Putin, more importantly? 

Your thoughts?  What would you do if you were a Russian and saw us doing this?  You wouldn‘t think about Iran, because Iran doesn‘t have ICBMs?


MCMAHON:  One of the things that‘s—


MCMAHON:  I‘m sorry, Todd. 


MCMAHON:  One of the things that‘s happening with the Russians right now is, we‘re beginning to engage them in ways that are productive in the Middle East and elsewhere. 

And if we want to drive a wedge between our relationships that we have begun to develop with the Soviets and the relationships that, frankly, we need with the Soviets, this is a great way to do it. 

MATTHEWS:  Was this written by the American Enterprise Institute, somebody like Cheney over there?  Who wrote this stuff, Todd?  Come on.  Who are the neocons that still have their hand in every Republican document?  What is going on?


MATTHEWS:  You wouldn‘t put this in, because you know it sounds wacky. 

MCMAHON:  John Bolton.


MCMAHON:  John Bolton.

MATTHEWS:  You know it sounds wacky. 

HARRIS:  I have no idea who wrote the document.  I know that they went out and talked to a whole lot of average Americans.  And these were the thing—


MATTHEWS:  Yes, they went to the American Enterprise Institute.


MATTHEWS:  I‘m waiting to hear about precious bodily fluids from some of these hawks.  It‘s right out of “Dr. Strangelove,” your guys. 


HARRIS:  No, hold on a minute. 

Chris, for months, you have been talking about how the Republican Party is just the party of no.  They don‘t stand for anything.  They‘re just against everything that President Obama says.

And so now the party has come out and said, you know what?  We don‘t want to just be the opposition.  We want to offer an alternative.  And now the party comes out and says, if you—

MATTHEWS:  You‘re right.

HARRIS: -- put Republicans in power, this is what we‘re going to do. 

And I think it‘s a great thing that they have done it. 


MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s great, the party with new ideas.  Let‘s restart the Cold War. 

MCMAHON:  How about the party of no new ideas and the party of no fresh ideas?


Todd, Todd, I know you didn‘t write this stuff.  

Anyway, thank you, Steve McMahon. 

Thank you, Todd Harris.

MCMAHON:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  You wouldn‘t have put this little weirdo in there.

Up next:  Sarah Palin—unless you had the client—Sarah Palin gives the strongest hint so far that she might run for president, because she‘s now laying down markers as to why she might run, something to do with -- well, you will hear.  It has to with security of the country.  She‘s going to protect it. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


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

First:  Watch Florida‘s Marco Rubio give his take on whether candidates with little political experience, such as fellow Tea Partier Christine O‘Donnell, are fit for office. 


MARCO RUBIO ®, FLORIDA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  First of all, the original design of our republic was for everyday people to serve in government for a period of time.  And, so, the republic works.  And it‘s not designed to elect a bunch of experts.  It‘s designed right—really, to be an expert in the republic is to be someone that knows what life is like in the real world. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, people who pass vital legislation ought to know what they‘re talking about.  Can we agree on that one?

By the way, it‘s that stain of Republican anti-intellectualism that led to the rise of Sarah Palin.  Watch her on FOX last night cast a potential 2012 run as a public service.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST, “ON THE RECORD”:  What is it that, in your mind, would—would be a reason to run? 

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  A reason to run is if nobody else were to step up with the solutions that are needed to get the economy back on the right track and to be so committed to our national security that they are going to do all that they can, including fighting those on the extreme left who seem to want to dismantle some of our national security tools that we have in place. 

If nobody else wanted to step up, Greta, I would offer myself up in the name of service to the public. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, that does mean to me she hasn‘t decided whether she‘s running or not.  She hasn‘t decided.

Now to tonight‘s “Big Number.”

The new Republican Pledge to America mentioned spending 47 times, but what about earmarks, you know, when a congressman or senator says, I want this money on my project specifically? 

Well, you would think the party of fiscal responsibility would take a hard line against this kind of earmarking, right?  Well, by the “Hill” newspaper‘s count, earmarks are mentioned in this big new Republican blueprint out today zero times.  When push comes to shove, Republicans failed to take a stand against earmarks, zero mentions. 

You know why?  They think they‘re going to be running the place next year.  And they don‘t want anybody stopping them from giving the pork they want to spend—“Big Number” tonight.

Up next: hot races around the country, some you would expect and others that weren‘t supposed to be this close.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Amanda Drury with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Well, stocks tumbling into negative territory in the last two hours of trade, with the Dow Jones falling by 76 points, the S&P 500 sliding nine, and the Nasdaq finishing seven points in the red. 

A 7.5 percent jump in new home sales not enough to reassure investors about the health of the housing market.  At this pace, there‘s still an 11.5-month simply on the market. 

In stocks, Netflix shares surging 2 percent after Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy.  Shareholders were loving it, investors not so much.  McDonald‘s cooling slightly, despite an 11 percent dividend hike.  Rite Aid shares plunging more than 13 percent on a wider-than-expected loss and bleak full-year outlook.

And Linux provider Red Hat spiking 9 percent on surprise jump in software sales.  And, lastly, Nike shares are sprinting higher in after-hours trade on better-than-expected earnings delivered just after the closing bell. 

That‘s it from CNBC for now.  We are first in business worldwide. 

It‘s back to HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Lots of hot developments in the midterm fights this week.  Let‘s go to the HARDBALL scoreboard for a couple of big ones.

In California, the new Field poll, the much respected Field poll, shows a dead heat in the governor‘s race.  Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman are tied, literally, at 41 percent each. 

In New York Senate‘s race, incumbent Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican Joe DioGuarda—DioGuardi—are shockingly close in Quinnipiac‘s poll.  They‘re 48-42, but, again, Siena‘s poll has Gillibrand up big, 57-31.  The difference, as I said before, Siena polled registered voters.  Quinnipiac polled likely voters.

For more on these tough fights, let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and “Mother Jones” Washington bureau chief David Corn, who also writes for

Pat, I was stunned, first of all, that Jerry Brown, after all the

mileage on this guy—everybody‘s seen him for years out there in

California, as mayor of Oakland, as governor of California for two terms,

chairman of the Democratic Party, and all kinds of publicity, good and bad

over the year, lots of experience in looking at the guy.  They can‘t decide

41-41 means 18 percent of likely voters haven‘t made up their minds. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think that‘s very bad news, I think, for Jerry Brown, quite frankly, out there.

Of course, this lady spent $120 million, I believe, Chris, just to get to a tie, so I don‘t think she‘s an extraordinarily strong candidate.  What it does tell you, though, is how deeply Democratic the state of California has become since the days of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, when we put it right in the bank before the election started. 



MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe Richard Nixon had something to do with that. 


MATTHEWS:  Let me—


MATTHEWS:  Or you maybe did.


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask David Corn this question. 

Why so many undecided, with a blanketing of TV commercials?  I mean, this candidate has spent more—I think it‘s unbelievable.  I‘m not going to—I mean, I can‘t knock it.  You have a right to do it.  But this kind of advertising, and it still seems that like the dog doesn‘t like the dog food, to be honest with you.  There‘s something people are resisting in this candidacy of this—I mean, is California not on eBay?  You can‘t buy it on eBay? 


MATTHEWS:  Is that what is going on here?

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “MOTHER JONES”:  If you could, she would be ahead. 

The interesting thing about the undecided number, Chris, is that it was 11 percent in March.  It was 13 percent in July.  It‘s now at 18 percent, according to the Field Poll.  So, people are becoming more undecided as we move closer to the election. 

As you said, she spent $120 million.  She‘s committed to spending $150 million more. 


CORN:  And she‘s already had $30 million coming in from campaign contributions. 

MATTHEWS:  The danger here—

CORN:  She may spend a third-of-a-billion-dollars, a third-of-a-billion-dollars. 


I need a minute from you on—Pat, on this.  I know you‘re not George Will exactly in terms of the First Amendment means dollar signs.  But—that‘s his big jag, you know.  It‘s got to be, spend all the money you can come up with in any race you want, and it‘s all democracy at work.

My question to you, Pat, do you think the danger in democracy is, she might just see in a tracking poll she‘s down two points the last Thursday or Friday night before the election and just drops another $50 million on the table and wins with pure money?

BUCHANAN:  Mm-hmm.

MATTHEWS:  Is that good for our country or republic?

BUCHANAN:  Well, if she‘s put $300 million in, I would throw the last $50 million into the pot. 


MATTHEWS:  But is it good for us?  We‘re the pot.  We‘re the pot. 


BUCHANAN:  Well—well, I mean, look, Ross Perot would have never run third-party if he didn‘t have all that money, put $60 million in.  The fellow up in New York State, Bloomberg, he would never be considered unless he put it all in. 

That‘s where we are, Chris.  Mitt Romney, I think, is a fine candidate, but if he didn‘t have that all money, would he be in this race? 

I think Jack Kennedy, if he didn‘t have a leisurely life and all that money



BUCHANAN: -- would he have been in that race?  It‘s—you know, life is unfair, as somebody said. 

MATTHEWS:  I think it was Jack.


CORN:  It‘s getting more unfair.


MATTHEWS:  It‘s getting a lot less fair.


MATTHEWS:  And it‘s not exactly a republic when people are buying it. 

BUCHANAN:  No, it‘s not.

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s Carly Fiorina‘s new ad in California.  Let‘s listen. 

She‘s getting tough and uses some available material.  Let‘s listen.


SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA:  You know, do me a favor.  Could you say “Senator,” instead of “ma‘am”?  It‘s just a thing.  I worked so hard to get that title, so I would appreciate it.  Yes, thank you. 

CARLY FIORINA ®, CALIFORNIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  Twenty-eight years in Washington, and Barbara Boxer works hard for a title?

I will really go to work to end the arrogance in Washington. 

I‘m Carly Fiorina, and I approve this message. 


MATTHEWS:  Oh, God, this is brutal.

David Corn, you take a shot at this.  What I thought when she said women would rally to her, don‘t call me ma‘am, call me senator—it turns out having checked around the office today, our producers, she did go over the top with that critique of that general by some people‘s standards.

CORN:  Well, you know, this is kind of a softball here.  I would like to have seen Carly Fiorina go to bat for the 30,000 employees she laid off at Hewlett-Packard when she was outsourcing jobs and defending it.  When we have jobs issues, climate change issues, Afghanistan, to make the race about this?  And by the way, today, Carly Fiorina is in Washington, D.C.—she is having fundraisers with lobbyists.

So, here she is talking about the arrogance of Washington when she‘s taking money, collecting money from the lobbyists in Washington who work behind the scenes to influence what goes on.


CORN:  That‘s arrogance in itself.


MATTHEWS:  Pat -- 

BUCHANAN:  Chris, David Corn‘s diversion there.  There are some meeting in Washington tells you this is a very powerful and effective ad because it feeds into an impression about Barbara Boxer, which is a negative one, but very widely held, and it dramatically reinforces it and it‘s said kind of softly and very effectively.  The folks in your office reacted like normal folks out there, probably swing voters, maybe sympathetic to Democrats.

So, I think it hurts very badly because it has the ancillary benefit of being true.

MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s video, pro-Reid.  It‘s a Harry Reid ad really going after Sharron Angle about a 2009, something she said about health care.  Let‘s listen.  This is another “grabbing the tape and going at the opponent” stuff.  Let‘s listen.


SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE:  Take off the mandates for coverage in the state of Nevada and all over the United States—but here, you know what I‘m talking about.  You‘re paying for things that you don‘t even need.  They just passed the latest one as everything that they want to throw at us now is covered under autism.  So, that‘s a mandate that you have to pay for.  How about maternity leave?  I‘m not going to have any more babies, but I sure get to pay for it on my insurance.  Those are the kinds of things that we want to get rid of.


MATTHEWS:  Speaking of the wrong tone, is that going to offend people who have autism and their family, the way she does that little quote thing in the air, making fun of people who have been diagnosed with that?

CORN:  Well, it should offend anybody who wants an intelligent

candidate:  She said that throwing everything at us under the mandate of

autism?  I don‘t know what she‘s even talk about there.  I mean, it‘s not -

it‘s not a serious criticism of the health care reform bill.  And, you know, she—listen, it‘s amazing to me, still, that with everything Harry Reid is throwing at her, he‘s only a few points up ahead of the polls.  She still can win this thing.



BUCHANAN:  But, you know, Chris, I think what this tells you though is

I agree with David here—the certain, the desperation of Harry Reid in going here, but she‘s talking about—


MATTHEWS:  But wouldn‘t you go there, Pat, if you have an opponent that made that comment?


BUCHANAN:  But what she‘s talking about is the individual mandate and I agree it was badly stated when you got into that autism thing, which nobody understands.  But, again, this is what—what this shows you is the leader of the United States Senate who got you national health care is in a campaign of desperation to save his seat against a candidate who is not a very polished candidate.

MATTHEWS:  Can you imagine the U.S. Senate made up of 100 Sharron Angles?

BUCHANAN:  Well, if you got 100 Harry Reids would be worse.

MATTHEWS:  You think so?


MATTHEWS:  You are a partisan to make that argument, Pat.  Thank you.


BUCHANAN:  It is a disaster that we got in this country and they might make mistakes—


BUCHANAN:  -- for heaven‘s sakes, they move the country in the right direction.

CORN:  This disaster was not delivered to us by the Democratic Senate or a Democratic House.

BUCHANAN:  They‘ve worsened it.

CORN:  Listen, hold the people responsible who set the policies that led to the crash that nearly destroyed our economy.

BUCHANAN:  But you—

CORN:  I mean, you know, the thing is, you can—you know, you can be there and cheerlead Christine O‘Donnell, Sharron Angle, but at the end of the day, I still think that having people who understand policy, who know what they‘re talking about, whether they‘re right, left or in the middle is kind of an important value for this country, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  That‘s where you‘re wrong and I‘ll tell you why.

CORN:  OK.  Well—

BUCHANAN:  People who are intelligent—let me talk—people who are intelligence, may be smarter and stuff like that, but who got the wrong ideas and leading us in the wrong direction are worse to have.

CORN:  Like all the Republicans who‘ve put us here in the first place, Pat?

BUCHANAN:  It‘s like Ronald Reagan.  Jimmy Carter may have had a higher I.Q. and might have known more details of government, but Reagan happened to be right on the issues when he came to town and they worked and Obama‘s have not.  That‘s the problem.

CORN:  Well, you had a recession you know, under—


CORN:  The same thing happened to Reagan that happened with Obama. 

Employment went up when Reagan came into office.


CORN:  OK?  And he had a recession and he said, stay the course, and at the time, you weren‘t saying, hey, you made things worse.

BUCHANAN:  Well, things are better—got better under Reagan with “Morning in America.”

CORN:  Listen, things have gotten better in terms of job losses under Barack Obama.  It‘s quite true.  The rate of loss went down after Obama came in and he had a stimulus that actually worked and kept unemployment from getting even higher—

BUCHANAN:  David, your argument—

CORN:  -- under Bush-Cheney path.

BUCHANAN:  -- your argument is the argument of Herbert Hoover.  It was not his fault.  There‘s no doubt about it.


BUCHANAN:  But it worsened under him and got worse and worse, and didn‘t get better for years.


MATTHEWS:  Gentlemen—

CORN:  Under John McCain and Sarah Palin, it would be getting worse.

MATTHEWS:  Gentleman, I hope they‘re watching in California.  You‘re reducing the number of undecided.

Thank you, Pat Buchanan.  And thank you, David Corn.

Up next: the hideous antigay insult posted on a Web site during an Internet—well, discussion about gays in the military is being traced back or has been traced back to the office of Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.  Chambliss‘ staff released an unsigned statement admitting it came from his office.  And the senator now says he won‘t tolerate—he‘s going to fire whoever did it.  He‘s getting to the point here which it took a while to do.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Well, the brilliant FiveThirtyEight‘s Nate Silver is out with his latest forecasting model for the U.S. Senate races, and Republicans have increased their chances of taking control, slightly.  Nate gives Republicans now an 18-point chance of winning at least 51 seats, a majority.  That‘s up from 15 points.

Notice the difference, 15 to 18?  That‘s all on the last week.

And on average, he‘s forecasting in his model, it shows Republican ending up with between 47 and 48 seats right now. The Democrats seem to be building a fire wall along the West Coast where Washington State‘s Patty Murray and California‘s Barbara Boxer are opening up leads in recent polling.  So, it looks like the left coast is holding.

HARDBALL will be right back.


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.

On Tuesday night, as the U.S. Senate failed to move forward on repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” someone calling himself or herself “Jimmy” posted a comment on a gay rights blog that said, quote, “All gays must die.”  Though this Jimmy in this case used an antigay slur far worse than gays.  It was a nasty, nasty comment.

Well, the blog‘s author was able to trace the comment and determined that it appeared to come from the computer in the office of Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.  On Wednesday, someone in Chambliss‘ office put out a statement that said in part, “The sergeant at arms has worked side by side with our personnel to determine whether the comment in question emanated from our office.  That appears to be the case.  There has not been a determination as to who posted the comment.”

We invited Senator Chambliss, by the way, or someone from his office to come appear on HARDBALL tonight, neither the senator nor someone from his office agreed to come.

Let‘s turn on now to Democratic Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado and our R. Clarke Cooper, who‘s the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans.

Well, late today, somebody grabbed a hold of the senator, Senator Chambliss, “The Hill” newspaper reporter.  Apparently, it was one of the reporters who got him to say, quote, “I won‘t tolerate any kind of sentiment like that.  We‘ll have to see what‘s found out.”

Well, he‘s still keeping his options opened saying he won‘t tolerate it.

Your thoughts on that, Congressman Polis.  I don‘t know.  Now, you know that everybody who works on your office works for you.  Everybody who gets into your office is your responsibility.  What‘s your reaction to this in the way he‘s handled it?

REP. JARED POLIS (D), COLORADO:  Yes, he ought to be able to find out who did it.  You know, we‘re talking about an office with six people, eight people, 10 people, tops.  Find out what the computer terminal was, who was in the office at the time—you get it down to two, three people.  You find out, you take quick action.

The real problem is—I mean, how many Republican staffers are out there have these kinds of crazy ideas that are so far removed from the American mainstream and contrary to our American values.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Clarke Cooper in that.  You represent gay Republicans in your organization and you do a great job of it.  There are still these throwbacks in these offices of Republican—one senator.


MATTHEWS:  Not at all?

COOPER:  No.  No.

MATTHEWS:  What if this didn‘t happen?

COOPER:  Hey, this is one bad apple and Senator Chambliss himself said, “I will not tolerate any sentiment like that.”  And I just want to—

MATTHEWS:  So, why does he—why doesn‘t he find out who did it?

COOPER:  Well, he‘s going through the due process.  In fact, I think it‘s actually appropriate that the sergeant at arms investigate the I.P.  address.  And, by the way, he doesn‘t have the six-rate staffer.  Senator Chambliss has 42, 44 staffers.

MATTHEWS:  Nobody—no, no, you are—you are playing defense here, Clark, and I don‘t know why.  This apparently came from his—his Atlanta office.


MATTHEWS:  It didn‘t come from his Washington office, or any committee of staffers.  It came from one office in Atlanta and somebody in the office did it.  Why doesn‘t he call up his office, talk to his chief of staff and find out who did it?  Why does he bring in the Democratic-appointed sergeant of arms who doesn‘t even know the people in the office?

Wouldn‘t you, if you were the boss, want to find out immediately, and find out who did it immediately, and take responsibility and not try to outsource it?

COOPER:  Of course, of course.  So, I‘m not going to—I‘m not Senator Chambliss but I would presume that this staffer probably won‘t have a job in the near future.  It‘s a no-go.  I don‘t think any member, House, Senate, Republican or Democrat, would tolerate it.

MATTHEWS:  How many days do you think—how many weeks, do you think, he should have to find out who did it?

COOPER:  Oh, I don‘t know.  I would say that this is going to be probably taken care of very quickly.  I‘m not going to guess as to the process or time line for the sergeant at arms.  What they‘re probably doing is looking to make sure that they have this airtight so that they can actually move forward and take—correct the personnel actions.

MATTHEWS:  The Hill has changed from when I worked there.

In my day, a politician—Congressman, you get in here.  You are responsible for everybody who works in your office.  They serve at your pleasure.  It‘s not a civil service.  You don‘t have to go through the procedures.  You find out who did it and you nail them.

Your thoughts, Congressman?

POLIS:  I was going to say, you know, first of all, Clarke has a tough job being a member of a club that doesn‘t want him as a member.  But moving beyond that, again, this is something that if it takes more than a couple of days, it begins to get suspicious.  So, I mean, look, a benefit of a doubt, another day, two days.  If it takes beyond that—I mean, what‘s the problem?

There‘s a number limited of suspects, you talk to them.  Was it an intern?  Was it a paid staffer?  I don‘t know.  What are the values of the people in your office?  What‘s the procedure you‘re going to put in place in the future to make sure your office knows not to do this kind of thing?

MATTHEWS:  I‘d probably start with the people named James.

Anyway, thank you Congressman Jared Polis and Clarke Cooper.

Boy, you are manfully defending all Republicans tonight.

When we return, let me finish—

COOPER:  No, not at all.

MATTHEWS:  -- with some thoughts about Bill Clinton‘s advice to President Obama.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with what President Clinton started with this morning.  Actually, let me be tougher than him.  Let me put it on the line, straight from the shoulder.

First of all, get on the same page as the voter.  That was the big chunk of advice President Clinton gave his Democratic successor, Barack Obama, today.  Start feeling some of that pain, the people are feeling.

Clinton used to say he was looking out for people who work hard and play by the rules.  Well, millions of those people Clinton talked about are out-of-work and not because of any fault of their own.  Obama‘s going to tell those people that it‘s not their fault.  It‘s the economy, damn it, or stupid.

I‘m doing everything I can—in fact, taking a lot of hell for doing it to try to fix it.  I‘m trying big things and they‘re controversial, but I‘m doing what every smart economist tells us is the right thing to do.  So, you can agree that I‘m trying, the president should say, or not.  But point is, I feel what you‘re feeling and I hate it.

Second, President Clinton said Obama should say it‘s a tough economic world out there.  There‘s huge unemployment, and not just in this country.

And this is Clinton‘s third good advice for Obama to say, I know America has done it before.  We‘ve beaten out other countries in the world before and we‘re going to do it again this time.

His fourth counsel to the president is to hit the attack and go after the opposition.  I don‘t know about you, but this is a bull‘s eye.  Does anyone believe that a political party in Congress, the Republicans, that has done nothing in the last two years but obstruct and undermine and hide on the sidelines deserves a big fat vote of confidence this November?  Three cheers for doing really nothing when it could have done something constructive like find a more bipartisan way to create jobs, deal with health care costs, fix Wall Street?  Yes, that‘s the fat part of the target that the Obama and Democrats need to start hitting from now until Election Day on November 2nd.

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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